Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Silence = no harm? Seriously?

Blogland is a treacherous place. I have read things I wish I hadn't. Things that made me seriously angry. Sometimes I comment, and sometimes I don't. 

I have recently commented on several prospective adoptive parent blogs that made tired accusations about how all "birth" mothers are crack whores and unworthy to raise their children, and how adoptees who express reservations about the institution of adoption are "bitter" because they had lousy childhoods and "bad lives." And thus the rights and feelings of first mothers and adoptees are neatly demolished, in one fell swoop. 

On the one hand, I do not fall into the lousy childhoods and "bad lives" category. I love my aparents with all my heart, and they have cared for me unconditionally since they brought me home when I was 10 weeks old. They have been, and continue to be, generous and loving. I had lots of material and emotional benefits in my youth--including the pony. I wouldn't say that my negative feelings about adoption arise from bitterness and anger, but rather from a mature perspective that allows me to see the institution of adoption as seriously flawed by secrets and lies and the buried needs of the child. Too many people I know have been hurt for me to say, "Oh! Adoption is great for everyone. No worries. First mothers, you children will thank you for giving them a better life! Adoptive parents, your children will thank you for your selflessness in taking them in! Adoptees, what's that you say about feeling sad? There's no trauma. There is no evidence that adoptees feel trauma at all. Please, be rational and see that what you feel is just adult disappointment that you're projecting backward onto that happy little baby that once was you. Someday you'll be as happy as I am. And if you're not, shut the fuck up." 

I can stand up as a "success" story, if that's what they want to see. As I told Dr. Brodzinsky once (and he agreed), I am a poster child for adoption, unless you hear me talk about the intense feelings of loss that have been inside me these 41 years. Then the people who want the rosy view stop listening to me and go back to their refrain, "Poor thing. If only she could be more grateful for the wonderful life her parents gave her. It's too bad she has so much negativity inside her. She isn't entitled to any opinion that is negative, anyway. Adoptees should put up and shut up." Or "She is speaking for a child, when she is an adult. She doesn't know what she felt then. She must have been a happy child with such emotional and material bounty; adoptees only feel sad when they know there is loss, and it takes verbal skills and maturity to process that." And thus I am told what I feel and when I am allowed to feel it. As though I were born yesterday as an adult. Poor C, if that were the case.

Then again, I think it sucks that any adoptees would be dismissed as "bitter" because they did not have a perfect life experience. Who does? Why should feelings have to be qualified? How a person feels is how he or she feels. No one should have to pull out a lengthy, "worthy" personal narrative to justify what they say they feel inside.

I learned recently about a disgusting phenomenon called "practice babies," in which orphans and prospective adoptees were farmed out as infants to home economics classes at universities around the U.S. Students could practice mothering skills on these "motherless" infants, managing them alongside other day-to-day domestic skills. Human babies were basically part of the furniture, and there might be a different caregiver present every time a baby woke up. I can imagine that such an experience might cause a baby to be emotionally disorganized and have difficulty attaching to any one person. 

I was born in a year in which there were still "practice babies" around, although I rather doubt I was part of such a program. But the idea of it sends chills down my spine. I know myself well, as does my mother. We were talking about this the other morning and were in agreement about how this would have been a very bad fit for my very anxious personality, whether my anxieties stem from my not having a primary caretaker for my first 10 weeks of life, from being hardwired to be anxious, or from losing my first mother at birth. Or all three. There isn't enough evidence to say--or so I am told. 

I greatly respect the first mothers who run Birth Mother, First Mother Forum, one of my favorite adoption-related blogs, and Jane, one of the blog owners, posted over the weekend about the "practice babies". I commented that I thought the use of "practice babies" was damaging on many levels, and that I feel great compassion for those people who know--or don't--that they were part of that grand experiment in teaching. I also said:

"I know that some psychologists believe that it doesn't matter what happens to infants because once they get a consistent caregiver, they'll be fine. I don't subscribe to that view, but some of these babies weren't placed for over a year. How could they possibly attach to anyone when their "pretend" mothers could rotate daily, weekly, monthly?" [emphasis added here]

I included that paragraph because I have engaged in debate before with a psychologist who holds that infants don't really favor particular caregivers until they are at least six months old, when they begin to exhibit signs of attachment. I believe, to the contrary, that while neonates may not display empirical signs of attachment earlier than six months, they do recognize people quickly, especially their mothers. I also know from research I did related to my work as an L&D RN that parental recognition is not a scientific impossibility (for examples off the top of my head, see DeCasper and Fifer, 1980; Bushnell, 2001). I also see connections between mother and infant anecdotally every day that I work on the unit. In the trenches, so to speak. Practical experience. Not reviewing other people's work. Observing babies want their mothers.

