Tuesday, November 4, 2008

jour d'élection!

I hope adoptees and those who love them used their vote today to further the cause of restoring the right of ownership to one’s own birth certificate. Adoptees are the only group of people to be, as a class, denied this very personal piece of identification and it is blatant, state-sponsored discrimination any way you look at it. A few states have realized this, a couple have always known, but most are like mine - gardien de Gestapo des dossiers work diligently to "protect" the three-in-a-hundred mothers (and, perhaps, as many adoptees) who wish to hide with no heed paid to the vast majority. Where’s the democracy in that? Laws already exist to protect the aforementioned minority should their privacy be invaded against their will, where are the laws to protect the majority who desire information of their own personal life?

At the very least, current laws should ensure the fair and equal treatment of all adult law-abiding citizens. Again, adoptees are the ONLY law-abiding, adult citizens to be, as a class, denied a copy of their own original birth certificate.

Thankfully, there are some exceptions. Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon recognize the right of adopted people to be treated just like anyone else.

I just can't understand why the other 46 states haven't, unless they are simply being bought out. In many states, like mine, state senates instead of popular vote decide these laws, and educating lawmakers becomes paramount. Identifying and replacing lawmakers who oppose equality is also necessary and that is where our vote really counts – at the state level. I know who I voted for. I had the votes tally for the various versions of our Michigan open-records bill. I called and e-mailed offices with questions and voted against any who didn’t respond or who were pro closed-records. I only wish I could have voted in more districts. In lieu, I wish I had the funds to post newspaper ads across the state identifying opponents of equality.

The ACLU would be all over this, if its membership didn’t include so many attorneys making a killing off the infant adoption industry.

America, land of the free.

Enterprise, that is.

Monday, October 20, 2008

bleah, miscellaneous ramblings

Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

When I was young, this phrase was the standard reply when responding to insults from the enemy-of-the-moment.

I consider myself lucky in that our little three-block neighborhood was awash in children from infants to young teens during my first ten years of life, so I was not raised in social isolation. I was unlucky in that my adoptedness was common knowledge and often employed in the insults I received. I am lucky that I developed a keen sense of the unpleasantness of discrimination even while living in a small, lily-white northern Michigan community. I am unlucky in that I was born in the state of Michigan, a state which believes it is Righteous and Good to discriminate against adoptees by denying them a copy of their own real birth certificate.

Political Rant:
There is no way I can believe lawmakers here are not on the take when all empirical evidence shows that "birthmother privacy" is not an issue. Almost all "birthmothers" (and adoptees) desire open communication and laws are already on the books to protect those who don’t. As always, money talks. And when healthy white infants garner $30,000+ in "filing fees" to adopt, it is easy to see where that money came from. So it’s also easy to see why "social workers" are taught coercive tactics designed to separate child from mother quickly. This pamphlet is a typical example, widely distributed to adoption agencies coast-to-coast. Bethany Christian Services has them. Assuming they follow its directives, and I know they do, they would have certainly gone after the baby Jesus. After all, his mother was only thirteen or fourteen and possibly unmarried (depending on the version, but certainly young), very poor, not possibly equipped to parent a newborn. He would have gotten a good price.
"Christian" services my ass.
(End Rant)

…but words can never hurt me.

I said that a lot as a kid, but it wasn’t true, at least for me. The neighborhood kids, especially the girls, would taunt me with gems like "your real mother didn’t want you" (or "didn’t love you", etc), "you don’t look like your sister/brother – oh, ha ha, they aren’t your sister/brother, ha ha", "They probably got you from some garbage can…". They were very inventive. Their words hurt like arrows through the heart. We moved to a different part of town when I was ten. I didn’t tell anyone in the new neighborhood we were adopted and swore my a-sibs to secrecy. They agreed willingly.

I’ve grown more callused through the years but am still sensitive to certain words at certain times. I’ve learned to consider the source and that greatly filters what my reactive self hears.

