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.


  1. Have you seen that swag bag? No greater lack of empathy...

  2. Well, it's not like they'd publish anything that goes contrary to the adoption-is-beautiful mythology everybody loves so much!

  3. Agree with every single word. Thank you

  4. Agree whole-heartedly with this post! It always seems like such a stab-in-the-back to hear "one of our own" selling us out...singing the praises of adoption. I wonder, though, if maybe Heidi is trying to win Colin over with what she's doing now. Maybe she's trying to re-affirm in HIS eyes that everything went as God had planned, she's happy that he is where he is, and that she is a stable voice for "birth"mothers. I don't know but I *do* know that losing your child to adoption screws up your mind and way of thinking at times. Heidi isn't worried about damaging the rest of us...she is trying to save herself and any shred of a potential relationship with her son. My fear is that she'll be the "validating voice" that paps/aps cling to, while labeling those of us who have been hurt and *don't* sing the praises of adoption, as the "unstable, bitter" ones.

    Chalk Heidi up to another one "beaten mentally into submission." But she needs to qualify her experience and opinions as HERS, and not those of any other "birth"mother. And a "swag bag"??? WTH?

  5. Excellent post Cassi! I couldn't agree more!

  6. Don't know Heidi. What did she do that provokes such wrath?

    1. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/february-web-only/birthmothers-unsung-heroes-of-adoption-movement.html

  7. She doesn't speak for me. It took me too many years to find my voice to let someone with that perspective tell MY story.

  8. "Her son’s adoption completely closed when he was six..."

    I agree with everything you said here, but it is important to get the facts straight. It is my understanding that Heidi closed the adoption herself, not the adoptive parents. She said that is was too painful having ongoing contact and that it was preventing her from moving on with her life. I have even wondered if her decision to cut off contact with Colin is the reason he doesn't want a reunion at this time. At age 6 or 7 he would certainly have been aware that his original mother was abandoning him for a second time.

    Also, I think it would be helpful if more of us, who know the truth about adoption and who don't buy the industry spin, would leave comments at her post.

  9. http://www.americaadopts.com/colin-kaepernicks-birthmother-my-mission-to-elevate-birthmoms-to-a-place-of-honor/

    4. After the placement, you received updates from the Kaepernicks. But as anxious as you were to receive those updates, you said that they prevented you from moving forward with your life. How so?
    Since my interview with ESPN last February, a lot has come to light. Colin’s mom, Teresa, and I had a long conversation, part of it being the letters she sent to me.
    photo 3Through that conversation I learned that what I had led myself to believe all these years wasn’t true. I stopped receiving updates about Colin when he was six. In the pain of no longer receiving these updates, I guess I “made up” or chose to believe I had asked Teresa not to send them anymore.
    I guess it was easier to blame myself than to think that Teresa would just stop sending me updates, which wasn’t true either. We’re not quite sure where the mix up happened, but Teresa continued to send me updates on Colin until after he was 11 years old…and all the letters were returned to her unopened.
    I never received any of them, nor did I request her to stop sending them. If I had, she wouldn’t have continued writing. Yes, I counted the days until the next letter was expected to arrive and read, reread, and read again the letters she sent. I would stare at the pictures of Colin looking into his eyes as if they’d “tell” me he was happy.

  10. I am so sick of adoption and the back and forth about receiving or not receiving "updates" about one's own flesh and blood. It should not be this way and is completely unnatural and cruel. Adopters who withhold information because they are selfish and insecure can go to hell, as far as I am concerned.

    I look at my own child's eyes, who was stolen via fraudulent bogus open adoption and he is any thing but happy. He is a shell of a human being with no ability to think for himself. That was not a better life.

    No, arse kisser Heidi you do not speak for many of us. I refused to tow the line when I found my son and kiss up to liars. My self respect remains intact. They are getting nothing else from the likes of me. I spoke the truth and was banished and guess what, I don't care. I'd rather speak the truth than kiss up con artists.

