adoption


Oocyte viewed with HMC

Image via Wikipedia

Rob calls me “literal girl” because sometime nuance escapes me. I have often wondered if there had been an Autism spectrum when I was a child if I would have been slotted somewhere along it.

I make assumptions about the virtual people I know based on what they post and where they post it. If we are Facebook acquaintances, and your feed is a healthy mix of the personal and self-promotion, I figure that no question is purely rhetorical even at the crossroads of religion and politics.

Apparently, I am wrong about this. One can shamelessly promote causes and career and still feel that status rants are sacrosanct.

A blogging acquaintance roared a bit about the recent abortion scuffle during the almost shutdown of the U.S. government, which I personally feel has little to do with “life” and everything to do with stripping women of the few rights we still possess, and basically called out those of us who believe that women’s healthcare should number abortion among its many faces.

Why not just admit that abortion is about killing children, she asked. I would respect you more if you would simply own that fact.

I thought about it. And responded.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. The cheering section that followed her bluster was a clear indication that only those who believed as she did would be actually respected, but I responded.

Why? Because she asked for responses and because she’s wrong. Her position, grounded in motherhood and Christianity, presumes that those who support the ability to choose to abort a pregnancy think the fetus is a child or that life begins at conception or that the unborn have rights that supersede the woman’s before they are viable.

“You know it’s murder,” she responded.

But it’s not, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in any of that Christian nonsense.

Life doesn’t begin at conception. Existence does. And just existing doesn’t mean much. My late husband existed for months in a spastic body with a brain scoured clean of dura matter, taking in nothing, processing nothing and responding to nothing. That’s not life. The embryos left over from our 2nd IVF existed in cryo-storage for over three years before I gave permission for them to be discarded. Frozen potential but also not life.

I know the difference between life and existence. That’s the quibble and we are nowhere near ready to admit it or deal with it as a society.

But I also don’t think life is sacred. We are born and ,if the stars align properly, we live, happily or not so much, depending on a lot of circumstances of which a goodly number are not ours to control, and then we die. That which is me – truly me – continues on. Maybe my self is born again or maybe there is another plane of existence. I don’t know. But this one life, while I like it very much, is just a blip on a vast canvas and given what I have seen, read, watched and experienced in my short life, I have yet to be convinced that anything about physical life as we know it is all that special. We certainly don’t treat it as such on the whole if one excludes the moaning over potential life, which seems to attract far more interest than the real live children who suffer within walking distance of almost all of us every single day.

But the bottom line is that someone else’s religious beliefs shouldn’t carry more weight in the eyes of the law than my own where my internal works are concerned and forcing a woman to give birth (or to risk pregnancy because you don’t believe contraception is moral either) is wrong. Woman are more than potential incubators, which is what the pro-life movement reduces them to – slutty incubators with the maternal instincts of magpies. (And just as an aside, since when does using your vagina for sexual purposes automatically translate into allowing the government jurisdiction over anything that results?*)

And I said so. But that wasn’t, actually, where I messed up even though – according to someone who responded later – I was rude to have replied at all.

No, what I did was tread unwisely into the “why don’t women who don’t want their babies simply give them up for adoption because there are a lot of us out here who can’t have kids who could benefit from this.”

The unspoken companion fairy story spins off into the “win-win” weeds of how everyone gets what they want and a poor unwanted baby is loved and cherished.

I really hate it when it’s assumed that I was unwanted or that my birth mother was little more than a brood mare.

Being adopted, however, I take all sorts of issue with the idea that adoption is a panacea without consequences. There are oodles of studies supporting the fact that even newborns know their birth mothers, and how can anyone think that an infant separated from its mother and carted off by strangers doesn’t know it or that marks aren’t left as a result?

There is also the tip-toed about problem that, at its heart, adoption is a legal transaction that comes uncomfortably close to buying and selling a tiny human being, who will someday be an adult that the law still regards as a child where the adoption is concerned.

And finally, almost no one goes into adoption as a first choice. Unless you are Angelina Jolie, maybe, you likely adopted as a back up plan when biology failed you. There is nothing about this that makes you a bad person, but the disingenuous way many adoptive parents approach this obvious truth is insulting to adopted children. We know the truth. We only think less of you when you won’t admit it.

