Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's That Day Again

Today is National Strange and Mournful Day, an observance that began in response to the designation of November as National Adoption Awareness Month. We mothers wear our ribbons all month and tell anyone who asks what they mean. The last day of the month is an observance of the validity of our motherhood and the dreadful nature of our loss.

I came up with the name because certain lyrics from Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" resonated, so deeply, with me. All through this past month, many Exiled Mothers have  been wearing our ribbon badges of black for mourning, red for righteous indignation and passion for our cause and white for hope and healing. Some of us will adorn our ribbons with the birthstones of our children that were taken for adoption. I have a diamond and a pearl for my ribbon....April and June are the months in which I gave birth to, and was forced to surrender, my two oldest children.
While we refer to the lyrics of Simon's wonderful tune, this observance is not about reunion, but about the devastating effects of loss to adoption on the mother. I have high-lighted the pertinent lyrics in red and boldface.

music and lyrics by Paul Simon

No I would not give you false hope, On this strange and mournful day,
But the mother and child reu-nion, Is only a motion away,
Oh, little darling of mine, I can't for the life of me,
Remember a sadder day. I know they say let it be,
But it just don't work out that way. And the course of a lifetime runs,
Over and over again.

No I would not give you false hope,On this strange and mournful day,
But the mother and child reu-nion, Is only a motion away,
Oh, little darling of mine. I just cant believe it's so,
And though it seems strange to say, I've never been laid so low,
In such a mysterious way, And the course of a lifetime runs,
Over and over again.

But I would not give you false hope, On this strange and mournful day,
When the mother and child reu-nion,
Is only a motion away.

While most of the support groups online for Mothers of adoption loss tend to deal with the ups and downs of reunion (and God/dess knows, it is a rough ride), SMAAC is focused on the pain and injustice of our ordeal leading up to and including the "Strange and Mournful Day" when we realized our babies were lost to us.

So today, on the last day of what we now call "Adoption BEwareness Month," we honor ourselves and remember the injustice of the EMS/BSE and renew our determination to be an active and vocal part of bringing justice to the mothers.

And to my daughter and my son that were lost to me in those dark days, always know that I loved you and losing you was neither my choice nor my wish. Some day, some how, some one is going to have to make restitution for what was lost to us. Not in dollars, but in acknowledgement, atonement and public awareness of the pain and the dark underbelly of the adoption myth.

Happy Strange and Mournful Day, Sisters. I am so sorry you had to suffer this loss.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Unconditional Love Ain't Perfect

It amazes me each time I meet people who seem to believe that love will cure everything or save anyone if you just love enough. If you believe that, then try loving a fear-aggressive dog out of growling and biting, or an addicted loved one out of drinking or using. It just doesn't work.

You can love the children you raise with all your heart and soul, but unless you have created rules and boundaries and taught life skills, they can still sink into a sad and futile existence. I think that PAs (potential adopters) believe that loving the child they adopt will make everything okay and that is one of the biggest fallacies, going. In thinking that way, they overlook the fact that there is a very real and painful issue in the life of that child which needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Sending the woman who gave birth to that child a few pictures and a letter once a year is NOT going to cut it.

I love all of my children, no matter what they say or do. But I do not support them in destructive, self-defeating or criminal behavior. My grandmother once said about my father, the proverbial black sheep, that she loved him and if he were to kill someone (which he never did..he wasn't that far gone), she would hold his hand all the way to the electric chair. But she wouldn't try to save him from facing the consequences of his actions. It's hard for a lot of people to see the love in that, but it's there.

When we finally are reunited with our adult, surrendered children, I see a lot of us wanting to indulge, coddle and coo while the adoptee is wondering what the Hell is going on. This is, for many an adopted person, a new concept. Most of us were made mothers when we gestated and gave birth and we will react and respond as mothers. To expect anything else of us is unrealistic. And, for us to expect an instant response and understanding of our motherhood is also unrealistic. So we're screwed from the get-go if we don't get a handle on expectations and understanding early on.

When raised and surrendered children are born, they don't come with how-to manuals with clear guidelines. Most of us just do the best we can and learn as we go. We love our children with all our hearts and souls, but we can make mistakes along the way. That is when love should be the fuel that runs the problem-solving engine. Love, on its own, is not enough.

Loving unconditionally doesn't mean loving perfectly. And it doesn't mean that we give until we are empty and expect nothing in return unless you are one of those professional martyr moms and that is a whole other blog. It means that, no matter what our child might do or say and how bad it might be, we love that child anyway. It does not condone nor accept bad behavior, verbal or physical abuse or emotional manipulations. It doesn't accept disregard for our worth and rights as people. But it does pretty much guarantee forgiveness when it is asked of us.

Mothers are human beings. We can be cracked, broken, burned and bedeviled by our traumas and miseries as badly as our children can be by our errors or the trauma of being adopted. Some mothers, unfortunately, don't know how to love themselves, even a little bit, so, though they may feel love for their children, expressing it appropriately is difficult.

Above all, even the best, wisest, most unconditionally loving mother in the world cannot fix their adult child. I remember the line in "Independence Day" when the estranged wife of Jeff Goldblum's character said that "love was never the problem" when speaking of their estrangement. Love, even of the unconditional variety, is not a miracle tonic. You can love with all the intensity of a mother and not be able to surmount other roadblocks to a relationship. We are left with what is and how we deal with it and each other is up to each of us.

But, for most of us, the love is there, unconditional, forgiving and even patient...to a point. The bitch of it is, as this nasty month of adoption-worship finally comes to a close, we wouldn't have to worry about any of this if we had been given the support to remain together as a family. Again, I am not speaking to the minority but to the many of us who truly wanted our children...ALL of them.

