Pocahontas’ Son

Last night we watched The New World about the first English settlers at Jamestown. I was intrigued about the story of Pocahontas and for the most part in further research, it was about as accurate as it could be for an event that took place so long ago with few original documents. From a Smithsonian piece titled The True Story of Pocahontas, I picked up some new details and a few reality checks.

Pocahontas died in England where she was treated as the princess that she was. Born about 1596, her real name was Amonute, and she also had the more private name Matoaka. Pocahontas was her nickname, which depending on who you ask means “playful one” or “ill-behaved child.” Much that is known came from Captain John Smith who wrote about her many years later describing her as the beautiful daughter of a powerful native leader, who rescued him from being executed by her father. It’s disputed whether or not Pocahontas, who was only age 11 or 12, rescued Smith or did he possibly misinterpret a ritual ceremony, or worse take the tale from a popular Scottish ballad of the time.

Pocahontas grew up to be a clever and brave young woman, who served as a translator, ambassador and leader facing down European power. Pocahontas’ people could not possibly have defeated or even held off the power of Renaissance Europe. The Indians were facing extraordinarily daunting circumstances. Pocahontas was captured and held for ransom by the Colonists during hostilities in 1613. During her captivity, she was encouraged to convert to Christianity and was baptized under the name Rebecca.

It was during her captivity in the settlement called Henricus, that Pocahontas met John Rolfe. She married the tobacco planter in April 1614 at about the age of 17 or 18 and she bore him a son, Thomas Rolfe in January 1615. Their marriage created a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan’s tribes that endured for eight years and was known as the “Peace of Pocahontas.” The birth of Thomas Rolfe, as he was both of European and Native American descent, reinstated peace between the Powhatans and the European settlements. Early in his career as deputy governor, Samuel Argall reported in a letter published within the Virginia Company Records that Powhatan “goes from place to place visiting his country taking his pleasure in good friendship with us laments his daughter’s death but glad her child is living so doth opachank”.

The marriage was controversial in the British court at the time because “a commoner” had “the audacity” to marry a “princess”. According to Rolfe, when she was dying, she said, “all must die, but tis enough that her child liveth”. In the movie, Rolfe is depicted carrying Thomas, their two year old son in his arms, as he was going back to Virginia but that is the most inaccurate part I am aware of. Here is where the story merits mention in this blog about adoption. At the time Pocahontas died, Thomas was sick as well. His father, fearing his young son would not survive the sea voyage, appointed Sir Lewis Stukley as his guardian March 21, 1617. Stuckley later transferred custody and care of Thomas Rolfe to his uncle, Henry Rolfe.

This likely saved his life as his father, John Rolfe died in the Indian massacre of 1622. Also known as the Jamestown Massacre. A contemporary account claims the Powhatan had come “unarmed into our houses with deer, turkeys, fish, fruits, and other provisions to sell us”. The Powhatan then grabbed any tools or weapons available and killed all the English settlers they found, including men, women, and children of all ages. Chief Opechancanough led the Powhatan Confederacy in a coordinated series of surprise attacks; they killed a total of 347 people, a quarter of the population of the Virginia colony.

In his will, John Rolfe had appointed his father in law, William Pierce, as executor of his estate and guardian of his 2 children, Thomas and Elizabeth (by a subsequent marriage). Thomas remained in his uncle’s care until he reached roughly 21 years of age. Sometime before June 1635, Thomas returned to Virginia, his transportation paid for by his Virginia guardian and grandfather by marriage, William Pierce. Once established in Virginia, Thomas Rolfe fostered both his reputation as a plantation owner and as a member of his mother’s lineage. He expressed interest in rekindling relations with his Native American relatives, despite societal ridicule and laws that forbade such contact. In 1641, Rolfe petitioned the governor for permission to visit his “aunt, Cleopatra, and his kinsman, Opecanaugh”.

The date of his death after a life filled with service to the crown and land acquisition is not totally known but has been thought to be around 1685.

