Forcibly Removed

It’s hard to know what to say about the most recent news coming out of Ukraine. The Russian occupiers in the eastern part of the country appear to be moving people from there into Russia. The latest was that 2,389 children have been illegally removed from Donetsk and Luhanks oblasts to Russia. This follows news from yesterday of several thousand Mariupol residents having been deported to Russia.

It has been reported that after processing at “filtration camps”, some had been transported to the Russian city of Taganrog, about 60 miles (100km) from Mariupol, and from there sent by rail “to various economically depressed cities in Russia.” Ukraine’s human rights spokesperson, Lyudmyla Denisova, said Ukrainian citizens had been “issued papers that require them to be in a certain city. They have no right to leave it for at least two years with the obligation to work at the specified place of work. The fate of others remains unknown.”

Russian news agencies have reported that hundreds of people, that Moscow calls refugees, have been taken by bus from Mariupol to Russia. Denisova said the “abductions and forced displacements” violated the Geneva and European human rights conventions and called on the international community to “respond … and increase sanctions against the terrorist state of the Russian Federation”.

In a time of war, it is difficult to know what is true or not. I am reminded of how German Nazi’s removed Jews to concentration camps during WWII. Whether fate will be kinder to these people remains to be seen. I can only imagine what a difficult trade-off it is between constant bombardments, hiding in shelters without food, water and heat, and the relative “safety” of being removed as the onslaught continues.

Regardless, the developments cause a deep concern in my own heart.

Love The Children

Short and sweet today. If we really loved our children (all of the world’s children), we would do whatever needed to be done to support the families they are born into. We would not remove children from troubled families but seek to remedy the troubling aspects.

Choosing Not To Have Children

More than one friend in my age group has told me that their grown children do not intend to have children which will mean no grandchildren for my friends. Even my oldest son has expressed some doubts that he will. What is going on here ? Very real concerns about how climate change will make the future very difficult for today’s children and their children and much sooner than I had previously heard – like by like by 2050.

Because I think daily about issues at least tangential to adoption, that is the first place my thought goes and in an article in The Guardian titled Should I have children? Weighing parenthood amid the climate crisis by Megan Mayhew Bergman I read – Ellie at age 23 wrote the author, “While I don’t believe the changes we’re seeing have to signify end-of-days, I do believe there are incredibly thoughtful solutions at hand which – if we can pull them off – would bring about a world I’d very much want to have children in. But I also think my generation may have found itself at a unique moment in which more people isn’t the answer, and alternatives like adoption represent more eco- and ultimately, human-conscious choices.” And to be certain, more than 100,000 children have been born in refugee camps in Myanmar and in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, the largest refugee settlement in the world, which is vulnerable to extreme flooding and landslides.

Recent polling reveals that four in 10 young people are “hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis” and “fear that governments are doing too little to prevent climate catastrophe”.

An article in Vanity Fair last year by Tatiana Schlossberg titled How Should a Climate Change Reporter Think About Having Children? She goes on to say – Reproduction is a fundamental feature of life on earth, but a morally fraught decision for anyone who has the choice. And there’s not even a right answer. She mentions a drive through a scenic passage in Colorado but that “I felt so angry at our species. Angry because we are willing to destroy all of this and to do so knowingly, because we seem to value no life other than human life, and I’m not even sure how much we value that.” I would have to agree with that last bit somewhat.

She goes on to share – when you are a married straight woman in your 20s and everyone wants to know when you’re going to have a kid, it turns out to be almost impossible to avoid thinking about the future.

In answer to that, she shares – There are two familiar arguments about not having a kid when it comes to climate change. The first one is that it is unkind and irresponsible to bring a child into a world whose future is uncertain at best and apocalyptic at worst. The second one is that, as a privileged, white American with a sizable carbon footprint, any child of mine would be another person with a similar environmental impact, both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. According to those two lines of thinking, having a child is unethical, both because of what it would do to the child and because of what that child would do to the world.

Realistically, she goes on to admit – As both a reporter and a person in her child-bearing years, I don’t know what the right thing to do is—and I don’t think that there is a right thing to do. I find myself feeling much the same way. I do believe humanity will continue to exist and on some level I feel that raising a reasonable number (like 1 or 2) of children to be highly aware and ethical will be valuable to whatever the future will bring.

She also acknowledges that – not having a child is not the same as becoming a vegetarian or buying an electric car. Having a child, becoming a parent, can be a defining feature of life on earth—the reproduction of aspen trees is not necessarily parenthood, but it is part of the same drive to pass on genetic material; it is hardwired in us, and we share it with all other lifeforms.

