Pioneering A New Way

I remember clearly in 1978, when Lesley Brown made reproductive history delivering the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization.  I had become a mother myself in 1973.  While good news of medical capability for a lot of infertile couples, never did I dream at the time that these developments would become significant in my own life.  The technique raised moral and medical alarms 42 years ago but is commonplace today.

When my husband of 10 years wanted to have children, we diligently tried using ovulation prediction to enhance our chances.  I was devastated to learn via a news report that our odds of conceiving were very low because I had grown too old, my eggs had aged along with me.  I remember going to the witness tree where my husband and I were wed in 1988 and cried.  He should have married a younger woman.

The nurse practitioner at my general practitioner’s office was counseling me about my cholesterol levels when I mentioned that we were trying to conceive.  I remember her words clearly, “I’m not saying you are infertile, but at your age, you don’t have time to waste.”  She referred me to her own OB/Gyn as a specialist in such issues.

We saw my very last “viable” egg on ultrasound at our first appointment with him.  He tried a hormonal boost but it failed to produce a pregnancy.  He also told us there was another way.  I began to research that way.  I found online groups for support and information.

When we discovered I was positive for hepC in a routine series of pre-conception lab tests, that doctor dropped me.  However, my OB/Gyn said my co-existing with that virus should not preclude me having children (he had experience with hepatitis in Asia during his early intern training).

We found a donor for ourselves and she has been a gem for serving couples to become parents, participating in the conception of both of our sons.  Happily, they are 100% siblings with common genetic foundations.  It isn’t perfect, genetically she is their mother and I am not.  That has taken some getting used to.  No one else could be more their mother either as they grew in my womb and bonded with me there and during breastfeeding for the whole first year of their life afterwards.

Because of divorce and being a financially struggling single mother, I lost physical custody of my genetically related daughter to her father and step-mother to raise.  I really thought of myself as a terrible person for not raising my own child.  Because of my sons, I now know that is not the truth about me.  Since learning about the trauma related to mother-child separations in adoption, I also realize what my husband and I did to overcome infertility was the next best choice for conceiving our family.

 

The Eternal Mother

~ artist, Mark Missman

More than Mother’s Day, the holiday season celebrates the hope of humanity in two symbolic persons – a mother and her baby.  A quiet calm image of nurturing and the infinite possibilities represented in any single person.

In discovering who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adoptees), I never expected to learn so much about the impacts of adoption or the deep often unconscious wounds that are left behind when we separate a child from their natural mother.

For nine months, the fetus nestles in the cozy warmth of it’s mother’s womb.  As close to her as her very breath, hearing her heartbeat, feeling her emotions and sharing the culinary tastes she prefers.  It is now known that the baby is not fully developed at the time of its birth.

For at least the next year, that bond between mother and infant will be a core and deep sense of security, of love, of responsiveness and gentle care that will have a profound effect on that child’s well-being throughout their life.

We owe every single mother the support and encouragement to raise the child conceived within her womb and help her create the next best yet to be human being as we continue to evolve into better and better, more caring always, kinder human beings.

May we all know someday that it is so.

What Defines A Mother ?

Yesterday, sitting in the waiting room of our auto mechanic with an elderly woman, somehow the subject of our children came up.  She seemed shocked to hear I gave birth to my youngest son at the age of 50.  Honesty demands that I always admit that I needed medical assistance to do that and rarely do I feel that it is anyone else’s business as to exactly what that admission means.

Yet, as I contemplated writing my essay for today, I felt that I needed to be honest about the fact that my sons are donor assisted conceptions.  We have faced the issue directly this year with 23 and Me DNA kits for each of our teenage sons.  I knew that our egg donor had hers done and it is remarkable how close we are at the genetic level – as to cultural heritage and our maternal haplogroup – without actually being related at all.

I also gifted my husband with a 23 and Me kit over a year ago and then, knowing that the honest truth must be admitted to (though we have never hidden the unique details of our sons’ conception from them and told them their story at a level they could understand at a young age, as well as have taken them to meet their donor on more than one occasion) my sons were finally old enough and mature enough to get a more detailed understanding of what makes them special.

