About Cheerio

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In general I am a cheery and energetic person. But I am enshrouded in a cloak of iron. That cloak is the weight of greiving my son, whom I've lost to adoption.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sign Making Party and Encounter with the Itty Bitty Loudmouth

Adoptee Rights Demonstration - Day #2

Sign Making Party and Encounter with the Itty Bitty Loudmouth

(Day #2 part ii of iii)

**Sign Making Party

By now I hope you’ve seen some of the signs that were used for the Adoptee Rights Demonstration, both for the March to and displayed during that protest in front of the Convention Center where the Legislators National Conference was being.

If not, you can find some great shots in the youtube ARD Documentary just below this post.

The hotel allowed us to use the room that is the breakfast area. It had several tables that were pushed together to create our workspace. Jeff and his wife brought lots of arts and craft items. Others brought poster boards, sticks, markers, a staple gun, duct tape, and glitter.

There was not enough room to lay out all the signs in that one work area, so many folks overflowed out to the lounge area, to work on their signs. I wonder what the other hotel customers were thinking? Wondering what all these adults were doing acting like a bunch of kids?

I had an important job, and took it very seriously. To avoid splintermania the next day, I covered the wood handles with duct tape. It was a great task that I could do without thinking, which allowed me to talk with whoever came over to help me out. (Although my hubby mocked me for making the tape line up just exactly. NOT OCD!)

The final volunteer that helped me get to the end of the stick pile was Right Hand Man. He was with his friend, the Camera Guy, who spent most of his time peering through a camera while he interviewed and filmed. It was so very encouraging to me that he was such a big supporter and encourager for his friend, to the point of attending an Adoptee Rights Demonstration when he is not adopted himself. He described that it was very apparent that being adopted very much affected his friend, Camera Guy.

I don’t think this Right Hand Man realized how rare that is in a friend for an adoptee. As I listen to adoptees from all over the US, Canada, Australia, and even Lebanon, one of their struggles is that people who are not adopted just don’t “get it.” Their friends brush off the struggles with comments like “be grateful for what you have,” “everyone struggles with family problems,” or “don’t let it get to you,” or “you’re better off with your afamily”. And the frustration is not just with friends, but I've heard the same frustration about significant others, who do not understand and do not offer support through the adoption related struggles.

I think this is one of the things that cause adoptees to shove most of their feelings deep inside, because when they try to express what they are really feeling, even to their best friends – they are either criticized, or their feelings are dismissed. They feel isolated with these feelings that no one seems to understand, and often don’t want to hear about. So, it was very encouraging to know that the Camera Guy has a true friend who “gets it” and encourages him instead of telling him just to put on the “happy face” mask.

As we were splinter-proofing the sticks, it also gave me a chance to sit and watch. When I’m around people that I don’t know, I tend to clam up and hide, especially in a big crowd. This task allowed me to sit on the sidelines and just observe others. It really was amazing to see all these people from all over the place joking and talking, and asking someone to pass the glitter.

It was also amazing to see all the hugging. People I’ve only ever chatted with on-line would give me a big hug. It really was the coolest thing. It was just a warm environment, with lots and lots of energy going on. There was also an air of concern for each other. When one person would share painful parts of their story, others would stop and empathize and express sadness.

In the room there were obviously lots and lots and lots of adoptees. Some who are searching, some who have searched – but it was too late, some are in reunion. It was very interesting to hear the stories of interaction with their original family. Pro-adoption myth believers have this dreamy idea that “someday” the adopted person will meet their original family, and that suddenly they are instantly ‘fulfilled’ and they go on with their merry lives as if that meeting was the most natural thing in the world.

Put a Screeching Halt to that Cherry Cart! It just doesn’t work that way! There are years and years of unresolved issues on both parts, and it takes a lot of work to make a re-union a good one. And frankly, sometimes it takes more work than some people are willing or able to endure. It broke my heart to hear how badly some of them were treated by their original families, siblings are suspicious of them or their intentions, first moms withholding the name of the natural father, flat out rejection by people who are supposed to love them the most, their original mother & their original father.

Some talked about their afamily. Somehow society thinks that people who adopt a child are saints. But then again, that is the same society that believes that adoption is a win/win situation, therefore the aparents must be wonderful and special people for rescuing a child. (pardon me while I pull up the barf bucket…)

While many aparents are good, there are still whole boatloads of them who are not. I talked with at least two adoptees who were in very abusive homes growing up, and a few others who don’t even talk with their afamily anymore. Many faced rejection and retaliation from their afamily for even searching.

