Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

The path to healing varies for each of us.

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

I can only speak for myself.

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

Does life stop for some mothers after relinquishment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honoring the History of Women

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

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

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

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

The Bethany Home for Unwed Mothers Fighting for the-Fallen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For women of color, America imposed even greater restrictions.

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

Bad Girls

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

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

Pregnant, Catholic, and Unmarried

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

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

A Girl Like Her

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

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

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

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

History of Adoption

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

Abortion in the United States

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

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

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

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

I find this all very interesting.

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

Number of Children Living With a Single Mother or Single Father

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

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

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

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

Data Stats – Abortion

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

D and C Procedure After Miscarriage

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

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

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

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

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

Scared? Confused? Unplanned pregnancy? 

Actual Ad:

Adoption Ad

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

Open Adoption Agreements Legally Enforceable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

American Adoption Congress

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

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

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

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

Updated May 23, 2020

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.

Traumatic Events

I believe we all have had some type of traumatic event in our life, an occurrence that made a lasting impression.  Some of us have had many of these.

We often forget those bad moments or traumatic events that occurred.  It happens often with accidents of some sort.  I’ve heard several people say, “The last thing I remember is…,” (which was the moment the crash was about to happen) and then the next thing they remember is being in the hospital.  This is our brain’s way of protecting us.  Or maybe it’s our soul or our guardian angel or it may be Jesus and God himself that are shielding us of the memory and the pain.

I can tell you that I have forgotten many of those traumatic moments over the years.  That is until I experienced the trauma of relinquishment.  Over time, the good memories of my childhood would be replaced with traumatic events that altered my emotional state.

Other than those scary moments when you get separated from a parent in a large department store, which can be pretty traumatic for a young child, I’ve had some other unique experiences.

My earliest memory is when I was around three years.  I saw George, a live-in boyfriend, who was sometimes an abusive man to my mother, much like my own biological father, get very angry at my mother and shove her up against the wall, banging her head  repeatedly while she cried.  I felt helpless.

Another time, around the same age, George walked in my mother’s bedroom and saw me laying on top of my mother’s bed, grinding on my dolls foot.  He scolded me and disciplined me.  I wonder how I learned this.  I must have seen this or experienced something like this.  Children mimic what they see.  This moment has impacted my sexual life.

1967 karen in Florida

When I was five, a lady in the neighborhood babysat me.  My mother was working and my older siblings were at school.  We were in her backyard as she sat on a lawn chair and watched me frolicking in the yard.  I saw some dogs, about five of them.  I ran over to the fence, hopped onto the fence to get a better look and then called them over.  The dogs looked at me and one of them lunged up towards me.  My babysitter got to me just in the nick of time with the raging dog just inches away from my face.  It seemed there were some stray rogue dogs roaming around our neighborhood.  After that experience, I’ve always been a little apprehensive around dogs.

When I was around six, I went for a drive with my mother and her date.  My older siblings were away for the weekend with their paternal family.  My mother’s date drove to a playground that was located at one of the local lakes.  They pulled to the edge and asked me to ask a lady that was there with her kids if she would watch me for a moment while my mother went to park the car.  The lady agreed.  I ran back to the car to let my mom know.  I played for a while.  At that age, I didn’t have any concept of time, but what I do remember is the lady saying to me, “You’re mother is coming back isn’t she?”  What a thing to say to a small child.  When my mother and boyfriend did return, they parked in the same place they dropped me off.  My mother got out of the car, fetched me and we left.  I remember saying to her that I thought they were parking the car so we could go to the park.  I’ve always wondered why they left me there.  Where did they go and what did they do?  Anything could have happened to me.  This memory created an abandonment feeling inside me.

