Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Not Anti-Adoption, It's About The Institution of Adoption

As usual, Amanda's latest post is a great one.  She writes about adoption reform being about the Institution of adoption, not the people of adoption. 

I sometimes worry that people reading my blog will think that I write about adoption only out of regret or anger.  When I write about the problems in adoption I am not necessarily speaking about my actual adoption experience, I am speaking of the institution of adoption.  I am not speaking against Christopher, nor his parents, nor am I wishing to deny him any part of the life he lives.  I am speaking out against the institution of adoption. 

Here is what I am trying to say, but Amanda says it so much better!

Adoption is an institution, not a person. As an institution, it impacts just about every vulnerable population in this world that one could imagine. Because of this, we need to be critical of it. We need to expose its flaws, discuss its triumphs, and be realistic about its global impact. We cannot mistake these things for being egregious assaults against parents who have adopted, surrendering parents, or other adoptees themselves.  In truth, there is nothing "anti-adoption" or "anti-adoptive parent" about wanting an adoption that works well, works better, and works more effectively to serve those who are connected to it.

Thanks for putting words to my thoughts again Amanda! 

P.S.  If you don't already read Amanda's blog, you should!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sharing The Words Of An Adoptee

So many times in the last week or two I have attempted to write about that stupid new show on the Oxygen Network, but every time I try I just end up getting mad and my writing turns into a rant.  Reading on their FaceBook page, I found some great posts by an adoptee.  I sent her a message for permission to share her words here as she doesn't have a blog and she said yes! 

I think it's important to know that it's not only the moms who are objecting to this show, it's also the ones who have grown up adopted.  I try to not write about the adoptee experience since I haven't lived it, so I'm happy to be able to share some thoughts from that side of adoption.

From Renee, an adult adoptee, in reply to some adoptive mothers on the "I'm Having Their Baby" FaceBook page:

Laura, I do, actually. Have you ever been an adoptee?

And yes, I do feel that the adoption industry should be abolished. Because it is not focused on the best interest of the children. I don't see it going away in my lifetime, though. So for now, why not consider a few things.

Most of the children adopted at this time are not TRULY unwanted. A few are, but in the majority of these situations, moms have found themselves in a frightening and overwhelming position and are unsure how to handle it. If a FRACTION of the money, time, and resources that are spent facilitating adoption were spent helping, educating and supporting the young women, there'd be even less. Also, there are many other ways to ensure that genuinely unwanted and at-risk children are cared for. Fostering, conservatorship, guardianship, etc. These options can give children stable homes, care, and love without revoking their identities and the very real bonds they have with their families.

If you think that your adopted child is safe from abandonment and attachment issues, you're wrong. Your child bonded with her natural mom while she was growing inside her, and she will grieve that loss throughout her life. People are not plug and play. Her loss will manifest in many ways throughout her life. Your love is not a magic Band-aid that can heal all her wounds. You are one of her mothers, but you will never be her only mother. A woman whose baby dies can never erase that baby's loss by having another. It's precisely the same for your daughter. She lost her first mom. Replacing her with another will never negate that basic and profound loss.

I reunited with my natural mother after both my adoptive parents passed away. I never lacked for love. But I never felt whole until the day I hugged my first mom. I knew her. I recognized her smell. I felt at home in her arms. Those facts would have devastated my adoptive mother--but bottom line, the cold, hard truth is why should I care? Why did I always labor to protect her feelings? It was supposed to be about me, right? The best interest of the child? Remember? Not the best interest of the adopting parents. THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD.

It's not, of course. Adoption is not about the children. Which is why I'm against newborn adoption.

That and the fact that it's wrong to sell people. It's WRONG to SELL PEOPLE. It's also WRONG to BUY PEOPLE.

It's pretty simple. I have four objectives:

We need to teach sex education and family planning and make sure contraception is easily accessible.

We need to make it a criminal offense for ANY MONEY AT ALL to change hands when an adoption does occur.

We need to establish a strong system of support, education, and encouragement for moms.

And we need to make separation of mom and baby an undesirable last resort; putting the focus on keeping families together and gearing all solutions toward that goal.

