And now I have been asked why I was surprised by such a strong reaction to my expression of my loss and pain - that there is no paradoxical happiness in adoption for those of us for whom it is nothing but a loss....There is no joy in Mudville.......nor any happiness in losing a child to adoption.
Why was I surprised that my words were twisted and I was attacked?
I was surprised because since the 1980s my networking has always included adoptive parents. Back then it was a group called Adoptive Parents for Open Records. Jane Nast of AAC was among the members I have known since that time.
I have never been a broad brush or black and white person who believes that ALL of any group are bad, and certainly have known and been good friends with many adoptive parents over the course of my lifetime.
I work and respect a great many more, seeing them not as all enemies but as along a continuum of views on how to best improve care of children who need out of family care, while respecting and supporting the sanctity of families.
I have an excellent working relationship and respect, for instance with a-father David Smolin, though he and Adam Pertman do not lean as far to the left as I do in wanting to replace adoption with guardianship or enforced open adoption and end all international adoptions, they are nonetheless allies in the fight and are certainly not in the same category with Bartholet.
ALL THREE of my Family Preservationist of the Year Awards have been given to adoptive parents:
Dr Richard Boas, Jennifer Hemsely and Tracy Mazuer to reward and encourage those who put the needs of children before their own.
THAT is why it surprised me that I was accused of being some kind monster who hates all who adopt. Oh yes! I was accused of HATING for simply expressing MY TRUTH, and of DENYING others their happiness.
"Those who take our children take our happiness forever."
One would think that would be an accepted fact not open for debate or argument, that there is no happiness in losing a child. There is pain and loss in adoption. For some the pain is mitigated by some benefit, happiness, even joy. Not so for mothers who lose their child. We are left with nothing but grief, guilt, shame, sadness, anger....and a host of PTSD symptoms that get worse, not better with time, are often not alleviated by reunion, and are experienced universally (see*).
I make this statement having 1) walked for 40 years in those shoes, 2) having met and spoken to hundreds and hundreds of mothers over the course of 30 years and having never heard ONE say there was any "upside" of or happiness in adoption for them, and 3) being aware of the research of experts who studied populations of mothers who lost children to adoption.
All of that gives me the RIGHT to express my - and our collective - feelings. One would think that like anyone whose loved one has died speaking of their loss, or a rape victim describing their pain - emotional and physical - it would be accepted with compassion.
But not so in adoption. Because adoption is the only maternal loss which creates a gan for another...and a marketable product. It's the sad reality, that I and others have written about that adoption only exists on the backs of resourceless women, that adoption involves women in humanity to women.
And those who have done so, and know that we know - sadly - live in a defensive mode. Thus my recognition of my truth set off a firestorm of anger among some adoptive parents and I was accused of denying their happiness by expressing the pain it caused me to hear it.
Instead of compassion for my expression of my LIFELONG irresolvable pain, I experienced the most extreme case of victim-blaming I have personally experienced since my parents refused to hear about my adoption loss because it was too painful for them...and why was I bringing it up again, just to hurt them?
The statement I made: "Those who take our children take our happiness forever" was interpreted, by a mother of four - one of whom was adopted from Russia - as an accusation that it implied that those (all?) who adopt steal children from their beds or is only appropriate for those who dealt with a black-market baby broker. (HUH?!)
"Those who take our children take our happiness" does not imply that my child was stolen. I have never made that claim. Nor is the method of the taking relevant to the end result: lifelong, forever loss and pain. There was no accusation of illegal wrong-doing in my statement of my feelings of loss. Was it perceived that way or was that claim a red herring to divert from the facts? I don't know.
Does it matter how one's loved one died in order to feel pain and grief? Is a death only sad when it is the result of a crime and not natural causes or accidents? Do rape or incest or spousal abuse victims only have a right to say they were traumatized if their attacker had a weapon? That once was the norm.
Is my daughters' adoption, accomplished through a "reputable" agency and not one that would be called a baby broker is not supposed to be as hurtful a loss? She was taken from me and she is not lost to me (another word that some who adopt dislike). It was the AGENCY who TOOK my child and who in turn chose who to give her to, and when. That's who took MY child and my happiness. My agency - which I have written about on this blog - is the focal point of my anger...
