An article in The Sunday Post about Forced Adoption describes DES as a synthetic hormone developed to mimic estrogen which was given to young mothers to dry up their breast milk after their babies were taken for adoption. Diethylstilbestrol, known as DES, has been linked to a number of breast and vaginal cancers, gynecological abnormalities and infertility in the children and grandchildren of women given the pills.
Forced adoption campaigners are calling for a public awareness campaign to alert the women involved, as well as their children and grandchildren. In Scotland, there were 60,000 forced adoption victims with most of those women losing their baby simply because they were not married. Unmarried mothers who were forced to give up their babies were given a controversial drug now linked to cancers and life-changing conditions which can be passed on to future generations.
The film-maker Caitlin McCarthy has made a movie screenplay titled Wonder Drug that exposes the dangers and cover-ups. She said: “I’m affected by DES because it had been given to my mother during a pregnancy. My doctor recognized the abnormalities in my cervix was as a result.“ The effects of DES are as horrific as Thalidomide, but there’s been silence so very few victims will even realize they were exposed.
“The high rate of breast cancer in women today shows it’s not paranoia for us to wonder that we, and future generations, could die from a drug we were exposed to. The high instance, effects and use of this drug has yet to be fully explained and exposed. We need to know what to look for in the way of symptoms. This should happen before any apology.” However, politicians from every party have supported calls for a forced adoption apology in Scotland.
There is an interview with screenwriter Caitlin McCarthy at the website – D.E.S. is it.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a “test” to determine DES exposure.
Caitlin shares what she does – “I’m aware of my reproductive tract structural differences. I also have to stay on top of my DES-related precancerous cell activity with annual GYN visits. Additionally, I undergo annual mammograms, as DES Daughters are at an increased risk of breast cancer.”
To learn more about Caitlin and another woman’s own DES discoveries, you can watch this youtube.
This program is being discussed in my all things adoption group this morning. It is said that “The whole storyline was so upsetting. The adoptive family is awful.” And also this, “One of the characters is looking for his “birth person” and is scared to hurt his adoptive mom by calling her his birth mother. Adoptive mom says stuff like “I thought I’d be dead when you start looking” or “Can’t you ask your private investigator to ask questions to her rather than make contact?”. So much insecurity, jealousy and emotional blackmail.
One adoptee notes – My adoptive mom did the exact same thing . As if it’s about HER “trauma“ (which honestly is self inflicted).
And there is this about the show – The adoptive mom also got pregnant shortly after adopting, and begs him to not change his name, even though she falsified his birth certificate! She’s like “I want you to stay happy,” when he is obviously depressed, tormented, hasn’t dated anyone in years, etc. The biological son (his brother by adoption) is calling him an idiot for doing it because “we have the best parents in the world” and “you’re the one who started this problem.” Then hangs up the phone on him. They are doing all they can to sabotage any reunion. His poor birth mom. He doesn’t even pick up on the fact she wanted to keep him.
I haven’t see this one but last night we suffered through A Serious Man – written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. All we could figure out by the end of the movie was that it was the Coen’s revenge on their Jewish upbringing. I kept thinking – if I was Jewish, it might make sense. There is no adoption thread in that movie.
In my mom’s group, there are more than the usual number of Jewish people. So, I have been exposed to some of their experience. The one that stands out large for me is the mom who had famously large breasts and then developed breast cancer. She had boy/girl twins the same age as my youngest son. Though she had a great attitude going into the experience, she died rather quickly. I was somewhat impressed by the way her Jewish community was there for the whole family throughout that ordeal.
My paternal grandmother died of a heart attack the day she was to be released from the hospital following breast cancer surgery. She was originally from Long Island NY and my understanding is that there are a lot of Jewish people there. I have a smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew. I suspect I may have gotten that from her. Another mom in my mom’s group lives in the town on Long Island with the same name as the surname of my paternal grandmother – Hempstead. The family goes way back with historically significant sites in New London, Connecticut (a diary covering a period of 47 years from Sept 1711 to November 1758 by an ancestor, Joshua Hempstead, is still in print).
When I first saw this image, I thought of my Aunt Daisy. I don’t think she knew about my dad until after her mother had died. Her older sister did. My cousin, who is the daughter of that older sister is how I came by pictures of my grandmother holding my dad and one of him when he was a toddler.
When my Aunt Daisy’s daughter discovered me thanks to 23 and Me, her first question was – is your dad still alive ? Sadly I had to tell her no. In fact my Aunt Daisy was living only 90 miles away from my dad in the very same state at the time he died. Such a pity. I see him in her photos.
I am told my paternal grandmother never really got over “losing” my dad to adoption. It certainly wasn’t her intention to give him up. His father was a married man, still un-naturalized as a citizen at the time my dad was conceived, having immigrated from Denmark. I would guess my grandmother never told him – IF she even was still in contact with him at the time. But without a doubt, she did know who his father was and it is thanks to her own effort to leave us breadcrumbs that I know who my dad’s father was. She quietly handled her pregnancy through the Salvation Army home for unwed mothers at Ocean Beach CA. It was such an appropriate birth. My dad, a Pisces, the son of a Danish fisherman, who himself was in love with fishing and the ocean. Their resemblance to one another makes it unmistakable and lately, my reconnecting with Danish relatives still living in Denmark due to our shared genes is the proof, that didn’t exist back in the day. She obtained employment with the Salvation Army and migrated with my dad in tow to El Paso Texas, where she was pressured to give him up for adoption at 8 months old.