I would hope to see a day when this issue becomes a non-issue, when caring for children in need is done with true altruism and human, imperfect, unconditional love can be enjoyed by all. That would be Utopia with a bit of an edge, don't you think?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

No One Likes To Be Afraid

We are working with our new dog, Dolly, another Rat Terrier, who has many fear-based issues. She started off our Thanksgiving gathering by sharply nipping a 3-year-old who ran up to her and frightened her. Now it's muzzle time whenever she is in a group of people. The point is, she didn't bite because she's mean. She bit because she's afraid. She has been traumatized and suffered a lack of socialization and it shows. One of her first fears that we have conquered is fear of men. As you can see, she isn't afraid of my husband. Of course, there are a lot of other men out there.

There is a very sweet little pooch under all that fear, so we called a real-life Dog Whisperer in and he gave us some guidelines to follow and exercises to do and a lot of good input on what we were doing wrong. He figures it will take months, consistent work and determination to bring out the real Dolly. We can already see the progress and I have found that the stronger and more supportive her "Daddy" and I are, the more content she is.

Of course, I had to think about parenting and feeling secure and it instantly related to the pain of surrender and to being adopted. I went to my parents because I needed the support and strength of my "pack leaders." They reacted with fear of what people would think and how I may have ruined my life and my family's as well. So I became fearful that I could do nothing right, that my child was going to be taken from me and that I was not a very good person. My children felt fearful that there was no permanence in parental love or consistent support without working hard for it. After all, their child-brain processed the surrender as being unwanted.

I became eating disordered. I know other mothers who struggled with agoraphobia, panic attacks, drug and alcohol dependency, relationship problems and over-protective mothering based on the fear of losing more children. Fear is a powerful, powerful thing. It can take perfectly good people and turn them into biters. I know I carried a chip on my shoulder and could turn and growl with the best of them. Regaining self-esteem and confidence that I could face the harsh waves in the sea of life and ride them brought out a better me. Oh, I can still nip, but only when it's appropriate..*wink.

Many of our sisters still live in that fear that was instilled in us when we were isolated and coerced into surrender. Some of the older Moms also struggle with the social mores of our era, the idea of "sin" and fear of the loss of what they have built over the years. Many also fear having to revisit a very traumatic time in their lives. Many who fought to regain their "respectability" fear losing it again. That fear can make them behave in a very unnatural way to their adult child. That adds to the adopted person's feelings of being unwanted and abandoned and it becomes a vicious cycle.

The Alcohol Anonymous Big Book identifies fear as one of the primary enemies of the addicted person. Fear, in and of itself, is another emotion that is a part of life. Where we mess up is when we, like our little Dolly, act out of fear. A brave person is usually not without fear. Responding with courage in spite of fear is real bravery. Doing what is right takes a lot more courage than doing nothing or doing something easy (wrong). For instance, we could continue to avoid all those situations that bring out Dolly's fear, but she would make zero progress if we did that.

I think we could use some "Reunion Whisperers" to tug on the leashes of fearful adopted people and mothers, poke us and say "hush" when we show our fear in rejection, blaming, whining, demanding, hiding and other such actions.

While we want a lower-maintenance dog out of this experience, what we want most is for Dolly to feel safe, self-confident and to face her fears and overcome them. We want her to relax and just enjoy being a dog.

I wonder what it will take for us to relax and just enjoy being reunited mothers and adult offspring?

Friday, November 26, 2010


This is the day I stay home and thank the creators of catalogs and online ordering. My list is very trim and we stick to the budget of fixed-income senior citizens. Today is when Mammon is worshipped, when Capitalism and Consumerism become religions. Today is when I sit back and realize just how easily things are bought and sold in our society, including human beings. There is no power on earth, save a need for a trip to the ER, that would get me out in that mob.

We have skipped directly from Halloween to slide by Thanksgiving and hit home with Christmas and let the buying and mayhem begin.

A Holiday, that began with an ancient observance of the Winter Solstice, was co-opted by the early Christian church as a "holy day" (if Jesus existed, he was born in the Spring it seems) and evolved into an international phenomenon, is a playground for the American Capitalist.

I admit to loving the lights, the message of love and hope, the beautiful music and the pretty presents. I can even suspend my agnostic scepticism for one night, Christmas Eve, and pretend to believe in angelic messengers and three kings and all that jazz. It hurts no one and is a good reason for good food and family gatherings. My husband and I will be taking our little pooch and heading for the mountains of WV to spend our holiday appreciating the natural beauty of Winter. Hey, a wood-burning fireplace and a hot tub are not bad ways to spend the holiday.

But, as I have evolved past the materialism of youth and realized that there can be such a thing as too much "stuff," I have to pause and reflect on how I became a factory and my two oldest children became commodities. Let there be a demand for ANYTHING in this society and someone will market it and find a way to profit from it. It took me six decades of living to get to the point where I questioned the American Dream and the "ideals" behind it.

Poor women in India, who could benefit from a little bit of true altruism, are now being marketed as "rent-a-womb" surrogates to provide product for the growing "give me a child lest I die" consumers. That makes me wonder if any Indian girl, old enough to gestate, would be pulled into this egregious "business." Young, middle and upper-class (financially) WASP high school and college student who become pregnant are being offered "scholarships" by high-end brokers like Gladney and all they have to do is give their infant to genetic strangers. Anyone who says that this is not an industry and that no one is making money is wearing blinders and ear plugs.

I have horrible visions of stores and catalogs offering newborns as Christmas gifts on Black Friday. Picture a Swiss Colony catalog with babies offered as part of a deluxe assortment. Maybe that's reaching a bit, but the reality is no less harsh and hateful. WE WILL SELL AND BUY ANYTHING, INCLUDING CHILDREN.

Now, like I said, I have no investment in keeping a religious idea as "the reason for the season." But the gathering of family and loved ones, the enjoyment of celebration...hey, it's all good. It's the money thing that is the spoiler. Early Christmases such as the ones in Victorian England, did not call for gifts to everyone within one's circle of family and friends. The gifts and goodies were for the children. The adults partied. Hmmm, sounds cool to me. And FAMILY should be the reason for the season...close loved ones and messages of love and give the kids some toys and let's party! And keep that precious family intact. Each individual is vital and non-transferable.

