Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Heidi Russo . . . You Don't Speak For Me

There are certain things Heidi Russo and I have in common.

Twenty six years ago she gave up her son Colin Kaepernick just as, twenty six years ago, I gave up my oldest son for adoption.  She believed, as I did, that she wasn’t good enough for her own child.  That he deserved better than she could give him and that the only way she could prove her love was to give him away to a couple more “deserving” of her own flesh and blood.

She also, just like I did, had promises of openness in her son’s adoption that were broken.  Her son’s adoption completely closed when he was six while my son’s adoption completely closed when he was five.

Yes, our experiences carry similiarties, but that doesn’t mean that she speaks for me in any way.  And the fact that she would suggest she does, when she has chosen to become yet another mouthpiece for the multi-billion dollar adoption industry, angers me in ways I can’t even explain.

Because how dare she even think to claim she speaks for me, or any First Mom, when, in my opinion, she just sold us all out for the benefit of the adoption industry.  Chose the easy way . . . the  shoulder shrug, it’s not so painful, I’ll still be liked and adored . . . escape that might make her feel temporarily better but, in the process, throws so many vulnerable, pregnant mothers, first mothers and adoptees under the bus.

And all she has to do is sweep away, ignore, any hard truths while finding her comfort, her acceptance under the glow of the good mommy who did what she was supposed to and gave away her son because she knew there was no way she could ever be worthy of her own child, just as the adoption industry has been telling us for decades now.

And heck, she even went so far as to let an adoptive mom help her get to this realization about herself.

And because of that, she speaks for all us First Moms.  Because, you know, we all were just worthless nobodys who realized our children deserved better than we could ever offer.  And we didn’t deserve unbiased counseling, help and support to keep and raise our children.  We deserved exactly what we got, exactly what Heidi is speaking up for all of us and our worthiness . . .

We deserved knowing our children would be better off if we just realized how badly we would fail them and did the “right” thing.  Did what God wanted us to do.  And gave away our children to strangers who were, obviously, more deserving of our children then we could ever be.

Except, my son might not be a famous Quarterback.  He might not have ever made it anywhere even close to the Super Bowl, but, to me, he is the most amazing son and I know, deep in my heart, that such thoughts, such reasoning is nothing more than an insult to him, to me, and to all First Mothers and Adoptees out there.

Because he deserved more.  I deserved more.  And there is nothing, not even a false celebrity status, that could ever make me say otherwise. 

Especially knowing, remembering, exactly how my adoption counselor used the voices, matching the exact script at Heidi’s, as part of the coercion in convincing me my son would be better off if I gave him away to complete strangers.

Because the stories of those moms matched the one Heidi chose to share . . . Adoption is so wonderful . . .  It might hurt and it might be painful, but in the end, it is the best thing possible you could ever do for your child. 

Those very stories that played every single part into the reason why, when I  took those first steps out of my fog, I never even thought to search for others who might be feeling like I did.  Because I believed.  Because voices like Heidi’s were used against me so that I was sure what I was suffering, the feelings I was going through were so wrong.  How could I even feel like I did when all I knew, all that had ever been shared with me were the voices like Heidi’s . . .

Irresponsible, cowardly voices from those who found glory in allowing the adoption industry to use them so they can continue to be held up and glorified as heroes rather than finding the courage and guts to truly research, learn and share all that is true about adoption.

And yes . . . I’m doing it . . . I’m calling Heidi a coward.  I’m calling her out for giving in to her need to stay on that stupid pedestal, hold on to her halo, at the expense of every vulnerable mother and unborn child who will have her words used against them so that they too give away their child so the adoption industry, another, paying infertile couple, can benefit from such a terrible loss.

And before the attacks come.  Before everyone gets their feathers in a ruffle and wonders how in the world I can, or even feel like I have a right to, speak out against a First Mom who is happy she gave her child away to the “better” couple – just as the industry wants us all to believe – and has taken it as her personal “mission” to speak for all of us in attempts to coerce even more vulnerable mothers to give up their children . . . remember this . . .

I, and so many other First Moms, have been there.  We’ve experienced what Heidi experienced.  We know, we’ve learned, we lived, the very same counseling, thoughts, society pressures she has.  We’ve all stood where she has.  In that moment of pain, uncertainty, fear.

We’ve known it so well.  Bled painfully the truth of it, just as she has.

But, unlike Heidi, we’ve refused to give in to the route that is most liked.  Refused to take the easy way that insisted we give in and proclaim ourselves, still, as unworthy of our children, grateful that we gave them away.

