Setting Privileges

In ONE week at work, yes in one week, I heard comments that would make my jaw drop and leave me stumped for words.  Some comments were directly against the Ethics Code of Conduct.  Others fall somewhere in between.  The comments came from various people; male, female, Black/African American, Latino, and White.

The first comment I heard was during our department’s holiday dinner at a local restaurant.  As we were waiting on our meals, one of the ladies began to throw shade at the employee who was in charge of organizing our holiday celebration because she wrote “Holiday Party” instead of “Christmas Party” on the email invite.  I was surprised.  Especially, because Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas this year.  Did she assume that everyone at our table was all of christian faith, that we all celebrate Christmas?  Or did it not matter to her?  I wondered if she ever looked at our corporate holiday calendar in Florida where they have off for Rosh Hashanah and other Jewish holidays.  While we don’t have those holidays off in our state, our corporation does recognize and honor the importance of other religious holidays besides christian holidays.  I wondered if she knew that my department has an employee who is Muslim, who does not have any paid holiday leaves for his religious holiday.  In addition, his religious holiday comes and goes without much to-do as I am almost certain that many do not even know what spiritual holiday he celebrates or when.  On the other hand, those of us who celebrate Christmas have at least a month long nationwide celebration and some still feel the need to complain?

The next comment was about adoption.  While in the ladies room at work, I ran into a coworker that I used to sit across from.  I asked her about the kids and her baby that she had given birth to a couple years prior.  She said the kids were all good and that the baby was now three and then jokingly said he was handful and bad.  We both laughed, knowing the challenges of toddlers.  Then she asked me if I “wanted him” because she was about to give him away for adoption.  That comment left me speechless.  I was at a loss for words.  She does not know my story, that I am a birth mother who relinquished her parental rights and gave my son away for adoption.  And while I know she was joking, her comment was no joke to me.  I thought about my son and all adoptees.  I wondered if he was in that room and heard that comment, what message it was saying to him.  That a child who is bad will be given away because their parents don’t want them anymore?  I certainly did not choose to relinquish my son to adoption because I didn’t want him.  And sadly, when I shared this experience with a coworker she confessed that she has made that exact comment about her adolescent son and has heard others say the same.  I agree.  I heard that statement thrown around jokingly in my younger years.  But now it’s different.  I can’t help but think how careless our words can be or how unthoughtful we are to make jokes about children who are surrendered, orphaned, abandoned, and fostered due to unfortunate circumstances.  None of which are because they are bad children.

Next, the topic was about the criminal justice system.  My supervisor was talking about her upcoming jury duty.  This began much chatter on the floor.  Coworkers began laughing and making jokes.  One coworker said they [the person on trial] were guilty and that our supervisor should give them “the chair”; so much for the fair trial theory, for an unbiased jury to gather the information and deliver a fair verdict.  On a personal level, my coworkers do not know about my father, his crime, or his imprisonment.  While my father may have been very far away in a prison cell, he was alive.  I wonder if my life would have been different if he had been executed for his crime.  As a child, would that have impacted me differently?  I don’t think people can understand what that’s like to be the child of a convicted felon and truly comprehend how the general population views your convicted parent.  Although they were not talking about my father directly, they were speaking about his actions.  I have very mixed feelings about this topic.  While it was difficult to not have my father around, I am glad he served his prison sentence.  While I wish he would have never got involved in this crime that caused tremendous emotional impact on our whole family, I am glad he was not sentenced to death.

Lastly, I asked a new co-worker how she liked working for our company.  She shared with me her thoughts and then she began to share with me about her previous job and the reason she left.  She talked about her old boss and then called him a “fag”.  She quickly followed up by saying she didn’t hate gay people but…

I was trying to gather my thoughts and grapple for words in this conversation.  I have family members who are gay.  More importantly, this person does not know me well enough to know whether or not I am gay.  It never ceases to amaze me how people who have been discriminated for their gender, their religion, their race can then turn around and use such discriminatory words or actions towards another group.  How can we ever move forward if we cannot see outside our bubble?

setting-privileges-2

I recently had to call into the IT department.  When I did so, the tech asked me to find “Setting Privileges”.  Then he began to inform me what I needed to do for my computer to recognize which privileges I needed in order to perform my daily task.  I thought about that and how that related to the human population.   Are we born and programmed with certain privileges?  And, do those preset privileges enhance or diminish our social status?

Our country?

Our race or cultural?

Our economic class?

Our religion?

Whether we were born gay or not?

Whether we were born with special needs or a disability or not?

Whether we were born into our family or adopted into our family?

These are just some.  There are still more that can factor into our privileges and human experience.

But, should our privileges give us the right to make fun of others?  Should they give us power, control, or a sense of entitlement?

In computing,privilege is defined as the delegation of authority over a computer system. A privilege allows a user to perform an action. … Users who have been delegated extra levels of control are called privileged.