They don't celebrate Christmas, for the most part, in India. Poverty precludes the kind of Santa-fest we put on. But they should be able to live without having to rent their bodies for the needs of strangers. They should be able to feed their children without having to give birth for the self-entitled.

It would be a pity to see Black Friday go world-wide. Jingle them bells.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Tale

Once upon a time there was a woman. She had a mother, a father, sisters, a husband and a little girl and a huge extended family. She loved all of these people most dearly, especially the little girl and the little boy she would have a few years later.

Because there were so many aunts, uncles, cousins and a special grandmother, everyone got together for every holiday. At Thanksgiving, there was so much chatter, the wonderful smells of a feast being prepared, the shouts of children playing and it was a picture worthy of Norman Rockwell.

The woman smiled and hugged and held conversations and helped fix the food and behaved as if everything were perfectly normal. She had a hard time understanding why she felt such a hard knot of sadness inside herself. After all, she had moved on, married, had children she could keep and raise and had the approval of her family. So why was it always lacking something? Why was there the feeling that there was something missing? They told her it would get better, that she would forget.

So she tried to do just that. She pushed it all so far down inside herself that she wasn't even really aware of anything except that the edges were off the holiday joy and the champagne of celebration tasted a bit flat. Emotionally, she was like a mouth after a visit to the dentist...partially anesthetized. She stuffed food into that empty hole but it never was filled.

It took years for what was buried to emerge and to be recognized for what it was....grief. For all the normality of the family holiday gatherings, something very abnormal had happened to the woman and it would affect her for the rest of her life. There was abundant love in her for many children and she loved both her raised children very, very much, for who they were. But she also loved two other children and they were not with her, were taken from her and she didn't know where they were or how they were or if they were even still alive. But her mother's heart bled and ached most heavily when there were family events and there were two family members missing. For the sake of the children she was raising, she acted happy and content.

When someone in a family is lost, there is grieving to be done, but the woman was not allowed to grieve openly and receive comfort. When she reunited with her two lost children, she finally gave voice to her mourning and it was heard. That was when she realized that, behind that Norman Rockwell picture of her family gathered at the table, was an 800-pound gorilla being ignored by everyone. In the living room, where the parades and football games played on, an elephant sat square in the middle, also ignored. It was as if, to the rest of her clan, her two lost babies didn't exist.

Today, turkeys will be roasted, pies will be baked and families will exchange hugs and kisses and it will be a very pretty picture, worthy of a painting. But one wonders how many women will sit at those feast-laden tables feeling that sadness and incompleteness? I pray that there will come a day when no woman will feel that way.

The End.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear Bristol

Honey, I hope you know, by now, that it wasn't about who hated who or who liked who but who was the best dancer and Sweetie, it wasn't you. But you tried and you worked hard and I admire the effort you put into it. Please don't take this loss politically or personally. I know little about the process that got you on that show, but you went out and did your bit for whatever reason and that is enough. I do question whether or not a reality dancing contest was the proper place to make a political statement.

Now, let me pass something on to you. I don't hate you and I don't hate your mother. I don't like her politics or her social views and I think the worst thing that could possibly happen to our country would be to have her in a position of national power. I am hoping that the rest of the voters in the country feel the same way. But I don't know her so how can I hate her? What I hate is what she espouses and the lack of respect she has shown to our current commander in chief. I hate her politics and her encouragement of the dangerous fringe elements.

Now, there IS something I like about her and you should know about this. I like the fact that she supported you when you were pregnant and when you became a mother. I like the fact that she didn't hide you away, push you to surrender your baby for adoption and was a mama bear when people tried to criticize or judge you. I guess I kinda wish my own mother had been like yours. Never once did she behave as if she were ashamed of you or angry with you...at least in public and I hope she was that way with you, privately, as well.

So, please understand that I will fight with all my might to keep your mother out of national office, but I can understand why you love her. Do your thing, Kiddo, and remember that politics is a nasty business. You either roll with the punches or you distance yourself. Maybe you need to give yourself a few more years of experience before you talk about hate and haters. Some of us Natural Mothers from our era have first-hand experience with the real deal. We were really given a hard time when we became pregnant after loving, not wisely, but too well. Oh, and you are well rid of that pretty boy with the ego.

We mothers of adoption loss know how fortunate you are to have your child with you. For many of us, we never even knew where our children went or what became of them until years later. We missed out on all the milestones that our children passed through. You will get to see Tripp's first bike ride, his first day in school, birthdays, Christmases and summer vacations. You are blessed, because your parents helped you realize that of which so many of us could only dream.

No, I don't like your mother's politics. But I give her points on mothering.

Have a Good Life,
Another Mother

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Death of My Innocence

Forty-seven years ago, today, I was a shadow moving in the world of the living. I should have been preparing for graduation with the rest of my class, but was, instead, studying for night school to get my GED, all hopes of college gone. My parents couldn't afford it and I had blown my chances at scholarships by loving the wrong guy and being in the wrong place at the wrong time with another one. Less than six months before, I had surrendered my second child to adoption. Hope for what life might have in store for me or for any of us was dwindling.

I had just finished washing the dishes and making the beds in our house and was getting ready to do a book report for night school when my mother called me from work and told me to turn on the television. I sat there, in shock, as I watched reports stating that John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, had been killed by an assassin's bullet while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.

There were actually some ignorant, bigoted, thumb-sucking, hate-mongering right-wingers who celebrated this tragedy. But they kept it low-key once they realized that their nation was in mourning. No matter what side of the aisle you supported, OUR commander-in-chief had become a target for, well., it is believed, a single nut job. There are still questions on that one. But it seemed that what sun there was in my sky went behind a big, dark cloud. I was already in deep depression and this sent me even further down that road.

JFK was the youngest president we have ever elected. He represented change, progress, tolerance and, most of all, HOPE, a commodity I had trouble holding on to. I never realized how much of my meager, personal store of optimism was held in this man's term of office. I had to wonder what kind of world this was that people could celebrate the violent death of a great leader, could take babies from the mothers who wanted them just because those mothers were not married and could label, as unworthy, so many people just because they were not White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant MALES. For all the stories of mistresses, Marilyn Monroe and human failings, I still honor and respect the man.

