Archive for November, 2008

One Good Reason to Keep Roe v Wade

November 21, 2008

As an adoption worker who worked as a pregnancy counselor with women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, I have a strong opinion about keeping abortion a legal option for women.

Because two of the agencies where I worked have been in business for many, many years — including those days of secrecy in adoption before the social upheavals of the 60s and 70s — I also got to know birth mothers from the days of maternity homes and forget-this-happened-you’ll-have-other-babies-who-will-take-his-place.  (For a great read about those days, see The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the DecadesBefore Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler. )

My own interactions with birth mothers from that era include:

1.  One day in about 1981, a hesitant voice on the phone said:  “Ten years ago I gave up a baby for adoption through this agency . . .”  When she didn’t continue I said, “Yes, how can I help you?”  “You mean you’re going to talk to me?  I expected you to slam the phone down!”  Tears of relief flowed as she realized she was going to be listened to. 

2.  A woman who called from Florida on her child’s 21st birthday, said that she didn’t know if she’d had a boy or a girl, so she and her family always spoke of “the baby.”  “It feels weird to say ‘The Baby’ turns 21 today,” she said.  I asked her if she would like to know the first name of that baby, and she was amazed that I offered to tell her.  I took her phone number, looked up the information and called her back to let her know it was Linda who turned 21 that day.  “You don’t know what a gift you’ve given me!” she said.
3.  About six years later a woman called and said that fourteen years earlier she had placed a baby for adoption through the agency.  The day she signed papers, when he was only three days old, her worker told her they didn’t have a family for her baby because he was mixed race.  “I’ve never forgotten him and I have worked hard to better myself, and if my child is still in foster care, I could take him back now.”  I was startled; for one thing, it wouldn’t be that easy, but I wanted to give her some information.  I took her phone number and went to the files.  Her baby had been placed in a loving adoptive home the next day after she signed relinquishments, but no one had told her this.  I called and apologized profusely for the lack of courtesy that she had been subjected to.  “I thank you for letting me know that he has a good home,” came her response.  I invited the birth mother to write a letter to be placed in the file in case her child contacted the agency.  I don’t know if she did, or if he did, but I hope so.

We started a Birth Parent Support Group in 1983.  As these older birth moms called, I invited them to attend.  A few came once or twice, but it was a poor fit for them.  Their grief was not alleviated by the positive descriptions they heard from women of current times who had choices.  Unmarried women in the 50s, 60s and into the 70s felt they had no choice; society made the choice for them, and that choice was adoption.  Because they were unwed, they would be ostracized if they kept their babies.  And abortion in those days meant a trip out of the country or to a back alley in a seedy part of town.

As soon as Roe v Wade was announced in January of 1973, there was a new element of choice in the equation.  If they opted not to terminate the pregnancy, they were making a choice to give their baby life.  Then they could also choose to parent or to release for adoption.  None of these options were easy to take, but being in control of their lives and their bodies, made a difference in their world and to their psyche. 

We’ve learned a lot since 1973, and the sudden swing from adoption to not-adoption —  did they parent?  did they get married to keep the baby?  did they abort?  — we don’t know for sure, but they had a choice.

And that’s why I don’t want to return to the days when abortion was illegal and a criminal act.

Beth Kozan, Phoenix, Arizona

Surely some one out there wants to Talk Me Down.  Bring it on. 

While Writing a Blog for Birth Parents . . .

November 21, 2008

. .

I learned this:   Not to announce what I will write on next!  I DID intend to write about Dear Birthmother, Kathleen Silber’s and Phyllis Speedin’s book that brought Open Adoption awareness to the field of adoption, but — although I have had many copies over the years that I’ve loaned out & given away — I couldn’t immediately put my hands on a copy.  I thought I should at least have it on hand to refer to.  So, that will come on another day, either when the library notifies me they have it “on hold” for me, or perhaps when I find my copy while looking for something else!

I’m having a grand time preparing my new book, a book for the families of birth parents, to help them understand some of the issues in adoption today, and how they can help their daughters and sons as they go through this unusual situation.  Because I am in the ‘gathering information stage’, I’m putting out a call to birth parents and to their friends and families, for feedback.  To Birth parents:  What helped you?  What would you have liked to hear from your friends and families?  What helps today, as Life goes on?  To families and friends:  What would have liked to know that it took awhile to learn or to realize?  What was scary when you first learned that your child / friend was planning an adotpion placement? 

For instance:  Over the years I’ve had mothers of birth mothers share privately that they are grieving the loss of their grandchild, but they were holding back because they didn’t want to influence the outcome.  I’ve also seen families withhold information from the older family members to protect everyone.  If you have first hand information in this routine, how has that worked out?  Is there an optimum time to tell others?  What are the factors that figure into this?

Adoptees: Walking a little taller?

November 8, 2008

With the election of Barack Obama to the highest office in these United States, it’s reawakened a thought I’ve had all season.   What effect has this election had on adoptive families, especially whose children are bi-racial? 

I recall an NPR story after Tiger Woods had his first successful season in professional golf.  Several young people of bi-racial backgrounds were interviewed about the effects on their self image by having such a fuss raised in the press about Tiger’s race.  One young woman said, matter of factly, “It just means there’s finally someone who looks like me who has made it.”  Another person said, “What’s the big deal?  Most of my friends are mixes of several races!”   

This morning I caught the tail end of a radio sports program with interviews of several college football players who were teary telling of the significance of this election.  The commentators were gently teasing about the emotions of the Big Athletes, but nevertheless, it was touching to hear them speak of the possibilities this opens to them to be ‘more than I thought I could be.’ 

In training classes for prospective adoptive parents we’ve encouraged finding role models for their children.  Is President a high enough role model?  Or does it set the bar too high? 

How about Barack’s comment about looking for a dog to go to the White House with them, a pound dog who would be ‘a mutt like me’?     

Send in your comments!