I sat in disbelief with my mouth dropped open while Our Transporter told me that his aparents would not acknowledge the birth of his first child. They would not visit his new baby, and they would not even congratulate him or his wife. Why? Because he was able to do something they could not do – have their own biological children. His aparents apparently never dealt with their own issue of infertility, and took it out on what could have been their own grandchildren. Pro-adoption people won’t tell you these kind of stories.

While I’m on a little sidebar conversation, let me bring up a point that I hear over and over from adoptees, but no one else (especially pro-adoption folks) talks about it -- Extended AFamily. Sure the aparents may be very good parents, and they may love their adopted child with all their heart, but that does not mean that everyone else in the family will.

The new Aunts and Uncles don’t consider the adopted child as a “real” neice or nephew. I’ve heard countless stories of how “Grandma made this special gift for every grandchild- except for me.” Adopted children are not included in the “survived by #children or #grandchildren” portion of obituaries. The rest of the family still treats the adopted child differently. It is no fault of the adoptee, and yet they are not stupid, they see it. The see it, and more dramatically, they feel it growing up.

I could have let those paragraphs out, but then it wouldn’t be real. This was an adoptee event, by and for adoptees. These are stories of what they experience. It makes me incredibly sad that I was pro-adoption for so many years and promoted something that puts a child in such a tenuous situation throughout their entire life.

Back to the sign making event… There were other first moms there. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I did not reach out and talk to them all. In fact, if I didn’t have a hint of who someone was (like if I would know them from on-line) I kind of just sat there working merrily along.

There was a t-shirt there with a slogan that I decided to use for my sign.

“Original Identity is a Basic Human Right.” I’ve also decided that instead of natural, birth, first, that I think “original” is the best description possible, and maybe you noticed that in this post. I am my son’s Original Mom, my dad, my father-in-law, my nephews, they are my son’s Original Family. I’ve just decided that I like it. So far, I haven’t had to explain what I mean when I use the term.

I also liked the statement that Original Identity is a right, and I believe it is. It is THEIR identity that was changed, and if they choose to search back to where it originally started, I believe they should have the right to do that.

This is a perfect segue to the story I alluded to in my prior post, my story about our “Itty Bitty Loudmouth,” and she knows who she is. Anyone who was in the room that night making signs knows who I’m talking about. She was definitely “itty bitty” in size, but NOT in volume!

**Encounter with the Itty Bitty Loudmouth

The sign making party had dispersed. Well, actually I think they chased us out of the room (heehee). Most folks had gone to their rooms. I had the armful of sticks while the Itty Bitty Loudmouth and her hubby had the remaining box and a few signs.

When the elevator door opened for us to enter, Itty Bitty Loudmouth decided to go check the room one more time to make sure it was presentable. Her husband took some supplies up to their room. I walked to check out the room with her, and the trash was already taken out, the tables were in order, the chairs were all put back in place, the countertops had been wiped down.

Itty Bitty Loudmouth went over to close the other set of doors, which was near one side of the bar. I just stood in the room waiting for her return.

Even though I was in another room, I could hear she was engaged in a conversation with a few fellows at the bar. It started out with one of them asking about a slogans on one of the signs. This of course led to a discussion of what the heck were the signs for anyway? Which of course is a subject the Itty Bitty Loudmouth is very passionate about.

The conversation slipped into a confrontation when Itty Bitty Loudmouth referred to adoptees as b@stards. The fellow sitting right beside her took offense to that statement. He challenged her that he has two adopted children, and they are not b@stards.

And of course we know that most AParents are delusional about the true needs of an adopted child. Many AParents feel (they not admit it outloud, but they do feel) some sense of ownership of a child they adopt. Many AParents are unaware of their own insecurity and fear that the adoptee might ever want to know - or God forbid! have a relationship with their original family.

Now keep in mind, Itty Bitty Loudmouth is an adult, she is a wife and mother, and an employee. She is small in stature, but she is not a teenager or a little kid anymore.

I admit that as I listened to the confrontation I could not make myself leave the room to ‘defend’ her as she stood toe to toe with this ADad. I thought about it, but when he described the typical idea of an original mom, I did not want to listen to the abuse that he certainly would turn toward me – if he knew I was an original mom too. I did not have the backbone to face the sneers or judgmental looks, and certainly the mocking as they would jump to all kind of conclusions of “what kind of woman” I am.

Their conclusions that would most likely be wrong. Many people think original moms do not WANT their child. This is just so not true. Many people think original moms are incapable of parenting. Many people think original moms are defective – druggies or sluts or child abusers. I did not have the will to fight their imaginations. They already have their opinions formed and their mind made up. I am not willing to put myself out there for them to attack so they can just walk away feeling better than me.

