Tuesday, September 16, 2008

SENIOR MOTHERS ADOPTION ACTIVIST COALITION

Two very dear ladies run this new organization. What makes this organization so dear to my heart? First, Musing Mother and Motherhood Deleted got this organization up and running. Musing Mother is very much a mother to me personally. There have been times that I could not have made it through the last three years without her love and support. Motherhood Deleted is another awesome blogger in her own right. She has offered to be my aunt. I love her as well. When I get emails from Florida mothers begging for help, I call Motherhood Deleted. I have my own chain of resources when I find a mother in need of help. It begins with these two fabulous ladies.

Another reason why I love this organization so much is because it is based on the era that I was born in. This is a natural mothers' organization only. This is a pure activism group. These women stand up and help fight the industry as hard and if not harder than many of the adoptee activists. Why is this older generation of mothers standing up? They want the era of mass surrender to be recognized for what it was. They want acknowledgment from the federal and state governments for what our society did to them. I too want that for not only my friends, Musing Mother and Motherhood Deleted but for my own natural mother. Please don't get me wrong. I am on the side of the mothers since then. I am also very concerned about the mothers of the past. That is my era. That was when I was born.

Today a great article came out. The author interviewed one of the members of this organization. They are getting play in the media. Be careful and not to read the comments. It shows the ignorance of some folks.

Here is the story:

My column on Tammy, a Torrance woman forced - like so many young women of an earlier time - to "visit an aunt" to hide the birth of an out-of-wedlock baby brought reaction from women all over America.

Sandy Young of Texas is part of an online organization that helps women who were forced to give up children.

She wrote, "Regarding pregnant women of the 1960s and early '70s, there was a very good book written by Ann Fessler, called `The Girls Who Went Away,' that addresses that time period and tells the true story of representative women. Most of those women are friends of mine, as I too was one of these girls.

"The Internet was a God-send for the women of that time, who had mourned in silence for decades. We were able to find each other online, where the anonymity of the Net allowed us to unite for healing. We are becoming activists, and are seeking recognition for the crimes we were victims of. The treatment we received was shameful and articles like yours make our message so much more credible and gets it out to even more women who went away and are still suffering in silence and shame.

"Thank you so very much for your sensitive and timely awareness of this issue."

You can reach the organization via e-mail at info@seniormothersadoptionactivistcoalition.org.

Lynn Kopatich wrote, "There are so many of us who are out of the closet and have been for years but I also know several of the girls who were in the home (for unwed mothers) with me who have done nothing and are still hiding the secret 45 years later.

"The public at large has such a rosy view of adoption that I fear we will never truly get our message across - that the shame and humiliation that accompanied the isolation and even shunning of middle-class girls who went away to have babies was the order of the day. And, I believe, it could be again if some people have their way."

And this from the comment section on dailybreeze.com/bogert: "Sarah Palin will try to take us back to those good old days, that is if you can call back-alley abortions good old days."

And this from a reader who signs himself So. Cal Native, "Just another campaign ad for Obama-Biden brought to you by the Daily Breeze and John Bogert."

Actually, the woman I interviewed was complimenting Gov. Palin for not hiding her daughter.

A reader in Redondo Beach wanted to know if this was "an in-kind political contribution by the Breeze?"

No. It was a story about a woman (a Republican woman at that) who is relieved that girls are no longer forced to endure what she did.

"South Bay Mom" wrote, "I too was a pregnant teen mom. The difference is that I had a family that supported me! This was during those years when sex and sex education was not discussed even though everybody knew everybody was doing it! I had been dating my boyfriend for a couple of years when I got pregnant. My parents listened while we told them the news. Rather than scream, they told me that they loved me and would support my decision no matter what.

"We were determined to make a go of it. It wasn't easy and I am proud to say that I have been married for over 37 years and have raised two beautiful daughters. I learned from my parents' actions that we all make mistakes that can change the path of our lives, but I also learned how fortunate I was to be raised by such caring parents. "

How anybody could read politics into this I don't know, but Norm Manger wrote, "I would guess that you are a Catholic/Democrat on Obama's team (Bogert note: good guess, but that has nothing to do with this story) and are given to generalizing (Bogert note: how true!) from the specific. So be it. I read columns with the hope that I can become enlightened or better informed. Unfortunately, you did neither."

Jo Ann Michetti of Rancho Palos Verdes wrote, "I cried when I read your column. I graduated from high school in 1958 and am still friends with several women who `went to visit an aunt' in the late '50s. They have never told me about it nor have I ever asked. I probably will never know. As the mother of an adopted baby, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to have him and give him up. You really said it all so clearly. We can't go back to those times!"

Last week's letters column, specifically a letter from Ward B., brought many responses, most of them from readers requesting that I drop dead for an opinion that wasn't mine.

Then there was this from Marc Kirkendall, "What did Sarah Palin ever say or do that indicates she would commit `Taliban-like acts'? Ward B. only displays his own ignorance and paranoia when he denigrates evangelical Christianity and tries to equate it with some kind of mindless terrorist group. What happened to disagreeing with those on the other side without demonizing them? I, like Sarah Palin, believe in God and that, I hope, defines me on a daily basis. And this is not out of despair or hopelessness or mindlessness.

"I will make political decisions based on facts from several sources, but I will take into account what the candidates say about themselves and how they have lived their lives. Dare I hope that others will do the same and not rely on sound bites and opinion? A short time and we find out!"

So, what do you think?

I want to hear your comments. Connect with me at john.bogert@dailybreeze.com.

