Healing

Today is my eighth year anniversary blogging on WordPress. It is also National Pi Day.

A lot has happened in those eight years. Especially over the last year, where we have seen much destruction of life in a literal sense and in the ways we have treated each other and ourselves.

Today, as I was listening to a song, “When Angels Rise” by Helen Jane Long, it made me wonder.

How are our angels coping with all the deaths, destruction, hate, injustice, sadness, grief, and depression in humanity on earth? This last year has been a difficult time for so many, even those who have not experienced mental health issues in the past. For some of us, it only increases our need and ability to cope with an already challenging past.

I belong to a select group of birth mothers, mothers of loss, or sisters of circumstance, who either relinquished our parental rights by choice, coercion, or force because of a strict, condescending society.  

Each year, during Women’s History Month, I reflect on how this life changing event still permeates into modern day culture; resurfacing, reshaping, oftentimes masking the hidden lifelong trauma to those directly impacted.

The path to healing varies for each of us.

Most of us have a grid that spikes up and down in an erratic diagram, charting upward and downward, never fully reaching our full potential of healing. However, hitting rock bottom seems to be an easy feat. It is not because we don’t wish to heal.

I can only speak for myself.

My son and I had a talk yesterday. He asked me if I felt that maybe my choice to relinquish has kept me from dating, marrying, buying a home, subconciouisly feeling these events will make me feel as if I am “moving on” with life? He made a great point. I am sure there is validity to the concept.

Does life stop for some mothers after relinquishment?

I want so much to fully heal from that moment, that choice that changed my life forever and altered my course in a most profound way. I have mourned and suffered, been angry and wounded, felt ashamed and outcast. But I don’t want to remain angry and bitter for the rest of my life.

While I have received immeasurable support from other mothers, even from mothers who have not shared this experience, I have also seen other mothers in this unique group express condescending tones to some mothers, depending on what generation our loss occurred, or whether we had an open or closed adoption.

Open adoption has also created yet another social deviation of mothers who try to critique, diminish or rate open adoption to another person’s experience or challenge whose adoption is more open or valid. It is another form of valuing females and assigning them into good or bad girls categories again. Good girls have lifelong open adoptions with their children. Bad girls don’t. It is another façade that only continues to minimize the worth and significance of females.

We have society judging us, social workers judging us, our families judging us, other mothers judging us, adoptive parents judging us, and sometimes even adoptees judging us. We get painted with a broad brush. And the burden can be too heavy to bear at times. But I continue to advocate for truth, for the mothers, and for the adoptees. 

I refuse to allow the ghost of my past to continue to haunt me in my future.  There have been times when I had to fight for my life. I wake up each day and fight like hell. I am still here, still standing. I refuse to allow this life changing event to keep me bitter for the rest of my life. I refuse to allow others to keep me from healing. Because deep within, as a child of God, I know I deserve healing.

We may have been abandoned in our time of need, but we can still rise and heal.

We may have been labeled with a scarlet letter, but we can still rise and heal.

We may have been tossed away like a piece of trash, but we can still rise and heal.

We may have been reduced to a mindless child, but we can still rise and heal.

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same. – Carlos Castaneda

I chose to accept that this experience has given me the unique ability to empathize with others, especially those who grieve.

One of the wonderful things about support groups, like AA, is we each have this shared experience. And while we can never fully understand someone’s path, whether they had one moment that change their course in life, or whether there were many experiences that changed their course, causing them to wander like a lost soul, we can still support them in their path to recovery and healing.

Our angels are with us.  When we hurt, they hurt, when we cry, they cry, when we feel hopeless and alone, they are with us holding us until we can once again see our worth and value, until we can feel wholesome, until our light within can shine, if only just a glimmer, knowing that as long as we still have a spark within, there is still hope, and hope brings healing.

Navigating Race and Transracial Adoption

Last October, I attended Navigating the Intersections of Transracial Adoption, with Torrey E. Carroll, MA, LPC & Nikki M. Carroll, MA, LPC, as the keynote speakers at the AKA Virtual Conference.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this dynamic duo couple who were engaging, educated, and provided great material with first-hand experience, this event was more difficult for me to process.

First off, everyone was using the chat feature to comment. I commented and said, “…my mixed race sons…” Someone quickly chatted back with a critique and said “her friend” hates it when someone asks if her son is “mixed”. She said her friend prefers bi-racial. Someone quickly came to my defense and said that people should be able to self-identify how they wish. I appreciated the support.

First, I wondered if her friend was a biological mother or a transracial adoptive mother. There is a difference.

The female, who obviously was not personally involved in an interracial or a transracial family, was attempting to tell me how I should identify MY family. An online stranger was attempting to tell another online mother who knows nothing about her family or their racial identity how that mother should refer to her kids based on a friend’s preference. That is truly disturbing. It is egotistical!

Sadly, this happens often in the adoption community. Everyone is an expert, even those who have no personal connection to or experience with adoption.

Over the last couple decades, we have had white transracial adoptive parents wanting to lead the racial dialogue because now that they have adopted a black or brown child, they feel entitled to speak and educate. They share their daily encounters of their struggle with race, as the white adoptive parents of a transracial adoptee who is navigating his or her way in white spaces, while at the same time, often denying and starving their black and brown children from their ethnic birthright, culture, and images of people who reflect their identity.

Blog followers and news media platforms love these white transracial adoptive parents and will empathetically broadcast their story nationwide and give them space to talk about race because hearing it from a white man and a white woman who adopted transracially is way more validating than hearing it from black or brown men and women themselves or an interracial couple with kids.

These stories also fluff the White American image. That’s white privilege.

Black families don’t just worry about one child within their family but worry about each member in their family, from parents, to children to extended members like uncles, aunts, cousins and so on. #BlackLivesMatter

When I gave birth to my first born son, I mostly heard the term “mixed” from Black/African American women. They’d walk over to me when my son was an infant or a toddler sitting in the grocery cart and ask, “Is he mixed?” I knew what they meant. I certainly am not going to disrespect the women from my son’s culture. They had been living Black in America much longer than my son. They were not being mean or insulting. They were being friendly and I appreciated their social acceptance and kindness shown to me, rather than a bigoted look or indifference.

I prefer mixed a whole hell of a lot better than mulatto which sounded like another word from slavery. In addition, let us not forget that White people have been labeling Black people for years with their racial words, stripping them of power and rights and even disqualifying them as fully human.  

The truth is I had used the term bi-racial until I did my son’s DNA. I now know that my sons are not just African and European (black/white) American. Biracial “bi” denotes two. My sons also have a small amount of Asian and Native American Indian. They truly are of mixed-race ancestry.

 “Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.” Jerry Belson

When I was writing this, I asked my two sons how they self-identify. My 22 year old son that was parented by me identifies as a Black American or a Black man and prefers that over African American. My 21 year old son that was adopted out transracially by a white family identifies as African American. At the same time, they don’t tell me how I need to racially identify them as my sons.

As the speakers continued their conversation, I tried to focus more on them then the conversation side bar. The topics of discussion appeared to be geared towards those fostering, hoping to adopt, transracial adoptive parents, adoptees, and adoption professionals who are key factors in this industry. To be fair, I only attended day two of this keynote event.

This topic is important to me because my biological birth son was placed in a transracial adoptive family. I have been listening to, learning from, and advocating for adoptees for many years. But I am acutely interested in hearing the stories by transracial adoptees and adoptive parents.

Since I have my own years of lived experiences, in a mixed/interracial family, being the biological white mother of two sons with brown skin, one while parenting who was connected to both sides of his family, one while participating in open adoption through letters, emails, pictures, phone calls/txt, social media, overnight visits and shared family vacations over the years, I have unique awareness and insight within this topic. One that is often overlooked.

