Sometimes People Change

For people with adoption in their family, reunions are always an unknown quality. Like, even though my maternal grandmother was married to my maternal grandfather, why did he leave her 4 months pregnant ? (I do have theories but will never have actual answers – my cousin with the same grandfather doesn’t think his nature was not to care about his children and from pictures of him with my mom’s half-siblings that would seem to be true).

So an adoptee wrote – I think I found my birth father’s family. I am unsure if I should reach out. My birth mom told me he is a horrible person and the treason she put me up for adoption was due to his violent behavior and abuse towards her. I want to but I’m nervous.

It is not uncommon for a woman who has been the victim of domestic violence to want to protect her children from her abuser. Putting the child up for adoption can be seen as a way to provide distance and safety for that child. Case in point – My son’s birth father was/is a terrible sociopath, which is a big factor in my choice for adoption. Because it’s his mom and not me in charge, I have no concerns about him knowing his paternal grandparents and aunts. They’re very connected, and he loves it! So I say, go for it. You definitely deserve to form your own opinion.

Abusers don’t abuse everyone – so remember that before running away with – he said it wasn’t true, so it mustn’t be. You can still reach out but have boundaries to keep yourself as safe as possible. Maybe he is a reformed alcoholic or got help. There just tends to be a misogynistic perspective of – he’s nice to me, so no way he was not good to my mother, in many of these cases – and that is true across all family types.

It may be wise to look up his criminal record to be safe, but just like you, there may be good people he fathered or is related to, even if your mom is being honest. The adoptee replied – I looked it up, and he hasn’t had a charge since 1999. To which the advice giver said – maybe he was just someone who has criminal behavior when intoxicated and he got clean. Wouldn’t be the first! And the adoptee replied – He was intoxicated according to the arrest record. It’s hard to say. It could even not be the right person, but based on the information I was given, I’m confident it is. Even if he sucks, it’s better to live with the knowing than to live with the regret of wondering. You might have accurate information on who he used to be but you don’t know who he is now. 

More practical advice – Don’t share too much too soon, so you can walk away and not look back, if you need to. With that being said – people may make up things to make themselves feel better or he could have changed. Every person deserves to be heard out, if the person needing the explanation wants to hear it. It’s likely been quite some time since you were given up, and, sometimes, people change. Sometimes the situation was misunderstood. Sometimes the situation isn’t what it was presented to be. I’d contact them anyway. Don’t pass out your home address, use a texting or messaging app to contact them by phone, meet in public places, if you’re meeting them. Don’t put your own address as a return address if using the mail, use an email that you don’t use for everything, if by email.

Good to realize – People always have stories. They don’t always line up. Your mother has her side and her experience. It is valid and important. However, she has a story that has a different character. A different man. People change over time. They live. They learn, they grow and they die. You can wait until it’s too late and lose the chance to answer your questions or you can take a chance. We adoptees hear stories of others all the time. Never knowing our own. We hear how others are effected but we are overlooked. All for our “protection”. So many people have agendas. They don’t want to look like the bad guys. They don’t want their mistakes brought to light. Understandable. However we aren’t responsible for them being comfortable. 

This person’s experience matches my own experience on my maternal grandparents side quite a lot – They were farmers and country folk from southern Illinois (just to note – mine were Tennessee and Arkansas). Family was important to them. I was a missing piece to ALL of them in the family. A missing child. How horrible to think if I had not decided to find them that they would have always wondered what happened to that baby girl (just to add – that was also the case re: my mom, they all knew she existed). Me. I have now been welcomed back whole heartedly back into the family fold. No questions no judgements and all my questions answered. I know that the chances of that are so chancy but it was worth it for me. I hope that you can find some sort of closure or comfort in your journey. It’s always so scary to start, those first steps.

Losing Mom to Domestic Femicide

Not my usual adoption related story but adoption does come in at the end. Definitely a “Missing Mom” story. It isn’t a blog I really feel good about writing and yet, I believe this cautionary tale is important. Andy Borowitz, who generally writes satire, brought my attention to this story his wife has been investigating – The Murderer’s Little Boy by Olivia Gentile. <– You can read the sad details at this link. As a woman (as I am sure is not unusual for many women), I have been afraid at times due to some response by my romantic partner or spouse (I’ve been married more than once). It is a dangerous world and very dangerous for women, who have been described as the “weaker” sex and not without reason. I grew up in Texas and I apologize for feeling at this point like I have to say – “because Texas”. The state seems to me today to hate women in general – to be very misogynistic.