Still and because of that, simple words are the most painful component of my marriage’s collapse. Today’s case involves the common "misplaced car keys". Her keys were already in the running car when I climbed aboard to drive. After arriving home I attempted to give keys to wife, she refused whilst busy with mail, I set on counter next to her purse and walked away. Keys disappeared. A common scenario, not one worth raising a lot of rancor over in my estimation. If not found, copies can be made. But I estimate wrong. Next day, unable to find them (but possessing a spare key), she calls me at work to fling a few choice words my way. I stupidly answer phone on speaker while working in staffed office. She takes the day off due to the stress of it all. After work I spend over three hours searching. I admit my memory of setting them on the counter may be faulty so I search the entire house, both garages, both vehicles, and surrounding grounds. No luck. Strangely, keys are something I am positively anal about; I never just lay them somewhere. (This is a learned response from locking keys inside vehicles. I cannot close a car door without holding the car keys in my hand.) I searched very hard. I cannot think of another place to look. I cannot be absolutely sure I am not to blame here, though history consists of her memory being at fault every time in matters like this, so far. And I didn’t mind looking, except for the words of encouragement. Lively spirit-lifters such as "dickwad - where’d you put my fucking keys?!", "fucking retard", "stupid asshole", "fucking idiot", and my favorite "since you’re into that adoption shit you’ll probably blame being an idiot on being fucking adopted, huh?".

I love the internet. In the last three years I have met dozens of adoptees who share some of the effects of being relinquished and this has been very healing and affirming for me. I have received more guidance and reassurance, more insight and compassion than I ever have from a "legitimate" counselor. My wife is suspect of this fact. I will freely agree I might benefit greatly from a therapist learned in adoptee issues but there are none to be found in my area. In the meantime, I draw great satisfaction, and insight I believe, from my fellow adoptees. And I believe any adoptees who might stumble upon this post would agree. There is no better listener and advisor than one who has been there.

My wife does not get it though. We were doing alright, more or less, until I came out of the fog and began searching again. Basically a very needy person, she resented the time spent on my search. Then the time spent with reunion attempts. She rode to Lansing with me to testify for our open-records bill and meet my half-sister, but complained bitterly about spending vacation time that might better be spent on a vacation with her. This summer’s junket to New Orleans put her over the top as I expected. I booked everything last February and asked her at the time if she would go, that I would really appreciate the support. She questioned, I explained clearly that it was an adoptee-rights oriented trip where most time would be spent preparing to protest, protesting, manning the booth, and discussing ideas for improving everything. She was adamant that she didn’t want to spend "a whole week of me being adopted" and so I went solo.

I wasn’t home thirty minutes before she accused me of "loving my adoptee friends more than her" and having an affair. I explained that most attendees were, like myself, married or heavily committed, she asked how many spouses were there. When I told her most spouses stayed home to watch the kids, she implied that this was some way for "adoptees to screw around on their spouses" (emphasis hers).
One-track mind at work there. The adoptees I met in New Orleans were beautiful people. I was awed by their gentleness, their genuineness and their spirit. Normally very shy, I was at ease with these similar strangers from around the world. Everyone was friendly but no one was there to have an affair.

A social wrecker from Friend of the Court said "what we have here is a failure to communicate". I’d have to say I disagree. Communication flows effervescently, points are clear. She cannot tolerate my internet friendships. She says "they're not real." I remind her I met some this past summer and have pictures to prove it. She says they would be fine if they visited IRL. The fact they live in places like New Zealand, Finland and Hawaii makes no difference to her. I cannot tolerate the constant belittlement. Is it a result of being adopted? Probably not, but I will now ponder that while I should be sleeping.

I’m thinking of starting a dating service for adoptees, maybe with another section for first parents. I am beginning to believe that only an adoptee can truly understand (and, maybe love) another adoptee.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm so grateful, I guess...

I am grateful for the eight months I had to correspond with my cousin before she passed on.
Having lived with my mother from the age of four and being only three years younger, she was a fountain of information, one I certainly wished I had tapped more completely.

I am an emotional sap these days. I cry reading stories of adoptees who refuse to meet their heartsick mother, who’s waited eighteen years or more for the chance to see again the child they were coerced out of. I even cry happy tears watching reunions on "The Locator". The absolute worst are the stories of adoptees rebuffed, denied, hurt beyond measure as they experience again the fears and self-doubts they’ve struggled so long to overcome. I simply cannot comprehend how a mother could not want to know her own child. It is the cruelest thing I have ever heard of and I bawl like a baby whenever I read of another.

When I was young, before age six or so, I spent a lot of time on the front lawn waiting for my mother to return for me. I figured this "adopted" thing was temporary. After all, I had been told that my mother "just couldn’t take care of me"; I expected she would remedy the situation, come pick me up, and all would be fine from then on.