My son’s, whom was placed as an infant twenty one years ago into a white adoptive family that I chose for him, experience is very important to me. My choice gave him that experience. I not only live with my consequences that have impacted me, but also how my choice has impacted both of my sons; one son, as a transracial adoptee, and the other son, as a sibling living without his brother by his side.

It is like an unintended experiment that you didn’t plan to mix together while others were adding their crude elements without your permission that should have never been included in the concoction. Now all you can do is watch and monitor as it percolates and bubbles. You sit and wait, hoping that it doesn’t implode or explode, destroying anything, especially the ones you love.   

The Carroll’s shared their experiences as both a Black/African American couple living in America and as transracial adoptive parents. They shed light and brought awareness to those who may not have seen or experienced racial prejudices while navigating in American society. They were helping to expose our own biases and our naivety, to better prepare and guide those who have or who are seeking to foster or adopt transracially, and educate the professionals, who have a great amount of power handling these cases, make better choices.

It was truly refreshing to hear a Black/African American couple speaking on transracial adoption.

They also talked about their path to adoption through foster care. In these scenarios’, birth parents have little or no rights, so their voice has most often been silenced. However, I believe it is truly important when having these conferences and conversations, that we equally give voice to birth parents in some way.

Birthparents who have chosen transracial adoption for their child have every right to participate in these spaces. I attended two other conference events the same weekend, both female presenters, one of which was by an adoptive mother and a social worker, and they both paid tribute to birth parents/families. I felt valued. They showed empathy and importance to every role and voice in this complicated topic.

As a keynote speaker (a person who delivers a speech that sets out the central theme of a conference), this is probably the most important event where all guests attending feel included. When we don’t give a voice to certain roles in this conversation, we make them less human. We devalue them.

We must remember that without a birth parent, adoption does not exist. There is no singular story within adoption nor with one birth mother or father because most often, there was not one single event that triggered or caused a child to be forcibly removed, relinquished or even stolen from his or her family.

We have learned the great biases and systemic racism exist in our foster care system towards minority and/or poor families. Adoption should not be a solution for poverty. We need to find better ways to help care for families who are experiencing poverty rather than removing their children, intentionally forcing trauma, giving them to strangers, and then paying their new care providers a monthly subsidy.

As Americans, we all become financially responsible for foster kids for the rest of their childhood through our tax dollars. And possibly for the rest of their lifetime, depending on how badly the trauma impacted them. We pay child support every time a child goes into foster care. I would much rather my tax dollars help support a poor family of origin care for their children than to give child support to a foster family who could possibly have a higher income than me. I have seen it happen.

Obviously, we don’t want Americans abusing our system. Our economy works best when everyone is participating and contributing. There is a difference between giving a hand-up versus giving a handout. There are programs that help mentor parents become more educated and better equipped to manage their parenting role and financial stability. But we need more programs! When we participate in our own recovery and achievements, this brings pride and confidence. It makes us better equipped to handle those events if they occur again in the future.

On the other hand, we do not want any child to remain in an abusive home. No child should have to endure a childhood of abuse; physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or neglect. I watched the Gabriel Fernandez story on Netflix. I was in shock and disbelief. It seemed like everyone failed him! However, I also know that foster and adoptive children (Hart Family) have experienced some of the same horrors and fatal fate that Gabriel experienced. The hope that Gabriel could have been protected by foster or adoption care is one that I hold onto with optimism. Without hope, we have nothing. But even hope cannot provide any guarantees and sadly, neither does foster or adoption care.

Adoption itself is complicated. But transracial adoption has greater accountability. As a mother, I don’t want my sons to ever feel tokenized.

Hunting, Forgiveness, and Grace

My father (step father), James, turns seventy-nine this month.

I wrote about my father in my memoir and also on this blog. We had a troubled relationship no doubt. From the time I was a five year old girl to my middle aged years, our relationship has weaved in and out continuously with both positive and negative memories.

I won’t hash over all the things that I discussed before.  

Looking back, I would attribute most of the negative moments were caused by alcohol, minus the racial discord.

Our father had no previous parenting experience. He was a thirty year old bachelor when he married our mother of three children, ages five, seven, and nine.

While my two older siblings have given him a pass for the “no previous parenting experience”, I won’t.

As parents, we all have to do the hard work sometimes. We have to be the adults, the mature ones in the family. We have to try and teach our kids without demanding unrealistic expectations.

Disciplining our kids is part of being a parent. I have no issues with giving a free pass to my father on his strict parenting rules and for not being a perfect parent one hundred percent of the time. Lord knows, I was not a perfect parent. I sometimes acted out of emotional stress versus parental maturity to handle a situation. We learn, mature, and keep learning and growing.

Just when I thought my father could not learn or grow any more as a human, he did.

One thing that has become more apparent to me in my later years, is how much our father truly loves our mother. While there were times, as a child, that I had wished my mother would leave my step father, I am truly glad they were able to commit and make their marriage work and last, which is going on fifty years. I am glad that my younger brothers didn’t have to endure what the elder three children did.

In fact, it was because of my father’s love for my mother that helped us mend our broken relationship.

My younger brother and I wanted to have a seventieth birthday party for our mother with all her friends and family. My brother talked with Dad (his biological father), before we started planning it. We needed to be sure our father was on board. This was going to be the first time that my son and I would be present for a social family/friend event with my father. He had only met Jaren once very briefly the previous summer in passing. It was a five minute encounter.

That evening, as my mother’s birthday celebration was winding down, she invited me and Jaren to come back to the house and spend the night with her and dad.  

I was hesitant at first. I wasn’t sure we were that far into our relationship yet. I asked my mother, “Did you check with Dad first?”

My mother figured it was now or never and she wanted to take advantage of the moment. So we did. After twelve long years, I felt like family again.

The real moment came the next day.  

Growing up, we had hunting rifles standing in the corner of our living room. There was a deer head mounted on the living room wall. Our father went hunting every year and often went on weekend long hunting trips with his father, brother, and friends.

Hunting and fishing are a bonding experience for my father. He taught all his sons how to shoot. He even taught his daughters and grandchildren. This was one of his favorite hobbies and he enjoyed sharing this with his loved ones.

The next day, I had gone out for a couple hours to visit some old high school friends. I left Jaren with my parents. My nephew came over to visit. My father took my nephew (who already knew how to shoot) and my son out back to teach Jaren how to shoot a rifle.

Jaren has grown up in the city and the suburbs. While I know how to shoot a rifle and I am pretty good with standing targets, I had never taught my son how to shoot.

When I got home, my mother couldn’t wait to tell me about Jaren’s shooting lesson. I was shocked at first. I was like; you actually let Jaren hold a loaded rifle in his hand? My mother proudly said, “Jaren shot the target (a can) on his third try.”

She saved the can and showed me. The first one missed, the second one nicked the side of the can, and the third one shot through the center.  

My father has always had this presence about him. He can make any child behave without raising his voice or hand. His posture, his look, and his tone will make any child scared straight! I wish I had that skill but I don’t. He also has a cool, calmness about him. He was the perfect person to teach my son how to respect a gun and how to shoot one.

Dad’s rules: Never point a gun at another person, whether you think it is loaded or not. Be sure you know where you are aiming. And, if you are hunting, be sure you can see your target.

When I saw the pictures and how happy Jaren was to share that bonding moment with his grandfather, Poppy, and his cousin, it was a proud moment for me as well. I’m glad I wasn’t there. Hunting has mostly been a bonding experience for the males in our family. I’m glad they were free to experience this moment together, to bond, and to find their way into their new familial relationship.

That moment told me all I needed to know about my father. I no longer needed an apology or remorse from my father for all the missed years. I doubt I would have gotten one anyway. In my father’s own way, this was his apology.