Losing a mother to domestic femicide is “the most horrific trauma that children can experience,” said Peter Jaffe, the child psychologist. Afterward, they are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, dissociation, attachment difficulties, behavioral problems, and many other issues. To heal, Jaffe said, they need a caregiver who engages with them appropriately and truthfully about the murder, helps them mourn and honor their mother, and enrolls them in long-term trauma therapy. 

This is very much like the trauma and behavioral impacts that a lot of adoptees suffer from.

Far more children whose fathers kill their mothers are placed with maternal than with paternal kin, research suggests, though exact numbers aren’t known. No laws specify which side of the family is preferable, but in all custody cases, judges are supposed to address the child’s “best interest.” Paternal relatives must be carefully screened, Jaffe said. Since abuse is often intergenerational, the family’s entire history should be reviewed. Furthermore, anyone who enabled the killer’s abuse, remains aligned with him, intends to keep him in the child’s life, or “tries to wipe out the maternal family in the same way the perpetrator wiped out the mother” is presumptively unfit.

His maternal grandmother was forced to file a lawsuit to get visitation rights from the paternal side. Filed on March 15, 2017, she argued that as R.’s grandmother, she had standing to seek custody because the child’s present circumstances could “significantly impair” his emotional development. Her suit failed but she appealed.

Finally, in April 2018, 15 months after she last saw R., a panel from the First Court of Appeals convened a hearing on the maternal grandmother’s pleas. In their questions, the three judges seemed to convey concern for the boy’s welfare. Wasn’t it potentially harmful for R. to be raised by a man whose son had confessed to killing his mother? Wasn’t it worrisome that his father could see R. whenever the grandfather allowed him to? 

The judges ordered the parties into mediation, specifying that the mediator be from Houston, not Galveston County where the paternal kin were prominent. The resulting agreement, signed in July 2018, affirmed the maternal grandmother’s standing to pursue custody and gave her two mornings a month with R. as the case continued. Yet the deal stipulated that the visits be supervised by the paternal grandfather or by someone he chose, and it barred the grandmother from discussing R.’s mother or half-brother with him or showing him their pictures. 

Fearing an acquittal due to complicating circumstances, prosecutors made a deal with the murderer. At trial, he would have faced up to 99 years in prison for murder. Under his plea agreement, signed on November 25, 2019, he received 30 years for murder and 20 for tampering, with the sentences running concurrently. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2033.

The custody trial was scheduled for April 2020. But in a new twist to this story, in March, the paternal grandfather obtained another delay: he wanted to adopt R. and had obtained his murderer son’s willingness to cede his own parental rights. The maternal grandmother asked the court to stop the adoption. Her luck now was that there is a new Judge Kerri Foley. She appointed an attorney, Genevieve McGarvey, as a neutral assistant in the adoption case. Later, Foley added McGarvey to the custody case, too. For the first time in four years, an official was tasked with helping the court advance R.’s best interest. 

At a hearing in September 2020, McGarvey testified that R. wasn’t in trauma therapy and needed it “desperately.” She added, “[H]e’s got to talk about his mother more.” And he appeared to miss his half-brother profoundly. “The first thing he ever says when I see him is, ‘How’s J.?’ ‘Do you know J.?’”

Foley halted the adoption case until after the custody trial. But the trial has been repeatedly delayed and won’t happen until this summer at the earliest. Tired of waiting, his maternal grandmother filed a motion on February 2 demanding temporary joint custody in the meantime. A hearing is scheduled for March 21.

Judge Foley recently granted the grandmother longer visits with R., and she’s now allowed to bring his half-brother. But she wants the standard access granted to Texans who don’t reside with their kids: two to three weekends per month, alternating holidays and school breaks, and 30 days in summer.

Understandably the grandmother wants to protect R. She wants to get him into trauma therapy, and she wants to participate in decisions about his medical care and education. Recently, he has bounced from school to school and struggled. She wants to talk freely with him about his mother, whom he remembers and misses. And she wants to terminate his father’s rights and bar him from contacting R.—either from prison or upon his release. 

Even if the grandmother prevails at trial, her struggle won’t be over, since joint custody could be meaningless if the paternal grandfather’s adoption goes through. The grandmother is determined to continue to fight for her grandson.  “R. has never wavered in his desire to see us or just surrendered to the horror of circumstances,” she said. If he won’t give up, how could she? 

