Uprooted

This kind of discovery is happening more and more often with the advent of inexpensive DNA testing. I belong to a circle of mom’s who all gave birth in a 4 month period of time in 2004. We have pretty much stayed in contact – at least a majority of us. At one point, way back when, our group ended up divided on the common question for those who conceived via Assisted Reproductive Technology over whether we would tell our children the truth or hide it. Some definitely chose that second path, my husband and I did not. I am grateful for that choice.

It’s not as though we’ve ever made this a big issue in our household and I’ve not made it a public issue locally as well (in the early days I received some hints of questions seeking to know). One of the strategies early on was to let our children tell if that was their choice and not make that choice for them. Only recently, have I become more outspoken about our family’s origins because – gee, I will be 68 this coming May and I have two sons, one that is almost 18 and one who will be 21 this February.

There is another strategy that we owe it to other woman who could be deceived by our having given birth at advanced ages that they have all the time in the world – as I believed in my 40s when my husband decided he wanted to be a father after all after 10 years of marriage. He was always glad I had “been there and done that” so no pressure on him to parent, as I do have one daughter who is now soon to be in her 50s and she has gifted me with two grandchildren. Then we learned how low the odds of that actually happening were due to my own advanced age. A nurse practitioner recommended her own fertility doctor saying “you don’t have time to waste.” He is the first one who told us that there was “a way” and that way for us was via egg donation.

We have stayed in contact with our donor since day one. Facebook makes that easier today. The boys have met her in person more than once but distance limits that contact. I do show them pictures from her FB page from time to time. When she tested with 23 and Me, I gifted my husband with a kit, and then when my oldest son turned 18, I gave him one, and rather than wait for the youngest one to turn 18, went ahead and gave him a kit.

Doing this also allowed us to tell our boys, now that they are older, all of the reasons that we chose to do what we did. Also to emphasize that they simply would not exist or be who they are any other way. There is no “if only” things had been different. And that no one could be more of a mother to them than I am and it is clear by their behavior towards me that I am precisely that to them even with this complete knowledge.

While it is decidedly strange to see another woman listed as their mother at 23 and Me after having carried their pregnancies in my womb and breastfeeding each of them for a year, as well as being in their lives 24/7, I do not regret making private message access to her available to them if they so choose.

I understand the yearning for truth about our genetics. Both of my parents were adoptees who died 4 months apart, still basically ignorant of their origins. My mom did try to get her adoption file (a file I now have complete possession of) in the early 1990s. Within a year of my dad’s death, I had identified all 4 of my original grandparents and have contact with some cousins and a couple of surviving aunts.

There are very real and serious issues with donor sperm. It has produced a lot of children with the same genetic paternity and has existed under a protection of privacy. Unlike egg donation which we are aware that our donor went through a painful process as well as a fraught experience with powerful drugs, it is relatively easy and painless to donate sperm, as my own husband did in order to give birth to genetically, biologically related sons (our sons do have the same maternity and paternity and so are 100% siblings). Some egg donors were also promised privacy in the early days of assisted reproduction.

Here is some information about the book, Uprooted, that I have featured today (but which I have not read) –

By his forties, Peter J. Boni was an accomplished CEO, with a specialty in navigating high-tech companies out of hot water. Just before his fiftieth birthday, Peter’s seventy-five-year-old mother unveiled a bombshell: His deceased father was not his biological, genetic father. Peter was conceived in 1945 via an anonymous sperm donor. The emotional upheaval upon learning that he was “misattributed” rekindled traumas long past and fueled his relentless research to find his genealogy. Over two decades, he gained an encyclopedic knowledge of the scientific, legal, and sociological history of reproductive technology as well as its practices, advances, and consequences. Through twenty-first century DNA analysis, Peter finally quenched his thirst for his origin.

​In Uprooted, Peter J. Boni intimately shares his personal odyssey and acquired expertise to spotlight the free market methods of gamete distribution that conceives dozens, sometimes hundreds, of unknowing half-siblings from a single donor. This thought-provoking book reveals the inner workings—and secrets—of the multibillion-dollar fertility industry, resulting in a richly detailed account of an ethical aspect of reproductive science that, until now, has not been so thoroughly explored.

The Audiobook and ebook have been available since January 4 2022. The print book is to be released tomorrow on January 25 2022.

Morally OK but illegal ?