If we do these four things, we can make domestic adoption the rare exception instead of the rule. There'll be fewer unwanted pregnancies, young mothers will learn to believe and trust in themselves, fewer families will be separated, and more children will remain where they belong. For me, it really is about the children.
A later reply:
You know, it's bizarre to me that when talking with adoptive mothers on the subject of corruption in the adoption industry, they ALWAYS seem to feel comfortable dismissing my arguments by saying I'm unhappy, miserable, angry, bitter, etc. I'm none of those things. I have everything a person could want and more: an awesome husband; a smart, funny, talented son; a beloved family; two sweet pups; a beautiful home in freaking paradise--and to add to my good fortune, I was able to retire from a career I loved at only 45, allowing me the bandwidth to work for a cause that means the world to me: Advocating for sweeping changes in the adoption industry. This is not an angry or unhappy life. This is a joyful life--and a fortunate woman.

Personally, I think you have to dismiss my words by claiming I'm unhappy and bitter in order to rationalize the wrong--and the damage--you've done. But you're lying to yourself. And to your children. And someday, your children will come to you with some very hard questions. Almost certainly, a lot of the same ones I've asked. For their sakes, I hope you come up with some better answers between now and then.

The truth is, though, that one doesn't have to be angry or unhappy to recognize the corruption in this system OR to be willing to work to change it.

I know where to place blame. I place blame on the system and those who enable and support it.

And I'm not trying to change your mind, Laura. Nor am I trying to change Holly's or any of the other women in this thread who clearly don't mind buying children.

I realize this is a foreign concept, but IT'S NOT ACTUALLY ABOUT YOU.

I work to reach young women considering relinquishment. If ONE young woman reads this thread and thinks,
"Wow, maybe I should get MY OWN lawyer and ask her about the laws pertaining to open adoption"
"It IS actually wrong to buy children--why would I ever give my child to someone who'll do something so wrong just because it gets her what she wants?"
"Why are these people who claim to be so 'good' willing to support such a corrupt system?"
"Maybe I should ask for the help I'll need to keep my baby instead of allowing these people to help me give it away"
or even
"Why are these women who haven't lost their mother OR their baby so incredibly rude and dismissive to women who have?"
then it's all worth it.

Those young women are reading these words. My words AND the adoptive mothers', and they ironically, both support my argument. Your unwillingness to answer simply questions, your arrogance, your rudeness and dismissiveness, your sanctimony and superiority--those are your true colors. And you're showing them to everyone. Please keep talking.
One last post I would like to share.  In reply to IHTB asking where you stand on adoption:
Where do I stand? The adoption industry should be shut down. It exists because selling babies is extremely lucrative. It serves itself. It doesn't care about the babies or the mothers.

One important thing to consider: There is no such thing as open adoption in this country. It is an inaccurate term that's used to falsely assure women considering relinquishment that they will always have access to their children, but by law, they'll actually have access only as long as the adoptive parents allow it. When the adoptive parents cut the first mother off, she's done. She has no legal rights. Until the first mothers' rights are equal to those of the adoptive mothers, there will be no such thing as open adoption. And that will never happen, because it simply cannot work. This is one of the issues that needs light shined on it.

A big part of adoption is about ego. It just is. I realize people don't like to admit that, and I understand why, but bottom line, it's just a fact. If the motivation truly is to love and cherish a child and give it a good life then why not offer that love and that home to kids already in the system? Why not help kids who are GENUINELY without parents, without love, without security? Those kids unfortunately exist. Why is it so important to get an infant fresh out of the oven? Why is it so important to OWN that child, to change its name and alter its birth certificate? If it's really about GIVING--if it's really selfless, if it's really about the needs of the children overriding the needs (wants) of the adults--adoption is not necessary. There is fostering, managerial conservatorship, guardianship, and other options.

Bottom line, though, all these things aside, buying children is wrong. It's wrong, and it's dirty, and the system that facilitates it is corrupt and evil, and supporting that system because it gets you what you want is despicable. Adopters can pretend they're on the side of the angels all they want, but that's just spin. They're willing to support a corrupt, profit-driven system that remorselessly damages human beings left and right for one reason: It fulfills their selfish desires.

