[Friday Wrap Up, Part II!]: 26.5

So I did a new thing this week, which was to write my [Friday Wrap Up] before Friday…gaspI know! But there were so many things already, I felt I had enough for a post.

Then I found a bunch of new things…so I’m back, to share a few more pieces.

Related to the theme of changing narratives around adoption…Reuters has blown it out of the ballpark with this stunning, heartbreaking series that investigates the underground “re-homing” scene. 

Through Yahoo and Facebook groups, parents and others advertise the unwanted children and then pass them to strangers with little or no government scrutiny, sometimes illegally, a Reuters investigation has found. It is a largely lawless marketplace. Often, the children are treated as chattel, and the needs of parents are put ahead of the welfare of the orphans they brought to America.

The practice is called “private re-homing,” a term typically used by owners seeking new homes for their pets. Based on solicitations posted on one of eight similar online bulletin boards, the parallels are striking.

I don’t know which is more sad to me, the fact that this is happening at all…or the fact that it’s been happening for years and only now are people starting to get it. Some people might argue that articles like this will deter “good, well-intentioned” people from considering adoption, increasing the number of children in a broken system. This argument fails to do justice to the fact that it’s a broken system…and the only way we can start changing that system is by shining a strong light on it, exposing the dark side and that has gone unexamined.

The Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative has issued an official statement in response:

The APRC is acutely aware of the unethical and dangerous “rehoming”* practices that have occurred for more than a decade. We have expressed our concerns with alarm. We look forward to collaborating, from the perspective of adult adopted persons, with other powerful change agents to fully, appropriately, and ethically address adoption disruptions and dissolutions.

*Please note: while the APRC recognizes “disruption,” “dissolution,” “displacement” and “re-homing” as industry terms, APRC members regard these terms as sanitized and rationalizing practices terminating the parent/child relationship. While using industry vernacular in this statement we do not endorse their usage for the reasons indicated.

 The ‘Pullout Generation’ is Here. What Do Sex Educators Think?

In response to this New York Magazine article, RH Reality Check’s Martha Kempner offers this follow-up on the idea of “pulling out”, or coitus interruptus, as a method of birth control. Kempner focuses in on research around efficacy of withdrawal, condoms, and other contraceptives, pointing out the obvious, which is withdrawal, when practiced by someone who really knows their body well and has good self-control, is still better than no contraception at all.  Kempner quotes Deb Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth:

“I believe that young people should be given honest, accurate information. They have the right to all of the information and when empowered with that information are more able to take agency over their sexual health. That means we should teach youth about withdrawal as an option when they don’t have anything else with them. Withdrawal is much more effective at preventing pregnancy than using nothing. To withhold that information is misguided.”

On the theme of health disparities, this is probably not new news…but still, glad to see folks are bringing it up:

‘Baby-Friendly Hospitals’ Bypass Black Communities

A Women’s eNews analysis finds that 45 percent of U.S. Baby-Friendly hospitals are in cities and towns that have African American populations of 3 percent or less.

A full 83 percent of U.S. Baby-Friendly hospitals are in communities where the African American portion of the population is 13 percent or less.

This geographic segregation of breastfeeding care and support may play a significant role in the lower breastfeeding rates among African American mothers, which in turn means the mothers and the infants do not enjoy the health benefits of breastfeeding.

And finally, this infographic on the geography of unintended pregnancy from Huffington Post, which really speaks for itself:

Native Generations

I was going to write about this in my [Friday Wrap Up] for the week, but an hour later it became clear to me that this deserved to be its own blog post. So, with a full heart, here it is.

A friend of mine shared this video exploring the Urban Indian Health Institute’s Native Generations project, which aims to increase awareness about disparities in AI/NA infant mortality. The video eloquently argues that there is value in prenatal and postpartum support that is culturally relevant to the needs of the AI/NA community–that in fact, this kind of support is a crucial piece of promoting strong, healthy families. The history of forced removal of AI/NA children from their families has resulted in several generations of the community being disconnected from their cultural heritage and parenting traditions, exacerbating the health disparities that are prevalent in Native communities across the country.

One of the goals of the UIHI’s project is to create safe places where the AI/NA urban community can come together to rebuild those connections. They understand the interconnections between physical and emotional health on both an individual and community level. Again, the power of group care and support is evident throughout this video. These are the spaces where new parents feel supported in their own journeys, where they can acknowledge their whole selves and receive health care that is not just “culturally competent” or “culturally sensitive,” but culturally affirming.

It makes me tear up a little just thinking about it, because as a Korean adoptee, I couldn’t help but be struck by some of the parallels between the practice of removal of AI/NA children and the trans-national/trans-racial adoption. A second generation of Korean adoptees in both the US and Europe are now growing up and becoming parents, trying to figure out how we want to raise our children. We straddle several cultures and also have our own unique adoptee culture…but I know several adult adoptees who have spoken about that deep longing that emerges upon becoming a parent to reconnect to their own roots. It’s very powerful stuff. Jerilyn Church, former ED of the American Indian Health & Family Services, is quoted in the video

Many of our families are second and third generation removed from our homelands…[they] are grandchildren of those who survived boarding schools. I find a real reverence and respect for that history and all also this collective longing to heal that history.

I think there are many adoptees who would recognize that collective longing–it often emerges when we become parents ourselves and are faced with the reality of a huge missing piece of our family history that we can’t pass on to our children.

