Watch This Important Video on Birth Certificate Debate in New Jersey: Great Job Pam Hasegawa!

This was submitted for New Jersey Adoption Reformers to watch, but it needs a wider audiance.

First, view the video, which is a repeat program:

NJN show on Adoption Records starts today:

Airs Sundays at 9:30 am and 6:30 pm • Tuesdays at 11:30 pm.

 ***NOTE: To watch this on your computer any time this coming week from this morning’s airing on, go to and then

Select “Adoption Records” from the box on the right, then “Watch this week’s show” in the left menu bar 🙂 – Note from Pam Hasegawa.

 ***After watching the show, please send your feedback 🙂 to:


Due Process is NJN’s award-winning weekly series on law and justice issues. Launched in 1996, Due Process is its 14th season with the same cutting edge coverage that has marked its more than decade-long tenure.

Criminal law, civil law, consumer law, civil liberties law. In thirteen years on NJN, Due Process has done them all.

Recently we’ve covered issues like the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Pew Study on Prisons, the nature of corruption in New Jersey, and the strides made towards diversity in the legal profession.

The bottom line for every Due Process episode is: Have we aired all sides of an issue? Have we achieved both balance and diversity?

Here is the Feedback I sent in:

Congratulations to adoptee and activist Pam Hasegawa for her excellent and articulate interview!

Language of others is a problem. Terms such as “Adopted child” and “Promises made to children” are demeaning. The correct term is “adoptees” and “adopted adults”. Even “adults adopted as children” puts a slant toward immaturity to a topic that requires mature thought and attitude. It is demeaning for legislators or the general public to unconsciously refer to adoptees as children. Those of us who are in this civil rights reform are not children. We are adults. Our civil rights were stolen from us when we were infants or young children. We fight for our rights as adults — as adoptees who are not children.

Right to Life has no business in the say over the birth records of individuals. This is a Civil rights cause, not a religious cause.

What also needs to be addressed is the fact that not only are adoptees’ birth certificates sealed upon the finalization of adoption, but we are given falsified birth certificates to replace our true birth certificates. These falsified birth certificates are also stealing our civil rights because they claim we were born to mothers who factually did not give birth to us as they adopted us factually.

Also, not all adoptees are illegitimate and come from mothers who are perceived as lower-class. Many of us, myself included, are full or half orphans, adopted by step parents or were born to married parents and were in foster care. Sealed records and falsified birth certificates were created to protect the illegitimate from knowing their “unfortunate” origins. My origin was not unfortunate nor was my birth embarrassing. My mother died when I was 3 months of age.

All adoptees need to be freed from oppressive legislation that has no importance in today’s suposed enlightened society.

—     Joan M Wheeler, born as Doris M Sippel, adoptee, activist, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing.

My Analysis of the Story of History’s Youngest Mother

I remember reading about this in the sixties in the Guinness Book of World Records. I was a kid myself so this story bothered me. I wasn’t shocked; the story filled me with wonder. How did it happen? I’ll never forget the image of the girl/mother with her baby and a doctor, so when I saw this photo this morning, the memory clicked. The story re-surfaced in some other research I’ve been doing.


Yes, the shock of a five year old girl being a mother is a wonder to itself as to how the human body could have made that possible. Hormonal imbalance was responsible for her remarkable development making it possible for a five year old to conceive, carry a pregnancy and give birth.

That aside, it is horrific that a man would have molested and raped a young girl — who knows how long that had been going on — for her to become pregnant. The father of the girl’s baby has never been identified. The girl and her baby lived their lives as children of a two parent household in Peru after the birth of the girl’s son in 1939.

But they were allowed to live together as a family. No one stopped them from keeping the baby boy. He was raised as a sibling to his five year old mother and the two were told the truth at age appropriate times. That means they had some sort of normalcy to their lives. That means that the boy knew the true circumstances of his birth and the young mother had to cope with being a mother at too young of an age, and, that the pregnancy resulted from rape.

We don’t know all the particulars. How did the girl’s parents explain to her that she was a mother? How did she accept that fact and what age or ages did she incrementally understand the pregnancy and birth and her own state of being a mother to a son who was five years younger than she was? How did her son accept what happened?

