July 3, 2014

Independence for Adoptees?



My First Mom was a social activist and author who wrote articles for a local newspaper. One of my treasured possessions is an article she wrote about Alice Paul, a women's activist who fought for the right of women to vote in the early 1900's.

I know that if my Mother were alive today we would be standing arm-in-arm speaking out about the closed record system in adoption. She could have been one of the brave women interviewed in "The Girls Who Went Away" by Ann Fessler.

She searched for me, registered on the ALMA Registry, and told her family never to forget that I would someday come looking. All the while, she searched for a "son" because the hospital and attorneys told her that she had given birth to a boy by c-section, when truth was, I was a daughter. That saddens me. In 1968 it was almost impossible for a young, unmarried mother to keep her child. In 2012 it is very possible, but the same adoption issues that were prevalent in 1968 are still in full-force today.

Sealed records, secrecy, lies, coercion, and unethical practices permeate the adoption system.  When will our society realize and acknowledge the researched and proven fact that separating mother and child brings life-long consequences, and should never be done simply to build another family for those willing to pay. 

A humane society would never legalize "marketing" strategies to encourage the increase of children and babies "available" for adoption ~ yet here we are.  Sealed records profits no one except those who profit from this unethical and unregulated system in the transfer and stripping of human identities.  Our nation will never have a truly honest discussion about adoption ethics unless money is removed from the adoption system (even in the form of federal adoption "incentives") and the inhumane practice of "amending" and "sealing" birth certificates is ended.   

One of my favorite movies is called "Iron-Jawed Angels", about the women's suffragist movement at the beginning of the 20th century ~ the story of Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony. They fought for women's right to vote, even though many, including politicians and other women, thought they were "radical" and even "angry". Thanks to their hard work, determination, and refusal to give in, every American woman enjoys the right to vote in every election.

"Women in the Voting Booth", an article in the Daily Record, begins with...

"It was 90 years ago this month that women across the nation got the right to vote through ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. This was 144 years after the Declaration of Independence — proclaiming that "all men are created equal" was signed, and 50 years after African-American men were given the right to vote."

When will adoptee's be given the simple right to their own identity? 
Adoptees deserve the same right as every other American citizen to access their own original birth certificate and court records upon adulthood.

It will be a wonderful day when ALL Adoptees can proudly walk into the Bureau of Vital Statistics office and request their own original, unfalsified birth certificate without "good cause", without shame, and with equal standing.

Adoption Reform Speech: "THIS TIME MUST COME"
By Sandy Musser

Presented at the First March on Washington Adoption in August of 1989, by Sandy Musser, a natural mother who went to federal prison for helping people search:

"I stand here before you today as a civil rights activist for the adoption reform movement. But I want to talk about three well-known activists of other eras who loudly and clearly proclaimed the need of freedom for their people."If a man named Moses were standing here before us today, I believe he would be speaking on our behalf and say to our present government - Let My People Go! Because Moses was not only the leader of the Jewish nation- he was also the most famous adoptee - one who had been adopted outside of his Jewish heritage and Jewish faith.But when he became aware of the bondage his people were in, he fought and persisted to see that they were set free. The Bible says that God heard the heart cries of His people. Our heart cries are now beginning to be heard around this country. We fight against the plagues of the adoption and child welfare system - the plague of the sealed record, which always equals cover-up; and the great plague of all - a corrupt system that has become a billion dollar business!" But I believe that we're well on our way to the Promised Land, and that most intelligent, caring individuals really want truth and openness - not secrecy and lies. This will be a land that will not see the need to sever birth roots nor eradicate the family name; a time when guardianship is a more cherished role than ownership. It will be a land that will not require the control of the social work profession, nor legislated rules and regulations; a land where no money need exchange hands (known as "fees") in order to adopt a child. Our Promised Land will be a land where adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents can come together and form a circle of love that will be immersed with openness, honest; and heartfelt caring."

If Susan B. Anthony were standing before us today - she, too, would be speaking out on our behalf. She, too, would be saying, let these people go. She knew what it meant to be denied rights - rights that her male counterparts enjoyed. She fought and led the women of America through the streets and halls of justice so that they too could have a voice at the ballot box. In 1873, she and 15 other women marched to the voting booth and exercised their God-given right to vote - and for this she stood trial. She was prosecuted and fined - a fine she refused to pay. How many of us are going to have to stand trial, pay fines, and be prosecuted for demanding or exercising our God-given right to our original birth certificate or other records concerning our own lives?"

