Thursday, December 9, 2010

Adoption Books: What's the Message?

By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-tude

Not Your Average Bedtime Story


My fifteen-year-old daughter has banished me from her room. She’s made it clear we are long past reading bedtime stories together. But I still revel in the occasional snuggle with my twelve-year-old son, and I love sinking into a good children’s story—especially if the message is right.

For parents of adopted children, messaging is key when choosing books to read or share, whether a child is a preschooler or near adolescence. The story needs to feel true, the circumstances familiar, and the emotional sensibility realistic.

But somehow these requirements are tough to fill. Few books resonate with my son’s story as a Russian adoptee. How many overly sunny stories about the perfect rainbow family can you read? And he is definitely not a little girl adopted from Asia who took a long plane ride to get here.

On a recent day this fall, I decided to ask a local librarian for advice. At the main branch of the Cambridge Public Library, Amanda Gazin, senior children’s librarian, efficiently rattled off almost a dozen titles about adoption. The result was a broad overview of what the genre offers.

Not surprisingly, far more books have been published for preschoolers. After reading many of those on Gazin’s list, however, I’d say the results are mixed...



Editor's Note: Fran's piece appears in the December 2010 issue of Talking Writing, in which the theme is children's books. The issue includes references to more than a hundred children's books, multiple author interviews, and cartoon panels from the graphic novels American Born Chinese and City of Spies.

Fran and I think Adopt-a-tude readers will find this TW issue of particular interest. There are lots of discussions about identity, the development of children's imagination, even one middle-school author calling for "no more orphans!" in young adult books. Happy reading—Martha Nichols

Monday, November 29, 2010

Remembering Betty Jean Lifton: Advocate for Open Adoptions

By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-Tude

Betty Jean Lifton wrote, “ A friend once asked me how I became involved in the adoption field. I responded that it was easy. I was born into it. I was adopted.”

Characteristically frank and known for her unabashed criticism of the secrecy that had traditionally shrouded adoptions, Lifton, 84, died November 19, in her Cambridge, Mass. home from pneumonia.

A writer, an adoptee, and a seminal adoption reformist, Lifton leaves behind a body of advocacy, scholarship, and counseling milestones that will long be remembered for its transformational presence in the heart of the open adoption movement.

Lifton, who lectured widely about the psychological effects of adoption, was best known for her landmark nonfiction trilogy: “Twice Born: Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter” (McGraw Hill, 1975), “Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience” (Dial, 1979); and “Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness” (Basic Books, 1994).

These three books closely follow Lifton’s lifelong journey in search of the truth about her adoption story; the psychological impact of closed adoptions; and the exploration of identity, loss, and trauma for those in what she called the “adoption triangle:” the relationship between adoptive parents, the adoptee, and the birth mother.

To better help the many people who read her books and turned to her for advice and support, Lifton earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology in the 1990's. Her adoption practice stressed unlocking emotional barriers and opening to the discovery of one's past. With a penchant for metaphors, she coined "ghost kingdom," as a stand-in for the relational emotions hidden in the adoption triad.

Born in Staten Island, NY, Lifton was adopted into a Cincinnati, Ohio family when she was 2 ½. Told that her birth parents had been married but died, Lifton would learn as an adult that her birth mother was still alive. “There was some truth in my adoptive mother’s version of reality,” she said, “for in the closed adoption system birth parents are as if dead to the adopted child.”

For more information on Betty Jean Lifton go to:

Monday, October 18, 2010

And Then There Were Three

Guest Post by Laura Deurmyer for Adopt-a-tude

We are once again a family of three. Our most recent foster child went to live with relatives, reunited with his baby sister. He's getting the help he needs from his social workers; he's going to counseling. He'll be OK. He'll be safe.

We'll be OK too, but it's taking a little adjustment time. And to make the move even more jarring, my husband and I have determined that it will be our last foster placement for a while.

To be honest, I have such mixed feelings about the whole thing that I don't even know where to start writing.

I feel guilt most strongly. We're going back to being talkers, not doers. Sure, we'll still support children's rights and policies that protect them against abuse and neglect. But words matter little compared to deeds. I know that; my husband knows that. And our son will know that too.

Then there's relief. For the first time in months, our son and I can have a mom-son moment without a little voice plaintively interrupting “Aunt Laura!” Just as kids sense an adult on the phone and immediately move to get attention, our foster son sniffed out any attention that I was paying to Jacob and immediately moved to get his share. The little guy virtually velcroed himself to my side whenever he was not at school; he lived on my lap, in the chair beside me, pulling on my arm. Just being able to hold Jacob’s hand or being able to sit by him at breakfast seemed like a shiny new experience last weekend. But I feel guilt that I feel relief. Guilt again.

Strangely, there's hurt. When our foster son got the news that he was going to live with a relative, he was thrilled. He let us know in no uncertain terms that this would make him really happy. That he would not miss us—or our many rules—and that he was outta here. His attitude was basically, “Pack my stuff—all my stuff—and make it snappy!” It's childish of me, I know, but his eagerness to leave us hurts my feelings. Just a little. What happened to his intense protestations of love? Of course, I feel guilty that I feel hurt.

Naturally, there's worry and sadness. Will he be safe and loved? When he gets home from school, will there be an adult who will do his homework with him? (He loves school and loves homework.) Does he know that we really love him, that he is worthy of being loved? He demanded so much attention and gave so much affection in return; despite my relief at being free of the constant pressure, I feel a strong sadness at the thought of never hugging him again.

Quite aside from the emotional end of things, there are other changes that our re-configuration back to a family of three entails. I miss the kids’ laughter echoing down the hall from their room. I miss their silly conversations in the car on the way to school. I miss how they made their way to the cafeteria for breakfast each morning, “big brother” Jacob proudly guiding his pal through the parking lot.

On the other hand, I don't miss the constant smell of urine in the bathroom, generated by the pee that went everywhere but in the toilet, and I can't say I'm displeased that I no longer have to clean the bathroom every night before bed. The Geo-Trax train parts all over the floor are something I can live without too. Also the pouting/ crying/ lying sessions that occurred with some regularity. (I understood why he did those things, I just don't miss them.)