Obviously there was not much, if any, interference from government or social service agencies or religious agencies to make matters worse for this multi-generational family. Read the story for yourself. Then compare what happened in 1939 in Peru to today’s child care, foster care and adoption systems in the United States.

If something like that were to happen today in the good old USA, the five year old girl would be ripped from her parents and put in foster care and then freed for adoption. If her pregnancy would be allowed to continue and she carried the baby to full term birth, her child would also be ripped from her. A forced relinquishment would take place as it would be determined that the five year old mother would not be able to parent her own child (obviously) and her baby would be forced into an adoption by strangers. The entire family would be split apart by two children in foster care and two children in possibly separate adoptions. The result would be adding unecessary trauma upon the original trauma.

Separating a mother from her child, no matter how young the mother is, is not, in my opinion, the best course of action.  For that matter, separating the child/mother from her parents is not the best course of action, either, but that is what happens in America today for teen mothers and their infants. God forbid any mother younger than a teenager gets pregnant in today’s America.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

History’s Youngest Mother

Written by Alan Bellows on 03 December 2005

In 1939, a man from a small village in the Andes mountains carried his five-year-old daughter Lina into a hospital in the town of Pisco, Peru. He indicated to the doctors there that the shamans in his village had been unable to cure the large tumor that was developing in her abdomen. Upon examination, the doctors learned that the swelling was not, in fact, a tumor.

Dr. Gérado Lozada was told by Lina’s father that she had been having regular periods since age three, but they had stopped about 7 1/2 months prior to the visit. He listened to the young girl’s abdomen with a stethoscope, and heard a tiny second heartbeat. An X-Ray was also performed, after which there could be no doubt… to the doctors’ astonishment, five-year-old Lina Medina was about seven months pregnant.

Soon she was transferred to a hospital in the city of Lima, where specialists confirmed the pregnancy. Lina’s father was arrested on suspicion of incest, but due to lack of evidence, he was released. On Mother’s Day in 1939, when Lina was just under 5 years and 8 months old, her baby was delivered by cesarean section. It was a healthy 6 pound baby boy, and was named Gerardo after the doctor who originally diagnosed Lina’s pregnancy, Dr. Gérado Lozada.

Further research into the case was done by Dr. Edmundo Escomel, one of Peru’s preeminent physician-researchers at the time. He discovered that Lina’s menstruations had actually begun when she was only eight months old, much sooner than her father had originally reported. Escomel also documented the results of a test which indicated that Lina had the ovaries of a fully mature woman. He concluded that the reason for the early development of her reproductive system must must have been from a pituitary hormonal disorder. But the identity of Gerardo’s father was never determined.

For a long time, Gerardo was raised in the Medina household as though he were Lina’s baby brother. Two years after Gerardo was born, American child psychologist Mrs. Paul Kosak was permitted to speak with Lina at some length. As quoted in the New York Times in 1941, Mrs. Kosak said, “Lina is above normal in intelligence and the baby, a boy, is perfectly normal and is physically better developed than the average Mestiza (Spanish Indian) child. She thinks of the child as a baby brother and so does the rest of the family.”

The case of Lina Medina has often been alleged to be a hoax, but the story has been confirmed many times over the years by physicians in Peru and in the U.S.. Sufficient evidence was gathered that there is little room for doubt, including photos, X-Rays, biopsies, and thorough documentation by a number of doctors.

Gerardo grew up believing that Lina was his sister until he was aged ten years, when taunting by schoolmates led him to discover the truth. In 1972, when he was 33 years old, his younger brother was born… his mother Lina had married, and had a child with her new husband.

Gerardo died seven years later at age 40 from a bone marrow infection, but Lina and her husband still live in Peru, and their son currently lives in Mexico.

Further reading:
Snopes article on Lina Medina (Warning: contains a nude medical photo of the pregnant child)


Alan Bellowsis the founder, designer, and managing editor of, and he is perpetually behind schedule.

I’m a New York adoptee in shock over Illinois’ new “wonderful” law for adoptees

Wow. What a disgrace.

 I’m a New York adoptee in shock over Illinois’ new “wonderful” law for adoptees. This is a travesty.

