White Tears, Brown Scars

I promised myself that I would not buy any more books this year. However, this book was mentioned in my all things adoption group as merging racial inequality and adoption. My two passions, so how could I resist ?

A reviewer admits – “I am always a bit weary of how I am received when I talk about race in feminist spaces. I fear that I might be “causing a division in the sisterhood” as journalist Ruby Hamad describes in her debut book, White Tears/Brown Scars. I am afraid of being divisive; for calling things out when most people prefer to sweep snarks or discriminations under the veneer of polite conversation. When I bring attention to a remark, I don’t do it to mark a line between me and white women (if I did, I’d be separating myself from 90% of my friends). I loved Hamad’s book for its unapologetic rigor and sharp threading of racial history in both the United States and Australia. Since its release last week, commentators have called it ‘incisive’, ‘courageous’, ‘a work of depth and scholarship,’ and ‘well researched and informative’.” 

Still from the review linked above – Racial trauma is a term used to describe the physical and psychological symptoms that people of color experience after exposure to particularly stressful experiences of racism. Similar to survivors of other types of trauma (e.g., sexual assault survivors), people of color may frequently experience fear and hyper-vigilance, self-blame, confusion, memory difficulty, shame, and guilt after experiencing racism.

The woman who posted this in my all things adoption group said – This author touches on orphan trains and adoption throughout history and connects it all back to white feminism & saviorism. It’s a tough read, but worth it.

I’ll write more after I have had a chance to read this one on my Kindle.

Love vs Taking

I’ve had 3 in my life’s relationships (though the worst one was the one where I wasn’t actually married to her son). I have sympathy for anyone dealing with a toxic or even just difficult mother in law. I have great sympathy for this challenged young woman who’s story I share today.

Context: my mom and my MIL have problems with each other stemming from early 2020 because my MIL made so many Child Protective Services (CPS) calls on my mom that my siblings got taken.

Also, I’m Former Foster Care.

I moved back in with my mom temporarily (now permanently but it was supposed to only be temporary) so that my mom could work and have someone look after my siblings. She’s still working on getting my siblings put in daycare and get title 20 so it’s not horribly expensive

Anyway, now my MIL is trying to get my son taken because she is upset that we moved out and in with my mom (who she doesn’t like) and she wants to take my son.

When I first found out I was pregnant she freaked out and said she was going to “apply for custody” (like wtf) and then said all kinds of stuff behind my back while I was pregnant about how she was going to take him and I was going to be a bad mom.

I didn’t want to cut her out and I still don’t want to cut her out because she is his family but I don’t know what to do. She’s making up all kinds of lies about me and taking pictures of my bedroom in her house (which is a mess because she wouldn’t let me put any of my stuff anywhere else and we were in the process of moving our stuff out). I’m afraid that she’s going to get my son taken and I really don’t want him going through what I went through in the foster care system.

My son is very attached to me and I’m attached to him, I love him more than anything and I’m so afraid of losing him. I just knew that she was going to try to do this because she has always been jealous that he is not her baby and has always been critical of me from the very beginning and I’m so scared. I just don’t understand why she wants to mess with my and my son’s life.

I thought this was good advice – I would definitely have your boyfriend put a stop to it (they are not actually married but I had the same perspective of considering a woman my MIL when I was living seriously with someone I wasn’t married to). It’s his mother and he needs to take that responsibility and protect you and your baby. Maybe do what you can to get a place of your own. Since your mom has a CPS case against her, your mil can use that against you as well. So sorry you’re going through this. Might be best to cut ties for awhile until she learns to respect you as the wife/girlfriend of her son and the mother of her grandchild. You have a valid reason to be fearful.

Someone else advised – I think you need to prepare for a CPS investigation. Be prepared to show how he is financially supported. If/when they interview you, stay very calm and resist the urge to criticize your MIL. Say things like “I know she only wants the best for him and of course as his mother, so do I. And the best thing for any child is to be in a safe and stable home with their parents.” You may want to rehearse this.

