Fairy Tales

Today’s story – I have been trying to become a mom for four years. I have had four miscarriages, five IVF cycles and more surgeries than I care to count, and I just keep getting older. As I come to grips with the likelihood that my husband and I may not be able to have biological children, I thought that adoption could be a beautiful way to have a family, but I definitely don’t want anyone to be exploited or hurt as a result.

An honest response – I am sorry for your loss suffering from infertility. I’m sorry the adoption industry preys upon your grief and got your hopes up about adoption being some kind of beautiful alternative to having your own child. I’m certain you didn’t mean to be self-centered about it. You’re just trying to work through it. You have been told adoption could soothe your pain.

Unfortunately the sweet serendipitous miracle situation you hope for is the same as 40+ other couples desire. You all want a guilt free, uncomplicated scenario. That’s the fairy tale the adoption industry would like to sell you. But it is inherently extremely complicated and painful for children who are used this way. There is no way around it. Obtaining a stranger’s kid will not fix the hole left in your heart from infertility. I’m so sorry.

Adoption Ad During the Super Bowl

Toyota featured the story of Jessica Long, 13 time Paralympic Gold Medalist. Born in Siberia and due to a rare condition, had to have her legs amputated, Jessica Long has inspired people with her story.

Toyota tells through a reenactment how her adoptive mother found out that she would need to have her legs amputated.

“Mrs. Long. We found a baby girl for your adoption,” says a woman on the phone with Long’s onscreen mother. “But there are some things you need to know. She’s in Siberia and she was born with a rare condition.”

“Her legs will need to be amputated,” the woman adds as the scenes play out floating in water while Long swims. “Her legs will need to be amputated. I know this is difficult to hear. Her life, it won’t be easy.”

The commercial then shifts to Long winning a race as her mother watches from the kitchen table.

“It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing,” Long’s mom says. “I can’t wait to meet her.”

The commercial voiceover then adds, “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.”

During an interview with People magazine back in 2016, the swimmer said – “Winning gold medals is incredible and obviously it’s what I want to do, but there’s something so special about having a little girl who has just lost her leg from cancer come up and tell me I’m her hero.”

Clearly, it is her physical disability that informs Jessica’s identity much more than the fact of her adoption.

“It took me years to realize that if I act ashamed and I try to hide them people kind of react the same way,” she added. “But if I wear my shorts or a cute summer dress and I show off my legs and I’m willing to talk about it, people are engaged and they want to know about my story.”

The renowned athlete was adopted by Americans from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old. At 18 months old, her legs were amputated below the knees. In total, she’s won 29 gold medals, 8 silver medals and 4 bronze ones.

As a blogger, the only question that I had was whether any pro-adoption group helped fund the commercial or suggested the idea to Toyota. Just a hint of cynicism but otherwise, I love the story of overcoming life’s realities with determination. However, there may be no connection with that kind of organization.

In 2013, Jessica Long traveled with her younger sister to meet her birth parents, who were teenagers when Long was born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova. It was a three-day journey to her Russian adoption center and then an 18-hour train ride to what would have been her Siberian hometown. “Long Way Home” (the story of her journey) premiered on primetime during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

Jessica says this about her adoption – “When I first see my Russian family, I want them to know that I’m not angry with them, that I’m not upset that they gave me up for adoption,” Long said in the film, before a tearful, hug-filled reunion. “I think that was really brave, and I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her situation, at 16 and having this disabled baby that they knew that they couldn’t take care of. I want to tell her that when I see her that, if anything, I have so much love for her, my mom, because she gave me life.”

And I’ve learned a bit more of Jessica’s adoption back story – her teenaged parents were persuaded to give her up, with doctors telling the mother that she was “still young” and would be able “to give birth to a normal child.” This is disgusting. This is why so many kids end up in ‘orphanages’, not because they don’t have parents, but because of lack of support, ablism and/or poverty. And even sadder is this, her mother said, “Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later.” This belief that their child will return to them someday is a common occurrence in international adoptions.

There is of course, some questionable motivation when a car company wanting to sell more cars uses these kinds of themes. For those closest to the situations, it is absolutely a triggering commercial – hit notes on adoption, orphans, and a special needs person. At the same time, it is a perfect little story wrapped in a bow, delectable, and very palatable for the masses who gobble it up. General society and adoptive parents as well as the hopeful adoptive parents always love a “poor little orphan finds a home” story.

