Saturday, June 30, 2012

Colorado Burns

It’s been about a month now that my family and I have followed the many fires burning through our wonderful state.

As a second generation Colorado native, I know and expect wildfires to hit.  It’s a part of our dry summers with so much fuel in our high country to feed the risk of flames catching and spreading quickly through our beautiful wilderness. But this year . . .

This year has been unlike anything I can ever recall in my lifetime.  So many fires so early in the season.  Day after day there seems to be reports of a new one and in those reports come the big ones, the dangerous ones, the deadly ones.

There are days that are so smoky we can barely see our beautiful mountains.  Mornings that smell as if someone is burning a campfire in your own backyard from the moment you step out the door.  It’s been heartbreaking to watch our state suffer through so much.  Hard to think of how much pain and loss so many Coloradans have experienced in such a short amount of time.

And yet, it wasn’t until a week ago, when the Waldo Canyon Fire first found life, that the worst of my worries began to set in.  That I was struck with the reality that my son’s recent move back to Colorado Springs had placed him in the path of where the threatening flames were hovering.

And then Tuesday came and my worst worries came true as hell erupted over the city.

I was outside on our back patio with my husband, watching the dark smoke plume from the newest fire burning in Boulder, growing bigger and bigger over the tree tops, when my youngest son stuck his head out the door and called me in to watch the latest information on the Waldo Canyon Fire flashing across the television screen.

And there it was . . . what I had feared  . . . Colorado Springs was on fire.  Tens of thousands of residents were being evacuated.  The city was covered in smoke and ash.  And my oldest son was there, in the middle of all of that.

The phone calls began then.  Between myself and my oldest son.  Between him and his father, his younger brothers.

It was a terrifying experience that is hard to explain.  I have never been in that situation before.  Watching horror flashing live on my television screen with the knowledge that someone I love is a part of all that is happening.  Is there in what I can only know from the safety of my family room.

My son was so close and yet, at that moment, felt so very far away.

I cursed having grown up sons then.  Adults I could no longer tell what to do.  I wanted so bad for him to come home to where I could keep him safe, know he wouldn’t be in danger from the flames glowing in the night sky throughout the city.

I watched the newest evacuations as they came, one after another, fear growing as they inched closer and closer to where my son lived.  As the fire stretched to within a little over ten miles from him.

But I had to respect, not only that he was an adult perfectly capable of making decisions for himself outside of his mother’s worry, but that his need to stay in Colorado Springs was important to him because of the life he had, the memories he carried.  Because of a large part of his life that isn’t a part of his first family but instead a part of his adoptive family.  Part of what will always be who he is because adoption changed the place he considers home.

To my oldest son, that home will always be Colorado Springs.  Reunion, adopting him back, didn’t change that.  Living down here, with us, on his own, for four years, didn’t change that.  At just three days old he was taken “home” to the place where he ran around the streets on his bike.  Explored the mountains and forests at his back door.  Went to school, worked his first job, had his first apartment.

Yes, there is a selfish part of me that wishes things were different.  That wants his home to be the same as mine, his dads, his siblings.  But that can never be.  And I would never deny what is home to him because doing so would be denying a part of who he is, of what makes him the wonderful man he has become.

And doing so would mean not respecting and understanding why he needed to stay in Colorado Springs on the night the fires released their terror.  Why he had to be there, be close to what was happening to his home, to the place where his heart will always be.

Through the night and into the early morning hours, our connection was through the telephone.  For hours we talked, my son reassuring his family he was okay while we were there, in a small way, helping him to not feel so alone as he found himself surrounded by such an unimaginable horror.

And as a new morning dawned, and he remained safe, our fear turned to sorrow and heartache for all those who had lost so much.  For the pain my son was suffering at seeing his town . . . his home . . . destroyed in so many ways.

It’s a different life now there in the Springs.  While the news slowly moves away from the story of the fire that hit that terrible night, Colorado Springs is still living the reality of it.  They can’t turn off their television, wait for a new and breaking story to take over.  They know what they live.  And what they live is the devastation of so many homes lost.  Of at least two deaths and the ever constant reminder, as they look west, of just what happened on a hell-filled night they will never forget.

So, for my oldest son, for every resident of Colorado Springs, I ask that we not forget, that we remember, as our lives continue on as usual, there are so many who will live with a terrible loss for so many days, weeks, months and even years to come.