I was pressed by a commenter to name any psychologist who believed such a thing as infants not preferring any particular caregiver, and I named the one with whom I had debated last October: 

"Dr. X would be one psychologist who argues that adopted children are unaffected by early experiences, even those involving lack of attachment and social deprivation."

It was a trap! I was then told that I was off base and quite wrong about what the good doctor believed, and that my arrogance was "rich, even for you."

The good doctor even replied herself:

"I have to offer a correction. I've certainly never said that disruption of attachment or social deprivation had no ill effects. What I did say was that attachment is not already in place at the time of birth. Instead, it develops gradually if the baby has a consistent, interactive caregiver, and becomes evident some time after 6 months of age, but usually before 12 months."

Imagine, then, my surprise when the good doctor wrote a blog post yesterday in which she said:

"A lot of concern is being expressed on various blogs about the history of “practice babies”, as described in Lisa Grunwald’s novel The Irresistible Henry House. Those babies, as probably everyone knows by now, were orphans who were cared for by “domestic science” students in colleges and who had many caregivers, in most cases before going to an adoptive family. The “practice babies” usually experienced multiple caregivers during the second half of their first year, a period of time that is associated with the development of attachment behaviors and which might be a time of vulnerability for emotional development.

However, there seems to be no obvious evidence that these children, who had also had multiple caregivers in their orphanages, were emotionally disturbed later in their lives. (Of course, it may well be that there is no such evidence because no one has looked for it, but it seems to me rather likely that adoptive parents would have complained if the babies they received were troubled, and that attention would have been called to the situation. Maybe not, though.)"

Isn't that exactly what I said that she would say--no evidence, no harm, no foul? That some psychologists believe that there is no evidence that a lack of primary caregivers causes problems later on? That once a child is in a stable home, the past is entirely mitigated--because there is no evidence otherwise?

But do you really believe that adoptive parents would have 1. KNOWN their child had been used in a science experiment, given the widespread programs of secrets and lies associated with closed adoption; and 2. THOUGHT that there was a place to register complaint that their "product" was defective? As a dear friend said to me, is there a Better Business Bureau of Adopted Brats that we are unaware of? 

As I understand it, many of the practice babies aren't even aware of their past histories. How could they be tracked and followed for longitudinal research on attachment and relationships if they aren't  identified? Isn't it rather premature to say that silence on the topic = no damage to the people who were once those babies? Just because none of them are serial killers doesn't make them "fine."

I know that I am inviting a firestorm onto my head with this post, but I am hoping that some of my non-adoptee, very smart friends will weigh in, as well as my fellow adoptlings and the people I expect to tell me kindly to go fuck myself.


Amanda Woolston said...

I do know an adoptee who was a "practice baby" of different sorts. They also used children in maternity homes (etc.) in drug trials.

Indeed the idea is that once a child has a permanent caregiver, they will be "fine." Babies left for hours without being held and having their bottles "propped" were being trained to learn to be quiet so as to not disturb their new parents.

It was disgusting some of the things they did to babies destined for adoption.

Jenn said...

I had never heard about "practice babies". If adoption is for the best interest of the child, then this benefits the child how? Because giving a baby to someone who is practicing is safe how? No wonder adoptees have so many issues that we have no control over. Just barfed in my mouth a little bit.

Jeannette said...

I for one will not tell you to F off. What you wrote is eloquent and very well written. Please keep speaking out on adoption issues. That is the only way the rest of society will hear us.

Jake said...

psychologists will say anything if people pay them enough.

I personally get really pissed of with the "you must have had a bad life" thing because, yes I did, my adoption was a car crash, but so what? that doesn't mean I don't know what I'm talking about. It doesn't mean I haven't done any research.

Unknown said...

"but it seems to me rather likely that adoptive parents would have complained if the babies they received were troubled, and that attention would have been called to the situation. Maybe not, though.)"

This is my favorite part and I think the most revealing about the author's naivete. Honestly she writes as though children are abstract ideas that live inside text books and research papers, there is something so absolutely unfamiliar with children and well real life in the way she writes.

There is no board of redress for dealing with adoptee brats. Adoptive parents are pretty much on their own. If they had complained to the bureau of adopted brats the topic would have been sealed from public view.

More likely adoptive parents wouldn't have sought redress until the adopted-brat was old enough to really be a pain i.e. adolescence and the child would have struggled then and be blamed for being a naughty, out-of-control teen.

The very idea that the adoptive parents of 'practice babies' would have even known that the children they adopted were practice babies is also very unlikely. Our records before our adoptions are sealed. The adoptive parents were probably told how fortunate they were to receive babies who had
such a high-level of care in their early months.

