I have another piece that was featured on Medium yesterday.
I haven’t blogged here for a long time. Consider the previous post the post that could have been repeated every day all this while. Children and parents are being separated. Many of them will never be reunited.
This weekend I’m at a small writers’ retreat. There are five participants, not counting our retreat facilitator. Around the fire next to the lake over our first glass of wine, we discovered that our group includes a birth mother, an adoptee, an adoptive parent, and a grandmother of a newly adopted infant. Ten years ago I would have probably alienated myself from everyone. It’s not that I feel any differently about adoption in general. It’s not that I feel any less pain about my own experience. I guess what’s different is that I’m more able to listen to the experiences of others and take in their feelings. I’m hoping I’ll leave with friends.
Here’s the link.
The target audience for the AAC is mostly adoptees, I think. Some birthparents too.
I wrote the piece with adoptive parents in mind. So if you know some adoptive parents, maybe pass it on.
Nonetheless, I’m grateful to The Beacon for the publication.
In my morning scroll though Facebook, I stumbled across a post that had to do with The Adoption Museum. The what? I said. The what? The initial exhibit back in May of 2013 had to do with birthmothers (yes, there was an ensuing controversy about the term) and I had no idea that the project existed or that the event occurred. I missed it.
In 2013 I was still adjusting to my first year as a caregiver. In May I was obsessing over my mother’s CPAP machine. All of that–my life as a caregiver, living with my mother, weekends with the man who loved me visiting us, doing what I could to support my younger daughter as she worked on her master’s degree–all of that seems so long ago as if the four of us here together in this house was a dream.
I suppose there are plenty of days that the memory of giving birth to my son and then giving him up resides in the background too. But some days the experience lives inside me close to the surface–not just his birth and the subsequent relinquishment or even the two decades of secrecy or the visceral memory of shame and grief. It’s that girl, the girl I was then. She comes to live inside me. I was a different person then. The other big events– the deaths, divorces, estrangements– happened to the person I now know to be me. But that girl. A visit from her is like time travel and space travel rolled into one. She’s an alien and she is me.
Anyway, there are still ways to get involved and a newsletter you can subscribe to. They are open to feedback.
So I’m just shouting it out. And thinking about what feedback I’d like to provide–where to begin, actually. I am nothing but feedback when it comes to adoption.
I’m not much of a TV watcher or a movie goer these days. I missed the boat that left for Game of Thrones and it seems like I’d just be late to the party–or regatta–if I want to avoid mixing metaphors. I’ve tried to get into Big Bang Theory, Burn Notice, the Family Guy, and Modern Family, and while I’ve enjoyed these shows I don’t need to watch them.
In fact, I’d grown weary of the upper crust goings on at Downton Abbey until Edith got pregnant and had to keep it a secret after her beau disappeared without a trace. That’s all it took to reel me back in. Will Edith manage to keep her secret? Will she pine away grieving for the loss of little Marigold while the local tenant farmer and his family pass the child off as their own? For those of you who are not in the know, Edith gave the baby up and suffered profoundly from the separation, eventually “adopting” her daughter as a ward and bringing the child to live as her own amidst all the upper crust splendor that is Downton. The Marigold plot continues to captivate me this season. Edith’s parents know Marigold’s true origins, but Edith’s uppity sister, Lady Mary, does not…yet. I’m guessing the secret will be revealed to Mary in the next episode.
Last week I watched the first episode of comedian Louis C.K’s new show, Horace and Pete. It’s set in a bar (I love bars), Alan Alda is in it (I love Alan Alda), and it’s staged more like a play than a TV show (I love the theatre), so I had to give it a try even though I couldn’t figure out how to stream it on my TV since the show comes directly from Louis C.K.’s website and not through Amazon or Hulu or Netflix.
The show is both comic and tragic, very nicely written and performed. And I’m hooked. The big reveal toward the end of the premiere episode: three supposed siblings find out that one of them is not like the others. He’s not a sibling at all. He’s a cousin. “I don’t like kids,” the Allan Alda character says as he justifies why he gave his son to his brother to raise. He goes on to reveal that his son’s mother died when the boy was two. The siblings are all well into middle age now, and this revelation is a bomb dropped in their midst, shattering the foundation of what they believed to be the basic truth of their family
So the secret is out in Horace and Pete, while at Downton Abbey the secret is still under wraps. Either way it makes for compelling drama.
This is the world of adoption. And even in the usual modern version of adoption, wherein the adoptee knows he/she is adopted, unless the adoptee can meet and speak, and hopefully get to know the biological parents, that cloak of secrecy is a weighty thing to drag through life.
Though the poem, “Fable” by Louise Glück is not meant to be about adoption, it resonated with me nonetheless. But not in the way you might think. Not pitting adoptive mother against birth mother. For me, it cracked open the suffering of the two daughters, which might be an element in an adoption reunion story (though this is not the real-life situation the poet is most likely drawing on from her own childhood.) The pull of loss and grief is strong in this poem, deep and primal. A piece of the story perhaps for many in the world of adoption.
