Archive for December, 2007

Yet another article making the rounds is attempting the grasping stretch between the Zoe’s Ark fiasco and adoption, and hitting all the right notes with some who sing that tune and have little inclination to expand their repertoire.

Written by Lebanese-born adoptee and gay activist and writer Daniel Drennan, it takes a criminal act and dresses it up as international adoption, then quotes UNICEF’s lead tout spouting off indignantly, saying:

“This is not something that should be tolerated by the international community. It is unacceptable to see children taken out of their home countries without compliance with national and international laws.”

Well, duh.

Following her quote with this from him …

Her outrage unfortunately reflects a one-sided worldview concerning adoption today.

… rather makes the point, doesn’t it?

One more time here, folks: Zoe’s Ark is NOT about international adoption, no matter how often the attempt is made to smear the two together.

As an adoptee, Mr. Drennan has opinions on the value of adoption and he is more than welcome to them, and to share them, but his status grants neither a clarity others don’t possess nor the authority to speak for an experience wider than his own.

With the employment of faulty logic and emotive presentation, Drennan does manage to convey his meaning clearly in the article, but fails to do so in a way that has much to do with the real world.

… adoption on the international level creates a “demand” for orphans that is answered by Third-World countries and the agencies that serve them with a “supply” of children; it is problematic to bring a foreign-born child into a non-multi-cultural environment; individualistic, nuclear family-based cultures undo other more community-based cultures.

This ridiculous idea that adoptive families “create” orphans is one that continues to be regurgitated regularly with little regard for the facts that 200 million children face daily, and like others who suggest that “there are things that could be done to greatly alleviate if not eliminate poverty in the world today if the collective will to do so, which would require change in the standard of living of the First World, existed”, such simply refuses to acknowledge that these are living, breathing people that suffer as the collective will of the world has its attention focused elsewhere.

Pie in the sky is not on the menu. Never has been. Never will be.

Sticking with the simplistic in Drennan’s postulations, his insistence that adoption is all about First World versus Third World suggests that he is foolish enough to think there is nobility in poverty and corruption and that Third World countries need only a shift in First World standards of living to bring the Third World to a point of providing everything a people needs to live comfortably and raise families.

I live in an African country, and like most who experience the world outside of the tidy package presented to Americans I can tell you all that just ain’t so … not in this universe, anyway. Find the parallel plane where good triumphs over evil and the righteous always prevail and I’ll be happy to take a report, but here, now, that doesn’t happen and isn’t likely to — ever.

But, when in doubt, break out the emotive language and hope no one pays any attention to the lack of sense?

Do we simply deny that baby theft and brokering exist? Is it not paradoxical that underclass children in First-World societies go unadopted, often for racist and ageist reasons? What aberrant First-Worldist rationale allows for the adoption of Third-World children, while forbidding adults from these same Third-World countries to emigrate, or while deporting those already present back to their home countries?

Wow. All that at the end of just one paragraph!

1) No we don’t deny that baby theft and brokering exists, and those occasionally, albeit rarely, even have something to do with adoption. But in the huge majority of cases theft and brokering have to do with slavery and the sex trade, both thriving, especially in countries where international adopiton is not an option. And don’t forget infanticide! That’s a biggee, too, and also has nothing to do with adoption, although an increase in possibilities could very well be helpful.

2) ‘Underclass children in First-World societies’ going unadopted has more to do with faulty systems than because of “racists and ageist reasons”. Get kids out of bio families BEFORE they are irreparably damaged and stop making it impossible to adopt transracially and far fewer ‘underclass children’ will languish. (And although it’s handy to ignore when going all self-righteous, but many adoptive families are made up of older children and sibling groups, and of different races. Okay, they are Third-World ferriners, so apparently don’t count.)

3) And what aberrant First-World rationale views international adoption as a racial issue and puts it in the same category as deportations?

I am very happy that Drennan has found some peace in returning to Lebanon as an adult adoptee after being adopted as a tiny infant and raised in the US in an adoptive family. I am sorry that he has not been successful in his search for birth family. I am in agreement on much of what he has to say about Western involvement in other countries.

It is time to speak about the hypocrisy that ignores the ever-growing gap between the First and Third Worlds and the terrible abuse of the current power imbalance between them — a continuation of a sordid history in which the poor, the nether, the “uncivilized” portions of the planet serve as source material to be plundered, exported, and sold.

