it’s complicated

All the material in this blog may seem to point to a notion that I am a hater of adoption.  And that may be true.  But if I am a hater, it is not as if my feelings are unfounded, and I’ll tell you why.

Here is the bare bones, naked, raw truth of my experience with adoption:  Adoption takes the one relationship in the entire universe that is the simplest, purest of all relationships, the bond between mother and child, and convolutes it, makes it all twisted and complicated.  For years, I have been fighting the impulse to reach out to my son, just for the simplest things that many mothers get to enjoy and take for granted, but because there is this complicated thing between us, i.e., his adoption, I cannot.  I do not cross that boundary that – everything within me and everything in the natural world and the universe seems to almost shout – SHOULDN’T EVEN BE THERE!!

It should be the simplest thing: think of my son, pick up the phone.  But NO!  Can’t do that!  Can’t upset that apple cart!  He’s my SON not a GD apple or cart!  Anything that F’s with that simplest and most basic universal truth is F’d UP!!  It just IS!

coming up…

I’m not afraid to admit when I’ve got nothing, and…I’ve got nothing.  I’ve lots of thoughts running around in my head but nothing I am inspired to write about.   BUT…I do have a few people who have agreed to be guest bloggers!!!  So, hopefully, you’ll get to meet some of my friends very soon!  I’m super-excited about it!!

about not forgetting to celebrate

You know?  I have been so busy harping about all that is wrong with adoption I forgot to celebrate a recent victory here on this blog.  I read the articles, breathed a sigh of relief, and gave thanks to God, but I realize I should not take it for granted when there is a victory among us, and part of not taking it for granted is acknowledging and celebrating here.

Congratulations, Sgt. Achane.  I wish you a long and happy life with your beautiful daughter.

Drill Sergeant Reunited With Baby That Mom Gave Up to Adoption

am i through talking?

Just for today, anyway, instead of ranting, I have a desire to watch, listen, and learn, so I am doing some research.

I wonder: has there been a study done by credible research professionals and institutions, specifically, on single women whose pregnancies were unplanned who are considering adoption versus women of the same scenario (single, unplanned pregnancy, similar socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds, etc.) who know they want to parent their unborn child(ren)?  What does the brain activity look like on a scan between the 2 groups?  What sorts of commonalities are there in the women who consider relinquishing versus those who haven’t considered it for even a second?  What are the differences?

If such studies exist, I wonder where I might find them?

Don’t take this to mean I might not do an about face and be a raving lunatic again tomorrow.  Just take it to mean that, just for today, I am merely more curious than I am mad, or sad, or glad, or what-have-you.  Or maybe I’m just trying to find a way to fill the time…Separation by adoption is a very long, unrelenting journey, after all…

the cost of freedom

This weekend I’ve been examining various choices made throughout my life, starting with my 1st marriage.  As I started digging through the rubble of my past, I started going a little further back and started looking at where it all started.

In the house where I grew up, my dad was a very stern disciplinarian who considered any show of mercy a sign of weakness.  His rigid exterior, however, could not hide a man at the edge of a major breaking point.  We all tip-toed around as if attempting not to crush egg shells and broken glass.  I remember a couple of times I really wanted to call my dad out on the injustices he was inflicting on us…what stopped me was an even deeper sense that there was such a fragility there, such a low reserve, that he could not withstand the blow of being confronted.  It would have been the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to hit him with it.  I didn’t know back then that the truth would not kill.

There was a very traumatic shift in our relationship when I was somewhere around 6 or 7 years of age.  I have mulled over what might have motivated my father’s choices, pretty much my entire adult life.  I love my dad, fiercely, but even with all the searching I’ve done to try and understand what may have led him to do some of the things he did I cannot defend the choices he made with me and with our family.  I have learned to separate the man from his actions.  As much as I love him, and as much as I’ve been gifted with some insights into what may have been driving him, none of that will never mean that his choices were okay.  Forgiving my dad is where I learned that forgiving does not mean excusing bad behavior.  As for the emotional abandonment, I have come to understand that something very profoundly traumatic in his own life led to it, but whatever that was, he went to his grave without ever having said a word to anyone.  One day, we were best buds, the next, I was locked out in a very traumatic event and was never let back in.  Love became a carrot being dangled in front of me, and it wasn’t until the day before the surgery that inevitably killed him that his love and approval once again became achievable without having to jump through hoops.  He stayed in the home, physically, as a very imposing figurehead.  In my early teens, I thought his sole purpose for living was to make all of our lives miserable, and I was perplexed and frustrated with my mom for not divorcing him…but, again, that fragility, that blasted underlying fragility that we all sensed…My prison pretty much started with my dad, who was the cell, the bars, the guard, and the warden, all wrapped up into one very complex package.  My 1st marriage was merely a transfer of prison facilities (I was married at age 22 and divorced at 24).