A few years later, I was in the break room at lunch and people were talking about the deaths of JFK and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy and the tragedies that had befallen that family. I remember one of my co-workers, known for wearing cross pendants of different gems and metals every day to work, saying that she had no sympathy for Rose Kennedy. After all, she opined, she was rich and could have whatever she wanted. The buried bits of me that could be offended struggled to the surface long enough for me to say, with gritted teeth, "You show me the amount of money that would compensate any mother for the loss of her children, F******. I don't think there is that much money on earth. Are you so jealous of her financial status that you can't identify with her as a mother?"

I don't know what the reaction was because I stormed out of the room and went out into the parking lot to get some air. A couple of the ladies came up to me later and told me that they were glad I had spoken to the issue. That was 1970. I was married with a 5-year-old daughter and expecting my youngest son. Even then, and even married, I was required to resign in my 5th month. It was unseemly for a woman with a large, fecund belly to be seen in the workplace. And THAT was right before the stigma of unwed motherhood began to lose its grip on our society.

I can think of all the milestones, personal and national, and the tragedies and triumphs of the past 47 years that have affected me. But, like everyone else, I most clearly remember all about that awful day in November, 1963. That was the day that a grieving, hopeless, soul-sick, childless mother watched her hope for her nation die, and be buried. That was the day I knew that love, honor and decency were in dreadfully short supply. I don't ever want to forget that day or the days of national anguish, shock and sadness that followed.

I just have to wonder what we have learned. After all, it's been 47 years.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Birthday Card For My Husband

I am wishing my dear, dear Hubby a Happy Birthday on my blog for a very good reason. We had some adjustment problems in the early years of this, the second marriage for us both. But, through the entire 21 years, he has been unfailingly supportive of my reunions. There are times when he has wanted me to back away from the groups and the blogging because he saw me getting frustrated and, to be honest, hurt at times, but he listens to every one of these blogs and praises me for them.

He has never thought less of me because of my past, nor has he ever seen me as anything less that the mother of all my children. He once, while listening to a conversation about adoption, opined that, "blood is thicker than adoption papers." He has come to understand the dynamics involved and to appreciate the fact that I did not willingly surrender my two oldest children. Being an exiled, Natural Mother is part and parcel of who I am and he, Goddess Love Him, loves all of me.

He has never walked in the shoes of the coerced NMom, but he understands losing a child. He has also been privy to how people can be so inhumane and dispassionate towards each other. He has given me the most admirable example in how to honor those we have lost. His determination, after the untimely demise of his only child, was to live as good and full a life as possible as a memorial. Like our anger and grief as Moms has impelled us to want to make a difference, his grief has given him purpose. Now, all around him receive the gift of his compassion, decency and strong nurturing instinct.

Not all of my family, save my husband and my raised children, have been that understanding of this awakening, renewed grief and struggles of reunion. Many are still lost in the mist of propaganda such as is being spewed this month. I can only show them the truth in my journey. It is a hard one at times and they don't call it a roller coaster for no reason. I have many NMom friends who get my back and I get theirs as we tread this rocky slope.

But my husband walks beside me, and holds my hand when it is dark and holds me up when I stumble. You can't ask for more than that. It is more than many of us have and I know I am blessed. Happy Birthday, Dearest Darrell.

I am so glad you were born.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

About Healing From Surrender

When it comes to our healing, it is a matter of course that adopters, the industry, the NCFA and so many others opine that we are not in need of healing. To these people, our trauma is deserved, our grief is transitory and our lives are no big deal to anyone. The true wounds of our experience are reduced to terms like "bitter, angry, ungrateful, selfish" and whatever else they can come up with to diminish our pain and our person-hood. We get a nod in the direction of our mourning, but they expect us to get over that one FAST. "What? Are you still moaning about THAT?"

I learned that, for myself, the pain of loss to adoption is not something I will ever "get over." I have learned, instead, to live with the facts of what happened and channel my anger and hurt into activism as best I can. I have managed a happy and serene existence (for the most part) by accepting what I cannot change and working to change the things I can.

Call it healing or call it recovery, it all boils down to learning to live, to care for ourselves and to refuse to accept the judgments that were meted out to us as vulnerable and powerless girls. It's not as easy to shame and blame mature women who know the truth about life and people. Most of us are now well aware of the fact that having sex is NOT the worst thing we could have done and that we were not the only ones who did it. We are just the ones who got caught by our fertility and the carelessness of our lovers, abandoned by our boyfriends and families and were ground up like sausage in the surrender grist mill.

I hate to see this is still being done to young girls who reach out to these deceptive "Pregnancy Crisis Centers" and who are conned by slick spins on an old theme. You still have to persuade a mother-to-be that she is not what her child needs in order to pass that child on to the paying customers. It took many of us decades to emerge from the fog of the emotional violence done to us. I wonder how long it will take and what it will take to get to these new mothers. I know my palm itches to slap some of these happy-sappy beemommies into the realization that they have been had in the worst way.

Some agencies are now offering "post adoption counseling" to these mothers. All I see is some vapid Industry toadie slapping a band-aid on the bleeding wound and telling them that they will get over it. Some of these "counselors" actually believe the bullcrap they are pushing. Sad and sadder.

This is an adult pain...not some kid's boo-boo that you can kiss, wrap in a band aid and send the little darling back out to play. This is a trauma of a woman. Ages 13 or 30, if you gestate and give birth, then you most likely have a mother's heart, a woman's pain and the potential to nurture. Nature prepares you for it, physically and emotionally. Your breasts fill and become heavy and ready to nourish your child. Your brain is flooded with natural chemicals and hormones that, regardless of what anyone says, MAKES YOU A MOTHER.