Actually, it is far beyond time to speak about these issues. The world is a cruel and horrid place for more individuals than those who find it cozy and kind, and that this should not be is a no-brainer for everyone not steeped in mulitnational business interests. That said, I have to wonder why someone like Drennan feels compelled to agree so emphatically with UNICEF’s Veneman when she states:

“It is unacceptable to see children taken out of their home countries.”

Does that not sound like a very bad case of discrimination … possibly even First World elitist discrimination … against the most innocent inhabitants of the world’s most dangerous and difficult places? Does Mr. Drennan’s international adoptee status provide some sort of absolution that allows him to wish on others a fate he escaped without painting him discriminatory? Is he allowed to speak for all? For any?

When voice is given to all concerned, when the discussion is finally and honestly balanced, only then will adoption no longer be tainted with the lingering remnants of an unjustly divided world.

On this, Daniel Drennan and I agree. I await an honestly balanced discussion.

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As 2007 wraps, organizations from the U.S. Government to the United Nations to every news provider on the planet are collecting data, crunching numbers and trying to find tidy ways to package the year for presentation to the world sometime after the calendar ticks over.

Already established and making headlines, the unsurprising revelation that the number of the world’s orphans finding adoptive American families has dropped significantly. What that means in the grand scheme of time passing and evolving humanity is debate fodder.

According to this report from Federal News Radio, there were 15 percent fewer international adoptions in 2007 than over the two years previous. From China alone adoptions have plummeted from 7,906 children in 2005, to 6,493 in 2006, to only 5,453 this year. With UNICEF figures calculating Chinese orphan numbers at somewhere around 20,600,000 and growing, the ratio of chance-of-family to no-chance is miniscule and shrinking.

Tightening of requirements for families hoping to adopt from China has had a negative impact. Automatic refusal now the case for people who are overweight, bearing a facial disfigurement, with hearing problems or treating depression, among other such arbitrary reasons for rejection, has eliminated thousands of potential homes for Chinese-born children.

Cultivation of a negative image of adoption from Guatemala has also served to cut the number of prospective adoptive families, and as other countries present viable options to families and children alike, they too come under fire.

The length of time it takes to complete an adoption has expanded greatly, resulting in increasing stresses on families as they fall in love with children they will not meet for possibly years while serving to sentence these same children to whatever hardship their pre-family life will bring for as long as the process takes.

Some hail this downward trend in Americans adopting from other countries as a positive step, seeing international adoption as a form of either cultural genocide, neocolonialism, unwelcome immigration into the USA, or a market-driven greed machine perpetuated by traffickers.

UNICEF, for example, takes the position that international adoption should begin to be considered only as a “last resort”, a stance many consider to be less child-focused than is healthy that results in masses of children falling through the cracks and living their entire lives in institutions or on the streets. (Or in the case of Romanian kids who lost the option of international adoption completely, under the streets.)

Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet, Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School, is quoted as finding the decreasing numbers of children internationally adopted as “totally depressing” and says, “UNICEF is a major force. They’ve played a major role in jumping on any country sending large number of kids abroad, identifying it as a problem, rather than a good thing.”

Those with views similar to Dr. Bartholet understand that a reduction in the number of adopted children implies little more than fewer children finding families, while genocide, colonialism, greed and trafficking saw healthy growth in 2007.

Where the numbers will be in December 2008 is anybody’s guess, and with estimates putting the global count of orphans at around 200,000,000 each child finding a safe and loving home will remove the burden resting on the shoulders of the others … just a bit.

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” … a quest is a passion, not a dish served cold like revenge.”

Umberto Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

I’m reading Eco at the moment — “The Mysterious Flame … ” is my upstairs book this week — and the quote above jumped off the page this morning and stuck around for a while, prompting a think on quests and passions and the inverse of each.

People have asked why I spend so much time, energy and effort researching and writing on adoption … after all, even when paid to compose page after page on the topic the compensation comes nowhere close to covering either the quantity or quality of the work … but as my former editor — a skilled and dedicated professional, unlike her incompetent, bumbling usurper — knew well, it was my passion that kept my contributions coming day after day.

That the passion is fueled by a quest is certain, and the quest is nothing more or less than a determination to protect the option of adoption for the children of the world.

