Sunday, June 9, 2019

Being Adopted and Pro-Choice are not Mutually Exclusive

Adoption in the United States is seen as a cure-all for many of society's problems and as the political climate has changed significantly from the 70's and 80's when I came-of-age, I have watched with confusion as the pro-life community has idealized the power of adoption as a cure-all for abortion. 

As a woman who a) is adopted; b) has had an abortion; c) has given birth and d) adopted a child, I just don't see any correlation at all between wanting an abortion and relinquishing a child for adoption.  

Let me first set the record straight:

I believe my birth mother had an absolute right to abort me had she chosen that route.  I told her that once.  I am glad I exist; however, the fact that I am adopted does not change the way I feel about a woman's constitutional right to decide about her own body.  

In fact, having been pregnant when I didn't want to be, gave me more empathy for my birth mother's situation.  She lived in an era that it was absolutely unacceptable to be pregnant out-of-wedlock and parent as a single mother.  She also lacked access to safe and legal abortion. 

At the time I was pregnant and did not want to be, adoption never entered my mind.   I was single, in college, and had just ended a long-term relationship.  I couldn't imagine giving birth, let alone, what would happen after that.

As soon as I showed the first signs of pregnancy, I called the abortion clinic-there were 3 to choose from in my area at the time-and set an appointment. At that time, it was affordable and easily accessible.  (Being relatively young and naive, it would never occur to me that this right to decide whether to remain pregnant could ever be in jeopardy at some future time.)  

I was raised with the idea "women can do anything" and the expectation in my community was that we would finish college and have a career before we settled down to start a family.  I was not psychologically ready to parent in any way, shape or form.  

In the late 80's, the main form of abortion was vacuum aspiration.  This is the kind I had, although had I been pregnant at a time RU-486 had been available, I would have been a perfect candidate.  

The procedure itself was not traumatic; however, what was traumatic were the picketers waiting outside yelling horrible things at me and my ex-boyfriend as we walked back to the car.  That I will never forget: the judgement and shame that the picketers intended to create. 

I will also never forget the time my friend and I were shopping and this guy started following us around.  He was the head of a very vocal anti-abortion group and he literally was harassing a friend of mine who worked at an abortion clinic.  He followed us around the store yelling things at my friend, followed us out to the parking lot, and gave us a book on the horrors of abortion.  

This same guy, several years later, become my indoor soccer coach on an adult league I played for.  We used to have a beer after the game and one evening, we got on the topic of abortion.  He told me he was a teacher at a public school and did his anti-abortion activities on the side, and that he went to jail numerous times over his picketing and aggressive antics.  

I shared my story with him.  I told him I remembered him from the store stalking and explained my personal reasons for getting an abortion.  Reasons aside, I believe women do not need to explain to others why they chose to terminate a pregnancy.

Amanda Woolston recently covered how many confuse adoption as a solution to abortion in her recent article as it relates to testimony heard in Alabama HB 314:


"One adoption counselor's testimony on Alabama HB 314 stated that adoption solved a list of problems ranging from spina bifida, to prison re-entry, to addiction, to living in a trailer park.....

Children with spina bifida don't need new parents. They need lifelong disability support. Children who live in trailer parks don't need new parents. They need us to stop judging them. Children whose parents are re-entering society don't need new parents. They need parents who are supported in parenting them through effective re-entry support services. Let's challenge this and flesh out the missing variables. One phrase to the testimony was key. 
“In every one of these situations we had not one, but multiple families step up and say that they were willing to adopt these babies born to women in difficult medical and social situations."
This statement is why this testimony did not belong at an abortion legislation committee hearing. The medical and social risks noted were not about pregnancy. Adoption was not an adequate replacement for abortion for clients who did not wish to continue pregnancy. These pregnant people made a choice to give birth - and only then did adoption address the subsequent concerns. These children, once born, had parents who could not or did not want to continue to parent them. And that's why the counselor was able to present adoption as any form of solution.

Adoption cannot help women who do not wish to continue pregnancy.   Period.  Adoption cannot mitigate the health risks to women who wish to give birth.  A woman is 14 times more likely to die giving birth than she is to die during an abortion.  

I firmly believe a woman has a constitutional right to decide whether she is willing to take that risk to her life or not.  Women have a right to family planning and to make decisions about who they want to create children with and how many children they are capable of caring for (or want to care for).

Once a woman decides she will give birth, adoption can be introduced as an option, if the mother does not want to parent.  Most women who decide to give birth, will also parent.  Many women who don't want to parent, will allow a relative to parent.  A tiny percentage of women will relinquish to non-relative adoptive parents.  