The very idea that parents complaints/fears/disappoinments would be recorded in a semi-public fashion is absurd to say the least. This woman loves to speculate. So does Jack Handy.

How ironic too that the anti-anti-adoption squad who absolutely would not tolerate you *gasp* *horror* represent Mercer accurately, now has to read this.

You rightly assessed Mercer's point of view, that offended them. Didn't one of them say they weren't going to stand by and let you do that---oh how naughty of you. Don't you know the rules around adopto-land are to obsfucate and outright lie? Srsly.

ms. marginalia said...

Jay, you are so right. It shouldn't matter at all. It is unspeakably rude to tell people that they are unqualified to express opinions because their experiences are outliers on the bell curve of "normalcy," whatever that means to them. They put blinders on and convince themselves that their kids would never be like us. They refuse to see they cannot dictate who their children will be and what they will feel.

Von said...

Totally support every word you've written here.I believe I know the so called expert you're referring to and I have a great problem with that clinical viewpoint.Show me the evidence that loss of attachment and the opportunity to make new bonds are not damaging.

sostinkinhappy said...

Nursing as I type and read, so bear with me, Kara.

For starters, I would like the "good" doctor from over at FMF to explain this study away:

sostinkinhappy said...

Or what of this study that shows newborns (less than 24 hours old) are calmed best by the smell of their mother's breast milk, but not that of another woman's? (I haven't had a chance to calculate the effect size, but I will once I am done nursing.)

Nishitani S, Miyamura T, Tagawa M, Sumi M, Takase R, Doi H, Moriuchi H, and Shinohara K. 2009. The calming effect of a maternal breast milk odor on the human newborn infant. Neurosci Res. 63(1):66-71.

L said...

I read that whole discourse over at FMF and I agree that you did not deserve the lashing you received from those people.
It was more than a little appalling.
Especially the person who said that since Mercer is against holding down RAD adoptees, she should not be disagreed with on any other adoption related topic. That is absolute idiocy.
You did not say anything out of line or untrue. You were attacked harshly for having an intelligent opinion.
It is frustrating.
Hold your head high and keep on keepin' on.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

How did I miss that post on FM Forum? WOW! I have learned so much from this one post, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, and thank you to those who commented here as well. Now I have many thoughts running through my head about all of this.

Just goes to prove that the internet is and should be a wealth of information about adoption. The good, the bad and the ugly of the whole system. What a great post to introduce you to me, I thik I will visit more often. Thanks!

sostinkinhappy said...

Kara - I am done nursing and ready to deliver my {ahem} soliloquy of sorts on this who matter. It is kind of long so I have to split it into two posts.

I have to disclose up front that I am an attachment theorist - I have studied attachment theory from hither to yon and have read every single thing John Bowlby or Mary Ainsworth ever wrote about the subject. I have read a great deal of what has been written since then. Consider it my hobby, if you will. My area of focus has been on the interlinked behavior systems of attachment, exploration, and learning. This passionate hobby of mine is what drove me back to graduate school to earn my Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences.

With that out of the way, here goes my personal take on the matter:

Yes, there is some empirical evidence out there indicating that infants may not start to form attachment bonds until around the age of six months. However, the making and breaking of attachment bonds (Bowlby, 1979) are not the sum total of an infant’s psyche and experience (eek – as an attachment theorist, did I just say that out loud??? Yes, yes I did. )In particular, they are not all that shapes an infant’s experiences.

Emerging research in neonatal behavior and neurology points to the reality that something very unique and very important occurs between a newborn and her mother. Newborns recognize their mother’s voices and prefer it to all others. Not only that, the language development center of their brain lights up like the sky on the 4th of July when they hear their mother speak. Their mother. Not some random woman.

Newborns less than 24 hours old are calmed and comforted simply by the smell of their mother’s milk – not any random woman’s milk – their mother’s milk (Nishitani et al., 2009). Another study found the smell of their mother’s milk helped manage pain in newborns undergoing various stressful and painful procedures (Walter-Nicolet et al., 2010). At an average age of 45 hours, newborns already prefer the face of their mother to any other person (Bushnell, 2001; Field, Cohen, Garcia, & Greenberg, 1987). The act of a newborn suckling at their mother’s breast is more than about just getting nutrition. It is “a crucial determinant of neurobehavioral development” and an “ecologically relevant sensory stimulus” that may have “lasting consequences for neurobehavioral development” (Smotherman & Robinson, 2008).

Did you catch that, Dr. “It doesn’t matter who takes care of a baby for the first 6 months because attachment bonds don’t start forming until then anyway”? Suckling at THEIR mother’s breast is a crucial determinant of neurobehavioral development. Crucial. Not “nice” or “handy.” Crucial. For the development of the brain’s behavior.