Privilege (computing) – Wikipedia

Advertisements

(Guest Post) Noah’s Mom Shares Her Adoption Story

It’s that time of year again.  As each week gets closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I find myself feeling a little bit mistier and mistier.  It’s been 17 years since we grew our family through adoption.  Our younger son came into our lives toward the end of December of 1999.  How does a family living in Central Wisconsin connect with an adoption agency and family from Texas?  The story itself is a long one, but the short version is, it’s a “God thing.”

We were a family of three.  My husband, Paul, and I had been married close to seven years before we had our oldest son, Alex, in 1991.  He was our first little miracle.  I had wanted to adopt children since I had been in high school.  After a few more years of trying to have a second child, we continued to have no luck.  It was then, that my husband and I decided to look into adoption instead of continuing down the road of having another biological child.  We prayed about the decision.  Paul and I were getting older and we did not know if adding to our family was God’s plan, but we felt drawn to go through with the application and the home study.  We felt if we didn’t take this step, God couldn’t answer one way or the other.

Shortly after deciding to go forward, our family met with a local agency that specialized in foster care and adoption.  The actual process was quite complex.  Each of us needed to complete large amounts of paperwork as well as be interviewed.  A long series of events took place and time went by, but finally, in June of 1999 we completed our home study.  We were so excited and filled with anticipation.

One day during that summer, I was taking a walk with a very good neighbor friend of mine.  We walked and talked and chatted about everything under the sun.  Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of completing the adoption paperwork and the home study came up.  My neighbor was surprised since she didn’t know our family was looking into adoption.  She mentioned that she had several sisters living in Texas and one of her sisters had a close friend who had adopted several special needs children through an agency in the Dallas, Texas area.  My friend wondered if she could give my name to her sister and have her give me a call sometime.  We hadn’t heard much from the local agency that we were working with, so I said sure.  I didn’t expect that it would necessarily lead to the adoption of a child from Texas, but I was always on the look out for more insights and information about adoption in general.  I thought it would be great to talk with someone who had been through this process.

My friend’s sister called a couple of weeks later.  She asked if it would be ok to have the family friend who had adopted these children give me a call.  A few days after that, I spoke with this “friend of a friend” who had adopted special needs children.  This entire string of events eventually led to contact with the adoption agency in the Dallas area.  One of the first things that went through my mind, and that of my husband, was to make sure this agency was valid.  We contacted our local agency and filled them in.  They made some contacts and assured us that all was good.  Our next steps included making a book about our family and completing more paperwork.

It wasn’t long, after all of these events occurred, that the adoption agency in Texas contacted us with a potential expectant mother and wondered if we would be interested.  We said that yes, we were interested.  Our anticipation began to grow.

A series of conversations and events took place over the next several months.  At times, things were “on again, off again” with the expectant mother, Karen and her baby.  As December grew closer, Paul and I spoke with our respective places of work “just in case” we would need to be gone.  Since this would be an inter-state adoption, it required staying in the baby’s home state for a specific number of days.  The caseworker also let us know that since this could be taking place during the holiday time, there might be some extra delays.

One December day, while at work, I received a phone call from the adoption agency in Texas that this baby boy had been born.  My husband, Paul, and I were elated!  We shared a little bit with our son, Alex, but didn’t want to say too much since we knew how quickly things could change. The caseworker said it was ok to go ahead and make plans to come to Texas.  Much excitement and planning took place very quickly as the three of us (Paul, Alex, and I) worked to make flight arrangements and ensure everything was still in place with our paperwork and home study.  Two days later, my husband and I received another phone call from our caseworker.  She called to say that Karen decided to take her baby home and to cancel our plans to come to Texas.  Our hearts broke; my heart shattered into a million pieces.  For all of us, our emotions were all over the place.

On Christmas Eve morning, the caseworker called again. I called my husband in from the garage where he was unloading 2 x 4’s to build storage shelving in the basement.  I handed him the phone because my heart just couldn’t take more news right then.  The caseworker spoke with my husband and said that Karen was going to come in to sign the paper work that day.  She asked us if we were still interested and if so, would we be willing to speak with both of them, the caseworker and the birth mother, on the phone later that afternoon after all of the paperwork was completed?  We said, “Yes, we would,” and made only a couple of phone calls related to the new possibility of traveling to Texas.

It was the longest few hours of my life.

Finally the phone rang; Paul and I each got on different extensions so we could all be included in the conversation.  We spoke with Karen, along with the caseworker for a couple of hours.  When we finally hung up, we were so very excited!  As was our family tradition, we ate our Christmas Eve meal and then went on to church for the Christmas Eve service.  One of the hymns that was sung near the beginning of the service was “For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Son is Given.”  My husband and I nudged each other with tears in our eyes as the congregation sang this song. At this point, we were the only ones who knew we would be on our way to Texas in another day to grow our family through adoption.