Another time, my mother’s boyfriend took me to our family doctor.  I got on the table and the doctor examined my vagina.  I recall the Dr. looking over and asking if it was okay for him to examine me first.  I’ve always wondered why my mother’s boyfriend, a man who later became our father however who did not attend school events or activities or other doctor’s visits, except when my parents took me to Philly to have my hearing tested, took me to the doctors.  I’ve asked about this but it seems they don’t remember or they give vague responses.  I would think this would be something they would remember as it was such a rare occasion for my step father to take any of us to the doctors.  What happened?  Being on the table in the doctor’s office with my lower half naked and exposed, without my mother or siblings there, being among two men that I didn’t feel that close or secure with made a lasting impression on me.  But I think it’s the not knowing why that has created more anxiety.

I would continue to experience a few other moments throughout my childhood of the scary, drunk, angry, yelling step father, gritting his teeth, threatening and pushing our mother, with my younger brothers screaming for him to get away from her, that left our mom and us kids so scared that she yelled for us to go get our grandparents (my step dads parents).  They always seemed to be able to calm the situation.  We just never knew what the night would be like when dad came home from drinking with his buddies.  We didn’t know what personality would be walking through the doors and if one thing said could turn the switch and make a calm night turn chaotic.  It was not an easy life to experience and one that left me feeling fearful many times.

I was visiting with a friend recently and we were talking about my second pregnancy and my relinquishment.  I was telling her how Noah’s mom has asked me over the years if I ever had doubts or changed my mind about adopting out Noah.  I would always reassure Noah’s mom and tell her that I didn’t.  Maybe that was my way to cope with the truth.  My dear long-time friend said, “Don’t you remember?  You had changed your mind.  You had decided you weren’t going to give up Noah, until your mom came to Texas.”  I shared my deepest and darkest secrets with my dear friend and relied heavily on her for support.  She remembered for me what I could not remember or recall for myself.  I had forgotten all about it.  I didn’t even really discuss it much in the book.  I wanted to put on the reassuring face, the please everyone else face, the make everyone else happy face.  And that left no room for Karen and her feelings, her wants, her needs, and certainly not her pains.

When I think back and look at my actions, it is very clear to me now.  When I went to the hospital, I never called the agency.  My doctor must have informed the agency because they called me and asked me if I had the baby.  A few days later, I took my baby home and planned on parenting him with Jaren but the events that would occur over the next few hours would be tremendously difficult for me to bear.  I am angry at a lot of people but mostly I am angry with myself for allowing others to coerce and manipulate me during my vulnerable moment into doing something that I wasn’t prepared to do.  At times, this traumatic event and the pain that I feel as result of my choice are almost too much to bear that I sometimes fear that death itself will be the only healer of my heart and soul.

How Common is PTSD

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.

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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.

Your baby, Your choice

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.

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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?”

The Land of OZ

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I’ve been contemplating writing this blog about the story of the Wizard of Oz and how it relates to adoption for over a year now.  I just didn’t know how I could correlate the symbolism in the movie and verbally express the metaphysical aspects of the deeper meaning.  I will admit, I am not the first person to take this movie and create my own unique theoretical version.  I’ll explain more.

I’m sure like all of you; I’ve seen this movie many times over the years.  I’ve matured with Dorothy and her child-like ways and began to see deeper meanings every time I watched it year after year.  And each time Dorothy wakes up, I wonder again, was it all real or was it only a dream.  That’s creative writing and film making at its best.

A few years back, I was introduced to a new Wizard of Oz story by a Unity Minister, Rev Ellen Debenport.  A friend of mine, Tori, who I knew from another Unity church, had told me about the OZ series that Rev. Ellen, the associate minister at the time, was doing at our sister church in Dallas.  It sounded very interesting and I had a thirst for more.

After the first night, I was hooked.  Rev Ellen explained the Wizard of Oz movie and each character in a way I had never contemplated before, which left me with a number of “ah-ha” moments.  Of all the sermons I have heard over the years from the many different ministers, this is by far my favorite.  Here is the link, if anyone would like to hear more about Rev Ellen’s series. OZ: Over the Rainbow

They’re really so many ways to interpret the Wizard of Oz.  While my version is quite different from Rev Ellen’s, who I truly believe is far more talented and skilled in the field of writing and speaking for that matter, I found my own theories with uncanny similarities between this movie and adoption.  Ones that kept creeping into my mind.