Who knows how many other hidden experiences will come to light as our ability to test and measure the lived experiences of these tiniest of humans improves and becomes more refined?

sostinkinhappy said...

(Con't from above)

In my (humble) opinion, there simply is not enough empirical evidence to definitively support or disprove the theory of when attachment bonds are actually formed between an infant and their caregiver.

That being said, what we do have are a preponderance individual’s lived experiences giving us a clue and insight into what might be happening to the adopted person’s psyche. Granted, these are just anecdotal reports – as a researcher, I cannot quantify or measure the lived experience of an infant adoptee. However, the neo-pragmatist empirical researcher in me simply cannot ignore and dismiss these lived experiences as reported by adult adoptees. Something is going on, even if as a researcher with my hair pulled back in a bun, my leopard print glasses on, wearing a lab coat and clutching my clip board I cannot count it or measure it with my physical senses.

sostinkinhappy said...

(Con't from above)

I look at it this way: I have a serious health condition that is all tied up with my endocrine system. At first, the doctors thought I had a pituitary tumor. They ruled that out, then turned their collective eye towards adrenal tumors. They ruled that out. Then Cushing’s disease. They ruled that out. Then they started searching down every rabbit hole they could think of.

After nearly two years of testing, poking, and prodding, one of the leading endocrinologists on the east coast (a Harvard med school trained, JAMA published, Johns Hopkins research fellow) said to me, “Melynda, we know something is not right. I hate saying this as a physician but you are an educated person and a researcher so you will understand. Sometimes we simply don’t have the answers or the ability to find them right now. We simply have not developed sensitive enough tests to determine exactly what is going on with you. What we can do is help you manage the symptoms and keep our eye out for a more permanent explanation for what is going on. ”

I think the same thing might be happening with the whole “it doesn’t matter to a baby who takes care of them” thing. Something is going on. We can’t measure it. However, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. It just means that we aren’t good at measuring it. Eventually science (behavioral, psychological, neurological, psychobiological, whatever) will catch up and be able to empirically validate these adoptees’ experiences.

sostinkinhappy said...

(Con't from above)

My opinion is that since the stakes are so high in this social experiment called infant adoption – these adoptees are human beings we are talking about, not monkeys or rats or kangroos – we should err heavily on the side of caution. We should assume that something catastrophic does in fact occur when a newborn is separated from its mother (otherwise no one would care so much about the wrong baby being sent home from the hospital with the wrong parents). We should assume that newborns are born with attachment systems already formed, as primitive as they might be.

Kara, you were unfairly attacked over there on FMF for voicing your opinion. The truth is a hard thing to people who are heavily vested in a certain belief system and frequently, they will respond just as many of those readers did over there. It is unfortunate that even among first mothers and adoptees there is sometimes little solidarity. I am sorry that you were the target of their comments.

Bushnell, I.W.R. (2001). Mother’s face recognition in newborn infants: learning and memory. Infant and Child Development, 10(1-2), 67-74.

Field, T. M., Cohen, D., Garcia, R., & Reena, G. (1984). Mother-stranger discrimination by the newborn. Infant Behavior and Development, 7(1), 19-25.

Smotherman, W. P. & Robinson, S. R. (2008). Milk as the proximal mechanism for behavioral change in the newborn. ACTA PAEDIATRICA, 83(s397), 64-70.

Nishitani, S., Miyamura, T., Tagawa, M., Sumi, M., Takase, R., Doi H, Moriuchi, H., and Shinohara, K. 2009. The calming effect of a maternal breast milk odor on the human newborn infant. Neurosci Res. 63(1), 66-71.

sostinkinhappy said...

See, Kara. I told you it would take a few posts. ;)

sostinkinhappy said...

OK - so I think Blogger might need to see a behavioral therapist. there were all kinds of posts and double posts and triple posts. I deleted them but if you want to remove them entirely, it might make it a bit easier to read my diatribe!


the Lola Letters said...

(Can I just say}I love Melynda!!!

And I'm so sorry that people who have NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT call you bitter. It is the VERY first thing I thought about Melynda when she challenged my flawed thinking on my blog. {So embarrassing, but, unfortunately true.}

It is SO MUCH to take in for someone who has been fed something else all of their life, and some people just can't do it. BUT I'm so glad that people like you keep speaking out, because then people like me can have LIFE CHANGING realizations, and join in your efforts to educate the masses.

Your post was beautifully written, and I applaud you.

Jean Mercer said...

Thanks for calling your readers' attention to my blog piece ( I hope some of them will read it and find out what I actually said.

sostinkinhappy said...

Lola - Once again, I am grateful you have been willing to listen with an open heart. I wish there were more people like you.