  11. I wonder if Heidi even knows how she feels. I just wish she would stick to writing an anonymous blog or stop doing interviews until she sorts things out. She has a ten year old son to think about and he should be her first priority right now. I can't imagine how he feels knowing he has a famous "brother" out there whom he doesn't have a relationship with. And if they ever do, how will he feel if Colin does not want anything to do with Heidi? Will he feel his loyalty to his mother is in conflict with his desire to know his brother? His views and his feelings will not likely be deemed important by the adoption industry that ignores how adoption hurts whole families, not just the birthmother or adopted person. And how will he feel later when he reads the hateful comments hurled by strangers to his mother, such as calling her a goldigger and accusing her of wanting Colin's money instead of wanting a relationship with her son?

    I actually have some small sympathy for Heidi because I think her emotions and grief are raw. She did not believe in herself, her ability to parent and she missed her son and it was painful. She expresses that, tries to meet him and finds out that her attempts of explaining her truth is believed to be an attack on the adoptive mother of Colin. Her confidence at this point must really take a pounding, her pain intesified. Perhaps going back to being a good beemommy is in part an emotional regression that she is using to protect herself. She may believe she is always doing something "wrong" in regards to her relinquished son.

    With that said, I still believe that Heidi should be made aware of how angry she is making many birthmothers with her public comments. She has to know that we are angry because we should be. Not because we are bitter people without lives. We are angry and we express that so that the world can bear witness that unneccesary adoption creates pain and loss. Some may escape that pain. But that is not a good enough reason to silence the voices of those who do no. And they do try to silence us by saying our experiences and pain does not matter because someone else had a good adoption experience. Some resort into being good bemommies and adoptees so that they may be accepted by those who want us to get over our pain.

    My truth is my truth and speaking it has gotten my relinquished daughter's adoptive parents very angry. I and my family no longer live with our anger alone. Seems quite fair to me.

  12. Well, isn't that interesting? The moderator of Heidi Russo's blog post chose not to publish my comment. I guess the pov of someone who has ACTUALLY LIVED BEING ADOPTED EVERY DAY OF HER LIFE is irrelevant. So here is, in essence, what I wrote.

    Ms. Russo,
    As an adult adoptee, you do not speak for me. Just because your relinquished son is a renowned Quarterback does not make you the voice of adoption. To even think so is, in my opinion, nothing but arrogance.

    Children do not want to be given away by their parents unless there is abuse or neglect. And giving a child to complete strangers does not guarantee that s/he will even get a 'better' life.

    If you want to know the truth abut how many (not all) of us were affected by adoption, please see the blog Adoption Truth and, in particular, the post titled "Heidi Russo...You Don't Speak For Me".

  13. To blame others for your decision to PLACE your child for adoption, not GIVE UP, is such a lack of accountability and responsibility. Own your decisions, the pain, the tears, the heartache, the worry, the unknown, the lifelong journey and the beauty that follows the ashes. I don't speak for everyone, I speak of my own journey. I speak of walking arm in arm with other birthmoms, adoptive moms and adoptees as we walk through the fear that has separated us for decades. I speak of raising birthmoms from a place of shame to a place of honor where they can hold their heads high and be proud of their decision to choose life. I speak of helping birthmoms realize their value in the three strand cord.
    There was no "coercion", "brain washing". I did things my way, despite how much more difficult it made my choice, it was how I decided, on my terms, my way. I placed Colin in the best possible situation for his life, not mine. Choosing life is a blessing and I stand by that choice. At such a young age we are not ready to be parents and moms when we don't even know who we are or where we are going in life. Our children deserve better and I'm so blessed I found the Kaepernicks and Colin has the life he does. And I will continue to honor, support, love and walk with as many birthmoms as I can and do all I can to help change the stereotypes and stigmas of birthmoms.

    1. The only reason anyone can ever adopt a child is because it's legal to do so.

      The mother doesn't make that happen. The adopters, any agency involved, lawyers, and courts make that happen. State laws facilitate it.

      If we didn't have legal adoption what we'd be left with is a mother and a baby who might possibly have some problems for which they need assistance.

      What you're telling me is it's better to have the laws that take babies away than it is to help a mother-baby pair.

      Unless you grew up telling yourself "WHEN I GROW UP I WANNA BE A BIRTHMOMMY AND GIVE MY BABY AWAY!", there was a reason, or there were multiple reasons, that you surrendered your child. No mother in her right mind goes through a pregnancy thinking she'll just give the baby away. There is ALWAYS a reason. Human infants are mammals and are born helpless. If we were all wired to think maybe it'd be fun to give a baby away, we wouldn't be here now because our babies would have died without us way back in prehistoric times.