So there I stood, nearly paralyzed at first. I eventually made my way out of the room and stood behind Itty Bitty Loudmouth. In all honesty though, Itty Bitty Loudmouth did not need any help at all. She was standing her ground, and was quite literally in this guys face – pointing her finger at him as she vehemently spoke.

You must pay special attention to this part of their conversation. I know this post is getting long, but I think this is what is in the minds of many AParents.

ADad, “my kids don’t need their birthmother. We took them and have cared for them as they grow up.” Basically the “we’re their parents now.”

Itty Bitty Loudmouth “But when those kids become adults, they should have a right to their own original birth certificate.”

ADad, “No.”

Itty Bitty Loudmouth, “I am an adult adoptee, and I should have the exact same right as you and every other American, I should have the right to my original birth certificate.”

ADad, “No, that’s not your family any more. And you should not have a right to that certificate.”

Itty Bitty Loudmouth, “Why is that? I am an adult, as you are. You can request your birth certificate and get it without any questions. I want that same right.”

ADad, “No, the Aparents are your parents now, just like I am the father to my adopted daughters.”

At this point the bartender made her way over to this corner of the bar, and was leaning on the bar, making sure no punches were thrown.

Itty Bitty Loudmouth, “What about my rights?”

ADad, “What about them?”

Itty Bitty Mouth, “Every one else can get their birth certificate, and I can’t.”

ADad, “You should not have access to your birth certificate.”

Itty Bitty Loudmouth, “So, are you saying your rights are more important than my rights?”

I wish I could have captured the look on this man’s face.

She posed the question straight up.

You could see that for a few seconds he was pondering her question, he didn’t just blurt out an answer. His response was deliberate. “Yes,” he said, “my rights are more important.”

And this is where the bartender put her hands between the two of them and suggested that they agree to disagree.

And so that is what we did the very next day, was we marched through the streets of Philadelphia, exposing this blatant discrimination. One adult’s rights should not trump another’s. Especially in this case where there is no valid reason for it.

It is based out of fear. “OMGosh, if they know who their original parents are, they might not love us anymore….and they HAVE to love me, after all, I’m the one who paid for them, and took care of them while they grew up, and bought their first pony and their last car.” The basis is fear and a sense of ownership.

I am still dumbfounded (not really surprised) that this man flat out said

“Yes, my rights are more important.”

Links to other Cheerio ARD related posts:

Searching for Identity and Ridiculous Red Tape (Day#2, first of 3 posts)

Day #1 Meeting on-line Friends

Funky light patterns on the Benjamine Frankliln Bridge

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Searching for Identity & Ridiculous Red Tape

Adoptee Rights Demonstration – Day#2, Searching for Identity & Ridiculous Red Tape (Day #2, Part i of iii) Tuesday morning I wanted to sit outside to drink my coffee. What a big difference of sitting on the steps of my deck on the side of a small mountain, versus sitting on a park bench on Christopher Columbus Bldv, Philadelphia. The landscaping here was nice, but the view of the Municipal Pier didn’t compare with the blooms and flower gardens at home. The constant flow of traffic didn’t bother me, but I did miss the early morning quiet out on my deck. While drinking my coffee, Jimm came outside and joined us. We’ve only known each other since probably November of 2008, when he found my blog. Soon after he found my blog, he invited me to the ARD. I quickly agreed to go – before I knew what it was all about. It was just so very neat to sit and chat with him person to person. If he had not invited me, I’d be at home, well at work –pulling my hair out and beating my head on the wall. After quite some time, went inside and ate breakfast with some of the folks we met the night before. Jeff was there, as was Jack, who are both from NY. I was very thankful there were other guys for my Hubby to talk/listen to. We had breakfast together. It felt like we were a big family as sat and we chatted about all kinds of stuff. There was so much laughter, and so much warmth. An observer would’ve been surprised to learn that many of us had met only the day before. After breakfast we all went our ways until the next planned gathering. *** About lunchtime a herd of us gathered in the lobby, and we walked down the waterfront for a place to eat lunch. Let me rephrase that, we walked and walked and walked and walked and walked to get to the place where we could eat lunch outside on a pier. Ahhh, what a special memory that one of the guys in our group was not allowed in because he was wearing a plain white t-shirt. The strict dress code does not allow guys to wear plain white tee shirts, or anything resembling a plain white tee shirt. As a group we paid $5 to buy one of the restaurant’s black t-shirts, and we ate lunch outside. What irony that we were their ONLY customers and would have been fine with his plain white tee shirt. If he had not just bought the t-shirt, his wife (Itty Bitty Loud Mouth) said she would’ve written, “I’m with b@stard” on it. And of course there was a chorus of laughter. Once the food (finally) arrived, I was content to just sit and listen to their stories, their perspectives. Two in our lunch group had recently found their natural family, and so much of the conversation revolved around searching for the n-family, and the ridiculous amount of red tape they have to go through. There is a special title reserved for a large group of adopted people. They are Late Discovery Adoptees. I was feeling agitated as I listened to Romany talk about this point of her journey, as an LDA. I think I was agitated, because I feel it is so wrong & because it is totally unnecessary for her aparents to hid the fact that she was adopted. Unlike most adoptees, she had no clue. She was 31 and had two children a dear friend blurted out the fact that she was adopted. When her friend told her, Romany sat there stunned. Then she found out that everyone else in her family, even to the point of a relative of an in-law’s in-law knowing, while she did not know herself. How dare they all keep a secret like that from her! There was discussion about how common [and I believe very wrong] it is to lie to a child well into adulthood about the truth of their own identity and heritage. She also described one state’s law. Even with an attempt to address the rights of an adult adoptee to their Original Birth certificates (OBC), there is a clause at the very end that states the aparents are not bound or obligated to inform the adoptee that they are indeed adopted. Why? Why would an aparent keep a secret about something like this? We’ll go over the ‘why’ question in another post later on about the Itty Bitty Loudmouth standing her ground later in Day #2 part ii. The next part of Romany’s journey is one that can be played back again and again and again. I’ve heard it from adoptees from all parts of the country (and beyond). In fact as she was sharing, it was like d’javu to me. She started the description of theses disturbing encounters by saying “my problem was that I tried playing by the rules.” And that is a problem, because the rules are designed to keep adoptees in the dark and to keep original families apart forever.

