Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Talk about a blast from the past.

The picture is one of my husband and I over two decades ago. In that short span of time before we knew anything of the loss of our oldest child. When our life revolved around school and friends and the innocence of youth.

That was us before the miracle of our first son. Before anyone made us feel unworthy, unable to give our own child everything he deserved.

The girl you see there is someone I have never found again. Never been able to reconnect with, have an association with.

She disappeared over twenty years ago. Became a stranger to me and those close to me after the loss of my son.

Even now. Even with therapy and support groups. With all I have done to learn the truth of what happened. With all the research and learning. I have forever lost that girl I once was.

Lost her on that day I walked out of the hospital with empty arms. When I believed I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough, for my own child. When everything I had believed and carried within me throughout my life became something that no longer mattered as I became THAT kind of woman. The kind who could give up her own flesh and blood.

There is a change, a shift, I believe happens, even today, to women who are led to believe, whether through so-called counseling or the message from society in general, that they are not good enough mothers for their children. That another woman. Someone better. Richer. Married. More successful . . . is the one who deserves to raise her child.

It’s an abuse against her self esteem. Her self worth as a woman, and most importantly as a mother.

It’s an accusation, without merit to base it on, that she will fail without ever trying. That her status, her worth as a mother, is below another woman’s. Unimportant to those that society views as worthy.

And it’s used under the excuse of doing what is best for her and her child.

Because that is what our world revolves around today. That is what so many believe . . . support.

In our loss of human kindness, we have decided that it is acceptable, even encouraged, to take away one woman’s worth to justify another’s.

We find no problem in saying it’s allowed to build up the self esteem of the woman desiring to be a mom at the sacrifice of the one who already is. No problem in creating a lifetime of doubt, insecurity and depression for one woman in a hope to chase away the same emotions from another.

And we base it on which one deserves more, by their accomplishments. Their financial worth. Their career stability.

On who our materialistic society deems as more “worthy” of a child.

I was deemed unworthy of my child. Deemed not good enough for him. A failure as a mother before I ever had a chance to try.

And yet his adoptive mother was deemed worthy of it all. She was seen as the one to be freed from her misery. Important enough to place me in a lifetime of my own misery to save her from hers. I wasn’t good enough . . . she was.

So I was sacrificed.

For her. For the belief it was worth it to end her suffering by settling it on my shoulders. By taking the woman I was and changing her into one who then knew loss, self-doubt and grieving.

Because, somehow, my being young and still in school and unmarried warranted that I take the pain while she was relieved of it.

It’s easy, as a society, to claim we have nothing to do with the loss of mother and child. To stand back and declare that our hands are washed clean of the acts that determines which woman suffers and which one gains.

But we aren’t innocent. We are the problem.

We are the ones who, in so many areas of our lives, base our decisions on who is more worthy by their power, their money, their status. Our voices are what feeds the practice. Our views that continue to accept that a mother deserves to be separated from her child simply because she doesn’t have “enough” compared to that other woman who so desperately wants a child.

You see it everywhere. Everytime someone talks about how great and brave a First Mom (birthmother in most of their talk) is for realizing her child deserved more than she could offer.

They just can’t believe how amazing she is. Are so thankful for the sacrifice she made so they, or another, could be parents.

What a wonderful woman she is. How great is it that she thought of her child first and realized he or she deserved more than she could offer.

What a miracle it is that she will take on a life now of suffering and loss and grief and self-doubt so that another woman can be happy and have that child she deserved.

Another sacrifice. Another woman forever changed. Forever left to see herself as not being good enough for her own child so that another woman could have what she “deserved” and be worthy of that very same child.

Every time you hear of a First Mom so “happy” because of her supposive choice to believe she wasn't good enough, rich enough, successful enough . . .

Every time you visit this blog, or one of the many other First Moms brave enough to step up and speak out against what society wants us to believe, I hope you will think of that picture of my husband and I. And of that woman who once was and will never be again because I too was led to believe that I was doing the right thing. That I wasn’t good enough, worthy enough, right enough, for my own child.

