Sunday, June 26, 2016


Back in the 1980s MaryAnne Cohen wrote the following poem. It is published in my first book shedding light on...The Dark Side of Adoption, (1988): 

I wish the word "adoption"
were just a word, again, to me—commonplace,
like "chair," or "sink"—
a thing, an object

of emotion, or shades of meaning.
Or, more exactly, I wish
The word "adoption" were a concept
so abstract, so ephemeral, like
"Transubstantiation," or "Relativity" . . .

That it could not wound, or stain, or
work its poison into every
corner of my life—
A curiosity, a game for the mind . . .

I wish
The word "Adoption"
were to me what it is to most people
someone else's problem, from which
most people
turn away . . .

From which I wish I could turn,
could run, could hide,
could erase the word
From my personal vocabulary
of pain.

—Mary Anne Cohen, Co-Founder, ORIGINS

Mary Anne no longer feels this way, but I do.  Her words totally sum up how I feel.  

I truly wish the word did not exist. Did not invade my consciousness; ruin the moment, the day, the mood. Crash me back to an ugly reality that changed the course of my life irrevocably and forever.

I try to go about my life as if it were devoid of the vile poisonous cancer that eats at my soul.

Some days - most days - are fine and I succeed in getting through without any pain.

But then, sometimes when I least expect it.....when I'm at a social event of some kind, having a perfectly good time, enjoying myself - like a "normal person" - suddenly, totally unexpectedly, the word pops up into an otherwise normal and perfectly fine conversation and I feel the pain cursing through my body and soul. 

It is most always brought up as a joyous, positive thing. Something to celebrate to, be proud of. 

Funny, that is never the case for someone suffering  physical cancer, is it?  They might be told that they are "brave" but they are not subjected to anyone telling them how wonderful it is to have cancer or extolling the joys of chemo or radiation...

Suddenly, however I am catapulted from enjoying the occasion as everything comes crashing to a halt. 

My stomach turns and tightens up as I debate what to reply, wishing that the word simply didn't exist and did not inject itself into my life when I least expect it....didn't  creep into EVERY aspect of life. 

Sometimes, I just try to ignore it and smile as my peers delightedly show off pictures of their adopted grandkids, or tell me stories of going overseas to have gotten their adopted offspring. 

I hate the word. I hate the concept. I hate the family separation every adoption creates in its wake. I hate knowing the pain it causes and most of all I hate how no one else wants to recognize the suffering and the loss and instead just focus on the joy.  

I bleed - internally - but those around me extolling the joys of adoption cannot see it, and even when I try to tell them,  they are unable to comprehend it.  My pain - and that of all  mothers who lost children to adoption - is inconceivable because it clashes with society's deep held belief that adoption rescues "unwanted" children....and helps everyone - including the mothers who it desperately want to believe "chose" it. 

We cloak adoption loss in secrecy exposing only a flat one-sided, one-dimensional snap shot of the happily-ever-after family who won the prize....and we extoll them with accolades of nobllity and altruism to boot!

The adoptee in the "perfect family" photo is expected to smile and be grateful and we are expected to DISAPPEAR like "sperm donors" who simply jacked off in a jar.  

I wish adoption and all talk of it would disappear from my life.  I wish the shadow it has cast and the ripples it created were all gone and could never hurt me again. 

I wish it never existed.


maryanne said...

I wish this poem never is one of the worst things I ever wrote. I am sorry my friend Mirah saw fit to publish it again rather than using her own words to describe her feelings. I dislike this kind of political rant in poetry no matter what the subject and am profoundly sorry to have written it.

My opinion of adoption now is that it is neither all bad or all good, it is complex and different things to different people. I wish I had not given up my son, but I do not feel I can speak for all or even other birthmothers, and I certainly cannot speak for adoptees. For some people there is joy in adoption, for others there is pain. Nobody can generalize either way and get it all right.

Mirah's situation is so much more tragic than mine and she has every right to hate adoption and to fight against it, but this poem, as she so kindly said, no longer expresses my personal feelings nor do I consider it as good a poem as others I have written. But I do realize once a writer puts something out there they have no control on how it is used.

Mirah Riben said...

MaryAnne said: "I do not feel I can speak for all or even other birthmothers, and I certainly cannot speak for adoptees."

You didn't!! This poem is quite the opposite. It's a very personal expression, written totally in first person, or as we say in 12-step, using "I statements." It contains ZERO generalizations to others feelings about adoption. Every verse begins with , or contains the word, "I" (and "my life.")

The poem reflects how YOU felt at that point in time.

I am glad for you that you no longer wish adoption was part of your vocabulary... but these words reflect better than anything I am capable of writing how *I* feel.

It's like a photograph that snaps a moment in time. We may like or dislike old photos of ourselves ... but they exist and they are what they are and a memory of what once was.

Mirah Riben said...

I would like to add that neither my introduction to MaryAnne's poem or my comments following it here on this blog post --- generalized anything beyond MYSELF!

Yes, some people hate adoption, some hate talking about or hearing about it, and others are perfectly fine - even happy, proud and eager to extoll the joys of adoption! Other still totally neutral. It's something that doesn't effect them and they never think about.

I feel confident that those who find this blog post and read it will chose to either agree or not, as is their prerogative. But I see no possibility of anyone being upset that it was intended to express anyone else's feelings other than MINE and MaryAnne's at the time it was written in the 1980s before she met and was reunited with er son.

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