Category Archives: Race

Need Reader Feedback

Hi folks.

I am going to be closing down this blog in the next several weeks. There are many reasons for this, but I won’t get into them now.

What I would like to do, however, is compile the most useful posts into categories and bind them under an e-cover for download in case really, really interested folks still want to read them, or share them with others.

This is the compromise I’ve come to between just shutting down OR leaving the blog archives sitting here forever.

What I would love from you is some nominations for posts you’d like to see preserved in e-book form. I will try to edit and/or update any posts that go into that format, so if your favorite one is old and needs some revision that’s okay too.

I have in mind a total of say, 100 posts.

Help? (Please leave your suggestions in the comments so people can see each others’ okay?)

 

P.S. I’m also taking some of the posts from this blog (mostly since 2009) and backfilling Muse of Fire with them. So much of the more recent material will still be on a blog.

Veronica Won’t be a “Baby” Forever

This is cross-posted from BlogHer, where it was originally published last Tuesday:

After the Supreme Court decided against a biological father in the so-called “Baby Veronica” case two months ago, I found myself worried not just for the family in the case, but for adoption in general. Adoption is riddled with misunderstanding and the mainstream media tends to exacerbate the problem rather than clarifying.

Now Veronica’s father has failed to return her to the adoptive couple that won the Supreme Court case, has been arrested, paid his bail and is currently somewhere unknown, presumably with his daughter. Now the would-be adoptive parents are using language like “holding her captive” and claiming to “fear for her safety and well-being,” though Veronica has been in her father’s custody, happy, and healthy, for close to two years.

This case has been rife with misunderstanding, and its high profile can only lead to more confusion among people not personally knowledgeable about adoption. Rather than leap into an argument for what I believe ought to be the case’s outcome, I want to focus here on clarifying what I see as three major misunderstandings the coverage of this case has perpetuated:

1. Misunderstanding of how legal adoption works
2. Misunderstanding of the ICWA and its purpose
3. Misunderstanding of what is in the “best interest” of children

First, the would-be adoptive parents of Veronica (no longer a baby) knew that this adoption was questionable from an early date after Veronica’s placement with them. While Veronica was still a young infant, it became clear that the adoption was not perhaps, legal or likely to be finalized because of the father’s interest in parenting her.

But importantly, the adoption was not yet final at that time. So in spite of headlines declaring that Veronica was “adopted” at birth, she was not. In my long experience of adoption study, I have never, ever heard of an adoption being final “at birth.” Babies may be placed with prospective adoptive families at birth, but adoptions typically take about six months to become final, and these six months include follow-up visits from social workers and legal work at court.

Veronica’s hopeful adoptive parents were indeed caring for her as their daughter in her infancy, but she was not legally theirs yet.

Second, the law the father has used to fight this adoption placement (which happened against his will and most likely without his full understanding, depending on who you believe in the reports, and I believe him), the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), is a matter of American Indian sovereignty, not of racial identity, as the press has widely misled us to understand.

The ICWA was enacted as a correction to and a protection against the all-but kidnapping (sometimes, indeed, literal kidnapping) of American Indian children and their placement in white families or (more often) “boarding schools” or other institutions that basically forced them to assimilate to white culture and cut them off from their heritage and communities.

The ICWA gives a tribe legal sovereignty over where its children in need are placed for care. Typically there is a hierarchy in which immediate family members are first, extended families are next, any tribal member is next, any American Indian is next and last, after these are exhausted — and only with the tribe’s approval — an Indian child can be placed outside an Indian home.

This hierarchy was hardly exhausted in Veronica’s case. In fact, her own father, as soon as he knew she was being adopted by out-of-state strangers, wanted to parent her.

Third, there is a problem in this case that comes up in adoption in general, even when there is no bitter custody battle. Veronica (again, not a baby) is bound to develop her own perspective on it all. And what is going to be best for her overall healthy development as a person?

To me, the answer is obvious. When a biological parent is ready, willing and able to raise a child he clearly loves, and has a two-year track record of doing just that, and doing it well, there is absolutely no excuse for moving her from his home to the home of out-of-state strangers who claim her based on an at-risk hopeful adoption placement that they knew was problematic since Veronica was an infant, and before her adoption was final.