Why should an adult adoptee have to pay money to find out the 'non-identifying information' about their original family? The information is rarely helpful. "Your mother was average height, brown hair, and under 20 years old." Gee, why don't they include "your mother was a female." That would be just as helpful. So, adoption agencies/professionals and social services gather all kinds of information on the original mothers, but won't give it to the person who deserves it the most.

It has come out of such groups destroying or discarding the records. There are also problems where the information was falsified. This Jack's heart breaking situation. Unless there is a miracle, he will never be able to find his original family, as the the mother's name was falsified on the records.

While she was talking, I could not help but think of my friend that I’ve know for several years. We met on an adoption forum just before she turned 18. We’ve met f2f a few times, talked on the phone a lot, and have kept in touch throughout the through the years. As Kimamalika was approaching her 18th birthday she voiced her greatest desire over and over and over again. She wanted some kind of contact with her original mother. She did as Romany, she played by the Rules – she contacted the agency that handled her adoption. She learned that a few years prior to turning 18, her original mother inquired about contact with her, but the response she was given was “that we’re not interested.” I can hear her voice in my head now, as she told me about this over the phone. “Exactly who is ‘we?’ No one ever asked me!?!? I would have been interested!” There was another phone call with her that I’ll never forget. She was 19 and wanted desperately to just see a picture of her original mother, but it was a ‘closed adoption.’ She was on the phone with the agency, again. She’d sent a letter to them to forward to her original mother. Her letter included a picture of herself. And as she was talking to the agency worker, she had a hard blow. She tells the woman, “All I want is to see, to know what my mother looks like.” The woman replies, “Well, I’m sitting here with a picture of you, and a picture of her, and let’s just say that when you look in the mirror, you’re looking at her.” This memory of her experience has been the reason I fight for Adoptee Rights. What happened to her was wrong, morally wrong. Why is it that a stranger could look at a picture of her mother, but she could not? Why should a complete stranger have the right to know her mother’s name, yet she does not? Does any of that make sense to you? I’ll never forget that phone call with her, she was furious. Yet below all the fire and steam and fury, she was hurt. It brings tears to my eyes even now as I remember and write about it. Adoptees having rights to their Original Birth Certificate is about way much more than a mere piece of paper. It’s about a piece of themselves, their history, their origins, their heritage. It’s a piece of their very soul. Why should it be trapped in a tightly sealed jar hidden in a dark cold cellar? Let's bring it out of the darkness. Let's let unseal the lid, open it up and let that piece of their souls out into the fresh air and breath life, their life.
Searching for Identity
Ridiculous Red Tape
Links to other Cheerio ARD related posts: Day #1 Meeting on-line Friends Funky light patterns on the Benjamine Frankliln Bridge