Unlike those who seek whatever nourishment they can claim from the “dish served cold”, I don’t suffer from residual adoption fallout, I harbor no resentments and cultivate no spores of revenge. No few birth mothers and adoptees, and the occasional guilt-plagued adoptive parent, insist that this somehow disqualifies me from any discussion and negates the veracity of my thoughts and opinions, but I suggest that a cold dish takes less well to any warming the heat of passion serves up and begrudges all attempts to provide fodder for varying appetites.

As a traditional practice, these last few days of the year will be spent in myriad positions of contemplation, of processing and sorting, of filing away for future use and jettisoning the crap that simply clutters. Before 2007 fades to history, there are windmill tilts to tot, sacred cows to milk, sour grapes to squeeze and any number of other sticks to rub together.

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From one mother to her child in an attempt to explain, assuage and apologize.

My Darling Child,

You are my most cherished treasure, and the fact that I am better off with you … that the world is better off with you … is a truth beyond measure. No matter that your very existence brings joy to me and hope to a planet that sees every child a possible savior, through no fault of your own your life began under odious circumstances and I feel no little shame for the part I played.

The processes involved in leading to you to becoming who, where and what you are cannot be ignored, and as we now understand it is important there be no secrets, nothing hidden. The era of secrecy is over, and only through total, brutal and complete honesty and full acceptance of parental culpability can we hope to arm you for a lifetime of potential comments that may arise from knowledge of your beginnings. You must know where you came from, and you must start that knowing now.

I have long hinted that something was amiss, and I have seen in your eyes and your behavior that you caught not a little of the guilt that shadowed those hints, so now that you are approaching your fifth birthday the time has come to divulge as fully as possible the roots of your existence; to do less would be an unforgivable omission, prompted by love, of course, but such a negligence of motherly duty that you would eventually blame me for leaving so many gaps in your story. You may not yet be able to understand everything, but at least with most of the information provided you will in future be able to specify questions and ask for details as you need and can process them.

Before there was you, there was the dream of you. Your father and I had longed for a child for a number of years, but had not had any luck. We had even gone as far as to consider adoption, but when the time came to evaluate our suitability we didn’t do well and were turned down.

You have to understand just how desperate I was to have a child to forgive what I next agreed to do, so please … please … consider my longing for you as you strive to understand the lengths I was willing to go to get you.

I do not wish to lay blame, but since it’s the truth I am telling here, I must reveal that it was your father who came up with the plan. I was appalled, and convinced only after a good deal of time. He wore me down with pastel images of all things baby, talk of strollers and cribs and sweet baby smiles. In fact, he even dusted himself with baby powder and plied me with wine in his attempts to get me to go along with his scandalous proposal.

As ashamed as I am, and as repulsive as the facts are, the truth is that your father and I had sex to make you, and more than once.Yes, yes … I know how this must strike you and how your first inclination might be to be so very ashamed of us, but this is the raw truth you must comprehend if your childhood is to be lived healthily.

It is not a pretty truth, but a truth, nonetheless, that time after time I lay on my back with my legs spread apart showing my private parts while your father placed his swollen peepee into my body and grunted and groaned and sweated and cried, soon leaving me in such a state! I was a disgusting, sticky mess, and could do nothing but lie in the filthy residue in hopes that the base biology would do its work.

Over the next months, my body ballooned, taking on repulsive dimensions. My boobies could no longer be contained in my undergarments, and, I am forced to admit, I often thought of having sex again as hormones took over much of my mind.

Then came the birth.

I have never known such pain, and hope never to again. For eighteen hours, my body knew more agony than fire or shattering bones could cause, and with unrelenting regularity. My back felt like it was cracking open every two minutes. I vomited until there was nothing left but the dregs of bile, but that came, too, hour after hour. I screamed and screamed and screamed. I cursed your father, not only for the indignity of his fertilization, but for the resulting torture.

Eventually, but only after almost an entire day of the worst suffering I had ever known, I managed to push you out of by belly through my peepee … I know how horrible that must be for you to know, but it was the only way to get you out of me … while a great amount of poop came out of my butt at the same time.

A sickly gray and lumpy cord ran from your belly button into my peepee, and when the doctor cut it you began to make noise … you mewled like some sort of animal.

You were a wrinkled, bald worm-like thing, with mottled, peeling skin and a head the shape of an onion, and covered in slime and blood. Nurses sucked some repellant gunk out of your nose, put drops in your eyes, poked your heel and drew some blood.