Would it be heart-rending to give up a baby you had been caring for as your own for three or four months? I have no doubt of this. I am an adoptive mother myself and both my children were placed in my care at birth. Legally final adoptions or not, they felt very much like my babies — no, they indeed were my babies — the minute I held them each for the first time.

But.

Is it okay to essentially steal someone else’s baby because you love her? No. Nor is it a particularly loving thing to do.

I still maintain that as soon as her prospective adoptive parents discovered the legal and interpersonal complications of this case, they should have handed Veronica (then an actual baby who might have had enough resilience to thrive in spite of the disruption) to her father and wished them all well. Would that have been hard? Absolutely. But if we are going to romanticize the relinquishment of babies to adoption as a “loving, selfless” sacrifice on the part of birth parents (and we do, all the time) why is it that these hopeful adoptive parents shouldn’t be expected to do the same with grace?

A legal trick is not what should decide this case — as in: when did Veronica’s father sign away his rights and did he know what he was doing? A decision about which adults ought to have more rights is not what should decide this case. What should decide this case is Veronica’s right to her father.

“Best interest” should not be about which parent lives in the better neighborhood, has the better school to offer or takes the most expensive vacations. If that were the grounds for deciding where children should be, would you (if you are a parent) be allowed to keep yours if your wealthiest friend took a shine to them and decided to sue you for custody?

If we can agree that people of any socio-economic class who provide for their children adequately and lovingly deserve to raise them in their own families and communities, we must look elsewhere to decide where a child should be when a contest like this comes along. And when I listen to adopted people (who are no longer babies), they tend to say that they have a right to their biological heritage when it is available.

Adoption disrupts families. No matter how loving and stable the new family, the original family is forever broken. This should be prevented whenever possible. A child with an enthusiastic, loving and fit parent has no reason to be adopted.

Veronica has known her father as her father now, for two years. She will be four years old next month. She has a right, not only to the stable family she has known for probably, all of her conscious life, but to the biological connections that are available to her.

Importantly, Veronica is not a baby anymore and from here on out, she will do nothing but grow in knowledge and understanding of what is happening to her. If her adoptive parents end up with custody, I hope they are ready to answer an angry teenager when she googles herself and asks them, “Why did you take me from my daddy?”

I find it hard to swallow that “we love you” will be enough for her.

Not in My Name, or, Whiteness Goddam

In the days immediately following the George Zimmerman acquittal I was in a state of shock. I wasn’t alone. I was stuck home with children too young to take to after-bedtime demonstrations, so I sat in front of my computer and tweeted with like-minded, grieving, angry fellow travelers.

But now that a few days have passed, I have moved from my sense of helpless, hopeless horror to my version of an action phase. I’m going to share it with you, and perhaps you’d like to join me, or if it doesn’t apply to you, you might pass it on to a friend to whom it does.

As a white woman, I feel a special responsibility (I almost wrote “culpability” and I’m not sure that’s far from wrong) regarding this case. I’m not saying it’s my personal fault, but my “identity” (not necessarily one I choose, but one that is put upon me by everyone who looks at me) is an enormous working piece of the machine that killed Trayvon and denied his family justice.

Because of this, when I first heard about the makeup of the Zimmerman jury, I was really, really worried. I hoped against hope that maybe being moms of teens might help these women empathize with Trayvon. But (especially after hearing from the anonymous juror on CNN), we all know that didn’t happen.

The fact is, throughout U.S. history—especially after the Civil War—white women have been the rhetorical foil white men have used to justify violence and terrorism against Black men. In the 1880s and 1890s there were several lynchings of Black men per month. In fact, in some years of those decades there were three or four lynchings per week. The overall “reason” given for these lynchings by almost everyone in the press—even in the Black press, which decried lynching but didn’t always challenge the accusations leading to it—was the rape of white women.

But Ida B. Wells (my favorite dead person of all time), challenged this claim by investigating every lynching she could, finding that in fact only 30% of lynchings were actually claimed to be about rape, and that very few of those actually were rape cases. (Many of the cases involving sex between Black men and white women, were in fact consensual relationships, as Wells pointed out, garnering death threats for her pointed honesty.)