The fallout of allowing the state to dictate our fertility and family planning is scary (Watch Hulu's Handmaid's Tale for more on the horrors of how forcing women into giving birth and relinquishing their children effects them and others around them). 

I also believe that the mess with foster care, family courts, separation of children at the border, and the lack of support for parenting small children, and our current political climate will result in more women aborting.  Women have good reason to fear that their rights are being chipped away. Women with resources will find a way to get an abortion.  Poor women will suffer under these new oppressive abortion laws.  

I am adopted and pro-choice.  I support every woman's right to decide for themselves what is appropriate for their bodies.  












Sunday, January 20, 2019

On Being Excluded, Rejected and Feeling Like Ugly Betty


Being excluded happens to us all at one point or another.  However, that doesn’t make it any less painful, just because it’s common.  

My 14 year-old daughter and I have been watching Ugly Betty on Netflix while hanging out in our house during the Level 2 snow emergency this weekend.  

Choosing a show that mom and daughter both approve of is a feat in and of itself.  I love the focus on Latin culture in New York City and she approves of the nuanced and well-developed characters. 

America Ferrera, who plays Betty-a first generation immigrant- is far from ugly; however, the show is all about family sticking together, being who we are and moving forward with confidence, despite repeated exclusions and rejections.  We are already in Season 2 and haven’t lost interest.

The show is a bit of an emotional support for something I recently experienced in my personal life.  I learned this week from a source that a close family member will be flying to another state to attend a milestone birthday party that my immediate family was not invited to.  

The last time I have seen this family was before my daughters’ birth.  Christmas cards, letters, birthday cards and emails have all come to a screeching hault over the last decade and a half.  But in fairness, my extended family on this side, has never been particularly close. 

The main form of communication has been through one particular gate-keeper relative who has all the latest information, which is then reported to other family members. 

I have told this particular gate-keeper that if the person they are gossiping about wanted me to know what was going on, they would call and tell me themselves (surprise! They haven't!).  This side of my extended family and my immediate family all live in different states; however, this family was my only connection as a child to cousins who I spent time with every summer of my childhood.

As adults, we have all gone our separate ways and I can count on one hand the number of times this family has come to Ohio in the last 35 years.  On the other hand, my family has made an effort to visit (or attempt a plan to visit) them in their home state on quite a few occasions.  

I recognized at some point that there had almost never been independent contact with my family (I define my family as contact with me, my husband or my children – one of whom is an adult).  In fact, our adult son has no memories whatsoever of this family because of this inherent distance (physical as well as psychological). 

So, I have been thinking back to the last time I felt excluded and what I did to make myself feel better . . . . which then brought me to the recognition that on some level I have always felt excluded. Just like Ugly Betty, I have been existing in a world where my kind is rarely understood and appears different to others.  

There is always the thought in the back of my mind that I am being excluded because I am adopted and do not share blood with my extended adoptive family.  By the same token, I am aware that I have been excluded from my birth family because we don’t have shared experiences. Add family dynamics, generational secrets, envy, inheritances, etc. into the mix, and this exclusion may have almost nothing to do with me (or you!) individually.

I have come to believe that being adopted comes with it a tendency to feel inherently excluded as part of the experience.  The reality is that we were at one time excluded. I was excluded when I was the only child in my birth mother’s family to be relinquished.  Exclusion happened on the day of my birth! 

Many adoptees are excluded from genealogy, their medical history, joining their Native American Tribes and from groups like the Daughters of the American Revolution. 

We can also experience exclusion and rejection from both our adoptive families and our birth families. Many of us feel we are straddling two families (adoptive and birth), never able to have both feet on either side.  These feelings of being on the outside can become stronger over the holidays or on anniversary dates (relinquishment, birth, adoption day, etc.)

What does this mean for us as adults? It means we may be more sensitive to perceived rejection and exclusion as a result, even when unintentional.  It means we have to be aware that when we are feeling excluded that self-care can be increased and may look like:

*allowing time to grieve the feelings (journaling, talking with a close nonjudgmental friend or family member, listening to music, doing something fun for yourself, etc.).  Reading this article helped me.

*focus on the people who do support you and are currently surrounding you.  As I type these words, my daughter is drawing on her Kindle in the chair next to me and my adult son Matt braved the dangerous roads and surprised my daughter and I with a visit (My husband escaped this winter wonderland and is visiting his sister in the south).  Matt does this regularly and today I am not taking it for granted.

*Remember you have your tribe.  If you are reading this blog, it’s likely you are part of an adoptee tribe.  Reach out to your support group, a support friend or if you truly have nobody to talk to, email me and I will be happy to get you plugged into this community.  Listen to an episode of Adoptees On if you want to get plugged in immediately.