There is also a hashtag, #ToyotaWeDisApprove, trending on Twitter.

 

Post Adoption Depression

Yes, it is a thing.  I believe it is partly caused by unrealistic expectations.  Fantasy and reality have collided.  The difference between those expectations and reality create a very real stress and may even lead to depression.

It is a crash in the “high” of adopting (basically the excitement is over), the dopamine is no longer being released.  The sad fact is that the adoptive parent finds they still have the same emptiness troubling them that drove them to adopt to begin with.

Life had been a flurry of emotions during the adoption journey: hope, relief, frustration, waiting, excitement, and not to mention adding another person to one’s family.  Not having the hormone fluctuations related to birth does not mean that the adoptive parent won’t have their own share of emotional fluctuation.

Of course, new parents of both genders have emotional reactions to 1) sleep deprivation 2) new roles and 3) reconfiguration of daily life, but having this is not the same as hormone induced postpartum depression that a delivering mother experiences.

So, with a newborn, sleep deprivation can certainly be a factor. If an older child was adopted, then the reality of a traumatized child may be very different than the idealistic vision hopeful adoptive parents  expected.

An adoptive parent may even grieve for the child who is now in their own home, who they may love desperately, only to find that child dreams of his original mother coming back to reclaim him.  An adoptive mother can never replace the original one.

So a couple does CHOOSE to adopt.  If those circumstances turn out to be hard to live, like any biological parent, they need to deal directly with it.  If it’s all NOT what the adoptive parents expected, they should seek help and learn to deal with the reality. That’s parenting and adoptive parents have signed up for it voluntarily.

Depression sucks regardless of what it’s caused by. Affected parents need to seek help, see a trauma informed therapist, seek out specific resources, get on anti depressants if necessary – but NEVER just throw away a child.

Second Chances

I not talking about what is known as second chance adoptions as sad as that reality is.  I’m talking about the second chance life gave me and I hope those who have suffered their own failures at parenting will take heart.

This Sunday, we will go out into the forest among the Wild Azaleas and make a photo of myself with the two boys I am lucky to have in my own life.  We have done this every year without fail since the older boy was born.  You see, when I was young, I gave birth to a daughter who was and remains very dear to me.  Yet, I struggled to support us and in doing so, inadvertently lost the opportunity to parent her and have her in my life during her childhood.  I remember as the years went by looking for birthday cards for “my daughter” and that causing despair because they did not describe the unique kind of relationship I had with her.  Thankfully, we are close and I am grateful for that much.

When I remarried late in life and after 10 years of being with my husband who never wanted to have children – he changed his mind.  Over Margaritas at a Mexican restaurant he announced to me that he actually did want to become a father and it wasn’t easy for us because I was too old to conceive without medical assistance.  To conceive, I had to accept the loss of my genetic connection to my sons.  They would not exist any other way and they would not be who they are otherwise.

Yet, they grew in my womb and nursed at my breast.  I have been in their lives 24/7 with a few minor exceptions.  Parenting boys has been challenging because I grew up the oldest of three girls.  I was unprepared for the boisterous behavior of male children and through it was far from perfect – they and I survived it.  I was told as I struggled in their younger time that boys are more difficult when young and girls more difficult in puberty.  I don’t know if that is true but the boys are a joy and easy to live with now.  Whatever has caused that blessing, I am grateful.

I am also grateful to know I can actually parent.  It is a life-long sorrow that I lost that time with my daughter.  Children don’t stop growing and you can’t recover what is lost in your absence.  Happy Mother’s Day to all moms.

No, You Don’t Deserve A Baby

Regarding adoption, one prospective couple wrote – “I want a baby not a full grown kid. My husband and I deserve a baby. We both crave a baby to raise as our own”.

I get that.  Not that I believe they deserve someone else’s baby but that they are hoping for that blank slate that Georgia Tann always advertised her babies as being.  Science has determined that isn’t the truth but anyway.

Another prospective adoptive couple stated, “Older children come with so many issues. You can’t mother an older child like an infant. Especially as first time parents”.  Though I was not a first time parent, my husband was.