(I guess I didn’t bond all that well with my forever parents. They were good people, generally, but strict, and the natural love found in most families was glaringly absent. I was well aware of that fact and envious of my friends’ families before the age of five.)

Only once did I try and discuss with my cousin the impact my relinquishment had upon my mother. It went something like this:

Me: So, umm, did M ever mention me, I mean, say anything about me, later. Like, years later or something…. I, umm, just wondered if she thought about me or anything, umm…

Cousin: You know, I asked her once if she ever thought about trying to look you up, to contact you, and she said "Oh, they seal those records forever, I couldn’t find out if I tried".

Me: Yeah, well, they certainly tried, I mean the records are still sealed though they have this central registry thing nobody knows about because they never advertised it. I was just wondering if she ever brought me up in a conversation or something…

Cousin: Oh Jimm, she would have loved to meet you, I just know it in my heart.

Me: Yeah, well, probably, I sure wish we had had the chance, you know. I kinda just figured that since you knew her so well, you were the only other family member to even know of me, that she might have felt the need to talk about it once in a while, and, umm, you would probably be the one she would speak to…

Cousin: If she were alive today she’d be so happy to know you. You’ve grown into such a nice and responsible adult. And L too. [my half-sister, also relinquished] She says she worked at the phone company too, just like me. Twenty years I worked there, they treated me pretty well. You know your mother worked there too, for a few years, a different department than me though, I remember one day, I had to work through most of my lunch hour that day…

Thereafter, no discussion on the topic was entertained. The conversation was always gently guided elsewhere, typically a humerous recollection including my mother, raising my suspicions that a joyful reunion might not have been likely after all. I had set upon developing another line of questioning that might reveal more truth in the matter but was unsuccessfully slow. With L’s passing, the last hope of answering the question of why also died.

At least I escaped being abandoned a second time. For that, I suppose I am grateful.

Kind of.

In a way. Sort of.

Or maybe not. It’s hard to decide.

Very hard to decide.


Monday, September 8, 2008

A sad day in Georgia

This story illustrates so much of what is wrong with our child welfare system today. When did we decide, as a society, that it's ok to take a child from her mother because some social worker speculates the mother may, at some future time, cause "harm" to her child? When did that happen?

Only when the outcome is tragic do we hear any outcry. And then it's lost in the cacophony of foster care supporters clamoring over the thankless suffrage they endure for the good of all those orphaned waifs.

Except they're not orphaned waifs. Not most of them. Most have been removed, like Jessica, for reasons shaky at best, imagined and vindictive at worst. See, Jessica's mother had recently asked for help with her bi-polar disease. It is well-managed with meds, but, as with most meds, periodic visits to a physician are required to continue the prescription. Being young and not particularly affluent, she sought help with the public health system.

That's it.

That's the reason little Jessica was taken from her mother.

Ironically, Jessica died of excessive heat when the foster mother became drowsy and napped after taking some medication, leaving Jessica in the hot car outside while her adopted toddlers played unattended indoors.

Why wasn't Jessica with extended family? They were available and willing.

Don't get me wrong, there will be the rare occasion where unrelated foster care truly is the best answer. But should a weighty decision like this be made on a personal whim? Absolute power corrupts. Perhaps citizens should be made to sit on rotating "foster boards" of a dozen or so, like jury duty, and only upon their approval may a child be placed outside of biological family. I don't know. Certainly the power to disembowel the family is too often invoked.

Apparently, the UK's system isn't much better. Run Sam, run!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Possible Adoptee Fears

From the 1994 NY Triad Conference:

Possible Adoptee Fears

1. That they will find their birth mother deceased.

2. That they will be rejected.

3. That their adoptive parents will be devastated and not understand why they are searching and that he/she will not be able to share with them or will be rejected by them.

4. That they are a secret and their birth mother will not acknowledge their existence to herself or her family.

5. That they will not meet the expectations of their birth mother.

6. That the birth family will be needy.

7. That the birth mother will not be truthful.

8. That the birth mother will not understand his/her life problems.

9. That the timing or method of contact will not be right.

10. That they will hurt their adoptive or birth family by saying the wrong thing.

11. That they will find out negative things about their birth and surrender.

12. That they will have to give up their fantasies.

Whilst wandering blogland I happened across a comment on what, I believe, was a PAP blog. The commenter said they "wouldn't read any [adoptee] blogs either".