Last year, I drove home with both of my sons, Jaren and Noah, for my nieces wedding. This was Noah’s first time to meet his grandfather. As we walked into my parents home, my father stood up, looked directly into my sons eyes, and shook their hands. The last night before we drove back to Texas, my parents invited us over for dinner. My father cooked his special shrimp dinner with moms homemade French fries for us, which has become a tradition as our last meal with my parents before going back home to Texas.

My sons have also shown such grace.

When I was a child, I couldn’t always see the love in my father’s eyes when he looked at me. Now as a fifty-seven year old woman, I see it when he looks at me, when he looks at my two sons, and when he looks at everyone in his family. I see how proud he is of his big blended family.

My dad has always followed a strong moral compass, even when that compass was faulty at times. But his morals to do right have always been stronger than his morals to do wrong.

Relationships are not always perfect because humans are not perfect. While my relationship with my step father has not always been easy, it also was not toxic. I know. Because my relationship with my biological father is and was toxic. And he has made no effort to grow.

In a weird way, I respect that my step father held onto his beliefs. One thing about my dad, he is not a fake or phony person. I knew where I stood with him and why he acted the way he did. He has strong beliefs. He will hold onto them as long as he feels justified. He is not one to put on a show for others. But once he has decided on something, he commits to it. His word is solid. And as he has said many times to us kids when we were growing up, “And you can take that to the bank.”

Happy Birthday, Dad and Poppy! We love you!

Adoption Triangle or Triad

I attended a virtual adoption conference last month. It was great to share space with so many others who understand your journey, either by personal experience or by empathy. It was a two-day conference with various events and guest speakers geared towards the “three” sides in adoption.

By that, I mean birth/biological parents, adoptees, and adoptive parents, also referred to as the triad. They also had professionals attending and people looking to adopt or foster and offered CEU credits for those who needed them.

One of the first terminologies I learned when I started my personal journey into adoption research, several years after I had relinquished my parental rights, was the triangle or triad reference.

One day, as I perused through Barnes and Noble, searching for a book on adoption, I found one called, The Adoption Triangle, by Arthur D. Sorosky, Annette Baran, Reuben Pannor. I remember reading the intro and looking over the topics and quickly becoming more interested because the book included birth/biological stories. I needed some insight desperately. I needed to understand adoption on a deeper level, outside my own experience.

Inside the pages, the authors shared stories and captured the various points or angles of those directly impacted by adoption, depending on their position on the triangle or within the triad. It was the first time that I felt validation for my emotional wellbeing and the impact adoption and relinquishment had on me.

Triad: a group or set of three connected people or things.

Until this weekend, I never questioned this terminology. It seemed like a simple explanation. It was widely accepted and used by professionals as well as many of us within the adoption community.

However, while I was sitting in a virtual conference listening to our guest speaker, Sharon Kaplan Roszia M.S., share her talk on, The Ethical Traps in Building Families Through Adoption and Permanency, I seemed to have an epiphany.

Sharon, a social worker and an adoptive mom, shared how much has changed in adoption, including her own views, over the years but then how other things still needed greater amount of change. She confessed how social services unevenly and unethically impact minority families, who often become victims of a flawed system. She spoke about how fathers are too often not included in the decision making of adoption. And lastly, she talked about the impact on siblings.

At this point, she had my full and undivided attention. It was wonderful and refreshing to hear someone with personal and professional experience talk about the unethical flawed system, racial bias and to include the importance of siblings.

Siblings have always been an important topic for me but one that rarely gets discussed. Too often the biological siblings don’t get to share their side of the adoption story.

I remember sharing with family and friends how I was not only concerned for Noah as an adoptee and the impact adoption would have on him over the years but I was also concerned for Jaren and how our family’s adoption experience would impact him over the years to come. I knew how devastating it was for me at times.

I remember discussing it with my mother once and she brushed it off, as if I was making a big deal or seeing something that wasn’t there. As if I was imagining a false reality. But she didn’t know my son the way I did. She saw him once every couple years. That is surely not someone who can make a fair analysis. It is a dangerous assumption.

People rarely shared the same compassion for Jaren when it came to adoption. Jaren was 20 months old when his brother left our home. While he was not able to communicate his feelings at that time, I have asked Jaren several times over the years (during different stages of his youth), how he felt about his brother being adopted. I wanted him to feel safe that he could talk to me anytime about his feelings. But, I never heard anyone else close to us ask Jaren how he felt. That says a lot. Why were his feelings not valued.

I think some people thought it better to ignore it rather than talk about it. Others thought since he and I had a relationship with Noah, that solved the issue. And lastly, I think some people believe that when a child is parented by his or her biological parent but another child wasn’t, that the child or children who remain with their parent don’t experience a similar emotional impact caused by adoption. It is a sad and flawed assumption. Loss and grief go hand in hand.

In my heart, I knew Jaren had been impacted too. I could tell when we talked with Noah and his family on the phone or visited with them. I knew how Jaren acted at home compared to how he acted when talking or visiting them. I knew how I was different as well. We both experienced anxiety. But I had no proof until recently when Jaren confessed to me. I knew one day I would be faced with the reality and impact of my choice from not just one son but two.

Even their father has confessed to me that a couple years after Noah was adopted, he had a nervous breakdown. I guess the guilt finally caught up with him and it became too much for him to bear.

While in my heart, I know if their father had responded responsibly, the outcome would have been different. My sons know this as well. However, in the end, I was the one with the pen.

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” ~ Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I neglected my sons the opportunity to have each other as siblings. I now understand I should have fought harder to keep them together.

Which brings me back to the adoption triangle or triad.

Most adoption triangle diagrams will show in varying degrees, only three entities on the adoption triad or triangle; birth/biological parent, adoptee/birth child, and adoptive parent. The three titles are almost always positioned on the outside of the triangle on each point or corner of the diagram. However, everyone knows there aren’t just three sides to adoption.

Adoption Triangle or Triad images

That’s when the light bulb went on. The result or cause and effect of adoption create sides, but the system itself is not a triangle or a triad. The system positions those involved in the transaction at opposites ends of the diagram. We are exchanging the loss. We are passing it from one corner to another. And truly, no one wants to maintain, manage, or carry the loss.

Side meaning: support or oppose in a conflict, dispute, or debate.

I thought all these years, the adoption industry and the persons who have been directly impacted by the act of adoption have been focusing on the three sides of adoption but there are not just three sides in adoption. Here we are advocating for the triad without transferring true power to the ones who truly need to maintain the power. Otherwise, those impacted by the result of adoption become powerless.  This has been a huge part of the advocacy that adoptees and birth parents have tried to reclaim over the last couple decades with more transparency and access to birth certificates.

The power has historically been held by the ones who control the spinner, the ones who make the decisions, pass the laws or who used their power to threaten, coerce, groom, or gaslight someone into an outcome that suited those in power, who benefitted the most from an adoption.

At the same time, historically, the spinners do their best to control the triangle and keep everyone separated and in their corners. They were the mediators. They had all the information and the power to release it or withhold it.

When adoptive parents and professionals began to see the issues in adoption and began to advocate for birth families and adoptees, society seemed to accept the information. But once we reclaimed our own voice, our advocacy became a bloody battle at times and a huge debate.

The three outside entities of the triangle or triad are at the mercy of anyone who is in control of the spinner, who ironically will walk away with no emotional or life-long impact or commitment to the process or to persons involved in said adoption.

Which got me to thinking, should we even have sides in adoption at all.

There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth.” Robert Evans

National Adoption Month 2020

November is nationally dedicated to Adoption. Throughout this month, we will hear conversations around varying degrees of experiences, some focused only on the forever family, others focused on the ones left in the shadow, some who wish to crush the “awareness” campaigns, others who want grow into awareness, some that appear polar opposites, others who hold onto rigid beliefs, and some whom become allies and advocates.