 The law is bad enough, but the reporting is bad, too. (See below)

When I joined the adoption reform movement in 1974, public opinion and glaring misperceptions about adoptees and our natural parents were plentiful. Time has not healed these wounds. Despite our reform efforts, society still has misconstrued what we are all about, thanks to the not-so-bright reporting and myths that do not die.

 Public officials in Illinois also show a tremendous lack of concern for the public they serve. Granted, I am an outsider from another state, but in adoption reform, as with any other public concern, voices of the people should be heard. I wrote to Sara Feigenholtz and to Illinois Governor Quinn, pointing out the flaws, in what was just a few weeks ago, a bad bill. Instead of treating my letters with respect and professionalism, Sara Feigenholtz and Illinois Governor Quinn did not even respond. By sharp contrast, whenever I have written to my New York Senators or House Representatives or the Governor, my letters were always responded to with quick respectful letters, and sometimes emails, with pointed references to the content of my letters and what the legislator or governor would do to act on the issue of discussion.

When I traveling between Buffalo and Albany a few times, and met with legislators who did not always agree with adoption reformers’ messages, I witnessed both productive and not so productive meetings. Still, there was always professionalism. At the end of even a heated debate, there was professional courtesy.

 I have seen none of that professionalism with Sara Feigenholtz and Illinois Governor Quinn. They do not seem to care. I’ve received nothing; not even a letter letting me know that they don’t agree. But they did read my website.

 Why should they respond when they seem to think they are shinning stars in Illinois?

 Triona did her best to explain her side in the article below, but the reporter gave her minimal coverage. Pam and Ann made terrific comments after this article. I’m sure more will be added as this news spreads.

 I’ve listened to both sides of the debate. I’ve once supported, even recently, conditional legislation because I was not yet firm enough in my own convictions. Growth is a process. Even more so now I beleive that adoption reform MUST be for civil rights for ALL adoptees or not at all. I may lose friends over this and if I do, so be it. I care for my fellow adoptees and see how hard theyall work. And the hard work of mothers (and fathers, but mostly mothers) of adoption loss work hard, too. We all contribute to the larger goal, however small or big our contribution. I hear the pleas of desperatation. I feel the pain of defeat.

 We need more than state by state, incremental legislation. We need a cohesive civil rights fight to achieve the goal of adoptees’ recognition as free citizens to freely ask for and receive our own birth certificates. We need to stop the bull. We need to stop producing falsified birth certificates. We need progressive thought and action.

 I know we’re getting old and dying.

Is this Sophie’s Choice? Save one. Keep one. Trade the other because it is a no-win situation. Is there remorse?

We need real civil rights for adoptees. Once that is achieved, the human trafficking in children may be diminished, perhaps even halted. One group of adults will not be discriminated against in favor of others. We no longer have slavery and women can vote. It wasn’t always that way.

Here’s the complete article and comments as of right now:

 Adoptees cheer birth certificate law

‘Today is no doubt the most meaningful day of my life’

May 22, 2010

 BY ABDON M. PALLASCH Political Reporter

In a room full of adoptive parents, children and birth parents, Gov. Quinn signed a law Friday designed to let adult adoptive children finally get their birth certificates.

Birth parents who don’t want to be found will have 1½ years to get their names blacked out on their children’s birth certificates. But backers expect four out of five birth parents will opt to let their children find them.

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (center), who was adopted, rejoices Friday after Gov. Quinn signed the law that allows adult adoptees in Illinois to get their birth certificates.
(John H. White/Sun-Times)


Torment drove Feigenholtz to find birth mom

The law builds on the state’s 1999 birth registry, which facilitates adopted children finding birth parents who don’t mind being found. But the new law takes it a step further.

 “Today is no doubt the most meaningful day of my life,” said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who had already tracked down her birth mother.

 Feigenholtz cried as she said, “I will be able to walk into the state’s Office of Vital Records, plunk down my $15, and get a copy of my original birth certificate. On it will be the name of the woman who gave birth to me 53 years ago. To some, it may not sound like a big deal, but it is.”

Feigenholtz and other adoptive children and parents at the signing talked about living life with big question marks, searching faces every time they went into a mall, wondering if they could be walking past their lost child or parent.

