I Can See the Horizon 

Sleep found me easily and peacefully. I usually suffer from insomnia and will lay awake for hours praying that slumber will come upon me. A peace I’d never known before washed over me as all of my children were under my roof in the same place at the same time. The people I value and love the most in this world. The ONLY people whose opinions about me I care about. I felt complete and whole.

But sad. Sad for what could have been. Sad for the upcoming goodbye. Sad from what my choice had taken from all of my kids without their permission. There had always been a feeling that someone was missing and while she was here that feeling was gone. But it would soon be back. Nevertheless I tried to revel in how lucky I was to even have this moment, this time, at all.

I have three daughters and two sons. Of all of my children, she is the most like me in every way. It’s almost scary how similar we are. Many times people would comment “its like looking at you when you were her age!” Or “She’s JUST like you at that age!”

And she is.

She’s tenacious, she has no filter, she looks like me, she sounds like me, she has the same mannerisms as me. Admittedly she does have my husband’s nose.

Driving to Taco Bell one day we said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. That happens within families all the time. Families that you share DNA with. “That’s never happened to me before,” she said with surprise. And it kept happening. My sisters and I are always speaking in stereo. It made me think how sad it would be to go through life without ever hearing someone who sounded like you.

And she’s just like her sisters. When a neighbor started up his motorcycle too closely they all screamed, shook, and started crying. All three of them. All at the same time. DNA is some powerful stuff.

But she’s herself too. It was lovely to hear her talk about the things she loves, the places she’s seen, the people in her life she cares about and how they’ve impacted her.

And still there was this thing hanging in the air. All the shared memories we had that she didn’t. My family is big on talking about “Remember when this happened…” and then proceeding to tell a funny or shocking story. So while she was like us in every way, and fit in perfectly, there was always the elephant in the room that reminded us that she had been gone.

So many mixed emotions. So much to untangle.

My husband was smitten. He reminded me of a new father doting over his infant daughter. Except we had already doted on her when she was born. I can read this man better than anyone and the looks on his face said, “I’m in love with this beautiful creature.” As he should be. She’s pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

And here is where I decided that this blog has served its purpose. For now, anyway.

When I was hurting it was here. When I needed to vent it was here. When I was scared, anxious, worried, happy, hopeful, suffering, it was here. You were here. Some of you lifted me with your thoughts and others pissed me off. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I just needed a good fight and you engaged me.

I know this journey is ever evolving and I’m not completely abandoning this space. There may be a time in the future where I need it regularly again. But this journey is no longer just my own. Now that our lives have come together again, and she is again a part of mine, our stories are intertwined and it’s not up to me what to share.

I have let adoption consume my life. That’s not an entirely bad thing. I’ve found sisterhood and courage in this community. I’ve found courage to stand up, stand out, and help make changes. I will always be an activist. Always. But I’m also a mother and wife. I can’t spread myself too thin so I’ve decided to focus my energy on certain endeavors that will allow me to balance things more equally. I lost my grandfather, who helped raise me, and a beloved pet who was my emotional support animal, this year. The wheels of time don’t stop turning for me to sit behind a computer.

So while I’ve already bowed out of this blogging thing pretty much, I thought I’d leave you all with a happy update. I’ll pop in once in a while. But it’s time to take back my life and focus on where I can really make a change, enjoy my family, and still remain a functional member of society.

 

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Desperation in Mobile, Alabama: Kimberly Rossler & Underhanded Legal Tactics

This post was composed at the end of July 2015. I have waited until now to publish it.

For those who aren’t aware of what a gag order is, I’d like to do a quick informational session.