A dear friend of mine is involved with Project Drawdown, a climate-advocacy organization, that has ranked the 100 most effective solutions to climate change, and found that together, education and family planning for women and girls is the second-most effective way to reduce emissions (after reducing food waste, which includes shifting to a plant-rich diet and preventing deforestation), because when women are more educated, they generally have fewer children, and also add to the economic and cultural success of their communities.

The Vanity Fair article author notes – The birth rate in the United States and much of the developed world is declining. When people express concern to me about there being too many people on earth, they don’t seem to be saying there are too many Americans; they are, knowingly or not, talking about limiting the growing and increasingly young nonwhite populations in the global south. Throughout American history, anxiety about population is almost always linked to race or national origin, so what I always want to say in response is, “Who are you talking about when you ask me that question?”

I do feel lucky to have the female freedoms I do because of the time in which I have lived. I acknowledge that I am indebted to the work of so many women which has given me choice (and currently, that is highly under threat). Support for reproductive freedom is a core part of my own political identity, as is support for climate action as an environmentalist. We try to raise our sons to value the same things as well.

I will also admit to a certain degree of arrogance in that kind of thinking. That my having kids is okay because my kids will be a good persons and who knows ? One of them might solve climate change. OK, so the latter idea is probably not the most likely outcome, nor is it the most powerful argument in defense of my having children. Any person could say as much. True, I di think that my children are special, geniuses, perfect in their own ways, but I also realize that my children doesn’t necessarily have a greater right to be born than anyone else’s. I am sad for the youth of today. Even back around the 2000s when my husband and I decided to have these two boys, the concern was not as urgent as it seems today (and I say seems because it should have been more urgent then and even in the early 1970s when I had my daughter).

A Delicate Balance

I think it is entirely understandable for an adoptee to want to make contact with the people who contributed to their conception. With fathers, it can be a delicate balance – the how to go about it. This example illustrates some of the challenges that may be present.

I was told my biological father passed away before I was born. I have discovered that he, is alive and well. However, he is married and has children. A nonprofit found my father for me. It has been several months now that I have known and I’ve thought about it a lot. So, I sent him a Facebook message. We aren’t friends, so I know it’s a long shot he will never see it. It has been a month now. That was the amount of time I decided to patiently wait for a response. I’m torn about the next step to take. I wrote in the message that I have no intention of causing him harm in any way and I do sincerely mean that. His wife is very active on Facebook and has a public profile but it feels wrong to reach out to her. Trying to add him as a friend feels even worse. In his “about me” section, he lists a daughter but I’m reluctant to reach out to her. I have a whole lot of “who-the-hell-am-I-to-start-shit” feelings. But I am dealing with some rage. Actually, a lot of rage, though I am unclear as of yet as to exactly where that feeling is coming from.

I deeply wanted to make contact with someone in maternal grandmother’s family (both of my parents were adopted and all of my grandparents are dead, so I didn’t have such a delicate line to try and walk as this woman). I had a testy exchange once with the step-daughter of my paternal grandfather who accused my paternal grandmother basically of being a whore (though she used more polite language from a long ago public school book I had read – The Scarlet Letter). He was a married man. I don’t know that she knew that when she started seeing him.

Anyway, I discovered the lovely daughters of my mom’s youngest uncle. I did go the Facebook Messenger route and I don’t remember how long it was but literally months. I do remember when I saw a reply – it totally knocked me into bliss. They did provide me with some personal memories of my grandmother, who was they very favorite aunt, that were comforting to my heart. My parents are both deceased now but my belief that there is a continuity of the individual soul means that I do believe my parents reconnected with their original parents after death and now know more than I have discovered. It brings me some comfort.

Some of the advice the woman here received –

Messages from non-friends in Facebook can easily be lost in their labyrinth inbox system. In fact, I remember one from my nephew’s step-mother that it took me months to see. It happens and it doesn’t necessarily mean a rejection but adoptees feel a deep sense of rejection regardless from the simple fact their parents gave them up for adoption.

Another added – I would not reach out to his wife on Facebook.  It wouldn’t be fair to your biological father if you went around him.

Someone else with some success noted – I found the addresses of my biological parents using a combination of Facebook info, google searches and looking up some things on ancestry using a two week trial free pass. I think it took me two days. I hope you have as easy a time as I did.