As an aside, my mom was born in the Richmond Virginia general area in 1937. It is known that her mother’s family, the Starks, immigrated from Scotland arriving at Stafford County Virginia. As her husband seems to have taken leave of her to return to his mother and other children in Arkansas, it appears my grandmother’s father may have thought her husband had abandoned her. Embarrassed that she was obviously with child and no husband to be seen, I suspect there were still members of the Stark family in Virginia and that is why she was sent there to give birth (and I assume, he hoped she would relinquish her baby there but she did not and brought her back to Memphis, where the two of them fell into the clutches of Georgia Tann). Therefore, I do feel genetic familial roots in Virginia and know that one of my Stark ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War because they arrived here before that began. Later some Starks migrated to Tennessee where my maternal grandmother was born.

Sometimes They Die

I think one of the sadder things that happen in adoption is when the possibility of any kind of reunion ends because the other party has died. In my own family, I can think of 2 instances.

In the early 1990s, before Tennessee decided to relent and let the victims of Georgia Tann’s baby stealing and selling scandal have the closed adoption files the state was charged with protecting, my mom tried to get hers. She was unsuccessful but the state did tell her that her original mother had already died. She had said to me as she embarked on her own effort that as a mother herself, she would have wanted to know what became of her child. My mom was devastated that she would never be able to connect with the woman who gestated and birthed her.

After my dad died 4 months after I lost my mom, I began my own search effort as the child of two adoptees. When I learned who my dad’s original mother was and connected with some cousins who shared my grandmother with me, I discovered that at the time of my dad’s death, he had a half sibling living only 90 miles away who could have told him so much about his mother.

When in my own search, I discovered my mom’s original father’s family, I learned that her half-sister had only died a few months before I arrived. Thankfully, her daughter spent a wonderful afternoon with me and her mother’s numerous family albums to trigger lots of stories of what the family had been doing throughout my long absence from the biological, genetic relations.

Both of my parents could have had relationships with genetic, biological family during their lifetimes, if closed and sealed adoptions records had not kept them apart – which has always been the only reason these records have been closed and sealed and birth names changed to mask the original identities.

So this morning I read several others in similar straits caused by adoption –

“I just heard that my birth mother passed away yesterday. She denied my existence to her son, my half brother that I now have a passing relationship with. Have known her name forever and never had the courage to reach out. My chances are gone now. Feeling double sadnesses tonight. I pray you are at peace now.”

“My birth mom wants nothing to do with me, I just hope to meet her before one of us passes.”

“I met my birth mother but it wasn’t really that good. I bonded with one sister and birth mother passed before we could try and have a decent relationship.”

“My birth mother is 84. I am doubting things will ever change to reunite us before she passes.”

“When I finally looked for my birth mom, she had passed away.”

“The power of secrets and shame can be heartbreaking.”

“As a birth mother, this is one of my biggest fears – that I will die before she decides its time to see me. I have reached out to her but she hasn’t acknowledged me.” 

Christianity’s Role In Adoption

Today’s story –

3 years ago we went to an interest meeting for Bethany Adoption Services. 20 minutes in to that meeting and we confidently knew these were our people and this was our agency. Now we’re ALMOST to the finish line of the adoption process and are waiting {as patiently as possible} to become parents.

This has been quite a ride, no doubt. I sit here today thinking, praying, reflecting and can’t deny a sense of grief over our journey. Through teary eyes I type this out, that sometimes it hurts to be reminded how long our journey to be parents has taken. It’s not all rainbows and roses everyday. The joy and sorrow continue to go hand in hand.

BUT GOD. There is no denying and no getting around God’s faithfulness through this process and the peace that comes in knowing His plans > ours. The things we have learned about ourselves, our marriage, parenting, and mostly the kindness, the absolute sovereignty, and undeserved love of the Lord is worth every single hard day and tear.

Please pray for us as we wait. Pray for our future child’s birth mom to be comforted and at peace with her decision to choose life and choice for us to parent her child. Please pray for us to wait well, to prepare well, to finish this leg of the journey strong and expectant of what’s next. We are very excited and very ready and can’t wait to bring home Baby C!!