And sadly, more than one said this but this one is good advice – I had a similar situation. We went to a lawyer. The advice was to completely cut her out so it shows you have no interest in her being in your life. It shows you are doing what’s best for your child as well. It even meant blocking all social media. It worked for us and if CPS shows up, be ready but you can say you have no contact with her.

(M)otherhood

As I was reading a review of this book, it struck me that these are issues that come up frequently in my all things adoption group. I am also personally familiar with secondary infertility and abortion. Looks like a good read. Here is the review by Viv Groskop in The Guardian titled – Motherhood: A Manifesto; (M)otherhood; The Motherhood Complex review – calling time on the cult of the perfect parent. Yes, she reviews 3 books, I’m only highlighting one here – (M)otherhood by Pragya Agarwal. You can read about the other two at that link.

In (M)otherhood, behavioral scientist Pragya Agarwal wonders if a book questioning the parental self and society’s attitudes to that self needs to define itself either as memoir or as political writing: “Does it really have to sit in a box?” Here is proof that it really doesn’t: this is an exhilarating, genre-defying read. Unsurprisingly, coming from the author of Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias, Dr Agarwal is especially concerned with issues of identity, which makes this a thoughtful, anthropological journey. What does it mean to want to be a mother? What will others assume about you if you choose that – and if you don’t? What do these assumptions tell us about who we are as a society?

She frequently wonders about the role of the judgmental words we use around female bodies. She is told she has an “incompetent” or “inhospitable” uterus. She writes movingly of the ambiguities of motherhood, secondary infertility (being unable to conceive after giving birth in the past), surrogacy and her personal experience of abortion as a single mother: “A contradiction: I was a mother, but I couldn’t be a mother. Not then.”

All these moments are seamlessly interwoven with statistics, quotes and scientific evidence to clever narrative effect: the personal and the universal aspects of motherhood are illuminated as interchangeable in a way that is reminiscent of Olivia Laing’s writing on loneliness or the body. The science writer Angela Saini sums up (M)otherhood perfectly in her cover quote as “a step towards a literature that acknowledges the breadth and the variety of the parenting experience and its cultural meanings”. The whole thing adds up to the most thoughtful, empathic and inspiring science of the self. (Not that I can see Waterstones – a bookstore in the UK – adopting this as a shelf category. But perhaps it should.)

The reviewer ends with these thoughts – Overall this trio represents a side-eye question: “Haven’t we all had enough of trying so hard?” As Eliane Glaser points out in Motherhood: A Manifesto, many of the current stereotypes of mothers “symbolize our failure to improve the experience of motherhood.” See TV’s Motherland, books like Why Mummy Drinks and endless “hilarious” jokes about wine o’clock: “The only suggestion we can offer is to just drink through it.” Melissa Hogenboom’s conclusion in The Motherhood Complex? We are so obsessed with being “perfect parents” that we set ourselves up for failure. Better to be “selfish” (actually, sensible) and leave children to their own devices more often. I’ll drink to that.

What does this have to do with adoption ? If we can address what drives EVERY woman to believe she needs to have children, we can lower the demand by infertile women for other women’s babies and perhaps address the core issue of providing financial support and encouragement for mothers to keep and raise their own children. So yeah, it IS relevant.

Slightly Off Topic

This may seem off topic but please bear with me.  This morning I realized that my tolerance for injustice has diminished.  I believe that learning about how my maternal grandmother was trapped and exploited has done that to me.

My grandmother’s only deficiency was poverty.  She went to Porter-Leath orphanage for temporary care of my mother while she attempted to get on her feet financially and they accepted my mom under a temporary condition.  My grandmother tried to reach her husband, my grandfather, who didn’t respond to the Juvenile Court’s notification – I believe – because he was out with the WPA trying to help Arkansas deal with a Super Flood of the Mississippi River that began the month my mom was born.

Georgia Tann had a repeat, paying customer in my adoptive grandmother.  She had previously adopted a son from the Tennessee Children’s Home and returned to them seeking a little sister for the family before my mom had even been born.  Miss Tann had a network of enablers, movers and shakers in the Memphis elite that helped her acquire product to sell.  Forgive my harsh judgment.

