No Support

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).

 

Hope Springs Eternal

It is a story as old as humanity.  The rebirth through time of the species.  Every child spends time in its mother’s womb.  Every child carries the seeds of its father.  Every human being is precious.

Sadly, many children are born into humble beginnings.  Just as the old Christmas story tells us of the struggles of the young family who give birth in a stable for animals because there was no room for them at the inn.

All of us who live have reason to be grateful.  No one promised us a rose garden on being birthed into physicality but many many humans have proven to us that anyone with enough persistence and determination can change the circumstances of their life.

When times are exceedingly difficult, we can be comforted with knowing that change is constant.  When times are abundantly good for us, we should remember that this too is likely to pass into something else.

Christmas Eve is a time when the whole world hopes for peace, goodwill towards men.  However you celebrate and whether you celebrate or not, may your holidays be blessed with warmth, loving souls around you and harmony for at least some few moments so that you too know that it is possible.

 

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.

Speaking Out

Adoptees are speaking up about the suffering they have endured and I am grateful to each and every one of them who tells the truth at great risk to their relationships.  The truth needs to be heard and healing cannot happen unless the reality is faced.

Sometimes we do what we have to do.  In our heart we know that there are going to be repercussions but the truth needs to come out.  Not everyone is going to appreciate it but it is always what must happen regardless.

It’s okay, and normal, to fear change. It’s going to run strong with a history of separation anxiety untreated.  If you’re suffering right now, I understand that it sucks when people abandon you. You need to focus on your self and commit to healing and improving yourself. It is easier said than done but necessary.  I have lost contact with people who do matter to me because their pain was such they could not face it directly but needed to blame me for the suffering I did not actually cause.

There are wounds that cruelty and separation cause that can never be undone in this lifetime.  I wouldn’t know every thing I do if adoptees weren’t explaining their perspectives.

Please know this.  You’re important, you’re voice and feelings are important, and although this may cause a riff with another person, it needs to be said for a better way to emerge. That doesn’t mean that the riff will ever feel good within your own heart.  Hugs.

What Was And Never Should Be

~ 1997 ~

Growing up, I had something my parents didn’t, my real genetically related mom and dad.  I don’t know at what age I first learned that both of my parents were adopted.  It was just a fact of life and one that I never judged to be good or bad for my entire childhood.  Their adoptive parents were my grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins I acquired in that manner were just that.

Adoption was so accepted in my family that both of my sisters ended up giving up a child to adoption.  Parenting was seen as something any adult human being with good intentions could do.  So my nephew ended being raised by his paternal grandparents and my daughter ended up being raised by her dad when he remarried a woman with a daughter and they had a daughter together, thus creating a family for her that I could not give.

Though I felt a piece was missing in my life – my cultural heritage that had been passed down by those unknown people who gave my parents life – it wasn’t until my mom started investigating her own adoption – after learning in the early 1990s, the story of the scandal that surrounded Georgia Tann’s work – that I became aware that all was not as it should be in adoptionland.

By the grace of a loving energy, I have been able to discover who all 4 of my original grandparents were since my parents died.  It saddens me that they didn’t have the opportunity to know about these people themselves.  I now know of cousin and aunts that I am genetically related to.  I still cherish the family adoption brought to me as well.

What I never expected was the education I would receive along with learning my genetic roots about the damage done in the name of a profit-motivated industry taking babies from their mothers and giving them to the people who had money and could not have their own children for whatever reason.

What once was accepted and “natural” in my understanding – adoption – is now seen for the travesty it has been but thankfully, even that is changing in this world that continuously does.

Every Adoptee Is Unique

We are all unique and so are our adoption stories.  There is no one size fits all as to the experiences of any individual adoptee.

We should play close attention to our adoptions stories.  Because being adopted is still relatively rare among the people of society, our stories matter as a window on a practice that takes the children of one mother and places them with a mother with whom they have no genetic connection.

As writers, we must polish the imagery with which we tell our stories so that they can receive the attention they are due.

In my own family’s numerous adoption stories, I seek to find their positive rather than their negative aspects, while not denying nor hiding from that.  It is a reality and so, acceptance is an important part of healing any wounds that have occurred.

I search for the ways in which we have experienced life differently from those who without thought live the inherited version.  As I discover the truths within my own family’s stories, I edit the plot accordingly because the truth has become even more important to me as a result of it’s having been hidden for so long.

I also keep my eye on the philosophical implications of the changes to the experience of having been adopted that reformers and activists seek to make.

That Was Then

The human child requires a period of a year after birth to attain a degree of maturity. The Self or core-being of the infant is not yet separate from that of the mother but psychologically contained within her.

The nature of their relationship is fluid, mother/child/world transcending time and space.  The mother provides a container for the child’s developing ego, just as her womb previously provided a container for the child’s developing physical body.

It is a dual unity – the mother not only acts as the child’s Self, but actually is that Self. An uninterrupted continuum of being within the matrix of the mother is necessary in order for the infant to experience a rightness or wholeness of self from which to begin it’s separation or individuation process.

The continuity and quality of this primal relationship is crucial, and it may set the tone for all subsequent relationships.

~ from The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier

When my daughter was born in 1973, we were kept separated except for brief reunions in my room.  She was in a nursery the rest of the time and fed a bottle, which damaged the effort to nurse her.

By the time my sons were born in 2001 and 2004, they were in the room with me – the first son almost all of the time and the second son in the nursery briefly each night so I could sleep but it was interesting that we would wake at the same time.

Being returned to the natural mother is better than being handed over to someone else. Any interruption in the continuum of the primal relationship with the mother can result in a lack of trust in the continuity of the goodness and rightness of the child’s environment and of their own self.