To be clear: I am not saying that trans-national adoptees face the same systemic oppression and disparities that the AI/NA community does. Adoptees often benefit from white privilege and in fact, adoptees are the unwitting beneficiaries of an immigration system that favors them and their (often white, middle and upper-class) parents over the many thousands of immigrants that struggle to make it in the U.S. But, I do see parallels in the experience of cultural disconnect, and it is from this place that my heart really resonates with the programs that the UIHI are creating to re-establish that community and support new families. This is a video that is going to stick with me for a while…and I think it is going to deeply inform the way I approach my work as a midwife working with families during the childbearing year.

30 Years and 40 Years

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It comes 8 days after my birthday. I didn’t know that growing up. In fact, I don’t honestly remember the first time I learned about Roe v. Wade.

My birthday this year was a quiet day, as I prefer it. I like to spend the day reflecting on the past year and the one I’m about to dive into, setting goals and giving thanks. It’s also a day that I find challenging, for a lot of reasons, some of which will unfold in this blog post.

I celebrated the Roe v. Wade anniversary this Tuesday night at a wonderful gathering I helped facilitate. Doulas and other reproductive rights allies came to share stories and discuss the ways in which doula care intersects with abortion.

There was talk of rights and legality, financial obstacles and lack of providers. We explored language and stigma and the ways in which stories continue to be silenced. We shared hopes and visions for new directions in the reproductive justice movement…and fears that access to safe abortion care will continue to slip away, one state at a time.

All week I’ve been reading. Oh, so many articles and blog posts, rich with perspective on the challenges that we face as supporters and advocates for empowered decision-making around abortion and pregnancy. I’ve been especially relishing the Strong Families series Still Wading.

But there’s been a story brewing quietly this week in my heart, one which intersects in ways perhaps at odds with the national conversation about abortion. The seeds of this post actually stretch back to those weeks last fall when Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock opened their mouths and made awful, untrue comments about pregnancy and rape. I couldn’t write about it at the time, I was so livid. But I’m ready now.

The story is this:

I am an adult adoptee. I was born to a woman who, if my adoption files are correct, was raped. And I am the result of that violence. My birth mother could have chosen to have an abortion. Although it was illegal in Korea at the time (and still is), she could have found someone who would have been willing to do it for her. But she did not. Instead, she carried me for nine months, gave birth to me, and then relinquished her parental rights.

All my life, I have heard people argue that adoption is a way out of having to have an abortion. It’s the morally superior option to dealing with an unintended pregnancy that one cannot parent. I have been told, to my face, that I should be grateful that my birth mother didn’t abort me, but chose the gift of life instead. She made the ultimate sacrifice, they say. You are lucky to be alive.

And I can’t argue with that. I am grateful, grateful beyond words that I am alive, that I am loved and able to love. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and send gratitude.

But I continue to hold firm to my belief that everyone should have access to safe, legal abortion if they should want it, without regard to the reasons why. I don’t care if someone’s been raped or not…if they do not feel ready to carry a pregnancy to term, they should not have to. Period.

This will undoubtedly make many, many people feel uncomfortable. It is perhaps the defining paradox of my life. I am here on this earth, moving towards my dream of becoming a midwife and potentially abortion provider, because a single woman choose not to have an abortion. People will ask me why.

I’ve already answered that in a previous blog post…but this month, as I celebrated my 30th birthday and then the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade a week later, I find myself coming back to this singular question:

What if my birth mother could have truly and freely chosen a different option?

Which of course, leads to others: What if she really wanted to have an abortion? What would it have meant for her to have access to safe, legal abortion. And not just safe and legal, but compassionate, understanding abortion care? Or, what if, in her heart of hearts, she had desired to parent? What would it have meant for her to live in a country that supports single mothers instead of shaming them?

In my heart of hearts, I could never begrudge a woman the right to choose to end a pregnancy, after rape, or in any other context. Nor can I pass judgement on a woman who decides she wants to parent, even if the circumstances are difficult. As an adoptee, I can embody these paradoxical truths: that I love my life and that I would have supported my birth mother in having an abortion if she wanted one.

When I think about why I’m doing this work–as a full spectrum doula, as a pregnancy options counselor, and future midwife–it is in part because of my life-long connection to my birth mother and the choices she lacked. I have this vision of her at age 18. Young, pregnant and without any support. What if there had been a compassionate midwife there to hold her hand, wipe her tears, and tell her about all her options? How might her life have been different?

I want to be that midwife. I want to hold those hands, wipe those tears, and provide compassionate care that helps people live the lives they want to live. I pray that this is a legacy that would make her proud.

Black Women Birthing Justice

This is going to be the most amazing anthology ever…and you could be a contributor!

Birthing Justice – Saving Our Lives: Black Women, Pregnancy and Childbirth

Edited by Julia C. Oparah, Shanelle K. Matthews and Alicia D. Bonaparte  (A project of Black Women Birthing Justice)

Birthing Justice – Saving Our Lives will be an anthology of critical essays and personal testimonies that explore African American, African, Caribbean and diasporic women’s experiences of childbirth from a radical social justice perspective. We seek writings by midwives, doulas, natural childbirth advocates, reproductive rights activists, moms and moms-to-be, sociologists, feminist and Africana studies scholars, and historians that document state control and medical violence against black pregnant women, revitalize our birthing traditions, and honor and record empowering and sacred birth experiences. We are particularly interested in essays that document activism and resistance.

This book is so desperately needed to fill major gaps in the history of birth and activism in the birth community in the United States. I am so, so excited to see this call for submissions…and now I’m all fired up to start exploring more about the history of midwifery in Asian-American communities in the US. There’s some limited research out there, but it’s hard to find. I’ve found a few interesting articles on midwifery in S.Korea right now…and hope to discover more when I (fingers crossed!) go to study in Seoul this spring!