Pre-birth Matching = Adoption Coercion

Pre-birth matching of expecting mothers and prospective adoptive parents is pretty commonplace in domestic infant adoption these days.  From an outsider’s perspective, it makes sense if 2 parties are entering into an open adoption agreement that they should get to know each other before committing to a lifelong relationship.  It would also make sense that a mother considering adoption would want to know a little bit about the people who will be raising her child.  Unfortunately, this practice is ripe for unethical behavior and manipulation.

I disagree with pre-birth matching for a few reasons.  First and foremost, a mother can not and should not be forced to make a final decision about adoption until well after the birth of her child.  If that decision can not be made prior to birth, it makes no sense for prospective adoptive parents to put themselves in the position to be heartbroken when a woman decides to parent.  It should be assumed that a mother is going to raise their child until she can sign her consent for adoption without undue stress.  In most circles, the opposite is assumed.  If a woman contacts an agency while pregnant the assumption is that she will be giving her baby up for adoption after the child is born.  If a woman can not make the decision regarding adoption until after her baby is born, why bother with pre-birth matching?

Are Adoptive Parents Engaging In Adoption Coercion?

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt in life.  With regards to pre-birth matching, I try to believe that prospective adoptive parents engage in this practice because it is what the agencies suggest.  At this point, it simply is just how it is done in the U.S. so who are they to argue?  I do believe that the industry as a whole has a different agenda when it comes to pre-birth matching.  The agencies and lawyers know that a mother is more likely to follow through with an adoption if she has a relationship with the adopters but I have tried to believe that hopeful adoptive parents do not engage in the practice because of that.  And then I read something like this, taken from a post on the Adoptive Families Circle forums:

“With my first I waited until after court and had more of a family party.

My last 2 were piratically twins (3.5 months apart) and the expectant/birth mothers were good friends.

I was having a huge shower and knew they both wanted to come, so I invited them prior to birth.

I am glad I did because it really got them excited to see all my friends and family and all the love and support and gifts. They loved seeing all their child would have, the nursery and also seeing all the friends and family, etc.

It would have been really hard had they not actually placed, but I am glad it worked out. Maybe that influenced it, I believe the more time you spend together and share, the more likely they do place. You just never know. I thought if they did not place I would give them the gender specific stuff and keep the other stuff.

On a side note I knew I would get a ton of baby stuff, so I had a hospital bag/recovery basket for them so they would have something to open as well with robe, slippers, and all the stuff my sister said you need after you deliver, etc.

Maybe it is to emotional to do for a first time adoption, but probably fun for a second one.”

This comment was in response to a prospective adoptive mother wondering if she should or should not invite the expectant mother she was matched with to her baby shower.

I have bolded the portion of the comment that I had a visceral reaction to.  What that bolded portion is describing is most definitely coercion.  This woman is describing how, by having the expectant mother present at the baby shower, she was hoping it would put pressure on the mother to follow through with the adoption.  She flat out states that she believed that the more time spent with the expecting mother, the more likely they are to give their child to you.

When I read that comment, it was a punch in the gut.  This is not how adoption is supposed to work.  A woman who is considering adoption should not be subjected to the manipulation and added pressure of worrying about the prospective parents.  To read a statement like this from an adoptive mother was truly an eye opener for me.

I am not sharing this woman’s comment to punish or embarrass her. It is my hope that more expecting mothers and hopeful adoptive parents will start to recognize the subtle manipulation and added level of stress pre-birth matching puts on mothers and refuse to engage in it.  Adoption should not be about convincing a woman to give up their child.  Adoption should be about a woman making the best choice for her child.

How the Hell Did We Get Here? (The Capobianco-Brown Tragedy)

Like so many others, I had been following the Capobianco-Brown adoption tragedy with great interest. Also, like so many others, I am appalled and outraged at the outcome of this case.

I have read the opposing side’s viewpoints, comments, and posts along with the court transcripts trying to see where the Capo supporters were coming from.  The conclusion I have come to?  The main priority in adoption in our society is the wants and happiness of the adopters.  This has been an incredibly devastating realization for me.  I want to believe in the inherent good in people.  I want to believe that adoption is always about what is best for the person being adopted.  I want to believe that adoption is only for children with no other options.  This case has beaten the crap out of my optimism in people.  How could this be allowed to happen? When did adoption become about fulfilling the wants of adults?  