I ask that it not matter what we do or do not agree on, that in this time, differing opinions and views mean nothing when it comes to keeping so many in our thoughts and prayers.  That for just a moment we forget about everything except those who are hurting and in need.  Who are homeless, mourning the death of loved ones, witnessing their city damaged in ways they could never imagine.  That we pray for the best for them and for a recovery that will take time, care and lots of love to be reached. 

That we pray for a community facing one of the darkest times of their history.  A community that will forever be changed by the fury of a fire that took away so much from so many in one dark night of hell.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oh Those Dads

Back in 1970, during the final stages of the Baby Scoop Era, my parents were high school seniors when my mom became pregnant with me.

I was an adult and many years past giving up my oldest son for adoption when I learned of the true situation surrounding my mom’s pregnancy and my birth.  When I first became fully aware of the judgment and shame a pregnant woman suffered for being young and pregnant outside of wedlock. Aware of just how close my mom came to being sent away to a Catholic maternity home.  Of how close I came to being another baby lost to adoption during that cruel part of our nation’s history.

I was saved from that fate, in many ways, because of my dad. Because, in a time when it was much easier for men to deny paternity and walk away, my dad stood up and took responsibility.  He didn’t turn and run.  Instead he did, as he once explained to me, one of the most terrifying things in his life, telling his dad (my grandfather) that he had gotten a girl pregnant.  Asked him for help so that she and his baby wouldn’t be sent away.

And that show of courage was the first step in saving my mom from the maternity home.  In saving me from becoming yet another adoptee to add to the many that were taken during the Baby Scoop Era. (And no, the fact does not escape me that my mom had absolutely no choice, no rights in what was happening to her.)

Growing up, I didn’t know that part of my story.  Perhaps it was to protect me.  Perhaps it was the shame my mother still struggled with for so many years of her life because of her pregnancy with me.  Whatever the reason, I am thankful I have had two decades now of knowing my dad’s first step into fatherhood was having the courage to stand up and face his father so that my mom wouldn’t be sent away, so that I wouldn’t be taken from him.

And yet, I know, back then, just as today, my Dad really had no rights.  Had the past played out differently.  Had there been no quick-planned wedding but instead a send off for my mom to the maternity home, there would have been absolutely nothing my Dad could have done to keep his own daughter.  He, just like so many fathers before and after him, would have had his child taken without his consent.

I think of that now, with Father’s Day just around the corner. Of just how much I could have lost, of what I would have never known, if my mom had been sent away and my dad denied any and all rights to his own child.

And I think of all the other fathers out there who were denied their rights and had their children taken from them without their consent.  Of their sons and daughters, taken from their Dads, given away for adoption.  To fulfill the desires of hopeful adoptive couples while stripping innocent babies from families they already have.  From fathers who wanted nothing more than to keep and raise their own child.

I’m thankful that fathers like Ben Wyrembek and Dusten Brown will have their children with them this Father’s Day. And I’m hopeful this will be the last Father’s Day Robert Manzanares will have to spend without his little girl.

But my heart aches for these fathers . . .

And so many others who will spend Father’s Day without their children.  Who were denied their rights and lost their children.  Who have been forced to fight desperate couples who believe they have a right to keep a child, wanted and loved, by his or her father.  Who believe they are entitled to rip a child away from the family they already have, is fighting for them, to satisfy their own selfish need to complete the family they desire.

What’s happening to these fathers is wrong.  It’s wrong that the adoption industry is allowed to continue to find new ways to deny fathers their rights.  It’s wrong that so many actually support such a thing, will actually be a part of taking children away from their fathers without consent.

My own husband, father to all four of my children, was denied his rights to his oldest son who he never wanted to give up for adoption.  In a letter for Father’s Day he wrote last year - Guest Post: A Letter to my Readers From A Reunited Original Dad - for Declassified Adoptee, he mentions, “a decision that I had no rights to make.” A decision that took his son away, placed him in a childhood with an adoptive father who walked away from him when he was only five years old and a stepfather who physically abused him.

A decision that took his son away from the only REAL dad he ever had.

That is what adoption does.  That is what happens when you have an industry that only profits if it can successfully take a child from his or her family and place them in another family.  And one of the ways to make that happen is to eliminate those pesky fathers who actually want to keep their children.  To place ridiculous restrictions on them and their rights so their chances are slim to none of being able to keep their sons and daughters from being given away to strangers.

As a mother of three sons, it terrifies me to know our family is vulnerable to suffering the terrible loss of a child/grandchild.  To know, when it comes to adoption, the laws are created so that complete strangers, if given the chance – with the ability to write a big enough check – would be given more rights to keep a part of our family away from us than any of my sons would ever have to keep their children.