Typical head-in-the-sand behaviour, I thought, and moved on.

But, like a song you can't get out of your head, her comment festered until I had to return, hell-bent on ripping her a new orifice.

I did modify my response a little when it occurred to me that the vast majority of adoptee blogs I've read are, in fact, authored by adoptees who have experienced or are experiencing one or more of the feared outcomes listed above. I'm not sure if any (either) of the happy-adoptee blogs I've found are actually authored by real adoptees. They could be. Hell, my adoptive brother is still heavily fogged at 44 years old. Happy AP and PAP blogs abound, almost no happy adoptee blogs, unhappy adoptee and first mother blogs everywhere. In this anonymous age of the internet where everyone can post their true feelings, what does that say about the "triad" of adoption experience? That only complainers are vocal? I think not, just listen to the AP's.


Friday, August 29, 2008

The Same Smile, and my search

I just finished reading Susan Souza's book "The Same Smile", her touching story of unexpected teenage pregnancy, reluctant relinquishment forced by her parents, and 30 years of longing for that lost child. It is an all too common story, one that I once believed would apply to my mother. I had always imagined her to be some lovestruck teen who let her emotions, and hormones, get the best of her. I pictured the awful admission to the horrified parents, the middle-of-the-night trip to the "unwed mothers' home", the incredible sadness and guilt at leaving her child behind, told that she can never see her child again...

I remember pondering these things as a young child of around five years old. I don't know where I came up with these ideas at such a young age, probably just the natural extension of what I was told by my adoptive mother when I asked where I had come from. She never said much, just something like "your mother couldn't take care of you so she gave you up", so I was left to my imagination. It was around that age that I quit asking altogether, having learned that no information would be made available if it was even known and realizing that this line of questioning made my mother visibly upset. In my mind, I pictured my "real" mother as that lovestruck teenager, someone just like Susan. Someone incredibly sad about losing her son. Someone who would get herself set up properly and return for me. In my child's mind, I pictured this taking months, maybe a couple of years. Certainly five was enough and I spent many, many hours just sitting out on the front lawn watching everyone who drove by, making sure they saw me, waiting for my mother to come back for me. Only once do I remember my adoptive mother asking me why I spent the entire Saturday in front of the house instead of playing in the back yards with the neighborhood kids. I already knew not to tell the truth and invented some fib, I don't remember what it was but it sufficed.

I kept up the watching and displaying for a few years. Slowly and painfully I realized that I was, indeed, left for good and I had better get used to it. I firmly believe that realization caused a true depression. My adoptive parents couldn't have been more delighted. I went from being full of energy and enthusiasm ("high-strung") to sullen and withdrawn ("manageable, well-behaved"). They attributed it to the thyroid medications they had convinced the doctor I needed "due to my too-slender build" (this was before the age of prozac for children). I only took the meds for a week or so - they made me feel "not quite right" - after that I would slip them under my tongue to be spat out later.

Ours was the only adoptive family in the neighborhood and, as such, we were viewed as freaks and teased by the other kids when the mood struck them. When you are that young, being ostracized by the only playmates available doesn't do much for the self-image and it is a problem I still suffer with today.

But I digress.

When I turned twenty-one I realized that, as an adult, I should be able to find her, and her me. I was living in Colorado at the time and tried to get this information over the phone and through the mail. This was my first official encounter with closed adoption records. I was disappointed enough when I could not access my records but absolutely dumbstruck when they told me that my biological mother also would not be able to have any information about me. I pleaded with them, sure that she would show up asking about me, and was put on hold, transferred endlessly, berated and hung up on. I drove back to Michigan and paid a visit to the county clerk's office where the adoption had taken place, asking for a copy of the record. They would not give it to me. (Interestingly, in 2007 I wrote a letter to the same office, saying I had a legal right to the adoption decree which I would sue for if necessary, and enclosed the standard $26 fee for such a document copy. They sent a notorized true copy within a week.)