In almost all of the comments and articles I have read involving this case, the focus is the Capobiancos’ heartbreak.  Their longing for a child.  Their fight for their child.  And I certainly could have sympathized with them in the beginning. It must be heart wrenching to care for a baby and grow to love them and then have the baby removed from your home.  But, I can only sympathize with them up to a point.  As soon as they were aware that Veronica’s father was not aware of the adoption, the right thing would have been to make sure he agreed with the adoption.  It would have been the right thing to do for Veronica.

Granted, I am neither an adoptive parent, nor am I an adoptee.  However, barring neglect or abuse, it has always been my position that it is best for a person to be raised in their biological family.  Are there times when that is not possible? Yes, but for Veronica, this was not the case.  How can anyone justify removing a child from their biological parent who does not agree to it?  

I can debate back and forth about what Dusten Brown signed, if he knew what he was signing, and what his reasoning was, but the fact is, he never agreed to the adoption of his daughter.  Even if someone agrees that everything the Capobiancos did was legal, how can that same person not agree that it was unethical?  How can anyone believe that being taken away from Veronica’s biological father to be raised by genetic strangers against her father’s will is what is best for Veronica?  Because, in the end, I can sympathize with both sides, but it is Veronica’s best interests that we should all be discussing.  

The sad fact of the matter is that these types of unethical adoption situations happen regularly.  The general public does not hear about them regularly because typically the biological family does not have the financial support to pursue the matter to the fullest extent.  This is a losing proposition for the child who someday will become an adult with questions about their adoption.  These types of unethical adoptions can not be allowed to continue.  

Surely any thinking person can look at this case and see that there were a multitude of unethical goings on here.  Surely we can all agree that this is no way for an adoption to take place.  We, as a society, need to continue the conversation about what is ethical and what is not in adoption.  How can adoption laws and guidelines be so varied from state to state?  How can adoption be so unregulated?  At the bare minimum, adoption laws in every state should be transparent and easy to decipher for all parties.  How do we get back to adoption being about what is best for the person being adopted?  

 

 

Mother’s Day Redux

This year’s Mother’s Day kicked my ass, plain and simple.  Yes, I survived it, but only because there really is no other option, is there?

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Up until 2005, I mostly ignored Mother’s Day.  I would send flowers or a card to my mother and grandmother, but I didn’t have to really acknowledge the holiday for the most part.  I wasn’t emotional, I just ignored the day.

When I got married and had children that I actually am raising, the whole day changed.  I could no longer just go about my business pretending that the day didn’t exist.  Other people wanted to celebrate the joy of motherhood with me on that day, but not for the child I gave away.  No one wanted to talk about that on Mother’s Day.

I think the assumption most people have is that because I now have “real” children that I am raising and am an “actual mother to, that I do not think about the child I gave away on Mother’s Day.  Most people would not consider me a mother to that child.  No, certainly I am not mothering him in any real way now.  I have these three beautiful children to celebrate being a mother to.  That is real to most people.  The child I gave away is abstract.

I am friends on facebook with my son’s father.  This is a semi new development that I am very grateful for.  He did send me a quick Happy Mother’s Day message, but I am not really sure if it was for our child or just his acknowledgement that I have children and we are friends so have a nice day.  Whatever the case may be, it was a small thing that made me smile that day.

What people do not realize is that having these three “real” children only intensifies the feeling of loss I have for my first child.  And so, I was a miserable cunt on Mother’s Day this year.  Truth be told, the only thing I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and sleep the day away.  Instead, I spent the day outside with my kids, watching them play, and hoping that the Mike’s Hard Lemonade I was guzzling would make the day go by faster.

If you were a fly on the wall that day, you would probably not notice anything amiss with me.  I simply sat there, drinking my drinks and smiling at my kids.  Inside my head, however, was a completely different story.

Here are some random emotions and thoughts that ran through my head:

Anger – Fuck you Mother’s Day!  Fucking bullshit holiday on which I must pretend to be perfect Mommy.  Fuck you husband for not letting me stay in bed all day.  Fuck you Mike’s Hard Lemonade for not providing me with the buzz I so desperately want.  Fuck me for not buying a box of wine instead.  Fuck you family for not even acknowledging that I might have mixed feelings about the day.