In general, the whole thing was triggering for many in my adoption group. I’m bypassing some of the comments with stronger language. Here is one of the tamer ones.

I hate using God’s plan as some justification. Like God’s plan is for a woman to give away her baby ? Same with God protects/watched out for. Like some God doesn’t? It’s all bullshit.

And the perspective from this side – Think they’d mind if I prayed for baby C and her momma instead? *sigh*

To which someone else replied – I believe in the power of prayer, but I also do not believe you pray selfishly or for someone else to be in pain. If she really believed in the power of prayer, why doesn’t she pray to get pregnant instead? I pray for the life and health of this young mom and her unborn child.

When we insist that God wants exactly what we want for our self, we are recreating God in our image, not the other way around.

My apologies for not getting this posted yesterday and I am going to have to cut what I am sharing here short. Things have been complicated in my own life the last 24 hours. Finally, last night there was forward movement again instead of battling strong headwinds and finding it difficult to make much progress. Later tomorrow or maybe not until tomorrow – there are always opportunities to say more. I wish you happiness and love in your own lives.

Why So Fragile ?

I belong to an all things adoption Facebook group. So birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adoptees are all member and there is also the former foster young and issues of foster care which are tangent to adoption if one understands how the system works or fails to, all too often.

Yesterday, I learned that the majority of members are actually adoptive parents. Many have spoken out how considering the thoughts and feelings of adoptees has changed their perspective on what they have involved themselves in. No one is saying that anyone should undo what has already been done. The group only encourages doing it better.

Some adoptive parents are so fragile that hearing the truth will actually drive them right out of this group. Sometimes the group is accused of being hateful and cruel but adoptees carry wounds, many times wounds so deep and unconscious within them, they don’t know they are there. Others have worked long and hard, sometimes through therapy to open up those places that were hurt and if not heal, at least begin to understand them.

Truth is adoption is a bad practice and many adoptive parents adopted children believing they were doing a good deed in the world. It hurts to hear that maybe you were wrong about that, or that you lack some really important knowledge about the impacts of adoption that only an adoptee can provide to you as the one who experienced it.

At the root of many adoptions is an infertile couple. In the most enlightened situations, the couple embarks upon a journey to find peace with the reality. The couple will seek some way other than raising children to find fulfillment in their lives. Infertility is a health issue and it should be discussed openly, to remove the stigma. Everyone does not need to have children. The world has plenty of people to support already. One could look at it as doing their part to create a balance in global population.

If as a society, we can teach the public that couples don’t need adoption to “fix” their infertility, then maybe society can put a real effort behind supporting families so that they can stay together.  A random discussion about infertility almost always leads to advice that includes alternative methods of creating a family – like adoption, surrogacy, etc – many of which harm other people. We can’t change a narrative when people are being continuously convinced to seek alternative methods to have kids. The alternatives discussed are never about remaining childless.

Being infertile is not a death sentence. In some instances, the message becomes panic stricken, desperate – which encourages the listener to say, “well, just adopt”. That fuels the “must have a child to parent” flurry. Hearing an enlightened couple share their journey of infertility with a composed and educated message can begin the process of stopping the “I HAVE TO HAVE A BABY” narrative.

The couple needs to “process” their reality – the harsh reality – to gain the emotional balance needed to meet the next phase of their life’s journey with compassion and self love. Generally, we are not called upon to be the social educator of the world. Our real job is to care for our self, so we are the best self for whatever life will bring next for us.

Reproductive Rights

The woman on the left is Norma McCorvey, the woman who was Jane Roe in the legal case that came to be known as Roe v Wade and made it possible for women to have an abortion.  I did not know it until this morning, but the pregnancy that caused her to seek an abortion, ended up in adoption.

Norma grew up poor and abused.  She was the daughter of a single alcoholic mother. She got into trouble frequently and at one point was sent to a reform school. She married and became pregnant at 16 but divorced before the child was born; she subsequently relinquished custody of the child to her mother. In 1967, she gave up a second child for adoption immediately after giving birth.