What was most surprising to me is the number of a first mothers who totally dismissed Kara's comments over in the FMF comments. I believe it might be a defensive mechanism on their part because to actually stare down the gaping maw of adoption loss and realize that you may have had a part in it is...well, frightening.

It was during my undergraduate studies that I was first awakened to the impact separating an infant from his mother has on the long-term development of a human. This was back in the early '90s when the studies of neonatal smell & sight preference were just beginning to be done. I remember sitting in my human development classes as the horrific realization of what I had done to my daughter crept into my consciousness. Even if I had done it out of love and on the counsel of my church leaders, my daughter's little brain still perceived it as loss, as abandonment. I still shudder when I think what it was like for her to wake up the next morning and not have me be there, to not have my familiar smells, my touch, and sounds.

I am not sure why so many people disconnect much of the research about newborn and infant development from an adoptee's experience as if it doesn't apply to the adopted person's brain and behavior. I mean, if it applies to me and my parented children, then wouldn't it apply to me and my daughter I relinquished for adoption too?

Actually, I think I might have an idea - because to connect the research about newborn neurobehavior and development with the lived experiences of adoptees convicts those of us who have been participants (witting or unwitting) in this experiment. It is easier to dismiss their reports of loss and struggle for identity formation as adults than it is to accept the fact that we (wittingly or unwittingly) participated in a system that frequently fails to meet the essential and crucial developmental needs of the very individuals it purports to help.

Julia said...

Wow, lots of bad behavior over there. I'm sorry, Kara, that you had to go through that. And you, too, Joy. Just because we don't know how to measure it in a "scientific" way doesn't mean it isn't there.

What I don't get is the motivation for those kinds of beliefs. What does it get the people who hold them? (I'm asking with true curiousity, not being snide)

And three cheers for Melynda. So there IS some scientific evidence available...

ms. marginalia said...

Thank you, everyone, for your support. I am so happy to know that I am not alone in thinking so much of the whitewashing of our experiences-- "you can't remember, and I didn't see it, so it didn't happen"--is harmful.

Melynda, you rock! Thank you for your well written and thought-out argument. The analogy with the physical ailment we can't yet test for is very powerful. I wouldn't be so angry about these naysayers if they would quit hiding behind what they see as the unassailable fortress of science and admit that there are some things we don't know, and that haven't even been properly researched.

In my original exchange with the good doctor last October, I brought up some of the same research you did, and her response was that those studies are confounded by too many variables to know that babies REALLY prefer their mothers' milk, or are REALLY soothed in the NICU by their mothers' presence. They could have been gassy, they could have had no painful procedures that day, etc., etc. While I agree completely that the results of no source or study should be accepted simply on the word of its authors, until this "researcher" does some of her own research and can show me studies that indicate strongly that infants really don't care who is taking care of them, I will remain skeptical of her sermons on the mount.

Unknown said...

You know if any of those people that were beside themselves for your accurate protrayal of Mercer had an ounce of integrity they would publicly apologize to you Ms. M.

I don' think there is any way that will happen. There is no there there, how utterly creepy and unconnected. Sad really.

Unknown said...

A couple of more thoughts, MAC, who keeps telling me I am arguing "Primal Wound" theory fails to realize that when I was having my whole existential crisis in relation to my mother, the PW hadn't been written yet.

For me, it was no theory it was a visceral and frightening experience.

@ Julia

Why do they do it? Well knowing the history of those posters, it really is something of a hobby for them. If you read some of the hair-splitting that was done you can see it, even if you are not familiar with the personalities involved.

There was another comment that was taken away where MAC calls us infantile and suggests that I referred to myself as an "infant adoptee" in the present tense. Which was just to be cruel and to mock our point of view. Because babies can't even type, and if I was a baby she should be very interested in what I say, because most babies can't talk, and if I could also type, I would be hella genius baby which would make me very interesting.

Okay, now I am being juvenile.

There will always be people like that who want to hold on to the status-quo. Right now the status-quo is make fun of adoptees and their grief.

Why do they seem to thrill in ridiculing people who have suffered staggering blows instead of say knitting? I think it goes to the base desire to have power over others.

ms. marginalia said...

Dr. Mercer, if you're still reading: I really fail to see how you are disputing what I've said.

You have said--in black and white--that "practice babies" probably suffered no harm because there is no evidence to prove that they did. I would argue that there is also no evidence to indicate that they didn't. There are no studies on this at all, that I am aware of. As you are a self-proclaimed empiricist, I would think that you would find such a paucity of data troubling in terms of making a call about what these infants and children and adults have gone through--or not.