Gag orders can also be called protective orders. They are typically used to prevent parties in a trial from discussing anything pertaining to the trial with the public. It is supposed to protect potential witnesses, jury members, and other people. Usually gag orders are used in criminal trials in order to assure the defendant receives a fair trial. People can only shelter themselves from the media so much and with some highly publicized cases it could be next to impossible to find jury members that have not been swayed by an article they’ve seen on the Internet or something they’ve seen reported on the news. There are different types of gag orders and they can cover different things but, usually, anything that was discussed before the gag order took affect is fair game. For instance, say there is a trial for a famous murder suspect. This would be a highly publicized case. National, if not international, attention would most likely be attracted to it. If the suspect in the case had discussed A, B. and C with the media before a judge instituted a gag order for trial participants, then A, B, and C can still be discussed and reported on in the media. Gag orders used to be applied to journalists but that was found to be unconstitutional and directly violated freedom of the press. To bypass this, judges just began silencing the participants.

Gag orders are very controversial and some have been challenged with success in the court room. I have not been able to come up with any cases of gag orders being applied for circumstances such as Kimberly’s except for the case of Carri Stearns, whose story is similar to Kimberly’s. Personally, I believe gag orders for cases where there is no jury trial are just another way to shut people up. Unfortunately, cases like these need to be publicized so people are aware. Going through comments after comments on article after article I would estimate 90% of the public has no idea how adoption or adoption laws even work. It’s sad.

Since gag orders have no authority to stop reporters from reporting on cases, the media and journalists are free to report on it and find other sources to gain information. I have been working on this for a little while so that I can try to give some sort of update to all of Kimberly’s supporters. No one is as frustrated as you all that we are not being informed with what is going on.

To do this, I took to social media. Scouring through comment after comment on all the news articles that were posted on Facebook as well as individual websites I stumbled across something. Remember, gag orders apply to ALL parties in a case. So, since Kimberly isn’t allowed to talk about the case, neither is Kate Sharp or her associates. I found a comment on one of the articles from a [name hidden to protect the identity – we’ll call him C]. C commented about a car accident that Kimberly had caused 4 or 5 years ago that involved rear-ending him. C was upset because nothing ever came of it and made some allegations that maybe the police were involved in helping Kimberly lie, or something like that, and that Kimberly had given the police a false name and ID when they arrived at the scene of the fender bender. He never recouped costs. If I were in C’s shoes I would probably be a little perturbed about that as well. Kimberly is not at liberty to discuss the case, but she is at liberty to tell me anything else she wants unrelated. So I asked her. We had previously talked, before the gag order, and I had asked her to tell me all the dirty little secrets. Sadly, when you case becomes publicized, everyone will pick you apart and find reasons why you shouldn’t have your baby. It is quite amusing, however, because it is a very rare person, indeed, to not have any “skeletons” in their closet. I digress. Kimberly gave a general breakdown of the things she had done in her past. She didn’t disclose this accident but had disclosed a charge for underage drinking. I’m sure you’ve seen her mug shots when you google her name. This was her past, however. She was young, even a teenager for some things, and this was not who she was today. I must point something out. Kimberly works at a day care center. Federal law does not allow people with certain criminal records to work with children. You are also required to take a drug test and pass a background check to do so. Let me repeat, Kimberly works at a day care center. Where were we? Oh yes, I asked Kimberly about C’s claim in the comments section of the Fox10 Facebook posting. She said, flat out, “He has a right to be mad. I’d be mad. What I did was wrong and I never repaid him. But that’s not who I am now, that’s who I was then. That was like 5 years ago.” She’s right.

I decided to visit C’s personal Facebook page and saw a public posting he had made in regards to Kimberly. He claims he has a decision to make and asks his friends to help. He goes on to tell about his run in with Kimberly those years ago and says he has been approached to be a character witness for the opposition in this case. He tells his friends what she had done to him and asks if he should do it. You know, since she wronged him in the past. He does not know Kimberly personally, and admits to this in the comments. His only knowledge of her is based on this one incident, almost 5 years ago.

The comments that followed were a mixed bag. Some said don’t’ get involved, others said to go for it and use it as a means to “get your revenge.” C commented here and there, made some jokes. It really was quite the show.