Yes, there are those non-caring women who really don't want the child they bear. I have to wonder what they were doing by not protecting themselves from pregnancy or by not terminating the pregnancy in the early stages if they are so uncaring of the child. They sure didn't do the kid a favor. But these are not the women I am discussing and they are a small percentage of the victims of the surrender game.

Finding a way to deal with what happened is an individual thing. There are many good guides to healing that have some good ideas on self-help for surrender loss. But what works for one may not work for another. So we search until we find what works for us. For me, it was applying the 12-step program to the issue. During the process, I've found renewed self-esteem and have grown a new backbone. That is a delicious sensation.

Now, during this month that the Industry would make its own, I can thumb my nose, point my finger and say, out loud, "You Lie!" Big Adoption, Society, many adopters and our government have a lot to answer to. They are already scurrying for cover stories in Australia where an inquiry is imminent. I would love to see this happen here. I would love to see the agency doors closing, right and left. I would love to hear the irrational excuses that would be invented for such an inquiry here in the US. I don't really see how they can justify anything they have done without admitting to dabbling in a bit of Hitleresque social engineering.

Don't be misled. The Industry and those who lobby for and support it are already trying to be proactive where potential quests for justice are concerned. Read the 100+ page open records legislations in various states and you will see the fine hand of the pro-adoption faction at work. They would love nothing better than to lay all their trespasses in the laps of the mothers who surrendered and then let the mob have at us.

Healing, to me, means that I will fight that with everything I have, even if all I have are my words and this blog. I know I feel better for having done something, however small, rather than letting it go and sitting in my Ivory Tower. I became a mother when I felt the faint stirrings of life inside me in 1961. I refuse to let the Industry, adopters or anyone else tell me I didn't.

I find that attitude to be immensely healing.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Life's Little Triumphs

Sometimes, when we are in the trenches with Big Adoption and those that benefit, we can get to the point where we feel like we are Tokyo and the Industry is Godzilla. We get annoyed, then pissed, then we can act and speak without thinking. When I do that I am just another monster fighting the original one. Of course, it is hard to get a rational response to work with those whose career it is to promote and accomplish an irrational scenario.

I could be very jealous of the strides being made in Australia with an actual inquiry and the steps being taken in Canada...well, I AM jealous, but I am also happy for them and hopeful that the people here in the US who are affected by adoption will take a little courage from our friends in Oz and the Great North and join in the fight. In the US, we are definitely swimming against the current.

I want to celebrate those big victories because just getting started against the Adoption Machine is something to note. It is good that these things are happening in November along with Grayson and Ben reuniting and preparing to spend their lives as father and son. The court decision in MO to return her little boy to an undocumented alien is also one of the biggies. But I also want to celebrate little, everyday, life victories. These are the little, loose things on the periphery of the adoption zone. Some things don't make the evening news or the NY Times.

A friend of a friend, after trying for eight years, finally became pregnant. She was on bed rest from the 5th month on and delivered 5 weeks shy of her due date. Her little girl is doing well in the NICU down at Arnold Palmer hospital, gaining weight and breathing on her own. My friend went with the new mom to visit the little one and she had to pass on what this anxious but proud mother had to say.

She said, "Valarie, I cannot believe we were thinking about adopting. All I can think of is what your friend said about having people tell her she wasn't good enough to be a mother to her own child. I would die if someone were to take Lacey from me." Great thought, Leah. Pass it on. I think she identified because she had no idea if her daughter would be with her in the end or pass away from complications of prematurity. That is one more "civilian" who gets it.

My reunited daughter is sick. She has Lupus and when she gets an infection, it's usually a doozie. This time it's strep and more and she sounds terrible. Yet, as sick as she is, there was a member of her adoptive family who needed some tough love and a person to do that duty. She got out of bed, put on her big girl panties and did it! It was hard, it was painful, it was unselfish and it took a whole lot of courage. (Oh, and "it" is private.) I am so proud of her. She did what was right rather than what would make her "popular" with her family member. The victory over the adoptee people-pleaser in her is small by some standards,I guess, but huge with me. More than that, she showed the kind of person she is....a loving one.

I realized that, as I share my morning Facebook "I love yous," I can include my granddaughter. If my daughter had not been diligent in finding me, I couldn't have done that. I had a ball picking out Christmas presents for my great-grands..again, something I might have missed. For over 30 years, I would have given my eye teeth just to be able to say "Merry Christmas" to my surrendered children. I can do that, thanks to her and to a lot of good people who helped us both search.

Things aren't perfect for either of my surrendered children and me. But we know where the other one is and we can pick up the phone or send a card. The Industry was unable to prevent that and I call that a victory. Each time we have a problem with each other or a confrontation, and each time we talk and work it out, that is another victory. The Industry was unable to take our love away from  us.

Maybe these little things can, over time, whittle Godzilla down to what it really is...a man in a rubber suit, trampling a toy town. If I rightly recall my B-movie facts, monsters always get destroyed in the end. It's just a matter of finding the beast's weakness and using it against the Industry.

We may not have injured the Monster deeply, yet, but we have left a few scabs and minor wounds. Now, where's my salt? I keep it on hand for rubbing into open sores on the Monster's hide.

Monday, November 15, 2010

More On Excrement Occurs

I was in an inpatient facility for six weeks for an eating disorder. I learned a lot about what makes us use our drug of choice (in my case, food) and why we react to so many situations rather than making a thoughtful response. I learned the dangers of comparing my insides with the outsides of others. I figured out that I was a perfectionist and prone to dichotomous thinking and that I let old tapes about my lack of personal worth play on and on in my mind. I learned, most importantly, that I cannot control a damn thing but myself.

Life is an ocean and the ocean has waves and storms. In less poetic terms, shit happens. In those six weeks I heard more breast-beating, mommy and daddy-blaming and self pity that I thought existed. What bothered me most is that some of it came from me. I could, in that environment, step back and see that I was playing the tapes of "more unworthy than thou" and first learned the meaning of "Terminal Uniqueness." It was also in that environment that I heard words of common sense and hard-earned wisdom that stay with me to this day. Minnie O., bless her heart and may she rest in peace, a tough old raspy-voiced survivor of alcoholism and compulsive overeating, had a bit to say about our therapy. We listened because she had been in recovery longer than many of us had been alive.