“I have a loving wife and two children,” said former NFL fullback Howard Griffith. But despite spending holidays surrounded by his loving adoptive family and his wife and kids, “There was always a time during those holidays where I would say, ‘Who am I?’ You have all these people around, but you don’t know who you are. You don’t know where you come from. I have had the honor to meet my biological family. I was one of the fortunate ones.”

Feigenholtz said the law was modeled after similar laws in Maine and New Hampshire to balance the rights of adoptive children and parents. But some advocacy groups complain that Feigenholtz and other drafters compromised too much.

 “It does not actually open adoption records,” said Triona Guidry, whose birth mother will not let Guidry get a copy of her birth certificate. Even under the new law, the best Guidry will get is a birth certificate with her mother’s name redacted. “Equal rights apply to everyone. Everyone should have the right to go into that courthouse, pay their $15 and get their birth certificate.”

 But stripping away all privacy rights for parents might make them less inclined to give up their children for adoption in the first place, proponents of the bill say.

 “I learned early on what an emotional and tricky area of the law this us,” said state Senate President John Cullerton, who teased Feigenholtz that the reason he signed on to her crusade was that, “She said if I can pass this bill out of the Senate, she’ll vote for any bill I tell her to vote for for the rest of my life. It’s like I have my own vote over in the House. We’re going to start with that next week.”

A few key provisions of the law:

• Effective immediately, children and parents involved in adoptions that took place before 1946 can get birth certificates.

• For later cases, Feigenholtz and other state officials will spend the next 1½ years notifying birth parents and adoptive children that they need to contact the state and declare whether or not they wish to be found. Notices will go out on Illinois’ residents’ vehicle renewal stickers and other state documents. After Nov. 15, 2011, people involved in adoption can request birth certificates, and if the other parties involved have filed no objections, the birth certificates will be turned over.

• If a birth parent says no, an adoptive child can ask again in five years and the state will check to see whether the parent has changed her or his mind.


pamhasegawa wrote:
I’m responding to the language used here, which I find insensitive, diminishing and even perjorative. As an adopted person who’s been alive 67 years, I am distracted by — and resentful at — seeing the word “children” used to describe adult adopted persons throughout this article. Adoptees are the children of our parents, both birth and adoptive. But we would prefer to be called “adopted persons”, “adopted adults”, or “adoptees” rather than adopted “children.” If parents constantly referred to their adult daughter and son as “children,” they might feel some resentment heading their way. And their friends might think the parents hadn’t quite realized the level of their sons’ and daughters’ maturity.
When Rep. Feigenholtz is described as having “tracked down” her birth mother, there is an implication of “hunter and hunted.” Genealogists usually describe their research as “tracing their family roots” rather than “tracking down.”
It would be helpful if reporters who write about adoption reform could consider the implications of language they use in describing adopted adults and their efforts to know who they are and, if they wish, to learn about and perhaps find the parents who gave them life.5/22/2010 9:03 PM CDT on

  ann wilmer wrote:Despite the media hooplah, it is based on a complete misunderstanding of what this bill actually does.#1 This is NOT an open records bill; this is a search and reunion bill.#2 Birth parent vetoes, which prevent an adoptee from obtaining his/her own birth certificate, are mischaracterized as contact preferences. It is what it is — an opportunity to veto adoptees’ rights.#3 Birth parents sign away ALL rights when they place a child for adoption. There never was a right to anonymity. Children in foster care who, for one reason or other are not adopted, go through life with an OBC that names their birth mother at least.Not a single adoption reform group supported this legislation. The reporter neglected to mention that Ms. Guidry, who is quoted, represents Adoption Reform Illinois and the Green Ribbon Campaign for Open Records in Illinois.

But I do thank the reporters for illuminating something that eluded me despite several years association with the sponsor — she does not grasp the difference between equal access and search and reunion. Clearly it was all about finding her birth mother, whereas adoption reform groups are only asking that adopted adults be afforded equal access to their own birth records.

As it stands, this bill only provides access for those adoptees who might reasonably presume their biological parents are dead. For all others, it requires the free (and largely worthless) state registry or paying $400-plus for confidential intermediary services to an organization who owes its livelihood to this bill. Non-refundable payment-in-advance, does not a guarantee obtaining an original birth certificate, it just engages social workers to search for birth parents of an adult adoptee.