I cannot tell you how sorry I am that your beginnings are as horrid as they are, nor hope to absolve myself for the part I played. I only hope that you can forgive your father and me, and understand that this is often the way things happen. Also, I hope by laying this all out for you now in graphic, yet somewhat age-appropriate detail I will avoid any and all fallout that might occur over the course of your life. No matter what, you know Mama has been honest with you.

Ashamed and guilty as sin, but loving you more than anything and praying you can forgive,


Although I have no doubt this will go completely over the heads of many who have taken to reading me regularly with no intention or capability of comprehension, those who do get it will understand this post an allegory. The intention is to address the wearing of hair shirts by adoptive parents.

Definition links provided in hopes of helping more challenged readers grasp concepts beyond their usual reach.

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It may be Christmas night where you are as I write, but here in Seychelles it’s already Boxing Day. Like in the States, Boxing Day is not a legal holiday, so Mark is at work and, fortunately, my housekeeper is beginning to make a dent in the mess the last couple of days have created in my kitchen.

Being that I live in a tropical island paradise, Internet access has been cut off for the past day and a half, so please forgive me if I’ve not been quick to return contact. (There are good and bad aspects to paradise living, and given the behavior of some readers of this blog and others over the past weeks, no Internet could be considered a blessing … although a marked lack of comment has followed information that apparently gave some pause for thought. Too bad that didn’t happen first! The thought, I mean. I’m hoping a few of the cruel and nasty are considering reparations as a New Year’s resolution. )

Our Christmas Eve open house was, as always, very pleasant. Over the course of the evening, we had people from eleven different countries … Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and those with little if any persuasion at all … ranging in age from 80+ years to 6 months … and one still in the tummy not due to make an appearance until May … all celebrating the season of peace.

Christmas Day was lovely. The kids did the kid thing enthusiastically here at home, and then again at Gay’s house later, with gift wrap and what it’s wrapping, and they are happy with the new bounty. I did the turkey thing, and it turned out beautifully, as did Gay’s duck, pork and fish dish, so that bounty pleased, as well.

The atmosphere was thick with love and friendship, and with more children in attendance than usual the day felt even more festive. Since three little girls between the ages of 2.75 and 4 were all in full Fairy Princess gear, there was more than the normal touch of magic about, too.

Of course, I can’t help but spend some time focusing on who is missing from the mix I would give a lot to have together, but living half a world away from so many I love I am so grateful to everyone I do have with me.

I hope you, too, have had a wonderful time.

(More photos will follow, but I have to share Cj’s ensemble. Her brother’s too-small CIA t-shirt was apparently required to complete the look.)

Sam and Princess Cj of the CIA

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See Roni’s blog asking advice for a young girl who is dealing with a crisis pregnancy. This is my contribution.

Dear April,

I’m fifty-six years old now and living a wonderful life, and one of the great lessons these five-plus decades of moving through the world has taught me is that life always makes sense when you look at it backwards.

I can’t count the number of fantastically positive things that have happened to me only because something that appeared at the time to be negative eventually placed me in a time and place where the good could find me, and although there’s not much comfort in the thought at the time the bad stuff is going on … if, indeed, there was ever a pause in the negative long enough to attempt a think ahead to better times … stringing events back along the thread from time to time does help when the shit hits the fan again, as it always does.

Without a doubt, one of the most significant of these circumstances … and the reason I’m writing to you … was getting pregnant at the age of seventeen. I was in my senior year of high school and looking forward to graduation, my first truly free summer, college — life in all it’s glory!

My pregnancy came as a shock to everyone, although it shouldn’t have. You’d think my boyfriend, at least, would have had a clue about possible outcomes of his in-goes, but the news took him completely off guard. (I probably should have paid more attention then to how dense he was, and less to his cute smile.)

My parents went ballistic; a response that was neither honest, nor helpful, since both had a pretty good idea what I’d been up to, but neither could be bothered to pay enough attention to engage … not even when I sought them out and asked for their involvement.

I was neither surprised nor prepared when the verification finally came, but rather detached. Although it was my body that was chucking up every morsel of food that came within a foot of me, beginning to thicken around the middle even without being able to eat more than crumbs, and my boobs that hurt every time I rolled over in bed, I somehow had managed to disconnect these inconveniences from any thoughts of a person actually having the temerity to start growing inside of me.

With the confirmation, however, it was time for me to snap out of my hormone-inhanced stupor and come to grips with the two-by-four that now smacked me upside the head … I was going to have a baby.

