Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Danger Ahead

I read a blog post not too long ago . . .

It is, for the most part, the same as I’ve read time and time again. She’s a mom who parented her daughter for nine weeks (that part is different than the usual stories I hear) and then gave her up for adoption. She challenges the idea that others might believe she thought she wasn’t good enough for her baby and gives her reasons why she did know she was a good enough mother but believed her daughter still deserved more.

There’s nothing really special about it. Nothing that is truly different in what she says compared to all the other First Mom blogs and Facebook pages that encourage adoption with all the good experiences they have had.

But somewhere in between the same old, tired label of anti-adoption and the references to “self-described” and “disenfranchised” First Moms, I began to realize, even more, just how dangerous blog posts such as this, as well as the Facebook Pages, the groups like Birthmothers for Adoption, really are.

Because even as they, like this blog author, claim they feel sorry for anyone who feels as if they were coerced into giving up their baby, they don’t seem to realize just how much they are a part of that very coercion . . .the same coercion they go on to say they never knew in their own experience.

They are what the adoption industry knows is a sure way to convince a pregnant woman to give up her baby . . .

- -Put together a book of meditations for pregnant women who have decided to place babies for adoption. These books could include a variety of birthmother stories that reassure women with unplanned pregnancies that adoption was right for many other women with similar circumstances and may be right for them. - -

The only difference is, the “books” have now become the internet, the blogs, the groups, whatever is out there where First Moms tell their “good” experiences to “reassure” more pregnant women that giving their babies away is the right thing to do.

And that is where the danger begins. But it doesn’t end there.

Because, just as what happened in this particular post, adoptive parents and couples desperate to adopt, flock to such messages, praise them, use them – and the ones who write them – to justify any doubts, any “uncomfortable” feelings they might have. It is their excuse so they don’t have to worry about being ethical. Don’t have to concern themselves with those pesky little “truths” that they hear of but don’t want to believe because it goes against everything they have been told. Everything they need to hold on to so they are reassured that adoption isn’t about their desperate need to have a child but instead about offering a better life to a child. About being that savior because the First Moms themselves even admit that they were unworthy compared to that “perfect” couple who could offer their child everything they could not.

It is, in every way, a true example of the propaganda the adoption industry spends good money to keep alive. To use so that more and more women will give up their babies and more and more desperate couples will see themselves as the answer to their needs, taking those babies from mothers who just couldn’t give them the lives they deserved in the first place.

But what the author of this blog, and so many others, seem to miss is the fact that their “good” experiences do not mean that we cheat other women out of the protections they deserve. That their need to downplay and/or pretend the darker truths of adoption don’t exist doesn’t help anyone but those who are already using them to continue their one-sided truth of what adoption really is. Using them so they can profit – financially or personally (getting that baby they desperately want) – from First Moms who not only give away their babies but are also able to influence even more women into doing the same.

They are, in so many ways, the investment that keeps on giving.

An investment that is full of danger.

And yet, I am very much aware these moms aren’t trying to cause anyone harm. I have been there. I spent many years as the poster child for what it meant to be a good “beemommie.” Years unaware of the damage adoption counseling had caused.

And I see that damage now in so many of these First Mom blogs and Facebook pages. I see how so many, just like myself, deserved to be protected from such counseling. Deserved the crisis counseling we needed instead of the carefully researched adoption counseling, intended to encourage women to give up their babies, we received from those who worked hard to earn our trust so that we wouldn’t question what they said. Would believe that giving our children away to the more-deserving couple was a true act of love.

The counseling that left us repeating, like robots, exactly what we were told. Repeating the same things First Moms before and after us repeated as if we all were reading from the exact same script (which in truth we were and still do) . . .

“I knew I wasn’t good enough, mature enough, successful enough to offer my child the life they deserved.”

“There are so many couples out there who can’t have children of their own and deserve the gift of a baby to make their life whole.”

“My son/daughter will always know I loved them so much that I wanted a better life for them than I could give them.”

“I made the most selfless decision I could have made. Though I loved my child and wanted to keep him, I know it would have been selfish of me to do so.”