BY LOUISE GLÜCK
Two women with
the same claim
came to the feet of
the wise king. Two women,
but only one baby.
The king knew
someone was lying.
What he said was
Let the child be
cut in half; that way
no one will go
drew his sword.
Then, of the two
renounced her share:
the sign, the lesson.
you saw your mother
torn between two daughters:
what could you do
to save her but be
willing to destroy
yourself—she would know
who was the rightful child,
the one who couldn’t bear
to divide the mother.
I’ve been working on the California Pregnancy Resources List at the behest of Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy who is a major force in the world of birthmothers. Click on that link and scroll down to her map. More help is needed. She’s got a nifty template where, with a bit of googling, all of the resources can be plugged in for a particular state.
Imagine you are pregnant. Imagine you are desperate. You want to keep your baby and somehow be the best mother you can be despite your lack of money or support, but you don’t know where to start. Claudia is envisioning an online Crisis Center for Pregnancy Options that will lead to pages of resources other than to links that promote adoption.
Claudia’s resources list for New York state looks like this.
I just Googled “pregnancy help.” The results page three top links are all paid adoption ads. Let’s change that. Please check Claudia’s map and pick one of those white states that hasn’t been spoken for. If you’re a birthmother, you could perhaps choose the state where you relinquished your baby and create a comprehensive list of resources for women and girls who need it.
Today is the last day of November, also known as National Adoption Month, and I feel like pouring myself a glass of champagne and then maybe crying into the bubbles. Originally created to call attention to plight of children in foster care, National Adoption month is a particularly harrowing time for birthmothers who are bombarded by media accounts of adoption that don’t reflect the birthmother reality or perspective. National Adoption Month was never meant as a platform for touting infant adoption or foreign adoption or crowd funding for adoption, and I dare say that anyone involved in the foster care system is unlikely to be so delusional as to promote adoption as one big happiness fest. Yet, all of that has somehow elbowed its way onto the stage of National Adoption Month.
And now it’s over. Of course as the media spotlight dims, all of adoption’s worst practices will carry on behind the curtain and the fight against them must continue. Education is key. I’ve only recently found my voice as a birthmother, and in the coming year, I hope for the courage to speak out when the opportunity arises. I’m most grateful to Carrie Goldman and her series 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days as a venue to tell my personal story. “Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series featured guest posts by people with widely varying experiences,” and there’s an awful lot of good reading to be found. My essay, in case you missed it, can be found here.
Oh, and did you know that tomorrow is National Pie Day? I think I can get behind that pretty wholeheartedly.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is, at it’s heart, a play about identity. I saw a production of it Saturday that was a perfect confection. The play is a classic, written by Oscar Wilde and first staged in London in 1895. Chock full of wit and humor, it mocks social conventions AND though the word is never uttered, it’s also a play about adoption.
The plot is immensely complicated with one farcical turn after another, but suffice it to say that the play’s main character, Ernest (a.k.a. Jack Worthing,) lives a double life and uses his obligations to a fictitious younger brother as an excuse to avoid certain social obligations. As the play opens, his best friend, Algernon, good-naturedly traps him in his lies and things begin to unravel most comically.
Ernest, who is known as Jack (his actual name) while at his house in the country where he maintains his ward Cecily and her governess Miss Prism, frequently excuses himself to travel to London ostensibly to rescue the fictitious brother he calls Ernest (keep in mind that he himself is known as Ernest to those who keep company with him in the city.) Cecily has a mad crush on the fictitious brother Ernest and longs to meet him. She gets her wish when Algernon, in his plot to unravel Jack’s lies, shows up at the country house impersonating Ernest–whom Jack has, moments before in an effort to simplify his life, announced as having suddenly died while in Paris.
Algernon and Cecily fall in love. Jack gets a visit from Gwendolyn, the London girl to whom he’s engaged, (remember she knows him as Ernest–oh, and she finds the name Ernest irresistibly attractive.) And in the ongoing investigation of Jack’s suitability as a husband, Gwendolyn’s mother, Lady Bracknell, (who is also Algernon’s aunt) prods Jack into revealing that he was a foundling, his parents unknown to him, thereby jeopardizing his standing in London society.
A few twists later we learn that it was Miss Prism who accidentally left Jack, as an infant, in a large handbag in a train station when she was in the employ of Lady Bracknell’s sister…..Are you ready for it? Yes indeed, the friends, Jack and Algernon, are really brothers. And when Jack investigates further to find out what his original name was before he was re-christened after he was taken in by a benefactor….you guessed it….Ernest.
Most adoption/reunion stories I’ve heard are full of amazing co-incidences. They’re just not as funny. You need somebody like Oscar Wilde, I guess, to pull that off.
I love “The Importance of Being Earnest” and I’ve seen it at least a half-dozen different times over the last few decades. I love how the audience always gasps when Jack finds out who he really is and what his original name was. Every time, I think about all those strangers I’m sitting with in the dark. How many of them are adopted, how many might have brothers or sisters they don’t know, how many would give anything to know the name they were given at birth. And how, in real life, that’s not funny at all.