I, for one, did not want the state to search for my birth parents. I just wanted access to my identity. Like many adoptees, I had to search to find out anything, and I was successful despite state efforts to keep secrets.

This bill is a bogus waste of state resources and an insult to adult adoptees. I’m almost certain that all the folks trotted out to praise the bill have located their families of origin and are among the minority of adoptees who are more interested in reunion than their own identities.

5/22/2010 1:52 PM CDT on

  ihatepakis wrote:good!5/22/2010 11:40 AM CDT on

  red pill wrote:Nice photo op for Quinn. He still isn’t getting my vote, though. Any good “Green” candidates out there? This could be your year!5/22/2010 11:11 AM CDT on

  mixed opinion wrote:I am very happy about this but also a little disappointed. It should be every childs right to know who their blood parents are. This is a very serious thing when talking about potential medical issues. Their is always a choice about developing a relationship, but their isn’t a choice about inheriting potential chronic medical conditions. Kids should know where they came from. Like I said, a relationship is always a choice of both parties.5/22/2010 9:33 AM CDT on



Study Confirms: Fathers Suffer Postpartum Depression

Considering that my natural father had a family of four children with one on the way when it was discovered through x-rays that his pregnant wife had a large abdominal tumor, I’d say that he had more than his share of stress in the few weeks leading up to my birth. After my premature birth, I spent the next six weeks in an incubator while my mother lay dying. Nearly one month later, my mother died.

What father would not experience depression under these circumstances?

Toss in to the equation his decision to relinquish his newborn daughter to adoption and there is a real mess of emotions.

There has never been a day or a moment during my reunion with my father that I ever blamed him for my relinquishment. Expressing my anger and feelings of abandonment, yes, I did that. Expressing my sadness, yes, yes, I did that. Did he truly abandon me? No, I don’t believe he did. It feels as though he did and that is a problem for many parents of adoption loss to understand about their adopted-out offspring.

But that’s not the point here.

The reason I never blamed my father is that, even at age 18, when I first met him, I instinctually knew he lived through horrendous circumstances at a time when a father should be happy. My birth was not a happy occasion.

Radical acceptance of the circumstances surrounding my birth and relinquishment is all I can do. I can’t fully understand, but I can empathize.  

Under normal circumstances, a father does, indeed, suffer postpartum depression, so confirms a new study. Here is the article in its entirety:

Study Finds Dads Suffer Postpartum Depression

by Joanne Silberner

May 18, 2010

While it’s been widely known that some mothers suffer from postpartum depression, a series of studies over the years have suggested that new fathers may become depressed after childbirth, too.

Now an analysis of 43 earlier studies validates the fathers’ experiences with statistics. About 10 percent of men whose partners are having babies suffer depression during the time period ranging from three months before the baby is born through the baby’s first birthday. That’s twice the usual rate of depression in men, and it’s in the same range as postpartum depression in women.

The riskiest period for the father is when the baby is 3 to 6 months old, according to the study, which is published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study’s conclusion is well supported, says Gregory Simon, a psychiatrist with Group Health Research Institute, a nonprofit in Seattle, and likely to be a surprise to men and to many health care professionals.

“The traditional thinking was postpartum depression among women was related to hormonal changes,” he says. But both he and study author James Paulson of the Eastern Virginia Medical School say this theory is not completely nailed down. And this study puts some pressure on researchers to figure out what exactly is going on.

A lot of fathers, as well as medical professionals, don’t recognize paternal depression as a problem. “I think that part of that has to do with the belief that most people believe that depression in women is caused by hormone changes,” says Paulson.

Debunking The Myth

Pregnancy-related depression comes as a surprise to most men it hits. Psychologist Will Courtenay of Berkeley, Calif., has made a career of helping men with depression and maintains the website He says there’s a myth in this country that men don’t get depressed, and that’s a danger.

“The cultural myth that men don’t get depressed also communicates to men that they shouldn’t get depressed — or at least, not express it. And so they don’t. They’re more likely than women to try to hide their depression or to talk themselves out of it,” he says.