How in hell was I going to do that?

My father, in an attempt to take control of the situation, arranged a back-alley abortion for me in San Francisco’s China Town … a reputable butcher, I’m sure, and one coming highly recommended. (This was 1968, you see. Pre-Roe v Wade.)

My mother had called the Salvation Army home and booked a room for me in case the illegal abortion thing didn’t work out. I could be comfortably housed for the next 5 to 6 months, give birth somewhere they had handy, and they would arrange an immediate adoption.

Problem solved by both parents, not too much muss and little fuss, and I might even have a say on which road taken. After all, there was no reason to ruin my whole life just because of a little mistake, was there?

Once I faced the fact that I was carrying a child, I started falling in love with her — somehow I always knew she was a she. In my mind’s eye, I could see her at two and five and twelve and going to college and getting married. Sure, some of that had more to do with compensating for my own dreams that now looked to be rapidly losing potential, but much was a growing connection between me and this new person I was making.

War broke out on many fronts. Terrible, horrible, war, and I doubt I need to go into any detail on how this looked, sounded or felt. (Throwing up every 10 minutes did make it interesting, I suppose.)

I fought both my parents and made a deal with my boyfriend; we’d marry, but I wouldn’t ask anything from him but minimal financial support, his name and whatever legitimacy a ring would convey on our child. He took me at my word, and shortly after our wedding he went off with a girl who picked him up at our door and stayed with her for days. She was the first of many, and in fact when I went into labor with our second child I had to wake up another girlfriend to let him know that I was on the way to the hospital.

The six years I spent married to my kids’ dad were some of the most painful of my life, but options and choices were few and far between. I had made my bed, and now I had to stick there. With no skills and an interrupted education, there was no way I could support myself, much less myself and my kids, so we lived a miserable lie that none of us were happy with.

Life wasn’t awful … my kids were beautiful and healthy … but it was tough. We lived in a 12′ x 45′ trailer parked on my in-laws land for years, had unreliable and dangerous cars when we had any car at all, and so little money that a gallon of milk seemed a luxury and a steam iron was an impossible wish. This sort of life in a happy family with a man who loved me would have been an mildly inconvenient starting point, but as it was, it was little more than a stop-gap measure to keep a roof over our heads until the whole thing fell apart.

When the kids started school I saw an opening. At least with them a bit older, I’d be able to get back to school and work. One evening I ran into my husband’s girlfriend du jour and told her to take him and keep him. (She did … well for a few years, anyway.) I divorced my husband, went to night school and got three jobs … one was necessary just to pay for babysitters for when I went to the others.

Throughout my twenties, I struggled to make ends meet. While working to get through college and put food on the table I had jobs as a dental assistant, a cocktail waitress, a bar tender, a worker in a walnut factory, and many other thankless and low paying endeavors. I took what I could get, some full time, some part time, and I juggled and juggled and juggled and made do and compensated and compromised.

For a few years my schedule involved getting up at 5:00 to get housework done, the kids showered, dressed and fed and off to school and me to my M-F, 8-5 job. After work, I’d pick the kids up from the sitter, feed them dinner, and when my night sitter arrived I would go to either my Tues/Thurs 7 – 11 dental surgery job or my Wed/Fri/Sat 8 – 3 am waitress job. Sundays I did laundry, mowed my lawn, and so on.

As a single mom, everything fell to me, and there were times when I was so tired and so discouraged that there seemed no end in sight, no light flickered at the end of any tunnels. I was poor and exhausted and the last drabs of my youth had long dribbled away.

Into my thirties, things started picking up. Carefully laid plans began to mature and some bits of luck fell my way, as well. My kids were now teens, so they became babysitters rather than needing them. They did well in school, had loads of friends and were good company for me.

When I was 41, my kids were both grown and living independently, so I bought myself a backpack and an around-the-world ticket and took off for the trip I’d always dreamed of. I found myself a whole new life, then, and have been living it ever since.

Those first two kids of mine are now 38 and 36. I have a 6-year-old granddaughter, and if I had it to do over again, there are very few things I would change. All the hardships I faced made me strong, and who I am now has everything to do with the life I have behind me.

I am proud of my accomplishments and of raising two human beings as terrific as my kids are. (They really are amazing people, even if I do say so myself!)

