Friday, April 25, 2008

The Birth of An Activist

My "professional" bio states that I am author of shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption (1988) and The Stork Market (2007). I am former Director-at-Large of the AAC and currently Board member of Origins-USA. I have been keynote, presenter and panel facilitator at innumerable local, state and national conferences. I have done two radio interviews and several national television shows, appearing as an adoption export in the case of Joel Steinberg.

On a personal note, I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and have lived in NJ for more than 35 years. I came of age as did the "psycho-delic" 60's and was just a subway ride to Greenwich Village, the mecca of "free love" and folk music. I left home at 17 and also spent some of my hippie days in Haight Asbury, or more accurately the Fillmore District of San Francisco. Back in NY I birthed a love child who was to be lost to adoption in 1968 - recently called "The Year That Rocked Our World" by AARP. Who would have ever imagined that that one singular event would rock my world in ways that still reverberate to this day and have sent out ripples to every aspect of - and everyone in - my life.

Despite having been married to, and separated from, my baby's father, my parents came to the hospital and my Dad told me that my daughter would be a "ball and chain" that would prevent any decent man form marrying me. I was told to put the past behind me. I knew I had "made my bed" by leaving home and never expected any help from them.

I remember signing papers I barely saw through a haze of tears. I spent the year or so under a HEAVY fog fog of drug-induced numbness. But it seemed there were no drugs strong enough, so I quit. By late '71 I was at work when the headlines broke of the firts major baby tug-of-war case: Baby Lenore. The mother, Helen Scarpetta fought to reverse the adoption. people were openly scornful saying things like: "Any dog can give birth." I learned to slither past them and kept my mouth shut as my stomach tightened. I was a leper in the vie wof society. "Who gives away their own child!" "And the nerve of her to want it back!".

Three years later I was married, moved to Jersey, and on my way from flower child to earth mother. I spent the seventies barefoot and pregnant - or breastfeeding. I became "super mom"
eventually to three children: homebirthing (photos), La Leche League Leader, assistant scout leader, PTA the whole suburban nine yards. To say I was full-time, at-home mother was an understatement. My first son was born in 71, second son in 76 and my daughter in 79. These were the best years of my life!

Soon paths collided. Through La Leche League, I met a friend who's husband was about to fly to California to meet his mother - for the first time! I was blown away! I blurted out: "Why would you want to meet her? Don't you hate her?"

My friend's husband told me about ALMA (which met in NYC) and one other "birthmother" he knew - MaryAnne Cohen. I was no longer alone!! I had someone with whom I could share my awful secret with. How freeing! We both knew there so many others - feeling all alone. The butterfly was growing in its cocoon and getting ready to spread its wings and fly!

In 1980 MaryAnne and I, together with three other women, co-founded Origins, an signalization for mothers who lost children to adoption. Headquartered in NJ, where we held monthly support meetings, our newsletter was national and at its height had several hundred subscribers. I attended a fairly early CUB retreat run by Carole Anderson.
Origins and CUB members had one singular goal - to find our kids and help others do likewise. CUB had done a great deal of publicity in magazines and national TV.

In 1980 I also found my daughter and proceeded to help thousands of others do likewise. It amazes me now to think of our networking skills with no Internet! Yet we worked with local groups of mothers and adoptees - and some adoptive parents - all across the country establishing reliable searchers.

Kids were now all in school and I was at one of the first computer/word processors out: a Kaypro (?!) writing my first book. I had collected a pile of clipping about abused and even murdered adopted kids and knew that the general public still believed that adoption was always the best, win-win, option. I felt compelled to set that record straight.

And together we marched - adoptees, adoptive parents and mothers - shoulder to shoulder from NY to Washington. Five Hundred of us in 1989 with no Internet. Joe Soll organized the march and I organized the rally and SpeakOut in DC. Ah...the good old days! That same year I also orchestrated a march in NYC in memoriam to Lisa who was murdered by Joel Steinberg. We got lots of press and made the NY nightly news. There is more about my personal involvement in that case in The Stork Market.

to be continued....

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