April 30, 2007

Gratitude and Adoption, with a Side of Charity

Possum and Judy and Theresa have been posting about about a tough issue over the past couple of days: adoptee gratitude and society's demands for it. The discussion has triggered some thoughts on my part that stray a bit from the original discussion in these great posts, so I share them here with the disclaimer that they do go off on a slightly different tangent.

The concept that my children should be grateful to my husband and me for having adopted them has always been offensive to me. And if it's offensive to me, how much more so must it be to my kids and to other adoptees! The first problem is that I just don't get it. The closest parallel I can draw is something my mother used to tell me really infuriated her - the fact that her father always wanted her to thank him for bringing her from Slovenia to the U.S. Mom is 83 and she still talks about how much it aggravated her. "After all," she says every time the subject comes up, "I was only three when he brought us over and I had no say in it. Why did he expect me to thank him all the time for it?"

As I said, that's as close as I can get - and the comparison is pretty weak. After all, Mom knows her family, she knows her name, her heritage, her history. To be expected to show gratitude for an event that is tied to enormous losses - especially losses that the rest of humankind considers fundamental - is exponentially more difficult.

When I was a newer a-mom, I didn't understand this. I viewed the intertwining of gratitude and adoption in terms of who should be grateful: "Oh, no, I'M the one who's grateful! I'm the one who's blessed!" Or sometimes I viewed in terms of the what: "No, I'm no saint for adopting, and my children shouldn't be grateful for it." I was responding with focus on me, not on my kids, when I should have been focusing on my kids, and on the why.

Focusing on the why brings the dialog to the losses: "Actually, my children shouldn't be expected to be grateful for having lost their families, heritage, and homeland - especially since that could have been prevented in the first place. And I am as guilty as the next person for having done nothing." It's not a perfect response, but it opens up the door to deeper conversation, and may get someone thinking outside of the mainstream box. At a minimum, it sends the message that the concept of gratitude for adoption is plain wrong. And because I'm sure that someone is thinking it - heck, I'm thinking it - there is hypocrisy in this approach. To that, I can only say, yes, but it shouldn't stop me and other a-parents from speaking out.

The real challenge, though, is finding ways to talk about this with my kids. We haven't yet had a discussion specifically focused on this topic. Instead, as occasions have arisen, we've talked about it in other contexts. The kids haven't shared their thoughts many thoughts on this, and it worries me that they may already be burdened with their feelings, but are saying nothing. Hopefully if I keep grabbing opportunities to talk, they'll be able to open up a bit more.

As to why society places the burden of gratitude on adoptees - my theory is pretty simple, albeit cynical. I believe the mainstream views adoption through a lens of charity. People who have plenty are encouraged to give - and the poor are conditioned to be grateful. If adopting is viewed as a charitable act by adoptive parents, it follows that its recipients - adoptees - must be grateful, too. It is a deeply entrenched attitude. You can find it in the media, in our laws, in adoption policy, in a conversation with a neighbor over your back fence. And of course, our children will find it, too.

All the more reason to counter with reality, whenever we can.

April 27, 2007

Open Mike: Beyond Good Intentions

I'm guessing that many of you have read Cheri Register's book Beyond Good Intentions. Back when my husband and I adopted, there were a number of adoptive parents who were extremely popular - Lois Melina was one, and Cheri Register another. Cheri Register's first book Are Those Kids Yours? was one of my favorites, and I believe it is still offers good insight into transnational and transracial adoptive parenting from an adoptive parent's point of view.

So when Register wrote Beyond Good Intentions, I was anxious to read it and bought it as soon as it was available. There's no question that I wanted to see if her parenting experience had paralleled mine in any ways. And I wanted to see if she had changed her mind about any of the issues she wrote about in Are Those Kids Yours?

But I'm not going to share my opinions yet, because I want to hear what you have to say first. So what do you think? As with all Open Mikes, all points of view are welcome, anonymous comments included!

What are your thoughts on Cheri Register's Beyond Good Intentions?

April 25, 2007

Say what?

Update 4/26 - thanks, Mommela: We regret that this item is not available at this time. Never doubt for a minute that your voices don't count.

This one defies words. Many thanks to Abebech for putting it on the radar screen.

Undoubtedly, Urban Outfitters is enjoying the notoriety of this tasteless marketing campaign. How they can possibly think it's OK to target a segment of the population in this way is beyond me. No, it's actually not beyond me. This is about profit and greed.

So let's enlighten them. Contact information is here - phone, fax, email, take your pick and let them know this isn't OK.

Updated 4/26 - Here's what I sent to Urban Outfitters:
I am writing for your help regarding the t-shirt you are selling here. Should the link not bring you to the photo of this shirt, let me explain that it displays this motto on its front:

Adoption is the new black.