My slightly increased risk of breast cancer probably comes from my paternal grandmother. The day she was due to be released from the hospital after surgery for breast cancer, she suffered a fatal heart attack. I have a smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew which I suspect comes from my paternal side – if not my grandmother, then my Danish grandfather.
It still amazes me that after over 60 years totally clueless in the dark, I know so much about my family origins. Never would I have predicted that such a possibility would actually become real.
I was reading an article this morning about a social networking site known as Urban Baby.
Urban Baby was part of the first wave of confessional Internet women’s writing about parenting, one that occurred in tandem with our society’s withdrawal of support for parents and children, and the simultaneous ratcheting up of expectations of what makes for good mothering. Blogs like Dooce — that’s Heather Armstrong, also known as the “queen of the mommy bloggers” — wrote openly about struggles with postnatal depression, while others took on the challenges of raising a special-needs child.
This new world of parenting was challenging and liberating, but, most importantly, optimistic. There was the almost-always unspoken assumption that the Internet was going to change the world of mothering for the better.
But that did not happen. For all the delights of the mom blogosphere, its members fell into a trap all too common to our time: We might kvetch about our problems jointly, but we struggle, for the most part, alone.
Despite, say, all the online chatter about the struggle to get a child into a “TT” — that’s Urban Baby lingo for top-tier — private or public school, very few connected their struggles to the greater society and economy causing their woes. Rare was the moment on Urban Baby when someone asked why there were so few TT schools — it was simply yet another problem to surmount. That remained true as the mothering blogosphere and forums lost ground to social media, to Instagram posts by neighbors and celebrity influencers alike about the wonderfulness of their parenting lives.
For my part, I belong to a mom’s group that started out connecting only by email and eventually ended up on Facebook. All of our children are turning 16 years old this year. We all conceived within that brave new world of reproductive technology. We have been together since before we knew we were successful. We met once when the children were two years old at Elmo’s World. I’m so glad we did. One of our more outspoken moms died from breast cancer some time ago and it was heart-wrenching. She was our second loss to cancer. More than one of our mom’s lost their spouse in one way or another during our time together. Only the current politics has divided us and that is bittersweet indeed but all of us are trying – to hold onto what unites us and not pick at the wounds of the country that affect us as well.
Yet that ambitious appetite for change was desperately needed, as our current covid-19 world is making all too clear. We are — even in a life-altering pandemic — the only developed country not to offer paid family leave or sick days to all. Nearly a fifth of families with children under the age of 12 are reporting they do not have enough food.
Children have been out of school since March, and for many, there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, except for more in the way of subpar online classes that need parental supervision. And forget complaining about the high cost of child care: Our decision to leave it almost fully to the free market may well result, according to the Center for American Progress, in the loss of millions of child-care slots. This combination might well turn out to be cataclysmic — not just for children, but for their mothers, who, minus the child care offered by school, might well find themselves permanently exiting the workplace.
On Urban Baby this week there were final goodbyes, one last show of virtual hands for Zip codes, and final reasons they were here before everyone scattered. As one poster pointed out, “UB has been a release valve for all of the pent-up frustration and all of the challenges of modern motherhood.” No doubt. But, ultimately, emotional release is a thin gruel.
Mothers, fathers and their children need more — more help, more support, more resources. This was true before the current crisis, and it’s even more true now. When it comes to the online world of parenting, the biggest failure is not one of organization. It’s that for all their complaints, all too many of the people doing the talking on sites like Urban Baby still believe that they can individually surmount the ever-increasing challenges of American life rather than changing the system that underlies them. Until that mind-set changes, nothing else will.
My thanks to Helaine Olen’s op-ed in The Washington Post (for all of this except my personal comments).
Like many adoptees who search for their origins, my mom told me that she needed to know her medical history in order for a mysterious condition to be diagnosed. She was rejected by the state of Tennessee when she tried but learned her mother was dead – which devastated her. This spoke to me that there was more to her yearning than knowing what this condition was. In fact, at some point, she said to me “As a mother, I would want to know what became of my child.” The state could not determine if her father was alive or not and that was their excuse for denying her. He was 20 years older than my grandmother, so my mom was pretty certain that he was also dead. It turns out, she was correct, he had been dead for 30 years at the time of her inquiry.
She was eventually diagnosed as having Vestibular Migraines. She said it was possible that it could be genetic. She described it as a feeling that if you were leaning against a wall somehow the wall support is not there. Like whatever holds you upright disappears and that it is a balance problem that causes dizziness. Fortunately, I do not seem to have inherited it though I occasionally experience what my Ophthalmologist has said are Ocular Migraines.
One problem adoptees face, if not even told they were adopted, is medical history information that isn’t actually theirs. We knew both of my parents were adopted but I only knew THEIR medical history, which was at least “something” but nothing about their parents, because they died knowing next of nothing about their own original parents.
Once I learned who all 4 of my original grandparents were and something about their causes of death (for most of them, at least) or related health issues (my paternal grandmother had some breast cancer removed but died of a heart failure), the importance of caring for my heart is clear (my mom died of a massive heart attack in her Jacuzzi tub – my dad’s heart appears to have simply stopped and he stopped breathing, no one knows which came first) .
My paternal grandmother’s breast cancer might be related to the smidgeon of Ashkenazi Jew my DNA revealed and the mammogram technician told me it matters, even though small, and to keep getting scans.
It isn’t right for adoptees to have to make crucial decisions for themselves affected by a lack of factual information.