I am not a puppy. Here are my papers, bundle me up and take me home. Woof.

My birth mother was seventeen, Catholic and it was 1963. She had no choice but to put me up for adoption.

My parents were infertile. If they wanted a family, they had no choice but to adopt.

Kudos to my parents for never pretending I wasn’t adopted or that the reason for it wasn’t the fact that they couldn’t have biological children. It never mattered to me. I knew nothing else. I was torqued, however, when I found out as an adult that not only was I not entitled to contact my birth parents for a health history, but that my dad had torched all the papers the agency had given them that might have helped me find out the information I am entitled to.

Dad took that tongue-lashing with an uncharacteristic meekness, I might add.

What was annoying about the responses I received on my take on adoption (one I think I earn by being an adoptee and therefore knowing something of what I speak) is the consensus that I was “wrong” and “need help”.

Seriously?

Really?

“Aren’t you glad that your mother cared enough to give birth to you? Wouldn’t you just hate it had you been aborted?”

What kind of backward logic is that?

Being a fetus, or even an infant, is not something I can recall, so if I had been aborted, how could I possibly know or care about it?

And if I had been and being born was important to me, wouldn’t I have simply been born to someone else? Or what if simply being conceived was all I had to do to complete what assignment this go around had me down for? What if my only task had been to blink into existence and then cease to be in a cellular form. providing my birth mother with the opportunity to have an abortion, which was part of her life’s lesson plan?

Of course, I had a more active curriculum to complete and to help others with this time. Being adopted was part of that though I still feel it is just a slightly harder to justify form of the whole ownership thing we pretend doesn’t exist where our children are concerned anyway.

It’s too bad, I suppose, that abortions have to occur. They are no picnic for the women getting them either, and it’s incorrect to assume why women have abortions by stereotyping them in the same category as those who take established lives.  But life is hard. Choices can be hard, and abortion is one of the hardest and making it harder, or impossible, might make you feel like a good person but it doesn’t solve the issues that bring women to choose it now, does it?

*Ah ha, I hear the righteous squeal, then why do my tax dollars have to pay for STD and PG checks via Planned Parenthood? If you want privacy, take care of your own damn health. To which I reply, good point. And let’s add getting old to that because my tax dollars shouldn’t have to replace a knee or hip you didn’t take care of when you were young because you were too lazy to exercise, right? Or that heart by-pass or the diabetes you developed eating nothing but processed food. Or the cancer you have because you couldn’t suck it up for the hot flashes and took hormones for too long.

And while we are at it, shouldn’t you have to fund your own retirement? It’s not my problem you thought your house was an ATM or that your children need five star summer vacations, is it?

There are a lot of things that tax dollars cover. Bank bailouts. Sketchy military actions. Corporate welfare. The list of waste is long and shifts depending on your politics, faith system and socio-economic status.

Lighten up.


Goddess (comics)

Image via Wikipedia

Reading Rick Riordan‘s new Olympian heroes series to Dee has only increased her polytheistic leanings. As we stood at the bus stop this morning reveling in plus 1 temps and a pleasant semi-Chinook wind, she wondered if perhaps the wind gods were angry and the blowing was a sign of their displeasure.

She has a habit of mulling before giving her growing philosophy voice. Perhaps I should have seen this coming, but it was still quite a surprise when she asked,

“Do you ever think you are a god, Mom?”

I frowned. Surely, a goddess would live a much fancier and risk-free existence than I was my first thought, but instead I asked,

“Wouldn’t I have super powers? Or be able to work magic if I was?”

“Not if your godly parents were hiding you for some reason,” she replied, smiling that pleased way she has when she’s puzzled something out and come up with – to her mind – the best explanation.

“Well,” I said, sitting down on her bed to level our eye contact, “I don’t think so.”

“You were adopted, Mom,” she explained patiently, “right? And maybe Zeus and Hera gave you to Grandma to keep you safe.”

“You think I am the daughter of the king and queen of heaven?”

“Oh, yes,” more pleased beaming.

“And does that make you a demigod?” I asked.

Dee longs to be a demigod. If she could choose her godly parent, it would be Hestia but as that means giving up me – and getting around the pesky fact that Hestia was a virgin goddess.

“Oh no, you had me with a mortal person,” she said. “So I am just mortal.”