First, we must recognize there are two adoption themes in November. One that has “Awareness” in the title and one that does not. And even the ones that have Awareness in their title are not always advocating for true awareness.

These two adoption themes vary in their campaign goal; the original campaign was focused solely on the act of adopting. It was created to find permanent homes for children in orphanages or foster care. The original week-long adoption campaign in November, started in 1976 by a politician, Michael Dukakis, which was ironically just two short years after the first federal law passing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974.

This campaign was never about infant adoption. Parents seeking to adopt freshly delivered newborn babies greatly outnumbered infants available. Especially after the unwed mother homes went away. There is and has been a great demand on newborns. Sadly, adoption agencies also use the November campaign to help promote their agenda.

The other adoption month focuses on awareness and the impact, the history, the gender oppression, the ethics, the corruption, the race valuing, the needs of those who have no voice, the systemic racism, the greed, the power, the iniquity, the inequity, the inequality, the support and needs of an unplanned pregnancy (as one politician said, “the village”), the adoptees experiences, and the many changes that need to occur in the adoption industry.

Over the last couple decades, many adoption roles have joined forces to bring awareness.

I recently attended a conference. After the conference was over, I commented on an event page that I attended virtually and asked the presenter, Sharon, how her view of adoption evolved. Since Sharon worked as a social worker and oversaw adoptions in the 1960’s and 70’s and spoke about her advocacy and ethics and systemic racism in the social welfare system, I was curious to learn when and how she came to her new understanding.

I explained how my view has changed since the early days after my relinquishment and that I no longer believed in the “selfless-gift promo” that I shared in my memoir.

To be honest, I started writing my book within two years after my relinquishment which was originally published in 2002. I was still raw and numb. I was still weak and vulnerable. I was incredibly sad and grieving. I was in the process of healing and writing helped me in that process. I was still protecting those who had groomed me prior to giving birth and gaslighted me after.

I needed to believe in the God’s plan. I needed to believe I did the right thing, made the right choice. I needed to believe my son was a gift to be given. What appeared to be the right choice was in fact a façade.

Truth is, I realize now that I never truly wanted to choose adoption. It was my safety net in hopes that I would NOT need it. I knew that I did not want to be indebted to the adoption agency in any way. I was never 💯. Otherwise, I would have never brought home my son from the hospital. When loved ones began to show and express their disapproval and disappointment in my choice to bring home my infant and parent my children, it became unbearable and I wanted to fix it. I greatly needed to feel their support and love and approval again. I had almost lost them when I gave birth to Jaren. Our relationship was hanging on by a thread. With no commitment from my sons’ father nor his family, I had me and me alone to rely on.

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

Even after I republished my memoir in 2012, I did not change the previous chapters. I added a couple new chapters because the most common feedback I got from readers was they wanted to learn more about me, my story, and my childhood. They wanted to understand me better. I also added a chapter at the end because in ten years, there had been some updates to the story that I wanted to include.

Looking back, I had no reference, no counseling, no birthmother support groups to validate my feelings. And I worried about offending or jeopardize my relationship with my son and his parents. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. Birthparents in open adoptions and adoptees in open or closed adoptions are both told they should feel grateful or be thankful or that they are lucky. I heard this so many times over the years from family, friends, and coworkers. People have no idea how this comment makes us feel.

Sharon, the virtual conference presenter responded to my post and question so poignantly:

“Great question! I believe changes occurred as I got to know and really listen to adult adoptees and birth/first parents and hang out with them as well as watching my own children who joined the family by adoption and foster care as toddlers and teens grow through their various stages into adulthood. I also went through a period of heavy grief as I came to understand what was happening. I needed to forgive myself and others! A real eye opening journey I took during the seventies!”

I truly appreciated Sharon’s honesty and transparency.

I recently had a conversation with Jaren after watching this season’s new two hour “This Is Us” episode. I told him I wondered if the Concerned United Birthparents’ retreat had an impact on their producer, KJ Steinberg, who was a guest speaker at the retreat one year ago.

KJ Steinberg sat before a room full of mostly birthparents and adoptees and some adoptive parents. Real people! Real experiences! Real stories! I have to give KJ credit because she graciously and empathetically absorbed our heartbreaking stories.

As the hands went up and the microphone got passed around the audience, I had the opportunity to ask her a question. I told her about my sons and my role, and how both sons identify as Black or African American. And that one son was transracially adopted. I told her that I love the show and that my son and I watch it faithfully and that William is one of my favorite characters.

“This Is Us” told this beautiful story about William that America fell in love with despite his flaws. Why had they not told a story or developed a character of a birthmother? Like Randall’s therapist notated last season, the birthmothers “were cliff notes” to the storylines.

I pointed out, as I looked around the room, that even among our group at the retreat, there were very few birthfathers present. I asked KJ if we might hear more background stories about the birthmothers.

I told Jaren it seemed like George Floyd’s death (which they included in some scenes) and the #BLM movement also had an impact on how they were now telling Randall’s story and how they wanted to represent Black people and Black mothers. I wondered how much #CUB and #BLM impacted the new season.

It seemed like previously, the writers were telling two different stories about Black people. One where Black people in Black communities were poor, struggling, drug addicts, neglectful, and not sexually responsible. And then the story of Randall, a black infant, abandoned by Black parents, raised by white parents, as successful, educated, beautiful suburban home, married, a family man, good husband and father, as if those traits can only be learned and passed down by white parents. It is a grossly oppressive stereotype.

Jaren’s response was precise. He said “Does it matter?”

I was silent for a moment. I had to contemplate it. “Does it matter? Hmmm?”

I replied, “You are absolutely right, Jaren.” I said the most important thing is that when we become aware (whether we had our own awakening or came upon it with the help of others), of an issue, a negative thought or pattern, that we are able to change our perception, our thoughts, and our advocacy.

Whether we are talking about an adoption day, a week, a month, or even throughout the year, how will we support and advocate for those impacted by adoption? How will their stories get told and shared?

My hope is that we support advocacy and share awareness.

DFW Crossroads

One year ago, last September, after clocking out for the day, I walked down the hall to catch the elevator.

As I headed to the elevator and pushed the call button, the elevator doors slide open and a tall young man with a rolling suitcase and a puzzled look slowly exits the elevator. I wait for him to exit and then proceed to enter the elevator. I see him look over to his right and then over to his left like he does not know which way to go. As the doors are getting ready to close, I see him turn, facing the elevator and I realize he needs help. So I stopped the doors from closing, exit the elevator and we begin to converse.

I figured he may need help locating his floor or find an office. Although, seeing him coming off the elevator with a suitcase did catch me off-guard.

He asked me if this is the way to the airport terminals. He tells me he is flying out and needs to get to his gate.

I told him that he was not inside the DFW Airport but rather, he was inside an office building. I asked him how he got to our office? I figured he must of drove and parked inside our garage, then took the elevator up.

It is not uncommon for people to drive to our building looking for the DFW airport and terminals. However, usually we encounter them in the garage or on the service road as we are leaving and redirect them on their way. He said his driver dropped him off there.

I felt so bad for this young man, who was now stranded. I could tell he was young and he seemed vulnerable, lost.

I was angry at that driver. How dare he drop off a passenger in the middle of a very large complex with no safe way of walking to an exit or entering inside to the airport. Not to mention the time and security restrictions a passenger needs to get safely to their gate.

While our office is located at the DFW airport, we are not inside the airport. To get inside the DFW airport, you have to drive through the tollbooth. To get to our office, you have to drive on the service road. GPS software sometimes will get the location wrong. And it can be tricky for those trying to navigate with so many signs and options.

I knew there was no easy way, roads or walkways, that connect our building with the airport. In fact, the airport even has tall high security wire fences that resemble prisons.