It was a fear I had traces of even when I first learned my daughter-in-law was pregnant.  Yes, they were married and madly in love but their ages and situation were perfect matches to what those in the adoption industry prey on – young college students, working part time, relying on their parents to help make the bills.

I hold my beautiful granddaughter today and find myself so thankful that adoption was never able to get its greedy hands on her.  I watch my son with her and get so angry at the very idea that, had circumstances been different, she could have very well been taken away from him.  He could have lost that precious little girl that he loves so much.  Could have been forced to fight yet another desperate couple believing they have more of a right to his daughter than he does.

It’s just so wrong.  So very wrong.

Nobody has a right to take a child away from his or her father because of their own wants or desires.  They don’t have a right to determine, for themselves, whether a father “deserves” to keep his son or daughter.

A Father’s right to his child should always be equal to a Mother’s.  ALWAYS!

Yes there are fathers that are no good but there are mothers like that too.  And they can also be adoptive, foster and step as well.  But to believe it is justifiable to take away all fathers’ rights because of the bad ones.  To breed the myth that it’s better for a child to be taken from their dad because adoption will somehow miraculously given them a better one, is wrong.  So very wrong.

My hope, this Father’s Day, is that the small steps that have been taken recently to expose the reality of Fathers being denied their rights will gain force and we will start to see positive change for all the Dads out there who have, or will, face the horror of having their children taken from them without their consent.

It’s time to stop accepting fathers being treated in such a way.  Time to stop allowing the adoption industry the right to justify why they should be forced to jump through impossible hurdles to prove they are worthy of their own children.  Time for hopeful adoptive couples to realize they have no right to any child that is wanted and loved by their father, no matter what reasons they try to tell themselves to feel better about refusing  to give back a child that should never be theirs as long as they have family who wants them, is fighting for them.

Time to stop accepting the unnecessary destruction of families on the broken hearts of so many fathers who only want the right to keep, raise and love their children.  Who deserve their child much more than any stranger ever could.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Label Me This

"The pain of adoption doesn’t end.  It may ebb and flow.  But it is always there.  Always waiting.  A shadow lurking until those moments when it comes sweeping in with a powerful force, knocking you back, sucking the air from your lungs and pounding against your heart, over and over again, with the reminder of all that adoption takes from your very soul, leaving you feeling empty and lost inside.”

It’s been one heck of a long couple months.  I didn’t set out to neglect my blog as I have.   In fact, I have tried, many times, to write and post, but haven’t been successful at doing so.

The last half of April was just, plain and simple, busy.  So busy.  I had a deadline for line-edits to meet that I had been avoiding like the plague and a silent auction to pull off for my daughter’s high school.  For those last two weeks, it was impossible to get any kind of post written.

But I did give it my best effort.  Especially when, after all the "Circle Fun," the anti-adoption label came back with a new force.  After I stumbled across this post . . . Brouhaha Over "Adoption Truth" . . . and read in great detail why I was anti-adoption even though I have never claimed to be.

Trying to follow the great examples of some of the others who confronted the anti-adoption label . . .

I started but could never finish a post in response to explain – in many ways defend – who I am and what I believe in.

And then May hit. 

In just the first week (after completing my one and only post) I learned my Aunt Thresa was losing her six year battle with cancer and was being sent home from the hospital because there was nothing more that could be done for her.  And, just a few days later, I sat with my husband – one of the strongest, toughest men I have ever known - as he cried at his grandmother’s bedside, knowing it could very well be the last time he might ever have the chance to see her.  Struggled with the realization that, in so many ways, she was already gone, the multiple strokes she had suffered over the last nine months leaving only a shell of the wonderful woman she once was.

And as we sat there in the room with her, my husband’s aunt decided to play the video her son had made for his grandmother.  A picture memoir of her life, from the young girl she was back in West Virginia – the baby of ten – to right before she suffered her first stroke.

And as picture after picture flashed on the screen, as my husband and I ached for the loss of one who has always been such a huge part of our lives, our children’s lives, another pain began to form as well.  The one that never really goes away.  That is like a simmering ember, always there, just waiting for the spark to give it strength again.  Bring it back to a burning fire.

The pain that is the constant reminder of what adoption takes away, not just from a mother and her child, but from an entire family.  Because, regardless of what is so often claimed, blood DOES make a family.  It DOES create a son, a grandson, a great-grandson.  A continuation of a heritage, a history, bonded together by each new generation born of their ancestors, connected in a way that can never be replaced.