If Martin Luther King could be here today, he would most likely be at the forefront of our March. He would be raising his hands, his head, and his voice, heavenward and shouting to the world - Let these people go! In one of his famous speeches, Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream that someday our people will not be judged by the color of their skin" We share a similar dream - that the day will soon come when we will not be judged or branded because we bear the name of 'adoptee,' birthparent' or adoptive parent.'

"We pray for the day that we will not have to bargain, plead, beg, petition or pay for what is rightfully ours. We anticipate the day when legal documents called birth certificates will no longer be falsified - when birthmothers are no longer signed into the hospital under an assumed name, given them by an agency or attorney - we look toward the day when a simple request for information will be granted - and when Big Brother no longer stands over us with folded arms guarding our most prized possession - our BIRTHRIGHT!"

Finally, I want to share the words of a poem written by MaryAnneCohen, a birth mother with great insight and foresight. It's entitled 'THIS TIME MUST COME'

"TIME WILL COME when our tragedy will not be replayed, When no child will be torn out of the arms of love into the arms of money. When all births will be blessed, all equal. And there will be no word remembered to brand a child born outside society's ties, no recording of legal lies…When love is more lasting than papers, and no child is deprived of either heritage or nurturing, even when they come from separate places. And it is finally seen that blood and home are not the same, And neither replaces the other, and there is no quota for love…

"TIME WILL COME when social workers are to serve, not sever; When they know it is better to unite than separate, To be true than to lie, to be seen than to hide, To accept than renounce, that the give and nurturing of life are both sacred and deserving of respect; That all parents are real parent, not rivals. That love is stronger than fear of laws or time,and cannot be terminated, cannot be legislated, cannot be denied…

"TIME WILL COME when all children can grow, become real, cast off shadows, renew or sever ties by their own choice, be responsible, BE FREE! When our bondage ends, and we answer to our children; Answer with the gift of sight, gift of words, gift of sorrow…When every person has the right to trace their roots in their mother's face, their father's eyes…When nobody is condemned to eternal childhood,and no mother cries forever…

"THIS TIME MUST COME"Copyright © 1989, 2001 Sandy Musser.Visit Sandy's website at http://www.angelfire.com/fl2/musser

July 1, 2014

Opening the Wells

Little Baby Child Reaching For Water Fountain
© Photographer: Ansebach | Agency: Dreamstime.com

(Post originally published in 2010)

It was a true privilege to attend an OK Legislative Interim study (2010) on adoptee access to original birth certificates this week. Hearing the heart of the amazing people who spoke on the importance of restoring the human right of all adoptees to know their identity and histories was an inspiration and joy.

Thank God for the opportunity to be there, know them, and work beside them. Even though it wasn't heavily attended, it felt right.

We were able to dispel some common myths surrounding adoptee access, sharing the good news that in the states which have implemented this law, abortion rates have actually declined more than the national average, and that birth mother "confidentiality" was also a myth perpetuated by the adoption industry. In fact, birth mothers were never promised (nor asked for) confidentiality in the law. It was enforced upon them.

The TN and OR Supreme Courts have both ruled on this issue. "Sealed records" were not implemented until 1939 in OK ~ to protect the newly formed adoptive family, not birthmothers. In fact, even today, if a birthmother relinquishes her child for adoption, but for some reason the child is never adopted and remains in foster care, his/her original birth certificate is never sealed or amended.

I returned home so thankful to be able to spend time with my son and husband for a few hours that evening before bedtime. It was one of those nights of light sleep with many dreams, but not really remembering any of them.

When I woke up the next morning, "Genesis 26:18" was impressed on my heart and mind. Having to get up quickly and prepare my son for school, I didn't give it much thought, but briefly wondered what it meant.

Later that morning, as I sat in a Women's Bible Study I have attended for several years, I remembered the scripture reference, and quickly looked it up, curious as to what it said. I froze in disbelief when I read it, almost too shocked to believe what I was reading, but so encouraged.

"He reopened the wells his father had dug and restored the names his father had given them."

This scripture hit me so strongly, after just attending the interim study the day before, and waking up with this reference (which I've never read before) in my mind and before my eyes. Could it be that God is encouraging us? That He is the One who stands with us on this issue?