Of course I linked to you blog. I have nothing to hide. I hope that my readers will read what you've said with open eyes. I am open to correction, if warranted. It seems that you are not.

ms. marginalia said...

Lola, I also want to thank you for coming here and reading and being so supportive. I respect you and value your insights!

ms. marginalia said...


I have been grateful for your support since last October when you cut through everything and saw everything so clearly: it was just about respect and listening. I don't know why It was impossible for the others to see it.

Wait! I do! As Joy said, it's a game for them. It doesn't feel like much of a game when it's my life and feelings, though.

Hugs to you.

Julia said...

Right, I hear you. I was just trying to understand, more generally, the motivation. I kind of get why an adoptive parent might want to think that way, but it seemed like (and it was hard to tell who was who) that some first mothers and adult adoptees were also weighing in on that side. That didn't make a lot of sense to me. (I mean, in general. Obviously, none of these groups is a monolith and I don't want to suggest otherwise.) I thought perhaps I was missing something.

Hugs to you, too.

ms. marginalia said...

It was brought to my attention that my new nickname in the "brain trust" is PID. Supposedly for "poor, innocent dismissed." But clearly also pelvic inflammatory disease. So they decry someone calling another person a cocksucker (not I), which I can see is inappropriate, but now they are indirectly calling me a diseased whore? Very, very nice and mature.

Unknown said...

Oh turn away, turn away and look at something beautiful like Girl with a Pearl Earring. They condemn themselves with their artless words.

You know I never really appreciated the Go-gos when I was younger. My iPod is singing in my ears right now something very apropos

It is there silly thrill to ridicule. Let them have it and let them keep it.

Turn away, turn away the cherry blossoms are almost here, soon our foggy mornings will be accented by tulips and daffodils. :)

I love you!

Unknown said...

P.S. Yes, I know there should have been their. :/

ms. marginalia said...

Joy, thank you for the words of support. I enjoyed the Go-Go's song, too. It really lifted my spirits tonight.

Unknown said...

Oh of course. You know I did turn away and now my kitchen sparkles like a beautiful little diamond, right down to my rice-cooker's calcified inside. I also have a claw-foot tub and was in it while it was full of bubbles reading about the Arizona border-line. Life goes on.

Nevermind my assignment for today went undone, but my desk is cleaned out! Yay me.

Nevertheless the obesessive nature of my personality got the better of me (surprise!) and while I haven't read Campbell's blog regularly, read it like 40 times today, lol. The comments where the sad fight is still going on. I also read Mercer's blog probably 20 times, and then that sent me to the behaviorists and Skinner, I haven't thought much about Skinner since I was in 10th grade, and the Clockwork Orange and Chomsky (huge fan) critique of Skinner.

It resonated.

The horribly inaccuracies that we think that our "personal truths" trump all. Trump all what? Trump all other people's experiences? No way. My experience is my experience is my experience. I have never ever said that it belongs to others as well but is a part of the tapestry that is adoption. My story is relevant, I am adopted. My story is not the whole story, it is my freakin' story.

Unknown said...

Anyway, you are still being accused of "misrepresenting the facts" ? Which all you did was suggest that some people, in particular, Dr. Mercer would disagree with you and she did! I mean it is insane.

And they are continuing to act like they are choking on themselves because she has a different point of view than you do, than I do? Sheesh, and some of the commentary. While I can't abide by Campbell being called a dick-sucker, because well that is rude. It is also fairly toothless, we have all sucked a little cock in our time, adopted or not. It can be fun. So yeah, I didn't chime in there because well, it did cross a line.

I will say it didn't cross the same kind of line, being a fairly toothless comment, I mean who couldn't you say that about? As mocking adoptees for their pain. Which I thought the whole, "suck your own dick instead of your thumb" line def. did. You kiss your adopted child with that mouth? to co-opt a line I am not fond of.

I know I shouldn't say this, my better judgment has taken a back seat my whole life though, the stabs at adoptee pain are akin to stabs that I won't take at infertility, lack of a mate, or suggest sexual impropriety, because those are below the belt.

Unknown said...

I am breaking this commentary up because it is so looooooooooong.

The truth is, I am very saddened by these turn of events even though they are just "on the internet" They feel very personal and sad to me. Some of these people I considered friends, most of all Haigha, to a lesser extent I thought I had a good relationship with Jess at one point, and was very grateful for her sticking up for me against my own evah lovin' mother.

I don't know what the 'greater reality' is. I know what I went through as a thoroughly unversed teenager and it scared me, it went against everything I thought I knew about myself and everything I had been taught. It slayed me. It really damaged me.

I know it hurts me deeply to be ridiculed about the biggest pain of my life.

Unknown said...