With our under-forty population in the house down to just Jacob, I also realize how much drama and stress our foster son created. The time-out corner is no longer continually warm. We don't have to watch out the window vigilantly to make sure that no one is getting physically attacked in a sudden bout of acting-out violent dreams, memories, or fantasies. Bedtime is a snap.

I feel sure that Jacob is sad; he is trying to be very adult about it. It twists my heart when I ask him if anything is wrong and he answers with a pained smile that doesn't reach his eyes: “I'm OK, Mom.”

Though his Dad and I told him it was fine for him to cry, fine for him to miss his “brother,” he isn't allowing that for himself. He plays quietly with his toys when he's not outside with the neighborhood kids, but much of the joy of playing cars or knights or pirates comes from interaction with another child. Thank God we live in a neighborhood full of kids who play together.

In deciding to make this our last placement for the foreseeable future, my husband and I discussed why were were fostering. I realized clearly that one of the biggest reasons for me—a disturbingly important reason for me—was that I had always wanted a second child. I wanted a sibling for our son. We had combined this semi-subconscious want of mine with my husband's feeling that we could be doing something to make the world better and wound up foster parents.

My selfish motivation is not what is required for embarking on a life-devoting labor of love like fostering. Instead, it is a reason that was all about me and not at all about the children or my family.

I still feel that our family could play a role in helping children. At some future point, I may be able to shift my heart again from what I want—fulfilling my view of what a family "should" be—to what the kids need. Meanwhile, the look in Jacob's eye at losing yet another “sibling” confirms our decision that we're not at that point right now.

We've helped several children get through very hard times in their lives. We love them all. We have a wonderful child of our own who is the joy of our lives. For now, that is enough.

This post has been cross-posted on Laura's blog at Open Salon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Are You My Mother?

By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-tude

The recent death of open-adoption maverick Annette Baran has jostled me out of my maternal complacency.

Having adopted my son in Russia, I thought I had dodged open adoption blowback: no birth mother back-story, no holiday cards, no photo exchanges or well-intended visits. In other words, there was no ambiguity or messy relational complications. I was sure my son felt snug and secure in the embrace of my unwavering devotion and love. Wasn’t that enough?

But in reading the obits of the formidable and prescient Baran, the firm ballast of my assumptions have begun to wobble.

From the late 1950s to 1974, during a time of closed adoptions—anonymity and sealed records—Baran placed more than 1,000 babies while director of adoptions for Vista Del Mar Child-Care Service in West Los Angeles.

As the placements mounted she wondered why the details were kept concealed when it was obvious that both adopting parents and birth mothers wanted to know more. Each craved the missing installment of their separate but enjoined stories.

The curtain was finally pulled back in 1978, when she and some colleagues published their research findings in the watershed The Adoption Triangle: The Effects of Sealed Records on Adoptees, Birth Parents, and Adoptive Parents. Since then, varying levels of open-adoption practices have become the norm.

Almost single-handedly, and with the strength of her own experience, Baran popularized the argument that an adoptee’s knowledge of their birth parents is crucial to identity formation. She advocated that knowledge filled the empty hollows for all parties in an adoption relationship.

So why have I thought that my complicit ignorance in my son’s birth history has been a good thing? What have I been afraid of?

Perhaps I fear losing a part of my son if we go down the path of “are you my mother?” The broad-shouldered mantle of Mom is not one I have been willing to share. As a single parent, I have fiercely protected and honed my role in solo parenting.

Adopted at five months and now a pubescent 12-year-old, my son has yet to challenge my monolithic claim on motherhood or queried as to whom might be at the other end of his genetic line. But that question does pop into my head. What is his genetic history and what might be his biological destiny?

But even if I knew the DNA of my son’s genetic make-up, I could not stem the inevitable march of his biological destiny. Having survived cancer three times, I know much about my own DNA, but that has not enabled me to redirect my genetic heritage.

While there is no right or wrong answer to the open-versus-closed adoption argument, I feel the choice to unearth the past is my son’s, not mine. Perhaps finding his birth mother would reassure her that the child she bore is thriving and well loved.

Whatever my son’s past might have been, his future is firmly with me, his sister, and the family unit we have lovingly knit into being.

Click here to read more about the life of Annette Baran.

To listen to an interview with Annette Baran go to YouTube.

Fran Cronin is the blog manager for Adopt-a-tude.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Aimee Louise Sword and the Press: "Rape" vs. a "Summer Romance"

By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

Try googling “Aimee Louise Sword.” The top hit is a compilation of news stories and commentaries about Sword pleading guilty this week to having sex with her 14-year-old birth son. At the moment, there are "533 related articles.

Yet one of the other top hits will be a ten-month-old story from the Huffington Post, complete with an embedded Fox News video: “Aimee Louise Sword Raped Son She Gave Up For Adoption.” A hit of the same vintage from ABC News opens this way: “A Michigan mother is facing a trial after being accused of having a summer romance with the teenage son she gave up for adoption.”

Unusual and disturbing as this story was when it broke in September 2009, there’s a big leap between rape and summer romance.

Let me be clear: Sexual abuse is never OK. Because parents have the power in a relationship, they are always at fault. Yet there are tricky angles on this story. Sword was not raising this boy in the caregiving sense. She claims to have initiated contact with him through Facebook only after she stopped hearing from his adoptive parents. What happened is repellant; it also pushes all the wrong buttons, just as so many stories about adoptions gone terribly awry do.

Last year, I wrote about the online response to Sword's arrest (click here). The story swirled through the blogosphere with a wild array of facts; some reports said her son was only 10 years old. Most said little about his adoptive parents. While the original news story from the Oakland Press in the Detroit area was a standard journalistic account, almost none of the subsequent commentaries paused to question why Sword might have done what she did.

A "MILF" in her mid-thirties, Sword has become both a pariah and an object of prurient interest. Her MySpace photos still appear all over the Internet. She's also been married and has five other children.

Advocates for birth mothers—or adoption in general—are not shaping this discussion, and that's a bad thing. Some recent media commentaries, like Tracy Clark-Flory's piece in Salon, have at least addressed the fact that reunions between birth parents and children can be fraught with all sorts of intense emotions. The UPI account includes a quote from Sword at her sentencing: "I am remorseful for everything that occurred."

But then we get all the ugliness oozing up through the cracks. A quick review of recent online headlines gives us, among others "INCEST MUM" and "Yummy Mummy Heads for Jaily Waily."