No one accused Trayvon Martin of rape. But the icon of the threatening, always-already criminal Black boy or man is an icon perhaps not invented, but certainly refined, in the heyday of Strange Fruit, and is made out of white men’s need for sexual (well, and everything else) control of white women. This is well accounted for. Just go watch D.W. Griffith’s Birth of Nation  and you will see the story unfold there just a few years past the height of the lynching era. In that film, anxiety about white men’s loss of political and economic control to Black men is finally too much to bear when control of white women’s sexuality is added to the pile of straws.

So when George Zimmerman assumed, based on appearance that Trayvon was a criminal, a big part of why he assumed it was this history of Black boys and men being considered threats to white women. Sadly, though it’s been nearly sixty years, the twisted logic that made Emmett Till’s life worthless and let his murders go free has done the same to Trayvon.

I say 150 years (at least) of being used as an excuse to terrorize Black boys and men is enough. I’m out. I’m a white woman and I am not afraid of Black boys and men. If some white man is afraid for me, well…he needs to learn to be afraid of me. Because I’m not taking it any more.

How do I change one of the keystones of white supremacy all by my little self?

Fine, I can’t. But I can sure kick against it with all I’ve got and if you’re a white woman, you can join me and recruit all your white female friends to join too.

It is time (way past time) for white women to ally with Black boys and men with all our hearts and minds, with every shred of power we’ve got, and when it comes to this issue, we’ve got more than most of us realize.

Here are a few small things we white women can do almost every day to fight the ideology that Black boys and men are our worst enemies and to refuse anymore to be theirs:

1. Stop using the phrase “I was the only white person there.” It’s code for some kind of perception of vulnerability at best, real threat or danger at worst. But the truth is, if you’re the only white person somewhere, you’re likely to be a guest, and treated as such. If you stumbled into the “wrong” neighborhood, the history above should assure you that you are perceived to be a threat–much more so than a target.

But when you say, “I was the only white person there” with no other context for why this was relevant, you are leaning on that history to explain what being there meant. You are underscoring the idea that generally, Black people are a threat to white people and specifically that Black men and boys are a threat to white women.

Besides not saying this yourself, you can refuse to support it with your silence when other people are saying it.

When you hear someone toss the “I was the only one…” line into conversation, stop the speaker and say, “what’s your point?”

This will either force the speaker to unveil the racism behind the phrase, or to be clearer about why race legitimately mattered in the situation.

This isn’t the only phrase of this kind. What are some others you hear in what seem to the speaker to be white-only conversations? Interrupt them whenever you can.

2. Make a friend. No, your Black friend won’t be your get-out-of-racism free card. (And trying to wield it as one will lose you your Black friends fast. Because doing that is racist.) But let’s face it, if you DON’T have any black friends, you’ve got a problem. (I’m talking to U.S. Americans who live in the U.S. here, not the people of Iceland.) And everyone knows that the best kind of friends not only reflect our sense of self back to us, but challenge our sense of self, stretch us to empathize with others’ experiences and teach us new skills and ideas.

Real, honest, vulnerable friendships (based on something other than “hey you’re Black and I need a Black friend!” of course) are always valuable. When they are made across the boundaries society polices the most, they can help undo the implicit bias everyone in our culture carries around. (According to this research, seeing anti-stereotypical images helps combat implicit bias. What’s more anti-stereotypical than a true friend?)

Meanwhile, cross the daily thoughtless, race boundaries society has erected whenever the opportunity comes your way. Smile, and say hello to the Black man in front of you in the grocery store line, look those Black teen boys in the eye when they pass you on the street (whatever you do, don’t cross the street!), sit by a Black man, instead of another white woman, on the bus.

Seek out integrated spaces as much as possible. Don’t settle for the easy thoughtless comfort of being around a bunch of other white people. Try putting yourself in the minority often enough that you learn to be comfortable there.

3. Stop identifying with whiteness. I don’t mean stop allowing yourself to be labeled white by the census or the law or whatever, but to identify with whiteness within yourself. Identifying with whiteness is a pillar of white supremacy. Whiteness was made up. It didn’t fall from heaven decreed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You may have to be it in the eyes of others and ironically, in working to undo it you must acknowledge the unearned privilege it gives you. But you don’t have to give a flying fig Newton about it, yourself. You don’t have to take the wrong side in historical stories, for example.

