Newly Discovered Family Keepsake: 1956 Baby Shower Card

In clearing out the attic over the past several months, I’ve discovered a few items that hold opposite meanings for myself and my adoptive mother: Greeting cards. But not just any type of greeting card. There are Baby’s First Christmas, Baby’s First Birthday, Baby’s First Valentine. The one that struck me the most, however, was the 1956 Baby Shower Card that reveals the promise of “increasing” happiness with the addition of a baby girl but ignores reality of loss of that baby’s family of birth. Such is the reality of adoption.

Here’s the front of the card:

1956 Baby Shower Card

Here’s the inside showing the cut-a-way window. The last names of the “girls at the shop” have been deleted.

 1956 Baby Shower Card - inside 1a

Here’s another view of the inside of the card with the secondary card opened:

1956 Baby Shower Card - inside 2 

 Note the words:

“A darling little baby girl

To steal your hearts away —“

 Evidently, as a child, I stole their hearts away.

Definitely, they knowingly stole me from my family.

I gained an adoptive family, but lost the family that I had.

It is inhumane what was done to me and my siblings in the name of adoption. They did it – my adoptive parents – knowingly, willfully and intentionally. They did it out of love. And with Jesus’ blessings. Good Catholics they were.

And for this I am to be grateful.

No question about it, for me, there is no way to get through this pain but radical acceptance of the reality. Do I need to mention that I have no forgiveness for the parents and extended family involved with the coverup of the truth at my expense? I am not required to give forgiveness as it was not earned, nor even asked for, except by my adoptive father immediately after he spoke with my natural father on the phone in 1974 just days after I was found.

For whose happiness did I enter their family? Theirs. I was manipulated and tricked into believing the life they fed me. I developed close attachments and love with aunts, uncles and cousins who later turned out to hate me (but other cousins and aunts and uncles were not that way). I loved my adoptive parents, but I was cheated out of life with the siblings I was never supposed to know. Meanwhile, my natural father lost his newborn daughter and his other children lost their baby sister.

Let this be a lesson to adoptive parents everywhere: be as honest as you possibly can with your adoptee. Honesty is the best policy. For when there are secrets and spiteful rage to keep the adoptee from ever knowing the truth, the adoptee suffers at the hands of the very people who are suppose to love that adoptee unconditionally. Withholding vital information and preventing a minor child contact with full or half siblings is a cruelty worthy to be called child abuse of both the adoptee and her siblings left behind.

Yes, today my elderly adoptive mother shares her joyous memories with me of the day she and my father “got” me. She talks of the baby shower that welcomed me into the family. I acknowledge her joys. This is her journey through life. I try to make her as comfortable as possible by listening to her.

I also acknowledge my profound sadness at what I lost: my entire family of birth. My father, my siblings, my aunts, uncles and cousins, and I lost my natural mother due to her early death, a death that lead to my father’s mistaken belief that the only course of action was to give me up to a completely closed adoption. We lived less than six miles apart, but this magical social construct of adoption robbed me of my family, robbed my siblings of their baby sister, and robbed my father of his daughter. The only ones who got away with any happiness and security were my adoptive parents. They got the baby they could not produce on their own. Eighteen years of infertility and voila – a baby is suddenly available by the death of her mother. Take the baby and run. Have a baby shower and pamper that baby girl with all their love. And for what? For 18 years of lies to the adoptee and 36 years of hell to pay after I was found by the very siblings my adoptive mother so adamantly declared I should never know.

The past 36 years have been filed with accusations that I have been disloyal and ungrateful. Why? For accepting the truth of my birth and adoption? Why is it always the adoptee who is expected to accept other people’s viewpoints and opinions? Is it worth it to be permanently separated by arbitrary laws and social constructs to create a falsehood within  which the adoptee is expected to live? No, it is not.

I have been told with flippant comments from non-adoptees that “that’s the way it was done back then”.

So? That doesn’t make it right. I am the one to suffer the consequences of other people’s actions. My life as an adoptee was not worth the cocoon-sheltered childhood and the emotional and psychological abusive adult life I have had to endure because of adoption.

Now I must slowly say goodbye to a misguided elderly adoptive mother, make her journey to life’s passing as gentle as possible, and struggle to comprehend the devastation left behind.

~ ~ ~ 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.

 

 

Obituary: Annette Baran dies at 83; crusader for open adoption

There are two published obituaries for Annette Baran. One is in the LA Times and the other is in KansasCity.com. Both are open to comments. The Kansas City Obituary is a reprint of the LA Times article. Please note the separate link for comments to the Kansas City article. Thanks to Mirah Riben for the notice of these publications.

http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/18/2092196/annette-baran-author-crusader.html#ixzz0u8kicSB6

http://www.kansascity.com/2010/07/18/2092196/annette-baran-author-crusader.html#Comments_Container

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-0719-annette-baran-20100719,0,2544355.story

 

The clinical social worker and psychotherapist co-wrote an influential book that helped popularize the argument that an adoptee’s knowledge of birth parents is crucial to his or her identity.

 Annette Baran | 1927-2010Annette Baran, seen at home in 1981, was a clinical social worker and psychotherapist who co-wrote “The Adoption Triangle,” an influential 1978 book credited with giving early shape to the open-adoption movement. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times / July 18, 2010)

By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times

July 19, 2010

Living with a secret is psychologically destructive — that concept was nearly an anthem for Annette Baran, a clinical social worker and psychotherapist who co-wrote “The Adoption Triangle,” an influential 1978 book credited with giving early shape to the open-adoption movement.

Baran died July 11 at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica of complications from an infection, said her son Joshua. She was 83 and lived in Santa Monica.