I specifically need your directions for telling my teen-aged children, who came to our family through adoption, what the intent of the motto on this shirt could possibly be. I can't imagine you want to use the thousands and thousands of individuals and families who have experienced adoption here in the U.S. and around the world as a tool for profit. But I am struggling to find another.

April 23, 2007

Seize the opportunity

I think it’s fair to say that any parent wants to protect his or her child from the hard realities of life as long as possible. For us white parents of transracially-adopted children, it’s perhaps a little harder than it is for most. Discussions of race may not come easily to us in the first place, particularly if we are having a hard time letting go of our hope for a color-blind society and believe that our love can conquer all.

So when opportunities arise for discussions about race, we have to grab them. Such an opportunity arose for my kids and me this past Sunday. We attend a church that’s about half an hour’s drive from our home, which gives us a nice, long (in teen terms) discussion window. This Sunday, after we got on the road to return home, I asked my kids what they’d talked about in their RE class that day. The Boy immediately responded that the topic had been race. Little did I know on Sunday how timely this discussion would be.

One of the things I have wanted to make sure my kids understand – and it is, very, very hard – is that they are members of minority communities. Getting them not to think of themselves as "white-alike" was challenging. Nurturing Korean cultural connections aren’t the answer to fostering a clear understanding of one’s racial identity. Most discussions of race came back to the teasing he had experienced, and he wasn’t always forgiving.

So when he announced that race was the subject of this past Sunday’s RE class, I held my breath a bit to see what had been discussed. A white student shared his opinions, which The Boy said negatively stereotyped Black and Hispanic people. And he spoke out in opposition.

It was heartening to know that the discussions The Boy and I have had have brought clarity to his understanding of the complexity of racial issues. So, seeing an opportunity to continue that, The Boy, The Girl and I talked about racial stereotyping all the way home, this time focusing on what kinds of stereotypes might be applied to them.

It’s not easy to tell your daughter that some men view her as an exotic “sex kitten” or that others may think of her as a "China doll." It’s not easy to tell your son that some unforgiving Americans will brand him as a “sneaky Asian,” or that others will expect him to know kung-fu. But it's true. And it's far better, in my opinion, that they recognize these descriptions as inappropriate stereotypes. We talked, too, about the negative effects of being described as the “model minority” - how this might prevent Asian Americans from access to services that appear not to apply, such as support for learning disabilities. They asked questions, they expressed surprise and concern and acknowledgment. And they’re that much wiser today.

It’s an opportunity I’m glad I grabbed. Yes, the discussion was difficult – there’s no question that it’s not easy to talk with your children about things you hope they never experience. But if you are avoiding opportunities like this one because you fear the discussion, remember: your children need you to face your fears, and to face the reality of racially-charged America. Their ability to develop realistic identities may depend on it.

April 22, 2007

Don't Misses 4-22-07

International Adoptee Congress, In Third Space, Rainbow World and Jared Rehberg

I want to make sure everyone knows about the International Adoptee Congress and several other organizations the IAC is working with. IAC has some terrific projects underway:


  • The IAC Congress, the first of which was held last November - more are planned.

  • Another partnership with Rainbow World, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to creating multimedia educational materials to be used for education and outreach about the personal, social, cultural, historical and political issues related to international adoption." Filmmaker Jennifer Arndt, known for the film Crossing Chasms, is working on another project going by the working title Voices of Adoption. The call for participation follows, or you can download a copy here.

    Please help by donating to the project! Make your check payable to Rainbow World, and send it with a note indicating it's for Voices of Adoption to:

    International Adoptee Congress
    c/o Bert Ballard
    7369 S. Eudora Court
    Centennial, CO 80122

  • One more plug: IAC held a fundraiser for Voices of Adoption in DC yesterday evening, and I was able to attend part of it. In addition to catching up with old friends and meeting some new ones, I had an opportunity to meet Jared Rehberg. Jared performed last night, sadly after I had to leave, but I know he's terrific because I've heard him perform before. He's doing a lot for the transracial adoptee community, so please check out his website and consider buying a CD of his music.

While we're on the subject of transracial adoption, here's a great new blog to add to your blogroll:

The Transracial Korean Adoptee Nexus

Passing on a good tip

Because I trust Dawn completely in all things childhood, I pass on a link to the National Association for Education of Young Children. Full disclosure: I didn't know about them. I didn't ask if our preschool was accredited by them. But if I were looking for preschools now, I would.

April 20, 2007

Koreans are not to blame

Also posted at Antiracist Parent.

I'm sure I'm not the only adoptive parent of Asian children who is struggling to help their kids understand the Virginia Tech tragedy. Tech draws many students from the northern Virginia area (where I live), so Monday's events hit very close to home. My children were horrified by the murders, and their reactions have ranged from shock, fear, relief (when friends at Tech were found to have survived without injury), and sadness. I wonder, too, if they are feeling shame because the shooter was Korean. They say they aren't, but it worries me that this message may be reaching them.