I often wonder what life for all of us had been like if I’d chosen differently. The daughter I conceived at seventeen did not have an easy time. My son, 18 months younger, faced many challenges, as well. Had I not been the sort of person I am … doggedly determined with a tenacity not easily compromised, willing to work my ass off year after year with little reward, and able to live through much of my youth without parties or any social life at all … I doubt any of us would have turned out as well as we have.

I live on the other side of the planet from my older children and my granddaughter, and haven’t shared space with any of them in more than five years. Although we are in regular contact, the physical distance is a great sadness I feel most days.

At least in part, I’m sure, because I missed so much of my kids’ lives while they grew up while I was far too busy to do much more than the grueling tasks that kept us fed and sheltered, I now have two young children, both adopted. They are my joy, my life, my heart, and my little family brings happiness I’ve never known before.

So far, however, I have never been under the same roof with all four of my children together.

With a 32-year gap between my second and my third kids, I figure I’ve experienced the consequences of many of my decisions regarding my children and a range of parenting, but if you, April, were to ask me for advice on what you should do, I wouldn’t have any.

Life is hard, and it just got a lot harder for you. There are choices to be made, and only you can make them. There’s no way around this, and you must decide for yourself … and for your child.

All I have to offer is my story, and so far it is happy enough. My hope for you is that when you are fifty-six and looking backward down the thread that has followed you from now to then you will say the same. Anything more will be a bonus.

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There’s been a lot of talk here and on other blogs about loss lately, perceptions and definitions of, along with finger-pointing, blame-laying, name calling, anger, resentment … blah, blah, blah … as a downward spiral picked up momentum, but I’ve no stomach for it today.

While some mothers have been busy coming up with names to call me … “Skanks”. Ah, imagine the brain that put that together! The word “simple” comes to mind … accusing me of not showing respect (they having apparently lost the capacity to read), and assuming themselves into a moron box, another mother… a dear friend — kind, gentle, loving … has being doing something else completely, and her week puts all this yapping about loss in perspective. My tolerance for base nastiness and stupidity has certainly dropped.

Eighteen weeks pregnant with her second child … her son is almost two … follow-up ultrasounds revealed that the baby she carried is anencephalic.

Anencephaly is a cephalic disorder that results from a neural tube defect that occurs when the cephalic (head) end of the neural tube fails to close, usually between the 23rd and 26th day of pregnancy, resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp. Infants with this disorder are born without a forebrain, the largest part of the brain consisting mainly of the cerebral hemispheres (which include the isocortex, which is responsible for higher level cognition, i.e., thinking). The remaining brain tissue is often exposed – not covered by bone or skin.

Infants born with anencephaly are usually blind, deaf, unconscious, and unable to feel pain.

(Blind is a bit misleading, as that seems to indicate sightless eyes, but because the eyes are actually part of the brain there are none. This site has more on the condition. The images are VERY graphic, however, so click with caution.)

Getting the news was an unimaginable blow. It was followed by a medical recommendation to terminate the pregnancy.

My friend and her husband are not in the first blush of youth. Their son was born only after a concerted effort to conceive, and they were over the moon when this second pregnancy was confirmed. They kept the news under wraps throughout the first trimester … just in case … and breathed a well-earned sigh of relief when that passed without incident.

What agony!

Back and forth between “God’s will” and fears of how to go through the pregnancy, birth and death of their second child without scaring their first … worries about the mother’s health and how continuing on this course would compromise the chance of a viable child in the future … fear, sorrow and overwhelming pity for the child.

They sought and received second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth ultrasounds and opinions; all saw the same thing — a tiny baby with a completely open head with nothing in it.

There is no known cause of anencephaly, but that didn’t keep my friends from attempts to shoulder guilt and punish themselves, but turning inward couldn’t mitigate the anger at the powers that would create such a pitifully cruel circumstance.

None of this, however, could stay the decision. It had to be made.

Through medical means, my friend birthed this child, and the parents spent time with this daughter that could not ever be. They say she had beautiful hands.

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I started this as a reply to another nasty birth mother commenting on yesterday’s blog, but it got too long. I did explain there, however, why I use the term “birth mother”.

So … moving right along …

“but the thing is, that your attitude towards natural mothers varies somewhere between frequently criticizing us and showing constant disrepect for us.”

My attitude? What does this person know of my attitude? Obviously, nothing at all.

Although I do criticize certain birth mothers … some are nasty, crazy bitches … I have never criticized birth mothers in general, nor have I shown disrespect. In fact, I have done exactly the opposite over and over again.