My dad was a very cunning manipulator and set the pattern for the kind of men I would attract throughout my life: that sort of love/hate relationship pattern – but usually leaning more toward the hate – with that always present unidentifiable something more to it that I wanted desperately to resolve.  Until finding my current husband, the only man in my history whose M.O. didn’t include yanking my chain in some way or another was the man who ended up being my child’s biological father.  Of all the things he was or wasn’t to me, the thing that was so huge was the fact that he wasn’t trying to work an angle of some kind.  As a result, he was the 2nd longest relationship in my life, prior to falling in love with the man who is now my husband.  When I was choosing a couple for my child to be adopted by, the primary deciding factor was the father.  I had not known what it was to have a man fully invested in maintaining a healthy relationship, and when I was pregnant, that was one of the main ways I felt stuck.  More than wanting him to have the mother I feared I couldn’t be, I wanted my baby to have a dad who was present, emotionally available, and fully engaged in having a good relationship with him.  That was just huge to me.

I continued to flounder in relationships in the 2 years following my son’s birth then lost interest in relationships for a couple of years or so when I first became committed to following the Lord.  Once that part of my interest became reawakened, it was the same battle over and over.  At least the power of God gave me some ammo and equalized the battlefield.  Every man I seemed attracted to and/or seemed to attract proved to be yet another snare to break free from – until my now beautiful husband.  He is my reward for persevering.

With Jesus, there came the ability to see through the pretty words cloaking hidden agendas and power to choose whether I wanted to participate.  There were times I ignored the instincts given me because I wanted to, but I still discerned that which had been concealed before.  Before the game was changed, I was a trampled doormat that kept on getting trampled repeatedly.  The only thing that changed from incident-to-incident was the footprints, and I was powerless against it.  I lived my life completely like an inanimate object in pretty much all my relationships.  Not even something as powerful and life-changing as having a child could break that pattern.  I hated it, but I didn’t have a clue what to do about it before being awakened by a power greater than myself.

I remember now: that powerlessness was what I was most afraid of.  It was one thing to be a victim myself….it was quite another to bring my child into it.  My biggest motivation for giving him up was breaking a really sick cycle that I didn’t know how to break in my own life.  I wish I’d have been able to see it was possible to both raise my son and break that pattern.  Getting free cost me more than it should ever have had to.

(truly) open adoption

I’ve been wanting to broach this subject…it’s a touchy one – and very controversial.

The naysayers say that birthmothers who relinquish want to have their cake and eat it too.  My friend Claudia said it best: “Where is all this birthmother cake they speak of?”  I know I don’t have any cake.  She says she doesn’t have any cake.  I don’t know any birthmothers who have cake.  And I don’t know a single one of us who’s had a cakewalk of it.

No one questions both biological parents’ need to be involved in the upbringing of their child in a divorce.  That’s why joint custody is given to both parents in a lot of divorces, or, at the very least, both parents get to be involved in some capacity in the ongoing process of parenting.  Is co-parenting from 2 different households the ideal parenting situation?  Usually not.  Is each person 100% happy with the arrangement?  Again, usually, no.  But when they entered into the legal arena of divorce, it’s what they were signing up for, and they knew it going in.  So, too, when people are asking a woman to give them her own flesh and blood, what makes her desire to be part of her child’s life any stranger than that of the divorced parent who wants to be a part of his or her child’s life?

