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 women had to live up to their parent’s and religious morals, they also had advertising images that set standards which wives and mothers often felt pressured to maintain.

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 shame was her child’s shame. 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 with empowerment. It was a way to give females 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 also like to 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 non-profit agency that has dedication walls in their lobby with adoptive and birth family testimonials. I have also gone to countless Adoption website and have read through their 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.

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? In fact, some even boast their success rate in completed adoption. 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.

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 him 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.

Birth Parent Rights – Relinquishment

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, and your child becomes parent-less. 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 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 $30k to $50k. Upon receipt of payment, only then will they hand over that baby.

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.

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. And still today, agencies will go to great lengths to avoid getting fathers involved and have even been known to move 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 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 except to 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.

Facebook: Red Table Talk; Transracial Adoptee

Red Table Talk, Raised by White Parents; A Black Transracial Adoptee

Great job Red Table Talk! Thank you so very much.

As a transracial adoptee, Angela is responding in the way she was raised. Sadly her family did not embrace people of her culture. I call this culture genocide or an ethnic crime.

I am not against transracial adoption. Noah is a transracial adoptee. But when white people raise their black and brown children in white culture or teach them only the adoptive family’s ethnic heritage or culture (German, Italian, etc) but not the ethnicity of their adoptee, that is a huge disservice to their child. It says your culture is not as important as ours in this family. I always wonder how white adoptive parents can love a black child but not the Black community. How do they go 18+ years of embracing new friends, family, and neighbors who all happen to be white but claim they are color blind? How does that happen? That is not natural or unbiased living.

I love that Jada and Willow and Gammy gave a transracial adoptee and a birth parent a seat at the table. Willow shared some deep talk for such a young woman, I love that Gammy was outspoken and passionate in this table talk. She has experience as a black woman and a black mother. She is right. Angela didn’t have a say on being adopted or how she was raised. Her insecurities stem from her lack of Black culture and understanding her place in the Black community. And let us not forget she is an adoptee which comes with inherit emotional consequences. But also, like Gammy said, Angela can change that. It would be similar to a white person who was raised with racism. Once they become an adult, they have the choice to educate themselves and decide which path they want to take. I hope that Angela steps out of her comfort zone and begins to embrace her roots. In today’s America, there really is no excuse that ANY family should live in a bubble no matter your color or culture. But especially transracial adoptive parents.

I am grateful to Ms. Debra and Angela’s parents taking a seat at the table and allowing those tough questions to be asked.

Lastly, I truly appreciate Angela’s honesty, sharing her story and her vulnerability so that others can learn. By taking a seat at this table and inviting us into her journey, her space, she educated so many on the many layers of adoption. We know that not one person speaks for everyone. But Angela has been given a platform. She does her best to give all sides light and exposure. She is bringing those pieces that have been dark and hidden for so long to the surface and it feels wonderful to be seen and heard with compassion. Thank you, Angela.

 

Root Cause

My sons (now 19 and 21 years) and I, took a road trip from Texas to New Jersey this summer. It was our first trip as a family, just us three. It was a great bonding experience. I loved having my two sons with me and seeing them connect as brothers. I learned so much about them, especially my youngest. It was amazing how easy it felt for me. I felt balanced. It was also an opportunity to see how adoption has impacted my family.

Both sons helped me drive. My youngest, during a bathroom stop, asked me if he was a better driver than my oldest when just he and I were walking back to the car.

This was not the first time my youngest asked me a question like this and I found myself wondering about the root cause.

I remember our first reunion, six years after his birth. It seemed like there was this need for competition, which is not uncommon for siblings, especially brothers. But my sons (then 6 and 8 years) had not lived as brothers under the same roof. It all started with the bike riding. My youngest had more skill and practice at the time. They were trying to out-race each other which ended badly. Thank goodness no one was physically hurt. But some egos and feelings did get hurt.

Then, the day before we left to return home, my youngest got close to the video camera, lowered his voice and asked if his older brother had worst behavior than him. I was caught off-guard at first. My oldest overheard  him and they joked back and forth which one was worse behaved. I remember having petty arguments with my siblings about who was better. This usually started as a chatted debate with the other sibling. Then, if it could not be resolved, we would enlist our other siblings or a parent to help decide. Since my youngest asked nonchalantly and jokingly, I didn’t think much of it.

Over the years, when our families were visiting each other, them driving down to visit us or us driving up to visit them, my youngest would present a question of comparison. He did so quietly and secretly to me alone. It was always a comparison between him and his older biological brother. However, it was no longer as a light-hearted joke between siblings, but rather a sincere inquiry and a need to know. It concerned me. I would respond as tactfully as I could, trying to deflect while reassuring my youngest that neither was better.