Cho Seung Hui was a terribly disturbed young man. How he flew under the radar of family, physicians, and schools for so long, and how he evaded treatment while at college are questions that deserve our consideration. Their answers will likely point to disparities between white and minority access to mental health care, as well as the challenges faced by immigrant families in obtaining these services. And they may help us avoid similar tragedies in the future.

But it's Cho's Korean-ness that has flooded the airwaves. The news program that broadcast Cho's picture superimposed over a Korean flag is probably the worst example I've heard of - my husband watched it in disbelief the first day Cho's identity was released. I can see no point to that news clip outside of an effort to drag our minds to the conclusion that being Korean was an important factor in Cho's decision to arm himself and kill 32 innocent people.

My frustration with the focus on Cho's race and ethnicity has been intensified by the apologies and collective shame that are being expressed by some Koreans and Korean Americans. Washington State Senator Paull Shin issued a public apology for Cho’s actions, saying, “It hurts me deeply, knowing what happened to Korea and how much the U.S. helped,” drawing a illogical connection between the Korean War and this sick young man's action. The Korean Ambassador to the United States, Lee Tae-Shik, joined in, saying in his official statement, "This shocking tragedy gives the Korean community a reason to look itself over and repent, as well as reaching out to American society to form a closer relationship." Repent? For what?

I received such an apology myself – a formal statement from the director of our adoption agency's Korean affiliate. He voiced sadness and sympathy, but most of all shame that a Korean could have committed such a crime. And he apologized for Cho's actions. I heard another apology right here in my neighborhood, too, from the owner of a local restaurant. After voicing her apology for Cho's actions, she hastened to add that she was Chinese, not Korean. I'm still trying to get my head around that one.

Even now, as I write this, Alina Cho on CNN is covering this very issue. Every Korean and Korean American she interviews expresses shock and shame – sorrow, yes, but most of all shock and shame. I understand national pride, but to draw it to the point of taking on guilt for the actions of a person who clearly suffered from serious mental illness is too much.

Apologies and expressions of shame send a message that Koreans are responsible, Asians are responsible. They aren't. The only one who bears responsibility for the murders at Virginia Tech is Cho Seung Hui himself. As Adrian Hong of the Korean American Coalition DC Chapter said in this morning’s Washington Post, Koreans aren't to blame.

The Korean American Coalition DC Chapter has set up the Virginia Tech Memorial Fund in support of Virginia Tech Victims and their families. If you would like to contribute, and add your voice and action to a positive response from the Korean American community, please send checks to:

Korean American Coalition
Attn: VA Tech Memorial Fund

1001 Connecticut Ave NW Ste 730
Washington, DC 20036


For more information, email kacdc@kacdc.org.

April 19, 2007

Guess who I met last night?

Suz! I had dinner with Suz and her two absolutely adorable little guys, one of whom I think was flirting with me all night, but that's OK because I was flirting a little, too. We had a wonderful, relaxed dinner, ate ice cream at Ben & Jerry's, and then walked through Old Town Alexandria and down to the Potomac with the kids. And we talked. Oh, did we talk.

I loved Suz right away when I first read her blog. My respect for her grew over time, through her writing and her willingness to talk to me offline, answer my questions, educate me. And meeting her in person writes it in stone, because Suz is warm, funny, and incredibly easy to talk to.

We both commented on how interesting it is that you can meet someone online and very quickly reach the point at which you can discuss serious issues. I think this is because you don't have to waste time with social protocol - you can cut right to the chase. Plus, in an environment like the online adoption community, we all know why we're here. And it certainly is the case with Suz - I was able to talk with her about everything.

It was interesting to me, too, that although I'm much older than Suz (I learned that I was heading off to college the year Suz was born - ouch!), we had no trouble connecting and talking about all kinds of subjects. Yes, adoption was a big part of the evening's discussion, because our time was limited. But we talked about kids, and schools, and work, and family, and life in general, and we understood exactly where the other was coming from. It made me feel really good, because I often feel like the old lady of the adoption world, although I don't view myself as over the hill quiet yet. Nearing the top, maybe - but not quite over to the other side.

Suz is incredibly sharp - that was evident thoughout the entire evening's conversation. Whatever the topic, it was clear to me that Suz does her homework. And seeing that, I know see why the work Suz is doing to reunite families and bring down unethical adoption agencies is so successful. She knows the facts, she knows how to get things done, and she is incredibly tenacious. The combination of warmth, intelligence, outspokenness, and determination is amazing.

It was fun, and I hope it's not the last time. I'm glad I met you, Suz. You're good people.

April 17, 2007

Stephanie Bennett Blog Blitz Posts

Every time you see this pop up again in your reader, it means I've added another post - and that's a very good thing!