One of the things that bothers me the most about adoption is that no one EVER seems to openly discuss that the circumstances of these young, pregnant moms is TEMPORARY. They aren't always going to be 16, 18, 20 years old. They aren't always going to be scared and overwhelmed. They aren't always going to be alone. With a little support and encouragement, they won't always be uneducated and/or broke! But no one tells them that. Caseworkers coerce them into giving away their children by making them feel as if they're inferior and irresponsible and incapable of stepping up to the job of mom. But most of them aren't. Most of these moms are no different than the moms waiting to adopt--it's just that their immediate situation is less than optimal. But that situation can--and typically does--change SO EASILY. At this point, I know dozens of original moms. With only a couple of exceptions, they all went on to marry, have careers, make money, buy homes, have stable lives. Most of them had more kids--many of them within just a year or two of relinquishing. And yet, they were told they were unfit to raise their first baby. They were not. They were capable. They were young women in a tough but TEMPORARY situation.

They got no support or encouragement, though. No one looked for solutions that would keep the families together. The moms were disparaged and bullied--and pushed to give up and give in. "You're not as mature, you're not as wealthy, you're not as educated, you're not as whatever." As if this were a permanent state--and as if adoptive parents were some magically superior species. Neither of those things were true, but no one ever admitted that. Why? Because they wanted their babies. The babies were worth a lot of money to the adoption industry. No one cared about the babies or the moms. They wanted to make money. And it's exactly the same way today. It was true when I was born, it was true when my son was born, and it's true today--and it will always be true until $$ is taken out of the equation. It really is that simple.

We need to teach sex education and family planning and make sure contraception is easily accessible.

We need to make it a criminal offense for ANY MONEY AT ALL to change hands when an adoption does occur.

We need to establish a strong system of support, education, and encouragement for moms.

And we need to make separation of mom and baby an undesirable last resort; putting the focus on keeping families together and gearing all solutions toward that goal.

If we do these four things, we can make domestic adoption the rare exception instead of the rule. There'll be fewer unwanted pregnancies, young mothers will learn to believe and trust in themselves, fewer families will be separated, and more children will remain where they belong.

What a wonderful world it would be if we could make some major changes in domestic infant adoption in the United States using these four things as a guideline!

Thanks for letting me share your writing here Renee, I consider it an honor.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Why Our Birth Matters"

I found an interesting article that I thought I would share here.  The article has nothing to do with adoption, yet has everything to do with it...

If you are considering adoption for your child, or if you are a mother of a daughter facing an unexpected pregnancy, you should read this.  It is becoming more and more known that events during pregnancy and early infancy have profound effects on a person's life ~

Here is the article from Spirituality & Health Magazine:

Why Our Birth Matters

By: Paul Sutherland

Issue: 2012 July-August

Showing that our earliest moments in life matterand that we can access those memories to heal ourselves as adultshas made Barbara Findeisen a pioneer in the field of perinatal and prenatal psychology.
As the founder of the Star Foundation, Findeisen has “helped transform the lives of thousands of people,” says colleague Marti Glenn. The center’s 10-day therapeutic retreats, guided by Findeisen and her staff, have a 30-year history of helping patients accelerate healing. “You turn a corner when you’re able to do that,” Glenn says.

Now in her 80s, Findeisen was presented last year with the Thomas R. Verny Award by the Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. The award recognizes her more than four decades of  studying how our minds and emotions are shaped by experiences at and before birth.
Paul Sutherland learned about the Star Foundation from an S&H colleague while urgently seeking referrals for a suicidal friend. “It was a profound experience for him and changed his life forever,” Sutherland says, “which affirmed to me how our paths intersect with people in random and mysterious waysand that sometimes the briefest of moments can change, or even save, a life.” Sutherland interviews Findeisen about her remarkable life and work.

How did you become interested in perinatal psychology?
I became a psychologist and then went to work in a clinic in Palo Alto, California. At that time in my own therapy, I had several strange, inexplicable out-of-body experiences. A profound panic came up over and over again in my sessions where I was totally terrified and shaking; I didn’t know why my body was doing this strange thing. I didn’t know why my body was trembling. I didn’t know why I was so scared. There was no container for it in my consciousness; I had no intellectual explanation.
And then it got even more confusing: I started saying things out of the depths of my unconscious, like “Don’t puncture me!” and “Let me live!” I didn’t know why this was happening. And as it unfolded, it was clear that I was having an experience from the wombwhich at the time I didn’t understand, nor did my therapist. From that point on, I went on a quest to see if there was any truth to this, because in those days there was little consciousness of prenatal psychology. 