And, not believing coercion exists? You’re most certainly not talking about me. Check your facts.

The bottom line on ethics in US domestic infant adoption is written under one word: coercion.

Coercion of potential birth mothers comes in different forms, but all serve to undermine a expecting mom’s right to make the correct choice for her and her child, and blur the line between what is right and what is wrong about adoption.

Pressure tactics are probably the most obvious and insidious methods used to convince a pregnant woman that relinquishing her child at birth is the way to go.

Family members, sometimes well meaning but taking the short view, can be the first to start piling on weight after heavy weight of guilt, fear and diminishing expectations, as they postulate a doom and gloom scenario of the future.

It’s not unusual for parents to arrange everything from abortions to homes for unwed mothers to adoption by friends or relatives, without even consulting the expectant mother. By the time she’s informed, other parties can consider whatever action has been thought best a fait accompli.

If a situation is presented as hopeless, often hope isn’t looked for, and if the embers of fear are fanned into full-blown flames at the same time, even relatively simple options can disappear – go up in smoke.

You know who wrote that?

I did.

It’s part of a book on domestic adoption I was hired to write for Adoption.com, a book I was determined to have address the hard issues regarding adoption, and I refused to gloss over anything in favor of helping adoptive parents get the idea that it’s all about warm fuzzies. Jan Baker knows the book because I went to her repeatedly with questions while seeking real information I could pass on to potential adoptive parents. I ran almost everything to do with the triad by her for a valued opinion.

I also talked with Jenna Hatfield and quoted her on her experience with an unethical agency.

Here’s something else:

If an expectant mother can’t come up with very good reasons not to parent, everyone involved has an obligation to question why the child is being relinquished.

Has she been pressured into making this choice? Has she been encouraged to let someone else decide for her? Have there been lies involved, or strong efforts to diminish the experience and convince her that, “time heals all wounds,” and that she’ll soon get over any suffering she may feel from the loss of her child?

For the long-term happiness of all members of the triad, for the successful blending of birth parents/child/adoptive family that allows a child to grow in a safe climate of warmth and love, the foundations of the adoption must be solid and rooted in integrity.

Now, I know that many of the more rabid birth mothers will take issue, insisting that there is NO WAY IN HELL there can be any happiness or success or safe climates or warmth or love or integrity, but they are too far up their own butts to ever see the light so there’s not much point in trying to light a candle.

And here’s something I wrote just yesterday for Adoptive Parent’s Network, once again as advice to potential adoptive parents early in the process:

As hard as it may be when your longing for a child is great, it must always be remembered that what you are hoping so hard to end up with is someone else’s child right up until the point that child becomes yours, so respect, honor and ethics are paramount.

Once a match is made, there’s a face attached to the respect, honor and ethics mentioned in step eight … the face of the woman planning to place her child permanently and irrevocably with you.

Wherever and however your relationship begins, the fact is that she will always be your child’s first mother, and the sooner you understand that to the middle of your bones, the better. For the rest of your child’s life, this woman is half his or her eyes and hair and heart and kidneys, and all the nurture you so lovingly provide will not make her contributions any less integral a part of your child.

She will be the only mother for a very short time … a time that will be treasured and pondered and recalled a million times … and doing what you can to make this time as gentle, loving and without pressure as possible will benefit not only her, but the child, as well.

You will not be asked or able to assume the mother’s pain or fully comprehend her loss, but you must acknowledge it and allow her to deal with it in whatever way is best for her. This may mean more contact for a while, or no contact at all for a period of time. Do not judge.

It will be no simple thing to hold her sadness and your joy in your heart at the same time, but the reality of adoption requires that you try your hardest to do exactly that.

At the same time I was writing that, birth mothers were shoving each other out of the way to rip me to bits because I’m so ‘disrespectful’ … and not pretty enough.

What’s next, Ladies? Is there more unsubstantiated crap you’d like to pull from your collective ass and throw in my direction? It won’t stick, but you’re welcome to unburden if it makes you feel better.

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Every so often I need to blow off some steam, to vent, to let myself step away from controlled reason and take a swipe at some of those who’ve made a quest out of trying to slap me down and shut me up.

Today seems like a good day for it.

Anyone who has been reading here for a while has seen posts from Kim, kimkim, reunionwritings … whatever she choses to call herself on any given comment … and may have noticed that she and I don’t agree on much.