This leads me to believe that C has been approached by David Broome, legal counsel for Kate Sharp, and has been asked to be a character witness because he has “dirt” on Kimberly. I’m no lawyer, but I’m also wondering if David Broome may have broken the gag order by discussing this with C. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. This also tells me something else. They are grasping for straws. This tells me they can find nobody that actually knows Kimberly that will attest to her character in a negative light. They are desperate and are seeking out someone who has no relationship with her, never has had a relationship with her, to testify to her character based on one wrong thing she did to him. Top that off with his possible “revenge” testimony and he isn’t very credible.

From this one Facebook post I can go out on a limb and gain some pretty good information. Of course, none of it is 100%. He could be some whacko who wants attention. I’m going to choose to believe that this is not the case.

Here’s another good thing. If they are seeking character witnesses that means that Kimberly’s rights were NOT terminated at that court date on the 24th.  I scrolled some more through C’s profile. Most, if not all, of it is public. I took the proper screen shots in case they were needed to show the character of the “character witness.” His post mentions how he detests people who drink alcohol and then eludes to the loss of his father in some kind of accident. I’m wondering if his father wasn’t killed by a drunk driver which would also fuel his need to get revenge on Kimberly because of the incident between them almost 5 years ago. Punish those who are like the person who killed his father? I don’t know. This is all pure speculation.

There you have it. The best update that I could come up with. I hope it’s enough for now. I know it’s definitely better than nothing and it does seem hopeful.

Thank you all for your support and patience!!

C1

C2

And some of the comments:

C3

Clara’s Update; A Look at Other Families Saved by SOS; The Evolution of Open Adoption

Today I’m going to cover a few things, but they will all tie together and are all related to one another.

Last week I told you a story about a prospective adoptive parent who started a campaign of harassment, threats, and coercion against a new mother who had opted NOT to relinquish her child and instead parent. I wanted to let you all know that over $1200 was raised in Clara’s name to help her and other expectant mothers to parent their children. I am truly amazed by the generosity of our community and how the efforts of all of us, for family preservation, have been so successful. I would like to share with you the receipt for Clara’s June rent in the name of accountability. Your money, your donations are going for exactly what they should be going for. Not ONE penny is used for anything else. 100% go directly to these families. Finding these moms, traveling, phone calls, fundraising – it is ALL done on a volunteer basis. We do not take ANY money that is donated.

check

Obviously we don’t want to show identifying information. We are still in the business of protecting these people since what we do is still considered “controversial.” Get a load of that. Helping mothers to parent their children successfully is what is controversial. When did this ever come to be? We’ll talk some more about that later. For now I would also like to share with you some other families Saving Our Sisters has helped over the past couple of years. To do so I’m going to ask you to click right HERE. Don’t worry, it will open up in a new tab or window so that you can continue to read the rest of this article.

Did you go to the link? Did you see all the smiling, unbroken families? This is why we do what we do. This is what your donations go for. (Right now the link is private but you are free to send Lynn Johansenn a friend request to view or see my collage made from some of the pictures below)

savingsisters

Where did we get to this place? This place where otherwise fit mothers were forever giving up their babies for financial reasons? We know that during the baby scoop era most women were literally forced to give up their children. Many (most?) came from nice upstanding families. While the women, themselves, did not have an income, their families would have been able to give the proper support for them to finish college and raise their child. This didn’t happen because of the shame a child out-of-wedlock would have branded the family with. So, instead of helping, these parents sent their daughters away to give birth alone and to have those babies taken and given to someone else. Threats and force ran a muck to make sure this happened. This is how we got the name “Baby Scoop Era.” It was literally a scooping of babies. (See more about my comparison on the baby scoop era and coercion era here)

Over time, laws were enacted, pregnancy out-of-wedlock became more socially acceptable and shame slowly became a moot point. No one was giving up their babies based on shame or force anymore, or at least in very rare circumstances. There was a transition period between the baby scoop era and the era of open adoption. This time period is where white newborn infants were slowly in decline while the demand for them continued to rise.

The adoption industry knew it had to do something.

This is where I will take some quotes from a NY Times article that was written on April 5, 1987 about adoption.

