Friday, March 21, 2014

Remembering Jeni

It almost seems like a lifetime ago when I was first breaking free of my denial, finding the courage to use my voice, speak out about the truth of what adoption had done to me, my oldest son, my entire family.

Back, in 2008, when I first started this blog, I was on one of the worst emotional challenges I had ever known in my life.  When I look back at that time now, it’s like seeing this tidal wave of emotions and confusion and pain and loss coming at me, again and again.  And I was so powerless then to stop it, to protect myself from everything I was going through.

The denial I so desperately clung to had been painfully ripped away a little over a year before when I’d reunited with my oldest son.  And  yet I’d gone and struggled alone because, as I’ve said before, I was convinced I was the one in the wrong for feeling like I did.  That there couldn’t be others who felt like I did because adoption, as it was presented to me, was such an amazing thing for First Mothers and Adoptees.  How could any of them be like me and actually feel pain and loss.

And then I stumbled across them, First Moms who were hurting just like I had.  Who were actually speaking out about their pain, supporting one another, sharing experiences and feelings that were so like mine.

It was the first step in my healing.  But I was still held back by so much. 

During that time, at the start of 2008, while finding healing in the First Moms I had found, I was still so desperately terrified of associating with adoptees.  How could they not hate all us First Moms who had given up our children?  How could they not look at us and be disgusted by what we had done to our own children.

And then, while in the time of our lives when my oldest son backed away and went silent, I learned of the physical and mental abuse he had suffered through his childhood.  It was one of the darkest and hardest times of my life.  Functioning as a normal human being from day to day, seemed impossible.  I just wanted to crawl into a dark, silent hole and go away.  Leave it all.  Ignore the terrible reality slapping me in the face.

It was then, as I’ve shared before here on my blog, that adoptees reached out to me.  Shared their own painful pasts.  Offered me the courage and strength to not only face the next day but to also reach out to and be there for my son.

One of those first adoptees was Jeni Gay Flock.

She was, in so many ways, so much of what I needed at that time in my life.  Those who knew her, will nod their heads in understanding when I say, she didn’t mince her words.  She was open and honest and said what needed to be said.

And that was exactly what I needed then.  In her own way, she supported me, gave me strength, while refusing to allow me to wallow in any kind of self-pity.  She was the kind of no-nonsense, give it to you straight, adoptee I needed during that time when I was so cautious, reserved in any interaction I had with adoptees because of my belief that they would hate me just for being a mother who gave up her child.

Jeni opened up and relived her own painful past as an adoptee to help me become better prepared and able to be there for my oldest son.  She had such courage, such strength that was all so new to me back then.  I know she had to hurt herself to open up as she did in order to help me.  And yet, it was never a question for her.  She did it.  She helped.  And that, to her, was what mattered.

And for me, there are no words to accurately describe what it meant to me to have her reach out, help me in the way she did.  Me, a complete stranger at the time.  A mother who had given her child away.  A woman desperately floundering to make sense of everything happening.

I had no clue, then, who I was, where I was heading.  But Jeni didn’t care.  She was there.  Offering so much more than I ever thought I had the right to receive.

She was so much in getting me to where I am today.  In making sure I was the best I could be for my oldest son.  In encouraging and helping lay the foundation for all that my son and I now share together.

And now beautiful, amazing Jeni has moved on to the next part of her journey.  She’s left us here in the living world, moved on to something better where I know everything she is, all that is so wonderful about her, will serve such an amazing purpose.

Even as I sit here and write this through my tears, I know, without question, wherever she is, whatever her new future holds, it will also include helping others, being there for them.  Fighting for those who deserve so much more than they are given.

Because that is who she was.  That is what she wanted and will never, not even after death, stop fighting for.

In this crazy, emotional, roller-coaster world of all that is the fight for adoption reform/adoptee rights, there are friendships, relationships, formed that are hard to explain and yet reach deeper . . . stronger . . . than anything ever known before.

There is an openness, a raw bearing of one’s true self, that is so rarely matched in any other part of life.  There is acceptance for just who one is, in both the good and bad.  An understanding of pain that controls so much, courage that is such a battle to find.
And there are losses that cut deeper, hurt worse than we could ever imagine.

Losing an amazing, wonderful soul like Jeni has cut deep, pounded hard, against so many of us.  The friendships, relationships, she created were formed, held by so much emotion, strength, courage.  But always based on the wonderful woman she was.  The care and love she offered so many.

We mourn with beaten, hurting hearts, the loss of such an amazing friend, ally, human being.  And we hold on to all that she was.  All that she inspired us to be.

Because Jeni mattered.  Her life had purpose . . . meaning.  And with her heart-breaking death, so many are stepping forward to be better, give more, do what we can to carry on the legacy she created in her support and love for others.