Some organizations with links also mentioned in the article –

National Safe Parents Coalition who advocates for evidence-based policies which put child safety and risks at the forefront of child custody decisions.

Kayden’s Law – requires an evidentiary hearing during child custody proceedings to vet allegations—new or old—of abuse. Though ACLU opposed it but it has now been included in the Federal Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act which President Joe Biden signed on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Respond Against Violence providing “The Strangulation Supplement,” a tool for first responders and investigators to better guide them in investigations and to help capture cases involving strangulation that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. These tools are available upon request to law enforcement, forensic nurses, and EMS, as well as tools for pediatric cases and bathtub fatality cases.

It Was Not The Easter Bunny

That baby was not brought in a basket by the Easter Bunny. Though I love this one . . .

“I think I’m the Easter Bunny.
I don’t know where the eggs come from,
and I have no idea why I feel a compulsion to hide them.”

Sadly, some adoptees are actually found in a dumpster. It can be hard to understand the world we live in. I believe in Reincarnation and so the Easter Story about Jesus represents an interesting twist. He died but didn’t have to go the usual route of being reborn a baby. However, birth and death are both necessary to human evolution and continuance. Death clears out life that is no longer viable. I (for one) am grateful there is a way out and that I won’t be stuck in a body that is more like a tortured living hell for eternity. I believe each generation of new human beings improves on the previous version.

The stork did not bring babies to a family’s home either. A common meme when I was a child in the 1960s. I heard the birth mother profiled in American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser – the latest in reveals related to adoption talk about “no sex education.” The birth mother says she didn’t know how babies were made. I think I remember my mom saying something similar – that her mother didn’t talk to her about sex. No wonder these women ended up pregnant in high school.

I came of age with early 70s Feminism. Heard a snippet last Sunday on NPR Witness History about Our Bodies, Our Selves. There wasn’t a transcript but I did find something about that extraordinary effort in the NPR archives. The book was the first comprehensive book on women’s issues ever published by women for women.

By middle school, I had boyfriends. And I had been given the nice girls don’t do that (have sex) until marriage talk by then. I’m certain my mom’s only intention was to save me from repeating her own experience. About that same time, I discovered that I was conceived out of wedlock. Clearly, the message had been delivered to me that woman had the sole responsibility of preventing an unwanted pregnancy because I was angry at my mom but not my dad and I think that is why.

Heck, while I may have had more of a birds and the bees talk than my mom had by high school, I didn’t even know how to find my own vagina to insert a tampon. I’m certain that my own young daughter may have questioned my sanity when I felt compelled to demonstrate for her where to find her own. She probably knew much more by then than I gave her credit for. I remember her once saying something about boys having been “dirty” for years by the time she was in middle school.

Happy Easter. Happy Spring Renewal. Happy life ever returning and reminders that it does.

Mother/Child Separations

Black babies separated from slave mothers. Native American children separated from their families to indoctrinate them into white standards of living. White babies separated from their mothers in the 1930’s through the 1960’s because they were a profitable and valuable commodity in the adoption market (if you were a black unwed mother you could keep your baby as it was no longer a financially lucrative commodity after the Emancipation Proclamation). And most recently, Hispanic babies separated from their mothers at the southern border of the United States.

These may seem wildly different situations but actually they are the same. Society does not value natural families nor do we support keeping children in the families they were born into. We do this at great harm to the children and equally emotional and psychological harm for their mothers.

In regard to Africans enslaved in America, though they most definitely experienced an assault on their personhood, but never yielded. Because misogyny has been dominate until recently, it is no surprise that women’s voices, both in their own time and in later scholarship, remained largely silent. They reproduced, labored, and died in near anonymity. Slave women did not have ready access to birth control and experienced great pressure to bear children. After the abolition of the international slave trade in 1808, the South’s dependence upon natural reproduction increased. Slave women experienced pressure to bear children from a culture that gloried motherhood and from masters who personally benefited from slave offspring due to their financial value.

In 1879, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania was a government-backed institution that forcibly separated Native American children from their parents in order to kill the Indian in him, and save the man. For decades, this effort continued. Native American boarding schools were a method of forced assimilation. The end goal of these measures was to make Native people more like the white Anglo-Americans who had taken over their land. By removing them from their homes, the schools disrupted students’ relationships with their families and other members of their tribe. Once they returned home, children struggled to relate to their families after being taught that it was wrong to speak their language or practice their religion.