“Okay,” I said, “but I don’t think that I am a child of a god. I can’t do anything special. No magic.”

She shrugged with her little secret smile that says “I know better than you” and replied, “You never know, Mom.”

Indeed.

From there the conversation rounded back to reincarnation. She simply can’t understand why demigods don’t choose to come back as “part of nature” like the satyrs and the dryads do.

“It’s good to came back as a tree or bush,” she argued, “because it’s part of nature.”

Rather enlightened for eight because most people hanker to come back and give mortal existence and a chance for the brass ring another go rather than simply contribute to the scenery.

Being a daughter of Zeus would mean dealing with a great many inherited personality flaws. The power to do anything positive would be lost in the struggle, I fear.

More interesting to me is Dee’s not quite voiced curiosity about my origins. Understandable. I am curious myself though not enough to undertake any quest for knowledge. I am still firmly anchored in my belief that my birth parents would not view my presence positively and that more younger siblings  (as there undoubtedly would be some) would add nothing good to my life.

When I was about her age, I spent a period quizzing my mother about my birth parents – my birth mom in particular. I wish I could recall everything Mom told me because she and dad were given quite a bit of information about them. Dad burned all the papers and Mom’s recall was incomplete.

Dad knew a lot. Occasionally he would let things slip but for the most part, he refused to part with details. He didn’t want us going off looking for our birth parents and he wanted our “histories” to be his history, a goal he largely succeeded in as I consider his family history to be mine.

But, it’s a bit annoying knowing that he had answers and chose not to share them because he felt insecure about his place in our lives.

There is a discussion in the blogosphere right now about adoption as the solution to abortion. Which is idiotic. Pregnant teens and young women have two choices realistically – keeping their babies or aborting – usually before ten weeks. Those ultrasound photos of babies at 16 or 20 weeks are so disingenuous when abortions are nearly always done before a “baby” emerges from the clumps of dividing cells.

Anyway, the debate centers on the awesomeness of being adopted. It’s a “win-win”.

It’s neither.

It’s a trade-off like most things in life are. There is nothing awesome about being adopted. It’s wonderful, I guess, but mostly, it’s been something to deal with in one way or other all my life. It’s neither a good nor bad thing. It just is. I can compare it to nothing as I know nothing else.

I don’t know what to think about Dee’s spin on my lack of biological heritage to pass on. Another thing to deal with that, hopefully, as she gets older she will lose interest in.

If I were the child of a god, however, I would choose Hestia too. She was the only one guarding the home fires when the war came knocking after all and who wouldn’t want a mother who puts family ties above all? Though, ironically, I had that in my dad and cannot say the same about my birth parents, whose obligations to me stopped at the relinquishment – that awesome thing they did.

Overwhelms the senses, but in the end it’s not silence but unanswered questions.


Sibling Rivalry (Family Guy)

Image via Wikipedia

One of the longest and wide-ranging studies ever conducted on the relationship of personal satisfaction and siblings has concluded that you aren’t imagining it when you believe that had your parents practiced safer sex, you might be happier today.

Apparently, the quality of childhood (and some would argue this extends into adulthood as well) is greatly influenced by the number of siblings you have.

For each sibling added to a family mix, the level of satisfaction for the others diminishes. I would venture to add that the quality of the new sibling’s personality is also a factor and that your parents child-rearing/interacting interest and skill set probably is key as well.

Speaking only from the perspective of an oldest child, I can attest unequivocally to the fact that a mess of younger siblings did nothing to improve my life on the whole. Aside from my next in command sister, DNOS, I could have easily been an extremely happy only child. I have all the requisite qualities. I was low maintenance (which admittedly made it easier for my parents to foist their fantasies of a large family on me), able to entertain myself and not disturbed at all by solitude and silence.

My singular qualities, in fact, made the additions of siblings difficult for someone who preferred a more Garbo like existence.

I know people who adore their large families. Count their siblings as best friends and couldn’t imagine being an onlie.

Dee is less than enamoured with “onlie-ness”. She laments that her older sisters aren’t closer than a decade and more to her in age. Though, I would venture a guess that they have both pondered the implications of being singletons with a bit of longing.

DNOS and I frequently have conversations that center around the lament of the younger two existing.