Now she's been sentenced to jail for at least nine years. More facts are on the record, although Sword herself admitted in court that she still doesn't know how it happened. It's not at all clear that she "tracked" or "stalked" her son on the Internet. The UPI story notes in passing that the prosecutor (not Sword's lawyer) said "it was the son who got in touch with her."

Last September, the site You Can't Make This Up did stick up for Sword, noting that a social worker representing her son's adoptive family “asked his permission to find her, because he was getting unmanageable at home….” In this version, he’s a “gangbanger” who may have coerced his birth mother into having sex. She supposedly complied “partly due to guilt, partly out of fear of losing contact with her son forever and last but not least, partly because she was asked by his adoptive parents…[to help].”

Again, we don't know. Some of this doesn't square with reports from her sentencing this week. Although this story is one of the top hits for Aimee Louise Sword, its sources aren't clear.

So we are left with all the scary stereotypes about what happens to adoptees: the son is either a victim raped by a depraved, sexually loose birth mother or an irredeemable gangbanger. There's way too much heat and no light.

We humans will always be compelled by this kind of sensationalism. But the first kneejerk responses linger online in a way they didn't used to. They continue to float before readers' eyes, courtesy of Google, all those 530-plus headlines that trumpet some variation of "guilt" and "sex" and "mom."

I hate it all—what Aimee Sword did and the feeding frenzy that's followed.

This piece also appears in Martha's blog on Open Salon.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Podcast on "What's My Heritage?" and Other Adoption Topics

By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

Today I was interviewed by Mary Beth Wells on "Adoption—Journey to Motherhood." We talked about Artyom, the adoptee who was sent back to Russia this past spring—what Mary Beth termed the issue of "good child-bad child"—and also the push-and-pull of culture-keeping with international adoptees, based on "What's My Heritage?", my article in Brain, Child magazine last year.

It was a wide-ranging conversation. To listen in, click here (it's the July 12, 2010 show). You can also download it for free.

And for those who can't get enough of The Last Airbender, click here for my review. I finally watched the thing with my son and assorted children and adults last Friday. Lord have mercy. A preview:
"I left the theater feeling jangled, as if somebody had spit up on me. As one of my fellow adult sufferers, a scriptwriter, described the waterbending special effects: 'Yuk. Death by spit and icicles...'"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"The Last Airbender": Do We Take Our Kids?

By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

As I watched the trailer last weekend for The Last Airbender with three eight-year-olds, two of whom were Asian adoptees, I knew I was doomed. Even as they hissed at each other that Aang's tattoo was wrong—where's the blue arrow??—they were hooked by the special effects, just as they were meant to be.

M. Night Shyamalan's summer action extravaganza is set to open July 1, gunning for a big holiday weekend. The first review I read this morning was in the Boston Globe, and others are popping up online as I type. What's the initial verdict? Ty Burr of the Globe writes:
"The Last Airbender is dreadful, an incomprehensible fantasy-action epic.... The film probably should have stayed a cartoon; live-action kills it dead."
I should be doing a gleeful air-dance like twelve-year-old Aang, the movie's namesake and Dalai-lama stand-in. In Salon and elsewhere, I've been writing for months about the casting controversy—three of the four main characters from the anime-inspired Nickelodeon cartoon series are played by white actors in Shyamalan's movie—as have many Asian-American activists, including cartoonists like Gene Yang.

Today Roger Ebert tweeted a link to what he calls "The best writing I've seen on the racist casting of 'The Last Airbender.' Devastating." It's by Vietnamese blogger Q. Le at Floating World.

We should feel vindicated.

Well, of course I do. It seems that Shyamalan's auteurish blindness about casting white actors in Asian roles represents benighted moviemaking throughout. Burr says of Nicola Peltz and Jackson Rathbone, who play the brother-sister heroes Katara and Sokka, that their "crime, again, isn't that they are Anglo but just painfully dull."

Here's the thing: My son—an adoptee born in Vietnam—broke into tears two weeks ago when he thought I was going to forbid him to see the movie. He knows I've been railing in print against the racism implicit in the casting, so he assumed he'd be sitting at home while his friends all streamed to the theater and Airbender parties.

This is one of those unlovely damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't, white-adoptive-parents-trying-to-be PC quandaries.

I assured him he could see it if he wanted to; that anything else would be unfair. I have strong opinions about it, I told him earnestly, but they don't have to be your opinions. It's OK, it's OK, it's OK.

No, it's not.

In fact, I wonder what his opinion will be. We'll do our best to boycott the film this opening weekend— activists and others are calling for a boycott of at least the first two weeks in order to put a dent in Airbender's take—but I doubt we'll make it past July 4, considering that he wants to go with friends.

Or as my husband wryly put it this morning, "If it's a real dog, we better not wait more than one weekend."

Here's the other thing, though: It won't just be a matter of suffering through a reeking mess for two hours. The main media spin will be the trials of M. Night Shyamalan—so gifted! so much potential!—what curse is the great director suffering under?

Burr's review begins like so: "The Last Airbender has had more bad karma than almost any movie deserves." He details its "litany of disasters," from the cartoon's main title (Avatar) being ripped off by James Cameron to pissed-off fans to the last-minute 3-D forced on the film to the director's string of flops. Burr notes that it would have been great if Shyamalan had overcome the odds, perhaps like young Aang himself, to produce a winner.

Scott Mendelson writes in his Huffington Post review, "As a film from the man who once wrote and directed such films as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, it is a heartbreaking tragedy, a 'sign' that perhaps the once-great M. Night Shyamalan is truly 'broken'."

So Shyamalan the Fallen looks like the main review focus, rather than the persistent whitewashing of Hollywood films. I confess to my own secret hope that The Last Airbender would be good, even awe-inspiring. At least then my Asian son and I—not to mention other parents and fans of all races and creeds, adoptive or bio—could have had a real discussion about whether casting decisions should reflect the racial and cultural referents of source material.

If Peltz, for example, had turned out to be a great Katara, then I'd be willing to eat a few words. But given that it sounds like "great" doesn't describe anything here—as Christopher Kelly ends his review in the Miami Herald, "It's a little early to be saying this, but I'd wager good money that you won't see a worse movie this year"—I'm left with the utter cluelessness and cynicism of Hollywood. Of the lousy 3-D, Burr of the Globe writes, "I've got winking-Jesus postcards that look better."

