Mailbag: Still active?

Received two emails this week that essentially ask the same question:

Are you still active in adoption reform activities? You seem to have dropped of the scene a bit. Not writing much about it.

Answer:

Of course.  Most definitely. Without question.

My lack of writing about adoption is two pronged. I am currently in yet another round of therapy to deal with it.  Rather than spout it here, I am dealing with it more productively with my therapist. We are now trying EMDR as well as CBT.

Additionally, to some degree I feel like I have publicly said all I can say.  Not to mention that stalking business and rude emails from someone calling themselves ElizabethJoyLinda have made me a bit blog writing shy.

Finally, and perhaps more importantly, my focus of late has been in supporting teen parents. I view our adoption “problem” in the US as a bit of a three legged stool. One leg is the greedy, uneducated agencies and policy makers. Another leg is lusting infertile PAPS who will believe anything told to them and pay any price to get a child to call their own. The third leg is the vulnerable mothers and children the agencies and PAPS prey on, the source of their baby harvest.

While many of my my peers focus their efforts on policy change, I focus on the other leg of the stool – the mothers.  I believe if we “cut off the supply” (or at very least reduce it to children who are truly orphans and need homes) we will have made incredible changes.  We still need those other efforts (open records, legally enforceable open adoption agreements, etc) I just don’t focus my energy there. People far more skilled and knowledgeable are doing a great job in that department — on those two legs of the stool.  I am focusing on a different leg.

I am meeting amazing young woman and incredible organizations that support them.  Teen mothers can be and are successful. They fail because society at large wants them to fail.  Mothering is hard at any age. It is always expensive and always life changing. Teens can parent well if they are supported just as older married women are. I firmly believe that.

Unplanned

“And unwanted teen girls are far more likely than wanted girls to experience their fathers as hostile or neglectful.” – Myhrman, Antero. 7he Nolthern Finland Cohorl, 1966-82,’ in Born Unwanted: Developmental Effects of Denied Abortion, Henry P. David Q&L, eds. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1088.

 “So tell me, what is she doing? Is she saying anything? What is she feeling?” he asked.

I stare at the young girl. I think for a few minutes, perhaps a few too long.  He patiently waits, rocking slowly in his bentwood rocker and doing that finger thing he does while he waits.

“Uh…nothing.  She isn’t doing anything. She is just sitting there, hunched over, a ball, sort of like a sitting fetal position, hiding her head in between her knees” I say. The image of a Lladro figurine I have at home comes to mind as I describe her.

“What is she saying?” he asks again.

“Nothing. She cannot speak. She doesn’t speak.”  I offer with a slight garble to my voice.

“What?” he asks as if he could not understand me. 

“She doesn’t speak” I repeat only this time a bit louder.

He is lightly startled by that fact.  Appears confused.  Pauses again before responding.

I keep watching her on the floor. She starts to rock. In my  mind she is rocking, for in reality, she is not there. He cannot see her.  She is an image that comes to me during EMDR.

“Uh, I am sorry, I don’t recall. But what is your birth order in your family? Were you a wanted…and by that I mean…planned addition?” He asks gently.

Before I have a chance to process the question fully my body responds for me.  I gasp, pull my lips in tight as I do when I am about to cry and squinch my eyes.  My crying face. It is not attractive even under the best of circumstances.

“Uhm. Oh. Well…actually…” I stammer as the memory of what I am about to share comes rushing to the back of my eyeballs.

“No.  My mother once told during my preteen years, or may be it was my teen, that my Dad did not want me.  See, Dad and I fought a lot when I was growing up. I mean a LOT.  While I was certainly a challenging kid, in that I spoke up and back and forward when my Dad preferred you remain quiet, most would say that he was unjustly cruel to me. Others would say I was precocious but to my Dad it was disrespect…or something. Children were to be seen and not heard and all were to obey his rules no matter how illogical they might be.” I shared struggling to get the words out.

“Oh…” he responds indicating for me to continue.

“Yeah, well, I don’t think my mom meant it the way I took it or the way it sounds or whatever but no, I was not wanted. Not by my Dad.  My mom told me while trying to explain his treatment of me that he only wanted one child – my older sister. Dad was quite content with him, Mom and sister. His perfect little life.  Mom apparently wanted more children and so she got pregnant. I was, well, I was the beginning of the end as my mother got pregnant two more times after me. You know, Irish, Polish, Catholic…birth control?  I suppose my dad could have wrapped the meat after me but who knows. I don’t even know if that is true. It is what my mother told me. It is plausible, knowing my dad “ I say.

He smirks a little at my suggestion of “wrapping the meat” and pauses yet again. More of that deep breathing, finger play and slight rocking. I find myself curious why he went from her not speaking to the timeliness, or not, of my birth. Did unplanned children not speak?  Was there some correlation between these factors?

I flash again to the vision of me sitting on the interior steps of the Carroll family home. I am not sure if I really have this memory or if I have crafted it due to my mother telling the story so frequently during my child hood.

I am five or six.  Mom has taken me with her to visit a friend up the block from us.  I am not happy about the visit and I plant myself at the bottom of the staircase that leads to Mrs. Carroll’s second floor.  Mom and Mrs. Carroll try to pry me from the step. Candy, cajoling, jokes, arm pulling.  I am not interested. I do not speak. I do not cry. I sit stoically waiting for my mother to finish her visit.

I am told I sat there for hours. Perfectly quiet but utterly antisocial. This event coupled with many others from my early years lead my father and mother to believe I might be a bit “slow”. I rarely spoke. Always quiet. Always watching. The lack of speech was so alarming that when my kindergarten teacher called my parents to express her delight at how “bright” I was, my mother paused and asked if the teacher had called the correct student home.  Mother explain to teacher that they worried I was well, a “little slow”, the polite way to say daft, or dumb, or retarded, or more politically correct, special needs.  Mrs. Neery assured them I was quite the contrary.

The connection between my conception and my speech confounds me.  Is one related to the other?

My confusion must be obvious to him (still not speaking) for he begins to explain. 

“I don’t know if this is relevant or why it came to me but I am going to share. There was research done in Europe on planned and unplanned conception. The research followed a number of individuals through out life.  I am not sure I recalling all this correctly, or where it was in Europe, but I do recall that the startling conclusion was that the children that were unplanned had more challenges in life than those that were.  One could make many cases for this, of course, and I am not sure, as I said, it is relevant to you but it came to mind as you were speaking.”

And this is surprising, I ask myself?