A friend sent me this 23andMe story recently. While adoption is not part of it, the element of secrecy is similar to the secrecy in many adoption stories. This Gazillion Voices piece is a good companion to the 23andMe essay–which is also a how-to on overcoming secrecy in adoption through DNA testing.
Secrets require lies
I think a lot about the secrecy aspect of adoption and how it’s a burden many birth mothers carry. In order to keep our secrets, lying is inevitable. The web of secrets and lies grows larger and the burden gets heavier as the years go by. When I searched and found my son and we decided we would meet, I had to figure out how to dismantle my decades-long accumulation of secrets and lies. I wrote letters to my siblings, told my mother she could tell my aunts and uncles if she wanted. One by one, I told my friends. When someone asked a question, I told the truth.
The no secrets, no fear campaign
When my son came to visit for the first time, I had to tell my daughters that they had a brother. They were two and five years old, and my husband thought the news would be too confusing. “Tell them he’s a relative,” he said, “but not that he’s their brother.” I broke down, sobbing that I couldn’t tell any more lies, that I’d been lying for half of my life, and I’d had enough. My husband relented.
American Adoption Congress has a campaign called, No Secrets No Fear. You can read about it here.
The Personhood Movement and adoption might find themselves related in the not-too-distant future. But first, let’s look at how adoption sometimes works today.
The American Adoption Congress publication, “The Beacon,” has published a piece of mine. It’s an interview with a 19-year-old adoptee who was adopted 1992. Gabrielle’s Story about open adoption is quite different from the way my son and I experienced adoption in 1970.
The personhood movement
There’s another story I highly recommend. A young woman I’ve know since she was a baby wrote it. Pema Levy is now an assistant editor at The American Prospect. Her most recent piece, Moment of Conception, conjures a future where abortion will be unavailable. A future when, I think, babies could be place. for adoption more frequently.
Imagine a future time when the personhood movement and its cronies have outlawed abortion. A future when the ranks of birthmothers increase ten-fold. In that future and terrible time, women will be forced to bear children they feel unequipped to raise. Poor health, poverty, rape. None of these will be a good enough reason to terminate a pregnancy.
I predict that as conservatives take over, any openness that has pried its way into the world of adoption will also disappear.
Birthparents can now sign a petition to unseal adoption records. I joined American Adoption Congress recently and saw their call to action asking for birthparents to sign their list in support of open records for adoptees.
I’m not much of a joiner. I don’t especially like meetings. I don’t have the business skill-set to be a good organization volunteer. But I liked the idea of this list. Birthparents willing to write their names on a list to say, yes, I believe adoptees have the same rights as other adults. And no, I’m not hung up on confidentiality. Studies and surveys have shown that many birthparents do not feel the need for a gatekeeper.