It seemed like others were often comparing my sons. Some wanted to focus on their differences; their hair, their skin tone, their height. For me, none of it was important. I saw too beautiful babies, boys, and now men.

My youngest would sometimes say his brother was darker than him. I found that strange. Technically, my youngest has darker features than my oldest. My oldest has lighter hair, eyes, and skin tone.

I wondered what prompted my youngest to say this. Did he hear someone say his brother looked “more black” than him and in his young, innocent mind, he interpreted it as his brother was darker than him?

My oldest son has never initiated a question like this or compared his younger brother with himself verbally to me. He has yet to ask for my validation between him and his younger brother. That’s not to say that he has never wondered. Naturally, as humans, we all have wondered at some point or another, but we may not always communicate it. Since my youngest communicated it almost every time we visited each other throughout his childhood and now young adulthood, it is a real concern for me. I wonder what has prompted this and why he needs to ask or know if he is better than his brother in my eyes.

Was there a need to be better than by his parents, his family, his friends, or his community than his birth family because he was adopted? Did he grow up with comparison within his family? Is it related to relinquishment and adoption? Did he hear comments? Did he believe that I chose to parent my first born but not him because one was better than the other. Or is it something else completely or possibly all of it combined?

My sons both have unique personalities, skills, and talents that make them special. One is athletic and loves sports; one is creative and loves the arts. They are both really funny and make me laugh. They both have a heart of gold and a quality that is uniquely their own and I love them both!

Measuring or weighing our children is impossible. We can’t measure or weigh skills and talents or our love for them.

 

Yesterday

Yesterday, I drove from Dallas to Houston to attend the funeral of my dear friend’s mother. I had only met Ms. Shirley a couple times but I knew her through her daughter, my friend of seventeen years. I knew her through her legacy of her children, and grandchildren; their compassion and yet strong character, their will to succeed as humans and as citizens in a society that can be flawed and heartless at times.

The ministers announced that we were there to celebrate Ms. Shirley and her life. And it truly felt like a celebration.

All those who came to speak, knew Ms. Shirley personally. They referenced, “It takes a village” and said Ms. Shirley had a devotion to her “village” which included not only her kids, but her extended family; nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and even those in her community. Two people from the neighborhood stood up to speak on behalf of the neighbors. One woman, a childhood friend of Ms. Shirley’s daughter, who grew up in the neighborhood, shared that Ms. Shirley often times led that village. Ms. Shirley looked out for her neighbors and was there for the kids in her community. She always had food to share, an ear to listen, and a home that kids could visit and feel safe. She was the neighborhood friend, mother, or grandmother that helped keep her community strong. The woman then expressed her gratitude to Ms. Shirley and asked all those villagers from the neighborhood to stand, which they did so proudly.

The minister referenced “the dash”.  He asked if we all knew what the dash meant and then went on to explain. On our tombstone, we have a date of birth. Then we have a date of death. The dash between those two dates represent all the time we spend in between life and death.

Ms. Shirley, who married, had six children, was widowed, and became a single working mother, was still able to find food, time, and money for not only her family, but also for her village. Her nephew declared that her faith carried her through difficult times.  Then he joked how Ms. Shirley sometimes would say that the younger generation didn’t know how to stretch a dollar. As a single mother myself. I could appreciate that. Although, I only had two mouths to feed, mine and my son’s, I still understood what it meant to be on your own and how to make a dollar stretch.

As I sat there in the pew, I heard one minister say how Ms. Shirley would not come back for anything in the world because she was at home, in peace with her father in heaven. While I do mostly agree, in my ear, I heard her say that she would give one more day to be with her kids. I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Shirley whispered this in my ear so I could share her words with her children. And what loving mother wouldn’t give to have one more day with her kids. Being a mother myself, given the chance, I would. And no doubt in my mind, that Ms. Shirley would also.

As mothers, we try to impart our wisdom, our teachings, and our lessons to our kids so that we can prepare them for their future. Our legacy is not only in their genes, but in our words spoken to them and in their childhood experiences and memories. Every moment we spend nurturing our children carries on to future generations.

The same is true for those in our community. Our kids are paying attention. I remember on two different occasions my sons acknowledging me for something I did for another person, a random act of kindness. Afterwards, they said, “That was really nice of you”. Funny, because I don’t remember what I did, but I remember their response. It touched me greatly. I thought to myself, these are lessons I want my sons to remember. No doubt, that Ms. Shirley’s children were impacted by her generosity and outreach in her community. I know that my friend, her daughter, is one of the most generous and giving persons I know and I feel truly blessed to call her friend.