A couple of days later, we were in Dallas.  We met the caseworker and Karen, along with her mom.  We were also introduced to our new baby boy’s 20-month-old biological brother, Jaren.  After all of the waiting and excitement, my eyes met with the face of this tiny baby. My heart jumped and skipped as I held our new little boy, Noah, in my arms.  We all stood around the room, feeling a bit unsure of things, visiting and getting to know each other.  Karen and I made our way over to the couch and took turns holding this precious little one.   Karen shared with all three of us a photo book that she put together with pictures of our little ones first days, some poems, and a letter to her son.  My husband and I were beyond excited that we were adding to our family, yet it was hard.  When we left, I felt both joy and sadness. My husband and I wanted to be happy; we were happy.  It was a joyful time for our little family of three that was now growing to four.  But there was also an underlying sadness that took place.   We knew that our joy was Karen’s heartache and sorrow.

We stayed in Dallas for several days before returning to Wisconsin.  Since it was an inter-state adoption, we had been told earlier that it would take awhile for the proper paper work to be completed by each state.  A few days later, before we left, the caseworker made arrangements for us to meet with Karen and her son, Jaren, again.  We met at a restaurant and had a good visit, all six of us together.

Shortly after that, we returned home, back to Wisconsin.

We kept in touch with Karen, Jaren, and their family through cards, pictures, email, and phone calls.  We try to get together once a year.  Over the years, the relationship has grown into more than a great friendship.  It is now more like one big family.

God brought our two families together even though we lived half a country apart.  Through every step, God’s hand has been in this relationship.  God knew more than anything we could ever see ourselves.  He not only grew our family through adoption, He brought two families together to offer support and friendship to each other and to raise this child.  My love and gratitude is never-ending for this relationship, friendship, and family.

 

(footnote)

My story, One Woman’s Choice, is a true story.

While the agency led Paul and Rebecca to believe that I was “on again/off again” about my intention or choice, I was never sure and never made any empty promises.  

This is what I wrote, 

“Even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with the adoption, I had to at least try. I contacted the agency and made arrangements to meet with one of their caseworkers named Kristen.”

Going Back in Time (Adoption Awareness)

This is always a hard time of the year for me.  It is coming up on the anniversary of the relinquishment to parent my second son.  I am not alone in feeling this PTSD.  It is a known fact that birth mothers suffer during the anniversary of their child’s birth or relinquishment date.

The Damage to Relinquishing Mothers

Without fail, this time every year which is a joyous time of the year for many, I get emotional without warning.  Tears fill my eyes unexpectedly and without immediate cause.  I get irritated easily and anger quickly.  I become withdrawn and sometimes unapproachable.

In about one month, my office is moving to another building in the same city as our current office location.  Late last year, our management began talking about moving to another building.  They wanted it to be somewhat close to our current location, within 10 miles or so.  They looked in nearby cities and also in our current city for a new place to call home for our Service Center.  Employees waited impatiently at times curious as to where this new office would be.  Many worried if their drive would be longer while others hoped their drive would be shorter in this very populated metropolitan city with hefty rush hour traffic patterns.

So we waited and waited while our management team looked for a new office building in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, assuring us every few months that they were getting closer and closer to a final decision.  Needless to say, the possibilities were endless.

The city is the main cultural and economic center of the 12-county Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area—at 6 million people, it is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. – wikipedia.org

Earlier this year, the management narrowed it down to office space they had found in three different cities.

In April, during an all-employee meeting, they finally announced our new location.  An exterior frontal building picture flashed on the projector and I couldn’t help but notice how familiar this building looked.  As I continued to listen to our VP speak, I kept staring at the picture.  I was pretty sure I recognized this new office space but waited patiently to be certain.  Then the new address of our new location popped up on the screen.  I was stunned.

I quietly told the person next to me that I had worked at that building before.

The VP gave the projected date, which was initially scheduled for November.

At first, I think I was surprised and somewhat shocked by the synchronicity of it all.

As reality began to sink in, I began to process the impact of this move for me.  Moves are always somewhat stressful.  While many employees in the office were talking about this new place, both positive and negative comments, with their highest concern being about the commute, I was internalizing what this move meant for me.  I was pretty certain it was different.  It wasn’t just about packing and unpacking, or a new driving route, or a greater or lesser distance from home, or longer rush hour traffic delays.  For me, it was much deeper.  It was about a traumatic moment in time that I would much rather leave in my past.

The first time my office moved out to this building, it was back in the late 1990’s.  I was living and working in downtown Dallas.  I was a single mom to Jaren and pregnant with Noah.  And, I was on the road to making one of the most life changing decisions I have ever made.  Life was filled with uncertainty.  I was alone to care for my son and future son yet to be born.  I was castaway by many of my family and even some friends and my children’s father had abandoned us.  Life was challenging at best.

My employer at the time had scheduled our move to the new building at the end of that year.  I was also due to deliver Noah at the end of that same year.  And like my current employer, the move was set for November but then pushed back to December.  My delivery date was also set for December.

As the end of the year approached, I was released for short-term medical leave to prepare for my delivery and my choice.  I packed up my desk and went on maternity leave before the move occurred.

The next couple months would challenge my emotional resolve.  I did not have the luxury to worry or think about our new office space, my new cube or my office belongings.  My day-to-day was filled with taking care of my first born son Jaren and the future that I was considering for his younger brother.