Many years of life's complexities kept me busy. My birthday was always a reminder of my non-being, my non-connectedness to the "normal" human race, and was always a depressing time. No one seemed to understand why I didn't want to celebrate it, after all, it was "my" day. To me, "my" day signified that I was unlovable, not worth keeping, defective. On that day, an unwanted child was born. Never mind that my adoptive parents had told me the whole "chosen baby" line - I knew even as a young child that I was a second-choice replacement for the son they couldn't produce themselves. But on my birthday in 2006 I made a promise to myself to locate my mother no matter what it took.

Inquiring to the state, I learned that they had instituted a CI program some years earlier. "Why had I not been notified?" I asked. "No one was personally notified" I was told. "It is a citizen's duty to keep abreast of the laws." Well, was this a law? Shouldn't a "Human Services" agency try and serve those humans by at least advertising changes in policy that may affect their personal lives? Michigan never ceases to amaze me. The positive side to this is that they will, no doubt, fail to advertise any portion of HB6287 should it pass, making vetoes virtually nonexistent and OBC's available to any who ask.

I also discovered the ISRR & other online registries. I posted my info everywhere I could, though I knew the likelihood of someone my mother's age searching the internet would be low. I joined a couple of search groups, including one just for Michigan adoptees. I saved up beer money and registered with the CI program. Just before my 2007 birthday, a search angel contacted me with probable information. Later that same day the CI called with the same information. My mother had died in 2000. I felt incredibly cheated.

My mother was 26 at the time of my birth, not a teenager. No matter, I thought, surely there was a very good reason for her relinquishing me. She was divorced, living on her own, gainfully employed. I was told of a half-brother, five years old at my birth. Well... I couldn't form any opinion without more knowledge. I wrote to the half-brother. Three months went by with no response. I wrote again. Waited three more months. In the meanwhile I had found the address of my mother's widower who, I suspected, knew nothing of my existence. I had found the names and obituaries of the grandparents and all the aunts and uncles. I found the name of a cousin who was close to my mother, mentioned in her obituary, but could not find an address or phone number. Eventually, desperation took over and I wrote to my mother's widower. Luckily, he was very receptive, providing me with what information he could. As I suspected, he did not know about me, but he seemed to take it well, knowing full well the atmosphere of the day concerning unwed mothers. And, he got me in touch with the cousin, who spent her childhood with my mother. The cousin was the daughter of my mother's oldest sister and was two years younger than my mother. They grew up together with my grandparents because the oldest sister had TB and spent a lot of time in the hospital. This cousin was the only other person in the family who knew about my birth. She provided many wonderful stories of their childhood before she died this past June, but always avoided answering why, with eleven adult siblings living in the area, my mother couldn't or wouldn't ask for help so that she could keep me too, her second son.

Her stories were full of clues, however.

(to be continued)

Monday, August 25, 2008

"What the fuck's with HIM...!"

Since I have succeeded in alienating my entire adoptive family, many friends, and a couple of bio-cousins I only recently met with my rants about adoption, I've decided to vent here. It's an internet-age replacement for a journal, I suppose, one I can store off-site with little chance for detection by those whom might be (cough) offended.

Let me start out by saying that I am not anti-adoption. There will always be occasions where adoption is the best solution. They happen today. They could amount to many tens of thousands of adoptions per year here in the US. But adoptions happening because they are the best solution for the child is not, typically, what is happening. Many, many children spend their entire lives in the foster care system, while a block away a childless couple pines for a little one in the house. But what they want is a healthy infant less than a year old, preferrably their race, to replace the missing figure in their perfect-family-photo they've dreamt about for so long. Foster care children tend to be older, and they so often have problems don't you know.
Well, no shit. I wonder why. I have attachment issues I believe came from being abandoned, but I was adopted by a stable, secure, fair if not particularily loving couple. I can only imagine what it is like to feel continually abandoned, as I imagine many foster care kids do.

So I am not anti-adoption. But I am anti - 99% of the adoptions in the US today. Like all industry, adoption is consumer-driven. Adoption consumers have been conditioned to expect fees of several thousand dollars for "paperwork" and, like all industry, when supplies are tight the price increases, opening new avenues for nefarious activity. And it occurs. Adoption of healthy white infants here is big bucks business and illegal transactions are happening more and more frequently, even with the much-touted "increased oversight". "Official" agencies have been, and continue to be involved in some very shady activity. Reports of children taken from parents under very shaky pretenses and adopted away against their wishes get my blood boiling.

I will add links and update soon as I find time. No shortage of that kind of shit out there. Sad.