2.01.2006

Adoption Commotion

pre-script: Marriage stories (and pics) tomorrow, I promise!

It seems everyone is talking about adoption these days. Yesterday, Sarah at Good Enough Mum took on the subject of adoption by posting a response to this article by A Woman Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered On This Blog So Help Me God. Sarah is sharp, and awesome, and has excellent points. Her post is worth reading. I love her point that adopted children have more than one set of parents and that the more people who love and are invested in a child the better, but where I think she does a wonderful job of explicating the very few valid points of AWWNSNBUOTBSHMG's article, I do want to add that not all first mothers are such a boon for their children to know. AWWNSNBUOTBSHMG brushes the idea of abusive birthmothers aside as something made-up for the sake of stealing their children, or perhaps a problem of our social system that is incumbent upon our society to fix without taking the children from these poor, victimized women. Sarah spends a paragraph challenging the idea of a blanket representation of first mothers as victims and moves on to her larger point. I want to elaborate on that paragraph with a personal story which, I think, relates to the larger picture (well, of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't be posting this, would I?)

I've stated before that my sister, Smokin' Bunny-cakes, is adopted. Her birth mother is my mother's half-sister. I was 9 1/2 when SB-c came home from the hospital. She and her mother came to stay with us so that my mom could help them get settled. That first night Ruby wouldn't wake to SB-c's cries, she wouldn't wake to my mother's urgent shaking of her. My mother fed the baby that night, and every other night after that, until Ruby took the baby and went back to her own home and her own mother (Ruby was 16 at the time). Within 2 months my grandmother called and asked my mother to come pick Bunny-cakes up. Ruby had been gone for days, my grandmother was too weak to lift the baby out of the crib. My mother went and brought Bunny-cakes back home where we kept her for a week or so until Ruby returned and claimed her baby again. This would be a regular pattern (with some frightening variations)until Bunny-cakes was 8 months old when my parents picked up Bunny-cakes and Ruby just never came back for her. Well, she came back to visit, but she always left Bunny-cakes behind when she went. The extended family did everything they could to help Ruby, short of giving her cash outright, keep Bunny-cakes. Ruby was uninterested in being a mother in reality, she just liked saying she was a mother and showing off a cute baby on occasion. She wanted nothing to do with diapers and feedings and vomit and sickness and hard choices and long nights. Eventually my parents grew frustrated at the situation. They loved Bunny-cakes fiercely and could no longer stand the thought that Ruby could just come and claim her again. Bunny-cakes called my father "Dad" and my mother "Mom". She was my sister, no longer my cousin. My parents spoke to my grandmother who spoke to Ruby about giving Bunny-cakes to us permanently. Ruby refused at first and nothing more was said, but eventually came on her own to my parents with money to pay the lawyer. An extended-family meeting was held an my parents announced that Ruby had agreed to give Bunny-cakes up for adoption. My mother's little brother and his wife had been struggling with infertility for years and wanted to be the ones to adopt SB-c, but they hadn't been there raising her for the last year and a half and she wasn't bonded to them, my parents felt that tearing her from the family she knew (even only partially) would do more damage, and they put their foot down and claimed her as their daughter. I just want to say here that my parents didn't adopt Bunny-cakes to save her. They adopted her because they loved her and she was their daughter. She had come to us through a circuituitous and painful path, but come to us she did.

I tell this story, because I wanted to show an example of a teenager with a supportive network of family who wanted her to succeed at motherhood (even though my parents considered Bunny-cakes their daughter, if Ruby had cleaned her act up at any time during that first year they would have given SB-c back to her despite the fact that it would have felt like tearing our family apart) who still decided of her own free will to give her child up so she could continue partying and drinking and doing god-knows what else.