That’s what Joel Schwartzberg, 41, a producer with PBS, did. “Before my son was born, I had expectations of joy,” he says. “I thought I would sail through the whole process. But it was like a wrecking ball on my life.”

Schwartzberg was sad, dejected and irritable. He started eating and gained about 10 pounds. He eventually came out of it, but not before the stress led to the end of his marriage. He wrote about his experience in Newsweek in the hopes of letting other fathers know they’re not alone.

The Stress Of Parenting

There are lots of things that can be affecting fathers just like they might affect mothers, says study author Paulson. “Going from being a single person to a parent is a real shock,” he says. “And certainly both parents trying to cope with a big change in life can be stressful.”

There’s the financial stress of having a child. And Paulson speculates that the spike in depression when the baby hits 3 months of age may be due to having both parents back at work as parental leave ends.

And of course, there’s the sleep disruption that goes along with parenting. “Sleep disruption and sleep deprivation is a risk factor for depression, and sleep deprivation among new parents is the norm,” says psychiatrist Simon.

Paulson warns against ignoring the signs of depression in fathers. “There’s evidence growing that depression in fathers is negative for children and increases the risk of emotional and behavioral problems,” he says.

But there’s help for new fathers who are hurting. Treatment options include talk therapy, group counseling and drug treatment — or just open and frank discussion within the family.

And the new study may help by raising awareness about the issue, says Simon, so that new mothers know their partners may be having problems, so men know to seek help, and so health care professionals recognize the symptoms.

I can’t deal with the magnitude of your problems so I’m angry with you

I came across a note the other day. It was written during the editing process of my book, Forbidden Family. One of my early editors told me his initial reaction to the contents of the book. He summed up the frustrations of the general public when confronted with the particulars of my adoption/reunion process:

I can’t deal with the magnitude of your problems so I’m angry with you.

Don’t talk about it.

Don’t write about it.

If you don’t talk about it I won’t have to deal with it.

I don’t think I can handle it my own life.

If it happened to me I couldn’t handle it.


Normal people tense up dealing with their own lives. Normal stress adds up the stress-level scale. People break down going through divorce, death of a parent, or a job loss. Some people don’t recover or develop stress-induced physical or mental illness. When adoption trauma is added to normal life stresses, the results are of a magnitude that are not even indicated on social work or psychiatric life stress scales.

Is adoption trauma discounted? Is adoption trauma off the charts?

Those of us who have been affected by adoption know all too clearly, we suffer unbearable anguish of stress brought on by relinquishment of a newborn or older child, or adoption search, or adoption reunion, or complications of reunion and rejection and loss. Our life partners, significant others, our spouses and children may not even understand what we must live with each day. Communication becomes a struggle with non-adopted people, or with normal parents.

My message to normal people: It could be worse. If you lost your child to adoption, if you were adopted, on top of all of your other problems, would you be able to cope?

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.



I Did Not Obtain My Deceased Mother’s Hospital Records Illegally

I write this blog post to clear my name in accusations that I illegally obtained my deceased mother’s pregnancy and birthing records that lead to her death.

I acquired my deceased mother’s records and my birth records through legal channels.

This past week, I made a phone call to the Medical Records Department and was told that anyone may obtain medical records with proper authorization. I was also told that my mother’s and my records have long ago been destroyed.

The following transactions occurred decades before the HIPAA laws came into existence. Even with HIPAA laws, with a note from the deceased next of kin, the medical records could still be released to a doctor and then to a patient of that doctor.

When I was in college in Erie, Pennsylvania, from 1974 to 1978, I had several medical issues. In consultation with my doctor, he requested my deceased mother’s pregnancy records that lead to her death in 1956 and my birth records in 1956. Medical Records Department of Millard Fillmore Hospital wrote back to my doctor:

11-23-77 MFillmoreHos note DrDou


As the above note states in my handwriting: “my father, Leonard J Sippel, gave me his authorization on 12-26-77. The handwritten note was hand delivered to my doctor.”