We are close, we are loved, we matter, through the unexplainable connection we share in our grief and loss brought by adoption.  And when we lose one so important, so profound, we hurt, we struggle and we mourn.

And we will continue on, fight harder, give more.  Because it’s who we are.  Because we know it’s what Jeni would want.

Because we know, to truly honor her and all she’s done for so many of us, it’s what is right, just, and true.

We love you Jeni.  And we promise all that you were, all that you fought so hard for, will never be forgotten.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Creating A Crisis

- - - “I am a birthmom working with pregnancy resource centers to establish wordtracks for counselors to talk to pregnant women about the choice of adoption. I would appreciate if other birthmoms can respond with their initial objections to choosing adoption and what helped them overcome that. Thank you!” - - -

That wonderful gem was left on the Open Adoption Support Facebook Page.  I tried but couldn’t verify if it was truly a First Mom asking the question or not.  But it was sickening to see somebody working with pregnancy resource centers – because we all know how trustworthy they are – try to solicit First Mothers into helping them coerce more vulnerable mothers into giving up their babies by helping identify those “objections” they work hard to counsel pregnant mothers past so they will, ultimately, see giving up their babies for adoption as a much better “choice” than actually keeping and raising their own sons or daughters.

The post sounded very familiar to this wonderful tidbit from The Missing Piece: Adoption Counseling In Pregnancy Resource Centers . . .

- - - “Give women sound REASONS that will COUNTER the desire to keep their babies.” - - -

And the explanation from the NCFA for their creation and teaching of the coercive “options” counseling . . .

- - - “The mission is to educate about adoption to overcome the potential BARRIERS to considering adoption.” - - -

None of that is about truly helping a vulnerable mother decide what is best for her and her unborn child.  It is all meant to use manipulation to get her past the reasons why she doesn’t want to give up her baby and work her around to where she believes the only way she can truly prove her love for her child is to give him or her away to a better, more-deserving couple.

And the sad reality, that so many don’t think about or don’t want to think about, is that such counseling, created to manipulate mothers past the “barriers” keeping them from giving up their babies, actually creates even more crisis for the vulnerable, pregnant mother and/or escalates the crisis she is facing.

Some though, sadly, still see this as a good thing.  Even on that post on Open Adoption Support, there were those who thought it was a good idea such a question was being asked. 

I, personally, don’t understand how anyone can be supportive of any act that manipulates or coerces a vulnerable mother into giving up her baby.  Especially one that is practiced REGULARLY in the counseling so many put so much faith in.

How many times do we hear adoptive parents justifying that their child’s First Mom truly did want to give up her baby because she went through the counseling provided by the adoption agency?

How many times do we hear First Moms praising the kindness and care of their counselors without ever questioning that they just might have been worth more than the very carefully scripted “wordtracks” created for one purpose . . . to encourage them to believe it was best to give up their children.

Options counseling, in so many ways, is used to further cause harm to a vulnerable mother.  To increase her sense of fear, uncertainty, until she is trapped in a corner and feels she has no other choice but to give her child up for adoption.

Think about it.  Think about what our minds tell us is right in certain situations compared to how adoption counseling uses a crisis to their advantage . . .

* * A teenage, pregnant mother  confides in her adoption counselor that she has found a program that would allow her to continue her high school education while also providing child care and helping her with parenting classes.
    True counseling by someone concerned about what was best for this mother and her unborn child would, logically, provide help and guidance for this mother in checking out the program.  Learning everything about what it offers.  How she can enroll.  What she can expect for both her and her child.
    But the accepted and widely taught “options” counseling for adoption views this as a barrier keeping the vulnerable mother from choosing to give her baby up for adoption.  Instead of help and support, they do their best to remove any such confidence from the mother and create an even greater “crisis” for her to deal with by telling her, keeping her baby means she will, more than likely, never graduate, and worse than that, she will end up dooming her own child to never graduating as well. * *

* * A pregnant mother with two small sons comes into her weekly counseling session after a good weekend spent with her mother.  She happily tells her counselor that they had a really good talk while they were together and her mother has agreed to let her move back home and will help her raise her two sons and unborn child.
    In our hearts, our minds, we know, if we truly wanted to do whatever was best for this mother and her unborn child, the best possible step to take would be to set up a time to meet with her and her mother.  To go over the details about her mother helping her with her children.  To be sure everyone was on the same page.  That they all understood what would happen and how to seek help if they hit obstacles along the way.
    But, again, for the adoption industry and their way of counseling, this in another barrier standing in the way of the mother giving up her child.  Instead of helping her work through the solution she found with her mother, options counseling, instead, would yank such security away from her by telling her how unfair it was to expect her mother to take on such a responsibility.  Or frighten her with the false information that family and friends that offer to help walk away in the end and aren’t there as they promised.  They might go even so far as to tell the vulnerable, pregnant mother that her own mother isn’t “respecting” her or what she “truly” wants for her child.  That she is somehow going against her, deceiving her by offering to help rather than encouraging her to give away her baby. * *

How can such treatment against pregnant mothers and their unborn children not anger us, make us want to stand up in one united voice and declare we aren’t going to stand for it anymore?

