Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How natural mothers are treated.....

The Vessel

Young and supple,
keeper of the precious.
Lifeblood pulses, cells are shared.
Body to body the history flows.

Your role ends here,
one's beginning is another's demise.
The cargo delivered to the waiting
who think the cure has arrived.

Cracked and worn,
the vessel waits
to be unearthed,
discovered by the one it bore.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Walking Wombs

A stone faced counselor sits next to a sobbing young mother who had just given birth less than 48 hours earlier. The counselor is holding the paperwork that will forever legally sever this mother's connection to her baby. As the mother is crying the counselor says "Are you feeling a little bit emotional about your adoption plan?" A little bit emotional?! At this point I wanted to throw my laptop through the picture window in my living room. Thankfully I kept my wits about me since I don't have the cash to replace either one right now. Yes, I made myself watch that horrendous show I'm Having Their Baby. I saw it online before it actually aired on TV. I had to pause it periodically so I could calm down. Of course as I'm watching it I'm asking myself why I'm putting myself through this. I did it so I could know exactly how the adoption process was being presented by them. Did you know that those xxxxxmother letters are now books? The industry has really ramped up the advertising/marketing end of things. POD sites must be making a bundle.

Maybe we could look at it this way - let's say that it's a good thing this show was made. You say WHAT?! I know... but maybe it actually gives us some ammunition we need to fight infant adoption. They're just blatant about the coercion of the agency, laying it right out there for all to see. The problem of course is that not many people seem to recognize the coercion for what it is. And the other problem is that the show itself is contributing to the coercion. No, I haven't lost my mind. I do not believe this show is a good thing and I'm still working on the boycott of it. I'm just thinking of ways to use it against the industry. Considering that "Bethany" was on every agency door that the women walked through, it wouldn't surprise me if the whole idea for the show came from them and the NCFA.

What I find the most astounding about watching the show is the cold, hardheartedness of the agency workers. They were very careful not to refer to these women's children as babies. They were simply adoption plans. There was no caring, no sympathy. I know it's their job to get the baby from the mother but I don't understand how a woman could be so cold to another woman who is grieving so deeply. When the other mother on the show told her counselor that she was no longer comfortable with the PAPs she chose, the counselor said she was going to have to figure out how to handle things since she didn't want the couple to "go through the heartache of losing a child".  Wow! That was another "pause it and calm down moment". To say that to a woman who is about to lose the child she just gave birth to is nothing short of monstrous. All the sympathy is for the adopting couple while the mother is treated as nothing more than a walking womb.

At the end of the show when one of the mothers tells the agency worker that she's keeping her baby (HOORAY!) you can see the change in the workers face. The sale fell through so have a nice life and out the door. It was time for her to quickly make the next coercion appointment to keep the bucks coming in.

I don't think I can stomach another episode.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Yes, I know.... it's about $$$$$$$

From the NCFA's website....

"The William E. Simon Foundation awarded NCFA a $50,000 outright gift for the iChooseAdoption public awareness campaign, as well as a $50,000 challenge grant.  The grant funds will be used to support NCFA's 2012-2013 iChooseAdoption project, which aims to reach young women facing unintended pregnancy with the positive option of adoption.  We launched The Hope Challenge fundraising campaign in July with the goal of raising $50,000 by April 2013."

From the William E. Simon Foundation website.....

"The Foundation supports organizations and programs that help people to help themselves, have a proven track record of success, have a broad base of funders and local support, and spend a low percentage of their budget on administrative and fundraising expenses."

"In recognition of the fact that children need protection, nurturing, discipline, and positive examples from adults, the Foundation seeks to support organizations that help strengthen families, or that bring other caring and consistent adults into the lives of disadvantaged children. This includes, but is not limited to, programs to foster positive parenting skills, mentoring programs, and research on the best ideas for strengthening families."
So what is the iChooseAdoption awareness campaign that the William E. Simon Foundation so generously awarded $50,000? It's where they tell young expecting moms this....

"What is adoption?
Adoption is the legal process by which parental rights and responsibilities are transferred from one parent or set of parent(s) to another, ensuring that a child has the benefits of a permanent, stable, and loving adoptive family."  
This means that she will view herself as unworthy of raising her own child. She is very subtly told that the only way her child will have the benefits of stability and permanence is through adoption.

"Is adoption the same as giving away my baby?
No, adoption provides you with the opportunity to make a plan for your child's future. It can be a loving, selfless choice you make in order to give your baby all the security and benefits of a permanent family."
In other words, if you love your baby you will be selfless and give her to someone else who may, or may not, be a permanent family. Remember, adopters get divorced too.

"How can I be certain that my child’s adoptive parents will take good care of her?
Parents who pursue infant adoption are required to meet with an adoption agency representative, social worker, or other approved agent and complete a number of requirements, including a homestudy, to guarantee that they are emotionally and financially ready to parent. Prospective adoptive parents have to meet all criteria set by their home state as well as the agency in order to adopt. Also, if you choose an open adoption with contact between birthparents and the adoptive family, then you will be able to receive updates, pictures, and letters from the adoptive parents as your son or daughter grows up."
Of course they leave out the part about the adopters who do abuse the children they adopt. Of course it happens in original families also and of course not all adopters are abusers. But.... there are no guarantees. And, if you choose open adoption there are no guarantees that you will continue to receive updates, pictures and letters from the adoptive parents. You have no control or power in this regard. It's all up the adopters. They decide if or when they shut you out completely and legally there is nothing you can do about it.