The fact is that the definition of adoption is "to take as one's own." Adoption involves TAKING and in fact nowhere in the definition is it about GIVING, nor about the joy or happiness of receiving.
Anyone who thinks it's painful to hear our pain...it's far worse to suffer! Someone suggested that it is like an infertile woman at a baby shower hearing of another's joy. It is NOT! It is a reminder that someone else had the joy of hearing YOUR CHILD's first words and seeing her first steps. Someone else was at YOUR CHILD's graduations and wedding. Someone else reaped YOUR joy! Someone benefited from YOUR LOSS.
Many who adopt want us to hear their pain of infertility, the suffering of indignities they experience in treatments and then adoption...many adoptive parents and those trying to adopt very publicly share in great painstaking details their daily trials and tribulations online pouring their pain out for all the world to see, seeking - and often getting - sympathy. The public - including many mothers who have experienced loss - is expected to hear their pain of loss of fertility - with compassion and sympathy - and also share in their joy when they adopt...as we are subjected to day after day after day on blogs and in the media.And in all my writings, never have I ever denied or downplayed the pain of infertility or childlessness.
Now, like my parents, some want us to also hear how our expression of our pain causes them additional pain - and feel sorry for them and the pain we caused them. We should hear, with compassion, of their suffering as they live in fear of being able to express their happiness. One mother actually asked if she must "mope" around her adopted child instead. A bizarre extreme martyrdom reminiscent of those who oppose limits on state sponsored prayers and displays in public, alleging that such limits infringe their freedom to practice their religion, instead of being able to separate the private from the public.
Regarding the happiness enjoyed by those who benefit by adoption, I made the analogy that even people who commit heinous acts of exploitation and abuse upon children - pedophiles - experience pleasure, joy and happiness but that obviously does not justify the act. This is no way implied a comparison of adopters and pedophiles. But it was a good sentence out of a two page comment to focus on as my being unreasonable, mean and just plain stupid had my intent been to imply that all adopters are pedophiles as some read into my analogy and fueld the fires....to my utter shock, horror and surprise!
I will not be silenced and will not go away quietly into the night...
I spent the past 30 years helping mothers out of our closets and lifting the veil of secrecy...giving voice to our losses. I will not be silenced because our pain is painful to others.
And now as increasing numbers of adopters choose to adopt internationally, intentionally to avoid dealing with their child's family (among other self-serving reasons), they need all the more to hear the pain their joy brings others. Unless we speak to that very aspect of women creating Handmaid's, we will never find more humane way to deal with the problems of children in need of care than to allow them to be commodified to meet a demand.
We owe it to mothers in parts of the world who are living with conditions that we lived through here in past decades and far worse - having no voice at all. We MUST speak up and speak out about the lifelong pain of adoption loss for those who cannot! Those who have adopted and understand this need need to put their own feelings aside - difficult as that may be - and work with us. They need to suppress their defenses and allow our voices no matter how painful, as long as their is mutual respect.
* Toward this end, I encourage all to view and share widely "The Universality of Grief Experienced by Mothers who Lose Children to Adoption" available as a PDF download here by scrolling down to it, or here on google docs. To share, you can use this link: http://tinyurl.com/universal-
Those who took my child took my happiness, buy they did not my strength and my power: my words, even when they sometimes may hurt. Truth is often painful to her but unless and until we are able to work through that pain, there can be no change.
My pain is my truth. If it hurts to hear my pain, so be it. And I do not need to be subjected or reminded of the happiness my loss and pain gave another...that someone else benefited from my loss and reaped all the pleasures I missed. Be happy for and with your child. Rejoice with your child but please don't rub my nose in your happiness. Keep your private blogs, private. And if you chose not to, then accept the consequences of your choices.
I will always speak my truth, and the truth is that demand drives adoption. And the truth is that our pain is hard for those who desperately want babies to hear. Those few who work to change these things are - with one exception- doing so after they have gotten their kids! Yes, they have had epiphanies and yes times have changes and I am grateful they see things differently, but it also safe for mothers who have adopted from China, etc to NOW say...I wish I had known... and I would have done things differently...
But then don't we? So, I have a heart and I understand that too.