Our culture is very skewed when it comes to how we view adoption.  How many times have we heard it said it takes a village to raise a child?  Children are very resilient.  The only confusion about anything is the confusion that we create and impart into their minds.  In the days when denial was my medication for survival, I always said, ‘I never wanted my son to be confused about who his mommy is.’  It would only have been as confusing as we’d made it.  If we could have been able to wrap our heads around it, and really done the searching into it, we could have made sense of it in our own minds, and that’s how we could have made it work – just like divorced parents make it work.  But that’s not the world we knew back in 1992…

Or better yet, instead of adopting a woman’s baby, why not adopt a mother and child, or even a whole family?  Who knows…maybe my husband and I will get the opportunity to do this someday.  I can’t see it as anything but a win-win.  In fact, it’s how our world used to be, and it wasn’t all that long ago.  I know people who say that whenever they messed up as kids, their butt was anyone’s to swat, or whenever a child was hungry, wherever that child happened to be whenever he or she got hungry, then that house is where that child ate.  My mom, who is 85 years of age, grew up that way.  She had a rather cruel and certifiably insane mom (yet my grandmother did not get any kind of certification, or documentation, or therapy of any kind due to the secret world of status in Delta society and plenty of money to protect her) who didn’t want Mama around most of the time, and her dad was very industrious with a very large farm operation that kept him busy from sunup to way past sundown, most days.  Her dad died when she was 14.  Her sister, my Aunt Jean, was married by then and she and my Uncle Doty took Mama in.  She’ll tell you to this day that Jean and Doty were who raised her from that point on.  If she hadn’t had that village to look after her, who knows where she’d be – or if she’d have even been in this world to have lil’ ole me!  I know this: she was (is) a great mom, and I think I have that village to thank for a lot of it.

a funny thing happened on the way to a forum today…

I found a discussion on a parenting forum where a woman who is married and already has a child was very glibly talking about conceiving a baby with her husband for some good friends to adopt because these friends deserve so much to be parents.  Their friends have, of course, refused, as they should (of course, that makes me wonder how it’s okay to ask for a baby from a total stranger when it’s not okay from a close friend, but I didn’t go there because it’s not the couple seeking to adopt I was addressing).

The first response she got was pretty obviously from a no adoptions, period, advocate with a militant spin.  I feel the person, and I feel that militant thing within me, too, but I realize when speaking directly to someone about adoption, the militant thing is not necessarily the most effective way to be heard…just saying.  The woman commented to it like, “uhh, okay, but thanks for that…” and you could tell she was like, “What thuh…?”

While a world with no adoptions, period, would be the best world ever, ever, ever, ever, ever to infinity and beyond, I consider myself a bit more of a realist than that.  Unfortunately, no matter how much we advocate for a person’s right to parent, there will still be the mother somewhere who refuses to parent her child, and there will still be the mother who is truly incapable of raising a child on too many levels to deny, and sometimes fathers won’t be there when that happens, and sometimes other family members can’t or won’t step in either.

The next response was quite a bit more sound, but still a tinge of gloom, doom, and even judgment, was discernible – to me, anyway.

So here is my response…kinda just a “Just the facts, ma’am…Just wanna state the facts here.”

Scientific data from years of study is starting to solidify what I have believed for a while.  The biological link that begins in the womb is as unique as the DNA code written into each and every person.  Just as that DNA signature is unique, and there are no 2 signatures alike, and just as there are no 2 finger and thumb prints alike, so, too, that biological link between the child and the 2 genetic contributors is unique.  I believe this biological link is the link that helps that person make sense of the world around him or her.  In adoptive homes, the differences from the rest of the family members are tangible and very apparent to the adoptive child.  If they are not told they were adopted, they feel like aliens in their own families.  If they are told, then it explains those differences that are apparent.  You’re asking a lot of that person who hasn’t yet been conceived – more than is reasonable, really.  And you are asking the impossible of yourself.  That biological link is something that you cannot escape either, and it will betray you for the rest of your life if you do this.  I speak from 21 years of experience as a birth mother who gave up a child up for adoption.  And I felt much the same way about the adoptive parents that you feel toward your friends…still do.  Still, that thing or culmination of things that happened when my son was in the womb betrays me, pretty much daily, to this very day. 

What I’d like to see achieved in my lifetime is such an awareness of the pitfalls of adoption that we’re not so quick to take a woman’s child from the womb, and a woman is not so quick to relinquish because there’s more information out there as to how it will truly affect her for the rest of her life and there’s more information and resources to empower her and help her with raising her child.  The information when I was doing it was out there but so hard to find I was unable to find it.  And parents who want to adopt should be able to adopt, absolutely.  There are multitudes upon multitudes of children, born and alive in this country right now, who have absolutely no one because the people that mattered gave up on them, or gave up on themselves, or everyone who could have mattered is no longer living.