You could visit a dozen different blog posts about a First Mom’s “good” experience, and you will, more likely than not, find some variation of these very sentiments. You could take a look at one of their many Facebook pages and see the same thoughts and beliefs in their descriptions, in the very content they allow to be shared on their page.

And what so many don’t realize, what would be impossible for any expectant mother considering adoption or desperate adoptive parent to know, when they come across these blogs or Facebook pages, is the fact that, so often, another side of being able to repeat and believe everything we are told during adoption counseling is the wall we build in the process. A wall that doesn’t challenge what we were told, led to believe, by those we trusted who counseled us and helped us see how adoption was the best choice we could make for our child.

It is our protection. The foundation that keeps us from having to question if we really did the right thing. Keeps us happy in our good experiences.

Behind that wall we don’t have to believe anything that might be said by the “anti-adoption” side. In fact, we can cast doubt on what they have to say, limit their voices to nothing more than bad experiences who want only to force women to parent their children.

That wall shelters us from having to listen to and maybe accept the experiences of adoptees who talk about the terrible loss they suffered when their mothers gave them up for adoption. It restricts us from taking the initiative to research on our own the truths of adoption that aren’t shared by the industry but are easily found if one takes the time to look.

It’s a wall that holds us in the place we need to be. Holds us so that we don’t believe we actually deserved anything but the counseling we received, keeps us in the belief that we are the example for what it means to be a selfless, mature mother who made the best decision for her child when she decided to give him or her up for adoption.

It restricts us from seeing anything wrong in the fact that the adoption industry profits billions of dollars off of mothers giving away their children. Keeps us fighting to support and glorify adoptive parents while believing there is no reason to offer any more help or support to keep a mother and child from having to go through the grief of being separated from one another.

A wall that actually makes it unimportant if our child will be denied his or hers equal rights. Keeps us in the belief that open adoption is the answer to everything and we, as the First Moms to adoptees who have been blessed with such a “different” adoption, will all ride off happily into the sunset with the very best of feelings that prove wrong, discredit and ignore any of the knowledge or experiences that might have been learned before we ever stepped into the world of adoption.

It angers and saddens me to see this cycle continue. To know First Moms themselves play a part in that because they were denied the full truth and now do the same to others while keeping alive the damaging myth that only certain women deserve to be mothers and those who don’t live up to that standard should make the “loving option” of giving their babies away as “gifts” to the more deserving women.

I’ve seen courage, selflessness and maturity. But not in the way the adoption industry wants us to. Not in the blogs or Facebook pages of those who share their good experiences.

I see it in those who know, accept and share the hard truths, even when they are not what they want to face.

In those who search and learn for themselves the realities that are out there so that they do not blindly follow, or encourage others to do so, simply because it is what they have been told.

It’s there in those who stand up and fight for change. Change every women and child deserves to have, regardless of the “good” experiences of others.
Change that comes with many attacks, many days of pushing forward even when the temptation is to quit. Change that only the courageous, the selfless, the mature would ever dedicate themselves to fighting for.

Change that could never be possible if we believed what we were told, encouraged others to believe as well, while never sharing, questioning or learning – for ourselves - the harder truths that exist . . .

The ones that show the danger in the diluted “truths” others so desperately want and need us to believe, to repeat, to share so they can continue to gain off the loss of unprotected mothers and their babies.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Little Things

Well . . .this has definitely been an overly extended holiday blog break for me.

But there’s just something about having this amazing little granddaughter in the house that seems to so easily distract me from what needs to be done. All it takes is a smile from her and suddenly nothing else seems so important. The sound of her laughter to make me forget what it was I was supposed to be doing.

It’s time, though, to get back to writing, both here and in my professional life.

There is so much I want to write here. So many posts already formed inside my head. I may have taken a break from writing about adoption these last few months but there was no break at all in living the reality of adoption.

And since the birth of my granddaughter, that reality has come at me time and time again. But it hasn’t been some big thing barreling after me. Instead it’s been the little things. Like someone standing a few feet away and randomly hurling pebbles at me. Once or twice and it really wouldn’t hurt. But after a while the sting becomes almost unbearable.

That’s been my life these past six months. Little things hitting me, over and over again, bringing the pain that is adoption.

Little things that I believe those of us who are not adopted take for granted to the point that we don’t even carry memories of such experiences.