“If there ever was an activist who changed the world of adoption, it was Annette,” said Joyce Maguire Pavao, founder of the Center for Family Connections, an educational and counseling center in Cambridge, Mass., that specializes in adoptions.

From the late 1950s to 1974, Baran was director of adoptions at was then called Vista Del Mar Child-Care Service in West Los Angeles and placed more than a thousand babies, her family said.

Her acceptance of working in an era of sealed records and secrecy surrounding adoption eroded after a birth mother insisted on meeting the potential adoptive parents, Baran later said.

As Baran watched the back-and-forth between the couple and birth mother, she said she thought, “This is pretty good. Why does this have to be secret?”

As time went on, she also encountered many adoptees searching for their birth mothers who were in psychological pain, said Betty Jean Lifton, an adoption reform advocate.

“She thought, ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ It really radicalized her,” Lifton said. “She was waking from the great sleep that social workers were in and realizing how secrecy in closed adoption affected people.”

Moved to crusade for open adoption, Baran joined a novel research project started by a UCLA psychiatrist, Dr. Arthur Sorosky, who noticed that his patients who had been adopted tended to have identity problems. Another Vista Del Mar social worker, Reuben Pannor, collaborated with them.

When they solicited opinions on open adoption — the idea that birth parents and adopted family know who each other are — they received more than 600 letters and interviewed many of the writers.

“The Adoption Triangle: The Effects of the Sealed Record on Adoptees, Birth Parents, and Adoptive Parents” resulted from that study. It helped popularize the argument that an adoptee’s knowledge of birth parents is crucial to his or her identity.

Adopted adults “told us the reunion with birth parents made them feel normal and whole, for they finally experienced genealogical connections,” the researchers wrote in 1980 in a letter to The Times.

For birth parents, there is “always a lingering pain for that child given up for adoption,” they wrote. “Birth parents do not know if that child is alive or dead, well or ill.”

“All adoptees, if they have a shred of intelligence, have to assume somebody dumped them,” Baran told the Chicago Tribune in the 1985, displaying the forthrightness that was a hallmark. Knowing about their background can ease those fears, she said.

The book significantly altered people’s attitudes about adoption, according to several histories of adoption in the United States. The authors “quickly became the intellectual patron saints of the adoption rights movement,” E. Wayne Carp wrote in the 2000 book “Family Matters.”

Today, varying levels of open-adoption practices have become the norm, said Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption.

In the early 1980s, Baran was again ahead of her time when she began investigating the secrecy surrounding birth by artificial insemination, colleagues said.

With Pannor, Baran interviewed donor offspring, donors and parents years after the fact and wrote the 1989 book “Lethal Secrets: The Shocking Consequences and Unsolved Problems of Artificial Insemination.” The authors advocated for a child’s right to know and were critical of the business of artificial insemination.

“No child is the product of a teaspoon full of sperm,” Baran said more than once while arguing that donor records should be made public. “A child has a father — a genetic father. And to be denied half of one’s genetic origins is really unfair.”

She was born Annette Dolinsky on Jan. 7, 1927, in Chicago to house painter Hyman Dolinsky and his wife, Lillian. Her brother, Meyer Dolinsky, wrote for television.

Growing up, she spoke Yiddish as her first language and as an adult hosted a Yiddish-speaking group in an effort to keep the language alive.

At UCLA, she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and followed it with a master’s in the same subject at USC.

After working at Vista Del Mar, Baran directed an adolescent drug treatment program at UCLA, and as a psychotherapist in private practice often counseled adoptees.

“She became the Joan of Arc of open adoption,” her son said. “To the adoptees, she was their hero. At conferences, they would cheer her and weep.”

In addition to her son Joshua, she is survived by her husband of 62 years, architect Ephraim Baran; another son, David; a daughter, Naomi; and two grandchildren.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

 

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What I’m Doing This Summer

Nursing homes, hospitals, funerals and memorials, declining health, recovery, inevitable death, fear of the unknown, fear of death, sadness, grief, reconciliation, savor the moments, overwhelming contradictory feelings, and simple joys — these are my summer activities.

This is a time of daily struggle for family and friends. We’re aging. Our parents are dying. Our spouses are dying. Church members are dying.

A phone call tells of an adoptive second cousin’s mother’s death. Reading her death notice tells me of that cousin’s wife’s passing. I did not know. A family gathering after the memorial reveals memories and smiles of cousins not seen in decades. New wonders present themselves. Life’s continuity unfolds.

A phone call from a friend tells of her mother’s hospitalization and dying. The bits of summer sunshine fade as familiar faces dim. Grasping for memories of good times past, we cling to the moments of the present and grapple with the process of death and the aftermath. Still, we plan for the upcoming birthday party of her twin toddler grandchildren.

An email from an adoptive cousin lifts with happiness as he tells of his joys of soon to be married in midlife.

At a church gathering, a mother tells of her son coming home from Afghanistan. We mothers tear up with joy that the one’s son will never see combat again. He returns to his wife and infant son.

My son visits a museum where he sees a new exhibit of a distant blood cousin’s fame as a scientist immortalized. Wonders of adoption reunion pop up unexpectedly. My son calls me excitedly. Coincidentally, that cousin calls out of the blue. His message greets me as I return from a memorial service. I wait till my mood lifts before calling him back.

My daughter and I share daily stresses and concerns.

The occasional gathering of friends for a bit of live music and smiles are small moments of happiness. A walk along the river for a breath of fresh air serves as respite comfort.

Political adoption issues are not on my mind.

~ ~ ~ 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.