After Noah was born, I signed relinquishment papers on December 24th of that year.  Within a week, I handed over my newborn baby to a couple that I had never previously met.  I trusted that the adoption agency had did their research and homework.

When my maternity leave was up and I was about to return to the office, I called my manager.  I informed her of my decision.  I asked her if she could send out an email to the office and inform them of my choice.  I didn’t want to have to answer those questions over and over again.  I also didn’t want to lie and say I lost the child.  But sadly, she refused.  She said it had something to do with policies.  Ironically, within a year, another co-worker returned from maternity leave.  Her child died.  This time, my manager did send out an email to the team to let them know what happened.

So after giving birth, saying hello to my newborn son, relinquishing my parental rights, kissing my baby and placing him in the arms of his new parents, I prepared for my first day back to work.

I walked into our new office space no longer pregnant and with one less child than what my coworkers were expecting.  I sat down at my new cube.  I began unpacking my material belongings while trying to box up my clouded brain, broken heart and my muddy emotions.

This is the place where I walked out to the parking lot during my lunch hour, sat in my car, and cried tears of sadness and hopeless despair.  Where I wrote letters to God asking Him to find a way to return my baby and heal my broken heart.  A place and time where I contemplated suicide just so I could stop the pain, had it not been for my son Jaren, who gave me every reason to live.

I was stripped down to my core and there was little left of me.

And now, after several move dates have changed, with one of the scheduled move dates being on Noah’s birthday and I was thinking, “Are you freaking kidding me,” we are finally moving to our new office building in less than one month.  I am bewildered.  How do I move through this?  What does this mean?  Is there healing in all this?

I’ll admit, in the early months, I was amused by the fluke of it all.  I joked about how God was playing a trick on me, all the while, reserving my anxiety.  But now that the move is less than a month away, it has become very real.

I talked to my current supervisor privately and told her my story.  I wanted her to be aware.  I explained how this is a traumatic time of the year for me and that I am not sure how this move will impact me because of all the similar details; the history of the building, the same time of the year.  I tried to make light of it and withheld my tears that were readily available to me.  We both chuckled at the synchronicity of it all.  I promised her that I am and will continue to do my best to move through this.  She did seem to understand.  She even said, “Well, this time you will be involved in the moving process rather than someone moving everything for you.”

I thought about her statement.  It resonated with me.

 

Can I Call Her Mom?

The first time my eldest son, Jaren and I went to visit my youngest son, Noah, six years after his birth, there were unanswered questions.  One was about my role and title.

Noah always knew he was adopted.  He knew that I gave birth to him and that I am his biological mother.  But he was wrestling about how all that tied into our relationship and the titles we should give to each other.  Who was I to him?  And who was he to me?

Prior to our visit, I was “Karen” to Noah when we talked on the phone and his parents referred to me as, “your birthmom, Karen”.

At five years old, Noah walked over, stood in front of me and said, “What should I call you?”

That’s a powerful question that deserved a thoughtful response; especially to an impressionable five year old.

Noah had already talked to his parents about his quandary.

I told Noah he could call me whatever he liked.  I didn’t want to seem presumptuous.  I also didn’t want to dictate or control his choice.  And I surely didn’t want to disrespect his mother.  I wanted Noah to find the right title for me.  So after a short pause, he decided to call me Birthmom.  Over the next few days, he was so cute in his greetings.  He would walk up to me, flash a big smile and say, “Hi Birthmom!”

The “mom thing” is one of the hardest parts in open adoption.  I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged my role the way that Noah needed.  But it is a balance.  I didn’t want to hurt Noah, or his mom, or his dad by my title.  I would wonder how to appropriately write my closing salutation on greeting cards; Karen, your birthmom, your other mom, your Texas mom?  This is something that could impact Noah’s emotional growth positively or negatively.

Then a couple years later, Noah’s family came to Texas for Thanksgiving.  We were still getting to know each other.  Although we talked on the phone throughout the year and exchanged emails, we didn’t get to spend time with each other face to face.

This time, Noah wanted to call me Mom.  Many different thoughts and emotions began to flash forward.  I was surprised, not even certain if he was referring to me or his mom.  Then I felt somewhat undeserving of this title.  I think his mother sensed this so she quickly whispered over to me, “He asked me if he could you Mom.”  She wanted to reassure me that she was okay with this.

I was so deeply touched not just by Noah for his willingness to include me in this worthy title but I was astonished by the grace by which his mother was willing to share that title with me.  Not only that, but that Noah was confident enough and comfortable enough to go to his mom and ask her a question like this.  And then his mom, understanding her son’s needs to do this.

The last few years, I have been mostly Karen.  And I am good with that as long as Noah is good with that.

A couple years ago, when Jaren and I visited Noah and his family, I was greatly honored by his mother once again.  As we were walking out of the church service to greet the minister, Noah’s mom introduced me as “Noah’s mom”.  I was deeply touched.  I am sure the minister was a little confused.  As we made our way to the café area, she introduced me a couple more times as “Noah’s mom”.  Uneasy about my title, I smiled and said, “Noah’s other mom.”  I don’t know why I felt the need to say that.  It was out of sheer humbleness.  I knew deep within that all these people knew who Noah’s everyday Mom was.  I just wanted them to know that I knew that also.