After all, names and genealogy are extremely important in Biblical text, and God is renown for restoring and redeeming (buying back) the lives of those separated from their God-given identities and people ~ Moses, Joseph, and a host of others.

Proverbs 23:10-11 says,

"Don't stealthily move the boundary lines
or cheat orphans out of their property (identity),
For they have a powerful Advocate
who will go to bat for them." (Message Bible)


As I read on in Genesis 26, I noticed that the entire rest of that chapter was concerning "rights":

"Isaac’s servants also dug in the Gerar Valley and discovered a well of fresh water. 20 But then the shepherds from Gerar came and claimed the spring. “This is our water,” they said, and they argued over it with Isaac’s herdsmen. So Isaac named the well Esek (which means “argument”). 21 Isaac’s men then dug another well, but again there was a dispute over it. So Isaac named it Sitnah (which means “hostility”). 22 Abandoning that one, Isaac moved on and dug another well. This time there was no dispute over it, so Isaac named the place Rehoboth (which means “open space”), for he said, “At last the Lord has created enough space for us to prosper in this land.”

Several U.S. states have passed Adoptee Access Legislation (supported by The Child Welfare League of America) restoring the unconditional right of adult adoptees to access their original birth certificate, just like every other American citizen. Wouldn't it be a miraculous wonder if Oklahoma became the next state to restore the identity rights of it's adopted citizens ~ a new beginning, setting a national example for restoring the dignity of over six million adoptees and their families. After all, Kansas, our neighbor to the north, has NEVER sealed obc's to adult adoptees.

It was really interesting to me the way the chairman of this committee ended the interim study. Even after listening to middle-aged (or older) adults speak for over an hour about the human right of identity, and how "sealed records" in adoption made adopted people "perpetual children" in the eyes of the law, she sincerely thanked us for coming and then went on to share how "special" adopted "children" are, being "chosen" in our families. (In reference to the term adoptees hear often, "chosen child".)

As I sat in Bible Study that morning, I thanked God for giving me this dream. It was such an encouragement in the midst of the journey. We left Bible Study that morning with these words and a prayer.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him through all generations forever and ever! Amen."

June 29, 2014

May 27, 2014

God's Eye

 
 
A few weeks ago I pulled the most beautiful Gods-Eye artwork out of my son's backpack. 
Recoiling when he saw it, he quickly begged for me to stuff it back inside.
But to me, it was the most perfect thing I'd ever laid eyes on...simply because his own sweet little hands had created it.
 
Taken back, I asked "why?" he was so upset.  This was his reply. 
 
"Mom, it is all wrong.  I tried.  But I couldn't get it right.  It is junk.  Throw it away.
 Even though the teacher kept showing me over and over, I couldn't get it right, so she finally said,
 
'oh well' 

It doesn't look like the other kid's. It is supposed to look like an eye, not that." 
 
....and although he couldn't articulate it, "shame" dulled his innocent eyes. 
My heart broke right along side his. 
 
Holding back the tears, I took my son into my arms.
 
"Honey, it is perfect". 
The way you made it is exactly the way it is supposed to be. 
God didn't want yours to look like everyone else's because He wanted your art to reflect your story...and how He took care of you.
 
What did He do for you when you were a tiny baby in the hospital?  "He healed me". 
 
And what else?  "He held me" 
Exactly. 
 
I prayed that God Himself would hold my son close those long months in the NICU, when I couldn't physically hold him. And I believe He did.

"I will offer you peace like a river, and as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you".   
 
Even though my sweet baby couldn't feel me near, I was always close by his side. 
I was intricately involved and knew every painful aspect of his journey, yet he may not have experienced my presence like I longed for him to. 
My son may have felt abandoned and alone in that dreadful incubator, even though I never left his side.  It was that very incubator that God used to save his life. 
The tubes that felt as if they could strangle my son, were instruments of life to him. 
The needles and knives that assaulted his wafer-thin skin, were used by God to heal him. 
 
When I finally brought him home, at four months of age, all I could do was hold him for hours on end.  And cry.  And pray. 
I prayed that God would turn it all for his good. 
That he would somehow feel God's love and my love so deeply that his heart could heal.    
 
"That is what your art is", I continued..
"It's a picture of Jesus' rainbow promises that wrap around our hearts and heal us". 
 