Which means The Last Airbender deserves every bit of its rotten karma. I'd lead with "One bad decision begets another...and another...and another."

Like Fire Lord Ozai and his evil daughter Azula, give me some real opposition, please. Otherwise, where's the fun?

The best outcome may be that a few of the money-people behind movies wake up. When I watched the trailer with my son and his friends last weekend, we were in a theater to see the re-make of The Karate Kid—a movie with people of color in all the main roles.

My advice? Despite the postcard-romantic scenes of China in the new Kid, it had a lot to offer my kid. If you can avoid the Airbender juggernaut, don't let it give Jackie Chan a run for your money.

This is a revision of a post that also appears on Open Salon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Adoption Secrets

By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

Since the late 1990s, most parents in the English-speaking world (and by now, far beyond) have met Harry Potter.

At least ten years ago, before my adopted son entered our lives, I read the first book in the series—Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone—just to see what all the fuss was about. I enjoyed it. But I decided to wait to read the rest of the books until my own child came along and was of an age when we could go through them together.

Now my eight-year-old son is ready to jump in, and we've begun the great Harry Potter reading marathon. But revisiting the first book has confronted me with a familiar challenge: How much should I protect my son from negative images of adoption and orphans—and how much, in general, should I censor his access to popular culture?

Harry is not strictly an adoptee; he's the poor orphan, fostered and mistreated by his remaining biological ( or "Muggle") relations. But there's much in his story that real-world adoptees will recognize.

Early on in The Sorcerer's Stone, for example, his aunt lies to him, saying his parents died in a "car crash." Harry learns "the first rule for a quiet life": "Don't ask questions."

My son is still young for reading these books. More to the point, he doesn't want to read them by himself. If he had his druthers, he'd just watch the movies. But I want to slow this process down. I figure that if we read through the books before he sees each movie, then he'll be older as the series proceeds and becomes more disturbing.

He's predictably hooked on The Sorcerer's Stone. We're halfway through after a few days. But the first night, he also had nightmares.

It's not that I was clueless about the orphan theme when I originally read this book. Yet now I'm seeing it through my son's eyes—and author J.K. Rowling's handling of this standard plot device seems deeply satirical—and wonderfully unvarnished—and also unexamined.

Whether that lack of examination is a problem is the question. Ultimately, I don't think so, but I've been doing some pondering as we race through the chapters, and Harry is confronted with one secret after another about who he really is.

This past weekend, I had a bit of an "ah-ha" moment when I attended an academic conference at MIT put on by the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture. The topic was "Adoption: Secret Histories, Public Policies." An array of historians, social scientists, memoir and fiction writers, and documentary filmmakers were on hand. (Click here for the program and participants. It was a terrific conference.)

Of many fascinating sessions I went to, "Adoption in Film," with panelists Kim Park Nelson (a multicultural studies scholar) and Joyce Maguire Pavao (a well-known clinician), had me leaping back to Harry. The Harry Potter movies figured in neither of the panelist's presentations, yet his orphan status is connected to their discussions.

Kim Park Nelson's topic was "The Horror of Adoption," in which she detailed pernicious images in some recent horror films that involve an adoption premise. She didn't focus on more well-known fiascoes like last year's Orphan, which generated a letter-writing protest campaign, but on genre movies like The Ring and Silent Hill.

In her analysis of these films, adoptees are either bad seeds or shattered beings trapped between their good and evil selves. Birthparents are evil incarnate or victims of fate. Indeed, almost anyone connected to the triad seems to be a victim of fate, driven to discover the horrible secret of a child's identity. Adoptive parents are victims, too, walking into danger to save their kids.

Compare this with Harry Potter, who begins not knowing he's a wizard and certainly has to grapple with his fate but is allowed an active part in the process. For example, when students first arrive at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, they're "sorted" into houses (dormitories) in front of everyone. They put a sorting hat on their heads. Here's an except from The Sorcerer's Stone:
"The last thing Harry saw before the hat dropped over his eyes was the hall full of people craning to get a good look at him. Next second he was looking at the black inside of the hat. He waited.

"'Hmm,' said a small voice inside his ear. 'Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes—and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting.... So where shall I put you?'

"Harry gripped the edges of the stool and thought Not Slytherin, not Slytherin.

"'Not Slytherin, eh?' said the small voice. 'Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it's all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that—no? Well, if you're sure—better be GRYFFINDOR!'"
Rather than horror films, Pavao focused on a list of her ten favorite movies in which adoption is part of the storyline.* She noted that orphans appear in many children's stories and movies because the experience of family loss can feel so universal. Readers and viewers identify with such loneliness.

But I think orphans also serve a basic story function. From the Boxcar Children to Harry Potter, kids without parents are the protagonists. A few reassuring adults may pop in, but the kids get to have adventures. Harry does come to terms with his birthright as a wizard, but his actions very much determine the story. He is not acted on in the same way as the helpless bad seeds of those horror movies.

It's a compelling image: a lonely orphan, who feels different from all the Muggles around him, learning he has power within. Harry Potter confronts many barriers in discovering his birth history—just as adoptees do—but he always feels he has a right to do so.

At past non-academic adoption conferences, I've gone to sessions in which speakers talk about which books are "good" or "bad" for young adoptees. I've bristled at the censorship implied.

While I may cringe at the image of Harry stuck in a cupboard in his aunt and uncle's house, and while my son may ask how they could treat him that way, I think talking about our responses can be more illuminating than any spoon-fed message.

I suggest another test: Are the main characters of a story or movie in charge of their own fates? Are they determined to learn the truth?

If yes, then let the Muggles parade and stinking potions brew, the secrets revealed may well be magic.

*A Few of Joyce Maguire Pavao's Top Adoption Movies
  • "The Miracle"
  • "High Tide"
  • "The Official Story"
  • "Coco"
  • "Second Best"
  • "Catfish and Blackbean Sauce"
As presented May 1, 2010, "Adoption in Film," at the conference organized by the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Who Gets Baby Emma: Her Single Daddy or Her Married Adoptive Parents?

    Guest Post by Laura Deurmyer for Adopt-a-tude

    I bring two distinct and sometimes warring perspectives to bear on media accounts of adoptions. I am an adoptee—adopted at birth during what is known as the Baby Scoop Era. I have also been a foster parent who tried unsuccessfully to adopt a baby I loved.