Here are the Stephanie Bennett blog blitz posts I've found so far. Being an organizer, I wanted a way to locate all the posts quickly, and thought you might find it useful, too.

These are all terrific. You've looked at the issue from so many angle and perspectives, but you all point to the same conclusion: that the removal of Evelyn Bennett from her home is a terrible miscarriage of justice.

Most of all, you made it clear that Evelyn Bennett needs to come home NOW! This message has a special poignancy today - it's Evelyn's first birthday (thank you, Judy, for posting about that).

I gleaned these from comments, and Google and Technorati searches. Some of you listed here have posted multiple times on the subject, in which case I picked the post I liked best. I'm sure I'm missing some, too - who? Leave a comment with link so I can add you!! And then Theresa can add you to her candlelight tree, too.

And don't forget to listen to the interview with Judy Bennett, Stephanie's attorney Jennifer Lowry, and Sandy Young on The Adoption Show!

A Child’s Waiting, Evelyn Bennett, and an Unnecessary Family Break Up: Nicole
A Couple of Things: Shannon
A Crime Against A Family; As It Happened: Robin Westbrook
An American Travesty - Stephanie and Evelyn Bennett: Deborah
An Open Letter to the Couple Hiding Evelyn Bennett: Margie
Anatomy of a Child Theft: Adoption Roadkill
Baby Evelyn: Mia
BABY EVELYN: Adoptalk
Baby Evelyn Blog Blitz: Erin
Baby Evelyn's Future Autobiography: Julie
Blog Blitz: Dawn
Blog Blitz: Kateri
Blog Blitz- Stephanie Bennett: Lisa V
Blogger Blitz: Gershom
Blogger Blitz: Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Paula
Blogger Blitz Called to Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Adoptapundit
Blogger Blitz Called to Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Heather
Blogger Blitz Called to Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Dan
Blogger Blitz Called to Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Sandy Young
Blogger Blitz-copied and pasted because I love Claud: Roxanol
blogger blitz for baby evelyn.: Feenix Rising
BLOGGER BLITZ FOR STEPHANIE AND EVELYN BENNETT: Amy
Blogger Blitz to bring Baby Evelyn home: Umbilicly Challenged
Bring Baby Evelyn Bennett Home: Possum
Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Em
Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Nikki Jo
Bring Baby Evelyn Home: Nikki Jo
Bring Baby Evelyn Home!: Rebecca
Bring Baby Evelyn Home!!: Erika
BRING BABY EVELYN HOME NOW.: Kim
BringBabyEvelynHome! NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bring Evelyn Home: MSP
Enough is Enough: Send Baby Evelyn Bennett Home NOW!: AntiAdoption
Ethics Gone awry….Ethics Gone Completely: Tina
Evelyn Bennett: Cloudscome
Evelyn Bennett: Poor Statue
Evelyn Bennett: Susan of Crunchy Granola
Evelyn Bennett~ wonder what she is doing right now...: The Passionate Peach
For the Bennetts: Unproductive Reproduction
Having Been Coerced Myself: Suz
Heavy heart: Mommela
helping: Mommy in Making
If you aren't aware yet...: Jamie
It's Time to Bring Evelyn Bennett Home: Square One
OHIO STEPHANIE BENNETT VS THE OHIO ADOPTION INDUSTRY: Marley Greiner
Questions about the Stephanie Bennett...: The Voyage
Return Baby Evelyn: Christie D.
Stephanie Bennett: Aislin
Stephanie Bennett: BethGo
Stephanie’s Case: There is What’s Right, What’s Wrong, and the Law: A Voice of Reason
Stolen Baby Evelyn Bennett: Blogtilyadrop
The Kidnapping of Evelyn Bennett: Therapy is Expensive
The Stephanie Bennett Saga: What Happens Next?
To the Couple Hiding Evelyn Bennett: Melissa
Too many questions for me to comprehend: Theresa
We Don’t OWN Our Children!: Judy
Why is Stephanie Bennett so Important??: Claud
Words I Can’t Seem to Write (Stephanie and Evelyn Bennett Blog Blitz): A Barrel of Nelsons

April 15, 2007

An Open Letter to the Couple Hiding Evelyn Bennett

I'm struggling to find a way to address you.

Adoptive parents? No, we aren't talking about a finalized adoption here. Foster parents, or maybe guardians? These imply a legal relationship, too, and therefore aren't appropriate here, either.

Captors or kidnappers seem to describe the situation best, in spite of the fact that the law has been bent in the agency's and adopters' favor. You may be shaking your head that I could even suggest such a thing, because your refusal to release Evelyn isn't the kind of violent kidnapping we hear about in the news. You love her, and you are convinced you were destined to be her parents.