On 2-3-78, the Medical Records Department of Millard Fillmore Hospital sent the following letter, and all records of my deceased mother and my birth records, to my doctor:

2-3-78 MFillmoreHos letter DrDou


~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

Unitarian Universalist Church Does Not Quite Get it About Mothers Day and Adoption

I write today’s blog post from the point of view of being the daughter of two mothers: one who gave me life and the other who raised me.

It is not easy being the daughter of two mothers, especially since my time with my first mother was so short. She died when I was three months old. She was dying during her pregnancy with me — a death that resulted in my father’s grief and belief that his only option and the best choice of action he could do for me was to relinquish me to the total care of another set of parents.

I do not believe that was the best choice. I needed to be with the family I was born into.

But since I was raised instead by a stranger who became my mother through a legal decree, I struggle through the sadness and loss each and every day of my life. I grieve for the family I lost because of adoption. I grieve for the loss of a mother who left the earth far too early. I grieve for the mother who adopted me as she was misguided in her possessiveness. She clings to me now in a nursing home. I give her what I can, but mostly, what’s done is done. I’m sad for her suffering and pending death. I also have a step mother who is married to my natural father.

Mother’s Day is a day of sadness for me.

I start each Sunday, including Mother’s Day, by attending a service at my local UU Church.

It’s bad enough that a dear friend of mine, a mother of adoption loss, will not attend our local UU Church (she used to) for the hypocrisy there. I agree with her. There’s wealthy adoptive parents who give lip-service about the natural parents of the adopted children they hold dear. Like the adoptive mother who got a standing ovation for adopting a three year old Haitian earthquake survivor. And don’t get me started about the abundance of gays and lesbians at church who use ANONYMOUS sperm and eggs and surrogate mothers and don’t seem to care that they willingly withhold knowledge of the absent genetic parent(s) to the children so created. In the face of all of that, I still attend the Buffalo Unitarian Universalist Church. My friend doesn’t. I miss her. I honor her for her integrity to stay away.

I look beyond these human failings, even our minister who spoke awhile back about the appropriations of other religions, or rather, the miss-appropriations, without even noticing, or caring, that many people appropriate other people’s children with a sense of entitlement.

It is not easy to look beyond these in-your-face adoption assaults.

I am at this church weekly for the spiritual, intellectual, and suburb musical performances of our choir and musicians.

Today’s guest minister, Reverend Sally Hamlin, participated in a service inspired and encouraged by Debra Hafner, an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, sexologist and Director of the Religious Institute.

This was the responsive reading:

A Responsive Reading for Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers and caregivers everywhere – women who have given birth, women who have adopted children, women who care for the children of others.

We affirm the nurturing love of mothers, and the blessings of parenthood.

We pray for a society in which pregnancy is freely chosen, and mothers and children receive the care and support they need.

We affirm the sanctity of life and the moral agency of women.

We mourn the 1,500 women around the world who will die today in childbirth, or from the complications of pregnancy, because they lack basic health services.

We envision a world where childbirth is safe, and all children are wanted and loved.

Together, we break the silence surrounding women and their partners who suffer infertility, pregnancy loss, still births, and difficulties in adoption.

We bless them and hold them in love.

We celebrate the many ways that people create families and become mothers in our communities.

We call for a commitment to make every day Mother’s Day.

© Religious Institute, 2010, May 9


And this bulletin was read out loud:

Global Maternal Health

* Every minute, a woman dies in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications – at least half a million women worldwide every year.

* 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing nations. More than half occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and one-third in South Asia.

* Most maternal deaths take place during labor, delivery or in the immediate post-partum period. More than 3.4 million newborns die within the first week of life.

* More than one million children are left motherless every year due to maternal deaths. Children are three to 10 times more likely to die within two years of the mother’s death.

* The leading cause of death for girls ages 15-19 worldwide is pregnancy.

* There is no single cause of death and disability for men that compares with the magnitude of maternal death and disability.

* Doubling current global investments in family planning and pregnancy-related health care (to approximately $24.6 billion) could save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants every year.

The Rachel Sabbath Initiative: Saving Women’s Lives supports the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 5, which focuses on improving maternal health. The Religious Institute calls on congregations across the country to raise awareness and support for the UN’s targets of reducing maternal mortality worldwide and achieving universal access to reproductive health care by 2015. This initiative is named for the matriarch Rachel, who died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16-20).