I hope you will remember that I was one of them. One who was sacrificed by society and the adoption industry to bring happiness to another woman while I was left with sorrow, loss and heartache.

That girl you see in the picture is the image of who I was before it was decided that my pain was worth curing the loss of another woman’s. That the insecurities, depression and grief I have lived with my entire life was worth it because it meant that couple who so desperately wanted a child of their own was granted their wish.

I was the sacrifice for another’s happiness.

I was the one who was left never able to find the woman she once was because I wasn’t worthy of being protected and cared about.

Instead, I was the one who deserved to lose because another was better than I was and deserved the happiness that came at the expense of my life full of pain.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Book Tour: The Primal Wound

For many in the world of adoption, the book Primal Wound, by Nancy Newton Verrier is well known and a topic many have discussed and debated from all sides.

It’s not a book for the faint of heart, for the weak. It’s not a book to be read if you are unwilling to open up your mind to accept a different perspective than the “blank slate” theory that is so common in the world of adoption.

But it is a book you can learn from if you are open to the lessons taught. It’s a book that can bring understanding if you accept the challenge in seeing that the old beliefs that adoptees face no affects from adoption are mere myths in the real world and that there is grief in the separation of a child from their mother.

And so in my own opinion of the book and the challenges presented, I will do my best to answer the following questions as one who also had a lot to learn and accept in that moment when I opened to the first page and began to read something that went against everything I had been told and believed through many years of my journey through adoption . . .

***In the chapter "Reunions as a Means of Healing the Adoption Triad" Nancy Verrier states "Under no circumstances should a birthmother search if there is any possibility at all that she might abandon her child again!" Would this statement cause you to not search for your child, given that life often throws unexpected curves at you and you could not completely guarantee that you would NEVER abandon your child again? After all you don't know who your child has grown into - you could have completely opposing views on life, morals, ethics or other things that could cause you to not be able to maintain a relationship with him/her. How can birth mothers who search help to minimize this risk for the adoptee?***

Had I read this book, or even known it existed, before my first step into reunion, yes it would have stopped me from searching for my son until I knew I was better prepared for what was to come. And at a point, emotionally, to be there for him in the way he deserved and let him know, with everything I could, from the very first moment, that I was never going anywhere again.

To me, it would not have been being able to guarantee to him that I would never walk away because I had already known, on the minute I found him again, that there was nothing in this world that could ever take me away from him again. But that was based on my own emotions without having a clue how important it was to him to never go through another abandonment from me. I didn’t understand then just how very important it was for me to gain back his trust and to show him, in more than just words, but actions as well, that there was ABSOLUTELY nothing he could do or say that would make me walk away from him a second time.

And for mothers who are, or are planning to, search for the child they lost to adoption, my biggest suggestion would be to prepare themselves in every way they possible can so that they do cut down on the risks of hurting their son or daughter in such a way. To get the help and support they need beforehand from therapists and support groups, to enable them to realize that it is up to them to regain the trust from their children, and not the other way around.

They need to know that, in some ways, they will be meeting a stranger. Someone they might not understand on all levels or see eye to eye with. There might be areas they find where the viewpoints and opinions they have are vastly different from those their child has gained through his or her childhood and experiences.

But none of that should ever change the unconditional love and bond mothers have with their children. It’s okay not to agree with everything your son or daughter might believe but that does not make it okay to walk away from them because of their beliefs.

They need to know and fully understand, from the very start, how very important it is to never abandon your child again. To see it from their side and understand, no matter what our experiences in the past, what matters now is their future and how we will or will not affect it.

I believe we need so much more help for mothers facing the beginning stages of reunion so that they can be stronger and healthier for their children and be there for them in the way they need. More support and understanding needs to exist so that when the hard times come about, there is knowledge in how to journey our way through so that there is no longer a threat of our children being hurt again with the loss of their mothers a second time in their lives.

