Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Scream Until It Hurts

When my middle son was just a baby, I worked at a day care center that included infant care – it was all about the benefit of reduced child care costs and being able to work while still being near my baby.

During my time there, I had an experience I will never forget.  An experience that forever changed me.  In the crib next to my son’s in the infant room was a baby boy named Garrett.  One afternoon, during the routine checks of the sleeping babies, the two wonderful ladies who cared for the infants discovered Baby Garrett wasn’t breathing.

Those of us who knew CPR were hurried into the infant room.  And there I was, knowing my own son slept in a crib just a few feet away, holding a limp, lifeless baby, desperately pumping air into his lungs.  Praying with everything I had that he would just gasp, open his eyes, cough . . . all those miracle actions you always see in the movies . . . and come back to us.

Unfortunately, that never happened.  It was determined that Baby Garrett died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and there was nothing we could have done to save him.

That was almost twenty-five years ago and yet the fear of SIDS still stays with me.  I’ve always been overly conscious of checking my babies, and now grandbabies, when they sleep.  Even when they have slept through the night, I have never been able to since experiencing Baby Garrett’s death.  I’ve always been up every few hours.  Needing to check them, feel their tiny bodies for the breath pushing through their lungs.

It wasn’t even my own child that I lost, yet it changed me forever.  And when I talk about my fear of SIDS there is always understanding.  Nobody ever questions why it is I struggle with such a fear when my babies and grandbabies are so little.  What I go through is normal.  Accepted by everyone who knows.

A few weeks ago, my Grandson – my second grandchild – was born.  And with the holidays and my middle son and his fiancé (my Grandson’s wonderful parents) in the process of moving into their new place, I’ve had an abundance of wonderful nights with them staying the night with us.  And I’ve been up.  I’ve checked.  Always needing to make sure he’s okay.

It’s a fear I will always have.  I know it.  Accept it.

Just as I will always have the fear of losing a child/a grandchild to adoption.

Over twenty-seven years ago, when I gave up my oldest son for adoption, it was another experience that forever changed me.  And that experience, that change, is so much deeper . . . so much greater . . . than anything I’ve felt for Baby Garrett’s death.

That loss WAS my own child.  A piece of my own heart that will forever be broken.

Even the thought of going through that kind of loss again has the power to completely take over if I allow it.  The fear of it has a hold on me that I know will never go away.  It’s there even when I don’t fully realize the extent of how deeply it’s affecting me.

In the months before my Grandson’s birth, I struggled with anger whenever I attempted to write about or debate adoption.  I tried many times to write a post for my blog but always gave up after everything I attempted to put to words came out in a fiery rant of disgust with no real message to be heard.

I couldn’t make sense of it.  Things were good.  My family was good.  There were no triggers that I could put a finger on that would cause my anger.  But it was there and it wasn’t going away.

It wasn’t until right before and after my Grandson’s birth that it began to make sense . . .

It was the fear of losing a part of myself all over again to adoption.

Even though there was nothing outright to make me worry.  Even with all the precautions I knew to take.  That fear still hovered.  Wearing on me even when I was unaware.  Like a breath I was afraid to release until after my Grandson was born and happily sent home with his mom and dad.

Till I knew adoption would not be able to claim him and take him away from his family.

Because, no matter how much I knew in my head, how many steps I took to do all I could to protect my son and my Grandson, there was always that knowledge that it could always come down to just one . . .

One person having the nerve to suggest to my son’s fiancé that she wasn’t good enough.  She was too young.  Wasn’t married.  Didn’t have a career.  And so, if she truly loved her child she could prove that love by giving her baby away to a more “deserving” couple.

After that there would be little hope.  Even with doing all we could to protect my son’s rights as the father.  Even knowing, supporting and loving his fiancé through her pregnancy.  I know, have experienced, seen all too often, once the Adoption Industry gets its hands on a vulnerable mother and convinces her she is no good and should give her baby up, there is next to nothing that can be done to stop them.

Our government, our laws, our own society works in their favor, making it an almost impossible fight for the families who love and want their children/grandchildren.

And that’s where the anger came into play.  Where it still sits today as I wrestle with the reality I know and see.

When it comes to my fear of SIDS, nobody questions it, doubts it.  And everyone I have ever seen bring up such a reality fully supports any and all change that is needed to prevent more deaths.  Nobody would dare suggest someone was wrong or just had a bad experience or needed to seek help if they spoke out about the many ways to help  prevent SIDS from occurring.

Could you imagine anyone with common sense actually suggesting that I just had a “bad experience” or should seek help or realize how many babies don’t die from SIDS if I were to mention how important it is to put a baby to sleep on their back.  To keep blankets, pillows, bumper pads away from their face.

I can’t imagine anyone suggesting I’m crazy or telling me I should “just be happy” about the fact that I held Baby Garrett in my arms and tried to bring him back to life after SIDS had already taken control.  They wouldn’t be afraid that I was somehow making SIDS look bad or discouraging women from having children because of what I had to say to prevent such a tragedy from happening.

But put my even harsher, more personal and painful fear of losing a grandchild to adoption and everything changes.  Doesn’t matter that I have also lived through that experience.  Makes no difference that I have researched and learned all I possibly could about adoption just as I did about SIDS.  When it comes to my fear that I could lose a part of my family to adoption many of the responses I get are so much different than anything I have ever, or would ever, receive about SIDS.