I’ve read many stories about adoption.  I’ve read derogatory comments about what a birthmom is or isn’t.  The general American society can be very harsh in their uneducated perception.  I had no idea what my journey would be when I said good-bye to Noah and his new family, or if I would ever see my son again in our lifetime.

I’ve learned that adoption is not about replacing someone.  Noah loves his mother.  A biological parent can never be erased.  My mother lives on in me, I live on in my two sons (parent to one, birth mother to the other). In the end, love has no boundaries.

So today, I honor Noah’s mom for her love and generosity.

Happy Mother’s Day, Noah’s Mom!  I love you dearly.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Race, Price and Ethics in Adoption

When I came to Texas back in the early 1990’s, my boyfriend and I talked about having kids.  We lived together on a 100 acre property south of the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex.  I remember having some blank note cards that had these beautiful painted American Indian/Latino children in a southwest desert setting.  They were so adorable.  In my ignorance, I said, “If we adopt, I want a baby who looks like this.”  I see now how these thoughts were and are unethical.

Sonny, my boyfriend at the time, who actually does have some American Indian ancestry along with European, has light hair and light eyes.  I too have European heritage.  So the chances of us producing an offspring with these characteristics were very rare.

The idea that I thought I could just choose whatever kind of child I wanted because I was adopting, as if children (especially vulnerable children who have been separated from their biological family) are cataloged merchandise and are there to please my needs sounds absurd and yet people do this all the time.

To be honest, I don’t know if I would have understood this prior to me giving birth and relinquishing my parental rights.

I have read many articles and have heard people say how they have always loved Asian children or Latino children and so forth and how they think they are so cute.  So when some of those people decide to adopt, they will often say similar phrases as the reason they chose to adopt outside their race.

Here is the issue.  More often, those same people have never dated anyone from that particular race.  And many would never even consider dating or marrying someone from that race.  So how is it that someone could have always loved “blank” babies but not like “blank” adults?  Babies grow up to be adults.

Saying you want to adopt an American Indian baby when you are not American Indian or making sure the baby you adopted has the ethnic or race that you specified to the agency that you wanted to adopt sounds privileged.  Could it be a deal breaker?

The other thing I have heard as a reason to adopt either outside of one’s own race or oversees was because it was cheaper.  I’ve heard adoptive parents say, “We were planning on adopting here in America but the agencies wanted to charge $35,000 to $40,000 so we decided to explore our options oversees.”  Likewise, I’ve heard similar comments made about adopting domestically from a minority race here in America.

Placing value and worth on a child is unethical especially when it differs due to one’s race, skin color, age, orphaned status or one’s biological background.

Saying you decided to adopt oversees because it was “cheaper” sounds like you are trying to get the best deal or a bargain basement price for something (a human being) that should never be dollar driven or as an incentive.  Cars have incentives.  Department stores have deals and bargains on merchandise.  Human beings are neither of those.  And adoption agencies are not dealers or retailers.

We understand when people want to adopt within their race.  It makes for less obvious scrutiny.  Adopting outside of your race can be more complex.  But when we adopt outside of our race because we decided to settle for something other than what we initially wanted, or we feel sorry for another race as if they are disadvantaged, or because the expense is cheaper, or because it is trendy, or because we want to prove we are not racist, or because we feel it is our right to buy whatever kind of child we want, what does that say about who we are and what we are willing to do to buy babies or children.

When someone has their heart set on adopting or they are acting out of desperation, we know that logic does not always trump ethics.  But that is no excuse for behaving unethically.

It is time to review unethical behaviors, thoughts and practices so we can improve the adoption experience and allow it to become a necessity only after all other options and avenues have been explored.  This is when we use adoption to link children with parents that are best suited for each other which should neither be driven by race or dollars.

Adoption Awareness 2015

November is Adoption Awareness Month and I sometimes wonder if mainstream America really wants to know the truth, the whole truth or the facts surrounding adoption.  Or can we even handle the truth?  It is truly hard to believe that the ones who have been speaking out for the Adoption Awareness Campaign over the last few decades have been adoptive parents and non-adoptive colleagues (counselors, educators or adoption officials), leaving out two very important voices; adoptees and birth parents.  Without the latter two, there would be no such thing as adoption.

We should ask ourselves, how can we truly bring awareness to the topic and authentic nature surrounding adoption when we leave out two of the three voices in adoption?

What does adoption awareness mean to us? 

First, we must understand the word awareness.

AWARENESS; knowledge or perception of a situation or fact

If we look at most other awareness campaigns (example: Suicide Awareness, Cancer Awareness, and Disability Awareness) we are provided with an array of scenarios.  We are given real life accounts of those experiencing such afflictions.  We are provided with the positive and negative effects, the miraculous recovery cases and the ones whose life ended because of the disease.  We learn about treatments and survival rates, determination and discrimination.  We learn about prevention and even about failures and misdiagnoses.  We hear from doctors, nurses, parents, siblings and extended family members each sharing their experiences.  But most often, most often…we hear from the person who experienced the condition first hand.  That is awareness.