The natural process of life is for parents to be there for their children. And for mothers who are finding and reuniting with the children they lost to adoption, there is an importance for them to know that this doesn’t change or alter in any way because of what happened in the past. The same expectations are still there and should never be forgotten.

***I ask help from birthmothers such as myself who have spent most of their lives, remaking themselves since the adoption of their child. I find that my self confidence came slowly and with considerable study and determination to reactivate my earlier joyfulness, energy and that desire to make a difference in my life. I believe that I found and followed some very powerful dreams and that overall I have felt fulfilled in a way that was important even though the importance in my later life did not include other children of my own.

As I now am meeting my son after 42 years, I am finding that my self confidence frequently feels as though it is melting away or drifting out of reach, leaving me drained and a stranger to myself. I am very fearful, because the person my son is meeting is someone who no longer exists....yet is manifesting herself into the now me. I know very few birthmothers and I believe that dialogue in regard to self confidence is something essential.

This request for comment from birthmothers is actually based on Nancy's book completely. In Chapter 13, The Reunion Process, she outlines what she sees as Barriers to Positive Relationships. I have fear, I have guilt, I have shame, I have rage, I have anger and I work constantly on not letting them dominate me. I have made much progress with guilt and with shame. Anger I am trying to just accept. Bottom line, I want myself back. I want to take back my power so that future relationships not only with my birthson but with my husband will not be grounded in the sandy soil of self doubt.***

I can hear your struggle in this question and relate so well with it.

The emotions that come after reuniting with our children can be like an onslaught of emotionally charged darts that we are paralyzed from being able to duck out of their way. I know it’s a battle with everything you are feeling. A constant fight not to let the many different feelings you are going through become such a part of who and what you are that they become ALL that you are.

I’m not sure if it helps, but I’ve known many first moms, myself included, who have felt as if they were strangers to themselves after reuniting with their children. I think part of that is because, in some way, we spend so much of our energy trying to create a life after the loss of our children and then feel as if we are taken back to the women we were when we were pregnant and gave birth once we see our children again.

I believe you do have it right in finding support and some self confidence in talking to other first moms who understand what you are going through. Finding great support groups or just a group of others you can reach out to when you need to can go a long way in helping you through this time and reminding you that what you are feeling is normal and that so many of us have been there, are there, and know the kind of struggles you face.

There are so many of us out there who have an understanding of your experience. I hope you will reach out to those you come across during this part of your journey.

***IF an adoption HAD to happen for reasons beyond the scope of this question, and you could CHOOSE when and how that adoption occurred, please describe the adoption process that would do the following (in priority order): 1) support the child and 2) support the mother and 3) facilitate the best possible relationship between any involved adoptive/first parent(s) and child. Include in your answer details like the following: age at which adoption occurred, description of transition from mother/father to adoptive family, ongoing relationship between the families (if any) during the years when child is a minor, and relationship during the years when child is an adult.***

I have to start my answer to this question with two points before going on. First, for the most part, I’m going to answer this in the reference of domestic, versus international adoptions, though some of my answers will reach to all areas of adoption. And second, I will have absolutely NO mention of the practice of private adoptions and Domestic Infant Adoption as I firmly believe these practices should be illegal here in the states as they are in many other countries.

To me, IF an adoption HAD to occur, my vision of the kind of process I would like to see would be . . .

1) Support for the child . . . First and foremost, EVERYTHING should be done, every step taken, to keep the child with his or her mother or within his or her family. The ONLY reason I believe an adoption should occur outside of a child’s family is if there is a guaranteed threat or proof of abuse or harm to the child. If there is absolutely no way at all that a child can stay within the family in any way then, to me, supporting the child would include having an advocate for that child that is in no way associated with anyone who might profit or gain from adoption. One who is trained and very well educated in what is best for children, and only in what is best for THEM.