Little things that go against the adoption belief that taking a newborn baby from his or her mother and handing them over to a stranger to raise causes no harm, no loss, no grief.

Little things that have driven home, more than ever, just what I did to my oldest son all those years ago when I gave him up for adoption.

There have been so many times when I have held my granddaughter close, looked into her eyes, and been so thankful she didn’t have to suffer the loss of losing her mother in the first few days of her life. Thankful she wasn’t taken from her family and placed into the care of strangers.

I hold her tighter, kiss her more when I think of everything she could have lost if adoption had become a part of her life. If she had been stripped of a heritage, a history that was hers the minute she was born.

And in those moments, there is always the harsh realization that when I walked in to the hospital nursery and placed my oldest son in the arms of his adoptive mother, I did to him the very things I am thankful my granddaughter never had to know.

And how do you make sense of that? How do you live with the knowledge that you are thankful your granddaughter will never know the loss your first born child suffered through adoption?

I know what happened all those years ago. I know the lies, the coercion, the manipulation that existed to make sure I gave away my healthy, white, baby boy to a couple willing to pay good money for him. But that doesn’t change what it feels like to cuddle my granddaughter as close as I possibly can because I am horrified to think of what it would have done to her if her mother had done what I did to my own child . . . to relive, over and over again, that moment when I pulled my son away from me and placed him in the arms of woman he didn’t know, left him alone with his loss while I turned away and walked out the door.

It’s a mind game that plays so cruely, becomes one of those little things that is thrown at me time and time again until the sting becomes almost too much to bear.

And yet it doesn’t stand alone.

I mean, that would just be too easy, right?

Because there are also those things, as I said, that I truly believe those of us who are not adopted take for granted.

I saw it on Christmas Eve.

It was my turn this year to host the dinner for my large, loud, wonderful, Irish side of the family.

Think busy and lots of noise. Laughter and conversations that overlap one another. Also think of a family proud to be Irish, raised to respect family and about as close and crazy as anyone could get.

Then throw in to that mix the newest family member . . . my granddaughter. She wasn’t just the new baby. She was the new “Grady” – our family name.  She was passed around, held, loved. By parents and grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Oh, she was one of us, you know. She was a Grady. An Irish girl. Maybe she’d be a painter, a writer. Maybe a sculptor or fashion designer. She cried and sounded exactly like one of her cousins when she was a baby. She smiled and looked just like her dad.

It was the start of what she will always know, always have in her life. Of those things she will take for granted because that’s just how it is. That’s normal. It’s what happens. You get together with family and they start talking about who you take after, look like, act like. It’s not even a second thought to them either. It just is what it is . . .

- - You have your grandpa’s nose - -

- - When you sing you sound just like your great-aunt - -

- - You have your mom’s green eyes - -

- - You inherited your painting skills from your uncle - -

And it doesn’t just end with family gatherings. It’s there . . . always there.
We just don’t see it or recognize it if we have never missed it.

But I see it so much now. Over and over again is the reality that all my granddaughter has is all my oldest son never knew.

Those little things . . . simple things . . . that become so important in creating our identity, our connection to who we are through who came before us.

Normal things for so many that adoption takes away.

Takes away on top of the loss that already exists.

To see it . . . to live it now . . . I just can’t even imagine where I ever was, what I ever thought when I gave my oldest son away to such a life.

What is “better” about a life that begins with loss in the arms of a stranger? About growing up never having what so many don’t even think twice about because, to them, it’s such a normal part of life that they don’t even realize how it plays into creating who and what they become.

Adoption, even so-called successful open adoptions, start with a terrible loss and continue with taking away from children what they should just always know, count on, take for granted. There is nothing good in that. Nothing “better” about it.

Every child deserves what my granddaughter knows in her life, what my son was denied in his.

Deserves to have, if at all possible, the life, the family, they were born into.
Adoption is not a loving option.

It is an act.

An act that separates a child from his or her family, takes from them what is normal, natural in the process of growing up.

An act that should not be encouraged, praised or hoped for. But instead recognized as something that no child should ever have to experience unless there is no other option. No other way to give them the life they deserve in the family they were born in to. Give them the “little things” that nobody should ever be denied.