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Starting Over

I just unpublished every post on this blog all the way back to it’s inception in 2007. My summer break winter break spare moments will in part be used to sort through, edit, and republish some of those posts. Others will never return. My goal is to reassess what is mine to share and what belongs to others.

I’m a mother who relinquished a child at birth. It’s important to share my story, birth parent voices have been silenced for so long. I got lucky and have a wonderful successful open adoption which makes me a perfect advocate for reform. It’s harder to dismiss me as “bitter” (although not impossible). But no one lives in a vacuum and thus we need to be careful about only sharing the part of the story we own especially when the other owner is a child who has had absolutely no say in being a part of the story nor in the sharing of the story.

Open Adoption Is Not Slavery

Today I quit two online adoption groups. The quitting of one has been a long time coming. Microaggression after microagression after macroaggression. It was only a matter of time before I left. The other was a surprise. It was a birth mom support group. I loved having other moms like me to talk to. Obviously no one’s story is exactly the same, but it was nice knowing there was this group of women who “get it” and I don’t have to explain or educate them about what it’s like to be a mom like me.

Last night someone in that group said something that bothered me and I decided to let it go. To not debate or question to just pretend it hadn’t happened.

This morning I saw it again and it still bothered me. In fact the more I thought about it the more it bothered me. I wasn’t offended, I wasn’t hurt, but I couldn’t just let it go.

That something was comparing open adoption to slavery.

Open adoption = slavery for the mother.

if you say or do anything that causes you to fall out of graces, or you disagree, or open your mouth with any kind of opinion, you run the risk of the adoption closing.

Slavery.

Can’t be authentic.

The AP’s hold your most valuable asset, your offspring.

As both a Black woman and a mother who relinquished and is living open adoption I object to this metaphor. I consider it unnecessarily hyperbolic and in the same sphere as those who refer to abortion as genocide or anyone they disagree with as Hitler. It diminishes any chance for productive conversation about the very real flaws present in adoption.

However, responses to this criticism were of two varieties:

  1. She’s too sensitive so lets not discuss this
  2. yes it is it’s exactly like slavery

Well, thats not entirely true there was one person who reframed it as emotional slavery, but she was shouted down.

I was asked “How is it not like slavery” however as I was about to respond I was met by the ultimate one two punch in whitesplaining:

  1. My black friends says
  2. But not all slaves are/were black

Nope. I’m done. I’m not going to get into a “discussion”, where an acceptable response is “but my Black friend” not going to do it. I identified it as a racist tactic and I left the group.

However, I never did get to answer the question so I’m doing so here.

How is Open Adoption not Slavery?

Coercion happens. State initiated TPR happens unfairly. Both these things happen, they happen more often than most want to admit. But that is not the same as slavery.

Yes there is a power differential. Adoptive parents are the gatekeepers to the children we love until they grow able to have independent relationships. Some adoptive parents use that power in controlling and unfair ways. Some adoptive parents go back on their agreements. But that is not the same as slavery.

If a first parent feels they must walk on eggshells, put up a facade, or pretend to be someone they aren’t to maintain their open adoption that is wrong. It is a bad match. It is bad communication. It might be lack of education and commitment on the part of the adoptive parents. But that is not the same a slavery.

Slavery reduces people to property (which ironically enough this person did by referring to our children as assets) and removes their humanity. Slavery is never ok. There is no good way to practice slavery.

Open adoption describes the relationship of people. Open adoption can be ok. While it is not perfect it can be practiced in good ways.

There are no reforms that could make slavery good. There are reforms that could make open adoption good.

Open Adoption is not slavery.

Let’s let go of the hyperbole and focus on reform.


 

Had the person asserted that some adoptees feel there are parallels or referred to the child trafficking that occurs in some types of adoption or even accepted the reframe of emotional slavery we’d’ve been having a very different conversation.

Also I don’t care what your Black friend has to say as far as I know we haven’t elected a spokesnegro we all are still entitled to our own points of view.

 

Lucky

I just wrote about my path to relinquishment. Even writing my truth I feel guilty. I feel I need to balance it with happy talk so as not to offend anyone. Which, I do know is an impossible goal, but still I try.

I got lucky. Regardless of how I ended up signing those papers. I got lucky. I got lucky that a wonderful couple’s profile was in the stack sent to me by the facilitation service. I got lucky that they didn’t care about gender or race or distance. I got lucky that they were every bit as fantastic in person as on the paper and on the phone.

I got lucky that they desired openness. I got lucky that our personalities aligned and our openness grew. I got lucky that Kidlet doesn’t remember a time without me visiting. I got lucky that Kidlet was in my wedding. I got lucky that I was in his Bar Mitzvah.

I got lucky.

I am lucky.

I am the exception, but not the rule. Too many don’t get lucky. Too many experience broken promises and closed adoptions. Too many find out the couple they read about on paper or met at the agency doesn’t really exist at least not in the way they’d portrayed themselves.

And so I continue on, acknowledging my luck and recognizing all the reform that needs to be done.

I’ve been slow putting the blog back together, not knowing what to write about, what to republish, what to leave gone.

The topic of relinquishment and choice has come up in fairly heated conversations in more than one adoption group recently. And when I say recently I mean the last few days. It’s as if somewhere an alarm went off alerting people that this is the week for debating relinquishment.