For those mothers who are wanting to be activists and change adoption as it stands now and ask the government to acknowledge what they did to these mothers was wrong, please join the following organization. Please remember that this is for natural mothers from the Era of Mass Surrender.

Senior Mothers Adoption Activist Coalition

For the mothers seeking support for search and reunion issues, please use the following organization:

First Mothers Connect

Here is the article that started the firestorm:

`Sarah Palin's daughter, the one having the baby, brought it all back," said Tammy, a 64-year-old mother of three grown daughters with a sudden need to talk about past wrongs and current rights.

The slender, blond Hermosa Beach homemaker wanted to recall the vanished America that she came of age in, an America that wouldn't have tolerated a divorced president let alone a revelation that anyone - especially a vice presidential candidate's own teenage daughter - was pregnant out of wedlock.

"And the very thought of a young woman appearing on stage showing like that would have been sensational!" said Tammy (not her real name) with a roll of her blue eyes. "But I tell you. Everyone else might have forgotten the bad old days, but I haven't. And I envy that Palin girl's freedom while still feeling for the girls who once suffered."

To understand Tammy we need a return to 1960, to the summer John Kennedy ran for the White House, to the final months of the Eisenhower administration when there was no sex education to approve or disapprove of, when the pill didn't exist and when birth control meant a heavy condom bought out of a men's room vending machine. This was back when abortion was an illegal, life-threatening procedure performed by hacks and sought by desperate women anyway.

"When I was 16 there were two kinds of girls," said Tammy, who was then about to begin her high school senior year in West Palm Beach, Fla. "There were good girls and bad girls."

And she was the epitome of the good girl, serving on student council and the cheerleading squad while working as a hospital volunteer and playing on the tennis team.

She was also crazy in love with a boy who had graduated from her high school the previous year and was then attending Florida State.

"He was everything that I wasn't," she recalled, "smart, mature I thought, tall and dark. I'd just sit watching staring at him in awe. He took up my sophomore and junior year and when he went to college we kept going steady. I wore his class ring on a neck chain."

Don't wait for the details because Tammy will only say that "things got out of control" early on summer break.

"Girls I knew didn't talk about intimate things because we knew word would get around PDQ and you'd get a reputation. Remember, this was in the days of Troy Donahue and Tuesday Weld and movies where `going all the way' was never quite mentioned but it was there like a pink elephant."

Tammy had a young and understanding dance instructor who arranged for what they called a "rabbit test." This is when a woman's urine was injected into a female rabbit to detect, through changes in the animal's ovaries, the presence of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). This was also known as the "frog test," not that it mattered when the moment came to tell mom and dad.

"My mother was a respectable woman who never spoke about sex. That night my dad just sat there at the dining room table smoking Lucky Strikes as mother called me all kind of names. I wouldn't have been surprised at all if she had beaten me. She called the doctor and yelled at the poor man, `My daughter is a little tramp!' This was a woman who spent her life putting on a big outward show about how perfect her family was. Then again, that was how people were back then. That was probably normal."

What happened next would be typical enough until later that decade when the pill, and the sexual revolution it spawned, set a course that brought us to a convention where young pregnant woman could be seen as someone bravely turning down a chance for an easy out.

In 1960, there were no easy outs.

The young man was contacted and he came to Tammy's house with his parents. Coffee and cake were served while she sat ignored by everyone, including the boy of her dreams, the father of her unborn baby, who wouldn't even make eye contact with her.

"They talked about his schooling and his plans, his life. I was an afterthought and what I wanted didn't matter. I was going down to Miami to a home for unwed mothers. My baby would be put up for adoption and I wouldn't be allowed to see it. This was decided for me," she recalled, with tears filling her eyes.

Tammy was soon telling friends that she was going to visit her aunt in New Jersey. Anybody who lived through those days knew at least one girl who went to "live with an aunt" only to return with an awful reputation.

What followed was weeks of living bored in a large home in Miami, a place policed by tough older women and shared uncomfortably with a dozen other girls who had been - like her - in love and foolish in an unforgiving time.

It was there that Tammy went into labor 11 weeks early and delivered a baby girl that died shortly after birth.

"They wrapped her and let me see her tiny little face. It had happened quickly and there was nobody there with me. I was 16 years old.

"Later, when I was married and had my girls, there were flowers and cards. Did you see that movie `Juno' about that little pregnant girl? I wish it could have been that way for me. And I never told anybody that any of that had happened except for my husband and my daughters. But I didn't do that until they were grown up and we all cried together for that lost baby."


4 comments:

Sandy Young said...

Wow, Amy, thanks for the plug! I hadn't seen the latest thing with my name in it until I read your blog. Wow again! I hope that mothers read it and are interested. Thanks so much and I love you too you know!!
Sandy

KITE KAMP GIRL said...

I wanted the mothers to have a place where they can go. I also made it very clear that it is for mothers only. Just as adoptees need a sanctuary so do the mothers. I recently even posted to both of my email groups about both organizations. Its important for the mothers to be involved. I most definitely want that era acknowledged by our society

Go ask Alice said...

Thank you Amy for your blog about the 'EMS' and the activist coalition SMAAC. I am also one of the 'girls who went away', or truth be told, sent away, hidden, shamed and robbed of my baby in 1966. What was done to natural mothers during this era was and still is criminal. SMAAC has given voice to us senior mothers of adoption loss at a time when we will no longer be silenced concerning the carnage of the 'EMS'.
Kudos to Sandy, Robin and Amy.
Kathy

SMAAC member

Robin said...

Thank you for the good words, Amy. It isn't that often that an adoptee really "gets it." You understand from the heart. We're on our way, Kiddo! ;o)