Ancestry brought my own first real break – my mom’s half-sister (they had the same father) has only died a few months before I found her grave. I found a slide show from her memorial service and got my first glimpse of that side of my family tree including a photo of my maternal grandfather. A friend of my cousin’s posted about her mother and through her, I was put in contact with her, met her and discovered they had long wondered about my mom and hoped she would be in contact with them someday. That totally turned around my feelings about my maternal grandfather. My mom had not been very inclined towards him (I suppose feeling like he contributed to her becoming adopted which was actually true). However, that he made certain his other children knew about my mom changed my own feelings toward him. This cousin was so warm and over one afternoon, we went through the many family photo albums she left behind. I felt as though I had lived decades of that family’s life by the time the afternoon ended.

Someone added a resource I didn’t know about – True People Search is the site I usually use for addresses. White pages can be helpful as well.

The perspective from a birth mother – I would like to think that he would want to know. Maybe he wasn’t told about your existence?! Maybe he does know about you, but doesn’t know where to begin? My heart goes out to you no matter what you decide.

In support of this possibility of not knowing comes this story –  I met my birth father 2 years ago. I had been told he was a nasty piece of work by my birth mother and I should never contact him because he wouldn’t want to know me. Well turns out she never told him. I had someone on one of the lost or search for family Facebook pages help me. She located him, sent him an email once she established his email address. Now the only reason why they opened the email, is because they thought they recognized her name. She connected us. I am so thankful. From there, we did a DNA test to confirm. Then they told their 4 kids. Before the person that helped me, I had previously reached out to one of his kids, but both him and his wife both put it down as a scam. Its incredibly hard to connect with people these days because there are so many scams happening.

In my dad’s case, I don’t believe his father ever knew about his only child/son. The self-reliant woman that my paternal grandmother was simply handled her pregnancy (though she did try to keep my dad and definitely knew who the father was – it is thanks to breadcrumbs she left me in her photo album that I now know. The family has been a bit surprised to discover me – thanks to DNA matching (which really does add legitimacy when one begins to contact family who didn’t know you existed for literally decades).

An adoptee notes that the woman at the beginning of this blog is the innocent party here. It’s not her job to coddle or spare the feelings of other people. Sorry/not sorry – as an adoptee, we are told from the start to think of others before ourselves. We put our feelings and needs on the back burner and try not to rock the boat. I say rock the boat. You don’t owe anyone anything. You owe yourself peace and certainty regarding your place in this world. It’s not anyone’s job to tell you what to do or how to do it. But know first, can you go on without any contact with him. If not…do what you must.

Yet another perspective – at arm’s length but observing – in the case of my current husband… His issue was through adoption. He didn’t know his son had been put up for adoption, only that the mom had refused contact. He never told his current wife or kids about her, and so, it was a huge shock for the whole family to learn about the son. Eventually, they did build a very positive relationship. I agree that I wouldn’t contact his wife.. She’s not a party to this.

And there was this alternative approach through Facebook – my birth mother refused to respond to my contact – just left me hanging for over a year. I am firmly in the camp of adoptees having a right to know our relatives and also for them to know of our existence. So I made a Facebook group, added all my half siblings, then sent them all a carefully worded, respectful group post message. Frankly, I had nothing to lose and possibly much to gain. (They had no idea I existed.) This also prevented one person from becoming the gatekeeper, as all were told at the same time.

I will close today’s blog with this reunion story – I wrote a snail mail letter to my son, which was given to him by a search Angel that was the intermediary. (It was a closed adoption and so had to be done this way to protect privacy until release forms were signed). My son appreciated the written letter. He’s very private and so am I. Certainly, he’s glad I didn’t try to find him on the internet. This approach worked very well for us. He wrote me back. We had time to process a bit before we ever spoke on the phone. I’d keep his wife and others out of it. Go directly to him and express what you want to say with clarity and ease. I spent several months preparing mentally before I reached out. Once I did, I was ready. And fortunately, so was he.

Leave The Door Open

Recently a commenter on my blog was making a big deal about “genetic parents” being able to opt out of their own child’s lives. This could be equated to surrendering a child to adoption and this commenter actually extended her perspective to donor egg or sperm sources. I don’t think her points of view are realistic but she is an activist in such concerns and I understand her perspectives. Like much of scientific medical advances being light years ahead of moral and ethical considerations. She thought ALL of the parents should be on a birth certificate and have full responsibility for the well-being of the children involved. As a society, we are simply not there yet.