It also hurts like hell to be told I didn't experience what I very much did. I didn't have language for it, I can't even describe how scary it was for me. How there was no support, how it feels to really suffer and then be told you are imagining things? There was no way I could have invented that.

Or the anxiety it produced. I would be in completely familiar landscapes, like on my way to school and suddenly have no recognition of where I was. It was AWFUL. It was MYSTERIOUS. And I wouldn't give it up for anything, because at least I know who I am now.

It was so hard to go through, it is still hard. I am not saying my experience is the norm, I am saying this was my experience and it overwhelmed my coping skills.

The truth is, we don't know the whole truth of adoption, we are refrusing to look at it. That is sad, because I am not that rare. That whole conversation was about ridiculing us, which is sad on so many levels. It was baiting. It was about the non-adopted esplainin' to the adopted. It was cruel, and we will get no redress because they have no integrity.

It makes me sad, and I have plenty o' reason to be sad given the amount of adoptee stories I have absorbed.

I am probably the only non-Beatles fan that exists but I do like this song, and it does remind me of this situation. There is something a bit punk-rock about it don't you think?

ms. marginalia said...

"Anyway, you are still being accused of 'misrepresenting the facts'? Which all you did was suggest that some people, in particular, Dr. Mercer would disagree with you and she did! I mean it is insane."

I know. They misrepresent the hell out of me, and then accuse me of misrepresenting Dr. Mercer? I shouldn't have expected anything less from the brain trust.

Dr. Mercer said, quite clearly on her blog, that there is no evidence that "practice babies" suffered any harm. Parents would have complained if there were problems with children adopted out of this program.

That was my original point on Lorraine and Jane's blog: that some psychologists, thinking of Dr. Mercer's school of thought--although I am not sure that she is quite well known enough to have her own 'school'--would say that children adopted out the program would have no problems because they could attach to their adoptive caregiver. She wrote as part of our original discussion in October that babies do not appear to prefer any caregivers before six months because they do not exhibit *observable* attachment before six months of age at the earliest. Because attachment is not observable before that time, we cannot say that it exists or doesn't exist before then. Empiricism. I get it. But she then goes the extra mile to say that neonatal sense of tie to the mother *probably* doesn't exist. Based on observable data, of course, because neonates cannot speak. How convenient.

ms. marginalia said...

Then they tell me that I am wrong and hysterical, that I insist that my experience is everyone else's. I NEVER said this, not now, not in October. I remember many times in that original discussion when they told us that's what we were saying. We said we weren't. We were told we didn't know what we were saying. And then in Dr. Mercer's most recent blog post, she sets herself up on Mt. Reason, whereas we are on Mt. Emotion. Reason is superior to emotion, apparently. I find this to be a false dichotomy, very 19th century Classicism vs. Romantic, and tired and old. Isn't psychology about studying more than the mind's capacity to reason, although that's off topic?

I didn't mind being compared to Emerson, although the Oprah thing was a bit pedestrian. I sense that Dr. Mercer is also limited by culture, since she chose to ignore non-American thinkers. What about Goethe? Was he limited and ridiculous because he wrote poetry, and unable to think using "Reason," with capital "R"? Would she go around saying that he was a hysterical Romantic who said his experience was everyone's? I wouldn't be so offended perhaps, if she had compared me to Emily Bronte, whose (useless?) expression of personal emotion in "Wuthering Heights" has been studied for over a century with very fruitful results. Do people say that Heathcliff's pain is Heathcliff's pain is Heathcliff's pain? That it has nothing to do with politics, gender, his being a bastard child who loves his half-sister?

I cannot read the drivel of those limited women anymore. If they want to have their knickers in a twist and throw mud balls at me, they can do it. I won't say it doesn't hurt to have them not even try to understand what I am saying--they clearly don't, but thankfully they are irrelevant to my everyday life.

I agree with what you said about Campbell's being called a cocksucker. It wasn't right, and I shouldn't have laughed about it over on Linda's blog. But Kippa's calling me a venereal disease was just as infantile. I must admit that I lay awake in bed last night trying to think of a suitable comeback nickname for her, and came up with something with the initials SSA, which is "ass" backwards--in case you miss it--but I think I will hold off on sharing it. It's not very nice.

I love you. Joy. It is comforting to think that if it were not for the democratizing Internet, I wouldn't know these people. You'd think that given her idea of self-importance, I would have run across Jean Mercer in all my studies of adopted children and neonatal attachment. I didn't. Nor had Dr. Brodzinsky heard of her. I wonder if she's heard of him? He advised me to turn my back on this ridiculous non-discussion since these people only want to hurt, not to listen. They don't even *try* to listen to us, so why should I return the favor?

Unknown said...