An adoptee’s birth certificate replacement

Has anyone seen the recent AskReddit post where the question was something like “What’s something that’s morally ok, but illegal?” Somebody said showing adoptees their original birth certificates and the comments have made one adoptee livid. Apparently, adoptees are just horrible stalkers, biological parents deserve anonymity, and how dare we upset our adoptive parents.

Here is that adoptee’s response in the comments (with a few added remarks from my own story) –

Sealed adoption records are actually a product of the past when it was considered shameful to be born “illegitimate” aka out of wedlock. Then, it became at the adoptive parents didn’t want contact with the biological parents.

It had NOTHING to do with promised anonymity to the biological parents. At least not in the United States. This is not sperm donation that we’re talking about here. And even in sperm donation they’re moving away from the anonymous donations because people WANT to know who their biological parents are.

Plus, Ancestry DNA exists (and I will add 23 and Me – both have been helpful for me to learn my true genetic biological origins).

The adoptee writes that “I guess I’m one of those horrible adoptees that you all hate because I found my birth mother 7 years ago and we have a relationship still. She said she always wondered if I was ok. And my full brother found me via Ancestry DNA.

In my own story, my mom’s half-sibling always hoped she would turn up. Sadly it never happened. My dad’s birth father (his mother was unwed) is now known to me thanks to 23 and Me and a long chain of coincidental events.

The adoptee goes on to write – F**k closed records. There are senior citizens out there whose biological parents have been dead for a while and they still can’t legally access their records or original birth certificate. It makes no f**cking sense.

I also ran up against continued obstacles in the states of Virginia, Arizona and California.

The adoptee concludes – Adoptees should not have to be stuck with this additional life-long burden to keep everyone else comfortable. We didn’t ask to be born. The adults in the situation need to understand that if you produce a child or adopt a child, then they might want to know their biological family. That’s just the way it is. Even with records being closed. It’s not right to ask us to be skeletons in the closet.

What Would The Answer Be ?

Why is it, when adoption comes up, that there are a majority of adoptive parents who will say “Well, what was I supposed to do…just accept that I couldn’t have a baby?” What do you want an adoptee’s answer to you to be ? Just take someone else’s kid ? I get that people want children, but is it another person’s job to supply a child for you ?

Life is not fair. If you didn’t complete your degree, do you say – what am I supposed to do ? Would other people tell you to just go and take someone else’s degree off the wall ? Why isn’t it your job, to give all of the money you have, to the people who are poor ? Or leave your current job, so someone who is unemployed can have it instead ? Would you take your dream home and give it someone who is homeless to live in ? How about that fancy car ? Should you hand the keys over to someone without one ?

Sometimes, life requires us to accept something that is true but that we sincerely don’t want to be part of our reality. Certainly, modern medical science does have some solutions that allow previously infertile women to conceive a child using assisted reproductive techniques. Not only is adoption in the process of being reconsidered and reformed but the medical approaches are as well. Not only are adoptee searches all the rage these days – and many of those searches have successful outcomes with the photos from these reunions making my own heart happy when I see them – but people who were conceived using donor sperm or donor eggs (or both) are discovering that the anonymity that was once standard, leaves them with the same black hole of genetic identity and lost familial medical history that adoptees in closed adoptions have been contending with since the beginning of adoption, which adoptees started pushing back against as early as the 1990s. Now donor conceived persons are pushing back against similar issues.

What sometimes gets lost in these conversations is that people are not inanimate objects like a university degree, employment, a person’s acquired wealth (whether by inheritance or hard work) or the home they bought to live in, the car that transports them wherever they want to go. Actually considering the reality that a child is not a commodity. In their desperate attempt to acquire a child to fill their own unfilled need, the humanity of that child and their birth mother is sometimes lost. That reality that these are human beings with feelings and emotions needs to be carefully reconsidered. You won’t die if you never have a child but you could utterly ruin two other lives in the process of taking someone else’s child – the birth mother’s and the adoptee’s lives – for the remainder of their personal lifetimes. Yes, reunions do relieve some of that long-held sorrow but you cannot recover or make up for the time or relationship development that was lost in the interim.

It’s A Fundamental Human Right

I certainly understand the need to know. I believe one of the purposes that I came into this lifetime was to heal some missing family history. I believe because I was aligned with my dharma, doors opened and answers revealed themselves. That black hole void beyond my parents became whole with ancestors stretching way back and into Denmark and Scotland as well as the English and Irish.