How can anybody  justify a vulnerable mother’s crisis not only be used against her, but actually made worse, so that she will give up her baby?

Is this really what we want to support . . .

* * A pregnant mother has been doing some research online and confides in her counselor that she’s not sure she can give up her baby because she’s read other adult adoptees sharing how adoption hurt them and how they suffered the loss of their first families and the very last thing she wants for her child is to be hurt in any way.
    In true caring and kindness for a pregnant mother and her unborn child, such concerns would be taken seriously and answered with honesty.  It wouldn’t ever be questioned that she did deserve to know how adoption may harm her child as well.  That, yes, there are many adult adoptees who speak out about how adoption has affected them.  About the research that has shown that a large percentage of adoptees do struggle, in different ways, from being given up for adoption.
    Of course, since this is viewed as nothing more than another insignificant barrier standing in the way of a pregnant mother giving up her child, the counseling she will receive, instead, will reinforce how much better her child will be if she gives him or her away.  How grateful they will be that she didn’t raise them herself.   The adult adoptees who are speaking out will be degraded, dismissed as nothing more than ungrateful “children” who had the “rare” bad experience. * *

* * On her first appointment, a pregnant mother states she isn’t interested in adoption at all.  She knows she wants to keep and raise her baby and is seeking help to be able to do so.
    This one seems so obvious, doesn’t it, a pregnant mother knows she wants to keep and raise her baby and is asking for help to do so.  The best, and only thing, to happen for her is to assist her in getting that help.  Empower her, in whatever way possible, to be the best possible mother for her child.  Offer her the resources and support she will need to continue her pregnancy, give birth, and start out on a good footing in raising her little one.
    But for the adoption industry and the counseling they offer, this is the biggest barrier they face and the one they fight hardest against.  They do all they can, with every tactic they can learn, to turn this confidence in a mother around so that she is thrown a crisis to deal with that will, hopefully, lead her into believing giving up her baby is her only choice.  Such confidence is immediately attacked in whatever manipulative way possible - - such as their worksheets created to make even the best adjusted mother feel as if she can’t possibly live up to the responsibilities of raising her child - - whatever it takes to eat away at her self-esteem, her belief she will be a good mother to her child.  Whatever trick they need to use to force her into a crisis so that she will fall in line with the others and come to realize loving her baby means giving them away. * *

None of this is right.  True, unbiased, crisis counseling revolves around helping to empower the one struggling, building their confidence, encouraging them to find solutions to the fears and obstacles facing them.

Adoption counseling does the exact opposite.  It is specifically designed to weaken a mother facing a crisis situation.  To discourage solutions to the obstacles and fears she faces because those solutions are viewed as “barriers” keeping her from giving up her child.

It isn’t about helping her overcome but is instead about holding her back, creating more obstacles to face, problems to solve, until she is so broken she truly believes giving her own child up for adoption is her true “choice” and the only way she can prove her love.

It isn’t about her, isn’t about her unborn child.  It is about guiding and manipulating a vulnerable mother, using her crisis against her, increasing it so she feels drowned, overwhelmed by it, so that the counselor can overcome the “barriers” preventing her from giving up her baby to that more deserving couple paying good money for an agency, attorney, facilitator to find them the baby they desire.

And in the worst of cruelty, the mother is then left in a worst place than she was to begin with while suffering the worst loss possible . . . her child.

This is the harsh reality so many don’t want to acknowledge or accept.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  It doesn’t exist.  Praising or encouraging the options counseling so many pregnant mothers face, supporting those in the industry using First Moms to learn how to better work past the barriers keeping them from giving up their babies, only supports and continues such evil.

There is nothing, no plausible excuse, to accept such practices, such horrible actions against a mother and her unborn child.  EVERYONE is worthy of so much more than this.  Of the respect, kindness and care to truly be helped for who they are not for the child they have to offer.

It’s time, long past time, to accept that the only ones that options counseling benefits is the adoption industry hoping to profit and the hopeful adoptive couples wanting a child while, in the process, terribly damaging a vulnerable, pregnant mother and her innocent, unborn child . . . the one’s deserving of so much better than they are given.

The ones forced apart by encouraging, rather than solving, the obstacles preventing them from being together.  Obstacles that become even greater once options counseling is used.  Once there is no hope left in a mother and child being spared an unnecessary separation for the benefit of others.

A benefit that CAN NEVER be worth the loss it causes.