She’s a birth mother, I’m an adoptive mom, so different perspectives are to be expected. I have been under the impression that coming to my blog indicated that Kim is at least somewhat interested in what I have to say, but it seems that is not the case.

Apparently convinced that she is not only smarter than I am, but prettier, too, taking issue with my writing had become a bit of a mission, but setting me straight, or her version of straight, rather fell apart at the seams.

In a fashion I’ve seen before, Kim’s comments degenerated quickly, falling from the lofty “Nice to ‘dialougue’ with you” (sic) posted here, to drive-by slappings dished out on other peoples’ blogs.

The straw that did in my make nice camel today … being the second slap from Kim in one morning … appeared on Nicole’s blog, Paragraphein.

Nicole had written a lovely post to a fifteen-year-old pregnant girl, April, detailing the process and pain of her own relinquishment, her regrets, and her conviction that parenting is the right choice for most.

Much in the post resonated with me, since I, too, had an unplanned pregnancy. I was 17 at the time, and although younger and with different issues, went through very much the same mental and emotional processes. Also like Nicole, I have a long-term brain chemistry issue that I have lived with for years … hers is bi-polar, mine clinical depression … and there was a time when my illness was not controlled as it now is, so I understand what it is like to suffer in some of the same ways.

So … what did I do? I posted this comment:

We walked such similar paths. I’ve offered to share mine with April, too.

Kim responded with this:

I want to poke fun at Sandra’s outrageous comment but will refrain since it’s your blog.

It seems no matter how respectful I am, how hard I try to bridge these gaps, these Grand Canyons, between my note on the triad chord and others, how much effort I put into educating those new to adoption on the vital necessity of building and maintaining respect, honor, ethics … blah, blah, blah, because that seems all it is when it hits deaf ears … some bloody birth mother will try to knock me back, invalidate my POV, erase my contribution and dismiss my experience.

I’ve written before about how reticent I am to pin “Birth Mother” on attacks, but it’s getting very hard not to call a spade a spade.

I am very sorry that people have pain and for those who never manage to crawl out of their hole of suffering, but I’ve not yet seen it dictated that relinquishing a child for adoption relieves one of the social responsibility of respect for others. And as for carte blanche for nastiness, well, that’s only good on your own turf. The rest of the world expects better manners.

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The following comment on yesterday’s post has me doing more contemplating on loss, mulling the many ways life deals it out, and pondering the many practices of coping.

I think that is why many adoptees feel torn, as if they have to choose to feel either one way or the other, but not both. This seems dangerously similar to the idea of having to pick sides/loyalties, with feelings of loss and sadness and loyalty to birth parents on one side, and feelings of luck, happiness, rejoicing and loyalty to adoptive parents on the other side. Although many adoptees do make this choice and choose one or the other, it doesn’t seem like a particularly healthy one to have to make.

I have, of course, given much thought to adoption-related loss. My kids are reason enough to delve deeply into the issue, study the research, listen to voices of experience, read, discuss, question and more. Writing on adoption every day has presented a more academic motivation that has added a layer of understanding I may not have found otherwise.

Yes, years have been spent grasping for greater comprehension.

But is wasn’t until Sang-Shil posted the comment partly quoted above that I made a connection between loss in my own past and adoptee loss.

Here’s my reply:

What you describe sounds very much like the process for children of divorce. Since that also often manifests as loss, especially for the kids involved, it seems a fair comparison and is one I have experienced personally. Being placed in the middle of a sometimes rancorous situation is certainly not healthy, and children will always take on the pressure of feeling a need to side with one parent over the other. Issues of loyalty, concerns about the welfare of the absent parent, guilt over assumed responsibility for the turn of events, a sense of powerlessness over circumstances and such arise constantly.

My parents divorced when I was ten. My brothers were eight, five and one. All of us suffered, although the impact of the loss manifested differently in each of us.

We not only lost the wholeness of our family through an absent parent, we siblings were split up and my youngest brother grew up only knowing us older three through holiday visits.

Although I won’t assume to speak for my brothers or reveal the effects they experienced from the breakup, I would guess that my parents’ divorce had more than a little to do with my choice to become sexually active as a teen, a decision that led to me getting pregnant when I was seventeen.

So, having shared some of the meat of my own loss, I’m asking … How close have I come to feeling the same sort of loss adoption conveys, of knowing the pain? Am I miles away, or is there common ground?

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