It is difficult for me as the woman who carried these boys in my womb and nursed them at my breast for over a year to see another woman listed as their genetic mother but that is the truth of the situation at a genetic level.  It was my OB, who first made us aware of the possibility of conceiving the children my husband decided he wanted after 10 years of marriage, and we had tried and we even failed to jumpstart my very last egg with a hormonal injection, who then said – “there is another way.”  It was either end a good marriage so my husband could marry a younger woman or take a leap and do something slightly unconventional.

My older son has not expressed what his feelings are about the situation.  He was contacted by a relative of the donor at 23 and Me.  I advised him to tell her to ask the donor about it.  My younger son seemed disappointed to learn that he doesn’t have any of my DNA.  My OB once explained to me, how much the gestating mother contributes to the development of the fetus – turning on or off genes and contributing to the nutritional preferences and emotional environment.

At the time my husband and I made this choice, I didn’t know anything about the issues all adoptees contend with nor about what a separation of mother and child does to an infant.  Yet, given the reality that these fine young men would not exist in any other way, I think we did the best we could to fulfill their father’s desire to have children of his own and limit any deep wounding for our sons.  I am the only mother they have ever known since their procreation started.  And I do have a daughter and grandchildren that are genetically, as well as biologically, related to me and so, I do understand what it was that my husband was yearning for.

Who Am I ?

“Whose tummy did I grow in ?”

Consider this.  Most of us take for granted that we grew inside our mother’s womb.  A child that has always been told they were adopted will eventually reach a point where this question will arise in their own mind.  In closed adoptions, the child will never be given an answer.  In fact, great care has been taken to erase every fact related to their beginning in life.

Georgia Tann often falsified birth certificates and original parental data so that even after records were allowed to be opened for “qualified” persons (the adoptee or their direct descendants) one had to view the information skeptically.  I am fortunate that for the most part, the information in my mom’s adoption file seems to have been accurate.

But there was fudging about the nature of her parents who were presented to my adoptive grandmother (who thought very highly of advanced education) as two unfortunate college students who were caught by pregnancy.  That was hardly the truth.  My grandmother never went to college and my grandfather was a widower 20 years older than her who had already fathered 5 children.

Adoptees in a closed adoption will have their birth certificates falsified (as both of my parents did) to appear that their adoptive parents gave birth to them when they did not.  They will have their original name changed to something the adoptive parents want.  In my dad’s case, it happened twice, because my Granny divorced the husband she was married to when she adopted my dad.  The second husband objected to my dad carrying the vanquished man’s name and so at an age of already 8 years, my dad was given a new name.

Is it any wonder that adoptees often struggle with an identity crisis ?  Many adult adoptees believe that adoption should be ended.  The children should be given guardians and keep all of their original identity information.  Much like in the case of slavery, a child is not something one owns but a human being we are privileged to protect and provide for.

My Birthday Is About My Mom Too

These are things I found among my mother’s stuff after she died that I keep.  The photo is probably close to how she looked when she conceived me less than 3 years later (I was born in 1954 and turn 65 today).  The card and cross remind me that she is as close to me always as my heart’s mind.

It is fitting, I believe, to think of one’s mom on their birthday.  This holds true whether or not our mom was able to witness our growing up after leaving her body.

I have learned that the time in utero is a sacred period of total union between a mother and her child soon to be.  They share a bodily space that as human beings we will never achieve again in our limited physical lifetimes – though many try through sexual relations.

I believe I remain in contact with my deceased mother.  I feel her especially strong today and know she is proud of me – not only how I handled the difficult family responsibilities after she died but also how I have retrieved my family’s origin identity since then (both of my parents were adoptees).

I love you mom.  Thank you for gestating my life’s body for me.

It’s About Pregnancy

In the fight against abortion, it is often very easily overlooked the kinds of demands any pregnancy places upon a woman.  They are not minor.  It takes almost a full year out of any woman’s life to gestate another human being.  It changes a woman’s body, a woman’s daily life and if the pregnancy goes to term and she delivers the baby – her entire life will no longer be the same.  It is not an equal situation regarding the man who made being pregnant possible in the first place.