Could he have called Uber or Lyft? Possibly. But again, locating our office can be tricky. In addition, this would have added time and another expense on top of what had already cost him. And I had no idea how much time he had to get to his gate. For me, it was 10-15 mins of my time. I told him I would take him to his terminal/gate.

I said, “My name is Karen.” He told me his name is Jaden. I thought, wow his name is similar to my sons. As we were walking through the garage towards my car, I joked with him halfheartedly but half serious, looking closely at his eyes, with a somewhat serious tone and said, “You are cool, right? We are cool, right? I don’t usually pick up strange men.” He chuckled and said. “Yes, ma’am.”

I also figured, worse case scenario, our interaction was recorded in the hallway at the elevator. My employer has camera’s both inside our office and outside in the hallway. So I would at least have a “last scene” location.

He too, needed to trust me, a complete stranger. We both called on trust and faith in a moments notice.

On our drive to the airport terminals, I learned that Jaden, who is from a small town in Florida. was away from home for the first time, in his first year of college in Corsicana, TX, also a small town of about 23,000 people.

Jaden had a death in his family, so he was flying home to be with them. He had hired a shuttle service he had located through the college, to drive him to the DFW airport, which is about 75 miles north of his college. The driver took the service road instead of taking the tollbooth road to the airport. The driver then stops at our building, (Jaden said the driver didn’t really know where he was going and basically tells Jaden he needs to get out there), and drops Jaden off at our first floor garage and drives off! He leaves this teenager, who is 1000 miles away from home, 75 miles away from his college, both are small towns, stranded with no where to go in one of the largest cities and largest airports in the United States.

I am piping-mad and so upset that a driver would do something like that. I told Jaden he needs to call the company of that driver and tell them what happened. I told him he should get a refund or at least get a partial refund. I told him that I would be more than happy to confirm his complaint. I even told him I would call them for him!

So yeah, maybe I wanted to drum up my “Karen” skills.

I kept thinking what if this happened to Jaren or Noah. He was close to their age. I would hope that someone would help them in their time of need and keep them safe to their next destination.

I dropped Jaden off at the terminal and got out to say good bye. We took a quick picture. And I even txt’d Jaden three days later to be sure he got home safely to Florida. He responded, he did.

While I still get irritated thinking about what that driver did, I also feel like it was divine intervention. I had an opportunity to help someone. It was like my motherly instincts just took over. Jaden needed a little help and I was in a position to do so. I kept thinking about Jaden’s mother. I wanted to be sure he got safely to his next destination so he could get home to see his family, his mother. I was doing my part, as one mother to another.

The next day, at the office, I shared my story with a couple co-workers. I even got to watch my interaction with Jaden on the video that captured everything. It was interesting to watch it unfold. I saw first hand, that it literally only takes one second to make a choice and make a difference.

I sent Jaden a txt today to see how he was doing and to ask him if he minded if I shared our story and our picture. Jaden gave me his permission and said, “I’m very fine with it.”

Then I sent Jaden a picture of me and MY two sons. I hadn’t told Jaden that I am a mother of two mixed race sons. It didn’t seem necessary or important at the time. Who I am should not be reflected by anyone else but me, as a person and by my actions.

I also had not shared this story or shared this picture on any social media. Only a couple co-workers and my son, Jaren knew. However, the time seems right to do so now.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/935me3/an-rnc-speaker-said-cops-would-be-smart-to-racially-profile-her-own-son

With everything going on in our country, and people like Abby Johnson, a white adoptive mom, saying that it would be “smart” for police to racially profile her own trans-racial, mixed-race, adopted son because “he’s going to grow up and he’s going to be a tall, probably sort of large, intimidating-looking-maybe brown man,” I felt it was time to share this story.

Nothing about Jaden’s size or skin color made him intimidating. I had initial concerns only because I did not know him at all! It was a chance encounter and I would have proceeded with caution no matter what the color, gender or age of the person. However, after being with Jaden a short time, I could see and feel his sweet and genuine nature.

I adore Jaden! In the brief moment we shared, he has made such a positive impression on me and I still think fondly of him one year later. I can only imagine how his family and friends must feel to share his presence. I know I have been honored and graced to do so.

I hope one day, when he finishes college and does great and important things, he will look back fondly on our chance encounter as a positive memory, knowing none of us can judge a book by it’s cover. And then pay it forward.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17

Jaden and Karen 2019 at the DFW airport terminal

Noise

My boss sent me a message the other day and said that while he and my coworker were talking, they noticed that communication had “oddly” gotten better with me and my coworkers since we have been remote. I felt a ping in my heart and a dig to my self esteem.

Oddly is the word that got me!

Merriam-webster

First let me say, I love my boss. He is one of the best I have worked for in my thirty plus years in corporate America. He does listen to my concerns and does genuinely try to accommodate me. However, he is a victim of the standard social construct and perception or oppression of the hard of hearing.

If a person’s inner ear is not functioning properly, that means they don’t have the same ability to process sounds accurately as those with normal hearing. It is not just missing a sound or word or the volume of the sound but it is the quality of the sound. It is not knowing where a sound came from or maybe not recognizing a sound.

For most of my life I have been the odd one. I was the only one of the five children in our household that was hard of hearing, HOH. I was probably the only one with hearing loss in most of my elementary classes, which made me feel isolated and odd at times. Accommodations, compassion, or protection was not provided for me within my own family, my classrooms, or my workplace. However, dismissive attitudes and rude or insensitive remarks easily flew out.

Communicating (and speaking), hearing, listening, and comprehending go hand in hand. When a person is hard of hearing, it impacts all of these functions, just like Parkinson’s disease impacts various aspects of a person’s mobility. We don’t blame the person with Parkinson’s disease for his/her inability to perform at the same level as others without this condition. So why does society continue to ask and require unequal standards on Hard of Hearing and Deaf citizens and blame us when there is a communication breakdown.

It really is no surprise that I function better at home or that I am able to communicate better. Open space work environments create various noise levels; keyboards tapping, people talking, doors opening\closing, papers shuffling, copier, phones, and so many other low vibrations that all work together to create the work environment, but can greatly impede our ability to function in the office. For those of us who are hard of hearing, it creates an even greater obstacle.

On the other hand, my home is very quiet. I primarily message or email coworkers and customers. I also have headphones that I use for one on one conversations with a customer or a coworker when needed and for our meetings that are usually accompanied with Zoom.

What I don’t have at home are coworkers interrupting my phone conversations (like I can hear the customer and my coworker at the same time), or talking over others, or having several employees shouting over cubes, having loud conversations, nor do I have to manage conversations with multiple speakers and quickly changing topics, all of which are sounds competing with each other while my limited inner ear hearing ability tries to decide which sounds it will register and send to my brain for processing and which ones are inaudible and it cannot decipher. I don’t have to try and play catch because someone decided to start having a conversation with me before letting me know they were talking to me. Just for the record, I cannot work and listen at the same time. I don’t have that privilege. I either listen or I work.

I don’t have to play office politics and fear offending someone (yes, they get an attitude with me for explaining) because they don’t understand hard of hearing people. Or feel misunderstood because I cannot keep up with the rapid conversations or quick wit that invokes laughter (I am still trying to hear the punchline or missed it all together) that some take as me being unsociable, or “not trying to fit in”. All of which, causes stress, migraines and can make me very irritable.

It is difficult for a hard of hearing person in open space offices. Being remote in my quiet home is so much less stressful. My sound log is greatly reduced, which are less sounds to hear, and less sounds to process.

For me, because I have damaged inner hair cells, it means when sounds bounce off my hair cells, three things happen; it will produce no sound (deaf), a modified sound quality, or a lower\reduced sound volume (hard of hearing). I have NO normal hearing in either ear. And while I do wear hearing aids, hearing aids cannot reproduce or magnify a sound that is silent. Nor can it make a damaged hair cell sound normal.

