Besides being one of the very few personal or auto-biographical pieces I've written for publication, like my recent post on PTSD, I offer it as a kick-off for discussion. It was in fact, a conversation on Facebook on my PTSD posting that spurred my memories of this long ago writing. I had no idea at the time I wrote this in the 1980s that my concerns with adoption would remain a vital focus of my life for more than 50 years, so far:
But with each month that the babe within grows big¬ger the certainty grows stronger that her own destiny is intermingl'd with her child's. Henceforth, she shall define herself, at least in part, as the mother of that Babe. If it dyes, she is the mother of a dead Babe; if it lives, its Smiles and Tears will be her smiles and tears. If it is taken from her, still she is changed fore'er on Earth and in Heaven too. She has been doubl"d, then halv'd and she will ne'er be whole again.—Erica Jong, FannyIn answer to the question, "Why this book?" I am reminded of a Holocaust survivor whose job had been to remove the dead bodies from the ovens. Just when he felt that he could take it no longer and was about to take his own life, a woman entering the gas chamber said to him: "You cannot die, for if there are no survivors there will be no one to testify." With no one to testify, the death of six million might have been denied to have happened at all, and worse yet, repeated.
I, too, am a survivor of tragedy. I am one of thousands who survived the loss of our children to adoption and, while far less tragic than mass murder, they were, in many cases not "necessary losses." I have chosen to write about our collective experiences, and to acknowledge all for whom adoption has been painful.
I wrote this book for the same reason I have been involved in adoption reform since 1979, for the same reason I co-founded ORIGINS, a national support organization for women who lost children to adoption. [Founded in 1980, this was the original Origins - at least in the US - not associated with any organization with that name.] . It is the same reason that Candy Lightner founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Gloria Yurkovitch founded Child Find. Each of us became committed as a result of personal loss.
Does commitment mean obsession? Peggy Say, the sister of a hostage victim, uprooted her family to move to Washington, D.C. in order to help her brother and others. When she was asked if helping her brother had become an obsession, she answered, ". . . if by the word obsession, the definition is having this issue dominate every waking moment, then yes, it's an obsession. I don't like the term but it is probably reality. I see it in a different light. Many, many times during the day I'll find myself doing an everyday task and think of (him)..."
The Stephanie Roper Committee is another example of personal commitment. Founded by Stephanie Roper's mother after the brutal rape and murder of her barely twenty-two year old daughter, the committee has been called one of the most effective voices for victims' rights and has been responsible for the passage of three bills in Maryland.
People like Candy Lightner, Gloria Yurkovitch, Peggy Say and I have turned our obsessive, compulsive drive into positive energy because each of us has lost someone dear to us who is irreplaceable. Mrs. Roper said on "America Undercover" that victims do not seek revenge, but rather justice to be healed. Likewise, mothers who lost children to adoption, do not seek to reclaim, hurt or interfere. They merely seek reunification. Judith Viorst, in her book Necessary Losses wrote: "another defense against loss may be a compulsive need to take care of other people. Instead of aching, we help those who ache."
With a limbo-loss there is no finality and no resolution, there is only coping and adjusting. There are many ways of coping with catastrophic loss. Mary Brachen Phillips wrote "Cradle Song," a play about losing her baby to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Ronda Slater wrote and performs a poignant one-woman play about losing her child to adoption, her search and reunion. Bonnie Lee Black, who wrote the book Somewhere Child about the abduction of her daughter by her estranged husband, once wrote in answer to a class assignment, "Why I Write," the following: ". . . I want to live a normal life, but find I can't. Someone shot me in the back of the soul and made me a cripple from here down. The dead legs dangle from the wheelchair, lifeless— see? I can no longer dance or make love. Only the hands of my heart can move. They move along the smooth paper, dragging a pencil, leaving a trail of jagged marks that spell: I AM STILL HERE.
"I am not a writer. I am a nothing, a no one, a meaningless being, barely alive, who's been blown halfway to nowhere, and has nowhere to go. I only write to prove that I was there." In a post script to her daughter, she further states,". . . I have lived to write this story for you. For years I kept it locked inside, carrying it with me like a great weight, subconsciously waiting for the right time, when you'd be old enough to understand, when I'd be far enough away from the past to write about it without bitterness, hatred, or self-pity ... I believe it is important for you to know the truth about your earliest years, because truth makes us free . . . For your sake I've tried to be strong. Professionally, I became a writer ..."
In 1972, Frederick H. Stone of Glasgow, Scotland, recognized that in adoption "the three parties suffer loss: the mother who gives up her child, the child who fantasizes but will never know his real parents, and the adoptive parents who may unconsciously mourn the child they could not have themselves." 1 share the goal of Ronda Slater "to give birth-mothers validation for their feelings, to let adoptees know that their original parents do love them and to let adoptive parents know that we're not coming to steal our kids back."
I write with no personal gain in mind; no hope of regaining my own lost child, or of regaining her love. Those are forever lost to me. I write with the hope of enlightening and educating many to the realities suffered by a substantial number of people whose lives have been permanently changed by adoption. I write to recognize adoption as an unfortunate necessity and to humanize the process. I cannot reverse my loss, but I seek to prevent future pain and offer an opportunity to those who consider adoption in their future to see it more realistically.
I write because someone must.