    If women are to have a real adoption option when confronting an unplanned pregnancy, we must take adoption questions and issues seriously as a society. We must stop treating adoption as the next human-interest story or as a tear-jerker movie of the week. 

    The baby Emma Wyatt story featured in the Washington Post and the New York Times recently interested me as much for what it didn’t say as for its unmistakably fascinating facts. What set it apart and got it featured in the Post and in the Times and ultimately on Good Morning America rather than simply in a few obscure adoption blog sites, was its play on the Dr. Phil show.

    The basic story—birth father who wants to raise his own child is denied that opportunity by birth mom who places the baby for adoption against his wishes—has been played out numerous times in recent years. It’s a common enough problem that there are whole websites devoted to helping unwed birth fathers retain custody of their children. Several of the players in the baby Emma story—the adoption agency, the lawyer, the state of Utah—feature in more than one of these tales.

    (Note: One website that does catalog and discuss problems with adoption is Although I don’t agree with much of that site’s seemingly anti-adoption bent, I have linked to it in this story because it clearly lists and explores problematic cases like baby Emma’s.)

    Even in major media coverage of the story, a rational discussion of adoption policy or a thorough examination of states’ roles in voluntary placement adoption is mostly lacking. Instead, the story has devolved into the heart-wrenching tale of a father’s loss with class-warfare overtones.

    Emma was born in Virginia and spirited away to Utah—a state that makes it notoriously difficult for unwed dads to asset their rights—for adoption immediately after her birth. Virginia courts have sided with the father, John Wyatt, and have ordered the little girl to be returned to him. Utah courts have thus far maintained that John Wyatt did not comply with their regulations for asserting parental rights and that the adoption should stand. 

    There has been no intimation that the child would be unsafe either with her adoptive parents or with her natural father. John Wyatt works at a nightclub; he is twenty-one. The adoptive parents are established, successful college-educated mid-career professionals who are very economically stable, married, and no doubt desperately in love with this little girl after raising her for almost a year. 

    Much of the news coverage of the story sides openly with John Wyatt, and I would have to agree with that. However, the idea that Emma might be better off with the more economically advantaged and martially stable adoptive parents—the state of Utah’s underlying basic argument—is implied in Lisa Belkin’s New York Times piece on her Motherlode blog, in which she asks:
    Who do you think should have custody of “Baby Emma”? The stable married couple who are, as their lawyer says, “the only parents this child has ever known,” or the single 21-year-old nightclub worker who has never seen her, though he certainly has tried?
    My heart goes out to John Wyatt. He has been trying, since his daughter’s birth, to be a responsible father. Had he been married to Emma’s mom, Emma would likely be with him now. 
    My heart also goes out to the adoptive parents. They put their trust in the adoption agency, the lawyers and the birth mom. After having Emma in their homes and in their hearts for a year, they stand to lose a daughter. I know what that feels like—it’s like a death in the family.

    Most of all, however, my heart goes out to Emma Wyatt. She deserves to know her Daddy. She deserves the chance to be Emma Wyatt. Perhaps her material future would be brighter in a home with higher net worth and two parents. But she has a birth parent who loves her, who wants her.  Ask any adoptee—that’s all most of us ever wanted—to know that our “other” parents did love us.

    For the families involved in this situation, it is no-win deal. Someone will end up devastated. Baby Emma will deal with emotional issues for the rest of her life.

    Adoption can be a wonderful thing; it is a gift of the heart. A choice to love. So many children need desperately for someone to choose them. Their birth parents either don’t want them, or can’t get their lives in order enough to parent them safely. 

    You will never convince me that an adoptive parent can’t love an adopted child just as fiercely as a “real” parent. Having been both the child and the parent in an adoptive relationship, I know better. 

    Though I have wanted to know my birth background most of my life, I have never doubted that my parents—and they are my parents—love me.  Though I knew that raising our baby girl would have had its problems—crack babies can have behavioral issues well past infancy, and we would have had to address racial identify questions sensitively and honestly—I loved her, and love her, with all my heart.

    Love aside, adoption is not always the best choice. We should be talking about cases like this in order to shape our adoption expectations as a society. If states like Utah, with its majority Mormon population and overwhelming prejudice against single parenthood are allowed to compromise the rights of parents in other states, that is unacceptable. We need to talk about that.

    If as a society, we believe a two-career, multi-degreed, financially successful married couple should trump a blue-collar daddy or a single mom for parental rights, in the best interest of the child, despite that single parent’s desire and ability to raise the child, that is unacceptable. We need to talk about that. 

    Adoption should be easy, when the circumstances call for it. It should be virtually impossible when we are taking children away from biological parents against their will absent abuse or neglect. 

    Some states are toying with the idea that they can choose not to follow federal law in selected matters; now is the time to codify exactly what we can and can’t stomach in the adoption process as a society. Otherwise, states with a hard-right theological bent might move even farther in the direction Utah has taken, with disastrous results for children and families.

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Adoption, Russian-Style: Are We Up to the Challenge?

    By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-tude

    The saga of seven-year-old Russian-born Artyom Savelyev’s adoption gone wrong has once again focused attention on the controversies that dog international adoptions.

    Artyom’s tragic journey begs us to consider if there is a difference between an adopted and a biological child—and if so, does adoption give a parent the right to return a child when the relationship disappoints?

    As the adoptive mother of a twelve-year-old born in Russia, I have to say an emphatic no.  From the moment I held my son in my arms and smelled his skin, I knew he was a part of me. These kids are not Russian dolls. They didn’t ask for us. We wanted them.

    The problem is, Artyom’s story has become a convenient hook for Russian politicking as well as for commentators who know little about the experience of parenting deeply troubled children. Sensationalized headlines make great copy, but they distract from the truth.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called the actions of Artyom’s adoptive mother, Torry Hansen, a 33-year-old single mom and nurse, “a monstrous deed.”  Pavel Astakhov, the Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner, threatened to suspend adoptions unless Russia and the U.S. sign a treaty to ensure that Russian children are better protected once they leave the Motherland. Acrid complaints about the treatment of Russian adoptees in the hands of American families have resurfaced, specifically 16 deaths due to abuse since 1996.