New technology is advancing quickly in audiology and has been able to make sounds more crisp and identifiable, blocking out some sounds for some programs built within the hearing aid.

I remember the first time I got hearing aids. I had been hard of hearing all my life so I had no comparison to what normal hearing was. My own voice was louder and clearer and I also could hear other voices better. While I have talked to my mother many times in person and on the phone, I felt like I was hearing her true voice for the first time. I remember telling her how beautiful her voice sounded to me.

However, modern medicine has not found a way to surgically repair the inner hair cells inside a human’s ear. When they are gone or damaged, it is for life. This is why medical professionals warn us about headphones and their concern for our children’s hearing health.

Have you ever looked inside a piano? It is a complicated mechanism that all work together to create the sounds for a great pianist. When those inner parts of the piano are not working properly or are not ALL in tune, what happens? Some keys may produce beautiful sounds. Some may not resonate any sound. And others may produce a lower quality or a sour note.

Now imagine having to explain which key equals which note solely based on sound and not looking at the keys. How do you think after a few hours of doing this you might feel? Somewhat frustrated? How do you determine a note if you cannot see nor hear the note being played? Now imagine having to do this for hours, at school or work every day. This is what conversations are like for the Hard of Hearing and Deaf.

Each time a hard of hearing or deaf person enters into mainstream society, we process our surrounding sounds differently than normal hearing people. We even process them differently than each other. No two HOH people are the same.

https://www.hear-it.org/prejudices

It is time for society to change their perception of what it means to be hard of hearing. It is not only an image of a senior citizen, or a sign of getting older, or someone who has “selective” hearing, or “hears what they want to hear”, nor are they “slow”, or “spaced out”, or “not paying attention”, or “not listening”, or has a problem “communicating effectively”. Nor did you “confuse” them because they did not hear your comment. All terms I have personally heard said to me among many others.

Lastly, we don’t need “normal hearing” people to explain the difference between deaf and hard of hearing or downplaying our experience. We know the difference much better than anyone with normal hearing. It would be like a white person telling a light skinned black person how much harder racism impacts darker shades of skin color. Or a person with two arms telling someone with one arm, how hard it must be for those with no arms. It is dismissive to what we encounter on a daily basis.

I love numbers because numbers don’t lie. Glad to see these findings in this article below of how noise impacts everyone!

12 Ways Noise Affects Employee Wellbeing Health Productivity:

“Workers in open plan offices take 70% more sick days than home workers.”

https://resonics.co.uk/12-ways-noise-affects-employee-wellbeing-health-productivity/?fbclid=IwAR0NZfOO5__1gQC0FYMi1-4cPkVbslz4g3jl06j3JKhfmfoz9RUI30-1cbc

Honoring the History of Women

March is Women’s History Month. While we have so many extraordinary women to honor for their accomplishments and contributions to our society, as well as their bold and pioneering efforts to change gender perceptions, I want to share a different kind of story about women and our history.

Looking back historically over a century or more, women have experienced moral and gender oppression. Every move and choice and decision came with great debate and heated warnings of penitence and verdict. It was thought that women were not capable of making good choices even over the simplest of things, whether she was a pauper or a princess. Married women fared better than spinsters but still her power was not her own. And any woman who found herself pregnant, single, and abandoned had even less rights, greater penitence, and a whole lot more to lose.

Women from our past did not have a choice because making a choice came with grave consequences. Women were considered property and came with a dowry. Parents sold their daughters and chose their husbands. If they refused to abide by their parent’s arrangements or their husband’s rules, they were punished or even worse, thrown out in the streets. Once abandoned, her future was bleak and many chose handmaid or harlot.

“Where are the men who make these girls what they are?” Charlotte demanded. “Go find them in our business marts, drawing rooms, and churches…Men are getting rich on the toil and tears of famishing women and children.” Charlotte Ouisconsin Van Cleve

The Bethany Home for Unwed Mothers Fighting for the-Fallen

Clergies and Politicians played their game of chess very well and women were the pawn. They stacked the deck, dealt the cards, set the standards, and made laws that enforced an unequal society that promoted males over females. By controlling women, it allowed a patriarchy ruled society to continue to rein over a matriarchy one. We are talking about the difference between two letters, M versus P.

“It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the fight for full equality won. It has just begun.” Alice Paul

The 19th Amendment was a great victory, empowering women to participate in politics. And by all accounts, the ink dried, the stone set, and the event has been memorialized. But Alice was correct. So many other rights were still just waiting to be challenged, heard, accepted, and granted; like the right to work, equal pay for equal work, obtain a bank account, access to credit, file for divorce, reside independently, have access to birth control, or the right to single parent your own child.

The stranger than fiction story of Christine Collins, where her son goes missing in 1928 and the Los Angeles police try to convince her they have found her son. In fact, they gave her a boy, a Changeling; that was not her missing son. When she insisted that the boy was not her son, Christine, a single mother, gets arrested and sent to a psychiatric ward.

“They had the final word. They could easily say ‘You’re emotional. You’re a woman. You’re a mother. You’re not thinking clearly,’ and a lot of people at that time would say, ‘That’s right.'” Angelina Jolie.

I have often asked myself why women had to fight so hard to gain equal access and rights… to be treated with respect and dignity. Why did we need permission to have dominion and make decisions? Equal rights should include everyone, no matter our gender, race, salary, marital status, or zip code.

By the mid-1900’s, it wasn’t enough that girls had to live up to their parents and religious morals. Females had advertising images that set standards which wives, mothers, and daughters often felt pressured to maintain.

For women of color, America imposed even greater restrictions.

Society began to classify females as good girls or bad girls; Mary or Medusa. Good girls make good choices…the right choices. Good girls don’t act this way or that way. Good girls don’t curse, get drunk, or get tattoos. They don’t have sex. And most importantly, good girls don’t get pregnant unless they are married.

Bad Girls

On the other hand, sons were praised for their sexual prowess and could bed as many women as he pleased. For every sexual encounter a female had, it was a strike against her. For each notch on the belt a male added, it was a conquest. Females were held to different standards and the consequences were far greater. Is it any wonder it took so long for society to understand rape. #MeToo

This made for a very ripe Adoption industry. There was a huge stigma against unmarried women who “got” pregnant and society blamed them. Mothers often felt they could not parent their child without a husband, unless it was after a divorce or death. So unless she married the father of her child, or had an arranged marriage with another man who was willing to make her an honest woman (a good girl), rarely did mothers come home from the hospital with her baby in her arms.

Pregnant, Catholic, and Unmarried

There was deep shame associated with unmarried women getting pregnant. Homes were solely dedicated to them and named in their honor, almost like a curse bestowed on them. They were considered fallen women just for having sex and conceiving. Families had great fear of anyone finding out that their daughter had sinned greatly. Sons seemed to be absolved.

Babies were birthed from their mother’s womb and taken from her body. Her societal shame transferred onto her innocent child, born and stamped illegitimate.

A Girl Like Her

The nurses, nuns, and social workers were callous towards these women. They implied unmarried mothers were bad girls and married women hoping to adopt were good girls and believed separating an unwed mother from her child would absolve their shame and sin.

Catholic Church Apologises for Role in Forced Adoptions Over 30 Year Period

A worse fate was foretold for those wanting to keep their babies. Mothers were presented with a gloomy future for her and her child but promised a better life for her child in the hands of adoptive parents, a promise no one could guarantee. Her only choice was relinquishment. This is not a true choice. A choice indicates there is more than one viable option. More importantly, their babies had no choice. Babies were going to be born and their fate was at the hands of strangers; social workers, politicians, and clergy. And mother’s had no say. They were forced to follow a superficial society.