When my husband decided he wanted to be a father, we did talk about adoption but decided that we wanted a truly blank slate as our beginning position.  We wanted to conceive and for me to carry our baby in my womb, give birth and breastfeed that baby for a reasonable length of time.  We did need considerable medical assistance and there was a compromise involved that seemed reasonable but still must be faced fully and accepted.  Which I believe I have for the most part.

Regarding the expense of adoption, someone was quoted as saying, “Adoption should be free like abortion is”.  Now that does blow my mind because abortion is not free.  I know.  I had one back in the mid-1970s.  There is a cost in dollars at the time and over the long run a cost mentally and emotionally with making such a significant decision.  I continue believe it was the right decision at the time I made it but that doesn’t equate to the reality being easy to live with.

Here is another statement that is absolutely not true – “If adoption wasn’t so expensive, there would be more kids who find homes”.  Fact is there are 4 couples wanting to adopt for every child available to be adopted.  That is one of the reasons that over the most recent decades, many couples have gone out of the United States to obtain a child to raise as their own.

One of the major interests among the members of the adoption community – original parents and adoptees – is reform.  Part of reform is actually raising awareness and changing perspectives.  That is the hope and the purpose for which I write a blog on related topics each day.

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.

 

The Scourge Of Poverty

Many children end up in foster care or adopted for no more reason than poverty.  A recent suggestion was if stipends that go to foster care could be redirected to parents working hard to keep their children.

Definitely, a single mom can feel stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty, constantly worried that one financial emergency will send everything tumbling down.

In 2014 there were 46 million poor people in the U.S., and millions more hovering right above the poverty line.  A single mom may live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment and have food, furniture and toys for her child and still be very much at risk.  That apartment may not be located in a very safe place to live.  Yet subsidized housing may be all she can afford.

I was such a single mom at one time in my life.  Most of my paycheck went to rent, food, child care costs so I could work, gas and pediatrician bills.  What drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother was – so I could try and earn a higher standard of living.  I didn’t have a lot of hope for the future, if I stayed in the situation I was in.

If you’re poor, it may be in every aspect: emotionally, support-wise and family-wise.  And even when there is family support ?  As in grandparents raising several grandchildren as their own of which I do know more than a few.  Heck I turned to a grandparent myself in my own dire time of need.

And the strain on children of living with adults who are overwhelmed by life or who don’t have the skills they need to raise their children because they themselves came from troubled homes only compounds the core problem of poverty.

Poor families today are more isolated from neighbors, work, family – all of the social networks that help people through life.  There has to be a better way than the business as usual way we have now.

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.

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.

People Still Buy Babies

In this day and time so far away from the scandals of Georgia Tann stealing and selling babies, I never expected to see someone actually talking about “buying” a baby. It troubles my heart though realistically, one doesn’t come by a baby without cost, even when that child is gestated in their body.

The bit of advertisement above came from a FB group called “Mothers United Against Anti-Adoption”. I removed the more personal, identifying information.

I’m not joining and I am NOT “anti-adoption”. I have simply come to understand that being adopted is way more complicated than I understood growing up or for most of my life (both of my parents were adopted).

I agree that regardless of how you become a mother (or father), the common thread is love.  And whether we are natural or adoptive parents, we all go through the same kinds of challenges of feeling like an utter failure. As one adoptive mom said in a Huffington Post article –

“Some days I get tired of it all and just want to be a family. Not the adoptive family … just a family.”

A young woman approached the adoptive parent (it is a transracial adoption and so it was rather obvious), “I was adopted as a baby and it has been a wonderful thing. We need more families like yours.” I stared at her, stunned.

“She didn’t think what I assumed everyone was thinking. She saw beauty and love and hope and family. She thought we were wonderful and it made her smile.”

There are children who need alternative parents for whatever reason. What is perceived as “anti-adoption” issues are really mainly related to two core issues –

[1] Identity and Genetics – let your adopted child keep their original name and don’t have their birth certificate altered.

[2] Family Preservation – whenever possible, the natural parents should be supported in locating the resources to parent their children and given every encouragement.

For those times when a child actually does need alternative parents, then adoption fills a need.