So my poor grandmother was pressured with a surrender or I’ll have you declared unfit by my good friend, the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley.  Even so, 4 days later my grandmother tried but failed to recover my mom.  She never had any other children.

I have always paid my medical bills – even those I thought unfair – even if I made the creditor wait and sent them only the smallest amounts for the longest time.  Having been uninsured for 30 years, I was grateful to finally qualify for Medicare.  I thought might as well catch up the basics and so went to my local nurse practitioner for a pap smear.

Unknown to me, the coding recommended by the laboratory to the doctor’s office for women between the ages of 30 and 65 was to also do a hpv test on the same specimen.  This was never discussed with me.  Medicare paid $29.44 against a bill of $128.20 for the pap smear but refused to pay the $169.80 for the hpv test.

I have been fighting this bill for 8 months and find myself trapped and exploited by a greedy laboratory.  I offered them $60 for the hpv test if they would write off the rest as they did for Medicare.  I thought I was being more than reasonable.

They have refused my offer and so I will now refuse to give them even a penny.  I no longer tolerate such exploitation.  The doctor’s office should have advised me to wait a year for the pap smear and this would not have even occurred.  I refuse to be a victim.  I never gave my permission and I won’t give in now.

Thank you for reading if you made it this far.  Do NOT allow LabCorp to do any tests for you.  I won’t ever again allow them to do any tests for me and I will not use my local doctor’s office for my next Medicare approved pap smear in 3 years.  They both lose.  I am not worried about a small black mark on an otherwise excellent credit rating.  I don’t intend to use credit anyway but I do have an Amazon Visa as long as I can pay in full with the first bill if I need that or just want to burnish my credit rating.

Words Of Encouragement

Life changes, never forget that it can.

It is perfectly acceptable to wish for better days to come.

There is nothing wrong with wishing for better income, more stability, and an ability to give MORE.

Years from now, you may realize something startling –

Your wish came true.

You will realize that those “better days” that you once could only dream of are now your reality.

It can be so easy to feel discouraged and just want to give up. Keep your hopes for better alive. Dreams can come true.  I know.  I’ve seen my own come true in amazing ways.

I remember one Christmas with my daughter when she was just a toddler. I bought the tiniest tree. I painted little wooden ornaments. I bought her a little bra and underwear set, patent leather shoes and lacy socks and one of those children’s microphones she could sing through. We didn’t have much but we did have a Christmas. Life is full of ups and downs. Change is constant and can be a source of hope when nothing seems hopeful at all.

HUGS of encouragement for you, who in a season that can feel so discouraging and depressing for a lot of people, must somehow carry on.  You are never truly alone in difficult moments.  Others are struggling and some are overcoming those same kinds of struggle.

Rights Over Women’s Bodies

Margaret Atwood has a new book out, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale set into a time 15 years later.

As we are seeing in today’s government, “Rules are for other people.” Last night we watched the 1984 movie version of the book 1984. I didn’t remember that it was that grim. Hard to watch. And with the image of Trump’s rallies today, the large audiences, their anger and their lockstep with one another was chilling and much more scary than the last time we watched this movie. I actually read the book in high school English and don’t remember it as being so frightening.

The Handmaid’s Tale is equally frightening in a society with an increasingly conservative Supreme Court. Margaret Atwood says of her new book, The Testaments, that “one of my models for that was 1984 itself, which does not end with Winston Smith about to be shot in the back of the head, but it ends with an essay on Newspeak written in the past tense in standard English — which means that the world of 1984 ended.”

“George Orwell did that very deliberately. He doesn’t tell us how it ends, but he gives us the signal that it has ended … So it may not surprise you to know that I was pretty interested in double agents and people working from inside totalitarian regimes, against those regimes, when I was writing this new book.”

In non-patriarchal societies women are valued.  Not so much in patriarchies, where men rule and men are valued over women — whether you’re talking present-day America or the world circa BCE.  Think we’ve progressed beyond that ?