Years later she cleaned up her life, got married, had another child. And she started trying to get my parents to give back the daughter they had cherished all those years. She started saying that her child had been stolen from her, that no one had supported her desire to parent. She threatened to kidnap my sister. Our parents did their best to cut off all contact during this point -- they felt it was a matter of safety. When Ruby calmed down, they reinitiated contact (after all, Ruby is a member of the family -- besides Bunny-cakes' birth mother, she is her aunt, as well) and things seemed fine. Our parents (and I, who also knew, but didn't say) never wanted to tell Bunny-cakes the circumstances behind her adoption -- who wants to be told that you were abandoned, that your mother was an addict and most likely a prostitute. We focused on the positive issues: how much we loved her, how we had chosen to bring her into the family, how I had always wanted a sister. Maybe that was wrong. Looking back, when Ruby came back into our lives was when Bunny-cakes' grades started slipping, she started pulling away from the family, she started getting in trouble. It seemed like typical pre-teen and teenaged things, but it escalated. It seemed that genetics was willing out -- she was following her birth mother's path despite being raised differently (remember, my grandmother was an active alcoholic and Ruby's father died in prison). She barely graduated high school, refused to go to college, sank further and further. Eventually she moved out of our parents' house and in with her fiancee -- and her birthmother. Ruby had abandoned her other two children and her husband and she was wanting to live as a happy family with "her stolen daughter". Everything came out then: it turned out that for years Ruby had been communicating with Bunny-cakes behind everyone's back. It wasn't the fact of communication that was the problem, it was the secret messages, the hand-passed notes, what Ruby got her second daughter to say to my sister on phone calls -- phone calls our parents knew about and encouraged so that SB-c could have a relationship with her half-sister. Messages that said, over and over, that SB-c had been stolen, that SB-c didn't belong with us, that we had had her too long, that her real mother and her real sister needed her, that she was just like they. Ruby was two-faced: to our parents and to the extended family she was content and supportive, to SB-c she was spreading lies and discontent. By the time our parents realized that they should have told SB-c the whole truth about her adoption they had been undermined by Ruby who had told SB-c that we would say those things in an attempt to "justify" the theft and turn her against her true family.

Thank goodness that after a few months of living with Ruby, SB-c was able to see through the deception to the woman beneath. But still, damage has been done. Anyone who categorically places birth mothers in a position of victim has only my contempt. Yes, SOME women are victims and some women understand that they are not ready to be full-time parents (and those women I will call first mothers) but some birth mothers were never mothers to begin with. Don't tell me that a woman who does drugs while pregnant is a mother. Don't tell me that a pregnant woman who will run away from a drug-treatment center and end up high in a hospital being delivered of a multi-drug addicted premature infant is a mother. Don't even try to justify to me that a woman who will leave her infant unattended in a drug house while she goes off to party is a mother. Don't tell me that a woman who is given multiple chances and resources and support to clean up her act and mother her child and yet prefers to disappear for days at a time without providing for that child is a mother. Addiction overshadows motherhood and smothers it. And anyone who will argue that a child should be left with an addict in place of a mother is as guilty of neglect and abuse as the addict who actually perpetrates. Fucked-up, strung-out, addicted, reactive women deserve help and healing and love, but they do not deserve a child (even if it came out of their body) until they can prove that they can love and protect and care for it. Who decides who is a mother and who is not? The woman in question does. And she reveals her decision through her actions.

Here is a poem that I wrote about my sister about a year ago. I wrote this just after she moved out of my parents' house and we found out about what Ruby had been doing, but before she realized who really loved her, and who was merely using her as an excuse and an accessory and a means.

WHERE THE FRUIT IS CHOOSING TO FALL

Lately, her toothbrush is always dry

My little sister’s birth mother
had her last few teeth pulled before
they rotted so she wouldn’t have to take
care of them any more.
Now Ruby flashes
the prettiest set of false teeth
in the whole bowling alley --
white, even through
the yellow-grey air.

I’ve caught my little sister
practicing her birth mother’s
smile in the mirror.