Jealousy – I wonder what my son did for his “real” mom on mother’s day?  I wonder if I am even a passing thought for him today?  I bet those rich bitches are out celebrating and having the time of their lives today.  Fuck you for being able to spend the day together.

Self-pity – I want to be his mother.  I should be the mother who gets to hug him and kiss him and love him.

Mostly, I was just irritated that I couldn’t enjoy the day with my family without grieving for my child.  One more day to get through in May without having a complete mental breakdown.  Jesus, having a mental breakdown at this point sounds like a nice vacation!

May is Here Again….Ugh

So I had to step back from adoption for the last couple of months.  I think we all need to do that from time to time.  But, just like every year, the month of May is here.  My son was born 15 years ago, May 30th.

As soon as May 1st rolls around on the calendar, my emotions go into overdrive.  Mind you, I think about my son every single day.  Sometimes it is a passing thought, sometimes there is a more steady stream of emotions.  May brings flowers, warmer days, and an emotional sledgehammer to my heart.

I read a very dismissive statement the other day from an adoptive mother.  She stated that it must be a hard day once a year on her adopted child’s birthday for his birth mother.  As if the only time us first mothers think about their children is on that one day a year.  Fuck off is not a strong enough sentiment for that adoptive mother.

Every time I have to write a check,  or make an appointment, or simply check what the date is, when I see the word, May, I feel like someone slapped me hard in the face.  It is just another reminder of the mistake I made, the regrets I have, and the longing for my child.  Couple that with Mother’s Day being this month and it’s a wonder I haven’t taken a long walk off a short pier.

I wonder if there will ever come a time when the month of May does not feel like a punch in the gut.  It has been 15 years, so I am thinking I already have the answer to that question.

 

A Bad Case of the What Ifs

I realized today, that I have left out a big chunk of the “why adoption” puzzle in my story.  I originally left it out because I did not want to make it sound like I was trying to garner sympathy or pity.  I do not want either of those things.  But today, a memory came to me and I was thrust deep into the throws of the “what ifs”.

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I have severe asthma.  I have had it since life began.  When I became a teenager, it only got worse and from about the age of 15 I could usually count on going to the ER at least twice a year and being admitted into the hospital at least once.  For many women, pregnancy exacerbates asthma. My OB told me that 1/3 of asthmatics will get better during pregnancy, 1/3 will stay the same, and 1/3 will get worse.  I am sure stress had a lot to do with it, but during my pregnancy with my oldest son, my asthma got worse, much worse.  At about the 6 month mark, I had such a severe attack that I was put on a ventilator and my doctors seriously contemplated taking my baby out early.

The first time I ended up admitted to the hospital during the pregnancy was fairly early on, right around the 2nd trimester mark.  I had not told anyone I was pregnant yet, except the father.  My doctor urged me to tell my mother as soon as possible.  I was absolutely terrified.

On the day of my discharge, my nurse came in to talk to me.  She was probably only a few years older than me, very pretty, seemed very together.  My mother is a nurse, so I know how busy they are.  She sat on the edge of my bed, took one of my hands in hers and started talking.  She told me how she had an abortion when she was younger and then a year later found herself pregnant again.  She told me how terrified she was and how ashamed she had been to be pregnant again.  She asked me if I knew what I wanted to do yet.  I told her I thought I was too far along for abortion, so I was not sure.  She looked into my eyes, which were full of shameful tears, and told me I could do it.  I could raise this baby. She explained how she was a single mother and although she struggled, she was raising her child and was thankful everyday for him.  I don’t even think I said anything, just cried and nodded in agreement.

This nurse, who didn’t know me from Adam, took the time out of her extremely busy shift to sit and connect with me.  To support me and encourage me.

I look back on that moment, before adoption entered the picture and I feel like such a fool.  What if I had just listened to her?  What if I had asked how she did it?  What if, what if, what if.

That day, I was discharged from the hospital, and on the way home I told my mother I was pregnant.  This is the moment adoption entered my life and any thoughts of raising my own child faded.  Hello what ifs and goodbye what could have beens.