Not only is it assumed by many that I just had a bad experience.  That I just need to seek help so I can be “happy” with my experience.  That I’m just crazy and need to shut up before I scare couples away from adoption and vulnerable, pregnant mothers away from giving up their babies.

But many . . . so many . . . actually accept and even encourage the unethical, terrible practices that provide the greatest threat in unnecessarily separating my grandchildren from their family that wants and loves them.

The Infant Adoption Awareness Training is meant to teach those who come in to contact with pregnant mothers – such as nurses, counselors, etc – what to say to convince them that they are no good for their babies and adoption is the way to prove their love.

There is absolutely nothing, no protections in place, to keep a nurse, a doctor, a hospital social worker from approaching a pregnant mother and making the suggestion that she could give her child a better life by giving him up.  With the NCFA-backed training so many of them receive, they know the right words to say, the points to push, the insecurities to expose until a vulnerable mother begins to believe them and truly believes her child would be better off if she gave him up for adoption.

And there are so many who support this.  Think it’s a great thing.

Just as there are so many who believe a father should have no rights when it comes to his child.  Who actually see nothing wrong in the deception and lies that keep them from having even the slightest chance to be a part of their lives.  Who make excuses, find whatever weak reason they can to justify a desperate couple’s actions in fighting a fit and loving father for his own flesh and blood.

How could I not be angry?  How could I not finally hit that point where I want to scream until it hurts, punch until everything aches?  I’ve already lived the hell adoption loss brought into my life.  I’ve forced that hell on my oldest son who I gave up for adoption and my three younger children who I raised.

And yet, all I find, over and over again, in so many places, are those who want only to continue the very practices that threaten to take children away from their families.  Who cares if nurses, doctors, counselors are trained in the best way to convince vulnerable mothers to give up their children?  Who gives a damn if fathers are given no rights to their unborn children?

Too bad for your loss.  Get over your crazy fears.  Adoption is a wonderful thing and you must accept that.  Who cares if you lost a son to the coercion and manipulation that is allowed and supported.  Who gives a damn that you live with the fear of losing a grandchild to the very same tactics.

You just need to remember to think of all the poor, suffering infertile couples who deserve to be “gifted” a child of their own.  You have to accept that the training that occurs is a good thing.  It’s not coercion.  It’s just helping vulnerable pregnant mothers see that they are no good for their children and understanding that they can prove their love by giving their babies away to a more deserving couple.

And if it threatens your family in any way.  If there is nothing to protect the unnecessary loss of your grandchild . . . well . . . that’s really not all that important.  Because think of all the pain infertility causes.  Think of all those wonderful couples who are so much more deserving of a child.  Think of everything else, everyone else (just as you were counseled to do when you were the vulnerable, pregnant mother) and realize you, your own flesh and blood, aren’t really all that important when it comes to the wants and needs of all those infertile couples, suffering so bad and so deserving of a baby . . . even if that baby happens to come from your own family.

Yeah.  It’s anger.  It’s frustration.  It’s a constant hit to the gut.

Because I’ve dealt with my own experience.  Through counseling (yep, I actually have sought help and received it) I have the skills now to not let it affect me when others try to rewrite my experience of what happened to me, to my oldest son.  I’m too far in.  Too long in this fight against those who don’t want reform to let the same old tactics get to me.

But this is something new.  This is hitting in an area I haven’t protected myself from.  Because now I hear their voices and it’s not about my own experience that I can’t change or fighting for the vulnerable pregnant mothers who can so easily become victims to the adoption industry.

Now their words carry a darker, crueler tone to them.  I hear in them the fuel to my fear.  The total lack of care or concern for my own grandchildren.  My own flesh and blood.

I hear again the same message I was once surrounded by . . .

What you want, what you love, what is yours by flesh and blood doesn’t matter when it comes to the wants and desires of the infertile couples who deserve your child (now grandchild) to make them happy.

Nobody truly cares about the coercion or manipulation because your family isn’t worth being protected from that because you haven’t yet proven yourself as “good enough” to have the same sympathy or care from society that infertile couples are given.

I can lay out everything I did right, according to how I was counseled on who deserved a child.  A marriage, career, stable income.  Yes.  I finally accomplished all that was made clear that I lacked and failed in being a mother to my own child.

But none of that matters.  Because it still doesn’t make me, my family, worthy of protection.  It still doesn’t get anyone to give a damn about the very real threats of coercion and manipulation, lack of rights for fathers, when it comes up against all those other couples that are somehow still better, more deserving of a child even at the cost of vulnerable parents, innocent children and their loving families.

My fear of SIDS has never come to reality just as my fear of losing my grandchildren have, thankfully, never come true.  But that doesn’t mean the threats don’t exist.  That the reality doesn’t still linger.  If not for my family, for another.

For every time there is denial of protection for vulnerable, pregnant mothers.  A refusal to give fathers equal rights to their children the message becomes loud and clear . . . our families are unimportant, matter very little when brought up with the wants and desires of infertile couples.

I hear that message now, louder than ever before.  And my anger continues to build at the realization that nothing has really changed, no matter the life I’ve built, the family I’ve created.  I still lose.  My family still loses.  Because we will never be viewed as the worthy ones when there are so many desperate couples out there who are “better” for no other reason than their desire for a child and their ability to pay for one.

In the eyes of so many, they win and who gives a damn about those who had to lose . . . they weren’t important anyway.