This advocate would be the voice they are not allowed to have. A person of trust who is commended and held in high esteem ONLY if they prove their every action is because of their belief it is in the best interest of the child. They don’t answer to state agencies who hope to reach adoption quotas or adoption agencies who want to make more money or adoptive parents wanting to adopt. They answer to the children only and have ONLY their interests to guide them. They would not be punished or rewarded for making certain choices within the realm of what others desire for their own gain. They would not be encouraged to push the process in one way or another. Their one and only purpose would be to represent the child who is unable, or not allowed, to speak for themselves.

2) Support for the mother . . . This one I struggle to answer because I believe if there is ANY way to support a mother than there is no need for an adoption to take place. Outside of true and serious threats of harm to a child, any support offered to a mother AFTER adoption would have more than likely helped more in the prevention of the adoption ever needing to occur in the first place.

So, I guess my answer to this would be, if a mother was failed prior to adoption and not given the support she and her child deserved, or even if a mother did threaten true and serious harm to her child, the support following an adoption should consist of, no matter what the case, allowing the mother to grieve and process the loss of her child, even if the adoption remains open.

She should be given the care and consideration to be able to react to her loss in the way she needs to instead of being expected to “act” in the way that others want her to. There should be a continued encouragement and support for her to overcome whatever obstacles she faces so that she can still be a positive presence in her child’s life. And she should never be expected or told that she can no longer be a mother or view her child as her own.

NEVER, not even in the worst of circumstances, should she be cut off from ALL contact with her child. Even when there is threat of harm to a child if there is physical meetings, pictures and updates on how her child is doing should be a must and should never be denied her.

3) Best possible relationships between first families and adoptive families . . . This should never be expected for anyone to accomplish without professional help in some way. To let two parties struggle their way through such unknown territory is wrong and prone for problems.

There should be programs provided for all sides and mediators involved to insure that when problems and questions arise there is help to work through them.

No two situations are the same so there can’t be a blanket answer for this because it’s part of human nature that some relationships just simply “click” better than others and some have outside forces and situations that call for a different approach.

But supporting the best possible relationship needs to be a priority that is not taken lightly, nor expected for any party to try and figure out on their own. We need more research and study put into finding the best way to handle these sort of relationships and true training of individuals who know and understand the complex situations that such relationships can and do bring up.

To allow one side or the other to simply throw in the towel and quit should never be allowed or accepted. Support should also include having other avenues when such feelings and frustrations arise, help and advice from outside sources who are responsible for guiding the way through such situations.

And in every step of this it should be stressed over and over again that the better the relationship between the two families, the better environment and security for the child caught in the middle. The best, and most important support, I believe, in this situation, is to always have a source to serve as a reminder of exactly why it is so important to continue to foster and nurture such relationships, even when times are tough and it would seem so much easier just to quit all together.

As for age of the child, I think such support and help should occur no matter what age the child is. And for transition, I really just can’t find any answer that can ever make it any easier on a child to be separated from his parents. Yes, there should be consideration so that no child is simply yanked from one life and tossed into another but, truthfully, I don’t think any kind of transition will change the loss a child feels from being separated from his or her mother.

And as for relationships, I think I pretty much covered my answer previously in reference to when an adoptee is a child. As for an adult, they are they are old enough and mature enough then to guide and direct their own relationships. The only input and influence we should have at that point in their life is to always let them know that we support them no matter what they do and that we understand that they do have and always will have two families in their life and that we will never, EVER expect them to have to choose between them.

In all of this . . . in all the questions and answers . . . I don’t’ have any guarantee how, if at all, there will be changes in our views of adoption or an understanding between all sides about what is truly best for adoptees.

But I do hope that discussions and debates such as this one will at least make us more aware of some things we never knew or never thought of in the world of adoption and that maybe, just maybe, in this tour, there will be something, some tidbit of knowledge, to learn from and carry with us from this point on.

To read more and follow others thoughts and answers, continue to the next leg of this book tour by visiting the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yes, I Gave Up My Baby

I’m a First/Natural Mother, not a Birthmother.

My situation was not a loving, selfless act. It was an act of fear and desperation.

And I did not place my child for adoption . . . I gave him up.