"Hey," she croaked at one meeting. "You know how the jackass got into the ditch. Good for you. NOW, let's figure out how to get the jackass OUT of the ditch." Her opinion from her 80+ years (at the time...she recently passed at age 99) was that dwelling on what you couldn't control, things that had happened to you, without doing anything to change the effects it had on you was just "emotional masturbation."

Her other favorite was, "When I was young and they did this to me, shame on them. Now that I am an adult with the capacity to understand, if I keep whining about it, shame on ME." Her answer to that was to reach out and help others and it kept her sane, sober and at a dull roar with the food. One woman, who was abused as a child, kept crying about it. Minnie asked her what she had done about it. "It's a terrible injustice," she said. "Why not do what you can to speak out against that injustice and maybe help some others and learn how to live well in spite of the fact that it happened to you?"

Wow, what a concept! There comes a time when you start sounding like a broken record if you don't take it to the next level. I can sit around and talk about, cry about and relive the pain of losing my children to adoption all day, 24/7. OR, I can address the injustice and make things a bit hotter for the industry. I think I'll take door #2.

We've all been through a lot of crap, adoptee and nmoms. For the majority of us, none of it was our fault (moms and adoptees) nor were you unloved and forgotten (adoptees). Like the child who is born with a genetic defect and learns to live well with that defect (see references to Stephen Hawking from my previous post), it all falls into the category of "shit happens." The thing is, are we going to let the Industry and the NCFA and the legislative toadies get away with it, scott-free?

Anger is just an emotion, neither good nor bad, neither right nor wrong. Finding a constructive and worthy outlet for that anger is a lot better than letting it fester inside us, warping our perceptions and fuelling poor choices. I learned this from my treatment and, mostly, from Minnie O. I don't do it perfectly because it is a process and a journey..not a permanent fix nor a destination reached. But I am a lot happier for keeping at it.

We're all special but none of us are so exalted above or pushed below others as to be so very, very unique. I'm okay as long as I remember that I have no control over anyone or anything else but myself, that life is real and that shit happens.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When You Don't Know What To Say

I am finding that blogging about my surrender and reunion experience can be a minefield. There is so much that I want to say but if I say it, it seems to be the wrong thing to have said. I wonder, if sometimes, our children would care enough to refrain from saying certain things to us?

I don't think that they often intend to hurt us, but talk about your knife wounds...we are to be censored but they have a wide-open field.

For instance, I know that being raised by other people is a reality for my children and all adoptees. I know that many adoptees see this as a positive thing. But, every time I hear words of praise for the adopters, "it was meant to be" or any variation thereof, the knife that was driven into my heart at surrender is twisted.

I respect how adopted people feel about their adopters. I would just ask the same in return. For many of us, the reception we received from our children's adopters wasn't the open-hearted thing for which we had hoped. Many of us were treated like dirty monsters invading a perfect world with no right to be breathing the same air. So, as we respect that adopted people care for their adopters, Please accept and respect the fact that many of us don't. I think, in all fairness, that shouldn't be required of us. Damn it, we are only human.

We natural mothers have also had to contend with the fact that the adoptee's "feelings of abandonment" are, for some reason, seen as more important than the tragic traumas of our surrenders. Neither the adoptee nor the natural mother is the center of the Universe. We are all part of the herd and the sooner we can reach a point of mutual respect, the better. I still have to turn to the term of "Terminal Uniqueness" whenever I think of how we can make every little, even obliquely, adoption-related issue all about us, mothers and adoptees. Gee, ain't we special?

I look at Stephen Hawking. He did not ask to be born with a genetic defect that ravaged his body while his mind remained whole and active. None of us have control, as infants, over what happens to us and we often have, if we are honest, no one to blame for a damn thing. Shit happens. My father wasn't the pick of Pops but my mother loved him and so there I was. I sucked my thumb over that one for a long time until I realized that my life was totally in MY hands. I'd rather cope than mope.

I tried to blog about how difficult this communication gap is for me and it backfired. One thing I don't want to do is hurt my children. But it is so frustrating, feeling gagged like this. Here I have decried the "walking on eggshells" scenario and that is just what I am being compelled to do. It is not the way I want things to be. Perhaps if it is known that this is a common response for so many of us in reunion, it might be helpful.

When we blog about our personal experience as it's related to the cluster-frack of adoption, we can often trip over our own keyboards. When we talk about how something is affecting us, we don't mean that as an indictment. But we can be clumsy. I was.

November is a nasty month with a day set aside for us to give thanks, and I wonder if that was not premeditated on the part of the industry and those in government and the adopters who support it. To our children, let me please point out that for us moms, just like you, this month, these idiots are asking us to be "aware" of the WORST THING, BAR NONE, that ever happened to us.

Don't be surprised if you don't find me in the gallery, applauding adoption or any one's adopters, especially the ones who had the privilege of raising my children. I am human. I am pained by the fact that someone else was given the joy I was denied at my expense. I am furious that so many adopters put their needs for that "only REAL parents" status ahead of the needs of the children they raised.

And I don't appreciate being treated like a cockroach in the kitchen. That's honest.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Burden of Gratitude

"Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful" - The Reverend Keith C. Griffith

The truth is, often, unpalatable and upsetting. But this is one truth that has to be re-stated on a regular basis. The adoption industry and those who drive the market for the industry cannot dispute nor disprove the fact that they have created a mythology where gratitude is expected from both the adoptee and the exiled mother.

One of the truisms about this invasion of our most sensitive, human relationship is that, in order to procure an infant for adoption, in most cases the mother must be systematically destroyed. Her ability to see herself as an effective parent must be obscured and her self-esteem diminished to a mere whisper of its former size. She is then told to go and make a life for herself and be grateful that she "did the right thing" for her child.