To me, who saw my son's journey in big picture format...his art was clear. 
But to him, it just looked like a tangled mess.          
 
Then it hit me...I really needed to take my own advice.
 
Maybe God is wanting to reassure me when I feel discouraged, misunderstood or different.      
 
I've been with you your entire life and have full understanding.
You will someday...I promise. 
Oh, how I've longed to hold you, my child. 
I am on my feet, hands clapping, in overwhelming love and excitement over you...just like you are your son.  My heart breaks when I see you hurting. 
Please let me love you.  I will never, ever stop."
 
The "threads" that the enemy of our soul intends to frustrate and strangle the life out of us with,
can be the very instruments God uses to weave our lives into galleries of hope.            
 
All too often we feel like God is far away, watching only from a distance.
Life experiences scream at us, making us feel that God has abandoned us, or is only there to punish us when we can't measure up.  And we never can. 
Yet He says, 
 
"Peace, Peace to those near and far...and I will heal them."
 
His eye is on us - yes. 
But only as a loving Savior who longs to draw us into His arms of mercy. 
He will take the tangled, strangling circumstances of our lives and transform them into a thing of beauty; when we allow Him to carefully stitch our broken hearts back together,
piece by piece.    

We can finally breathe a sign of relief and feel our hearts come alive again,
embraced by His promises. 
~ Envelope us with Your Love, Father ~
 
He is closer than a brother. 

May 11, 2014

The Best Advice I Ever Got...



 
 
Came from my Mother(s)...




{Left to me as part of my First Mother's china collection}

***************************************************
 
 




{A gift from my Mom to my husband and I on our Anniversary}

May 7, 2014

Irreplaceable the Movie



 
 
“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are, and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning, no matter what our attainments in life, there is the most disquieting loneliness.”

~~Alex Haley~~


This movie brought tears to my eyes. 

It explored the philosophical and historical meaning of "family" and how its breakdown affects our lives individually and as a society.  Delving into issues such as sexuality, feminism, marriage, parenthood...asking the hard questions:   

When did we as a society stop valuing family? 

Why did pregnancy become a burden rather than a blessing? 

How did we start making children into commodities and building "designer" families?

Have we failed to encourage men to step up to the plate and be father's to their children?

The documentary addresses all these issues and does it well.  It is a beautiful documentary that speaks to the heart of these issues and the brokenness in every person, every family...and it gives hope.

One idea that stood out to me included the fact that some people in America don't even know where they were born...their identities are unknown.

Unfortunately, the way adoption is done in our society, it strips a person of their biological connections and identity, forever.  Even "open adoption" is not enforceable by law, and all birth certificates are sealed and amended upon adoption, to legally change a child's identity and family connections.  The demand for designer families and the business it creates, turns children into commodities.  

This creates a further breakdown of family, because it shrouds family histories in secrecy and unknowns, rather than allowing the light of truth to bring a person through their history to healing. 

It may create a home for a child, but at the expense of their wholeness. 

The only mention of adoption in this documentary was the story of one adoptee who "went back to their biological family"...key.  It speaks of the innate human drive to know oneself and restore whatever family connections are possible. 
 
Adoption and sealed records prevent a person and family from this.  It may actually be creating more harm than good, the way it is practiced in society today.  The Bible speaks of "re-digging the wells" for a reason.

Some genealogists have estimated that within four more generations NO American will have an accurate family tree because of archaic sealed records law in adoption. 

Could this be part of the problem in the breakdown of family?  Are we creating a country of identity-less people, because of our desire to build "designer" families, but disregarding the long-term affects this has on individuals and their ability to maintain healthy relationships? 

Families are God-ordained.  They are irreplaceable...not designable.

The film aptly speaks of the right of every child to "a" mother and father, but I would venture further to express the God-given right of every child to "their" mother and father, and identity...without being turned into a "product". 

If a child needs a home, must they be expected to live a new identity with legal connections that erase their God-given place in the family-line God saw fit they be born in to? 

Have we allowed adoption to become a class issue, using the children of the poor, to create designer families for those with more money?