But look at this situation objectively. Evelyn's mother, Stephanie Bennett, was a minor when Evelyn was born, even though there are legal loopholes that let that fact be ignored. She was put in contact with an adoption agency by a school counselor, who didn't include Stephanie's parents in the discussion. And the agency in question advised this minor girl to run away from home, and to sign the relinquishment documents in another county.

This situation simply screams abuse - of ethical adoption practices, of the law, and most of all, of Evelyn, Stephanie, and their family.

I've tried to put myself in your shoes, and to figure out what could motivate someone to defy the court and hold a child from her legal guardians, particularly when the child's safety is clearly not at risk and those guardians are the child's grandparents. I've tried to think back to the early days of my children's lives in our family, to imagine what it would have felt like had their first parents suddenly appeared, armed with the law, to reclaim them.

I would have died a thousand deaths, to be sure. I would have cursed man and God, and would have sought out every possible barrier to prevent the inevitable. And I'm sure I would have employed every delay tactic known to man. But at the end of the day, I know I could never have looked my children - or myself - in the eye again if I hadn't done what was right.

There is enormous potential for abuse in adoption. Those who may think their adoptions were conducted ethically may find, on deeper investigation, that this isn't the case. And even when the letter of the law is followed, there are basic human rights to consider, which the law unfortunately doesn't always respect. I understand, therefore, that you may feel you've been victimized by this situation, and may therefore believe you have a right to this child.

But the real victims are Stephanie, Evelyn and their family. Stephanie was guided poorly by her counselor and the adoption agency. Stephanie's parents were given no opportunity to participate in Stephanie's decision, and their custody of Evelyn is now being ignored. And Evelyn - Evelyn is at risk of losing her connection to the family that gave her life and welcomes her presence.

I beg you: please return Evelyn to the Bennett family. Yes, you will grieve, you will feel pain. But that pain does not and can never justify keeping this child from her family.

Do the right thing. Return Evelyn to her mother and grandparents now.

For more information about the Stephanie and Evelyn Bennett case, read the Origins USA press release.
The original Akron Beacon Journal article from December 31, 2006 can be found
here.
Hear the story in the words of Judy Bennett and Stephanie Bennett's attorney Jennifer Lowry
here.
The petition to bring Evelyn home is here - please sign now!
The Bennetts need assistance with mounting legal fees - donate here!

April 14, 2007

The problem with agency-sponsored forums . . .

. . . is conflict of interest.

I've always been a nervous discussing adoption reform on agency-sponsored forums, and now I can put my finger on why.

I'm not really surprised, but I AM really disgusted.

The tagline on Bethany's forum says "Views presented here may not represent Bethany's views." Why, then, would they feel it necessary to edit a user's post to remove their URL?

The reason, of course, is that, in spite of the aura of openness that forums give, agencies really DO want the views on their sponsored boards to represent their own. Ultimately, an agency-sponsored forum is first and foremost a venue for peer support for the agency's clients. Stray too far from the party line, and see what happens?

Any forum can choose to gag its participants in any number of ways. I'm sure many have, and some of you may have even been the targets. But there's something particularly insidious about an adoption agency taking these tactics, particularly when the person speaking out is a first mother.

Like I said, I'm not surprised, but I am disgusted.

April 13, 2007

Blogger Blitz: Bring Baby Evelyn Home

Blogger Blitz Called to Bring Baby Evelyn Home
By OriginsUSA
Dated: 2007-04-12 08:54:20

As court battle for Baby Evelyn trudges on, new details of case are revealed. OriginsUSA calls for adoption community bloggers to help.

2007, to increase media and public awareness of the coercion used to obtain the surrender and removal of five month old Evelyn Bennett from her seventeen year old mother, Stephanie Bennett, on September 12, 2006, in Canton , Ohio.

Traditional media, with the exception of Rick Armon of the Akron Beacon Journal, have largely ignored this story. As outlined by Mr. Armon in the original story on December 31, 2006, the Bennett case has many unanswered questions. Despite the lack of media coverage, the interest of the online community has not diminished and has been kept alive for months via blog articles, adoption forums and online chats.

Kicking off the Blogger Blitz will be a live stream, online, radio interview with Judy Bennett, Stephanie’s mother and grandmother to baby Evelyn. “The Adoption Show,” http://www.theadoptionshow.com/ with Michelle Edmunds, will air on Sunday, April 15, 2007, and will be available online thereafter. The interview will break the codes of silence and gag orders imposed upon the family, while showing that this story is more tragic than even previously known.

April 12, 2007

Love Thursday: What I'd give for . . .

. . . a roasted potato from a Korean rest stop!


Korean rest stops are nothing like their paltry American cousins. They're clean and bright, and offer a range of foods from simple snacks to full meals. The large ones have grocery stores, caf├ęs, souvenir shops, and more.