Adoption is multi-dimensional.  Many people not directly impacted by adoption view adoption from one side.

Example:  While at work recently, my supervisor was standing in between my cube and my co-worker’s cube.  I heard him talking about someone who was hoping to adopt.  He said that she (I don’t remember how he referred to “her”- the woman/mother giving birth) was at the hospital about to give birth.  Then he made some off handed comment about her signing papers.  He spoke about this event as if he was talking about his kids’ sport games or school activities.  He had no concern or care for the mother who conceived and was about to give birth to her baby.  It didn’t matter to him.  His focus was on the couple who wanted that baby.

My supervisor does not know my personal experience with adoption.  And I have no intention of telling him.  But I was surprised at how this conversation immobilized me.  I was unable to focus on my work.  I was emotionally transported back to that very moment in my life when I was faced with the most demoralizing time in my life.  I felt deep compassion for the woman in the hospital and wondered if she had any idea what her future will be like if she chose to relinquish her parental rights.  I wondered if anyone had explained to her the possible side effects associated with relinquishment?

For me, since that time, I have become more distrustful of people.  I have a much harder time making friends and maintaining healthy relationships.  I have become claustrophobic and I have panic attacks.  I am not the same person I was before I chose relinquishment.  A part of me died on that day.  I not only mourn the ability to parent my child, but also for that part of me that was lost.  I lost a piece of my innocence that day.  A piece that was pure and good.

My social status changed in that one instance.  I lost credibility and a level of respect as a woman and a mother.  And in return, I lost faith in humanity.  It’s a catch 22.

This is why we need adoption awareness and why we need to look at all sides of adoption to get a clear picture of the true nature surrounding adoption.  It’s like surgery or drugs.  By law, doctors, surgeons and pharmacist have to give all the different scenarios, the negative or worse case outcomes or side effects (it could cause this or that) even if the percentage is less than one percent.

It seems somewhere in our past, some believed Adoption Awareness was about highlighting and promoting adoption.  Adoption Awareness was used to parade orphans in need of a home.  The supporters and promoters believed that once the adoption was complete, the problem was solved.  Child needs home.  Child finds home.  End of story.  All is good.

I am not entirely against using media outlets to find homes for orphans.  If we have children that need homes than we need to use all means possible to find them secure homes; but when we use all our focus on this one facet surrounding adoption that is a problem because we fail to recognize all the other factors (loss, grief and trauma) surrounding adoption, the causes that create this epidemic, and the long term effects.

Without the voices of the adoptee and the birthparent(s) we continue to have assumptions and negative stereotypes.  We continue to enable the pattern of the cycle which causes mothers and children to be separated.  We continue to ignore the impact on our children, our families and to a greater extent, our society.  Without these voices, we ignore the least and vulnerable and enable others to extort and manipulate them in the name of love.

Is Adoption a Good Thing?

I’ve been really mulling over this.  I guess in my mind it’s like asking if war is a good thing.  Depending on who you ask, you could get a variety of answers.  I sometimes ask myself, “What would God say about adoption or war?”

The bible shares an adoption story very early on in The Book of Genesis.  And this was no ordinary adoption.  Moses’ mother didn’t intend to abandon her son for good.  She merely wanted to temporarily hide Moses from the Egyptians who feared that there were too many Israelites.  They thought that by killing the first born son of each Israelite family, they could reduce the Israelites’ future population.  As a result, Moses’ mother was caught in a desperate moment.  This was the only way she knew how to quickly protect her son.  This is what I call an unnecessary adoption.

Then what happens?

The very people she is trying to protect Moses from, the Egyptians, have now found the babe in the river and claim the child as one of their very own.  Afterwards, Moses’ mother knows that she will not be able to get her baby back.  Why?  They have power, she does not.  They possess great wealth, she does not.  The events that led up to this were the cause of power and greed.  The bible has a lot to say about power and greed.

98 Interesting Facts About Adoption

Adoption was not uncommon in Egypt or Ancient Rome as well.  Power tribes would adopt and rear up a child from local tribes so they could learn the ways of the power tribe which in turn helped to strengthen political ties, and foster allies.  The child, who later was returned to its original tribe, would be familiar with both tribes, his own that he was born to and the one who raised him.

But the one thing that was missing from the ancient adoptions were Adoption Agencies.  Nowadays, depending on whom you talk to or ask, Adoption Agencies and their associates can be an Angel or a Devil.

scared and pregnant2

I think some of us who have grown the product for the adoption business got bewildered by the promotion and the advertising that lured us into the Adoption Agency’s doors.  In many cases, we walked in alone, frightened and pregnant without a true “neutral” ally or even our own lawyer or legal counsel.  We were led to believe that the Adoption Agency was there to help us and in many ways they did.  They called us brave and selfless.  But there was also an expectation and price to pay; at the end of the process, the Adoption Agency would acquire one precious little human being, our baby.