What did you find?
Prenatal development is the most neglected source of some of the problems that show up later. Babies are being born already in a fear response. We start protecting ourselves before we’re born if the environment is toxic, if the mother is injecting too many drugs, if the baby is unwanted, if the mother gets beaten by the father and the baby gets to know the father’s voice. If there’s a trauma at that level, it gets very hidden and covered because the baby is helpless. We must find coping mechanisms to survive. Some of them are pretty disastrous, and some of them work. 
The work we do at the Star Foundation uncovers that. I see therapy as an archaeological dig to the soul. Some place within our consciousness is the memory of wholeness or divine essence. 

What is the process of getting there?  
I work with adults, but emotionally I think sometimes we’re children. I have them take a look at what were the early experiences. For instance, suppose their mother died when they were four and they were not allowed to go to the funeral, they were not allowed to grieve, nobody gave them the support to just feel. So many of us were taught not to feel when we were young. So we allow people to go back to traumatic events or even mildly traumatic events and look at the way it was: What couldn’t you say? What couldn’t you feel? Let’s redo that: Say it now. Feel it now. And then we look at how is this still showing up in your life and relationships? Perhaps you don’t want to get close to anyone because you believe they’ll die or abandon you. We take a look at how it’s manifesting in your life in a very practical way, because we all have threads that go back to the womb and childhood.

By examining these issues, can people really change?
Yes, I’ve seen it time and time again. And when we change, we hope everybody else changes, but they don’t necessarily. So how are you going to deal with going back to a partner, for instance, and you have reworked a pattern of being subservient, and all of a sudden it’s like you’re now working on being more authentic and standing up for yourself.  You cannot guarantee that the other person is going to be happy with that. When people come to groups, what comes up is, How are you going to go back and be different in a world where everything is set up for you to be the old way?
It’s not easy to go back into a life that has been habituated. For example, the way you survived as a child was being a little mouse, and all of a sudden you don’t want to be a mouse anymore. But that’s the way you learned to survive with a drunken father and a mother who is mentally ill. You just became a little mouse.  

Are we overdiagnosing or labeling?
I think diagnoses are sometimes more for the therapist than for the client. I don’t want to put people in yet another therapeutic box, as I might actually be limiting their experience. We do resonate with people. We do pick up nonverbal communications.  So I think the therapist has to really keep their mind as open and clear as possible so that they can go into the depths. 

You have a gift for making people feel safe and mirroring people, listening deeply, and this is one of the hallmarks of the staff and work at Star. How do you do this?
The first thing a therapist has to do is establish some sense of trust. One way is to explain and model that “I don’t have your answers. You do. I’m here to help you uncover the things that you’ve had to do, for good reason, that are now limiting you, and I’m here to help you discover what’s hidden within you.” I don’t know if Jung or whoever else said this, but it’s not my job to bring the light to you, but to help you lift the shade, because the light is alwaysyou might say God or whateverthe light of consciousness, it’s always there, but we live with so many shades pulled down in protection and distrust and emphasis on what’s wrong with us.  

What keeps you going?
Being able to witness over and over and over again the power that is within usthat we are not powerlessis so inspiring. But we listen to this voice in our head which denies us and says, “I want to be right all the time, I want to dominate you, I want to have more money than you do,” and that sort of stuff. But it’s all almost a coping mechanism for something underneath it. With some people, I work a lot with self-compassion. That’s not narcissism, but it’s a gentleness with yourself. So maybe you’ll never be a gourmet cook. Stop scrutinizing yourself. Stop the constant barrage of self-judgment.
I have people sometimes that have had profound spiritual experiences or real traumas and they have never talked to anybody about it, because when they did talk about it, they got ridiculed or humiliated or laughed at. And so it’s like there’s something that’s very vulnerable and very naive about some spiritual experiences we have. And so we get protective of them, because when we talk about them, we get judged. So what I like to do is give people a big space for their experience.

What is the crisis point that brings people to a place like Star?
Sometimes it’s a marriage that’s falling apart, and they want some place that’s a sanctuary, where they can drop into the issues instead of having a 50-minute hour.  Sometimes they’re in recovery for some kind of addiction, but their problems or some of their old feelings are coming up.  
And sometimes I wonder why people are coming in, because they look like they got it made. They had good childhoods and often they’re successful, but they have a sense of emptinessan internal sense of loss. And very frequently what they’ve lost is a piece of themselves. Maybe it’s the innocence of their childhood, maybe it’s their memory of wholeness, maybe it’s a real genuine inability to be intimate with somebody else, and it shows up in their relationships. Whatever it is, there’s something out of alignment within them. They feel dis-easenot necessarily physical ailments, but there’s dis-ease about something going on with them.  