I believe in the principle that it’s a fundamental human right to know one’s genetic identity. I remember once talking to a woman who was trying to understand why it mattered that both of my parents were adopted if they had a good life. As I tried to explain it to her, she suddenly understood. She took her own genetic ancestry for granted because she knew that if she had any reason to want to know, she could discover all the details.

Not so for many adoptees with sealed and closed records (which was the case with my parents adoptions) and not so for donor conceived people whose egg or sperm donors chose to remain anonymous – many doing it for the money – and walking away from the fact that a real living and breathing human being exists because of a choice they made. Today, inexpensive DNA testing has unlocked the truth behind many family secrets. Some learn one (or both) of the parents who raised them are not their genetic parent from a DNA test. A family friend might tell a person mourning the death of their dad at his funeral, that their father suffered from infertility and their parents used a sperm donor to conceive them.

These types of revelations can be earth shattering for some people. I’ve know of someone recently who was thrown that kind of loop. The process of coping with such a revelation is daunting and life-changing regardless. Even for my own self, learning my grandparents stories has changed my perspectives in ways I didn’t expect, when I first began the search into my own cultural and genetic origins.

There is a term for this – misattributed parentage experience (MPE). It has to do with the fact that you did not grow up knowing your genetic parent.  That word – experience – best describes the long-term effects. It is not an “event,” a one-time occurrence. The ramifications of MPE last a lifetime to some degree.  I know how it feels, trying to get to know people, who have decades of life experience that I was not present for or even aware of. It is not possible to recover that loss. One can only go forward with trying to develop a forward relationship and whatever gems of the past make themselves known are a gift.

There are 3 primary communities with MPE in their personal histories.

[1] Non-paternity event (NPE): those conceived from an extramarital affair, tryst, rape or assault, or other circumstance

[2] Assisted conception: those conceived from donor conception (DC), sperm donation, egg donation, embryo donation, or surrogacy

[3] Adoption: those whose adoption was hidden, orphans, individuals who’ve been in foster care or are late discovery adoptees (LDA), etc.

There are also 3 primary topics for raising awareness and developing reform efforts – education, mental health and legislation. Right To Know is an organization active on all of these fronts and issues. They are advocates for people whose genetic parent(s) is not their supportive or legal parent(s). They work to promote a better understanding of the complex intersection of genetic information, identity, and family dynamics in society at large.

Dumpster Baby – Not A Joke

Yesterday, I saw a meme my daughter posted. One older Asian sibling was teasing the younger one that she was found in a dumpster. My daughter who grew up in a yours, mine and ours family commented that she used to tell her sibling that her parents were monkeys. When I commented that the graphic made me sad because some adoptees were actually dumpster babies, she told me that she didn’t realize it happened, she just thought it was a joke and I see today that she did remove it.

Today, in my all things adoption, I see a comment that references dumpster babies in response to a story about those Safe Haven Baby Box Drop Offs that I have written about before in this blog. A former Labor and Delivery nurse said –

I am in favor of them….with the caveat that the child can be reclaimed by mom, without penalty within the first 6 mo. (I actually read a book not long ago, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, where was a baby left by a desperate mother at the fire station. She later wanted to reclaim the baby.)

The L&D nurse continues with – I wish this was spoken of in schools, as early as middle/ high school. This is designed to prevent dumpster babies, the majority of which are likely never found. (In fact, there is a Family Guy meme that is captioned, I am a prom night dumpster baby. Image at the top of this blog.)

I do agree with the nurse, whatever can prevent a panic infanticide, and these do happen. I also wrote a blog once about the remains of a baby who died of exposure and neglect who was found many many years later and in fact, the mom who dumped him was eventually revealed.

The ‘safe haven’ laws are not uniformly known…even among those who ‘work’ in the safe haven locations. A reform would be if those babies left in baby boxes or victims of hospital ‘abandonments’ (which also do happen) all had a 6 month, no questions asked (no effort at a termination of parental rights by Child Protective Services, if the mom comes forward within that time), so that she may retrieve her baby. No adoptions allowed before that grace period ends.

The article that caused that comment was about a 19 yr old Indiana teen, Hunter Wart, who worked for over a year to raise $10,000 as his senior project. The end goal was to purchase a baby drop-off box for the Seymour Fire Department. He mowed lawns and collected metal to sell as scrap. The article goes on to say his reward was when a healthy baby girl was left inside. The fire Chief Brad Lucas estimated that the child was only one hour old, when she was dropped off. An alarm rings when the box is opened by the person leaving a baby. The baby girl will be in custody of the Indiana state child services, once she is released from the hospital. A Safe Haven Baby Box is definitely better than abandoning a baby in unsafe conditions.