Let me tell you about those potatoes. They're tiny firm white potatoes that are roasted and served piping hot with coarse salt. They're served in a little paper bag with a toothpick to eat them with. Our family loves potatoes and we roast them all the time, but I've never been able to duplicate these little gems. Yum!

To me, a Korean rest stop is little slice of Korean life - one I find I miss everytime I hit the road.

Lots more love here: Love Thursday: Love Is All Around Us and Love Is All Around.

Absence of Grief

Edited 4/14 to fix the link to Nicole's post - sorry about that, Nicole!

I think I scared you all away. I was so proud of my last post, but I'm wondering now if it's heading off to that dark place I was in last year. Or maybe it just stank, LOL. But it's a first stab at a topic that's important - how we talk about and visualize adoption. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of prospective adoptive parents out there who are being told that adoption is a triad, made up of equal members - a nice, pat way of looking at an experience that's clearly nothing like that. Time for this to change, I think.

Which is a good segue into something that has been bothering me recently. Nicole posted a deeply emotional and moving post about her relationship with her daughter. It's a post of questions - whys and ifs and hows about her daughter's lack of interest in adoption, the absence of grief in her life, and the reasons for her apparent disinterest. And one more, which simply broke my heart: How do you live with unrequited love for your child?

My heart goes out to Nicole, and to all of the first mothers who are struggling with the pain she describes. No mother should be asking these questions. No mother should have to wonder if a child she loves grieves her loss.

I had no words for Nicole, and left no comment, but the post has been turning in my head all day, literally haunting me. I would have liked to offer some sympathy and support, but after reading these words, I simply couldn't. It would have made me feel like a fraud.
If something is important to you and you lose it, you grieve. Simple as that. So if you lose something and you never grieve much (or at all), then again, one of two possibilities: either you’re in denial (ack!), or the thing you lost just doesn’t mean much to you.
You see, I've never seen my kids grieve. Through all the discussions about their first families, and the encouragement to seek and find and have relationships with them, I've never seen grief - save the time we had to share the news that one of our children's fathers had passed away.

For all my enlightened talk, I may have missed entirely some important aspect of parenting that has rendered my children incapable of really feeling love for their first parents. Yes, we've talked openly about them, we have even (through an intermediary) made brief contact with one mother. But in spite of this, my children's parents may exist for them only in the abstract - surreal phantoms who live only in their thoughts, but not in their hearts.

I would never want to impose grief on my children if they honestly don't feel it. But I would equally not want to deny them grief if it helped them heal any pain they may carry, or bring them emotionally closer to their first parents. Do I force the issue? Seek counseling when they see no reason? Talk more, and more directly, about their first parents?

At the moment, I have no answers. I just pray - for my children - that it's not too late to find them.

April 11, 2007

The Chasm

I listened to Joy and Addie on The Adoption Show on Sunday - they were terrific, and it's so good to have physical voices to go with the voices that come off the pages of their blogs. Plus, I like The Adoption Show - it's a no-holds-barred look at adoption, not sugared or prettied up for mainstream consumption. Michelle Edmunds tells it like it is, and encourages her guests to do the same.

Which may be the reason that some a-parents find it hard to listen to. But we have to. We have to get beyond our own perspectives on adoption and to let go of our beliefs, which may paint a skewed picture of the adoption experience.

It can be hard to listen, no question. One of the things I find challenging is the fact that it's immediately clear that The Adoption Show is most definitely not about adopters. Criticism is hard to take at the best of times, and when delivered straight from the hip from someone with a good reason to be critical, it can really hurt. In some ways, I feel a little like an eavesdropper when I tune in, like I'm listening to a conversation not meant for my ears. But I also know that listening has broadened my understanding of adoption loss - extremely important for an adoptive parent.

During Sunday's show I kept thinking about the adoption triad. The concept of the triad hasn't worked for a long time for me. When one of the supposedly equal partners has no power at all and the other may have been pressured or coerced into his or her role, the image sort of loses its punch. Some have replaced the triad with a plane, with adoptive parents and first parents at each end and the adoptee in the middle, pulled in multiple directions. That's a better image, but for me it still misses the mark because it gives the impression that the parents are on equal footing. They're not, although to an adoptee the end result of the endless tug-of-war may be the same.

These days the image that works best for me is a chasm. We face each other across the chasm - maybe we try to bridge the gap, or maybe we let it be. We are connected by the ground that surrounds the chasm and could walk around it to each other if we wanted. But what's in the chasm causes some of us a lot of pain, so we stay where we are.

Making the effort to reach each other is hard. Sometimes we fall, and sometimes we lose ourselves in the effort. The chasm grows and shrinks unexpectedly, tantalizing us with the possibility of success and then separating us again. Some of us try to build bridges across the gap, but the chasm swallows them up. And some of us don't even want to try. For all kinds of justifiable reasons - self-preservation, frustration, anger, sorrow, pride, fear, and more - we make the decision to accept the separation.