    What is omitted from the storyline is Russia’s own treatment of children who are abandoned and orphaned and then placed in institutional care.

    The Russians also conveniently seem to forget that protective laws are already in place. The United States and about 80 other nations have signed on to and ratified the Hague Convention, a body of treaties whose purpose is "to work for the progressive unification…of private international [adoption] law…” (from Article 1 of the Statute of the Hague Conference). Standardizing these practices, especially when it comes to money, adoption disclosure, and parent training, seems a crucial tool for monitoring pre-and post-adoption placement. Russia, however, is currently a non-Hague Convention country.

    Brandeis researcher E.J. Graff, laid out in the Boston Globe this past week just how dire Russia’s intransigent position could prove to be.  Thousands of institutionalized children who desperately need homes may not be placed in one. Those placed might fear return to their first country if the placement does not go well.  

    Russia officialdom’s outrage is a hollow distraction as it tries to dig into the deep pockets of American largesse. Lacking both the political and financial will to fix their corrupt institutional care system, the Russians would love nothing more than to have American dollars pay for the care and oversight they themselves have chronically failed to provide.

    In the pecking order of Russian social services, institutionalized children get a very thin slice of the safety-net pie. In a 2007 report, Unicef cited that nearly 200,000 Russian children lived in state institutions and were provided only the minimum of custodial care. With a low qualification threshold for childcare workers and a woeful lack of adequate resources, the staff often reflects the same lethargy as the children in its care.

    Compounding the neglect is the Russian political tactic of delaying international adoptions. Since 1998, when we adopted our son, the waiting period has doubled from four months to eight, if everything goes without a hitch. The intention is to give Russian nationals the opportunity to adopt before proceeding with an out-of-country placement. The reality is that Russians have been slow to adopt.  The number of children available greatly outpaces the demand.

    While the media, the U.S., and Russia wrangle and posture over the legal machinations of this case, the real-life tragedy has been pushed off-center like a sidebar. 

    Last year, Americans adopted 1,586 children from Russia, the third highest rate for non-domestic adoptions. Chuck Johnson, CEO of the National Council for Adoption, stated on NPR last week that more than 60,000 Russian children have been successfully adopted in the United States.

    When looking at failed adoptions, Johnson said the rate is 15% for both foreign and domestic adoptions. Biological families, like adoptive families, can also become unhinged. In 2006 (the most recent year for which there are statistics), the number of children in domestic foster care topped 510,000.

    So if many kinds of families do fall apart, why has this story captured our collective consciousness?

    Simply stated: shame.

    Artyom’s story tells us not just that two nations and assorted agencies supposedly working on his behalf failed him but that our American ideal-laden notions of parenting, family, and adoption did as well.

    How frightened and alone this seven-year-old must have felt, plucked, like a toy in a claw-operated prize booth, from where he lived and flown across the ocean to an English-speaking home in predominately white, rural Shelbyville, Tennessee.

    Although some facts have dribbled out through the media free-for-all, we really know very little about Torry Hansen or what actually occurred in her home. Hansen herself says she will not speak or meet with investigators unless she is formally charged with a crime.

    Artyom’s life both prior to and after his adoption is a mystery, deeply concealed by both language and cultural barriers. It is unclear when Hansen began to feel overwhelmed by his unhappiness. Was she self-blaming and resentful? Or was the reality of life with her adopted son so removed from her imaginings of motherhood that she found the situation unbearable?

    Adoptive parents may be able to empathize with Hansen, but what we need, as a society, is a reality check. Adoption is not a trial run. When we adopt, as when we birth, we bring into our orbit of love and care a being wholly dependent on us. It’s about a no-turning-back lifetime commitment to raising a child and helping that child navigate his or her way safely into adulthood.

    I know something about what Hansen must have been going through. Like her, I am a single parent. (My husband died three months after we adopted our baby son. Our biological daughter was three at that time.)  Like the alleged reports about Artyom’s disruptive behavior, my son has been a tough kid to parent: four schools, multiple therapists, meds, lots of acting out, and need for in-home support.

    But unlike Hansen, I never thought it an option to relinquish my son, despite extreme moments of exasperation, his bouts with unpredictable behaviors, and the number of gray hairs he has given me.

    Although my son was just five months old when we adopted him, institutional neglect was already apparent. He was constantly hungry, underweight, malnourished, listless, prone to self-soothing, and subsequently chronically ill for the first four years of life.  In pre-school, the best that could be said about his social skills was “does not play well with others.”

    But instead of his challenges pushing me away, they have fueled my quest to be a better, smarter mother. I have attended workshops, support groups, individual and family therapy, and secured mental-health services.

    I say this not as a putdown to Hansen, or any other parent who has struggled with difficult children, but as a way to offer insight into what it takes to nurture, care for, and love a child that flails against your best intentions. Living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I have benefited from a highly educated, massively professionalized, and resource-intensive urban area. As an older parent, I have many friends who have also adopted, and together we share our uncertainties, experiences, and support systems.

    With professional help, I learned to overcome the great waves of inadequacy I encountered when my son was a toddler and I wasn’t sure I was up to the job of being his mother. With the loving support of friends and family, I have navigated through the tough social and educational choices I needed to make for the well being of my son.

    I have learned that asking for help is not shameful and does not reflect on my parenting inabilities. I have learned, as all parents must learn, that the needs of my son are often much more urgent than my own.

    And I have also learned that the only thing shameful about this kind of struggle is a lack of funding and political will for the services families truly need to care for their children. If we’re not up to the job, then who is?

    To read more about Fran's personal story of adopting an infant son in Russia, read her 2009 Adopt-a-tude piece "Why Do the Russians Make It So Hard to Adopt?"

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Russian Adoptions: Who's at Fault and What Do We Do?

    By Martha Nichols for Adopt-a-tude

    When I first saw the pictures of seven-year-old Artyom Savelyev—who is close to my son’s age—in Moscow, after his adoptive grandmother put him on a flight from Washington, D.C., by himself, I wondered what the hell is wrong with us.

    Who is “us”? That’s the question. American adoptive parents? Not most of us, by any stretch. The American adoption agency involved, which has now had its license suspended by the Russian education ministry? Again, that’s painting with a broad brush. The Russian orphanage in which by some reports the boy was mistreated? Who knows?

