Sunday, November 11, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 11: Personal Opinions Regarding Adoption

Welcome to day 11 of NaBloPoMo at Lost Daughters. Today our topic is:

Personal Opinions Regarding Adoption: What is your opinion of adoption today? Are you in favor of or against adoption and how do various circumstances affect your opinion? Has your opinion changed over time? If so, what caused you to rethink your former opinion? What do you think is the biggest need for change in the adoption industry, or is the current model for adoption fine the way it is? 

My opinion of adoption has changed over time. What caused me to re-think my former opinion was... [wait for it]


Yes. That's really what it was.

I had a few decades to think. Particularly the ones where I was having children.

I allowed my mind to go there.  


Most adoptees know where THERE is.

Once you  have your own kids it's almost impossible for it to not go THERE. 

It's the place you had tried to block out in your mind so many times over your lifetime because you're not ready to go there emotionally. It's a horribly scary place where you contemplate how a woman you've been told all your life, "loved you so much and wanted you to have a better life" placed you with strangers.

Letting your mind go fully THERE to the reality that you were taken from your mother's arms and placed with strangers will knock you out on the couch for the weekend with a few boxes of kleenex, a carton of Ben and Jerry's and a bottle or two of wine if you're a drinker. I'm not a drinker, so I had a few cartons of Ben and Jerry's and a few bags of potato chips.

When I was expecting my own children, adoption defied all explanation and logic with what I felt and experienced. Each time I birthed another child and gently cradled them in my arms in the hospital, and nursed them at my breast for the first time and watched them contentedly drift off to sleep -- I experienced a jolt. Breaking through each of these extraordinary experiences with my three children was the unyielding thought, "Dear in the heck did adoption ever happen to me?"

Having my own children forced me to go THERE. I tried to block it out. But it always ascended again in my soul, relentlessly screaming, "HOW?????"

I went THERE little by little, never gaining an understanding of how a mother comes to that point.

As a Christian, I looked to the Bible. It seemed to agree with me when it came to my confusion over my birth mother's decision: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" Isaiah 49:15

There was a reminder that God wouldn't forget me. But I wanted so bad to believe that my birth mother wouldn't either.  And until 1993 I didn't know whether she did or not. The years of waiting in between (before reunion) to find out how she felt threatened to emotionally kill me.

I thought, "there has to be something more to this..." Women just don't "forget" even if the Bible says they may forget...may is not do, may is not shall, may is not will, may is not absolute, may is not definite.

May is may.

Definition of May: Used to express possibility or opportunity.

May is a possibility, not a probability.

I wasn't ever in the situation my birth mother was in. Which caused me to have to go THERE in small steps over years time to try to wrap my brain around why she relinquished me. I started studying and researching and trying to get a feel for what life was like for unmarried, pregnant girls in America in the 1960's. 

I found out about something called the Baby Scoop Era. I learned that I was a classic baby scoop baby.  Researching what happened to these women was so disturbing to me I could only read a few sentences at a time before I'd step away from my computer and  think, "Oh my God...that's MY birth mother. That's ME. That's us. Okay...okay...okay...back away from the computer Deanna...get your gym shoes on...go for a walk or ride your bike..."

I chose this option of exercise in my more sane moments instead of gorging more on Chunky Monkey and barbeque ridges.

I could only take going THERE in allowing my mind to actually digest the evils of the Baby Scoop Era in very small doses. 

Many people believe we need to be mindful of and apologize for past injustices in the world...things like slavery and the  Holocaust. I agree. And so, I'm thinking...when are we as a nation going to rise up and ask forgiveness of the millions of women who suffered in the Baby Scoop era? Because I'm waiting. I'm waiting for a Presidential proclamation or a day reserved to honor the women who endured this abomination. And not only does an apology not appear to be on the horizon, but in my experience people look at you like you've just stated a belief in extraterrestrial beings or Area 51 when you say the words Baby Scoop Era.

I mentioned the existence of the Baby Scoop Era to someone recently, and they told me to my face that I was crazy. That this Baby Scoop thing is some fictitious happening trumped up by angry adoptees. Well, you know, there are idiots out there that think the Holocaust didn't exist either!

Generally, people don't view the Baby Scoop Era as an atrocity because no baby scoop babies were aborted. "What's the problem?" they think. "Was it really that big of a deal to give the kid to someone else or even coerce them to relinquish? Especially when it's determined that a married couple can give them so much more than this single girl who doesn't know her head from a hole in the ground? 

(It should be noted simply for clarification in this post that in addition to having huge issue with the Baby Scoop Era, I'm also pro-life. If I ran the world, a lot of changes would take place, but I decided to resign as General Manager of the Universe.  I'll leave it to Roseanne Barr to try to run the world, or at least the USA.)

So, I went THERE for such short spurts of time because it's so disturbing to me. There is so much work to do for adoption to reform and center around the child. Not the agency. Not the adoptive parents.

It pains me to think about how slow reform comes, and how many children are affected in the meantime while we wait for wrongs to be righted.

My opinions changed about adoption because I got brave for a moment. And then I got brave for a little bit longer. And before long I was opening my mind for a stretch of time long enough to examine the issues in a totally honest light. When I dared to seek truth, I discovered that everything that had always been banged into my head and shoved down my throat just didn't add up. 