Back when I was teaching race in U.S. history and culture to college students, the white ones would eventually come to me all distressed that “white” people had done such terrible things in U.S. history. Half these kids’ families weren’t even in  the U.S. at the time of some of the events that troubled them. I told them there was no reason to identify with Thomas Jefferson and no reason not to identify with Frederick Douglass. Your heroes should be the people who share your values, not your melanin levels.

Again, I’m not saying Jefferson didn’t set it up sweet for you if you are white nowadays and you must acknowledge that, but you can be proud to be a U.S. American because of the heritage you share with others–a heritage that includes people like Harriet Tubman and W.E.B. DuBois.

TrayvonMartinHoodedDo you have any personal examples of how you’ve carried out any of the things on my list? Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? Please share them in the comments. It’s time we U.S American white women got together to form a ring of love and protection around our Black boys. But first, we have to recognize that they are ours.

Whiplash at the Supreme Court: An Excerpt

“…how am I to feel when the Supreme Court decides today that my partner and I could potentially be legally married, but my daughters—both Black—had their future voting rights threatened by the striking down of a key aspect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act yesterday?

I am cynical enough to think that we won the right to (sort of) marry because queers are imagined as white and middle, or upper-class, like Ellen Degeneres or Anderson Cooper. Those people are comfortably familiar enough to Supreme Court-types to “deserve” civil rights, whereas poor southern Black grandmothers without driver’s licenses to show at the polls aren’t as obviously deserving of a vote.

It’s this imaginary idea—along with the racist notion that all Black people are homophobic–that is too often wielded to divide and conquer us as minority groups with many interests in common. But queer rights and the rights of racial minorities are not in competition. If we pit them against each other, we all lose.”

For more, head over to BlogHer.

Meet Lindsay of “Fortunes Full”

 As a part of the annual Adoption Blogger Interview Project sponsored by Production, Not Reproduction, I was paired with Lindsay, sweet, busy new recruit to the two-kid lifestyle, and brain-behind-the-blog, Fortunes Full. Lindsay began documenting her adoption process once she and her husband were ready to begin.

A mother by traumatic birth (pre eclampsia, premature emergency c-section, weeks in NICU), Lindsay knew she wanted to adopt if she had any more children and her partner agreed.

She brought home a new son (her second) this past spring, a few weeks after another plan to adopt fell through when a father decided not to place.

Without further ado, here is my interview with Lindsay:

What kind of adoption did you do?

We decided very quickly on open, domestic adoption through a local agency. It was the perfect fit for us.

How did you make the decision to do this kind of adoption versus other types available (if they were available)?

As we were learning about all the different kinds of adoptions out there, we were shocked at how great the need for African American/biracial adoption was versus how long some people were waiting for a baby of their own race. Everyone has different needs and comfort levels, and we understand that. But for us it just didn’t matter, at all. We wanted a baby and felt we were emotionally and logistically equipped to raise a child of another race, respectfully. We also needed this adoption process to have a very low impact on our son, W, who was two at the time. So we decided on domestic to avoid extensive travel. Then we learned that there was an agency very close to our home  that specialized in open adoptions. We figured that if we were going to have a child of another race, that it would be beneficial to know their birth family – to see where they came from. It was all just too perfect. Open, domestic, multi racial adoption. Boom bam.

Of course it didn’t wind up turning out quite that way though…

What factors (specifically about adoption itself) where most important to you at the time you began the adoption process? Did these change or shift at a later time? If so how and why?

We went into adoption with one focus: a healthy baby to bring home from the hospital. We were robbed of that experience with Little W and we were craving it. So that was our driving force in the beginning. But once we found our path (open, domestic), I think a fire was lit in me and I developed a passion for it. Open adoption is a relatively new thing and I think it’s very scary to outsiders. I love “spreading the gospel” to people who aren’t in the know. Hopefully some form of open adoption will be the norm, some day.

It was also important to me to find a respectable agency that put the needs of the children first, then the birth parents. We were lucky to find that in our local agency. In my opinion, once agencies or adoption professionals start putting the needs of the adoptive parents before the babies and birth families, you’re creeping into what seems like very questionable moral/ethical ground.