So what does the Wizard of Oz have to do with adoption?  Well, we know Dorothy is an adoptee.  That’s the obvious.  But here are some other things you may not have thought about while viewing this epic movie.  Let’s take a journey into OZ…

At the very beginning of the movie, Dorothy seems to be in trouble.  After a brief spat, Dorothy runs away from the people who love her.  She senses their disappointed.  After she cools off a bit, she tries to return home but now a storm (turmoil) has ascended upon their tiny town and Dorothy along with Toto are whisked away and transported into an alternate universe.   When she awakens in the Land of OZ, the munchkins, who are singing with great joy, are very pleased with Dorothy.  Her house has landed on the Wicked Witch of the East who had apparently wreaked havoc on their community.  They feel as though Dorothy has just saved them.

Symbolically, the munchkins could represent children in an orphanage who were used for labor or trafficked for money.

Within a few minutes, we have a good witch, a dead witch and a wicked witch.  One witch is there to help Dorothy and one is there to destroy her.  The Wicked Witch of the West looks wrathfully at Dorothy and asks, “Who killed the Witch of the East?”

If we look at unplanned pregnancies during the time of this movie (the beginning of the Baby Scoop Era) we see the innocence of the young Dorothy as she tries to explain, “It was an accident.”  She did not intend for this to happen.  The Wicked Witch of the West is unsympathetic towards Dorothy and tries to shame her for what has happened.  But interesting enough, not everyone agrees that this incident is a bad or shameful event.

Doesn’t that sound like life in general?  Especially when an unexpected pregnancy occurs?  I can tell you from personal experience, I had both fans and foes when my unplanned pregnancy was made known.

After the accident, Glenda, the Good Witch, quickly places the ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet.  Dorothy has been given a precious gift.  Metaphorically, the ruby slippers could represent a conceived child.

Now even angrier, the Wicked Witch of the West tries to take the slippers but the shoes zap her.  She is unable to forcefully remove the slippers from Dorothy’s feet.  This is the part of freewill and choice.  Dorothy has to freely give up the shoes.  Coercion is not far behind, as we listen to the Wicked Witch of the West impart fear and doubt into Dorothy’s mind when she tells Dorothy to give her the ruby slippers because she is the only one who truly knows how to use them.

If you listen closely, you can hear how similar that sounds like an adoption agency rep telling a frightened pregnant woman that the agency is better equipped to decide the future of this expectant child or that someone else is better equipped to parent her child then she is.

What’s interesting to me, that I never really noticed before writing this, is how neutral the Good Witch, Glenda is.  She is neither happy nor angry.  She shows little emotion of approval or disapproval of what has occurred.  She is almost God-like.  She acknowledges the power of the ruby slippers and tells Dorothy how special they must be.

Isn’t every child truly special, no matter the circumstance?

When the Wicked Witch of the West tries to threaten Glenda, she quickly responds without fear, “Rubbish, you have no power here.  Be gone before somebody drops a house on you.”  That statement always made me feel good.  She was fearless.

Dorothy must have felt safe standing by her side.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all could tell anyone who tried to bully or threaten us to “be gone, you have no power here.”

However, the mood quickly changes just before the Wicked Witch of the West leaves, as she threatens Dorothy one more time and tells her that she will get Dorothy and her little dog too.  She makes it clear that she will not stop until she has possession of those ruby slippers.

I wonder how Dorothy would have made out if she didn’t have Toto or Glenda when all that occurred.  Would the story have turned out the same?  We’re pretty certain that the munchkins wouldn’t have been much help since they were cowering down the whole time the Wicked Witch of the West was there.  Would Dorothy have been strong enough to fight against the Wicked Witch of the West alone?

Dorothy makes her plea to Glenda that her only wish is to get back home to Kansas.