This chasm is filled with everything that's wrong about adoption - secrecy, lies, shame, dishonesty - a rotten foundation for any bridge we might try to build across. No, we have to fill it in, bury the injustice and inhumanity for all time, cover it over so completely that it can never surface again. Eradicate it entirely.

No question, the adoption triad is a much easier image to live with. But what's the point of building our understanding of an experience as important as adoption on an false image? Better to recognize reality, and to accept the challenges for what they are.

And then pick up our shovels and start digging, for we have a whole lot of work to do to fill that chasm in.

April 10, 2007

Thinking Blogger Thanks

Mom Seeking Peace has included me in her recent list of Thinking Bloggers - thank you, MSP!

MSP is a first mom, and a strong, yet peaceful, advocate for other first mothers and adoptees. She was one of the first first moms, along with Claud and Suz and Kim, willing to speak with me online when I first started blogging a year ago. And if I remember correctly, I think MSP may have been the first mother who linked to my blog, a gracious act that I will always remember.

I remember how stunned I was when I found so many mothers online, sharing their grief and loss, and telling the world about the incredible injustices they had experienced. I simply hadn't been prepared for the depth of their pain - or the steel in their backbones.

And so I'm going to pass this Thinking Blogger award back to MSP, and to Suz (again), and Claud and Kim - as well as Barb and Nicole and Jenna and Dbannie and Sheribat and Heatherrainbow and Cookie and Being Me and each and every first mother who is speaking out online, or in her community, in print and in the media.

You have opened my eyes and my mind. Your voices make us ALL think. Thank you.

April 9, 2007

Vote for A Girl Like Me

Reposting 4/9/07 to make sure everyone sees it! Also, please be sure to stop by and offer your support to Baby James and his family!

First, many thanks to Carmen, Dawn, Jenna, and Abebech for spreading the word.

Second, please pass it on far and wide!

CosmoGIRL and Take Action Hollywood! are sponsoring a film contest for girls. The finalists include an amazing film by a young woman named Kiri Davis, A Girl Like Me. Kiri describes the film this way:

The issues my friends and I face inspired me to create this documentary. Through my interviews, it became extremely apparent how European beauty standards still maintain a dominant role in our society. Society imposes standards that affect us all no matter what your sex or race is. I hope the film helps girls everywhere understand that you can’t allow other people to define who you are. You have to define and celebrate yourself. You have to love the skin you're in!

I watched it with my daughter, and I could see the wheels in her head turning, in sympathy and empathy. She commented that she was surprised, because her African American friends and schoolmates seem so confident to her. It was clearly an eye-opener for her.

Watch here. Vote here. Send a message to Kiri and the world that you want ALL girls to love the skin they're in!

April 7, 2007

Don't Misses 4-7-07

THREE IMPORTANT PSAs:

  • Please keep Baby James, who is fighting Wilms disease (a childhood kidney cancer) in your thoughts and prayers, and stop by his mom Jen's blog to offer your support! More here.

I found a new Yahoo group called BirthParentContact: "This group is for those who have adopted internationally and are contemplating contacting their child's birth parents or birthfamily. It is also for those who have already established contact with their child's birth parents or other birthfamily. It is a safe place for us to share our hopes, desires, fears and explore our emotions surrounding this topic." A group for open transnational open adoption support, yay!!

I've read a whole lot of great posts recently - here are a few of my favorites:

I've found some great new blogs, too:

And two new race-related resources:

And while we're talking about race, go read Mama Nabi's post Hovering… and changes in perspective after a child which, among other things, presents Mama Nabi's list of reasons for responding to potentially racist comments and acts:

  1. Every time I complacently accept subtle racist acts toward me, I am accepting future racist acts toward Little Nabi.
  2. Every time I give in to all the naysayers, I am contributing to future self-doubt in LN and invalidating her right to equal treatment.
  3. When I allow every ignorant inquisition, whether ill or well intended, regarding my lineage, I am helping others question LN’s existence and purpose.
  4. If I don’t try to educate the next ignorant racist I run into, I am not doing all my part to create an enlightened world for LN.
  5. If I walk away from any negative act stemming from preconceived notions regarding my ethnicity, my race, and my culture without at least discussing it with my peers, without giving it due attention, I am not giving my best toward a safer community for LN.
This goes for ALL of us. Thank you, Mama Nabi, for your wisdom!

Oh - and here's something you don't see too often where I live - snow on the cherry blossoms!


April 4, 2007

Joy and Addie on The Adoption Show

This is an absolute don't miss!! Joy and Addie will be on The Adoption Show this Sunday!