Oh, stop. It’s not that gruesome. We are all adopted and had they not been our siblings they’d be some other unfortunate family’s burden to bear.

But fond as I am of DNOS now that we are well into adulthood, I can’t say that I wouldn’t have thrown her under a bus to be an only child when I was a child … even a teenager.

She would protest, but the truth is that she benefited as much from following me as the younger two did in terms of my parents aiming all their strictness at me. I was practically a shield for the rest of them in terms of unrealistic expectations and experiments in parenthood.

I will admit, however, to appreciating my younger siblings as we all hit our pre-teen and teenage years. Being an “easy” child to raise meant that when they began acting up as teens, I was pretty much ignored. A small boon but one well deserved given how much of their care was foisted upon me when we were all small.

My folks were farm-bred Depression babies. Old schoolers who still totally believe that you have more kids so the older ones will learn to be responsible. And that’s actually an interesting stance given that the fact that they were the youngest in their families.

Dad actually wanted a very large family. In excess even of his own experience being one of six children. I have no idea at all why Mom married him given that expectation because there is no one less suited to being the mother of a horde than she.

My most vivid childhood recollections of my mother was of a very angry woman who clearly did not enjoy housework, cooking or minding more than one child at a time.

By the age of five, I was the oldest of four. Wherever we went it was Mom and four wee children, consequently, we did not get out much unless Dad was along. Even then, I can’t recall a single outing that didn’t end with someone being yelled at, hauled off the ground to dangle by a tiny little elbow or smacked on the bottom.

Being the oldest, I quickly learned to lay low and deflect when necessary, but I often wished that I had no siblings at all (when I wasn’t wishing for different parents or a stint as an orphan living with my much more tolerant of me Auntie and Grandmother).

It’s not that we fought much. Aside from my brother, CB, I rarely fought with any of my siblings, but this stems from the fact that at very early ages, we all went our own ways and sought out more like-minded compatriots. We could, and did, clan up in times of trouble, but we mostly had little to do with each other – something that really still defines us today.

I don’t know a lot of people personally for whom family is all, or most even, in terms of close relationships/friendships. Even if friendship preference evolved it tends to be with only one or a couple of siblings within families.

Most people I know have sibling relationships that range all over the “it’s complicated” scale, and even relatively cordial interactions came with middle-age and were possibly even forged by crisis situations.

At my age, I deal with the whole sibling thing only when it rises like Dracula from the tomb, which mercifully isn’t often. We have our own lives filled with significant others, children and chosen companions. Our need for each other – not much to begin with – is reduced to base-touching and keeping an eye on our mother as she dodders into advancing age.

It’s enough. And it’s okay.

But, I still think I would have made an excellent only child.


As in … it’s not all about her. In fact, adoptive parents, in general, can step away from the victimization angle any time now. I am tired of hearing about how marginalized they are by the red-necking DNA loving society that picks on their lack of genetically connected family.

Why? Because from the way I see it, in the adoption triangle, they are the ones that come out the overall winners. They couldn’t, or preferred not to, physically reproduce. They adopted. Problem solved. Birth parents are the ones who relinquish their rights and their baby due to circumstances that are beyond their control to alter. Babies, by the way, have no say, no rights and are somehow expected to deal with a loss they are too young to mentally or emotionally wrap their wee minds around and equally too young to verbalize – and later when we do, we are mollified with fairy stories and ultimately end up feeling guilty for not being more grateful for being saved from the fate of being raised by people who loved us just as much as our adoptive parents do.

Being adopted is an emotional Kobayashi Maru. The no-win scenario that can’t be cheated.

Normally, I can muster up a bit of sympathy when adoptive parents sound off about the annoying media practice of pointing out the genetic status of celebrity children. It’s unnecessary, but I get the curiosity factor that drives it because many folks don’t know anyone who isn’t genetically tied to the family who raised them.

But what irritates me to words is the victim feel to the rants of adoptive parents driven to blog or otherwise express themselves. Sarah Coleman is the latest adoptive mother to cry “foul” when what is considered the “alternative reality” of adoption finds its way into the mainstream.

Official party line is that though there may be bumps and adjustments, the adopted children are all right. And mostly, we are. We aren’t maladjusted. We live and love and don’t seek therapy or take psychotropic medications any more than those of you blessed with “flesh of my flesh” families.