I hear some of the birthditzes of today talking about how overjoyed and grateful they are that their child is being raised by such "wonderful, fantastic, Christian, stable, add-your-own-adjective" people. When they say these things, I want to check their pupils for dilation. But that gratitude is expected of them and they comply. Can I just say the entire concept sucks, big time?

Worse, still, is the attitude of gratitude that is forced on our appropriated children from infancy. There is the specious comment, "aren't you grateful you weren't aborted?" To which I have to reply, "How would you know to be ungrateful if you were? How would you even know? You wouldn't be here to debate it."

But there is more to it than just the abortion controversy. There is that overt expectation of the adoptee that they show extreme gratitude for what other children take as a given. They, like all humans, didn't ask to be born. Since they were, they deserve care and nurture. People usually have children and adopt children because they want them. So why should there be the onus of gratitude on the adoptee? It seems to me that it should be the other way around.

Instead, I often hear paeans of praise and gratitude from adoptees that go beyond the normal expressions of love and respect for parents. The very nature of adoption, a child for the childless or for a home, places the responsibility on the shoulders of an infant, from day one of placement, for the emotional well being of the adopters. As the adoptee grows, so does that sense of obligation promulgated by the mythology.

Now, my raised children will defend me to the death as I would them. But if I act like a bitch, they will call me on it and will not uphold my bitchiness. On both ends, with my raised children, there have been times when we deserved the respect of each other and times when we didn't. That's life. I sure don't expect adulation for doing what I wanted to do...have and raise children.

In the case of the adoptee, you would think that they were the blessed recipients of a visit from the Gods. I have heard so many dramatic hymns of praise, both vehement and belligerently challenging to anyone who might say otherwise, for their adopters from some that are so overdone I want to bite into something bitter to get the taste of saccharine out of my mouth. I have to wonder who they are trying to convince...us, their adopters or themselves?

I'm not saying that a little gratitude is a bad thing. It is nice to hear a child you raised thank you for something that you did that helped them. But to EXPECT this gratitude for no other reason than the fact that a child was adopted by some lucky people whose number came up is unnaturally self-serving and not the way a normal family interacts.

It would be one thing if it were only the adopters who expected this, but the average Joe and Jane on the street, unaffected, personally, by adoption, seem to expect it as well. Popular culture expects gratitude from the mother and the adoptee along with a lot of other things and manages to exaggerate the horrors of abortion, inflate the numbers of so-called "dumpster babies" and, sadly, thinks that Safe Havens are the best thing since the paper napkin.

Am I glad that my children got adopters who seemed to really care for them? Yes. But am I grateful? NO. They had the joy of raising my children. They also seem to have royally screwed up along the way. They should be grateful that I was young, vulnerable and helpless. They got what Nature intended for me. How could they expect my gratitude?

And for Pete's sake, I am tired of hearing adopted adults being reviled for the simple idea that they should be allowed to know about their beginnings and heritage. I am sick of hearing them called disloyal, ungrateful and spoiled. I am tired of mothers being depicted as eternal teens in trouble, needing someone else to tell them what they need. WE NEED OUR CHILDREN. It's what we've always needed. Our children need the right to know us, to meet us and to ask us important questions to which any raised child would already know the answers.

I am most sick at heart about the fact that it all comes down to who has the money and who has the power. Because of these attributes, the burden of gratitude and near servitude is laid on our children and the burden of being called angry, bitter, damaged and other things is laid on both adoptee and mother.

But think about this. Every time a mother refuses to cringe in a closet, and every time an adoptee stands up and says "I am not obligated to anyone when it comes to my human rights," it is a victory. We are doing and saying what the Industry and their customers don't want us to do and say. They say the truth will set you free and I think that is true. It's very effective against false burdens of unearned gratitude.

Gonna lay my burden down, Lord. I'm gonna lay my burden down. Sing-along, anyone?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Where Is True Brilliance and Charity?

Both qualities seem to have left us and we are forced to deal with the popular and the politically expedient. I am thinking, especially, of two very opposite personalities, today. While the name of the Florence Crittenton Homes can conjure some pretty lousy memories for many a natural mother, the original mission of this service was not as a clearing house for adoptable infants in utero. Kate Waller Barrett, who, with businessman Charles Nelson Crittenton, created this service, was trying to help the young mother with child care instruction, medical care, good nutrition and all the thing that would give any young mom a good start. It never entered her mind to do anything but help these young women keep and raise their children and give them the consideration and caring they could not find in society at large. It was only after WWII that the punitive and avaricious practice of using maternity homes to produce infants for adoption began in earnest.

I did a little research at the behest of a friend and wrote a short essay on Ms. Barrett for publication. This was a woman who was filled with the right kind of compassion, who saw a wrong and wanted to right it. I wonder what she would think if she viewed the adoption industry as it is today. I wonder how it would make her feel to see the organization that she and Charles Crittenton formed and named after Crittenton's late daughter turned into an arm of that industry. Some of the Crittenton services are trying to get back, a bit, to the original purpose, but the Industry looms large.

Kate Waller Barrett didn't qualify her charity by judging the worth of the mothers she helped according to their marital status. She knew that it took two to create a child and she knew that men often left a woman to deal with whatever happened once he took what he wanted. She recognized her good fortune and wanted other women to experience it. She didn't charge these young women if they didn't surrender their children. She didn't try to sell babies to the well-heeled. She didn't do any of the things that many who styled themselves as "charitable" have done. That kind of honest charity takes courage and determination, not a desire to make a fortune off the pain of others.

Any kind of honesty takes courage. I have long admired the comedian and philosopher (yes, I consider him one of the most brilliant social minds of our time), George Carlin. His one-liners usually made more sense than all the most learned tomes of Kierkegaard, Adams, Sartre or a host of others. I love his jaundiced view of authority, such as, "The real reason that we can’t have the Ten Commandments in a courthouse: You cannot post “Thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not lie” in a building full of lawyers, judges, and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment." It's funny that he mentions the people who are the arbiters, supporters and technicians of adoption. It's hard to find one of that crowd on the side of the single mother.