"Who will help me if I choose adoption for my baby?
Birthmothers in the U.S. typically place their children through an adoption agency or a private adoption attorney. If you want to work with a licensed agency, it is important to do your research to find the agency that fits your unique needs if you are considering adoption for your baby. When working with an agency, you are guaranteed a high standard of professional care and counseling. The best agencies are staffed with sympathetic, ethical professionals who bring years of expertise to adoption counseling. Adoption agencies can offer support services and counseling both before and after the adoption takes place, as well as financial support or referrals for additional resources. Many adoption agencies will provide birthmothers with a written contract, detailing the agency’s responsibilities and promises to the birthmother both during and following the adoption process."
"The best agencies are staffed with sympathetic, ethical professionals who bring years of expertise to adoption counseling." I couldn't resist. I had to repeat that line. Yes, they bring years of expertise in the art of coercion. If the agency employs the counselors and the agency is the party that stands to gain from the results of the counseling, is that ethical? They call them sympathetic, ethical professionals. How sympathetic and ethical can they be if their paycheck comes from the people who stand to gain from the sale of a baby?

So, you get the idea about NCFA. Now what about the William E. Simon Foundation? They said they support programs that help people help themselves. Sometimes they do. This is one of the organizations that the foundation has helped and it's certainly worthy of attention and funding. If they really want to strengthen families, why then isn't the foundation helping women and babies stay together rather than funding a group that advocates for the separation of mothers and babies? If they really want to help people help themselves then why don't they give their dollars to organizations that help young single women with child care, education, parenting skills and job skills. Babies belong with their mothers. It's plain and simple. Why is it so hard for this society to understand? Yes, I know...... the almighty dollar. There's too much profit to made from the sale of babies.

What Remains

What Remains

Standing at the edge,
treading lightly,
casting what's left of myself.
Who I was is gone.
This is what remains.

Bought and sold,
before and after.
Thoughts move from light into shadow.

One event, one moment,
became 2 lifetimes changed.
Holding thoughts of her, 
protected in the small dark place,
time moves in and out of the light.

With her,
in the sun,
who would we have been?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I don't need Oxygen

Well, I've been gone a while. Lots happening since I posted last. Rhode Island became the 7th state to unseal adoptee birth records. Congrats to them! Now there's only 43 states to go. I'm making some more progress on the Silent Voices painting series. I'll post the newest one soon. I flew to Ohio to spend a week with my daughter and 3 grandsons. It was a huge relief to see her and the boys. Three years is far too long to go without seeing them. Hopefully the next trip won't be so far away.

Then of course there's the new Oxygen TV show "I'm Having Their Baby". This show follows young pregnant women as they go through the coercion process of adoption agencies. Of course it's being described as showing us the process from the mothers point of view. She will be painted as being brave and selfless in the face of this very difficult "decision" while the young mother doesn't realize how she's being manipulated. I can't remember the last time I was so disgusted by a program. This is Oxygen's lame attempt at justifying the show. They're trying to say that - see? women love adoption. Who did they ask? Who was surveyed? It certainly wasn't anyone who knows anything about adoption. It certainly wasn't anyone who has lived it from the mother's or adoptee's perspective. If you just pick up a phone and make random calls to names on a list, they're going to repeat the same garbage that's been taught to them over the years from the big business propaganda machine. So, read their survey. Be sure to read the comments and add your own. Here is the Facebook page for the show. You can comment there also. If you're interested in doing more to let Oxygen know your thoughts on this show, join us on The OFFICIAL Mothers and Adoptees Boycotting Oxygen's "I'm Having Their Baby" Facebook page. Below is the email I sent to a director of Oxygen Media who is involved with this project.

Hello Ms. McIntosh,

This is the comment I left on the Facebook page for the show "I'm Having Their Baby".

A mother and her baby being separated is a trauma and a tragedy, NOT entertainment. These women are not only being exploited for their infants, they're also being exploited for ratings! People are willing to spend money to make a show so everyone can watch a woman being coerced into surrendering her child and grieving her loss. Where are the people willing to help these mothers with the support they need in order to keep and raise their own children? Adoption in this country has sunk to a new low. Disgusting! 

Let me tell you why I left the above comment. I am a mother of adoption loss. I lost my daughter to adoption in 1980. Although 1980 was not considered to be during the Baby Scoop Era (google it if you're not familiar with it) of adoption which occurred between 1945 and 1973, I was still treated as though it was. I was sent away to live in another town, my files were coded BFA - meaning "baby for adoption". When a mother has that code on her file it means that the hospital staff is alerted to not allow the mother to see, hold, or be with her baby at all. I was told nothing about my own child, not even the sex of the baby I had just given birth to. The minute she was born she was wrapped in a blanket and taken out of the room. The only memory I had of her was the sound of her cry. Adoption at this time was filled with lies, secrecy and shame. It was a completely closed adoption meaning I was not allowed to know anything about my own child. For 22 years I didn't know if my child was alive or dead. Some people liken the loss of adoption to a death. I liken it more to a kidnapping. You know your child is out there somewhere but you know nothing about her life. Is she ok, is she being treated well, is she sick? The questions go on and on. The pain goes on and on. You were simply a vessel for the child and your motherhood was erased. Living day to day with that reality is horrific.

