Hey Wait a Minute…

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Before I started Law School, I thought it would be a good idea to go back and take a few university courses just to get used to studying, writing essays, etc., again. I took two courses. One was a Sociology of Collective Behaviour and the other was a Women’s Studies course. I’d never read any of the feminist literature so I thought it was an opportunity to educate myself.

Although it was not evident to me at the time I signed up, these courses has some overlapping principles.

Well duh – you may be saying. I know. I told you already, my brain was a little rusty.

In the sociology course we learned how collective behaviour in one country can have an impact on behaviour in another. The American Revolution’s influence on the French Revolution is one example of this phenomenon. (I know this image to the left isn’t from the American Revolution but I thought Uncle Sam’s pose fit.)

Although the factors that lead to the French Revolution had been brewing in France for a while, there is a strong belief that it was the American Revolution that really made those Frenchmen say “Hey, Wait a minute…” or “Attendez une minute!!!” They heard what was happening in North America and they said to themselves – If those Americans can have democracy why can’t we? If they can take on King George, why can’t we take on Louis and Marie Antoinette? Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!

Something similar happened with women but there is an ironic little twist. Most of the strides in the fight for women’s equality can be tied to the participation of women in various social causes. The women who were fighting for abolition of slavery in the 19th century and civil rights in the 20th century were not too happy that their role was to be making coffee and generally supporting (and sleeping with) the men while they did not have the full equality they were fighting for on befalf of other groups.

I was reminded of all this recently watching a Special Feature on the Season 2 DVD of Mad Men,

I will confess to being crazy about Mad Men.

Among other reasons for its historically accurate portrayal of the way women were treated in the 1960’s. The men frequently behave very badly. They make disgusting jokes in front of the women (e.g. Why is a woman like a lobster? Because all the good meat is in the tail.) that would earn most people a sexual harassment complaint these days. The women are for the most part secretaries, no matter what their level of education. It is an extremely well written show. The costumes are great, the acting is good and the use of music from the era (there is always an ironic twist) is literate and interesting.

And, OK I’ll admit, it Don Draper (Jon Hamm) ain’t bad to look at either.

But Madmen and thoughts of Don Draper have made me stray from my topic.

The special feature on the DVD is entitled Towards an Independent Woman and it is a short course in the things I have described above. How women who worked for the abolitionist cause and civil right were none the less treated like second class citizens themselves.

One of the things we learned in my Women’s Studies course was how women rarely fully face the front in photographs while men always do. Look to the left. Peggy who is trying to make it in a male world is slightly turned to the front. Joan, well, need I say more.

According to the Madmen DVD, there were African American women who were denied the opportunity to speak at the March on Washington – because they were women!!

I never knew that. It turns out black women along with white women were saying “Hey wait a minute guys, there is something wrong with this picture?”

And so I have meandered my way to the topic of adoption. What will be the “Hey Wait a Minute” moment for birth/first/natural/just plain mothers?

I have this feeling that it may have something to do with the right for open adoption records. The fight for OBC’s. I think most people see it an an adoptee issue. But is it really?

Are they the only ones who were denied the right to be who they really are?

I don’t think so.

Every woman who has lived in the closet for years because she lost a child to adoption has been denied the right to be who she really is.

And who is that?

Somebody’s mother, maybe yours – that’s who.

Sure because of circumstances, the person, their child, has another, adoptive, mother but that doesn’t negate the first mother’s role role.

I can’t help but think, when the right to OBC’s is won, and I think it will be, all those mothers who have been incredibly supportive of the fight and who lost children to adoption will say –

Hey, wait a minute!

You have recognized their rights, what about mine? What about my right to know my child and my right to be recognized as a very important part of my child’s life.

I really think that day is coming.




Nightmare on the 14th Floor

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I read that Mahatma Gandhi said – Those with the greatest awareness have the greatest nightmares.

I have been dealing, over the last three days, with my father’s very serious medical issues.

On Monday morning, he had a fall caused, we suspected at the time, by a blackout of sorts. My mother was reporting him to be unresponsive to her on occasion. They don’t always seek medical help because they fear the consequences. Loss of their independence. However, my father is on dialysis and when he goes for treatment they assess him and if they have concerns about his health they will call an ambulance and send him to emerg. His face was badly bruised from the fall and his blood pressure was very low. He was very frail and weak.

Having a negative assessment by the dialysis clinic has repercussions because in the town where they live there is no in hospital dialysis and so if he ends up in the hospital he must go to a city about an hour away. It is very hard on everyone.

On Monday, this was the scenario that played out. He was not in good shape, the dialysis clinic called an ambulance and he was sent to the emerg. Things did not go well there. It was serious. At one point he had no pulse and the doctors were talking about do not recusitate orders. And he had to travel to the city to have dialysis.

During this time, both my father and my mother spoke of my son which they never do. My father to ask if I ever heard from him. My mother to say she would be dividing some money she had saved in her will between her four grandchildren. That would mean she was including my son.