      As there was a reason or multiple reasons you surrendered, you were coerced. It doesn't matter if there was no gun to your head. The first thing anyone saw when they looked at you was a family in the making that offended them and rather than reach out and help you, they sought to remove the offense.

      Nature doesn't make mistakes. If your body was ready to make a baby then you were ready to be a mom. If your parents didn't raise you right so that you'd be aware of that, that's hardly your fault. They could have stepped in and helped you. Nothing was stopping them. And by the way, you don't learn who you are by simply getting older. You learn who you are by experiencing life. You can't do that if you're sitting holed up in your house scared to death to ever do anything because you're "too young" and "don't know who you are or where you're going in life."

      I'm going to guess you never had any other kids. Because you couldn't have and still be able to mouth these stupid canned platitudes with a straight face.

      By the way, not everyone who's lost a child to adoption was a single teenaged mommy who was choosing from the abortion vs. adoption menu (and why is parenting left off that menu? who does that serve?). I wasn't an unmarried teen mom, I was a married woman with a 2.5yo son who was essentially abandoned by her husband and taken advantage of by her infertile inlaws (the husband's mother and stepfather). But even if I *had* "chosen life" as you put it, pressuring a young woman to give up the baby she just "allowed to live" is a horrific punishment for an action that is supposed to be the greatest possible moral choice to make. Why should I choose to do something good when people are just going to rip my heart out for it and throw it on the floor and stomp on it? When they're going to murder my motherhood and reduce me to less than dogs?!t in my child's eyes? If you're the "birthmother" I'm remembering from the media, isn't your son refusing contact with you now? Sure, he's alive, but what was the point? Who EVER had any right to expect you to be their Handmaid and make their babies for them? You're a human being with worth, not a body factory. Maybe one day you'll even realize that.

    2. My newest post is my response to you. Sadly, I doubt it will do much as you seem pretty deep in your need to be praised for giving up (or placing) your son for adoption.

      I think, most of all, my heart breaks for your son. The innocent one who never asked for any of this!

  14. o, please heidi.

    my baby was ripped out of my bidy with forceps whike i was restrained on a delivery table.

    i never wabted to give her up.

    i was threatened with loss of my freedom and involuntary sterilization if i did not sign papers.

    talk about coercion.

    there is no beauty here, only ashes.

    what you need to understand is that you do NOT SPEAK FOR ANYONE BUT YOURSELF

  15. Heidi, do you know what cognitive dissonance is? Your words do purport to speak for all natural mothers-and the adoption industry welcomes them because they validate what they do to women and children every single day in this country. I find it disgusting that you come here, to my friends blog, and tell us what we did, and what we should do to "get over it" frankly it's not your place to tell anyone how to deal, or heal for that matter, Perhaps you had a choice, I did not, Cassi did not, many, many, many of us did not, and our CHILDREN had absolutely no say in the matter. Perhaps you should do some reading, try Verrier's The Primal Wound, Fessler's The Girls Who Went Away, and start reading some of our blogs before you dare talk to one of us the way you just spoke to Cassi.

  16. and another thing, you can call yourself a birthmother if you like, but DO NOT Apply that word to me, to Cassi or any other MOTHER you may run across. I will not be reduced to a "birth thing" a breeder or a walking vagina to make you and the industry comfortable.

  17. Heidi, if you truly believe you made the decision of your own free will, more power to you. Sadly, many of us did not. The only responsibility I will own is that I got pregnant in the first place. After that, the decisions were not mine. I was told that I could not bring "that" baby home. My other option was to be made a ward of the court and my parents would have rather that happened (losing their rights to ME) than supported me and their grandson. Thirty seven years later, that still hurts. So, not only was I thrown under the adoption bus, so was my son. Thankfully he and I are reunited and he welcomed me with open arms, but the lost years still haunt me - and him.

    Speak for yourself if that is what you really believe. But don't speak for us. You can't. Never once in my life have I felt "blessed" that this atrocity happened to me. And I know a good many others that feel the way I do. I know way, way less that feel the way you do.