The Safe Haven Baby Boxes non-profit was founded by Monica Kelsey—who was abandoned as an infant herself—in an attempt to give distressed new moms a safe place to leave their child while remaining anonymous. Before the initiative was launched, two to three abandoned babies died every year in Indiana, said Kelsey. The state has had no abandoned babies die since the boxes were installed, she added. “These babies were left in trash cans and dumpsters. One was left at the door of a hospital. That baby had frozen to death before he was found.

While I am not a fan of adoption and I have made it abundantly clear that I think families need enough financial and other kinds of support in order for parents to be able to raise their children, I am a realist. I understand that options should not be removed from women because I believe babies are generally (but not always) better off if raised by their biological parents. The goal of Safe Haven Baby Boxes is to minimize harm and trauma. We should never limit the options available for mothers in crisis.

Surrogacy

I first became of gestational surrogacy while going through reproductive assistance. One of the women in my mom’s group had cancer and so her twins were birthed through a surrogate. I remember her stressing about what medical staff would think of her because she wanted to be in the delivery room and would have to wear a head covering at the hospital because her hair had all fallen out from treatment. She died when the twins were only 2 years old.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had tried for years to conceive and due to the serious pharmaceutical medications my sister-in-law was on for the treatment of manic-depression symptoms, it wasn’t safe for her to go off of those prescriptions. For some time, they tried using assisted reproduction with her eggs and it always failed. They were eventually successful and they did use a surrogate. As our two families became estranged after the deaths of my in-laws, I don’t know if the baby has her genes or not.

Both of these occurred before I started learning so much about adoption. My husband and I have two sons with the same genetic background but none of my own genes. They do have my husband’s DNA and they had the same egg donor. What I have learned is that the baby becomes bonded with the mother the fetus is developing within. I remember how my OB always reassured me that I was playing an important role in my developing children’s lives – the foods I ate primed their taste buds, my emotions affected them in the womb. I was every bit as ecstatic when they were born, every bit as much in love with them as my infant, as I was with my daughter who does carry my genes.

From what I have learned, I do have grave concerns about the effect on infants of gestational surrogacy. I was directed today to explore Severance magazine’s website by my adoption community. I pass that on to my readers here. Their byline is “Severance on the aftermath of separation” and they seem to speak to all related issues. The reality is that in this age of widespread availability of DNA testing, many argue that anonymity is no longer sustainable and that a child can never possibly consent to donor anonymity or waive their right to know where they came from.

We had a private agreement with our donor and have maintained an open relationship with her. Our sons have met her on several occasions. Not long ago, she informed me that she had done a 23 and Me test. Therefore, I gifted my husband with a 23 and Me first, then the oldest son and then his brother. This reality gave us an opportunity to fully discuss their conception, even though we had always been open about it, it had never dominated our family’s life. The donor is open to contact from the boys should they ever want that. She has always been very rational about the whole situation and she does have 3 children of her own that she gave birth to. Our sons know that there are at least those children who are genetically half-siblings. It is also possible another one they won’t know about in advance may turn up someday. They would not exist but for. It is their own unique, individual reality and existence.

Severance Magazine Website

Safe Haven Babies

How does one preserve the identity and heritage of a baby dropped off under Safe Haven laws ? Is this a case where adoption is the only recourse ?

Safe-haven laws are statutes in the United States that decriminalize the leaving of unharmed infants in specially designated places.  The child then becomes a ward of the state.  Safe-haven laws typically allow the original parents to remain nameless in a court proceeding to determine the child’s status.

Some states treat safe-haven surrenders as child dependency or abandonment and a complaint is filed against the parents in juvenile court. Other states treat safe-haven surrenders as adoption surrenders and void all parental rights.

Of course, eventually, the ease of accessing inexpensive DNA tests and the matching sites 23 and Me as well as Ancestry may reunite the child with some member of their original family.

Yet, in the meantime, what to do ?

Critics argue that safe-haven laws undercut temporary-surrender laws, which provide the buffer of time for parents who are unsure about whether to keep or relinquish their children. Supporters argue that anonymity protects infants from potential abuse by their parents.  Fathers can find themselves shut out of the child’s life without their knowledge or consent.

And I still do not have the answer to my initial questions  . . .

