Tag Archives: thoughts

The Personal Becomes The Political


Okay, soooo the other day I was a small petting zoo with my kids. The kids were having a fantastic time petting the baby goats when a little friend came over to where Eliza and I were standing. She is very excited, grabs Eliza’s hand and says, “Do you know you can adopt a baby goat here!”

Eliza looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, proudly,  “I adopted too, right mommy? Like a baby goat!”

I smiled…and my heart sank just a bit. (No actually, not like a goat at all.)

She and her friend laughed, and off they skipped to see if they could find out more about adopting a goat.

I was left wondering how long would she laugh at this? Being adopted like a farm animal…Maybe always, maybe not….

“It’s only a word for God Sake!” I can hear it now.  That would have been me a few years back as well.

I always promised myself I wouldn’t become one of those crazy, over the top, annoying, politically correct parents.  I think we should all laugh more, not take others or ourselves too seriously. Life is funny, people are strange. Who cares if someone says adopt a pet, a goat, a dog? Really? What does it matter? Oh boy, I guess it now matters to me.

The personal becomes the political.

My child is not a pet or a zoo animal.  “Adopting” a goat or a dog (and I know there are dog lovers out there) is not the same. When did society switch from saying, “help us sponsor a goat” or “Come and get a pet from the shelter today? Is everything in the world worthy of the word adoption? Did we actually think we were insulting the animals to use the words sponsor, bought or get? (Hush! Fluffy might hear you!).

We are not animals and, surprise, dogs are not humans!  Do we really think dogs or goats know what words we use?  No, they don’t, but children do.

Words matter. A few weeks back I was at a restaurant with my older daughter. The waitress brought me my soup but forgot a spoon, so when she came over and asked how the soup was I said, “I don’t know you forgot to get me a spoon.”

She threw her head back, laughed and in a very loud voice exclaimed, “OH MY GOD I am soooooooooo RETARDED!!”

My daughter and I both sort of sat there in shock.  “Wow,” I thought, “What if my child had Down syndrome or some other cognitive disability and I was sitting there hearing that?”

The personal becomes the political. Here is a great article that was on NPR about this very subject, titled, “Rethinking Retarded: Should It Leave The Lexicon?” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112479383).

Read it, it will make you think.

I am not perfect; I put my foot in my mouth constantly. I don’t want to be one of those people that everyone has to be extra cautious around, or for people to think I am easily offended. I am not.  We all need to laugh at ourselves and the politically correct movement has gone over the top in many ways (which is why Borat was such an awesome film!).

I am not going to hold it against someone when they say, “Oh, look, its adoption day at the animal shelter” but I know, inside I will wince a little bit.  I guess what I am saying is: words count. What we say influences how we think and how others think. So just try and choose wisely, I know I will.

The personal is the political. 

A Letter To my Daughter’s Birth Mother

Two stories this past week have caught my eye, and have wreaked havoc on my heart. One from Guatemala about a toddler that was kidnapped from her mother, then left at an adoption agency, where she was placed with a family from the U.S.A  who adopted her.  This happened four years ago. The couple involved was not involved in the black market part of the adoption, they went through what they thought was all the right channels to adopt their daughter. Now a Guatemalan judge has ordered the now six year old to be returned to her biological mother.  (http://www.adoptivefamiliescircle.com/groups/topic/Guatemala_Judge_Orders_US_Couple_to_Return_Child/)

Devastating for everyone.  As a mother I would go to the ends of the earth to find my child if he/she was kidnapped.  I can’t imagine the pain, the agony of losing a child.  However, as an adoptive parent I can’t imagine the other scenario either. Someone walking into my house and telling me to give up my daughter? Never.

The other similar story I just saw was featured on the Today Show and will air on Dateline tonight,

.  http://insidedateline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/08/17/7397480-aug-19-a-fathers-fight-the-day-she-disappeared).

This young man was allegedly duped by attorneys and his girlfriend into giving up his infant daughter for adoption. She was placed with a family almost three years ago. The biological father has been fighting to get her back. Again, devastation for all involved. I am not sure I can watch it.

These types of stories aren’t new.  They surface every once in a while, and remain in the heart and mind of every adoptive parent, “What if…” There is no right answer here, nothing good will come out of these situations.  Everyone will end up hurt and damaged.

I have no answers for these people only tears. I look at my sweet girl, her chubby hands wrapped around her sister’s as they walk in the park, her sandy legs as she runs on the beach with her brothers, her tiny body snuggled in between me and my husband as we sleep.  What would I do?  My brain fills with fear and freezes. “Don’t go there,” it whispers. So I don’t. I hold her tight, I fill her with love, and I pray.

Letter to My Child’s Birth Mother:

I am not frightened of many things. I can swat a spider, stand in the middle of a thunderstorm and admire its beauty, I don’t believe in ghosts or superstitions, or think that the world is going to end tomorrow, but I do fear you. Your never-ending presence hovering in the background of my life. You are neither completely present nor ever far enough away.

In the beginning I did not fear you. I felt badly for you, envisioning you as a young, confused girl, unable to care for your child due to culture or poverty or death. It was easy to include you in conversations in my head. There was space for you then in my heart. But as my love for my child took shape and raced away on the wings of forever, the space for you in my heart became smaller, and harder, and unforgiving. We do not need you, I thought.

Perhaps if I had a face; a story to tell, something to make you more real; flaws to point out, blemishes to criticize, missteps to see, but there are none. I am left with a sense of ethereal perfection. A being I cannot challenge, cannot disparage. You will always be flawless, the ideal mother. I however can be touched, ridiculed, a backdrop for anger and disappointment. You are like a supreme spirit, faultless and unblemished by reality.

I can’t stand the ever-present veil of you. I want to exorcise you, banishing you forever with some secret, magical chant, but it would be pointless. You would seep back in, through the cracks of the windows, quiet, determined. I must somehow learn to accept you, to feel at peace with you.

I understand now for the first time the desire of parents to deny a child’s adoption. To deny the presence of you. To say, she is only ours, she never belonged elsewhere. I am told I should honor you, embrace you, hold you up on this pedestal of love and acceptance, but I struggle. What if? What if she loves you? What if she wants you? The pain will be too great. I couldn’t bear it.

I pretend to accept. I try to diminish you by being nonchalant, seemingly unaffected by your existence, but the shroud of self-deceit is thin. I dread the day she asks for you, the day she wants to find you. I understand the need to know, the desire to find out, but I fear it too. I know she needs knowledge, to ask questions, discover and explore. It hurts that I am not enough. It is the hurt that drives the fear, gives it strength. I want to be the one that makes her whole, but she is not complete without you.

I am a woman torn in half. The edges of my soul are jagged and sharp, ready to fight and protect. I do not want to speak of you, acknowledge your reality through voice. Like a warrior of yesteryear, I am ready to defend. She is mine. I love her. I care for her. I have nourished her soul, her essence. I will not allow you to have any part of her, no matter how small…and yet, how can I not? It is not mine to decide. You are a part of her already. Present from the start.

I will get there, do not despair. I am a mother. I will do what is right for her, as you did. As mothers do. I will say the words out loud while I work on them in my soul. I will open that space in my heart, little by little and let you back in. I will hold my breath and squeeze her hand and I will let go even as I hold on. For that is the job of mothers, those we know and those we do not. Those we see, touch, hurt and love and those we only dream of doing such things to. I hope that when the time comes, and she needs you, wants you, asks for you I have the strength and the grace to rise above the fear, as you did, and give her what she needs the most, a beginning. A place to start that complicated journey towards truth, knowledge and timeless love. I will give her a mother’s heart and soul to carry with her, and to come back to.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2011