Once we were in the thick of The Wait, bringing a newborn home from the hospital seemed less and less important. And good thing because H’s adoption plan was created when he was three months old. Our feeling was… when this kid is six months, three years, eleven years, twenty years old, is it going to matter that we missed twelve measly weeks with him? No way.

As you raise your adopted child, what is most important to you today? Is it what you predicted would be important when you began the adoption process? If it has shifted how and why?

I think my answer to this mirrors that of any other parent, adoptive or biological. I want my sons to have every opportunity available to them. I want them to shoot for the moon, to follow their dreams, to be healthy and kind and loving. Being  an adoptive parent will always be a bit trickier than being a biological parent because there’s more questions to be answered and more people woven into the tapestry of our lives. This is especially so if you’re a multiracial family. In preparing for our adoption, I did all the research, I knew all the ways to include my child’s ethnicity into our family’s nucleus. But as fate had it, that sweet little baby wasn’t placed with us. And just a few weeks later we were surprised with an emergency placement… of the blondest haired, bluest eyed cherubic baby you’ve ever seen.  Go figure. So while I still want H to have a connection to his birth family’s roots, it’s not quite so pressing because simply, at first glance, there’s not that blazing difference in appearances. Did I answer that question appropriately? Not so sure. We’re just seven months in from placement, 7.5 months in from that heart breaking disappointment. So even though Little H consumes every corner of my mom-brain and is the light of my life, I still think about the baby that  wasn’t placed with us every day. I’m sure that will fade with time. But currently, the transition from expecting an African American baby to having a Caucasian baby is still a part of my life. Clearly, some of the details aren’t what I expected. But overall, the ideals that I hold important remain the same. I want him to know that he is loved by his birth family. I want him to know about them – and to know them. I want him to know that he is entitled to feel exactly how he feels. If he’s feeling sad or mad regarding adoption, I want him to know that that’s ok and that we’re there to listen.

What resources do you look to for learning what you need to know about adoption and raising an adopted person? What do you like about these? Are there any “resources” you have seen and not liked? Why?

I’m a blog junkie. I bought several books while making our adoption plan but I just can’t get through them. They’re written by well meaning psychologists and I’m sure they’re great for some people.  But when it comes down to it, I prefer blogs. Real life experiences from people who aren’t experts is what I need. I like to learn from real moms’ mistakes and laugh with them as they learn the ropes of parenthood. It puts a face and a heart on “The Adopted Child” that you read about in the books.

You have a mixed biological/adoptive family. Do you feel there are unique challenges to this experience, from your perspective? Are there unique blessings?

I do feel that there are unique challenges to having both biological and adoptive sons. Just the other day, I got into a conversation with W about how much we look alike. It wasn’t a real heavy talk. It was short and to the point then he was off with his trains and dinosaurs. But it stuck with me for a while. How would that convo had gone down if the boys were older? How would it have made H feel to hear me talk about how much W and I look alike? Will W feel left out because he doesn’t have a birth family like H? We will definitely have challenges as a family of mixed origin. Luckily, we have a few years to figure out how to tackle those subjects. Hopefully, our endlessly open dialog regarding H’s adoption and birth family will leave him fulfilled when it’s brought up that W and I look like twins. We’ll be able to jump right in with pictures and stories about how much H looks like his birth parents and siblings.
What does “open adoption” mean to you and your family? Do you feel you have the support you need to maintain a healthy open adoption? What is your support? Would you like to have more and if so, what kind?

Open adoption means so much to us. Ultimately, it gave us our son. But it also gave us such a bigger sense of love for a child.  Before learning about open adoption, I would have never guessed that loving an adopted child would include love for his birth family. H’s birth family loves him so much – and that will always be tangible to him. I see our relationship heading towards a place of closeness. It’s still very new and I think I don’t hear from them much because they’re healing. But I keep a blog for them and always let them know how open I am to him knowing (I mean really knowing them). Hopefully with time for healing, we will be comfortably close. We all live less than two hours apart, so there’s no excuse, if both parties are game.

If we need it, our agency is there for us. But I don’t feel like I need them as a middle man. I’m confidant in our relationship and the respect is there, on both ends. Like I said, I’d love to have a close relationship with them. But only time will tell if they will reciprocate.

Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Lindsay! To read my answers to Lindsay’s questions, visit her blog.