There have been those who call it selfless, heroic, and courageous. There are those who call it abandonment, irresponsible. In both camps there are those who insist on reminding everyone we chose this.  We either chose it by signing relinquishment forms or we chose it by being incapable of parenting and having the state intervene. No room for nuance, no room for context. Simple. Dismissive. Choice.

It’s not that simple. Nothing ever is. Sure somewhere there is probably at least one mom who made a clear cut choice to relinquish. And sure somewhere there is probably at least one mom who made a clear cut choice not to work her plan and thus lost her parental rights. But for a majority of people there is no clear cut binary of choice and non-choice. There’s a continuum of coercion and we fall somewhere along it.

I was 17, in high school, and unemployed when I got pregnant. I was lucky in that I found out I was pregnant fairly early in the pregnancy, however I had less than 9 months to figure out how to parent my son.  I found a job, but minimum wage after school and on weekends wasn’t (and still isn’t) a lot even though I was in a state with one of the highest minimum wages.

My self worth was beat down on all fronts.

My boyfriend became distant. I no longer blame him, he was dealing with the same crisis I was, but since the fetus wasn’t in his body he had the option to check out. My best friend dropped me without a second thought. My boyfriend’s family called me names.I treated poorly at my prenatal appointments and reminded repeatedly that my insurance, my father’s insurance, would not cover the baby. I was made to feel like the doctors were doing me a favor in seeing me rather than doing their job.

My parents didn’t really talk to me about parenting or about adoption, come to think of it they didn’t talk to me much those nine months. I remember My father talking to me about the possibility that I’d be kicked out of school. (Which I now know would be in violation of title IX, but he was basing it on how things were done when he was in school). About how I needed to be careful around my male friends so people at school didn’t associate them with “my condition”. And that my parents and sisters would not be providing child care should I keep my baby. I don’t remember my mom saying anything. But really, what do you say when your 17 year old tells you she’s pregnant?

I called several places for help. One called back. An adoption facilitation services which advertised “pregnancy counseling”. I know now that it should have been called adoption counseling, but at the time I was grateful they returned my call. I answered their questions, gave them access to my medical records, they sent me profiles to pick parents for my child. Adoption was a forgone conclusion. At one point during the process I said I wanted to parent and I was threatened with foster care.

I now know they can’t take my child because I refuse to relinquish. I now know my parents would’ve helped me. I now know I could’ve done it. I now know there are programs to help. I now know I could’ve parented. I now know there were other options.

I now know so many things that would’ve been helpful to know then. But no one was there to tell me. No one was there to help.

So yes, I made a choice. But it wasn’t a fully informed choice. It wasn’t free of coercion. It doesn’t negate my pain and grief. It doesn’t make Kidlet any less my son regardless of legalities.

Kidlet and I are friends on a social media platform. (He initiated the connection so no it’s not some weird non-boundary having birth mom predatory thing) <– why do i even still feel i have to make these types of disclaimers!

ANYWAY

Kidlet and I are social media friends. Sometimes I’ll post a Throw Back Thursday picture of him or of us, especially around his birthday or just when I’m missing him particularly much. One such photo he commented on was from our very first face to face live and in person visit. I asked if he remembered that visit and he doesn’t really, which could have made me sad. Perhaps it should have made me sad, but it actually makes me smile.

It makes me smile because this means I have been a real physical human being person in his life for as long as he remembers. There is no time when I was just a name, or photo, or holiday card. He has known me for the entirety of his memory.

I used to worry that we didn’t start visits soon enough. That my inability to visit sooner had created this split in his experience the part of his life where he didn’t really know me and the part where he does.

Perhaps this is entirely selfish, but i’m glad there is no such division. I’m glad he has known me for as long as he can remember.

It might seem like a small thing, but it’s big to me. and it makes me smile.

 

New Year Same Me

It’s New Years Day, 2015. I’m sure I’m supposed to use this time and this space to make resolutions, predictions, and promises. But I really don’t see 2015 being much different from 2014, if at all.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that 2014 was bad. It wasn’t. In fact all in all it was a pretty good year. I saw my kid a few times, I visited my parents, I passed all my classes, I presented at conferences. But I wasn’t transformed.

I didn’t finally commit to clean living despite wanting to be healthier. I didn’t join a gym or start running despite wanting to get in shape. I didn’t give up all possible migraine triggers despite wanting to get a better handle on my chronic migraines. I did find a therapist, but I also fired her after a bad session. And by fired I mean just never went back because I’m ever so “good” at confrontation and termination.

And the thing  is I’m not saying any of this because I plan to change it or because I feel badly about these supposed failings. I don’t. I’m still the same me and I’ll be the same me in 2015. And I’m more than okay with that.

They’re killing our kids.

Is there nothing to be done?

Just screaming into a pillow as the tears fall.

I’m not surprised not even a little.

But I really didn’t want to be right.

Not this time, not last time or the time before or the one that comes next.

I don’t want to feel relief that my son looks white

…but i do.

Without A Map

There’s no roadmap for open adoption. We’re all just figuring it out as we go. But for spouses/partners/significant others of birth parents (and adoptees) the course is even less clear, which is why it’s all the more impressive that TeacherMan is such a freaking rock star this weekend.

He met Kidlet and M a year ago on our turf. Then six months ago Kidlet came to visit us. However, this weekend we’re in their state, for their event, surrounded by their extended family. TeacherMan is taking it all in stride and being super attentive to any possible emotional needs I could possibly have.

He’s a good guy this husband of mine and I’m such a lucky girl.

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