At the age of 22 and unwed, she was mired in addiction and poverty, she was desperate for a way out of an unwanted pregnancy.  It was her third child and she was so desperate to have an abortion, that she made up a story that she was gang raped, thinking that might legally entitle her to one.  To my own perspective, she is the sad example of the trauma a birth mother experiences as Norma repeatedly lost custody of her natural children.

Roe v Wade became law in 1973, just after I graduated from high school.  In the latter part of the 1970s, I benefited from a safe, medically induced and legal abortion.  It has surprised me how many adoptees will say they wish they had been aborted.  That tells you something about how not happy becoming an adoptee can be for many, not all, children as they become mature adults.

Roe v Wade built on earlier decisions legalizing contraception.  The right to plan wanted pregnancies (and in my own experience a wanted child is loved and treated better in general, I say that because all of my children were wanted, and my reasons for having an abortion, while haunting me most of my life, I still believe were the right ones) and the right to end unwanted ones has freed women to pursue more fulfilling lives than the old barefoot and pregnant model of married life.

When women are able to choose when and whether to have children, they are more likely to finish their education, more financially stable and less likely to remain in and endure abusive relationships.  In states that have fewer abortion restrictions, there are lower rates of maternal and infant mortality.

In 1984, Norma McCorvey revealed herself to have been Jane Roe.  This resulted in the ugly side of the Pro-Life movement as she was harassed and someone even shot at her through her window.  Even so, she was undaunted for years and remained an abortion-rights advocate.  However in the 1990s, she announced she was 100% pro-life.  One has to wonder after what she suffered, if she just wanted safety, security and peace.  She died in 2017.

Today in 2020, the right to choose is under a strong attack and given the increasingly conservative nature of our judicial system thanks to the Republican party, young women may once again only have the option of illegal and unsafe access to ending an unwanted pregnancy.  Women could be forced once again to have children against their personal desire to bear a child.

Complete Moving Forward

It is that end where nothing actually changes but we move forward into the next one which this year also sees the change into a new decade.

I feel a sense of completion this year as I have continued to learn about the impacts of adoption and the wounds of separating children from their mothers.  I have spent the last year reviewing the most significant events of my entire life.  One was being the executor of my deceased parents’ estate.  I have no doubt that it was a blessing that my parents, both adoptees and high school sweethearts who were married for over 60 years, died only 4 months apart.  I had to make arrangements for my mentally ill sister’s support in ways my parents feared to initiate.  Sadly, my lifelong close relationship with her was wrecked by my having to do so as there was no one else who could.

I also finally managed to come full circle in learning who my original grandparents were and because they are all dead, managing to find living descendants with whom I can begin to create new relationships.  I recognize that relationships are not instantaneous and we have lost decades but I do my best to go forward and feel a wholeness and peace that I could not even know I was lacking until I found that.

A year ago, I self-published a limited edition of our family’s true history and genetic cultural roots.  Sadly, it wrecked a relationship with one of my nephews.  Honestly though, there was barely a relationship there.  That he could not see the purpose of my revealing what I did related to his own relationships with his maternal line, I can’t help.  Though I regret his decision to close the door on half his family, I still feel the information was necessary within the family and so I accept the outcome with sadness.

I’ve spent the last year rewriting a commercial version of my story that includes the aspects mentioned above.  I had not gone into my parents’ deaths and the ramifications of those deaths in the previous publication but realized that to tell the story of my discovery of my grandparents, it was necessary to look at that difficult time in my own life to give context to the final miracle that unfolded.

In the coming year, I do hope to acquire a literary agent and find this book commercially published.  May that prove to be so.  Best wishes to all of you who have chosen to read my blog over the last year.  I hope you continue to follow me and if my hopes and dreams come true, will want to buy and review my book.  Happy New Year – soon.  Like in a few hours now.

 

 

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.

 

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.