Religious Institute, 21 Charles Street, Suite 140, Westport, CT 06880. Join the Faithful Voices Network at


In an effort to spread the word that maternal health is important, the UU Church sorely misses the mark on the focus of adoption.

Here is what I AM ADDING to the above (in bold and italics):

We don’t have specific statistics, but for every adoptee there is a mother who gave birth. That mother suffers the loss of her child to adoption but society does not recognize nor acknowledge that loss. There are millions of childless mothers (because there are at least 6 to 7 million adoptees in America) who grieve for the loss of their babies and who dread Mother’s Day because they were made feel shame and guilt for even being a mother in the first place. We must practice Adoption Prevention.


A Responsive Reading for Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, we honor mothers and caregivers everywhere – women who have given birth, women who have adopted children, women who care for the children of others.  We also honor mothers who have lost their infants to unwanted relinquishment to the adoption industry by resolving to end this practice of taking other mothers’ children as our own.


We affirm the sanctity of life and the moral agency of women.

We mourn the 1,500 women around the world who will die today in childbirth, or from the complications of pregnancy, because they lack basic health services. We mourn the countless women around the world who suffer the moral indignation of disrespecting the pregnancies and infant births by the unwanted snatching of their infants at the moment of birth at Crisis Pregnancy Centers and Birthing Rooms that allow adopting couples to witness the sacred moment of birth, and mothers who are victims of Open Adoption scams and Open Adoption Agencies. We mourn the scorn still inflicted upon young teens and young women who are not married and humiliated into giving up their wanted babies because society tells them they cannot parent their own children.


We envision a world where childbirth is safe, and all children are wanted and loved.

Together, we break the silence surrounding women and their partners who suffer infertility, pregnancy loss, still births, and difficulties in adoption. Difficulties in adopting other women’s children? We break the silence that women who desperately want their children are taken advantage of by the cruelty of the adoption industry — women who want their children ought to not suffer their children ripped from their arms into the waiting arms of adopting parents. If and only IF a child does not have caring parents is GUARDIANSHIP NOT ADOPTION ever a substitute for motherhood. In cases of abuse and neglect, removing a child from harm is best, but working toward reunification and stabilization of that family unit is primary to the wholeness of that mother and her children.


We bless them and hold them in love.

We celebrate the many ways that people create families and become mothers in our communities. We celebrate to every mother the right to be mothers in life, and to be named on their child’s birth certificate, not dishonored by sealing and falsifying that document. This means that we honor the facts of birth by issuing ONLY 1 true Certificate of Live Birth and strive for the abolition of the amended birth certificate in adoption; such a document is a mockery of motherhood. Ultimately we strive for the abolition of adoption itself for every mother who gives birth and who wants her child needs to be a mother and every child needs their mother. For adoptive mothers everywhere, we strive for the acceptance that the role of raising children can be handled by a caregiver who is a guardian who does not usurp the dignity of another mother by taking her child.


I have no choice but to accept that I have two mothers: one by birth and one by adoption. My lesson learned from my life lived in this reality is to strive for a better world in which the sanctity of motherhood is respected everywhere on this planet. What might appear to be harsh to the adoptive mothers out there is actually a plea: stop trying to own someone else’s child and if you must fulfill your desire to be in a parenting role, be a guardian and not an adoptive mother. A guardian respects that child’s identity and true mother. Adoption, by its very nature, disrespects both the child and her natural mother by destroying the natural mother-child bond. Caring and love in a parenting role can be achieved by guardianship. Offended? I am offended that my life as the daughter of my mother who died in my infancy was not honored nor respected because of the all-almighty power of adoption.

~ ~ ~ Joan M Wheeler, BA, BSW, author of Forbidden Family: A Half Orphan’s Account of Her Adoption, Reunion and Social Activism, Trafford Publishing, Nov 2009.

PS — See this post: Happy Birthmother Day or Happy Adopter Day; and this quote from AustinHolistic : Which makes me think, if a woman wants her child, we need to provide emotional support, financial support, and psychological support for women who want their children: and this post with this quote: There is no paradox, no contradiction and certainly no upside in having been on the loosing end of the adoption exchange.