So, one fact overlooked in the choice to have an abortion is a woman who is unwilling to commit such an extended period of time to gestating yet one more human being – and if being honest, thoughtful people realize that this planet is already overpopulated.  There is no longer any need for human beings to be fruitful and multiply.

I know that not wanting to commit myself to 9 months of pregnancy was part (but not the only reason) that I once chose to have an abortion.  However, I would be quick to add, every time I have had the circumstances to support me and the willingness to go through the extended period of time to gestate a child, I have loved every minute of it.

Adoption advocates seem only to care about the production of children that can be taken from mothers who are unable to make the longer commitment to raising a child.  Adoption carries with it definite wounds to the original mother and to the child she surrenders to adoption.  While there is a time and place (orphaned or abused children) for adoption, banning abortions is not for the support of infertile couples wanting to have a larger volume of babies to chose from.  It is about controlling the lives of uppity women – plain and simple – by jerking around the emotions of people who love their own children.

What A Baby Knows

The author with her daughter in the 1970s

 

A baby recognizes it’s mother’s face, smell and energy,
feels a wide range of emotions, remembers, learns and
uses all five senses in experiencing life outside the womb.

Being handed over to a stranger is for the baby
a bewildering, even terrifying experience.

The adoptive mother lacks the physical, hormonal, psychological
and emotional preparation to know the needs and to be able
to mirror this particular baby – there is a great deal about which
the “unicorns and rainbows” kool-aid drinkers do not know about adoption.

~ The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier

I have had the most interesting kind of motherhood experience.  I had my daughter in the early 1970s and my sons in the early 2000s.  So much of the “philosophy” of caring for an infant changed during that time.  In the early experience with my daughter, the baby was only brought to the mother for short intervals and kept separated in a nursery most of the time (and bottle fed negating efforts to breastfeed along with no lactation support).  A baby was put on its stomach to sleep believing if the baby threw up it wouldn’t aspirate that material.

Then I had my sons and mostly they roomed in with me – the older boy more than the younger one because with the younger one my husband took over care of the older boy and could not stay in the hospital room with me 24/7.  So the baby would go to the nursery for its vitals check and I would nap.  Always when I was waking up the baby was waking at the same time or so the nurses kindly told me.  There was marvelous support from lactation consultants when I had my sons.  And then, I was told they should sleep on their backs as it had been determined to be protective somehow.

What I do know with ALL of my babies, they knew me from the first moment.  Nature provides the natural mother with 9 months of the most intimate bonding and preparation to be as responsive of a mother possible.  It is not possible for someone not thus prepared to equal her.

What Happens in the Womb . . .

 

Stays in the Child.

One of the most helpful of the books I’ve read in the last year was The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier. She is the mother of two daughters – one who was adopted and one who was not. Her clinical work has been with adoptees and other members of the adoption triad. With these experiences, she has come to believe that even newly born infants, when separated from their mothers, are deeply wounded and that their pre-verbal state of consciousness renders these wounds into a feeling state without the verbal context that memories require.

This has not been well understood until recently. But upon reflection, it makes a lot of sense. The gestating fetus grows inside the mother’s body. This is a very important time in both the mother’s and the infant’s lives because they are bonding and preparing for their lives together, once the child is delivered into independent life.

Any woman who has given birth, upon reflection, will realize that her infant knew her from the first moments of its life. Taking this child away from its mother causes deep anguish and sorrow. When placed in the adoptive family situation, the infant instinctively knows this stranger is not the child’s natural mother.

While in good circumstances, the child will learn to accept it’s placement into an adoptive home, deep inside there are fears of rejection and abandonment. Individual children will deal with these anxieties in one of two ways – either they will be compliant and do their best to live up to their adoptive parents’ expectations (while fearing all along that if they don’t they will be sent anyway, causing a lifelong insecurity in the person) – or they will act out. A defiant adoptee will often disrupt the family they have been placed within, causing biological or other adopted siblings to resent them and causing feelings of rejection in the adoptive parents – if, they don’t understand the source of the challenges they face in trying to parent this child.