And to see that bond of family denied, broken, missing . . . hurts.  Hurts in a way that words just can never adequately describe.  In a way that can never be truly understood unless you have lived such a loss, known it deep in your soul where it is always a reality, a reminder of what should be but never was.

Hurts when you see the pictures of family memories.  Pictures of your two youngest sons cuddled up and napping with their great-grandmother.  Of your daughter, just barely learning to walk, holding her great-grandmother’s hand as they tend to the beautiful rose garden together.

Pictures that remind you – remind me – that I can never go back and make up for the loss my oldest son and his great-grandmother, his “Nana,” missed because I gave him away to another family.

I can never go back and give either of them those small yet so precious memories they were denied.  Can never make up for taking away what they should have always had. For what my three younger children were given, never knew different than, because they were never forced to live a life separated from the family they were born to, will always be part of.

It wasn’t until the end of the video when my oldest son was finally a part of the memories of his family.  A part of the pictures with his Nana.  A part of what should have never been denied him in the first place. 

Because he deserved the family that was just his, good or bad, because he was born in to it. Instead of having to first lose that family to be adopted into another.

And that loss of family, one that was forced on him in the very start of his life, hit my oldest son hard this past month.

By mid-month, after it became so clear that my husband’s grandmother – my kid’s “Nana” – wouldn’t be with us much longer, we learned, cancer was destroying my Aunt’s body quicker than the doctor’s predicted and she was being given less than a week to live.

And that news, heartbreaking to all of us, hit my oldest son the hardest.  Not only because he was facing the reality that she wouldn’t be with us much longer.  But because he was facing such a reality after already losing, in the last two years, a great-grandmother, a great-grandfather. And an uncle who died a tragic death that took him from our lives way to early.

Because, as he said to me as he was struggling with the news about his Aunt Thresa  . . . “It feels like I finally get to know and be a part of my family and then they all die.”

Then just a few days later, we lost her.  Lost an amazing, creative, loving soul who meant so much to everyone in her family.  And in that week as we struggled with the realization she was really gone and mourned her death (with all the tradition of a good Irish, Catholic family) my oldest son and I spent many late nights talking.

He needed to share his memories.  Not just of his Aunt Thresa but of the others he had lost in both our family and his adoptive family. 

And in those talks I learned more about the struggles adoption brought into his life.  Struggles that left him feeling as if he didn’t have a right to truly mourn the family members he’d lost during his life.  Not even his adoptive grandfather who he was closer to than anyone.  Who was there for him after his adoptive father walked out of his life when his adoptive parents divorced.

They were so close, he was such a huge part of my son’s life, and yet, with his death when my son was only fourteen years old, he struggled with feeling as if he didn’t really have the right to hurt so much from his grandfather’s death.  Not when all his cousins, who were born into the family, were having such a hard time losing their grandfather.  In his mind, he had less of a right to mourn the passing of someone who meant so much to him, because he was the adopted grandchild and couldn’t possibly know, or expect others to believe, his loss was anywhere as important as his cousins.

And yet, even in the loss he has experienced in the very family he was born in to these past couple years, he still struggles with the thoughts that his loss, again, can’t be anywhere as bad as those of his brothers and sister, his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Feels selfish if he brings any attention to how badly he is hurting because he doesn’t have the “right” to mourn so deeply such losses when those around him have a lifetime of memories compared to the short amount of time he’s had to build his own memories with his family.

My oldest son, thanks to adoption, is caught in this undeserved, strange reality of two families that he was forced to, before ever having a voice of his own, live the rest of his life with.  He is living the reality of so many adoptions that have never been about finding families for children truly in need but instead about acquiring children, in any way possible, to satisfy the desires, wants, needs of adults.

A reality that creates wounds that can never fully heal.  That is the source of so much unnecessary loss for every mother and child . . . every family . . . who has been a victim to so much of what is wrong in the practice of adoption, past and present.

And I have lived the spectrum of it.  I was that pregnant mother facing an unexpected pregnancy, believing I wasn’t good enough, couldn’t possibly offer my son the life he deserved, denied the true help and counseling I deserved so that I was left unaware, and yet trusting, of the very ones who only profited and gained if I gave my son away to another couple.  A more deserving couple.  One able to afford to pay the $15,000 price tag (almost twenty-five years ago) for a healthy, white, infant male.