Coleman had her panties in a twist over the new movie, Mother and Child, which tells the story of a birth mother, her daughter and an infertile woman who eventually adopts in a way that portrays – in her opinion – adoption in a negative light. But the reality is that there are birth mothers whose lives stopped in any meaningful way when they gave up their babies. There are adoptees who resent having been adopted for reasons as complex as they are as people. There are adoptive parents who will admit – without guilt – that they would have preferred to have had genetic offspring and that adoption was their second choice.

Oh, wait. That last thing. The second choice? Yeah, I’ve never heard anyone admit that. Even though it’s true.

And maybe that’s Coleman’s real problem. Her inner Queen Gertrude feels guilty? If so, she should get over it. It’s not as if adopted children don’t know the score and – news flash – we still love our parents anyway.

My bottom line is this – as the baby in the whole adoption scenario – I am the only one with a legitimate right to take offense and I’m not. Why?

I know that birth mother. She’s my youngest sister who gave up her daughter at birth. And I know that bitter adult adoptee. My younger brother. I know the woman struggling with infertility who saw adoption as the last resort – she would be me. They are not far-fetched inventions of Hollywood. We are real. Our point of view should get equal play.


I am not reading blogs as I used to (sorry, but I scan/read through my blog reader because I am crunched right now) which means I don’t comment much either (though I am really trying to pop over and leave a note for those of you who are friends – ‘cuz I do care to know about you and yours and stuff). Sometimes I read things still that work me up enough to actually write a comment that says more than just “hi, I was here and thinking of you”.

Mommy blogs bore me. I don’t read them. I have my own mom moments and mom stories, and I prefer to get my advice from known sources. But I read Jessica because she is smart, irreverent and herself, which isn’t always a given. Bloggers have personas that don’t often match their real life self. You would have to know me for a while to hear the same kind of honesty from me that you read on my blog. Discretion is actually one of my real time virtues.

The subject has come up before on this blog and it irked me then too. It’s the idea that DNA trumps with a sub-theme of “I could never love another as I love my spouse”.

Okay.

So I am adopted and until I had Dee, there was literally no one else in the world with whom I had a blood relationship. And I have to be honest, I didn’t love her at first sight. I was perplexed and a bit unsure because I was told I would love her with the intensity of a million suns from moment one and frankly, I didn’t feel that. She was a stranger who I thought I knew because of all the time she’d spent growing inside me. She was a little person from the start who I had to learn – just like I have had to learn everyone else in my life. As a result, I am not an advocate of the Disney Princess School of Motherhood.

I should have known this going in. I had witnessed plenty of instances of mothers and fathers whose regard for their biological children ranged from disinterest to pure duty with all sorts of cringe-worthy twists and turns in between. Biology ensures almost nothing in terms of attachment. Case in point would be Nephew1 who regularly threatens his mother (my youngest sis) with:

“If you do not come and visit me the next time I am at Grandma’s, I will divorce you when I am 18 and you will never see or hear from me again.”

This is the only thing that will rouse my sister from the reality show disaster of her life to spend an hour or so with her son. The third of four children to whom she has given birth. The other three she gave up for adoption without a second thought. The one she kept so she could go back on state aid because she was tired of couch surfing and living out of paper grocery sacks with her toothless boyfriend -who isn’t the father by the way. He wouldn’t oblige. She seduced the teenage friend of another guy – who also declined to impregnate her. Award winning mother material my sister is not and that’s my point. There are more people in the world like her that disprove the “I would lay down my life for my (bio) child” than not.

I would have taken umbrage even before I remarried (yeah, I’ll get to that) and became a step-parent. If there is any disparity in my feelings for my older girls and Dee, it’s because we are still getting to know each other. It’s harder when they are older and living on their own. We just don’t get opportunities to interact like Rob and Dee do, but I wouldn’t be able to choose among them in one of those hypothetical “you have to toss one from the boat scenarios” which are stupid anyway.

Blending fails when adults in the scenario make decisions that will ensure it does. Adults set the tone, make the rules and provide the examples, and if you go into a second marriage with children with whom your past track record as a real adult is in question, you are going to have your work cut out for you.