A Reality Check for TLC’s Latest “Reality Show,” “Birth Moms”

Correcting misleading portrayals of adoption in the media is a never-ending battle for many of us. And while I often ignore bad adoption references, choosing to roll my eyes at things like Loki being “adopted” or yet another bad-seed-type horror movie, I couldn’t let this one go. I am sure that my readers are aware of the scripted and false nature of so-called reality television, but I wanted to point out just a few of the most obvious problems–mainly enormous breeches of ethics–in the show, beyond the meta-problem of putting these women on television in the first place, with an assumed story line that they will be relinquishing their children at the end of the narrative.

1. Moving expectant moms out-of-state removes them from their own support networks, isolates them and creates a more vulnerable situation in which they are less likely to feel in touch with their own parenting and other resources.

2. Housing pregnant women in adoption-agency housing does everything above, plus creates a sense of dependency and indebtedness towards the agency.

3. Moving expectant mothers to Utah puts them in a state which has, perhaps the worst record of all fifty states on adoption ethics. Utah adoption law is often used to intentionally cut off biological fathers from their children even when they want to and would be able to parent. In Utah, a woman is allowed to sign an irrevocable termination of her parental rights to her child as early as 24 hours after birth.

These times limits–in any state, of whatever length–are almost always explained in these terms: “the birth mother has XYZ hours/days to change her mind.” This completely misrepresents the law. In fact, the mother has eighteen years to make decisions about her child. These time limits are supposed to be helpful to women making adoption placement decisions by restricting them from being allowed to sign papers before they’ve had a real chance to carefully consider the decision, spend time with their babies, contact friends and relatives who might be supportive of their parenting or even allow the drugs they received in labor to fully leave their systems. A state that allows a woman to sign away her rights so soon after birth with no option to rethink her decision is failing in its obligation to protect women from coercive adoption practices.

4. I know that it is a sticky subject, and that there are exceptions to this rule and people on all sides of the adoption “triad” (for lack of a better term) who have had good experiences, but with that caveat, it is not a good idea to have prospective adoptive parents in the birthing room with a woman considering placing her child.

This situation creates an emotionally coercive atmosphere in which the adoptive parents seem like the baby’s parents before they are. It creates a situation in which a birthing mother feels that much more obligated not to let them down and disappoint them by keeping her child.

5. When a mother says “I want to keep my baby,” or “I don’t want to give him to anyone else,” or “I want to raise him myself” but that she feels she has no choice but to place him for adoption because she has no money, no job, no car, no house… a social services worker has a moral obligation to find support for her to keep her child. Poverty alone is not a good reason to place a child in adoption. Virtually no healthy infant adoptions are occurring in countries with strong social safety nets like paid maternity leave, free and subsidized child care, socialized medical care and other benefits. Adoption is a drastic, traumatic life event for both mothers and children and should never happen unless absolutely no other options are available.

6. At least in the way this show was filmed and edited, it looked like the “counseling” session these young women had with a man from the adoption agency was nothing but a give-away-your-baby class. When one of the expectant moms suggested that another’s difficulty in choosing a family might signal her desire to keep her baby, the “counselor” was silent and the woman seemed pressured to prove that she was committed to adoption, when in fact, she explicitly wasn’t. A real counselor ought to have picked up that thread and helped her explore her options besides adoption.

Likewise, when she complained about the lack of racial diversity in the prospective parent profiles, the “counselor” again said nothing. She made an excellent point that the only family she liked already had three biological children–all blonde–and her biracial son might feel out of place in such a family. No one affirmed her hesitations as reasonable or right. No one offered her information about transracial adoption and its effect on children or the ways in which white parents ought to be prepared to raise a child of color. No one offered to put her in touch with adult adoptees who grew up in transracially adoptive families.

Similarly when another expectant mom asked the prospective adoptive parents of her child not to tell her son that he was adopted it ought to have raised a red flag that she was not ready to place. Whatever her troubles–and the show certainly made her look quite troubled–adoption, if she is feeling that much shame about it, will only add to them. At the very least, she ought to have been given some real counseling. She ought to have been given such counseling when she talked to the doctor about her drug and alcohol problems as well. It was sadly clear that no one she talked to–the adoption agency “counselor,” the doctor, the prospective adoptive parents–cared at all about her and what would become of her after her baby was born. All they cared about was getting that baby away from her. And all the show seemed to care about was portraying her as always-already unfit to raise her own children, so that we wouldn’t care too much about her ourselves.