I was the one who had the hopeful couple at the hospital, in the delivery room.  Who smiled through tears when flowers were delivered to my room for my son’s adoptive mother.  Who prayed desperately for a miracle that last night in the hospital when I only wanted to keep my son, take him home with me, but never said a word.  Never fought for him in the way he deserved, because I was too afraid of hurting his adoptive parents.

The mother with empty arms and a breaking heart who clawed herself up on to the pedestal reserved for us “selfless, loving” types who give our children away.  Who survived by being good and accepted by adoptive parents, by society in general. Praised for giving my son up for adoption.  Held up as an example for what every mother facing an unplanned pregnancy should live up to, strive to be.

And then I became the “other” mother.  The one ridiculed, labeled and hated once I slipped out of my denial, found the strength to finally be honest about the loss that adoption had brought to my life. Found the need to learn and research everything I possibly could about adoption and its practices so I could try and heal.  Try and figure out what happened all those years ago.  Grab on to some kind of answers to why I would have ever been the kind of woman who gave her child away to someone else to raise.

Then came the mother in a reunion with her son . . . who in his own words, described himself as - -“A product of the whole open adoption craze" . . . A mother who screwed it up so bad in the beginning stages of reunion.  Who will always be so grateful to the many Adoptees who gave their own time, relived their own experiences, to help me, help my son, so that I could finally be – after all these years – the mother he TRULY deserved.

And then lived the hardest part of the spectrum as my oldest son began to find enough trust in me to finally take those first steps into opening up and honestly sharing just how adoption had affected him, his life.  To see, through him, just how much he was forced to pay with his own life from that moment when I placed him in the arms of strangers and walked away.

So forgive me, as I have come to this point in my life, if I just don’t have it in me anymore to defend myself to those who have gained from adoption, who will never know, choose to ignore, or even outright deny the loss that is a reality for so many on the other side.

Forgive me if I am tired and weary of having to explain myself. Of having to justify why I’m not “positive” enough about adoption. Dare to talk about the loss it causes while believing mothers and their children should be protected from such pain if at all possible.

Perhaps it’s easy for those like the writer of Brouhaha Over "Adoption Truth", who, through adoption, have children to kiss goodnight, hold tight with all their love, to see what I fight for, believe in, as such a threat that it’s not even a second thought to label me as . . .

- - “The definition of anti-adoption.” - -

But that label is theirs.  Not my own.

I am “anti” in many areas of adoption . . .

I am anti-the billion dollar adoption industry that profits off of unnecessary separations of mothers and children.

I am anti-the accepted coercion of pregnant mothers so they will not see how important they are to their children and are left viewing themselves as less worthy to be a mother than some other woman.

I am anti-mothers being denied the help and support they deserve so that they give up their babies because they feel as if they have no other choice.

I am anti-marketing for pregnant mothers, treating them like prey in hopes of getting their child.

I am anti-turning a blind eye to the child-trafficking and kidnapping that exists to keep up with the demand of couples wanting to adopt from other countries.

I am anti-falsified birth certificates.

I am anti-adoptees being denied their equal rights.  The very rights the rest of us take for granted.

And I am anti-the fact that there is expected limitations and boundaries on the loss mothers and children are allowed to feel when adoption is involved.  That anyone feels they have a right to tell us we should be positive over something that has caused such terrible pain.

Women who have experienced the pain of infertility, mothers who have suffered through miscarriages, the death of a child, are not expected to be “positive” about their loss.  No one expects them to encourage others to go through such a terrible experience, to be supportive of anything that may be responsible for creating such horrible losses.

Children who have lost parents, siblings, family in their life, are allowed to grieve, feel the pain.  No one would ever expect them to , once they have reached adulthood, go around telling others they are grateful for losing a mother or a father, a sister, a grandparent.  To support the very thing that took their family away from them when they were young.

But adoption has different rules we are meant to follow.  Rules, so often, placed on us by those who gain, through profit or a child, from our loss.

Rules that, when broken, bring out the same, tired accusations and labels in an attempt to encourage us back to the boundaries created for us.  For our loss, our pain.  Boundaries that dictate just how much we are allowed to grieve our losses, hold us to expectations of being “positive,” of encouraging and supporting others to struggle with the same life-long pain.

Rules and boundaries I refuse to ever be controlled by again.  Refuse to have shoved at me by anyone who believes, the gain they have experienced through adoption, gives them the right to lessen or deny the very real loss and pain that exists when a mother and child are separated.