In a world where we hear too often about mass shootings, hatred, bigotry, and divisive opinions, it is so refreshing to hear about one woman who loved her family and her community and how that community grew, bonded and became stronger because of her.

 

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass

 

The Dash Poem, by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
From the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
Know what that little line is worth

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile,
Remembering this special dash
Might only last a little while

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash…
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent YOUR dash?

Child abuse is 40 times more likely when single parents find new partners

Child abuse is 40 times more likely when single parents find new partners

“To understand this increased risk of sexual or physical harm, it is helpful to consider the lack of oversight which occurs when both biological parents are no longer working as a team. Ideally, parents work together to teach children body safe rules, observe children in play particularly with older peers, and thoughtfully choose care providers. Post-divorce, this doesn’t always happen. Another explanation for these increased risks of harm connects to the potential negative/dangerous role older step/bonus siblings can play in the lives of younger children. (Even when sexual or physical abuse by an older step/bonus sibling is not a factor, children who live with step/bonus siblings are more aggressive.) Yet, most significantly, one must face the difficult truth that the primary cause of harm to children in blended family settings is the unrelated, usually male, adult – brought into the mix through romantic involvement with the biological parent.”

Texas Adult Adoptee’s propose HB2725

To all my Texas peep,

We would like to ask for your support, either by calling your representative, or emailing them. You do not need to be a birth parent, adoptee, or an adoptive parent to support HB2725 (which gives adult adoptees the option to access their original birth certificate). But if HB2725 aligns with your beliefs, please reach out.

This is what I wrote to my Representative:

I am a constituent of yours and I want to thank you for your support of the adoptee HB2725. It has been a long fight for those who have been working on this year after year with great passion and some heartache.

Adoptees just want fair and equal rights like all other Americans.

I am a birth mother. I had the great honor of giving birth to two sons. One I parented. And one was adopted out. I was lucky to have an open adoption relationship.

My sons are now 19 and 20 years old and I am very proud of the men they are becoming. However, they both do not have equal access rights to their original birth certificate. I see my sons as equals, as adults, as Americans, but it is discouraging that the state does not see them both as equals because of MY decision. It feels like one of my sons is being punished because of MY choice. No one ever promised me anonymity when I signed relinquishment papers nor should they.

Growing up adopted comes with its unique life experiences. And it impacts each adoptee in many different ways. HB2725 has the power to restore dignity, bring awareness and knowledge, and mend broken pieces. Most importantly, it allows adult adoptees to own what is rightfully theirs by birth.

Thank you so much for your support and consideration,

Karen
Constituent

National Adoption Awareness Month 2018

Adoption has become a political hot topic in the last few years.  What better time to discuss these issue then during National Adoption Awareness Month.

Evolving from a controversial “closed” secretive past filled with shame where women went into hiding, to a postmodern “open” adoption era where women are posing as social media “poster” birth moms, we have seen a shift in adoption.  However, when it comes to OBCs, adoption remains stagnant and secretive.  Adoptees are trying to change that.

Most states implemented sealed records during a time when women had few rights or choices and were oftentimes railroaded towards relinquishment.   One could argue that these laws were enacted to punish un-wed mothers, an estimated 1.5 million women, who were sent away to hide their pregnancy and the birthing of their child.  There was deep shame associated with an unplanned pregnancy.  Families did everything they could to sweep these babies under the rug and hide their very existence.  Erasing the child that was born out of wedlock was supposed to save the mother and child from societal disgrace.  In turn, it would also save the family from scandal.

While laws to protect secrets may have been intended for one purpose, it resulted in a far greater impact that violated adult adoptee’s rights.

One strong debate for OBC access is regarding medical history for adoptees.   Adoption should not come at the expense of vital information.

Humans have an innate yearning to know where they came from. Adoptees should not be judged for wanting to know their DNA history, no matter how a blended-family was formed.

Adoptee Rights Groups are fighting hard with some success nationwide.  Seven states have enacted less restrictive laws in the last three years.  Currently, nine states have unrestricted access to OBCs. Eleven have access with restrictions, and nine have partial access or partial access with restrictions.  The remaining states, including Texas, are sealed.

This political cause is relevant, sensible, and in need of fresh eyes and modern laws enacted.  Adoptees do not remain children forever.  They grow up.  They become adults with rights like every other American.  Access to our own birth records should not be determined based on our biological, step, foster, or adoptive family status.

Family is Family.  Rights are Rights.

To learn more, please read my Op-Ed in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung

Modern adoption laws are needed