I’m not trying to be insensitive to the infertile, and I do feel for women who can’t conceive.  It may be that I am among them, so I do know that sting, that stab in core, I understand something about what that feels like.  I may never get my chance to be a mom in that sense at all, and I’m learning to accept that.  It’s not fair, it’s not anything like nice, but if it’s the hand I’ve been dealt then okay.  It is.  If I don’t get to experience the joy of birth again and motherhood, seeking a woman who is pregnant and willing to give me her child is not going to console me.  That loss will always be that: a loss – just like my son’s childhood that I didn’t get to be a part of.

help from hubby

My husband physically got me out of bed in the morning.  The first time, I was not liking being verticle, so I got back in bed.  About 15 minutes later, he came in and got me out of bed again, threw my arms around his neck as if to piggyback me and walked me to the couch, ignoring my protests.  He was fixing a friend’s computer and I guess just wanted the company, and he didn’t seem to mind that the company was puny…I found it all very sweet.

If you’re going to be sickly and on the couch all day, you couldn’t ask for anything better than a Star Trek movie marathon.  During the commercial breaks I read articles and adoption blogs.  Eventually, I asked my husband, ‘Do you think I offended [my son] by contacting him?’  True to his truth-teller form he said, “Well, at least you give a sh**,” and he went on to expound by pointing out that it wasn’t like birthparents who refuse contact or who lets their family member go all the way to Vietnam and then asks for money (referring to a documentary we watched called Daughter from Danang).  I looked at him, smiled, took his hand and said, ‘Thank you, baby.’  I needed that.

And you know?  I do care.  I never stopped caring, and I never will.  That is the truth, and I’ll always have the truth.  Sometimes one has to let the truth be enough.  Hearing it?  Helped.

a little of my story

For anyone new to my story, I am not the kind of birthmother I am advocating for – but I’m not not the kind of birthmother and/or prospective birthmother I am advocating for either.  Specifically, my situation was this: No one coerced me to give my baby up for adoption.  In some ways, maybe, adoption for me is harder to grapple with than if I had been coerced because I have only myself to look to whenever I feel victimized…victimized by my own ignorance.  It’s still hard for me to comprehend the levels of self-loathing I have experienced through the years – even to the point I believed at times I deserved the punishment I’ve lived in – which is an oxymoron because I don’t believe that anyone deserves that kind of punishment.

I was very resolute and had convinced myself that I was not mother material – which I’m sure also made me very convincing to everyone I was speaking to about it.  Getting pregnant made me stop and pay attention to my life in a way that I hadn’t done before, and it made me see how aimless I was, how messed up a person I was, and how messed up my life was.  I thought, ‘I’ve made my bed and have no choice but to lie in it,’ but I didn’t feel it was fair for this baby, who was an innocent life and had done nothing wrong, to have to lie in it with me.  I was 26 and had lived long enough to see that I was stuck but not long enough to see that it was possible to get unstuck.  So, I guess the whole self-loathing thing really took root even deeper then.  And I had not come across anyone who seemed to have any of the answers I’d been seeking.  Sometimes even the most mundane and basic things that seemed to come to a lot of people without much thought or effort would be baffling and overwhelming to me.  What my life looked like when I was pregnant was a fast-moving train that was headed for derailment.

It probably wasn’t until moving to California in the month before my son’s 2nd birthday that I ran into a kind of “happy accident” as I sometimes like to call it: Rehab.  With all the gamut of internal struggles, I had been trying for years to self-medicate, mostly with alcohol and pretty much any drug anyone would put in front of me.  The story of how I got there is interesting but not necessarily relevant to what I’m trying to express here.  I tried for a while after my son’s birth to stay away from substances but had reached a point of such numbness…I felt like a walking dead person…how I chose to handle the crisis was the same way I’d chosen to handle every crisis: Screw this!  Will someone please tell me why I’m existing in this hell sober?