Kippa's comment about the PID was far too reaching to actually be funny. Comedy hits close to the bone, doesn't stray far from the flesh. I wouldn't worry about a nasty comeback. We need to go away from this nastiness.

Whether or not they have the capacity, compassion, integrity or any semblance of goodness to rub together and have some respect for other people, esp. the people they are charged with caring for, i.e. adoptees, is up to them. I for one, am not holding my breath.

L said...

I am honestly baffled by the outright hostility in this case. And that says a lot coming from me.
I usually am not bothered by hostility. In certain doses, it can be quite healthy.
I think it's because I know you Kara and on the two times we have socialized, I have found you to be kind, caring,sensitive and lovely. I am just taken back at the way you are being personified.

"PID"? No way.

They are looking for a villain but it just seems so absurd that they have chosen you for the role.

ms. marginalia said...

Thanks, Beth. I am truly bewildered. I really don't mind differences of opinion, but this is out of control in terms of levels of rudeness and willful twisting of what I said and/or their ignorance. I am trying not to let them take up any more of my time and concern.

It's been almost a year since I saw you! Way too long. Maybe one of these days I will be able to run again, and we can do a race together.

Unknown said...

I see I am late to this discussion, but did find it fascinating. As an adoptive mom to five kids I feel like a bit of an outsider to this discussion. But before I am dismissed as being from enemy territory, I would like to explain my vested interest in this discussion and that is my five adopted kids.

I firmly believe that attachment begins in utero. A developing child hears the mother's heartbeat, the muffled sound of her voice and begins to attach. Do I have scientific proof for this? No. But, as a Christian, I believe that God's original design was to begin that strongest of all earthly bonds, between a mother and her child, in the womb. When that bond is somehow broken, trauma is and always will be the result.

I also believe that healing can and does occur. And maybe that is why scientists claim there are no ill effects observed from adoption or "practice babies" (what a sickening practice) or other such things. But people are not rocks and the result of any disruption will manifest itself differently in each and every individual. We are all different. I know of adoptees who are very resentful. I know of adoptees who are extremely happy. And I talk A LOT with my kids to see how they are doing and what they are feeling.

As a former premed student I know that science does not hold all the answers. There is just too much that we cannot know and it is pompous and foolish to claim otherwise. The scientific evidence will come eventually, until then there's the good old gut feeling about something being right or wrong.

I remain a firm adoption advocate for those who need to be adopted (and I do believe there is a need for adoption), but I will never undermine the trauma involved with it. I have worked with it in my children's lives.

Okay, I'm done. Let the critiques begin ...

ms. marginalia said...

Margie, thanks for your input. I always respect what you have to say. Enemy? No way!

I think you're right that there's trauma but that we all have potential to heal. Some are more susceptible to injury than others. We are individuals and deal with events, traumatic or otherwise, as such. I agree that there's a huge spectrum, from adoptees who are happy and have no desire to look backwards, to those who want medical information, to those who are interested with a little, sporadic contact, all the way to those who tell us they feel injured irreparably, and forever. We can support everyone.

My thoughts about the practice babies are no doubt clouded by my own anxieties and experiences, but it really hurts to have scientists--who haven't lived a day in my shoes--tell me that I have manufactured my trauma as an adult, or that I am insisting my experience is universal (I am not). But while I admit that there is a spectrum of experience, I am told that there is no possible way that my experience can be real, because science doesn't support it. I am damned either way.

I feel it's like me telling a cancer survivor that it's not all that bad because they're still alive, aren't they? Why are they whining about what they went through when they're living? If they're going to be so ungrateful, they should have died so that someone else could have appreciated living more.

I haven't had cancer. I have no idea what it's like, but my mother had cancer, so I can speak for all cancer survivors. What a crock.

I wish I had a firm belief in God. It would help me make sense of many things I cannot explain, but that I feel.


Unknown said...

I love science. I really do. But I don't think you can fit life into a formula or equation that is one size fits all. We, as humans, are delightfully unique. What works for one does not work for another.

I don't think your ideas about "practice babies" are clouded by your anxieties or experiences. I think it's just fundamentally wrong. Period. There needs to be a basic respect for ALL human life, whether they can express themselves or not, and throughout history the stronger have consistently taken advantage of the weaker ones in society. It really angers me to think of these poor babies trying to make some sense of their world while being used as an experiment?! Scientific proof or not, what mother in her right mind would allow her baby to be used for that? But these babies have no one to speak for them.

You are right in what you said and I'm glad you spoke up. I'm sorry that your thoughts were not treated more considerately. But you are making a difference - one reader at a time. (I think you're getting stronger too.)

"I wish I had a firm belief in God. It would help me make sense of many things I cannot explain, but that I feel." I couldn't agree with you more. :)