[Just a little update here to say that if you read the Huffington Post’s ridiculous story about this woman–which concludes “Are you horrified by her?”–and then read the comments you will get a sense of just how horrifying people are about young women in distress. There is just about zero compassion for this woman. It alarms me that people with that attitude towards pretty much anyone, might go out and become parents–by adoption or otherwise. I am surprised that so many people don’t seem to know the basic fact that addiction is a disease, that by its very nature is uncontrollable. The woman with an alcohol and drug addiction could not stop her behavior through willpower or love for her baby, no matter how much she wanted to. But it doesn’t surprise me that such a woman might have given up trying to be “good” when everyone is so determined to paint her as evil.]

7. When a baby goes home with adoptive parents and a mother goes home without her baby, that is not the end. Adoption is a lifelong condition that has repercussions forever–into future generations. I am not saying that adoption can never create a happy family (it created one for me) or that all adopted people are especially broken. (We are all broken in some way, but we are also resilient.) But adoption is not automatically a good thing just because it’s adoption. In fact, I was not sure why some of the prospective parents were adopting. It seemed like a couple of them just thought adoption was an inherently charitable act and they wanted to do it to have done this good deed, when in fact, it was unneeded by the mother and the baby. (I am thinking of the family with three children who said “we’ve always wanted to adopt.” Why? And they adopted a baby whose mother wanted to keep him and was already raising a healthy daughter. It was not exactly a “rescue” of a child in desperate circumstances.) There is so much more to adoption than these simplistic stereotypes.

8. A small note about language: A woman is not a “birth mom” before she has given birth and relinquished her parental rights. The term “birth mom” itself, even after relinquishment is problematic to many people. But even those who accept the term don’t accept it before the adoption happens. Calling women who are merely considering adoption “birth moms” is part of the cultural coercion that makes it more difficult for a woman struggling with a crisis pregnancy to see options besides adoption.

Have you got feedback about this show? Please leave it in the comments. If you’re blogging about it, please leave a link.

Talking

One of the reasons I don’t write much here anymore is that fairly early on, I realized that Nat is a private person. She is reticent to talk much about important or complicated topics and I didn’t feel it was right for me to go on talking to the general public about her business if it was likely she was going to dislike it when she got old enough to realize I was doing it.

So while I’m not going to tell you exactly what she and I have been talking about lately, I do want to share that we have been talking.

I have heard that many times, adoptive parents assume that if kids aren’t talking/asking about something, they aren’t thinking about it. I have also heard that that assumption is usually proved wrong–sometimes in sad ways that might have been avoided with better communication.

In our case, Nat has typically been very unlikely to raise the topic of adoption or race or having same-sex parents, or any sensitive topics that affect her personally. But we have always talked about those things openly anyway, to try and make sure she grew up knowing that those topics were not secrets, shameful, or in any way threatening or off-limits. I could also get hints that Nat was thinking about these kinds of things from other sources–lately, she’s been writing stories, for example, that, while fictional, are exceptionally transparent! Also, Selina, who is a far less pensive kid, is much more open about these topics, bringing them up casually and frequently.

But in the past six months, Nat and I have had some really intense conversations, all initiated by her. In fact, long as six and a half years might have seemed to wait to hear her broach topics I’ve been chattering about to her all that time, her way of engaging has turned out to be (or at least seems to me, to be) quite precocious. We’ve had some difficult discussions that I had assumed we would have when she is a teenager. She’s only seven.

I wanted to break my general Nat silence to tell you this because you may be or may know an adoptive parent who is shy about bringing up these topics or is waiting for a child to bring them up first. I want to add my two cents to the pile of advice suggesting that we keep bringing things up. I feel like my persistence is beginning to pay off now, because my sweet, almost painfully empathetic kid has gotten the message that no matter how challenging the issue, she won’t hurt me with her honest feelings and I will always be on her side in difficulty.

Keep talking. Even if you get changes of subject, rolling eyes or silly faces, at any one moment, try, try again. Let them know you won’t shy away from any of their truth, no matter how hard.