When it was first suggested I go through treatment, I didn’t understand why but basically said, ‘What the hell…I’ve tried everything else known to man…what can it hurt?’  I didn’t think of myself as an addict.  But the more I went into those rooms where I was being introduced to the 12-step program, the more I started hearing similarities in the way that I’d been thinking and conducting my life.  Gradually, the fog began to clear, and I started really making a connection with God, and things started looking up.  The dark and terrifying places I’d been going to in my mind and emotions were not as dark, not as terrifying – not that I couldn’t be knocked off balance…it just kept getting better the more I sought the Lord and the more I simply stayed away from drugs and alcohol.  That fog clearing was a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, I was happy about my newfound freedom; on the other hand, I began to wish I’d known there was a way out sooner as the fog clearing also meant that the horror and regret over having made the choice to give up my son was all the more apparent.  I remember well the day when I had the thought, It would have been okay after all...I’ll never forget it, I can still remember where I was when the thought hit me, everything.  I was crushed…so I leaned on the Lord even heavier and poured myself even more into learning more about God, about myself in relation to God, and, in all my searching, Jesus was the most shining example I’d found to follow.  And I devoted myself to following Him with everything that was within me.

Whenever I’d see boys around the same age as my son I would wonder if that little boy would be someone my boy would want to play with and hang out with.  I’d see things I imagined would be similar mannerisms, similar interests, sometimes I would even see similarities in appearances, just little nuances here and there to my boy like maybe in the shape of the face, the hair color or cut, a piece of clothing similar to clothes my son was wearing in the pictures his parents were sending me.

And that brings me to the pictures.  In the throes of my active addiction I managed to lose almost everything I owned, sometimes a piece at a time and sometimes in whole chunks.  After sobering up, what I didn’t lose in my disease I threw away because it was too painful a reminder of the past that I was trying so desperately to purge.  There came a point, literally, when the only thing I had with me from my past was the pictures of my baby.  The agreement was that, in the first year, I would receive pictures and update letters every 4 months, then after the first birthday I would receive them every 6 months, then every year around his birthday thereafter.

The parents were so proud!!  And I couldn’t help but be proud too…such an exquisite, exceptional, beautiful child…kind of bittersweet, you know?  As he grew from a baby, to a toddler, to a little boy I was so falling in love with the person I was seeing through those pictures and through the letters telling me about him…falling deeper and deeper in love with each passing year.  As he grew, I could see that he was growing up a sweet and confident young man with a very intelligent mind with a sort of focused resolution to himself.  I’ve said it for years and years…those pictures, those letters were my absolute lifeline.  I can’t imagine how awful it is when parents do not honor their agreements to send the pictures they promise…it is the most brutal betrayal any mother can endure – which is why I’m so rabid about defending the rights of each mother where we have been tossed aside, betrayed, violated in such countless ways…that betrayed birthmother is me, and I am her; we are one.  I’ll never forget the first woman who told me she had a daughter she’d given up; she was promised the same thing but after only a few short years the letters and pictures stopped coming.  She had no idea where her daughter was, how she was, she knew nothing…horrifying…and terrifying!  I mean, in my heart, I didn’t feel the people raising my son were capable of something so callous, but, you know…that fear and insecurity was always there, lurking.  The day of his birthday would always feel precarious, and the package would usually arrive some time after his birthday.  It was the biggest relief imaginable when their packages would arrive in the mail as promised.

I’ve been crying desperately through this post, and I feel feverish and sick in my stomach like I’m coming down with something, so I’m going to jump off here with a promise of more later when I’ve kicked this thing’s butt!

coming out party, overall, a success!

Well…I did it.  Most of my Fayetteville and Cali friends already knew about my son and the adoption.  I’ve been the most nervous about the people from my hometown finding out.  Isn’t that strange?  I mean, who of us has led a perfect life, really.

I was hoping to have already connected with my son and that we’d have already met and gotten it all behind us, and he’d already know what a loud-mouthed, opinionated weirdo I really am before making a public announcement on facebook like I did, but it didn’t turn out that way.  I hope if he sees any of this it doesn’t scare or embarrass him.  I just could no longer handle the pressure of leading what felt like a double life.  The pressure had been mounting, and I HATE having secrets!  I can take someone else’s secrets to the grave, but I cannot handle having secrets of my own.  When I come face-to-face with someone, I like being able to look them straight in the eye knowing there is nothing I’m hiding, knowing that what they’re seeing is really who and what I am, and I like knowing where I stand with people.  The only way I’ve found that I can truly know where I stand is by just being honest and putting it all out there, and people either accept it or they don’t.

Everybody was really great!  And it feel as though the weight of the world has been lifted off of my shoulders to just finally get it all out there.