If we honored the sacredness of the mother/child bond as the miracle it is, rather than turn it into a societal "crisis"...in order to obtain products for designer families...we would create a much healthier society long-term.  Fathers could not be "unnamed" or thwarted to "streamline" adoption.  Family connections would be honored rather than disenfranchised.  We are a nation of sickly family trees with missing branches.  And then we wonder why the breakdown of family?  We have been sold

When Moses was "adopted" into Pharaoh's house, he ended up running into a wilderness.  God appeared to him in a burning bush and said, "I am the God of your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"...He RESTORED Moses' identity and lineage.  He said "take off your shoes" (you are enough).  The ground you stand on is Holy.  He sent Moses back to his family of origin.  Our places in our family lines are sacred.  Adopted people deserve better than sealed records, amended birth certificates; high-priced transfers, as replacements.

We are a misplaced people.  We can love a "new" family, but it doesn't erase our profound loss; our reality.

I pray society takes this to heart.  Families are truly irreplaceable. 

May 5, 2014

Sacred Journeys

 
“There's a story behind everything..but behind all your stories is always your mother's story..because hers is where yours begins.”
~ Mitch Albom, For One More Day
 
(originally posted in 2013)
 
In her book, "The Sound of Hope", Anne Bauer wrote...
 
"The day I found out I had two mothers I was cut in half. One half of myself resided here with my family, and the other half was lost, lost to a shadowy woman floating somewhere out there...You see, I'm adopted."
 
Growing up, I never let myself even think about my natural mother, so when I began dreaming about her as an adult ~ well, that began a whole new journey. With the blessing of my family, I searched and found her in my early 20's.
It was her mother, my Grandmother Carolyn, who shared the devastating news that my mother had passed away while also searching for me. Her name was Norma Carol.

 I was born Baby Girl Lowe, during the 60's when young, unwed mothers endured great shame ~ "The Baby Scoop Era".  They were told that giving up their babies for adoption would somehow redeem them...and us as well. They were supposed to "forget" and "move on" but most never could, including my Mother.

On her death bed, she made her family promise to "never forget" her only child, she knew would someday return. She wasn't allowed to see or hold me after giving birth and was led to believe she had given birth to a boy. But it was me, a daughter, who did come back, ten years too late.

I spent most of my 20's numb; stuffing disenfranchised grief.   Especially after my Mom who raised me was diagnosed with the same type of cancer that took Norma's life. Suddenly I was terrified of losing both my Mothers to this horrid disease.

Mom not only endured months of chemo and radiation, but also a bone marrow transplant...never losing faith and teaching me important lessons in perseverance and trust. We just celebrated her 82nd birthday, and 15 years as a survivor.

Finally, in my 30's, I could breathe again. I connected with other adoptees and first Mom's and began to hear their stories...and finally began dreaming of my Mother.

One of those dreams is so special...

I found myself in Norma's living room looking out her window, and there to my surprise, was the familiar site of my childhood neighborhood.
Overcome, I turned and realized my Mother had been with me all along.  As she reached out, took me in her arms and held me...she whispered words in my ears.  Words that empowered me, preparing me for life.

Then she said..."You know, Samantha, I can't complete you..." and her voice trailed off.  At this, my heart sank as she pulled away, picked up her things and walked out the door. The little girl in me stood there sobbing, helpless....trying so hard to somehow "wish" her back.

Her embrace remained a part of me. I felt stronger, bigger...even through the unbearable sadness of watching her go. It was then that I noticed...there, on the table, she had left her keys. For me.  I knew I would someday see her again, even if in eternity.
 
She had given me my life, my name, and a confidence that would never be lost again.

It is interesting that, even though I'm now a Mother myself, I am still seen as a perpetual child in the eyes of adoption law.  Adoptees are the only US citizens denied access to their original record of birth. 

Like a fellow adoptee named Moses, hiding in the desert;  this dream was, for me, truly a "burning bush" experience.

 When Moses asked God, "Who am I?", God said, "I AM the God of YOUR fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." He restored his identity and his lineage
 
Then God said, "Take off your shoes...(mine even had names ~ Fear and Shame)...for the ground YOU stand on IS Holy. 
 
Our journeys are sacred, and that makes our very lives, and those we journey with, sacred as well.

Moses found his destiny wrapped up in both his families...a purpose, only fulfilled as he journeyed back to the place of his birth.

My Uncle Ronnie says that my son reminds him a lot of Norma Carol. Life somehow has a way of coming full circle.
 
I am whole...no longer cut in half.  So thankful for Motherhood, and very blessed to be on this journey with all of you.