On Saturday, I spoke as part of a birthmother panel that I mentioned on the blog briefly and some time ago. There were four of us: one woman who relinquished 52 years ago and has no contact with her daughter; one woman who placed a son as a teenager 25 years ago and is now working through a pretty rocky reunion; one who placed a son in what she thought was an open adoption 12 years ago (it was closed by the adoptive parents for apparently no good reason); and me. I was the only one who didn’t cry, although my voice did start to shake when I talked about Eric Clapton (yes, I am the weirdo). The audience was made up mostly of adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, although there were some adoptees and a couple of birthmothers present. There was only one hostile question, and I don’t think it was intended to be mean—that and a few other questions asked by adoptees felt a bit awkward because I heard them as asking questions they really wanted to ask their own birthmothers. Like “How often do you think about your placed child?” I think she got the answer she wanted: Every day. Even the woman who relinquished better than fifty years ago said it immediately: Every day.

After the question and answer period, a number of adoptive parents came up and thanked me—more than talked to the other women, I assume because I’m the only one talking about open adoption, and also, honestly, because I’m the only one who had anything nice to say about the adoptive parents. I did mention that I regret the adoption, but I don’t blame Ruth and Nora for that. I also got the only laugh: someone asked why birthmothers walk away from open adoptions, and I talked about how hard it is, and how it is advertised as easier, and then you start and it’s complicated and sometimes awful. I used as an example how complicated gifts can be, and talked about the car, and worrying about being the heterosexual people giving the heterosexual present—and I got a round of laughter. Somewhat surprising. I really hope it was helpful to some people, and some told me that it was, so mission accomplished, I guess.

Later that night, the Mister and I watched one of those goofy History Channel specials on how aliens built the pyramids et alii. He wants to believe but can’t, because these “expects” just make the most ridiculous leaps of logic—I just flatly don’t believe in aliens, and I get really frustrated (in an entertaining way) by the people on these shows. At one point, one expert explained that people would not have built these structures without help because it is hard, and people don’t choose to do hard things; he later explained that while it was technically possible for ancient peoples to have built whatever structure he was ranting about, it would have taken a great deal of effort and years of experience. A function of my mood: I started seeing this as an analogy for open adoption. Yes, it’s hard, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, or that it only happens with bizarro, extraordinary circumstances—it just takes a lot of effort and benefits from years of experience.


7 thoughts on “Paneled

  1. Wait, he’s the non-believer on the religious front and yet he wants to believe aliens built the pyramids and levitated Stonehenge? I kind of like that!

    I’m glad you were able to go and talk and I hope it didn’t take too much out of you. I know how informative your blog has been to me and other prospective adoptive parents. I’m sure your commentary was too.

    • One of the people on that show was explaining that the old testament God was clearly an alien–perhaps I should try to bridge the gap that way. 😉

  2. I attended a panel similar to what you participated in before we adopted and it was the single most beneficial part of our pre-placement process. It eased a lot of the negative fears (untruths) we had been taught to believe in and really made us feel ready to embrace an open placement well above one that was closed.
    I think that when talking adoption, so much is in the abstract. A lot of us know other a-parents or adoptees but to meet a b-mom willing to share her story – both the good & bad – puts a more human perspective on it and allows people to see the often invisible third part of the triad. PAP’s need to know that openness is hard for everyone but hopefully it’s worth the struggles.

  3. Wait — you don’t believe that aliens built the pyramids??? That’s it. I can’t read here anymore.

    I kid! I kid! And as a Jew, I’d like the Jewish slaves to take credit anyway.

    Ok, why did Eric Clapton make you choke up?

    • Because I am extremely lazy, I’m just going to quote from what I said at the panel about the day after Cricket’s birth: “The next morning, all five of us went back to the birthing center so the kid could get blood drawn. After that appointment, we went back to the adoptive parents’ motel room and did a short entrustment ceremony—it was informal and quick, and we managed to stay calm and friendly when leaving. When we got back to our room, we saw that the maids were inside, so we went to wait in a little courtyard of the motel. While we were there, there was a loudspeaker playing music, and I swear, the first song they played after we sat down was the song Eric Clapton wrote for his son who died. After that was “Somewhere Out There,” the song from An American Tale in which a young boy is singing about being separated from his family. There were more along the same lines, but my brain was pretty much fried after that.”

  4. I think it’s awesome that you did the panel. I agree it is really invaluable to hear real perspectives from real people as a prospective adoptive parent, not just something you read in a book or that your agency has told you. not something that’s sugar coated either, but glaring in truth. one of the best parts of our pre-adoption education was attending regular meetings of our support group for adoptive families and birth families. we got to hear and see the good and the hard parts firsthand from families living in open adoptions, without filters.

    in contrast, when we attended the birth parent workshop at our agency, they brought in a birth mom we already knew from our group. the social worker kept interrupting to appease the waiting adoptive parents, saying things like, ‘well this is a VERY open adoption, not all adoptions are so OPEN” (as if to satisfy their fears upon hearing about early visits and extensive contact). afterwards, she told the group that what she thought was important was sharing information about birth family, and that ongoing contact was not always so critical. it would have been great to have a panel where people could have heard more perspectives.

    I also hope it doesn’t take too much out of you to do things like this. love the pyramid analogy, btw.

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