*Reach out to somebody else who is “different” or may feel excluded at your workplace, house of worship, school, neighborhood or family.  

There is no better person for the job to help others feel included.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

I am a Living Legacy to the Leader of the Band


Chapter 1 of Sophi's search published in The Adoptee Survival Guide
When you grow up in a closed adoption, there can be some unique psychology.  One common trait of those of us raised without any knowledge of where we came from is we can sometimes fantasize about our birth parents growing up.  One common fantasy is that one or both of our birth parents are famous.  Well, a friend of mine recently discovered she had a famous biological father through second cousin matches in several DNA databases.   Her name is Sophi Richman Fletcher and she has been looking for answers to who her mystery daddy is for many years.  We have commiserated together in our searches and I am so pleased for her that she now has answers.  Her story was posted in my private Facebook search room and I'm sharing it here with permission:  

"Greetings, fellow Who's Lynn's Daddy Searchers and Support Team:  I'm another adoptee who has been searching for the identity of my bio dad for a number of years (after some really false leads/assumptions...enter DNA...) A week ago yesterday, I opened my email to see a notice from FTDNA about a new match.

When my hands stopped shaking long enough to get logged in to the site, there was the result I had been hoping for that would wrap up this whole deal!! On Dec. 30, 2018, I finally knew the name of my father!!


So, at Lynn's request, I will try to boil this down to the pertinent info, in hopes that it may be of use to someone here.

How did we find him, you ask...

I took my first DNA test about 6 years ago now. It told me that I was nearly half Ashkenazi Jew, and none of that came from my birthmother. (I did mtDNA at the time as well, just to help me sort out the parents, if that were needed). Quick note on her, she will be 90 in about 3 weeks, I've never met her, I'm the youngest of (at least) 5 (4 boys older than me that she kept), and she has refused to divulge anything helpful or say a kind word.

However, oddly enough, my adoptive mother worked at the medical clinic where my birthmother was a patient, which is how my "availability" became known. The two never met, as far as we know. My birthmother told the doctor that my father was "not a stranger" and described him as a "tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed German."

That was what we (my search angels and I) had to work with, along with the new fact that he was not German, but Jewish.

Before I had a clue about DNA and matches and the numbers, not to mention endogamy in the Jewish community (oy vey!) I began to message people who seemed to be in the 2nd-4th cousin range in hopes of a clue. The big issue was, no matter how close we got, my matches were from back east, and I was born in Bakersfield, CA. So where did a Jewish guy with roots in PA and OH come into the picture?
Ace is on the far-right

Here's how the pieces started to fall into place:

I tested at all the sites, plus uploaded to GEDmatch. One day I had a 2nd cousin match on Ancestry by the last name of Hamovitz. He did not respond to my message.
Some time later, I had a 2nd cousin match on 23andMe by the last name of Picker.

This young man sent me a friend request (that was unexpected) and spent several hours of his time while away on a trip (Mexico, maybe?) messaging me, calling his mother, etc, after I mentioned my Hamovitz match over on ancestry-- he said "My grandmother was a Hamovitz"!

This was maybe 2 years ago? It at least gave us a place to start, and figuring out who my great-grandparents were, based on these 2nd cousin matches, wasn't too hard!!

But...they had 6 children that we knew of, and we had to slowly work our way back to *me* by way of each child and their offspring. A major process of elimination ensued.

We looked at Sara, 1st and 2nd marriage, kids; her sister Ethel and her kids, their brother Joseph and his kids, etc etc, and my search angel was able to find 4th cousin matches to me who were 1st cousin matches to each other (on ancestry) just to further support us going in the right direction. (Don't ask me what that means, but it was significant to her, lol)

We had some struggles along the way, as we got down to "the guy" we thought could be the one--after all, his line of the family ended up in Southern CA!

We were unable to make contact with him, his brother was kind of a jerk, said it wasn't his deal, not interested, not going to help...finally we made contact with The Guy's daughter-in-law because she worked for a travel agency so we were able to find her on FB! She couldn't get her husband (my potential 1/2 bro) to test, but she agreed to test their son, and he came back as such a distant match that we knew we had to move on.

As more people tested in the next year or so, it really helped us to eliminate all of the lines, but one. It seemed no one had tested on the younger sister, Lena's line. Since everyone else came back as 2nd cousins to me, we figured, this has to be it.

