|This summer, not writing
This has been useful as I've worked to forgive those with power (read: The Catholic Conference of New Jersey and The Catholic Star Herald) who have done so much to harm those without power (read: adoptees, their adoptive parents who want to help them, and their biological parents). For some time, I was not sure as to how to proceed, so dismayed was I by the harmful messages put forth officially by the Catholic paper (and the harmful lobbying undertaken by the Catholic Conference in Trenton). But somehow I found my way forward. My faith is stronger than before. Not in institutions, which are run by human beings, whose own faults and shortsightedness are often reflected therein, but in a Loving God, one who rejoices in the truth and cares for the powerless. I believe. You cannot take this away from me.
I needed this perspective when I arrived home this evening to find a story entitled Changing adoption law in New Jersey (click HERE to read) in the Catholic Star Herald. Beneath the title is a quote in bold from "a birth mother" who does not want her child to contact her and is opposed to the law. Her story (she never told anyone other than her mother and husband about the child, and her 92 year old mother would be severely harmed were the "child" to ever appear again) is featured throughout the article, apparently to make the point that the Catholic Conference did the right thing in advocating against the law. The story also serves to portray adoptees, once again, as somehow dangerous to the people who brought them into this world ("A simple search could reveal her mother or siblings' identity and whereabouts" "My main concern is for my mother and her wellbeing ... This would just hurt her so").
Something has gone terribly wrong. Sometimes, parents cannot care for their children. Sometimes they can't love them, either, sad as that is. And sometimes (as the birth mother featured in this story speaks of) conditions are so unimaginable, so cruel, that parents have no other choice than to give their children away. But when we as a society make those children feel ashamed for wanting to know the truth of their lives, when we make them feel unworthy of this, well, then, we are lost.
For forty-seven years, my mom was an adoptee who did not search for her family. It was a medical crisis that prompted her search, and at first she stated (and believed) that it was only because of the medical crisis that she was searching. It gave her permission. No one had ever explicitly told her not to search, but she had picked up on all the cultural messages that subtly or not so subtly discourage adoptees from expressing any true desire to search. What she found was not all pleasant, but it was hers to find.
Tonight, I am more sad than angry. Sad that even as we approach the day in New Jersey when adoptees finally will have a right to their own birth certificates, stories like this put fear in the hearts of those who might hear from them. Sad that there are still birth parents who feel such shame. And sad that there are those in power who perpetuate such fear and shame.
But I am hopeful, too. The law allowing adoptees in New Jersey access to their birth certificates goes into effect in January, and the state is already accepting applications in order to stay ahead of the expected demand. Information and forms can be accessed and filed HERE. It's not everything, but it's a start. The rest will come. I have faith. And I have love and truth. For that I am so, so grateful.