I consider George Carlin to have been brilliant and another who was ahead of his time. He didn't back down to the networks and he showed us that personal integrity could be hilarious.

I am going to take a page from Carlin's book and be honest about something. I have watched the fight between the Vaughns and the natural father of the little boy, Grayson, they wanted to adopt. I watched as the self-entitled adopter wannabes defied one court order after another. People were lauding the judges who ruled in favor of the rights of the father. I applaud the outcome, but have one question. When are these judges going to favor the rights of the mother who is conned out of her baby?  Benjamin Wyrembek fought the good fight, but so did Stephanie Bennett and her family and they were just SOL. I saw no one making a move to honor the original order to return baby Evelyn to the Bennett home. It's still a man's world. Grayson's mother was required, by her husband, not Wyrembek, to surrender her son. I pray she will have an opportunity to play a positive part in his life.

I'm also glad to see eye to eye on many of George Carlin's observations about organized religion. He once said that he was happy for people who had a relationship with a deity that would tell them what to do. What he didn't like was these same people using what they got from their deity to tell others what to do. The church and its influence on our society has made us one of the most judgmental, prudish national cultures on earth. And the concern is not on hate, disease, poverty, famine or any of those ills. No. It's all about who got a BJ while in office and who is qualified to keep their children based on their marital status. The nose of the pious is stuck in the private bedroom of us all. Sex is the great Satan but sending our young people to some dessert thousands of miles away from home to be killed is righteous?

So, what would I say if I were able to speak to both these people, today? I would tell them that they and their efforts and ideas are sorely missed. I have yet to see anyone with the heart and the backbone to take their place. Meanwhile, the tears of untold numbers of mothers and their children still flow, inequities are still unchallenged and the beat goes on.

Hmmm, what would Kate do and what would George say? It's something to consider.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A Quest For Peace

I heard this the first time at an Alanon meeting. "Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm." This has been attributed to the Bible, as a Native American adage, the AA Big Book...I found several different sources, but where it originated is not important. For me, it is the message. I am reaching for that serenity, right now.

I feel like I have been living in the middle of a war zone. Around me, the bursting bombs of the National Adoption Awareness Farce, canine cancer and loss, the Tea Bagger fear and bigotry election results...are all a cacophony of ear-splitting noise.The sounds I hear set my teeth on edge like fingernails on a blackboard. When it comes to that Adoption Awareness thing, I cringe to think this dissonance will go on for a solid month. At least the election is over. I wish the talking heads on TV would get that message.

A friend and I were talking about how neither of us turned on the news on Wednesday. I guess my hope was nothing against the cynical "I knew this was going to happen" of those pragmatic thinkers who were prepared for this national disaster. Just like the GOP spin doctors spent a lot of effort to make "liberal" a bad word, now they are waving the red flag of "Socialism" in the face of the fearful faithful. They grabbed the Tea Partiers and used them like a two-dollar whore. Yeah, yeah...I know. This was bound to happen...conservative backlash and all that...inexperienced president..Watch out, here comes Palin, blah, blah, blah.

OK...then let's see to the storm shelters. I find peace by knowing I am doing my best. I find peace by knowing I am speaking my truth. And I find peace by having lived long enough to know that things always change. And I find peace by periodically withdrawing from the fray and concentrating on loved ones and things I love to do.

So, politically, I have done my civic duty and, though it didn't turn out the way I had hoped, I voted my conscience and I have nothing for which to apologize or to regret.

I am wearing my ribbon when I go out and answering the questions as they come. I am working on another letter to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel which will either be rejected again or hidden among the hymns of praise to adoption that fill the pages of that publication during November. But, again, I will have done as my conscience led me and will have nothing to regret, there, either.

In our house, right now, we have both mourning and joy, and that combination is enough with which to deal today.

Oh, and sticking pins into my Sarah Palin doll takes up some of my time..... May a large moose run her down and step on her vocal chords. And no, I am not ashamed of myself for writing that.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Vroom, Vroom

November used to remind me of cooling temperatures, Thanksgiving and preparing for the Holidays. Now, it includes a less enjoyable observance. Yep, it's good, old National Adoption Awareness Month and time for the farting of rainbows by clueless unicorns. But I am revving up to do my snarky best to keep the truth about adoption an obtainable commodity.

It's kind of like a drag race between us and them. Now, if I were a dragster, I would probably be a Funny Car, but when it comes to this issue, there is no mistaking the passionate power behind the rumble from my glass pack muffler. I just have to watch my fuel mixture because I can explode.

I intend to do my share of blogging in direct contradiction to the posies and idylls from the creators and sponsors of this annual farce. I love the fact that, at SMAAC, we have dubbed November to be National Adoption BEwareness Month. For us, this is a month for wearing our ribbons, for observing National Strange and Mournful Day (from a line from Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion") and getting in your face with the Industry that trades in the flesh of children.

The lobbyists and the National Council For Adoption and other facilitator groups have done a good job of buying off legislators and conning the public with warm, fuzzy images that are anything but reality. We just came out of the fog an average of two decades ago. The adoption engine has been humming merrily along during that time. The Industry counted on our silence to keep their numbers up, but the supply dwindled while the demand remained strong so they had to adapt. Their marketing and PR techniques are top of the line. All we have are our individual voices.

I got my ribbon badge out of my jewelry box and am freshening it up. It's simple enough to put together with black ribbon for grief and loss, red for passion and righteous anger and white for hope. Most of us pin ours on with a stud earring with the birthstone of our child who was appropriated for adoption. In my case, that is a diamond (April) for my daughter and a pearl (June) for my son. I wear it everywhere and am happy to explain its meaning to anyone who asks.

I invite all my sister mothers, especially those from the EMS/BSE, to write letters to the editors, engage in discussion, write their elected representatives, blog, if you like, add this to your facebook page and get the word out. This is a race we need to win and it's not won in just one heat.

So, Ladies, start your engines, watch for those staging lights on the Christmas Tree and show the industry your rear bumper. Vroom, vroom.