I always knew I would search for my daughter. Ten years ago I found her. I also found that her adoptive parents divorced when she was only 3 years old. After the divorce her adoptive mother never remarried. She was raised by a single mother - something that I was told wasn't good for my child. I lost my daughter because I was single and pregnant yet no one suggested that a divorced mother raising a child alone should surrender that child for adoption. Why is it ok for a divorced single mother to raise a child but not a single mother who never married? One year after losing my daughter I got married. I've been married to the same man for 31 years and had 2 more children. If my daughter had been able to stay with me she would have been raised with her own mother, a father and her 2 siblings - an intact family. She didn't end up having a better life, she just had a different one. There are no guarantees. Adopting couples have the same problems as other people. They're not saviors. They get divorced, they have drug problems, they lose jobs, they lose homes, things happen.

This brings me to the next point. You're probably thinking that adoption has changed since then. Now there's open adoption and women have more choices. It may appear to be so. Open adoption sounds good. It looks good, but is it? Did you know that open adoption is not legally enforceable? Did you know that the adoptive parents have all the power? Did you know that 80% of open adoptions close within the first 2 years? An adopting couple can disappear with a mother's child and there's nothing she can do about it. She could try and fight through the legal system but that costs a lot of money and the chances of success are minimal. If she had that kind of money, would she have lost her child to adoption in the first place? Usually adoption happens because of 2 things - marital status and financial situation. Both of these are temporary situations and adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Since the time period of the Baby Scoop Era the rate of babies surrendered for adoption dropped dramatically. Because of that the adoption industry had to find a way to encourage more young, vulnerable mothers to surrender their children. Adoption is a multi-billion dollar a year industry. There is a lot of money to be made on babies. It's a supply and demand business. In order to fulfill the demand they had to convince pregnant women that they're unfit to raise their own children. This is done in very subtle coercive ways. The coercion of pregnant women happens this way....

1. Using the term "birthmother" for a woman who is pregnant sets her up psychologically to separate her from her infant. It puts her in the position of being simply a vessel carrying someone else's child. She is an expectant mother, not a "birthmother".

2. An adoption agency providing counseling for a pregnant woman is unethical. It's a conflict of interest. They are paid by the people who will benefit monetarily from the surrender of that baby.

3. An adoption agency providing legal counsel for a pregnant woman is unethical. See above for reason.

4. When you title a TV show "I'm having their baby" it's coercive. As long as she is pregnant and until she signs the document surrendering her rights, she is the mother of that child. It's HER baby, not theirs.

5. Matching a pregnant woman with a prospective adoptive couple is coercive. It puts her in the position of feeling indebted to the couple who has spent many hours and dollars preparing "birthmother" letters (aka... slick advertising brochures portraying them as superior to her as parents for the baby), preparing for bringing home a child, bonding with the mother, etc. The more she bonds with the adopting couple the less chance there is of her changing her mind and deciding to parent her own baby. This is also why mothers like me were kept from our babies when they were born. The agencies knew that if mothers spent time with their babies they were less likely to surrender.

6. Adoption agencies have a lobbying group working on their behalf - NCFA, National Council for Adoption. They have been instrumental in keeping adoptees from accessing their own birth records. It is every person's right to have access to their own personal records. The NCFA hides behind the skirts of women like me to deny adoptees what is rightfully theirs. They claim that we as mothers were promised anonymity and privacy in the closed adoption era. This is a lie! Closed records were closed to protect the adoptive parents. We were never promised this. We were told not to try for contact because we would cause damage to our children. Of course we didn't want to do that so we waited...... Over 95% of mothers want to be contacted by their children.

7. Did you know that we have stricter laws governing the separation of puppies and kittens from their mothers than we do humans? It's against the law to take a puppy or kitten from it's mother before the age of 6 to 8 weeks because it's in the best interest of the puppy or kitten to stay with it's mother, yet it's ok for a human baby to be taken from it's mother at birth. An adoption consent can be signed in some states within 48 hours of birth, while the mother is still dealing with drugs in her system and while she is still dealing with post-partum hormone changes.

Coercion takes many forms. Unfortunately I feel that your show contributes to the coercion of young, vulnerable, pregnant women. It's incredibly sad to me that our country finds entertainment in the separation of mothers and babies. Adoption is damaging to not only the mother who loses a child, but also to the child who loses her natural family. You may think that you're showing the world what a difficult decision adoption is for the mother but what you're really doing is contributing to the coercion of that mother and contributing to the damage done to the child. Adoption is not a one time event. It's a life sentence for both mother and child. The only real winners in this scenario are the adoptive parents who get the coveted baby and the agency who makes the money.