I was told for so many years by well-meaning people that my mother loved me enough to "let me live." I accepted that without thinking things through and was always so grateful I wasn't an abortion. I even thanked my birth mother for "letting me live", on the first day of our reunion. Then I felt so silly when she looked at me, bewildered, and explained to me that my life was never in jeopardy. The script I'd been so dutifully performing my whole life didn't work anymore. So...

I accepted the TRUTH that abortion wasn't legal until 1973 and I was born in 1966. I accepted the TRUTH  that my birth mother told me that an illegal abortion never entered her mind nor her plan.

And I went THERE to realize that all this "be-grateful-she-let-you-live" crap was meant to make me feel better but it simply wasn't true. At some point, I had to grow up. That was hard in itself, because adoptees aren't encouraged as a people group to grow up. We're forever treated as children as society currently withholds our personal information that is rightfully ours, starting with the first legal document  assigned to us. A document that is supposed to be a 100% factual piece of paper declaring who birthed us and all other details of the first day of our existence. Information they think we're better off not knowing. Even thought he rest of the entire world knows this information about themselves and smugly thinks it's fine we don't have ours . It's for everyone's own good that we are totally in the dark. Even if we might be predisposed to breast cancer of heart disease or diabetes. Even though we have to explain this every time we go to the doctor. No biggie.  

Maturing means being confident enough to identify real issues and deal with them. To discover my identity and first family whether those in authority wanted me to or not. To go after my truth and refuse to be denied.

It was time to allow my mind to accept that it was never about her "letting me live." God, that hurt. I wanted it to be some amazingly noble story that the powers-that-be wanted me dead but she saved me from a destruction because she loved me sooooo much. Why couldn't she be the Wonder Woman I had envisioned from childhood, saving me from the jaws of death?

The reality of the story was she was in a hot mess because I existed.
The reality was that she was afraid of her parents and other authority figures who "knew better."
The reality was that she was frightened out of her mind.
The reality was that she had no idea where to turn or what to do.
The reality was that she had to figure out what to do about me.
The reality was that I was a problem to solve.

And in the end, she followed the path that millions of other girls in that era who were pregnant without husbands were coerced to do.

Warning: Going THERE and accepting all this truth may send you to lay in what appears to be a melancholy coma in your bed and watch Lifetime movies for three days at a time, while ordering takeout, not showering and staying in the same striped Victoria's Secret PINK pajamas. Not that I've done it or anything.

So, my experience was the classic Baby Scoop Era, domestic, closed adoption. My view has changed over time,through a combination of many factors. Hearing truth from my birth mother about her circumstance, researching adoption practices then and now and hearing other adoptees experiences have contributed to my change of mind.

I do not wish this to be the eternal post (too late for that) and my views on adoption reform could be an unending dissertation. I'll put it in a nutshell as concisely as I can in Deanna's 10 Not-So-Quick-And-Easy-Steps to Adoption Reform:

1) No secrets. Period. Adoptees should grow up with absolutely no secrets.

2) Original birth certificate. No exceptions. 

3) People who have an overwhelming itch to adopt should scratch it by starting in the foster care system where hundreds of thousands of children are in need.

4) Adoption of an infant should be a last resort, not a first response. The first goal should be attempting everything possible to keep mother and baby together -- offering support. When a girl or woman says, "I'm pregnant," our first words in response should be: "How can I help you?" not "Have you considered adoption?"

5) When adoption must take place, it should center around the child. Too many people adopt to fill their needs, not a child's. When a parent - birth or adopted, parents to fill their own needs, they place  unrealistic expectations on a child to fulfill their needs. This is very unhealthy and places an enormous, unfair burden on the child.

6) For an adoption agency to remain licensed, the provision of lifetime counseling for adoptees  should be a requirement. With the billions of dollars that flow through the adoption industry, this is a legitimate request. Many agencies offer on-going counseling to birth mothers, even after the adoption is finalized. They do not typically provide this for adoptees. Perhaps one reason is that with the provision of lifetime counseling they would have to admit to prospective adoptive parents that post-adoption issues are real and prevalent.  It would undoubtedly shatter the false perception for adoptive parents that children are so resilient and adoption won't affect their child as long as they shower them with plenty of unconditional love.  

7) Post adoption issues are real. Adoptive parents: Yes, I know you don't think your child has them. Yes I know they never say anything. Yes I know things are fine. Yes I know they have never brought anything up. Yes, yes, yes, I know that. And God knows I'm sick of hearing you say it. I might take off my high heels and earrings and give you the smack down the next time you do. I'm an angry adoptee, remember? Be careful And, post adoption issues are real. Make the counseling available, please. Anytime they need it. Whether they say anything to YOU or not, they need it. It's not about you -- what they say or don't say to you. They probably won't say anything to you.  Because they don't want to go THERE.  

8) Intermediaries should not exist. Intermediary in the bible dictionary translates to: demon. Let flesh and blood talk to one another unhindered, please. They've been apart long enough. Let them talk. Let them connect. Give them their rightful information and let them be. You just mess things up. You don't improve anything. Really. They can manage this just fine without you. Even as educated as you are. Give up your Messiah-complex and go have a Starbucks caramel macchiato instead Please give these relatives yes, that's what they are space to decide whatever they're going to do with you out of the way.

9) Non-identifying information should not even exist. Adoptees have a right to know the specific details about where they came from, who they came from, their medical history and anything else that pertains to them personally.

10)  No secrets. Did I mention there should be absolutely NO secrets?


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