We have found the courage, the strength, to admit that we screwed up in the very worst of ways.  To tell the world that we failed our children when we didn’t fight for them, change our lives for them, in the way they deserved.

Instead of giving in to what would assure we were liked, praised by society in a whole, we chose to look further, dig deeper, so that the truth we shared had not only our own knowledge of so many First Moms that came before us and after us, but also the realities of why we went through what we did.  Why our children were so sought after.  Why good, loving mothers continue to be led to believe they aren’t good enough for their own children.  Why so many infants are degraded to the status of not being good enough for their own family to fight for.

We didn’t sell ourselves out for celebrity status, to be liked, to be held on that pedestal. 

Heidi Russo, in my opinion, has a responsibility, especially if she is claiming she knows enough, has experienced enough, to speak for all us First Moms.

Even if she falls into that small percentage of moms who truly didn’t  want to parent her child and would not have changed her mind, no matter the help and support offered her,  she still carries the responsibility to research and learn everything she can possibly know about adoption and the adoption industry before allowing her voice to become one that will be used, over and over again, to convince vulnerable, pregnant mothers that giving up their babies to strangers is the “loving” thing to do.

And there is absolutely no excuse, no reasoning, for why she hasn’t taken the time, had the courage, to look into all the truths surrounding adoption.  Especially when she has chosen to use the popularity of her voice – through the success of her son she gave away – to persuade and influence other vulnerable mothers to give away their own children.

You can’t claim to want to help First Moms, break the barriers and stereotypes, when all you do is walk step-in-step with the worst of the offenders who create the most harmful of the stereotypes.

And you don’t dare get any right to claim you speak for me, or any other brave First Mother fighting for change, when you allow your voice to become nothing more than another coercive tool for more pregnant mothers and their unborn children to suffer such terrible losses.

If Heidi Russo truly believes giving her son away to strangers was the best thing and she wants to speak for those mothers like her, than she needs to be honest about it.  She needs to step up and admit her truths that she is claiming is the truths of so many while . . . kindly . . . keeping the rest of us First Mothers out of a reality we don’t agree with and want no part of.

She needs to be honest and tell the world that the First Mothers she speaks for aren’t those of us fighting for change and reform in the world of adoption.  Believing in equal rights for all adoptees.

The voice she is giving is the voice of those who cling to the belief they weren’t worthy of their own child.  That their own child wasn’t worthy of the family they were born in to.

But for me, I refuse to even let there be the single hint that her voice has even the closet idea to what I believe in.  Because in her voice, I hear everything I refuse to be.  All that I have fought hard to break away from.  Stood up against for change.

Heidi Russo may have certain things in common with my own experience but she is a long way from speaking for me.  Because I believe in better . . . for myself, my oldest son, my family . . . and all other vulnerable, pregnant mothers, First Mothers and Adoptees.

Twenty six years ago, I gave away my son to a couple I was led to believe was more worthy of him, better than I could ever hope to be.  But today, I proudly stand up and proclaim I am not like Heidi Russo and I do not accept her speaking for me, no matter how famous her voice has become.

Because I have learned to value my own ideals and morals more than that of what society deems is right.  To believe in myself, no matter the anger, pain and struggles that come with it.

And I will never be a Heidi Russo.  I will never be one who gives in to allow my voice to be used so that more vulnerable mothers believe they aren’t worthy of their own child.

I choose to believe, on my own decision, in my own acceptance . . . that my son was worthy of my fighting with everything I had twenty six years ago to spare him the terrible loss of his family.  That every vulnerable, pregnant mother deserves the right to know the truth of the multi-billion dollar adoption industry and the coercive counseling they offer.

With all the similarities we share, our differences are vast.  Because I will never allow myself to be used as a pawn to encourage, coerce and manipulate vulnerable mothers in the horrible way I was.  I believe I was worth more, my son was worth more and there is nothing, not even the promise of celebrity, that can ever change that.

And I will always find my worth, not in the same old “scripted” articles on sites profiting from the separation of mother and child, but instead in those that encourage, respect and promote the true story behind Adoption.  The very real reason to fight for equal rights for our children.  And the reality of what adoption has, does, and will continue to bring to our society as long as we continue to be accepting, cowardly servants, like Heidi Russo, who don’t have the courage to face the hard realities of what adoption was, is, and will continue to be without those brave enough, strong enough, to fight for something different.

Those who Heidi Russo and her new-found celebrity will NEVER speak for.