Excluding the baby scoop era and homes for unwed mothers, catholic charities and many other religious orders who were trying to mask their financial greed at the expense of the scorned women, often times, abandoned by their sexual partner and their own parents, I’ve wondered why some of us women would be angry at the modern day adoption agency after the adoption is complete.  I mean the name says it all.  Right?  Yes?  I include myself in this mixed of discernment.  I’m like, the sign was right there on the door.  ADOPTION AGENCY.  Am I that naïve?  It’s a business like any other business.  When we go to McDonalds, we expect to get food.  That’s what they advertise.  When people go to Adoption Agencies, they expect to get babies.  And while both businesses have a need for a product, babies and Big Macs are two very different things.

Newborn adoptions2

Personally, I would say adoption and war are not good effects but are sometimes necessary effects.  Both are a result and a response to something that occurred previously.  For example, the Civil War was a necessary war.  However, if America never participated in the slave trades, there would have been no need for a Civil War.  How can we call this a good war when so many slaves suffered at the expense of the white man’s greed?  How can we call war good when so many men and women died fighting for what they believed to be right and just?

Like war, adoption has one side celebrating a gain and one side suffering a loss.  Too often, adoption is the cause of a woman being abandoned by her sexual partner, his parents, and her own parents.  The abandonment starts before the child is even born and the cycle is put into motion, causing the pregnant women to wonder into strange territory and seek guidance and support from strangers.  Appallingly, somehow society has been okay with that.

Most mothers would like nothing better than to give birth and then love and parent their child.  But more often the forces are against single, unwed or teenage mothers and we become desperate.  Like Moses’s mother, we make a choice based on our current circumstance.  How can adoption be good when a mother feels the need to relinquish her parental rights based on a lack of financial and familial support or fear from a disapproving society?  How can adoption be good when the child grows up to feel abandoned?  Many say even Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, grew up feeling abandoned.  How can adoption be good when we put a price on an infant?  How can adoption be good when that price is sometimes based on marketability (depending on race or mixed ethnicity)?

What will you say when the adoptee comes to you as an adult and ask you, “How did you help my mother when she was pregnant with me?  What were you willing to do to support her?  Did you do everything within your power to preserve my family?”

Adoption 101

Here is my two cents for what it’s worth.

First, saying you “have a birth mother” is inappropriate. You don’t really have her right? (like you have a child, a dog, a car, a house?) She is not yours. You might say, ‘an expectant mother has chosen us,’ or ‘the agency has matched us with an expectant mother.’

Secondly, if the expectant mother has not given birth yet nor has she signed relinquishment papers, she is in no way a birth mother. Once she gives birth (hence the term “birth” mother) AND if she proceeds with the relinquishment, than she may be a birth, first mom, or the biological mother of the child.

Lastly, open adoption takes on many meanings. If you are uncomfortable, unsure or not enthusiastic about an open adoption, then you should find someone who wants a closed adoption, although I am not a big fan of closed adoption at all. But you shouldn’t agree to an open adoption unless your heart is in the right place and you feel this is the right path for you and your family. In other words, don’t just agree to an open adoption because it seems like the trendy thing to do or because it may help you become a parent easier or faster. And especially if you don’t plan to follow through with your open adoption agreement, promise and commitment.

I am a birth mother. I have an open adoption with my son and his family. And while I will agree that at first, our relationship was awkward only because it was new and we were exploring new territory, our relationship has evolved. Each year I grow to love them more and more. We have become one big family. We share a mutual respect and honor each other for our role in our mutual son’s life. My son knows he is loved by his first, birth, original family and his adoptive family.

Remember, adoption is about the children.1999 Momma and boys

Adoption is supposed to satisfy the needs of the child, not the needs of an adult.

What Some Intended for Harm, God Intended for Good, Part 2

I got pregnant with Noah eleven months after Jaren was born.  And like Jaren, this pregnancy was unexpected, certainly not planned and once again unintended.   However, this time, I was not as confident as I was when I became pregnant with Jaren.  Rather, I was somewhat fearful, uncertain and wary about my future and our future as a single parent family with the two kids.

After nine months of turmoil as whether or not to have an abortion (something that my children’s father and members of my family wanted), or adoption, or parenting, I was finally ready to give birth to Noah.

A few months earlier, I had talked with my mom and sister about coming to Texas so one of them could take care of Jaren while I was in the hospital giving birth.  Neither one of them was that thrilled about the idea.  It wasn’t so much about taking care of Jaren.  That was the least of their concerns.  Knowing the task at hand and the choice that was laying heavily on me at the time, they both pointed to the other as to say, ‘I think you should go’ or ‘you would be better at this than me’.  The question arose between my mother and sister, “what if she doesn’t want to go through with it?”  My mother was convinced that they would have to find a way to talk me into proceeding with the adoption plan.  This is the moment where coercion subliminally exposes itself.  After they deliberated awhile, my sister made some comment about not being sure she was comfortable with that and finally said, “She’s your daughter; you should be the one to be there.”