We looked at Lena and her husband's 3 children. One was born in 1916, and was into swing band music. His name was Milton "Ace" Richman (Ace is in the black suit in video above). He then moved into gospel and western music on the radio with a band he called the Sunshine Boys, and they also appeared in a number of old western movies, shot in Hollywood.

A military draft card revealed that he was 6'3 (I've also seen him described as 6'5!!), with blonde hair and blue eyes. BINGO....
As we looked into the band a bit more, we pondered whether or not they might have toured, all the way to the west coast...

As a matter of fact, they did!! BUT--was it at "the right time" for me to have been conceived??? Finding that all-important date was another series of hurdles, as newspapers are on microfiche in the library, and no one is willing to do look-ups anymore, even for money!! 
:/
When we googled The Sunshine Boys and California, a letter to the editor came up from June of 1960 in the Bakersfield Californian, making reference to the locals having to drive an hour north to Porterville for a show with the Sunshine Boys, because there wasn't a decent venue in Bakersfield at the time! Porterville had recently completed a beautiful, big public auditorium beside the high school.

This letter caused much excitement to us searchers, because we knew we were getting close. I was born in Feb. 1961 and was told I was induced 2 weeks early, so my conception had to be back in May 1960...but how to find the date of that show?!?

As it turns out, when I was a kid, my folks moved us to Porterville from San Francisco, after moving up there from Bakersfield when I was a year old. I have been to events in that auditorium myself. I still have a friend living in Porterville, who I reconnected with a few years ago, again, thanks to FB.
The Smoking Gun
She was willing to be the Boots on the Ground, went to the library, and sent me a screenshot of the ad in the paper for the Sunshine Boys and their 4 hour gospel show (featuring other local groups) on Sat. night, MAY 21st, 1960. BOOM!!!

Woohoo!!! But wait... I still wanted more proof. My birthmother is a stinker, and she would refuse to acknowledge or admit to anything as vague as an old newspaper clipping. The search continued to find a close relative of Ace's willing to test. We discovered he had adopted 2 girls, so no help there. (Adoptee scorn, lol) He had a brother and sister who settled in Georgia as well (where he ended up due to the music biz in the 1940s) so attempts were made to contact one of their offspring.

By this time I was in contact with one of the many Hamovitz 2nd cousin matches, who is kind of the family genealogist; she was very kind and helpful, although she didn't know much, if anything, about this line either. She contacted a niece, I believe, who was quite put out at the very idea of taking a DNA test, when Ace has been gone these many years... (My thought was, "She doth protest too much" and I wonder if her mother/Ace's sister-in-law and Ace had a "thing"...??)

Finally, one of my search angels found a nephew and resorted to sending a certified letter to make contact. I had just ordered a DNA kit on Black Friday "just in case" and within the space of a week, he had called my search angel, said the picture of me that she sent looked like "me with a beard," said their favorite show is Long Lost Family, agreed to test, spoke to me as well, and then 4 days later, emailed my search angel to tell her that "we are very private people and after I test, we'd like no further contact."
Ace Richman
SMH. WhatEVer...At least he did the test, and on Dec. 30, 2018, I got the news all of us daddy-seekers live for-- The nephew who tested came back as my 1st cousin, and that was all the proof we needed that Ace Richman was my father!

It was surreal, but empowering to change how my name appears here on FB. One day I will legally change it, but for now...I'm good.

My birthmother probably doesn't know that I know, at long last...but she will soon enough. After all, she should get flowers for her birthday, right? The card will simply read, "From Ace Richman's daughter" 
:D 
:D :
Never give up! Now back to Lynn . . . ."

What lessons have we learned from Sophi's story? 

       1. Never give up!  Although not highlighted in this blog, Sophi’s search story began years ago.  You can read about it under the essay, “Better than Nothing" in The Adoptee Survival Guide.
2     2. DNA databases are growing and new matches are coming in all the time.  Ancestry is up to 10 million testers.  Finding Your Roots highlighted Andy Samberg, this week, whose 71-year old mother is a New York closed era adoptee.  Through old-fashioned sluething and DNA testing, Andy's grandparents were identified. That episode can be found here.
3    3.  Many times we will find graves in our search, and that was the case for Sophi.  Fortunately for her, her father was well-known and there is much in books and on the internet about him. For those of us without famous biological relatives, information may be in shorter supply, so it's important to develop positive relationships with bio family members if you want to understand your deceased relatives' history.
4    4.  Life is certainly full of surprises.  You just never know what you will find at the other end of your search!

Congratulations to Sophi on a successful conclusion to the mystery of her father!

Being Adopted and Pro-Choice are not Mutually Exclusive

Adoption in the United States is seen as a cure-all for many of society's problems and as the political climate has changed significantl...