Pandora’s Box

My own Pandora's Box

My own Pandora’s Box

 

So, I have this box.  It is nothing to look at.   It is an old Florida Oranges box I received from my Granny back when she sent me Florida oranges and Grapefruits in the mail because she knew I loved them.  Inside of it, photos, birthday cards, letters, memories.

I don’t know why on this particular day I made the decision to open that box and look for it.  I can’t even remember putting the paperwork inside of it, or why I kept it.  I knew there weren’t any last names on the paperwork.  It was just a generic “Dear Birthmother” letter and 2 forms filled out (one by each adoptive parent) about colleges attended, likes, dislikes, and first names.  I don’t know what I hoped I would find, but on this day I had an uncontrollable urge to try.

Digging to the bottom of the box, I found what I was looking for and one more thing, my first son’s hospital hat.  I immediately put the hat to my nose and tried to smell some remnant of him, but all I could smell was dust.  Putting it aside, I read through the letter and forms for the first time in 13 years or so.

I gathered up the information, walked calmly to the computer and started googling.  First name combos, quotes, no quotes.  Connecticut?  First names plus colleges.  I don’t remember what the exact google query was, but up popped a photo.  A photo of the people I had met 13 years ago.  It was them.  I knew their last names.  I felt like I was spying on them.  It felt wrong, but I could not help myself. A few clicks later and I found of photo of my son.  OH MY GOD. There he was, smiling.  At the bottom of the page, an email address for the adoptive mother.

A few days later, and after much soul searching I emailed her.  I had to know.  I had to forge some kind of connection.  I don’t know if anyone who isn’t a first mother can understand the thought process, but it felt like I had no choice.  I had to write her.

Since that day 2 years ago, I have been crushed by wave after wave of emotion that I had repressed.  It has been painful, necessary, and unending.  Pandora’s box can not be closed.

Angry, Not Bitter, First Mother

I get called angry and bitter a lot.  Not in real life, but in virtual life.  In real life, I would be described as a middle-of-the-roader.  I am a person that never wants to upset the apple cart.  Most times, I may have a strong opinion on a subject, but don’t feel comfortable enough to take a position and argue it with people I do not know very well.  I am a confrontation-avoider.

The truth is, in real life, adoption isn’t something that comes up in conversation much.  I run into the occasional person in the process of adopting, but I don’t really feel it is my place to get in their face about how they are going about it.  I have yet to be asked what my thoughts are on adoption in real life.  That is probably because I don’t have “birth mother” tattooed on my forehead.

In virtual life, adoption seems to be everywhere.  There are adoptive parent blogs, first mother blogs, adoptee blogs, prospective adoptive parent blogs, and a myriad of adoption facebook pages.  There are blogs and facebook pages for every position under the sun, for or against, anti or pro.  I also have many personal, real life friends on facebook that have adopted or are in the process of adopting.

I do a lot of posting on the internet about my opinions about adoption, mostly domestic infant adoptions.  While many of my comments are on pages that are similar to my perspective, I also do a fair amounting of commenting on pages which carry the opposite perspective.  I do this because there are so many pages devoted to painting adoption as a beautiful, miraculous event and I feel it is a small thing that I can do for a woman who may be perusing those pages to see another side of the coin.

Inevitably, there are people who do not like that.  And, of course, I get called angry and bitter…A LOT!

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Active Anger

 

I embrace being angry.  Anger is an active emotion.  It is the reason I write about adoption issues.  It is a motivator.  I am angry that women are lied to. I am angry that families are being separated.  I am angry that I am not raising my son.  I am angry that people are making money from adoption.  YES, ANGRY! My anger motivates me to seek out ways to change the system.  Anger is not apathy.  Anger is a stepping stone to change.  Being called angry is not an insult, it means I am getting to you.

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Mmmm I’m bitter about adoption but I’m just going to sit here and make this face

 

I don’t view bitterness as an active emotion.  Bitterness implies a constant state of wallowing.  Bitterness is taking in anger without letting any of it out.  It is identifying oneself as a victim without working toward changing what made you a victim.  So no, I am not bitter.  I refuse to let someone turn me into merely a victim and sit on the sidelines watching while another woman is bulldozed over.  I will not be that.

So, I love adoption peeps, call me angry, call me rage-filled, call me anything, but not bitter.  Not anymore.