Oklahoma Representative Justin Henry has made an argument that women are mere incubators. He has been seeking to put forward legislation that would give men more rights than women over women’s bodies.  Men produce the live seed, women simply hold that potential life in their wombs.

We aren’t there yet baby and the outcome for children in The Handmaid’s Tale is not much different than the multitude of adoption stories.

Do-Gooders

Social workers have been the rank and file workers in the world of adoption, endowing them with authority and expertise was a prerequisite for the professionalization of adoption. Making sure that family-formation would be overseen by professionals was an important part of making adoption modern. Therapeutic perspectives on child placement and adoption grew out of a convergence between social work and science.

In the circumstances surrounding my mom’s surrender and adoption, there were three women who were part of the early profession of social work – whether by education to obtain a degree or simply by choice.

Georgia Tann, who headed the Memphis branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, was the central figure in our family’s adoption history. Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley was actively involved in a “social work” perspective as she practiced her legal work centered on juvenile delinquency, family stability and child removal. Georgia Robinson, was the superintendent of the Porter-Leath Orphanage, who agreed to take my mom in temporarily while my grandmother tried to get on her feet. She betrayed both my mom and my grandmother by alerting Georgia Tann, who had a customer waiting for precisely the kind of infant my mom was dating back to before she had even been born in Virginia.

I think of them as the original do-gooders and it is likely that they did some good. However power and money eventually corrupted all of them, resulting in an investigation that included pending criminal charges.

Georgia Tann died 3 days before those criminal charges were to be filed and all of the movers and shakers in Memphis were happy to forget all about it.

H L Mencken is quoted saying – “Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of improving or saving X, A is a scoundrel.” There were scoundrels in Memphis from the 1930s through the 1950s.

Fair Responsibility

The way things are going, it seems like this idea would be fair, if at least this was the law of the land. My mom’s mother lost her when she was exploited by Georgia Tann, because my mom’s father did not take financial responsibility for her life. There is no other perspective I can see as valid. I think he was a good and kind man but why did he abandon them ? That is a question I will never have an answer for.

Though unwed, the married man who impregnated my paternal grandmother did not take any responsibility for his existence either.  I don’t know that the man ever knew he was a father, though my grandmother was clear enough about it to give my dad his father’s middle name and keep a head shot photo of the man with his name and the word “boyfriend” next to a photo of her with my dad on her lap.

People who are pro-life are usually only pro-birth.  They don’t consider either the prolonged gestation, during which a woman may not be able to work, nor the life-long commitment that having a child entails.  Condemning a woman and her children to poverty is not being a supporter of life that has any good qualities beyond love (and of course, love is very important) but that it is okay for them to starve and not have shelter or clothing.

Regardless of the personal hell they will live through, that baby must be born.  The new Jim Crow ?

International Women’s Day

Mothers are essential to the continuation of the species on this planet.  Yes, men are important in that equation too.  Yet, at this time, it is a woman who carries the baby inside her womb (extraordinary stories not withstanding).

So on this International Women’s Day, I want to honor all of the mothers who carried a child in their womb and give a big hug of understanding to those who found them separated from the most precious of their life’s creations.

It may be that to many people motherhood doesn’t feel like it is making much of a contribution to civilization because it is – well – all so common.  We were all born of a woman, who was the mother of our physical body.

Mothers change diapers, kiss away boo-boos, will often drop whatever is their primary interest at the moment, to attend to whatever their child believes they need.  The child always believes their need is more important than ours and maybe they have a point because children tend to grow up VERY FAST.

Being a mother is something that any other mother can understand, even if her life is very different from our own.  There are a million minor things that being a mother demands of us and mostly they seem unremarkable on the surface of things.  But they are crucial.

So here’s to you – whether you are a mother or not.  As a woman, you had a mother and a grandmother.  Today, women have a choice about whether to carry a child in their womb – or not.  I think it is best that EVERY CHILD be wanted and that every child is able to be cared for by that woman who carried the child in her womb.

We’re not there yet but maybe someday soon . . .