My mother asked me not to repeat this

When my parents helped my little sister
and her fiancé move into their first apartment,
my father went to pick up the fiancé’s couch
while my mother stacked the cushions
and carried them to the truck. Her hand
rested on something stuck to the bottom
of the cushions. She moved into the light
to get a better look and realized that what
she was touching was a thick swath of crusted
boogers. Each cushion was identically embellished.
My mother didn’t know what to say to her youngest daughter
who would willingly sit down, lay down, curl up
on something smeared with someone else’s snot.

What my mother did

My mother’s friend called from Hardee’s.
She had seen Ruby walk into a house
with a baby, walk out of it without one.
The friend wanted to know --
was my mother’s niece
at home with us?

Inside the house
the carpet was filthy
orange shag
and the car seat
looked like one more piece of trash.
No one else was there.

My mother snatched up
my little sister in her car seat
and brought her back home.

It was weeks before Ruby
came by. She asked no questions.
Didn’t look surprised
or relieved.

Something I’ve never told my sister

My little sister informs me
that she was held for ransom.
That my parents took her
and Ruby couldn’t buy her back
and still have money for diapers
and formula and rattles.

I remember Ruby
barely older than I
old smoke
tight smile
Jordache jeans and doublemint gum
shoving her baby at her older half-sister
always taking off in a different guy’s car
gone for days, coming back flush.
She knew how to make
that kind of money.

The carpet may as well have been orange

When my parents left my little sister
in her first apartment
she was surrounded by what could be
taken for trash
and sitting on filth. To my mother
this was three scenes mingled.
She kept herself in the present
by remembering perspective:
my sister is shorter than Ruby
but much taller than that baby.

Posted by Trista @ 9:06 AM

Read or Post a Comment

That article was nauseating. Postively nauseating.

Posted by Anonymous Molly @ 11:40 AM #
 

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Posted by Blogger starevelina @ 4:06 PM #
 

That story and poem are pretty powerful. I'm glad your sister got through it. As for the one-who-shall-not-be-named, I try not to read anything by her after my first sickening experience. Critiquing the problems within the system is one thing, but thoughtless extremism is another entirely. Extremists are extreme because they think they're being "original" and can get attention for what they say and do (think Fred Phelps). It may be harder to get attention when you propose thoughtful and complex ideas, but that's no excuse for behaving like an idiot.

Posted by Blogger starevelina @ 4:07 PM #
 

That woman is disgusting! I couldn't even finish her article...it was making me sick. The story about your sister was very sad. Hope she's doing well these days and feeling lots of love.

Posted by Blogger M. @ 10:50 AM #
 

Granted your sister's story is very sad and due to your personal experince, one is bound to be somewhat jaded, but by no means is she representitive of all natural mothers at all.

"perhaps a problem of our social system that is incumbent upon our society to fix without taking the children from these poor, victimized women."

Ummm..yeah.

There are many many issues in adoption now, current practices, today..that are just not ethical or good at all. And there are good women, whole, strong, vibrant, mother type material, who do fall into adoption..some even seek it out themselves..who are 180 degrees opposite from what you saw and who SHOULD be raising their own children. I am not big on being a victim either, but there are many things wrong and yes, many a natural mom has been screwed. I know more moms who should not have lost their children than ones, like your story, who really couldn't deal at all.
It's pretty sad.

Posted by Blogger FauxClaud @ 1:09 PM #
 

Yes there are mothers like the one decribed in this article. I am a birth mother whose daughter was taken at 4 years old. Why? disolved marriage, 26 years ago, no social program to help, and no money to fight the lies, that by the way were never proven. The exhusband's words were enough. Guess what we separated because he got our young babysitter pregnant. I have since remarried and have raised 2 beautiful healthy well adujusted good children. But I was labeled a bad mother based on a cheating husbands lies. I too have anger at the system and what is done in the name of the best interest of the child. I will never get over the loss of my first baby that I loved. Debra

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 12:59 AM #
 
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