In 1970, adoptions reached their peak, with approximately 175,000 taking place each year, and 80 percent arranged by agencies.”

History of Adoption

While abortions were already legal in some states, Roe vs Wade argued to the Supreme Court in 1971, re-argued in 1972, and decided in 1973 in a landmark decision granted all women in every state the right to choose how she wanted to handle her pregnancy. It also provided a more medically safe and sterile process. That same year, there were 615,831 abortions performed.

Abortion in the United States

“When the United States first became independent, most states applied English common law to abortion. This meant it was not permitted after quickening, or the start of fetal movements, usually felt 15–20 weeks after conception.”

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was made into law in 1974.

Just four years later, 1978, the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was passed after large amounts of Native American children were separated from their families and tribes to be placed in foster care or sent to boarding schools in attempts to destroy their Native culture.

U.S. History of Forced Separation of Native American Children

I find this all very interesting.

First, that the United States had no federal law to protect children until 1974! And then, from 1971 to 1978, in just seven years, we had the highest adoption rate in U.S. history, we legalized abortions, and more and more unwed mothers were choosing to single parent.

Number of Children Living With a Single Mother or Single Father

It almost seemed like America needed to discover new ways to procure infants and children.

Empowering women to have dominion over their own bodies is a concept that we have yet to achieve. The ink may be dry but this law continues to be nationally debated with heated opinions. And it is not about female rights but rather the rights of the embryo or fetus. And so once again, the rights of the female become secondary.

An embryo is an unhatched offspring until about the 8th week of pregnancy and measures at approximately 0.6 inches. An embryo is termed a fetus at about 11 weeks of the pregnancy and measures at about 1.6 inches.

Per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority of abortions in 2016 took place early in gestations: 91% of abortions were performed at < 13 weeks’ gestation.

Data Stats – Abortion

Up until the 10th week, if a female has a miscarriage, she may or may not know she miscarried. Not until 10-12 weeks is a D&C recommended.

D and C Procedure After Miscarriage

So in essence, up until two – three months of pregnancy, a women can miscarry at any time and the remains inside her body could discard into the toilet or onto her sanitary napkin which ends up in the trash and she is not required by law to bury or cremate her unhatched offspring or fetus.

However, if she chooses to end her pregnancy at a medical facility in Indiana at any time in her pregnancy, Indiana law requires her to bury or cremate the remains. Many other states are trying to pass this same law.

Here’s Why Fetal Burial Legislation is Surging in the States

Open adoptions started in the latter part of the 1970’s. It was supposed to fix and improve adoption. It was believed open adoptions promoted truth and transparency and was better for children/adoptees rather than secrets and obscurity. Closed versus Open became a debate.

About a decade later, adoption agencies began promoting “open” in their campaign slogans, switching shame tactics with empowerment. Times were changing. Instead of dragging daughters off to an unwed mother’s home, more pregnant females began seeking help for themselves. Open adoption was a way to give them more confidence about their choice, implying mothers had power in choosing. But it was a forged and temporary power. It was a bait and switch.

Scared? Confused? Unplanned pregnancy? 

Actual Ad:

Adoption Ad

But “open” in adoption can be misleading. Each open adoption is defined differently. There is no one size fits all nor is there a standard arrangement. More importantly, most states do not have legal open adoption agreements. It is a verbal promise between two families.

Open Adoption Agreements Legally Enforceable

Adoption agencies like to publicly promote that they advocate for pregnant mothers. However, this applies to women who proceed with the adoption plan and relinquish their parental rights. Very few really want to help a mother become a parent to her child. Want to know how I know this? I visited a 100-year-old non-profit adoption agency that has dedication walls in their lobby with adoptive and birth family testimonials. I have read countless adoption website blogs and testimonials. I have yet to find one who features a mother giving a testimonial to an adoption agency, thanking the agency for supporting her choice to parent. What I have found are agencies who boast about their adoption success rate.

Think about it. It is not surprising. Adoption agencies do not want to advertise how many times a mother or father changes their mind. That may deter customers from using their services, right?  Let’s be honest, we know where their allegiance lay. It is called an adoption agency for a reason. Adoption is their business, not taking care of pregnant women. And so, too often, women who are poor, lacking resources, scared, alone, or who have fallen on hard times respond to an advertisement that says, “We are YOUR advocates.”

Once a mother’s baby has been born, it can become a very coercive environment. Adoption counselors will go to great lengths to ensure the new mother proceeds with her original plan. They will show up at the hospital unannounced or uninvited. What appears as advocacy pre-birth soon turns into obstruction post-birth. At this point, there’s no fork in the road for these mothers. It is a dead end street and you either give up your child or you fight like hell to get past the protesters and barricades who want to keep you cornered until you surrender. Checkmate!

Fighting for Rights After a Forced, Unethical Adoption with CUB founder, Lee Campbell

We should ask ourselves, why would anyone feel they need to convince a female to proceed with an adoption plan? Why would they praise her as brave for choosing adoption, then as thoughtless for choosing to parent? Why would strangers wanting to adopt someone else’s baby hold more value than a child’s own mother? Why should it matter that she considered adoption pre-birth, and then changed her mind post-birth?

This reminds me greatly of everything the #MeToo movement strives to change in how women are treated. Is this any different than a female who is alone with a man, who continues to ask her for sex, who continues to press up on her, or continues to force himself on her even though she has changed her mind and has said no several times? No means no! Apparently the adoption community and society in general has not caught on yet.

A woman who claims rape has to be accountable for her behavior, her outfit, and her previous sexual encounters so society can label her as victim or vixen. Likewise, adoption has an unequal judicial system too and it is any mother who changes her mind about relinquishment.

Once relinquishment papers have been executed, you have signed over your child to the agency and your baby becomes their property. Even if you have second thoughts and come back two hours later thinking I should not have done that, it’s too late. The law will allow a marriage to be annulled but, in most cases, will not allow a relinquishment to be undone. Both are emotionally based choices, one based on passion, the other based on fear. The trauma and the cost are far greater for the latter.

After you give legal and physical custody over to the agency, your baby is their property and your infant has been reduced to a commodity. That may sound cruel but it is true. I have legal documents to prove it.

If a parent signs over their parental rights to an adoption agency (a business) making them no longer their child’s parent, who then is the parent of that child? A business or non-profit cannot be a parent of a child. A business has associates and assets, not children. Likewise, if the state gains custody of a child, then that child is a ward of the state but the state is not the parent of that child. Once an adoption agency has legal possession of your child, they are going to do everything within their power to retain that asset because that baby is their income that keeps them in business and pays their bills and salaries. Each newborn infant brings them up to $50k. Upon receipt of payment, only then will they hand over your baby to their client.

“I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain. The intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain,” Audre Lorde 

Abortion and adoption debates are presented as contrasting choices. They have been battling it out for several decades. People assume if a female chose abortion, she hated babies and if she chose relinquishment, she hated motherhood. Others believe the opposite of abortion is adoption and the opposite of adoption would have been abortion. They paint abortion clinics as hell and adoption agencies as heaven. Neither is true.

I am thankful that I was able to get safe and legal abortions and I am still pro-choice. But I respect those who aren’t. I feel it is good to have a Yin and Yang, a right and left, a top and bottom, and an up and down in society. Day and night are opposites. Is the sun more beautiful than the moon? Are stars more beautiful than clouds? I am sure people could debate it but it would not make one true or one false. I think of it like a pendulum or a see-saw, a give and take, a sharing of the power, a democracy.

But I am concerned about the inconsistencies of this political debate and the selective morality. If there are grieving women who regret abortion, I promise you, there are equally grieving women who regret adoption. For some, trauma comes to both. For others, they feel no regret.