I put my name on a piece of paper that the law viewed as a willing testament to my desire for my son to be separated from me. I placed him in the arms of someone who was a complete stranger to him, allowing another woman he had no bond with at the time to take my place. And then I walked away and left him alone with her, in those precious early days of his life when what he needed most was the sound of my heart beat, my voice. My familiar smell and the comfort of knowing he was loved in my arms.

If that isn’t giving him up, than I don’t know what is.

In our culture, an illusion is created by the adoption industry. A pretty little wrapping they use to try and hide away the darker truths and painful losses that come with separating a mother and her child.

There is no question that those who profit financially from adoption have had many years, decades worth, of study and research and learning on how best to convince a woman that adoption is the answer. The only true light at the end of the dark tunnel she faces in an unexpected pregnancy. They know how to play on her weaknesses. Which fears and insecurities to go after. What works best to show her that loving her child means losing her child.

And after they are done with her, after she has lost the most vital part of herself, she, often times, walks away repeating, as if reading from the same script, exactly what she was told while she was pregnant. Hailing herself on one end by standing proudly on the pedestal they placed her on, declaring she made the loving option by placing her child for adoption. That she gave a great gift to another couple. That she knew she couldn’t be what her child deserved and gave him or her the kind of life she could only wish for them to have.

And yet, on the other end, she is diminishing everything she is as a human being. Denying, as was done to her while pregnant, her own qualities and abilities. She places herself in a position of being “less than” for her own child, her own flesh and blood. Not being good enough, smart enough, educated enough, right enough to deserve to be a mother. Every time she declares that the adoptive parents are better than her for her child, she lowers herself to a level she doesn’t belong, or deserve.

She takes the punishment of her sins, her mistakes. Allows herself and others to see her as “undeserving” of her child because of her failures while casting a glowing light to that couple who did everything right and so deserves the “gift” of her son or daughter.

She was viewed as a failure as a mother before ever being allowed to try and is then encouraged to acknowledge this and praise it. And if she does . . . if she repeats the script, says what is expected, continues to deny her own worth and ability to parent her child while giving all the glory to the couple who had what she believed she could not offer, she is regarded as a saint. Respected for her selfless act. Hailed as a hero. Given love and praise by others in the adoption world for being so brave and wonderful.

As long as she continues to deny her own self worth and proclaims such a traumatic loss was worth it, she remains on the pedestal she was so methodically placed on while she was pregnant.

And it is a powerful drug to be up there. To be seen as such a good “beemommie.” It reaffirms that you did the right thing. That you really weren’t good enough for your own child. That you gave up everything because you recognized and accepted your own failures, mistakes and sins that caused you to be unworthy of being a mother.

It can make you believe that the loss you still feel deep in your heart is worth it. It can cloud the reality of the fact that the loss can, and often does, get worse, not better with time. Chase away the later questions of “Why?” and “How could I?”

Being viewed as a great soul for giving up your child goes far in chasing away the harsher truth of believing you failed at being able to provide your son or daughter with everything they deserve in life. That as a mother, you weren’t capable or able to care for your own flesh and blood. That somebody else was better than you for your own child. Your own baby . . . that part of you that can never be replaced or forgotten.

Somebody else had what you didn’t because they deserved a “gift” and you deserved punishment.

And it makes me so damn angry!

Not at the First Moms who hold on to the top of that pedestal and need that powerful drug to chase away the harsher truths. And not even at those who praise and hail them as wonderful, selfless saints who were so brave to see and accept what failures they were as mothers and lose their child to someone “better.”

No. My anger is at the adoption industry that feeds it into our culture, into every area of our society. It’s their manipulative disgusting ways that anger me, leaving me wanting to scream and yell, pull my hair out and knock my head against a wall.

Because they know what they are doing. They understand fully the importance of keeping a First Mom “happy” with her decision, encouraging others to prop her up and praise her loving sacrifice.

They know the truth. They know the very real risks if a First Mom begins to slip and question what happened. If she starts to look deeper into her experience and face it in a different light.