The article is entitled:

“ADOPTION MARKET: BIG DEMAND, TIGHT SUPPLY”

To summarize, the article goes into how the supply of healthy white newborns is on the decline while the demand for them is rising. The article cites the legalization of abortion and less stigma on pregnancy out-of-wedlock as the reasons. This is only half right, though. Let’s explore “less stigma,” shall we?

The article states, “According to the National Committee for Adoption, an association of 130 private adoption agencies, adoptions between unrelated people in the United States declined to 50,720, from 82,800, from 1971 through 1982, the last year for which complete data are available.” (Side note: why is there no longer any data kept?) 1971 -1982. The early 1970’s was about the end of the baby scoop era. Seeing as Roe vs. Wade was in 1973 I can see how adoption advocates would like to blame legalized abortion for the decline of infants available. I maintain that it was the END of the baby scoop era that facilitated this decline. My proof is the change of tactics from the industry. WHY did the baby scoop era end? This has nothing to do with legalized abortion. It has EVERYTHING to do with the cultural shift of acceptance of unwed mothers. No stigma, no shame. You are free to parent your child. And ever since this cultural shift there has been a rise in babies being born to unwed mothers. Even WITH legalized abortion.

Yes, less stigma means less women being forced into an adoption, does it not? What was that era called where shame and stigma were used to force a woman to hand over her baby? Oh yeah, the baby scoop era. So what happens when you can no longer shame women into giving up their babies? What do you do? You change the game plan. You offer them an “open adoption.”  Let’s now focus on another article. This one is from the Chicago Tribune and was written December 15, 1985.

The title of this article is:

“When Adopted Children Know Their Roots”

This article focuses on the “radicalism” of open adoption during that time period and interviews one family with two adopted children in “open adoptions.” I use that term loosely, based on the article, because they really aren’t truly open adoptions but rather what would be considered a semi-closed adoption by today’s standards. There is no direct contact between the children and their natural parents.

“We were really worried about the number of children raised in this adoption-lie system, giving rise to adults now saying that it was their birth right to know what their parents looked like, what did they think, what did they feel,“ says Janet Cravens-Garner, the agency`s regional director.” This is a quote from Lutheran Social Services at the time. Let me point out, using today’s standards, that the reason she gives for starting to facilitate open adoption is, in my opinion, a lie. The adoption industry has fought, and is STILL fighting, for sealed records for adoptees. If they were so concerned about the adoptees rights then these agencies would be lobbying Congress for open records everywhere. Instead they fight it. No, the real reason they started offering open adoptions is because they could not get women to hand over their babies without the promise of knowing how they were doing. It was a tactic that began to become employed in an attempt to meet the demand of infertile couples everywhere. The supply wasn’t there and, as we learned earlier, was on a steady decline thanks to a cultural shift.

“By the end of the hour and a half meeting, Susan Dangerfield had charmed her. She was glad that Chris would have a father who would take him fishing.

‘It was kind of like a proud feeling, like I`d chosen the right family for him,’ she says. `I felt I wasn`t losing a son, I was gaining very close friends and some people who were really going to take care of Chris.”

This quote from the article. This one up here? This is the very definition of open adoption coercion. Susan Dangerfield, if you read the article, is the prospective adoptive parent. Chris is the newborn infant. Susan had managed to “charm” her and made the new mother feel, via the open adoption promise, that she could relinquish her son to Susan.

Open adoption coercion. Using the promises of contact to gain a child from a mother.

I did manage to find Susan Dangerfield on Facebook and am happy to report she does keep up friendships with both of her sons’ birthmothers (at least from what I can tell on her Facebook friends list). This still does not take away from the fact that open adoption was used to procure more infants that would probably, otherwise, be raised by their original families.

Open adoption coercion, since we are talking about that, leads me to another article. One I read today, a recent one.

“COURT UPHOLDS MOVE TO GIVE BABY TO BIOLOGICAL PARENTS IN OPEN ADOPTION GONE AWRY”

Written May 29, 2015.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that promises of an open adoption to a birthmother is a form of coercion.

In other words, if a woman is relinquishing her parental rights based on the promise of continued contact, and that contact is not carried out, or never was intended to be carried out, she has been COERCED out of her child.