Happily, there is a huge effort within the adoption community (made up of adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents and birth parents) to create an organic, grassroots kind of reform of the whole situation. What might such a “reformed” situation look like ? I think this story is an excellent example and so I share it with you today (I hasten to add, it is NOT my own story, because sometimes that isn’t understood in this blog).

My daughter’s parents were very distant after they made the adoption plan for her. They felt that by doing so, they had given up their rights to ask anything or to know her (this is what both of them have explained to me). Keep reaching out, keep sending photos, updates, hand and foot crafts, etc. When my adoptive daughter was almost 3 yrs old, her mother came to understand that we DID want her in our daughter’s life and that we were happy to have her here. Her dad went longer, so many years with out seeing her, he said that he was afraid of making her life harder by showing up when he finally felt ready. We talked about it and I sent a ton of links to him showing that it’s better for children to know their families, if they can. That year he brought his girlfriend and parents to her birthday party. Our little girl loved being snuggled up in her father’s arms for the afternoon. If you genuinely leave the door open and make the child’s original parents feel welcomed, there is a good chance that one day they will come through that opening.

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.

 

When An Adoptee Becomes A Mom

It happens to a lot of adoptees who become parents, I was the first blood kin my mom had ever laid eyes on (for my dad too as they were both adoptees).

There is an intensity to being in the presence of someone connected to us on a cellular level.  I remember feeling this when my own grandson was born.  I knew on a level deeper than I ever imagined that he had come down my own lineage.

No doubt, giving birth to me gave my mom an overwhelming sensation of having someone “similar” to her. It may have even been intense and over-the-top emotionally for her when I was born.

Every non-adopted person does the same thing with a new baby – they immediately begin identifying characteristics that belong to the family. I remember when I saw my daughter for the very first time, she looked like every baby picture of my family I remembered ever seeing. She looked like us.

Only 13 months after I was born, my younger sister was born.  Was our mom astounded all over again ? Maybe less so. She already had a toddler (me) to care for.

Growing up, the two of us were treated as though we were twins.  We were dressed alike and certainly we looked like siblings. I’m not certain what drove that behavior towards us – maybe it really was the novelty of genetically related children that was so unique in our family.

I know from my mom’s stories that she knew absolutely nothing about keeping house or cooking – her adoptive mother was a perfectionist who had no patience with teaching my mom. As the younger sibling in her adopted family, she probably didn’t know much about caring for us either but somehow we survived it all.

I would hope that my mom would have felt a glow at how her children responded to her kind heart. Certainly, she adored us, I never doubted that.  She has died and I can no longer ask her the new questions that have emerged for me as I have come to understand the issues of adoption so much more accurately.

I was aware of and felt the emotional toll my mom’s efforts to know about her original family took on her. How devastated she was to be denied and because I now have what she was not given, I know her “story” about being stolen was way more painful than the truth that her mother tried very hard to keep her and was bested by a master – Georgia Tann.

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 ?

Naturally Reducing The Population

At the end of Real Time with Bill Maher for April 12, 2019, his rant is about population pressures in general and the over population compared to available resources which often drives migration.  Maher noted that 18 to 35 year olds are having less sex than previous cohorts.  That is a good thing.  He advised masturbate don’t procreate.

He noted that more young people remain in their parental homes longer now.  That is not a bad thing either.  I have no expectation regarding my sons leaving our home.  As I approached my senior year in high school, I simply knew my parents expected me to leave and had I not married a month before I graduated, I already had plans to share an apartment with a friend.

When I was in high school, my concern was not getting pregnant out of wedlock and I will admit that I simply got lucky.  Having learned my adoptee parents’ origins stories and realizing my mother was pregnant with me out of wedlock and yet she was not sent off to a home to have and give me up, I got lucky then as well.

Another factor in young people having less physical sex may be the easy availability of pornography on the internet which I have read is more stimulating than the real thing and thus the real thing can prove disappointing.

Whatever the reasons, the current population uses 1.7 times more, almost twice the available resources that the planet has to sustain us long term.  I don’t recommend wantonly killing off large segments of the population (though some elites and political types seem to favor such a solution) but if a lower birth rate could produce less stress upon the planet, I do believe that would be a good thing.

One final thought – many adoptees wish their original mothers had aborted them instead of giving them up.  There is that much trauma associated with the practice.  Considering that the planet is already overpopulated and some of those lives that the pro-life folks have preserved wish they had not been, maybe we all should drop arguments against the availability of safe and medically appropriate abortions.  Just saying . . . one should think about it more deeply.

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 . . .