There is no question in their mind what happens when adoption is talked about in any way outside of their “positive adoption language.” Outside of the very carefully orchestrated counseling they offer. The “sunshine and roses” image they feed into society.

And they are terrified of that. They fear what would happen if more and more people begin to see adoption differently and talk about it in the honest painful truth it is. Because they know it will change everything for them, especially their overflowing, grossly earned profits.

And so they continue to use First Moms and adoptive parents and adoptees and society in general. They feed to us what they want us to believe . . . desperately need us to believe. They do all they can to make sure their illusion withstands all else and is never questioned, especially not by the First Moms who they took so much from before they ever even gave birth.

They still have complete control over so many. They still have the say in what we believe, what we say and how we handle such terrible losses. All so they can continue to profit in the worst of ways.

And what is left with those First Moms who are led to degrade themselves and their own worth in order to keep up the happy illusion of adoption? What happens to them if they begin to realize that they were good enough for their child? That they deserved to be a mother. That nobody was better for their child.

What happens to them when they realize nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . was worth losing their child over? That everything they have, they would gladly and eagerly give back if it meant they could go back and never have to face that moment when they believed loving their child meant losing them?

What happens to them when they slip off that pedestal and begin to see different truths, harder realities that they were encouraged not to acknowledge for so long?

The sad truth is, these moms are failed all over again.

Because if they aren’t happy, accepting of the very painful loss of their child, they are again not good enough, wrong in some way, selfish, bitter, angry . . . whatever adjective you want to label them with. Again they fall to that level of being “bad” when they could be so “good.” And all for the simple fact that they refuse to live any longer in the cloud of belief that dictates they weren’t good enough to be mothers but they could still succeed as long as they behave as good “birthmothers.”

And once they quit doing that, they are again viewed by so many as the same failures they were back when they faced an unexpected pregnancy. Because only First Moms who repeat the same script we all hear over and over again are worthy of respect and love in today’s world. Only they make others feel good about their own situations. Keep up the happy image of adoption. Chase away the truths that linger just below the surface.

First Mom’s who follow the path that is expected from them find that redemption they feel they must have for their actions. Redemption so many have no problem offering them because it justifies their beliefs, their feelings. Gives them an excuse not to look deeper into the reality of separating a mother and child.

Because to actually look past the illusion the adoption industry portrays, gives light to a completely different knowledge that so many fear and know, on some level, makes no sense.

How can it when it involves such a tremendous loss for mother and child? When it makes no sense to see ANYONE happy and grateful for losing a son or daughter, encouraging others to follow in line with the same grief and suffer a lifetime of the same separation? How can it when the statement, “I gave you up because I loved you,” is such a complete contradiction in terms that in any other logic it would never be accepted.

We need to change our way of thinking. We need to change the views we carry and the expectations we place on expectant moms facing an unplanned pregnancies and First Moms who have lost their children.

We need to take the control away from the adoption industry. Refuse to believe what they claim is real and look into our own common sense, our own feelings and knowledge, to understand the true ramifications of adoption.

We need to be honest in everything we say to any woman considering adoption. Forget the “Positve Adoption Language.” Forget adoption plans and loving options.

Those terms represent nothing of the true act of giving your child up for adoption. They offer not even a sliver of the painful truth that actually occurs in believing, or being led to believe, that you are not good enough for your child. In the empty hearts and empty arms First Mom’s walk away with. In the forced situations we place our babies in with those who are strangers to them at the time of separation. And in the very real fact that the loss, the grief, the pain, doesn’t ever fully go away. It might come and go at times. Feel better one year and worse the other. But it never truly leaves a mother who has lost her child and very often grows stronger and more powerful as the years go by and the loss becomes more and more real with no end in sight.

We need to use honest language and refuse to be a part of the manipulative lying terms the industry wants us to use. Not for our benefit but for their own and at the sacrifice of so many wonderful women and children who are a victim to their words and actions.