 

 

 

 

Let’s Get Real

I know what I am going to write about here, will seem like shocking hyperbole to the average non-adoptee, to anyone who hasn’t spent time listening to the stories of adult adoptees, who has seen adoption only through this beautiful adopter lens, and the seemingly happy adoptees in their own community.

Adoption is not heroism. It does not fight poverty, disease nor the root causes of inequality.

Adoption doesn’t even raise awareness about the real causes of poverty, inequality, parent-child separations, disease or social immobility. Instead it creates an idolatry of those who seek to adoption to counter a world that stigmatizes infertility, disease, poverty and poor access to education.

Adoption publicity silences the voice of adoptees, trapping them in a pernicious web where they are expected to show only gratitude.

The outcome of showcasing a false savior-ism in adoption is to make adoption fashionable and highly desirable to the upper and middle classes and wannabe saviors.

Anonymising family history is at the center of the process.  This creates a commercial market for baby farms, coercion and kidnapping and provides a kind of diplomatic immunity and witness protection for all agencies and families under the magic umbrella of adoption.

The false story about adoption, that adopters are saving children, disguises the reality of parenting adopted children. Children who’ve experienced the trauma of separation from their natural family cannot replace the missing biological children of infertile couples.

The failure to address this grief by all parties and to instead speed towards wishing for the separation of babies from families, helps no one. Instead, the process leaves everyone having to repress forbidden feelings. That never ends well for anyone.

In the context of adoption, people frequently confuse being pre-verbal with being pre-feeling and pre-memory.  It is the myth of the blank slate.  In truth a baby comprehends without words.  In children raised by their natural parents, there is a sense of safety and connection that lays a foundation for the forming of strong attachments, robust relationships and resilient immune systems.

It is time for a good change in how society handles these situations.

The Modern Foundling Wheel

Safe Haven Baby Box – Indiana

I first read about this concept in the book Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy while I lay in hospital having just delivered my oldest son.  Mothers could abandon newborn babies anonymously in a safe place known as a Foundling Wheel. This kind of arrangement was common in the Middle Ages and in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A modern form, the baby hatch, began to be introduced again from 1952 and since 2000 has come into use in many countries, notably in Germany and Pakistan but exists in countries all over the world under various names.

Now in the United States, there is the Safe Haven Baby Box which is found in Indiana.  Although every state in the US has a Safe Haven Law, anonymity is the benefit of the Baby Box. A Safe Haven Law requires the one relinquishing the baby to actually walk in to an authorized facility and physically hand the child off to a person.  The one relinquishing is going to be asked some questions.

I am decidedly pro-Life because 9 months is a lot to ask of any woman who does not want to or cannot for whatever reason parent a child.  However, if abortion is not accessible for whatever reason, an anonymous method of giving the child away safely is preferable to infanticide.  And no, I do not think abortion is infanticide though there are plenty who would argue the point with me.

Although a baby left in a Baby Box is not going to know anything about their origins, inexpensive DNA tests and matching sites could still reveal some things about their origins in a future time once they reach adulthood.  I know, it worked for me.  No, I wasn’t relinquished but both of my parents were.

They Would Have Said Yes

When my mom sought her original parents in the early 1990s, Tennessee had not yet opened their adoption files for the victims of Georgia Tann’s exploitation.  They would have to get her original parents consent.  They had both died, so no consent was possible but they still refused to give her the file.  It is a definite sadness that no one told her when less than a decade later, she could have obtained her file.

Instead, I received it in 2017.  My mom’s parents were married.  The reasons why they separated will forever be a question I can’t get answered.  I have some theories based on the facts that may not be far from the truth.

It is not surprising that, in forcefully taking children from their parents, Georgia Tann would be gravely concerned that the original family might seek to find the child lost to them.  That would have disrupted the well established adoptive relationship.

The rationale at the time was what anonymity was essential to maintain the viability of placing children for adoption.

“We never tell the natural mother or reveal to others where the child is and where it is being placed for adoption,” Georgia Tann told a reporter for the Memphis based newspaper the Commercial Appeal in 1948.

Miss Tann’s letter to my original maternal grandmother, which I received a photocopy of, certainly revealed nothing about my mom being taken to Arizona.  My original grandparents were never given the names of the people who took my mom to raise her.

From what I know of the circumstances, both my grandmother and my grandfather would have been happy to meet my mom in adulthood and learn from her what her life away from them had been like.

Sadly, it didn’t happen.  Happily for my own self, I am now in contact with many of my original descendant relatives, cousins and even an aunt who is still living.