The Baby Scoop Era was a period in the history of the United States, starting after the end of World War II and ending in the early 1970s, My parents adoptions were just a little bit ahead of their time but Georgia Tann, through whom my mom was adopted was certainly already profiting when my mom turned up, 5 mos old with blond hair and blue eyes, Tann’s most desired commodity. This time period was characterized by an increased rate of pre-marital pregnancies over the preceding period, along with a higher rate of newborn adoption. It is estimated that up to 4 million parents in the United States had children placed for adoption, with 2 million during the 1960s alone. Annual numbers for non-relative adoptions increased from an estimated 33,800 in 1951 to a peak of 89,200 in 1970, then quickly declined to an estimated 47,700 in 1975. By 2003, only 14,000 infants were placed for adoption. The number of hopeful adoptive parents remains far beyond the number of babies available which set off the international adoption boom and the abuses and exploitations in that field.

Most recently has been the horrendous treatment of Hispanic families at our southern border.

Long before the Trump administration implemented its “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy in 2018, it was already separating children from their parents as part of a “pilot program” conducted in the El Paso, Texas, area (where I spent my childhood, I am familiar with border issues and politics). Under the El Paso program, begun in mid-2017, adults who crossed the border without permission – a misdemeanor for a first-time offender – were detained and criminally charged. No exceptions were made for parents arriving with young children. The children were taken from them, and parents were unable to track or reunite with their children because the government failed to create a system to facilitate reunification. By late 2017, the government was separating families along the length of the US-Mexico border, including families arriving through official ports of entry. It is suspected that many of these children were placed in foster homes and may have even been placed into adoption as it has proven almost impossible for some parents to relocate their children.

Sometimes, humanity makes my heart hurt.

Anne with an E

I’m only vaguely familiar with Anne of Green Gables.  Anne has been a bona fide cultural icon for over a century, ever since Canadian author L M Montgomery first debuted her in 1908.  Anne was orphaned as a baby and in care until age 12 when she is adopted. She experienced a lot of abuse during her time in care.

We don’t have commercial TV or streaming in our home – while we do have internet the limited allowance and expense when adding onto that prohibit our streaming anything beyond a few youtubes and that costs us a lot as it is.

However, I was reading about this version in the all things adoption group I belong to and I became intrigued.  The woman who brought this to my attention describes it as – “a very dark portrayal, with depiction of trauma, flashbacks, so many feelings of abandonment, as well as the difficulties her adoptive parents have in relating to her.”  That was enough to get me looking into it.

Another woman said –  “The first season is the darkest with the flashbacks. As it goes on, it’s not as dark but continues to deal with a lot of other feelings that people not raised by biological family go through.  I honestly loved this series. I felt it was a more honest portrayal of children who were in foster care and adopted than I have seen in a long time.  This show helped my children discuss the hardships that adopted people or abused/traumatized people deal with.”

Another woman said – “The other depictions we saw didn’t seem to focus so much on the trauma. We listened to the book as we drove up to Prince Edward Island and there’s definite evidence of her struggles in there, but this series took it to another level and made it real and made the connections very visible of past trauma, fear of abandonment, and the inner world she creates to get away from it all.”

Vanity Fair had a review of this series.  They note that in the first episode Anne with an E graphically depicts, via chilly flashbacks, the years of abuse Anne sustained before she came to live with the Cuthberts.  While Anne likely did suffer some torment during her tenure with the Hammond family, Anne with an E ramps up the trauma by having Mr Hammond die of a heart attack brought about by beating the tar out of poor Anne.

This version retains some of Anne’s eccentricities—a fierce imagination and intricate fantasy life, as well as a fondness for high-flown language.  This is an Anne with PTSD.  Anne of Green Gables endures as a cozy story that reveals the resiliency of the human spirit through small-scale, domestic victories and setbacks, as well as the mundane, everyday tragedies of human life.

In episode 4, the town’s minister takes misogyny to its historic depiction because Anne doesn’t want to go back to the school where she has continued to suffer abuse.  He tells her adoptive mother – “This problem is easily solved.  If the girl doesn’t want to go to school, she shouldn’t go. She should stay home and learn proper housekeeping until she marries. And then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone I shall make a helper for him.’ There’s no need for her to bother with an education. Every young woman should learn how to be a good wife.”