    I wanted to blame somebody, though, as did the many commenters on news stories and blogs about Artyom’s fate this past weekend. Adoptive mother Torry Hansen and grandmother Nancy were right at hand, courtesy of the AP. Here are a few comments about the story from Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode blog:
    “This is totally unconscionable and irresponsible.”
    “This woman's (I cannot say—‘mother's,’ for she doesn't deserve such a title) behaviour is despicable.”
    “This article made me cry. It takes the patience and endurance of Mother Theresa to deal with special needs children. Where did this woman not understand the commitment to a young, troubled child that she adopted into her family?”
    Last week, Nancy Hansen decided to fly Artyom (called Justin by his adoptive family) back to Russia because his violent behavior had become too much for them. According to one of the AP stories, his grandmother “chronicled a list of problems: hitting, screaming and spitting at his mother and threatening to kill family members.” He apparently slammed one aunt with a statue when she pushed him to do math homework. (The family was home schooling him.) Hansen says he threatened to burn their home down.

    Back in Russia, he was accompanied by a note from adoptive mother Torry Hansen, who is a registered nurse: “This child is mentally unstable. He is violent and has severe psychopathic issues…I was lied to and misled by the Russian Orphanage workers and director regarding his mental stability and other issues…. After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child.''

    As of Friday, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was threatening to suspend all U.S. adoptions, calling this “the last straw.”

    Grandmother Nancy says she had no idea she was setting off an international incident. She did tell an AP reporter, "The intent of my daughter was to have a family and the intent of my whole family was to love that child."

    I hate stories like this, in which a child becomes abandoned over and over again, unwanted by anyone. I hate what this does to me as an adoptive parent of a son born in Vietnam, of the doubts I start to feel about whether I had any right to everything that my family means.

    I’m also waiting for more facts. The problem, as usual, is that a media storm has managed to make the situation even murkier, spreading an array of misinformation about international adoption, attachment disorders, and what constitutes “normal.”

    Shocking headlines like “Boy from Russia said ‘he’d torch our home’” and “Grandmother: Boy terrified adoptive kin” keep the focus on extreme behavior. Here’s the blurb that introduces the AP report in the Seattle Times: “Torry Hansen was so eager to become a mother that she adopted an older child from a foreign country, two factors that scare off many prospective parents. Her fear came later.”

    A distorted look at “the inside story of adoptions that go horribly wrong” aired on ABC's Nightline Friday, including videos taken by parents of children having “meltdowns.” (Click here for the accompanying article.)

    This prompted developmental psychologist Jean Mercer to debunk some myths in a Psychology Today blog. She rightly castigates Nightline for running home videos without questioning the parents’ interpretations. In one case, shortly after a pair of Russian sisters had been adopted, the older sister wanders around her American home in tears, clutching a blanket, and crawling under furniture. Mercer notes,
    “[T]he parents seem to have regarded it as such bizarre and unacceptable behavior that it needed to be recorded because no outsider would believe it.
    “But what do we actually see in this video of a child who has been in the adoptive home for about a week? Let me just inquire how similar it might be to your own behavior, if you had been taken by very large people who spoke a different language, put on an airplane with little comprehensible explanation, and taken far away to a new house, new food, new ways of doing things? Would you be grateful?”
    Meanwhile, it’s important to keep the numbers in perspective. According to the U.S. State Department, there have been about 15,000 U.S.-Russia adoptions in the past five years. I’ve heard that in the last fifteen years, it’s about 50,000. As many adoption experts have noted, most of these don’t go “horribly wrong.”

    Whether Artyom is really psychopathic and violent is unclear. Even if it were true, shoving him onto airplane is at the very least an act of ignorant desperation. Giving him an American name when he was already six years old indicates a lack of awareness and empathy. The Hansens—not to mention those parents supplying videos of their children for Nightline—appear to have little understanding of what it means to suddenly land in another culture.

    Yet something much larger is at play than the actions of two unfit adoptive family members. Based on the official outrage of Russia—following on the travesty of American missionaries trying to hustle Haitian “orphans” out of that country after the recent earthquake—the practice of international adoption is once again under fire.

    There are lots of ethical reasons why it should be. In Haiti, a number of the children involved still had biological parents. In many other developing countries, from Vietnam to Ethiopia, there’s always been the risk of money paid for babies to finance a less than savory adoption industry.

    Yet there’s the flip side, too, and you see it in Russia and Haiti: social welfare systems that simply are ill equipped and far too under-funded to support the rolls of abandoned children. What you see is poverty and its brutal impact on society’s most vulnerable: children who receive little or no adult care.

    Let me say it again: you see poverty, on a global scale, ramped up by the churn of developing economies. The Harvard University Project on Global Working Families, research that surveyed 55,000 people in a variety of countries and is detailed in Jody Heymann’s book Forgotten Families, makes clear that many children have no one to take care of them. Here’s a quote from my own 2007 review of Heymann’s book in Women’s Review of Books:
    “Of the working parents interviewed, nineteen percent in Vietnam left their children alone or in the care of an unpaid child; 27 percent did so in Mexico; and a whopping 48 percent did in Botswana, which has almost no publicly funded child care.”
    Even the reference in a USA Today story about Artyom—“United Airlines allows unaccompanied children as young as 5 years old on direct flights. Children age 8 and above can catch connecting flights, as well”—chills me.

    So maybe we should blame global capitalism and every one of us (that “us”) who participates. Maybe it’s not just the Hansens of Shelbyville, Tennessee. Maybe we should blame general ignorance about international adoption—for example, the various media commentators ranting about the numbers on the rise when in fact they’ve been in steep decline since 2004.

    Our son was a baby when we adopted him from Vietnam, from an orphanage in which he seemed very well treated by affectionate staff. He is now a happy and healthy little boy. I say this not to vaunt my own skills as a parent but to add that even my son, who remembers nothing of the orphanage—an orphanage that was far from a horror show—has occasional meltdowns. When he was just a little younger than Artyom, he would cry uncontrollably when I left him at school. My son still sucks his thumb, though he’s working on it.

    Loss experienced by young children can be profound and impossible to process rationally. The fact that my mother was hospitalized when I was six still sits in my soul. Sometimes I believe my own loss has helped me to understand my son’s; other times, I think that all humans walk alone.