THE ADOPTION SHOW - VOICES ENDING THE MYTH
Sunday April 8, 2007 8:30 PM (EST)
Not Just Bloggers, ADDIE & JOY

Join Michelle as she yaks it up with adoptees, Joy Madsen (Joy's Division) and Addie Pray (According to Addie) about the absurd effects and practices of adoption. Are adoptees like Godzilla? What's with the "Happy Adoptee" plus, Addie and..."The Adopters Who Went Away".

Warning! those who celebrate adoption may be triggered by some or all of the content in this segment.

April 3, 2007

Infertility, Adoption and Me

Infertile. Sterile. Unproductive. Barren. Unfruitful.

Words that wound. Words that shame. Words that tell the world that we who cannot conceive and bear children have failed at that most basic human function - procreation.

Welcome to the wonderful world of infertility.

It's a world I know well, one that I lived with for years - eight to be exact, pretty much the entire span of my thirties. Eight years of believing I could beat my body into submission. Eight years of physical and emotional torture, drugs that threw my body onto a physical and emotional roller coaster, endless tests, painful treatments, and surgeries big and small. Eight years of utter helplessness and hopelessness on a scale that, at the time, I thought had no equal.

I married at 25, immature for my age and unready to start a family. Third Dad had put himself through college, and consequently finished a year and a half after me, in December of 1973. We married the following summer, and just wanted those first few years for ourselves. The biological clock was ticking, but we felt young and weren't ready for the responsibility of children.

We waited until I was 32 to start trying. By then we'd bought a house, settled into our jobs, and felt we were prepared to be parents. It never crossed my mind that my body wouldn't cooperate, although a long family history of infertility and miscarriage preceded me. We tried for a year - nothing. We began to push for an explanation from my ob/gyn - nothing. Tests revealed no significant cause, so we continued trying for another year - nothing.

I think every person who faces infertility will agree that there comes a point at which you say it's either time to walk away or to pull out the big guns. After two years of nothing, we reached that point, and found ourselves a reproductive endocrinologist. And folks, the race was on.

What astonishes me about those next six years is how I fell hook, link and sinker for every seductive shred of hope that came my way. Percentages showed that success was unlikely? I was going to be in that twenty or thirty or forty percent. Physical anomalies identified that made pregnancy (never mind carrying a child to term) a stretch? Hey, I was young and healthy and was GOING. TO. BEAT. THIS. THING.

Well, it damn near beat me to death. For there came a point a couple of years in, when my entire life focused on fighting infertility. I lived and breathed it - looking for a diagnosis, evaluating new treatments, seeking support, which I found in RESOLVE.

Connecting with RESOLVE was empowering. RESOLVE appropriately approached infertility as a medical condition, not a punishment from on high or a self-inflicted condition. My focus broadened to include fighting the insurance industrty, which sought to deny treatment of any sort, and to protecting infertile people from unethical infertility clinics - for wherever you are in life, there are unethical people waiting to relieve you of something, in this case your money. I became active in the local DC chapter.

Yes, I carried the banner for my fellow infertiles, and it said "Babies for All!" Even though RESOLVE supported the decision of any infertile person to remain "childfree," the main message was loud and clear: Infertile couples deserved medically-sound treatment delivered by ethical physicians and clinics. And they deserved children - not other people's children, please don't misunderstand. Just children.

But to those who are utterly desperate for a baby, and who have been lulled by the medical community and their peers into a sense of entitlement, the line begins to blur. It's not that you knowingly start preying on helpless women to steal their children. It's more that your focus becomes so fixed on having a child that you stop thinking carefully about your actions. But the motivation doesn't matter: for the mother and child the end result is the same - separation.

I can see that in so many ways my eyes were closed. I remember a nurse once telling me that treating infertility was like baking a cake - you had to keep adjusting the recipe. But at $5,000 and up per cycle, that's one hell of a cake! Yet I accepted it, never questioned for a minute the wisdom of continuing to try. I wanted a baby, and bad. When reality finally sank in (after the discovery and removal of a baseball-sized fibroid that had completely scarred and deformed my uterus) and I realized I would never become pregnant, I threw the medical approach over my shoulder without a backward glance, and embraced adoption as if I'd invented it.

I often read that people who have experienced infertility grieve for their "dream child" and carry that pain throughout their lives. It's odd, but in all my years of infertility treatment - and there were some doozies - I never once imagined the child I was sure I'd bear. Never. And when I walked away from it all, I never gave it another thought - except to question what pushed me all those years. Was it was some instinctual drive that kicked in in my thirities? The seductive promises of success from the doctors? Or my need to control the uncontrollable?

I'll never know. But I do know this: I'm a reasonable, reasonably intelligent person who believes she behaves justly and ethically. Yet during those years, my desire for a child controlled ME, not the other way around. Had I been told then that adoption was unethical, I honestly don't think I would have listened. And if there ever was a good reason for us to make sure our adoption laws are solid and just, it's that.