After having Jaren, I had lost some family members because of their view of what a family should look like.  Now that I was about to give birth to Jaren’s younger brother, other family members were giving me new ultimatums.  They warned, keeping my new baby may result in losing the rest of my family.  One family member even threatened that if I chose to parent my second child, that I would no longer be welcome in his home.  No mother should have to choose between her child and her family.

I’ve speculated over the years why my family was so headstrong about me not keeping Noah.  Some of my friends jokingly said they had one black child in the family, they didn’t want any more.  But seriously though!  I had been providing a good home to Jaren.  I lived more than a thousand miles away from them.  They weren’t babysitting for me.  I wasn’t asking them for anything.  Nothing!  So why were they so concerned about me parenting my second son about to be born?  It’s mind boggling.  Here I was pregnant and giving birth for the second time and my family was unwilling again to support me, accept me or my family, or my kids.  What should have been a beautiful time for me and my family turned into a dreadful, self-seeking motive for them.

For those who wonder about my adoption intention, this was something I did consider seriously.  However, I knew there was no way that I was going to make that decision while I was still pregnant.  Lots of things can change in nine months.  I understood that all too well.  The following was my statement five months before I gave birth to Noah:

“I understand the above (legal document) and will enter into this agreement only if I am absolutely sure that this is the best decision.”

After I gave birth, I had decided that I couldn’t leave my newborn in the hospital.  It just felt wrong to leave behind my baby boy in the hospital alone. Apparently, unbeknownst to me at the time, my friends and my mother were at odds.  Mom adamantly believed and voiced her opinion that I needed to “give up” this baby.  My friend Sheila (a birthmother), said that was not her place to make those demands.  So when Sheila and mom came to pick me up from the hospital and saw that I had my baby in my arms and I was bringing him home too, mom was very upset.  In fact, I hadn’t seen my mother that upset since her father died.  I could tell she had been crying.  Her face was red and her eyes were swollen.  She wouldn’t look at me.  I had made a choice that she didn’t agree with.  She was sad and mad.  She managed to put on a straight face for the hospital but once we got in the car, her eyes were heavily fighting back tears.  It was a gloomy ride home and I was torn.  I mean, who wants to see their mother crying?  And knowing that you and your choice is the reason she is sad and crying.  It’s a heavy burden to carry.

So I did proceed with relinquishing my parental rights to my new baby boy Noah when he was three days old on Christmas Eve.  On one of the most meaningful holidays of the year, while Christians and non-Christians alike around the world are gathering, eating, opening presents, singing, praying, celebrating with their loved ones, I was getting ready for a goodbye.  But God had different plans.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  Genesis 50:20

I’ve had many doubts about my choice to relinquish my parental rights, both before I signed the papers and after.  And the biggest factor that I had the hardest time reconciling was separating my two sons.  If you asked me if I would have gone through with the adoption had my family or mother been less enthusiastic about the adoption of Noah or more supportive of my right to choose without any pressure, I don’t know.  I wish I could have discovered that path on my own instead of feeling like I was given a detour or road block with no choice. However, the one thing I never had any doubts about was the family I had chosen to parent Noah in the chance that I could not.  I felt something special about them.  And they would hold true to that inner quality that I connected with on a piece of paper several months before I gave birth.  For one, we had a verbal open adoption agreement which included sending pictures for 18 years.  However, Noah’s family invited Jaren and me out to lunch less than two weeks after they picked up Noah.  With my family long gone, without a worry or concern how I may be emotional healing or recovering, Noah’s family thought of me.  They could have left that day and could have honored or broke their verbal agreement and no one would have thought anything of it.  I had no legal rights.  My deed was done.  But they didn’t.  They didn’t!

Something in the universe was drawling us together by an action that is normally intended to tear a family apart.

I’ve pondered many times over the years, what if Noah was somewhere out there in the world and I had no idea where he was?  I couldn’t imagine.  And while I have experienced one of the greatest pains a mother can endure, I believe the “not knowing” would have greatly impacted my overall healing and emotional state.

I’ve wondered why Noah’s family decided to keep, increase and cultivate our open adoption agreement.  Despite my children’s father, his family and my family’s initial questionable intentions, Noah’s family has become part of our family.  We’ve made some great memories over the years.  I couldn’t imagine my life without my son Noah or his family in it.  I think for whatever reason, Jaren and I were meant to be a part of Noah’s life in some way.  Whether I was intended to be his parenting mother or not, only God knows.  It’s like the story of Moses.  His mother made a choice in despair.  Once Moses had been found by the pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ [birth] sister petitions to have Moses’ [birth] mom be his nanny.  Now, was all that a part of the divine plan of God?  I’m sure Moses’ mother must have wondered about her choice to place her son in the river at some point in her life.

In the end, having this unique experience to grow has added another layer to my life’s lessons and has provided spiritual enlightenment.  God gave me two beautiful boys.  I am so proud to have been chosen by God to be their mother, whether I am the parenting mother or the birth mother.