    In my adoptive family, some days we walk in the light. We are together, we are whole. But have we really become a world in which so many children have no safe homes?

    Apparently so. At this moment, all I can do is hug my boy close.

    This piece also appears in Martha's Open Salon blog, Athena's Head.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    Political Pretzel: Twists in the Adoption and Abortion Debate

    By Fran Cronin for Adopt-a-tude

    Common to all deeply personal matters is the complicated thinking that gets wound around them. At this time in our country, there are few issues as fraught with knots as the political, cultural, and religious tension of the adoption versus abortion debate.

    From the picketer on the street corner hoisting photos of fetuses to the blogger on the net challenging the moral intentions of our pro-life politicians, a battle wages for the right of a woman to choose whether or not to carry a conception to term.

    But what about the sideline issues that are not so easy to sloganize?

    I have yet to read a bumper sticker that addresses which babies are put up for adoption and how many actually get adopted; or, if abortion is not the solution, the importance of better education and access to birth control. If the goal is stopping unwanted pregnancies, why is preaching abstinence touted as the best solution for sexually active teens?

    Like a hard and gnarly pretzel, the issues are so intertwined and morally charged that the questions raised don’t neatly sort out. They get mashed and crumble.

    Before I get too deep, I want to state my position: I am the mother of an adopted child; I’m also a woman who had an abortion in her late twenties. I am thrilled my husband and I were able to adopt our son. I also feel the abortion I had was the best choice for all the right reasons.

    My husband and I decided to adopt when I was no longer able to conceive yet wanted another child. The abortion I had when I was single, careless, and certainly not in a mindset to even think about bearing or caring for a child.

    As a woman, wife, and mother, I have had the good fortune to act upon what I thought was best for me. With power to control my child bearing, I have created the family I want and a family I can care for.

    Sadly, most women around the world, including many women in this country, cannot say the same.

    According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau on “2007 Poverty Thresholds,” almost 14 million children under the age of 18 live in poverty. The hardships of poverty amplify when you factor in compromised or no access to quality health care, limited access to higher education, poor housing, enhanced risk to a spectrum of abuses, a perpetuation of poverty, and little recourse to unwanted pregnancies.

    When you look beyond our borders, the numbers grow more alarming. Unicef reports that between the years 2000 and 2007, poverty was responsible for the death of almost 70 million children. No corner of the world was exempt.

    For the women bearing these children, their fate is no better. According to the recent Unicef report, State of the World’s Children 2009, Maternal and Newborn Health:

    “Having a child remains one of the biggest health risks for women worldwide. Fifteen hundred women die every day while giving birth. That's half a million mothers every year. The difference in pregnancy risk between women in developing countries and their peers in the industrialized world is often termed the greatest health divide in the world.”

    Yet women’s bodies and the babies they bear continue to be the domain of politicians. When you look at the composition of Congress, that means they’re under the thumbs of a controlling bunch of aging white guys. Just think back on that sea of stony faces, panned by cameras while the President was delivering his recent State of the Union address.

    For over two decades, from the time of Reagan through the Bush years, these guys had their way with the lives of women and their children. Using the Global Gag Rule introduced by the Reagan administration in 1984, Congress mandated that no foreign organizations receiving U.S. family planning assistance had the right to use their own non-U.S. funds to provide legal abortions, counsel or refer abortions, or lobby for the legalization of abortion in their country.

    For those NGOs that refused to comply, the loss was not just in hard dollars. They also forfeited valuable technical assistance as well as U.S. donated contraceptives, including condoms—both critical components of the USAID family planning program.

    The rule was rescinded in 1993 by Clinton and then reinstated in 2001 by George Bush on his first business day in office.

    Two days after Obama was inaugurated, he struck down the Global Gag Rule, stating, “It is time we end the politicization of this issue.” (Click here for a piece about this in The Democratic Daily.)

    But the politicization of a woman’s right to choose has not ended there. Thick in the muck of our current health-care reform quagmire is the Stupak Amendment—authored by the namesake Democrat from Michigan—that requires women to buy an additional insurance rider to cover abortion.

    As did the Gag Rule in the mid-80s, this two-page insertion into an almost 1,100 page (and counting) bill has ignited a debate about whether federal tax dollars should be allowed to fund abortion. However, this time the funding denial is not embedded into a foreign aid policy, but in legislation that will impact the health and well being of women and their children nationwide.

    Cynical me scratches my head and asks (myself or anyone else who will listen), three questions:

    1. With money so tight and the chronic cry to cut spending, how can we encourage compromised women to bear unintended pregnancies while simultaneously cutting back on the entitlements that support these needy women and children?
    2. Where are the statistics that demonstrate that for every unwanted birth there is an adoptive home (not with a gay couple, of course)?
    3. Why are women always legally punished for being pregnant? The last time I consulted a biology book, it took two to make a baby—and one of them was male.

    On the basis of dollars and cents, parenting remains the most expensive choice.

    Outside our borders, the prospects for women and children are even bleaker. When the earthquake struck Haiti, the group hardest hit was its children. Ranking number 50 in the world for highest birth rate/1000 people, Haiti is also the poorest country in the western hemisphere. There were too many children to begin with, and since the earthquake, an estimated 380,000 are now orphaned.

    The high-profile case of U.S. “missionary” Laura Silsby’s effort to leave Haiti with 33 undocumented children illustrates how vulnerable children are when the only adjective that can describe their future is desperate. Haitian authorities feared the children were to be trafficked across the border and sold into either domestic or sexual services.

    Columnists such as Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times have written impassioned accounts of human trafficking both domestically and abroad, primarily in Asia. While estimates from Unesco and Unicef vary, both conclude that between half to a million women and children are sold into a form of slavery all over the globe every year.

    Armchair politics want us to think that the choices women make are easy and linear. We love our children, therefore every new life is sacred.

    But facts on the ground continue to prove otherwise. Where is the love when a woman is forced to birth a child that’s the result of rape? What if a woman keeps bearing children knowing she cannot feed them? What if survival entails selling your daughter into the sex trade?

    If we love our children and want what is best for them, then it is time to stop playing politics. Instead, it is time to take responsibility for what it means to protect and care for the new lives we choose to bring into this world.

    Yes, it’s true, but not in the way all those smug male senators think: Mothers know best.