My Uncle Donnie married a widow who was 8 years older than he was and who had seven children – some of them already grown and married when they wed back in 1968. They all call him “Pops”. He is their children’s grandfather. They aren’t as blended into my mother’s family as they could have been because at the time, my mom’s siblings weren’t as close as they could have been – are now. This was the result of adult decisions. My grandmother didn’t like Auntie Bern very much. Different personalities. But as far as Auntie Bern’s family went Uncle Donnie was welcomed and became “husband” and “dad”. Auntie Bern passed away quite a while ago and nothing has changed.

Perhaps it’s what you are taught growing up? Dad’s family is the direct result of a second marriage after widowhood. His father’s older step-brothers had issues with their father, but they never let it keep them from integrating with their new siblings (who were the same ages as their own children really). Sometimes a certain amount of “suck it up, buttercup” is necessary to make blending work and this, I think, is what separates the true adults from the wanna-be’s and posers.

So, the nonsense about not being able to love another as much as your spouse? Crap. People fall in love after having long, short and in-between marriages to people they truly loved all the time. Often what I hear from them is that they are even happier in the second relationship. Because they didn’t love the first spouse or it wasn’t a “soul mates” thing? No, it’s because they know how to create a loving relationship. They make the extra effort because they have lost someone and know the searing pain of regrets and what-if’s and opportunities lost.

Love is something you choose to do whether there are biological ties or not. It is not magic or genetically hardwired. Believing in love as some kind of compulsion based on forces beyond our control is what allows us to not care about people who are homeless or without health care or are being imprisoned by fanatical religious extremists in parts of the world that don’t interest us because we don’t have family or first spouses there. It’s the kind of thinking that allows us to dehumanize others and dismiss them and their welfare and that kind of reasoning has never led humanity to any happy place that I know of.

I choose to believe that I am capable of  more than that.


As we were preparing Rob’s carb-laden breakfast in bed tray this morning, Katy diligently prepared the card she’d picked out for him, a Transformer theme with Optimus Prime on the front that said “Transformer, unite.”, or something like that.

I had written out what she wanted to say on another piece of paper and she copied it proudly.

I love you Daddy.

I had checked with her first on whether it was to be “Daddy” or “Rob”. She mainly calls him Rob but there are more and more instances of her addressing him as Dad or Daddy and she mostly refers to him that way.

She wanted to go with daddy.

“I need to practice saying daddy,” she told me.

Interesting. A few months ago she’d resolved to call him “Poppi” like Dora the Explorer does with her father. That really went nowhere. Now it is dad and with Jordan living at home again for a while, I don’t doubt that her calling Rob dad all the time will speed up Katy’s processing a bit more.

People who know our story – Katy’s and mine – like family and close friends – are thrilled that she has a father. They don’t seem to think that I have pushed Will, Katy’s biological father, out of the picture by allowing her to form a father/daughter relationship with my new husband. They see it as a win-win. I have found love and contentment and Katy has a father who loves her.

Given my own state of being as an adopted child, I don’t understand the whole “biology” thing. I have talked about this before. The people who love and care for you are family. The people who raise you are your parents. Biology is not a guarantee and its worship in our society leads to the devaluing of families who fall outside the “norm”, leading children who don’t have biological ties to their parents feeling “less than”.

I remind Katy still from time to time – and she me – how lucky we are to have had first Will and now Rob in our lives. We talked a bit about Will today at lunch. He liked to cook and she found this very interesting. She hasn’t forgotten him and is unlikely to do so. Both Rob and I keep Will very much alive for her through the wall of photos she has in her bedroom and our willingness to discuss him.

She isn’t the least bit confused and her early conflict has faded into an acceptance that this is just how our lives are. Children are much more capable of an expansive heart and an open mind than we adults are, I think.


I miss on out all sorts of atrocities because I don’t watch television. One that I recently discovered via Girl with Pen was a recent NBC show that culminated on Mother’s Day called America’s Favorite Mom. It’s one of those American Idol-ish contest shows with a “theme” and “ordinary people” contestants and that perennial American favorite, audience participation via voting. Or something awful like that. The reality show as contest genre is about as simple-minded as entertainment gets these days. I would personally rather watch reruns of Happy Days after Fonzie jumped the shark than any of these 15 minutes of fame shows. Read Full Article