How do people react to the element of spirituality as part of our personal growth? 
Some people think it’s just California woo-woo in the beginning. We are always trying to support people having their own personal experience of “soul” or put it in a frame that fits their belief system and vocabularynot what I think it should be, but whatever it is for them. And sometimes they have that “essential self” experience, the wholeness we talked about earlier. I call it “essence” or try to use energetic words. I try to present spirituality in a way that is almost secularmaybe that is an oxymoron, but it’s secular spirituality. 

Do you think our psychological development is intertwined with the spiritual?
I do. I don’t believe we end at death; I don’t believe we began at birth or at conception. There is something, whether it’s collective unconscious or soul or whatever it is. That, and the first brain that develops is the right brain, and that is the brain of the senses. And what I have just noticed often is when people get in touch with their right braintheir senses, their intuition, their smell, their touch, their seeing, their hearing, their tastingthere seems to be a balancing of the two brains that opens the person to a genuine experience of the spirit. Like washing a window and the light comes through: it’s like lifting the shade and the light is just there. We don’t have do anything to get it; it’s just addressing what has been blocked in us.

Are we always working on childhood stuff?
Neuroscience is now corroborating what I have been feeling and thinking. What happens to us in the womb and in early childhood lays out a template that influences the way we think, the way we feel about ourselves and the worldand our place in it. I don’t want to say everything has a childhood root, or a birth root, because it comes from a lot of different places. But at the right-brain level, from zero to age two, things get imprinted at a physical level, at a sensual level, in the body. I have had people come in and they have done 40 years’ worth of therapy, but they never got to the very original loss or trauma because it was not at the verbal level. That’s why the body is so important: it stores information and emotions and trauma and tells our story.
Sometimes we get people at Star who are radically one direction or the other politically, or devoutly religious to the exclusion of other religions. A lot of fundamentalism is just an extreme method of surviving or coping. They feel they are much safer in the world if they are absolutely sure they are right, and then they don’t have to deal with their own personal issues.
But when they become aware of the experiences they had at a preverbal or a very, very young level, they are the same as the person on the other end of the political spectrum or the other end of the religious spectrum. When we were traumatized by an abusive father or a mother who was distant and unavailable, it doesn’t matter who you are, a Tea Party member or a liberal Democrat. Sometimes I think if I could get everybody at that level, we would have a little bit more harmony.S&H

Monday, July 9, 2012

"All In The Family Adoption"

I continue to get hits on my blog from people searching with terms such as "my unmarried daughter is pregnant". 

There is a wonderful new blog written by one such mother.  Kellie writes about her role in her grandchild being given up for adoption.  She writes about the coercion that happened, which she was also a victim of. 

I think that her voice is an important one.  I'm glad that she is writing about her story and I hope that the people searching for advice about their own pregnant daughters find her brutally honest writings and think twice before allowing adoption to be chosen as anything other than a last-choice option for their grandchild.

Here is Kellie's own description of her blog: 

One person looking to spread the news about the tragedies of adoption. My oldest daughter got pregnant at 19. I searched a lot on the Internet about adoption before our granddaughter was born, but I didn't get the information about the grief that first mothers experience. We were totally unprepared. My daughter relinqueshed her daughter to her uncle, my husbands brother, and his wife. This is referred to as "kinship" or "relative" adoption. I want to try to inform others of the pain and grief involved in all adoptions.

I believe others need to stand up for first mothers and adoptees.   They are denied some of the basic rights that we take for granted. Those of us who love and support those who've relinquished or have been relinqueshed need to add our voice to theirs.
Go check out Kellie's blog "All In The Family Adoption".

Welcome to adoption blog-land Kellie!  You are a fabulous writer with an important viewpoint that needs to be read and known about.

On a personal note...
I can only imagine what my life might have been like if I had been able to talk to my own mom after the loss of my son to adoption.  Was she suffering as I was, as Kellie is?  What difference would it have made if I could know of my mom's own possible regret over her part in the loss of my son to adoption?  What difference would it have made to have the compassion and understanding from my mom when I was floundering through the loss of my son alone?

My mom passed away almost 10 years ago while I was still deeply entrenched in the denial.  My mother never spoke to me about the loss of my son to adoption.  I never spoke to her about it either.  I wish it was possible now...