The Vanity Fair review complains that “Anne with an E seems to think Anne’s triumphs are only noteworthy if she’s continually told she can’t succeed, when in fact her unfettered brilliance needs no such clumsy opposition.”  Judge for yourself.  Don’t know if I’ll ever watch this but maybe if it comes out on dvd.  Clearly, it spoke to the wounded hearts of the people in the adoption group I belong to.

 

Choosing to Remain Child-Free

A conversation that came into my awareness this morning went like this –

I have a friend who recently underwent a procedure that will permanently sterilize her at 21 because she is certain she wants to be childfree.

Recently laws have passed that allow drs to deny this based on “good conscience”. It was already difficult enough to get it done.

What I’m surprised about is the different comments I have heard on this being said and the amount of uneducated people…

Some of the comments I’ve seen/heard –

“What about all the infertile women? You would never do that if you knew how many infertile women wanted babies!!”

“I can’t believe you would do that. What if you marry a man who wants children?”

“Sterilization should be illegal when there’s so many desperate good families hoping to adopt a newborn baby!”

Tell me – Why this is problematic ?

(I know why…I’m ready to protest it. I’m tired of laws going backwards. I’ve spent 2 years fighting with insurance over my own body just to have surgery because I’m at an extremely high risk for life threatening pregnancies.)

My body is not a political opinion nor is it my job or another woman’s job to be an incubator to push babies out for you because you’re infertile.

One woman shared – On Mother’s Day at my job I was asked if I have kids. I said no and I never want kids. Everyone acted like I’d just said something so heinous. One co-worker told me I should have babies and sell them. Like WTF ?!

She added –  it really pisses me off how many stories I’ve heard about women who want to get this procedure and can’t because doctors say they need to have at least one kid already, they need a man’s approval, and/or they’re too young. Meanwhile, women have to put up with the side effects of birth control methods. It’s really belittling of women to think they can’t make these decisions for themselves. And misogynistic to leave it up to the husband to give his approval for the procedure. Or to not do it because there’s no male significant other to ask for permission. Like women can’t have their own bodily autonomy. As if we’re just possessions for men and only have value as breeders (a term that Georgia Tann used – dehumanizing).

One woman put it rather simply – If you don’t want children, you don’t marry someone who does. That’s basic compatibility.

Then there was this woman’s personal story –  My older sister, now 40, still looks for a doctor to do a sterilization for her. She has never wanted a baby and asked at her first gyn appointment, when she was about 13, when she could have a sterilization. She never once wavered but it looks like she will never receive her desired treatment, because every doctor she asks, thinks she might change her mind. This so f***s me off! It’s her body, her decision, her money. Why does nobody give a f**k, when a man has a vasectomy??? Even childless men seem to be allowed to have one without questioning. That’s so biased.

My personal perspective ?  It is our body, given to us to utilize however we want to while alive on this Earth.  Every person’s decision should be honored as long as it is within legal boundaries – that includes abortion, sterilization, divorce, etc.

Branded A Scarlet

 

When I was a schoolgirl, we were made to read The Scarlet Letter.  Now as a grown woman, I wonder about that.  Who’s idea was it that young girls should read literature of that sort and what was the intention in making us do so?

Imagine my surprise, when upon discovering the granddaughter of the second wife of my grandfather, she writes to me –

“Another thing about your grandmother as heartbreaking as it was a women having children outside of marriage was considered a total disgrace usually  branded a scarlet and forced to relocate and start their life anew, which explains your Dad’s adoption and I feel pretty certain abortion back then was not a common practice.”

My dad’s mother was unwed.  My dad’s father was much older and married to a woman way much older (27 years older) than he was.  It isn’t a wonder to me that he was unfaithful and found a vulnerable young woman to attract the romantic attentions of.

I’m pretty certain that my grandmother didn’t know he was married when she started seeing him.  I’m also pretty certain that she did know he was married by the time she discovered she was pregnant.  Because her childhood was difficult, she learned at an early age to be self-reliant.  She took herself to a home for unwed mothers run by the Salvation Army.

My dad was with her until about eight months of age.  She was still breastfeeding him when the Salvation Army who had taken legal custody of him, adopted him out.

What is amazing to me is that this step-cousin was still blaming the woman for her grandfather’s lust.