The story takes a very interesting turn and becomes focused on two primary things; the ruby slippers and getting back home to Kansas.  Everything else is based around those two primary themes.  Dorothy wants to get back home and the Wicked Witch of the West desperately wants the ruby slippers.  The Wicked Witch of the West has to get those slippers before Dorothy leaves OZ and returns to her loved ones because she knows that once Dorothy leaves OZ, she will have no more chances of getting those ruby slippers.

Likewise, an adoption agency’s goal is to get the mother to relinquish before she leaves the hospital because they know that once a mother leaves the hospital with her child, she is less likely to willingly relinquish her parental rights.

Let’s face it.  While most adoption agencies claim their clients are the vulnerable women who come to them with an unplanned pregnancy, their real clients are the paying customers.  Really.  Who are you going to accommodate in your business; the non-paying customer who also gets free services or the paying customer?

Glenda sends Dorothy on a new path alone down the yellow brick road,  Although Glenda remains mostly out of site, she appears to watch over Dorothy while at the same time allowing Dorothy to make her own choices.  She knows it will be Dorothy’s determination and faith that leads her back home to Kansas.  But before Dorothy leaves, Glenda warns Dorothy to never let those ruby slippers off her feet or she “will be at the mercy” of the Wicked Witch of the West.  That’s a powerful statement.  Why would Dorothy be at the mercy of the Wicked Witch of the West when the only thing the Wicked Witch wanted was the ruby slippers in the first place?

That sounds like a warning to a birth mother to me.  Ask a birth mother what happens after she relinquishes her parental rights.  She is at the mercy of the adoption agency, sometimes the adoptive parents and of her choice.  Most often she is at the mercy of her secrets, her emotions, and a lifetime of stages in grief and possibly regret.

At this point, young Dorothy with her ruby slippers is all alone with the exception of her dog, Toto.  She is without her family’s support.  And she is lost.  But…the story has only just begun.

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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.

The Many Faces of the Birth Mother

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately. It seems that we birthmothers who at one time belonged to one social stereotypical group as in the Baby Scoop Era have now seemed to have morphed into several different categories. I’m not sure that all of this is good or valid.

Riding in the car with my mom one day, we were talking about my adoption/relinquishment. Then somehow our old neighbors (very good friends of my parents who adopted a baby girl in the 60’s) came up. My mother said that the adoptee, after finding out she was adopted which was hidden from her until her teenage years, decided to search for her birthmother. Now my mother didn’t know all the details about their meeting but the next sentences that came out of her mouth would haunt me for years. My mother said, “She found her [birth] mother. The impression I got, her mother wasn’t much of anything.” And then she made some comment about how the adoptee was better off with her adoptive parents. All I heard was, “her mother wasn’t much of anything.” That sentence would continue to play over and over in my mind.

I’ve sat in a room with many birthmothers, women who were working in corporate America, women who were high school teens; women who were prostitutes and women who were drug addicts; single women, married women; women who were pregnant for the first time and women who were pregnant for the third time, women who were in open adoptions and women who chose closed adoption; women who relinquished because they feared raising a bi-racial child and others because they were abused by the father of their child. I’ve seen some women filled with emotion over their choice to relinquish their parental rights that tears flowed endlessly out of their eyes, other women who chattered endlessly about an update with pictures or a long overdue visit with her [birth] child, and yet another woman who never wanted to get pregnant, who said she felt no connection to the being inside her and had no desire to parent that child or any children, and who am I to judge any of them. For we all chose the same thing; to not parent the child that we conceived and delivered into this world.

I think most of us fight hard to dispel the myths of the “bad” birthmother. I mean, we already have a heavy load to carry just by the fact of the choice we made. We don’t want to carry the cross of the “bad” girl, “bad” woman, and certainly not the “bad” mother for the rest of our life. We don’t want to be too happy or too angry about our choice. We don’t want to be measured up against the women who are raising our children as better or less than. We don’t want to fit into any negative stereotypes. Many of us work hard on our image in hopes that society or more importantly, our offspring doesn’t return one day and think or say, “She wasn’t much of anything. I was better off without her.”

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