Being there in the hospital with my dad, I kept thinking back to when I had my son and how I was driven to the hospital by my mother and left to go through two and a half days of labour by myself. About how when I came home from the hospital I broke down in tears on my father’s shoulder and he did not respond in any way, did not put his arm around me. Nothing.

But that was a long time ago and I tried to put it out of my mind as I advocated for my father during his hospital stay.

It turned out that the problem may have been a mal-functioning pacemaker and so my father, after another evaluation and a re-jigged pacemaker, is now permitted to go back to the dialysis in the town where he lives. The crisis has passed.*

Tonight my husband and I returned to our condo overlooking the lake. Both of us were exhausted and I fell asleep on the couch watching tv.

While I was sleeping, I dreamt that my daughter was in an orphanage and I had gone to rescue her. When I came into the room where she was with rows and rows of babies, she saw me and her face lit up and filled with hope and I could tell she knew I had come to get her. She was little, maybe 9 months or a year old. I signalled to her not to show that she recognized me so no one would suspect I had come to rescue her.

As I looked around I started to see how sick all the other children in the orphanage were. It was a horrible place. I became very worried about her, feeling that I could rescue her but even if I did she may not be alright because conditions in the orphanage so terrible.

And then I woke up.

I don’t think the dream was really about my daughter, I think it was about my son. How even finding him cannot undo the harm that his adoption experience has done – to him.

My husband asked me if there was anything wrong and I told him that I had had a nightmare. When I told him the details of my dream, he had a great look of concern on his face.

He is pretty savvy about the impact of adoption but I could see, having been through the journey of this week with me, and having heard about my dream, he understood it all in a new way.



*The crisis passed only briefly because they called back the next day and said he has to travel to the city again.

Thanks-Giving Item #3 The kindness of Strangers

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ImageChef.comWhen I was looking for my son support appeared from all over the place. Sometimes from people I knew, sometimes from strangers and sometime from some kind of force that I was not familiar with until I went looking for my son. It seemed to me that I was being propelled along by a large hand, even when I was frightened or tired.

I have written before about seeing his picture for the first time in a yearbook in a public library and how an adoptee who just happened to be sitting next to me helped me through the experience of seeing him for the first time in my life.

Many things happened that put information in front of me that I needed. One small exmple: My son told me many things about his adoptive experience, I believed him but I also wondered if these experiences were filtered through an adolescent’s usual unhappiness with his parents. About three weeks after I started a new job, a woman appeared in my office who had also been hired recently. We ended up going for lunch and it turned out she had been my son’s family’s next door neighbour. After we discovered this, she spent the rest of the lunch saying about every five minutes, “You’re ——‘s mother!” She confirmed what he had told me. It made me sad but it was it was also helpful to hear her opinions.

So many things happened and so many people were there to support me that I felt I was meant to find him.

Here’s to all the help that the universe decides to send your way.



Thanks-Giving Item # 1 Getting to Meet My Son

Monday, October 13, 2008

ImageChef.comToday is Thanksgiving Day up here north of the 49th parallel and so I got to thinking about all the things I am thankful for in my reunion.

Perhaps you are left wondering, after my last post, would I do it again if I knew it was going to take the path it has recently.

I don’t even have to think about the answer to that one. It is: Yes!

So all this week I am going to make a list of things I was and still am thankful for.

Number One on the list is: I got to meet my son. I feel like I want to write that in capital letters. I GOT TO MEET MY SON.

I was never sure that was going to happen, although that was the plan from adoption day 1. I am oh so glad that I did get to meet him.

It was such a healing experience for me and contrary to the current stand being taken by my son, I know it was healing for him too.

I know who he is, I know where he is, I know how he is. I know he looks like my father and like me. I know sometimes he sounds just like his father, has his father’s turn of phrase and did even before he met him. I know he is smart and that we have the same sense of humour.

Yep I’m very thankful that I know all that and even if I end up just watching his life from afar, I always will be.

Peace and Happy Thanksgiving


United Under the Same Moon

Friday, October 3, 2008
From http://www.adoptionsocialworkny.com. I meant to post this on September 14th but events overtook me. I am not sure how the Adoption Social Work people of New York meant this but it is a lovely concept nonetheless and a nice idea to end the week. It is about Zhong Quie Jie which is a mid-autumn festival celebrated in China on September 14th.


It is commonly known as a Family Reunion Day in which all family members are united under the same moon. In the past there were some very formal celebration traditions in China but these days, Chinese families celebrate by sharing dinner outdoors. Together they watch the moon. Moon Cakes are prepared and eaten by all family members. Throughout the day and especially while looking at the moon, they think about their family members that are not physically present, knowing they are sharing this moment under the same moon.

When I was looking for my son I used to listen to Somewhere Out There from An American Tale a lot. This Chinese festival kind of reminds me of the sentiment of that song.

I missed it this year but I have it on the calendar for next year.