We in adoption reform have been following the story of Carri Stearns, a young Ohio mother who gave her son up for adoption and who very quickly realized it was an enormous mistake. She came to realize that her so-called ‘choice’ had been made under duress, and with further investigation, believed that the adoption agency had acted unethically. Recently, the Ohio Supreme Court held a hearing on her case, which you can follow by clicking the link below. While watching the proceedings, one issue stood out for me. The focus was on exactly what transpired, what the legal responsibilities were for each party, et cetera, but what was glaringly obvious to me was that there was no underlying assumption that children should be kept in their biological families whenever possible; that being raised in one’s bio-family and being raised in an adoptive family are not exactly one and the same. There seemed to be no understanding that adoption is far more complex and difficult, with oftentimes lasting negative consequences, rather than the win-win portrayal that American society usually uses to promote it.
I have written before about how I see the mindset of adoption, at least in the United States, appears to be moving further and further away from the primacy of the natural family to an attitude that original parents shouldn’t even have first claim on their own children; that being raised in one’ biological family versus an adopted family is completely equal. So I have come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to combat this dangerous and insidious attitude is if more adoptees share their own stories in their own words.
While I was pondering these issues, I was approached by a family historian/memoir writer named Nechamie about being interviewed for her blog. Nechamie supports our family preservation efforts and understands that adoption is much more complicated than it is generally made out to be.
I had an enjoyable experience working with Nechamie. The questions she asked were interesting and thought-provoking and made me think about my adoption experience in new and different ways. We conducted our interview by phone and through email exchanges.
So if you’ve ever thought of sharing all or part of your story but didn’t know where to begin, or feel you have neither the time nor the inclination to do the writing yourself, Nechamie is a memoir writer for hire. It would be worth your while to head over to her website, http://writingthesoul.net/process/, and see what she has to offer. And as a special treat for our readers, we are also doing our very first giveaway.*
Here is the piece Nechamie and I co-created. I provided the basic building blocks and she edited it into her signature style:
Marriage. Children of my own. Suddenly my own biological heritage was at the forefront of my consciousness in a way it had never been before. Although adoption wasn’t routinely discussed in the family, soon I’d have children of my own–and a casual comment from my adoptive mother sent me reeling. “You’ll be giving me grandchildren,” she’d said.
True to a point–socially and relationally, they would be her grandchildren. But they’d be the grandchildren of my natural mother and father as well. Who were they? Didn’t I need to know? Didn’t any children of mine have the right to know where they came from?
I made a decision that would change my life. No power on earth would stop me from knowing my own natural parents. I was an adoptee searching in the early 90’s and my search wasn’t supported as it might have been today. But I was determined to overcome all resistance.
And I did. After minutes of talking to my mother on the phone, it was apparent that she’d never “chosen” to give me up for adoption. She was forced. And as I got to know her, I knew there was nothing that would have prevented her from being a great mom.
I’ve never been much of a history buff, but have always been drawn to reading extensively about the women’s movement. I spent so much time on the subject in my late teens and early 20s that it’s a miracle I didn’t flunk out of college!
When I met my mother, all my reading helped me connect the dots in understanding what happened to my natural mother and me. It became obvious that the Baby Scoop era was based on a patriarchal culture that condemned women for their sexuality, and was evidence of women’s powerless position in society.
The main argument was that adoption leads to a better, more stable life for the child. Well, my adoptive parents divorced when I was only 2 ½, so I knew from personal experience that theory was pretty much a crock.
Added to that, were the uncanny similarities between me and my natural parents. It wasn’t just my looks–our personalities and our sense of humor were similar, and I would have fit in much better with my bio families than I did with my adoptive family. As I learned more about my background, it angered me that so much of my heritage was stolen from me. I learned that I was a Daughter of the American Revolution, yet such information about my biological heritage was treated by the closed adoption era as if it were irrelevant to my sense of identity. Hardly!
Another turning point for me was eating lunch at work and reading Star magazine, (yes, I realize I just admitted that I read that type of magazine…) The story was about a TV show called “Teen Mom” and a couple named Catelynn and Tyler who were so proud of themselves for giving their daughter up for adoption.
I, on the other hand, felt sick to my stomach. I kept thinking, “Why would anyone give a child up for adoption in this day and age? There isn’t such a stigma about having sex outside of marriage.” At that time, I wasn’t really involved with adoption in any way. I researched this story online and found an overwhelming number of positive articles and comments about how brave, selfless and heroic this young couple was. Dismayed, I finally came across a blog called First Mother Forum. At last, here was a place for people who knew another side to adoption (the truthful side, I call it) and knew that adoption isn’t what it’s made out to be. I can’t tell you how relieved I was, and how validated I felt, to discover I wasn’t the only adoptee who found it painful to be given away by my own parents. I started commenting frequently at FMF and other similar blogs and found that there was a whole community of like-minded individuals. Many responded favorably to what I had to say. My first guest post was for All in the Family of Adoption, and the rest as they say is history.
I think the most important message I want to get across is that adopted persons are the experts on adoption. There is so much invested in this culture in the belief that adoption is always a wonderful thing. Finding my family and being able to speak my truth through blogging about adoption has lifted a heavy weight from my soul and given me a new type of freedom. I hope my speaking out will inspire others to speak their truth about adoption, without fear of recrimination, even if their truth is different than mine.
*Please leave a comment for a chance to win your own personal history article written by Nechamie. This offer is open to adoptees, first parents, and extended family members whose lives have been impacted by adoption. Winner will be notified by email, and will have the option of having their story published at All in the Family of Adoption.