Women who experience an unplanned pregnancy sit and watch while everyone else has an opinion about how she decides or decided to handle her pregnancy. Does anyone ask her what she truly wants or needs? No, because a mother is a female and a female cannot make choices for herself and her family.

Too often, the same people who praised a female for changing her mind about her pregnancy and not choosing abortion will then disparage her for changing her mind about parenting and not choosing adoption. Even when she has pleaded with tears in her eyes that she cannot leave the hospital without her infant or that she does not want to relinquish her rights to her child, they still do everything within their power to coerce or convince her otherwise. Does that sound like a woman who has rights? Does that sound like a female who is respected to make a choice for her and her family? Or does it sound like others are still oppressing and controlling the choices of women? Ironically, this mind game is often dished out by other women.

The issue is not just about unethical practices by adoption agencies. The issue is about gender oppression. From the moment we are born, before we are anything, we are first a boy or a girl. Females get pregnant. They are the ones walking through the doors asking for help.

“The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: “It’s a girl.” Shirley Chisholm

Rarely were fathers notified or involved in the process of the mid-1900 Baby-Scoop era adoptions. They were called Unwed Mother Homes, not Unwed Father Homes. DNA was a great advancement in family genealogy. No longer could a male claim, “I don’t know if it is my child.” Even still, agencies have been known to go to great lengths to avoid getting fathers involved and have even moved pregnant mothers to states that do not require a father be served a notice of relinquishment. Adoptive parents are sometimes aware of this tactic. Why is that? Because they know that they will not be able to manipulate a male as easily as they can manipulate a female.

More importantly, we should ask ourselves why women feel they need to choose abortion OR adoption over parenting. Why is our society more apt to support wealthy married couples than underprivileged single mothers? Why do states and government offer greater incentives for adopting a newborn rather than to the child’s own single parent once his/her baby is born? Politicians want to remove a women’s right to have an abortion but they do not want to offer her an incentive to carry on with her pregnancy, or fight on her behalf for custodial support from an unwilling father. Instead, they suggest adoption. Adoption is not a replacement for abortion.

Texas Adoptees have been battling antiquated laws for several decades to gain access to their original birth certificate. So far, only nine states have unrestricted access. It would seem as U.S. born citizens themselves; adoptees would inherit the same rights as any other infant born here, right? I mean, if an embryo or fetus has more rights than their mother, why wouldn’t an adoptee?

American Adoption Congress

Now, politicians are telling adoptees that they are protecting the women who relinquished. Politicians say they need to protect our identity and our right to privacy. They fear mothers may re-experience shame, the same shame that THEY inflicted on us by their harsh criticism and inaccurate assessment of who we were as human beings.

Over and over, throughout history, society has oppressed females. They fought us on every Women’s Rights issue. They took our children and shamed us for doing so. They reluctantly gave us a choice but besieged us when we needed an abortion. They have threatened to reverse Roe vs Wade, removing a Women’s Reproductive Right to choose. And now, they tell our children who we gave birth to that they cannot give them their original birth certificate because they are protecting a Women’s Right to privacy. Oh, now we have rights? How convenient!

We are in unprecedented times with the threat and pandemic of COVID-19. This has impacted us all in unique ways. And during uncertain times, no doubt, unplanned pregnancies will continue to occur. We must not allow others to hold our tongue, write our story, or control our choices. We must not allow Women’s Rights or Women’s History to come secondary to someone or something else. We must take time to honor our tenacious women, their history, their stories, and their contributions to society itself and to the betterment of future generations of women. As well, let us honor the women whose story is rarely told but who are intricately woven into the historical fabric of this nation’s history. Let us honor her today.

“Jane Roe is every woman who’s ever been denied anything in her whole life, because we’ve all been denied something at some point, so we’re all Jane Roe’s.”  Norma McCorvey aka Jane Roe of Roe vs Wade

Updated May 23, 2020

National Adoption Awareness Month 2019

I have read many blogs and articles by adoptive parents and adoptees. It astounds me to hear some of the comments and questions they are faced with as transracial families. Especially since I myself have a mixed race family and have never been asked directly or heard statements that many transracial families have heard. Partly, I think because White adoptive parents maintain their White social groups whereas mixed race families usually have expanded their racial social makeup.

I experienced this first hand one time while visiting Noah’s family in NE.

Sunday morning, we went to their church. I was introduced to one couple with an explanation of who I was. It seemed they had previously been informed of our open adoption relationship and wanted to learn more.

They, who appeared to be White, were married and raised a family, bio kids, who were now grown. They were now fostering a young boy who looked Latino. I think they were about to move from fostering to adoption. But I think they also wanted to maintain a connection with the boy’s mom.

Noah’s parents wanted to invite them over for dinner later that day. They let me know the couple wanted to spend more time with us. While I felt like an experiment, I knew it could impact this young boy and it was worth doing what I could to help.

They came for dinner with their young son.

After dinner is when things got interesting. The guys were downstairs watching TV in the basement. Upstairs, adoption soon became the topic. I started out learning that the husband of the couple was an adoptee himself. His siblings were also adopted. The wife began to talk about their race/ethnic guessing of her husband. She said that they (her husband’s parents and them) think he “may” have Latino or Hispanic. Then she begins to discuss the adopted brother of her husband and in a different tone says they “suspect” he has Black in him.

The words caught me instantly! I am sure no one else thought anything of it. I thought, wow, the brother who could possibly be Black is already a “suspect” without doing anything but being born. Why did she change her words from “may have Latino” to “suspects he is Black”? It’s not like HE was hiding is race. Was it because the agency purposefully withheld this info or truly didn’t know? Or because if the adoptive parents knew, they would not have adopted him? This was probably in the sixties so a different time no doubt. Did the possibly Black brother need to hide his Blackness in order to maintain his place in the White family?

Noah just happened to come upstairs in the middle of this conversation. I became immediately concerned about the impact on him. I looked at him and tried to interpret his facial expressions and body language. Even though I am not his parenting mother, I am still his mother and worry about him as an adoptee and a mixed race male.

Then the conversation turns to transracial adoption. The wife then drops the bomb.

She said (while referencing to Black/African), “We could never adopt a child of mixed race.” She went on to say that she thought raising a child of another race would be too hard. As she said the final too words, Noah looks directly to her and said, “too hard” in sync with her. My heart sank. I was dumbfounded and speechless. I could not believe she made this statement in front of my son or in front of me.

I began to wonder how often my son Noah had to endure comments like this. What message is this saying to him? Raising him is more challenging than raising White kids?

Then she looks at Noah’s mom and provides praise to her for raising a mixed race adoptee. Noah’s mom just silently stares at her.

And here I am, standing among this group as the microaggressions of racism seep out into this conversation and not one considers the impact on me or my son. Should I feel more ashamed for organically conceiving mixed race kids and birthing them or for relinquishing my rights to one so a White family could raise him in a difficult and bias world. To be honest, it is the latter. But this was the first time I was made to swallow the rife first hand, as if I was subhuman.

Thankfully, Jaren was downstairs. And I wonder if he was present, would the conversation have even veered in that direction.

These conversations are not something I have encountered as a parenting mother of a mixed race son. Nor have I heard someone tell Jaren that they couldn’t raise mixed race children because it would be too difficult. Nor thank me in front of Jaren for raising a mixed race son as if my role was superior to that of any other mother or father parenting their child. What an awful burden to place on a child.

These conversations are for White folks who feel safe in White spaces. I look back at this conversation and get angry with myself. I wish I had stuck up for myself and my sons. I should have explained that I am proud to have mixed race sons. They were conceived out of deep love and passion for their father. And nothing about their race makes it difficult for me to parent. I am fiercely protective of both of them.

Being Black should never be something to hide or feel ashamed of. Nor should a child be made to feel guilty for being born Black, or told their race or “blackness” makes life more difficult for their family.