I know this case rings particularly true for me. If I had not been promised an open adoption I would never had relinquished. I knew it wasn’t binding in court but I still believed that these were good people who would keep their word.

There it is, in writing. A legal precedent. THE SUPREME COURT OF NEBRASKA JUST RULED OPEN ADOPTION PROMISES, WITHOUT FULFILLMENT, IS COERCION.

And I quote, “Until the Legislature acts to approve of these open adoption arrangements  in a private adoption context, this court will NOT recognize them.”

“Any agreements signed with the promise of an open adoption will remain invalid in the courts eyes.”

Are we finally recognizing that we have moved from forcing women to give up their babies to coercing them out of their babies? This is a BIG first.

How does all of this tie to Clara? Well, Clara didn’t fall for it. Clara was saved from the coercion of an “open adoption agreement.” Clara did not fall victim. The sad thing is that for everyone ONE Clara, there are thousands of other mothers who have no idea what they are about to embark on and believe the coercion. What Clara did was a #bravelove. She is courageous and selfless. I applaud  you, Clara.

clara

Life in Limbo

My last personal update was in the middle of January so I figured it was time to write again. I’ve been struggling a bit more with things, in regards to adoption, and I think that getting it all out would be helpful. I am almost finished writing a memoir novella about the time of my pregnancy, birth and the following weeks. I know this has taken its toll on my emotional health as revisiting that time period is always difficult, let alone writing about it. At the same time, it is healing to get it all out. I plan to self publish on Kindle with the majority of the proceeds going to our new organization “Saving Our Sisters” for family preservation efforts.

So where am I now? I feel as though my life is in a perpetual state of limbo. I am always waiting for the next communication, the next picture, the next update. As of lately my thoughts have obsessively gone to everything adoption. I play out endless amounts of scenarios in my head. In some scenarios IKL comes to visit with her adoptive parents and we all have a great time and continue to grow closer and closer over time and are just one big happy family. In another, IKL decides she doesn’t like the intrusion of her privacy and tells her adoptive parents to stop giving us updates. In yet another scenario, IKL hasn’t said anything at all but we have overstepped boundaries by writing and sending pictures every three months and they have decided to cut off contact altogether.

These are all extreme possibilities. I know that, rationally. I still can’t keep my mind from going there and to countless other places that are similar. I feel as if I am living in this fantasy world that I cannot escape. My parented children have surely suffered for it, as my attention is not 100% on them, as well as my friends and family.

If you may recall, from my last personal update, my husband had received our first direct communication, ever, from IKL. We were, and continue to be, overjoyed. She had asked him to please write to her, as he never had before, and he did. We all did. I emailed IKL’s adoptive mother and let her know we had sent the letters off. She responded that IKL would be happy to know J would be writing this time. I tracked our letter and it was delivered. And I haven’t heard anything since.

No email, no letters, no nothing. For all I know that package is still sitting in the special PO Box that is set up for us to send things. I hate wondering, questioning, not knowing. Did we cross the line? Did we say something wrong? Did she get the letters? Is everything okay? I don’t think its purposeful. I doubt that IKL’s family obsesses about this adoption stuff like I do. But still, it hurts to wait for crumbs.

Easter is just around the corner so today I sent off another “package.” It included lighthearted letters from myself, J, and our youngest daughter. I also made a DVD compilation of our home videos over the years for IKL to “see us in action” so to speak. Since she has no memory or recollection of seeing us in person, or hearing our voices, I thought it would be nice to further complete her picture of who we are. I am wondering if that, in and of itself, will be enough to cross the imaginary line that may or may not exist within our adoption relationship. Will her adoptive parents be upset about this? Will they let her watch it? Will they feel like we are communicating TOO much? I’m sure I’ll fret over this package being mailed until I hear a response, if that’s any time soon. I will probably torture myself with more outlandish (yet possible) scenarios. I don’t know what to do to escape it. I can’t stop writing and sending things to IKL. She enjoys it, needs it, wants it. I have to keep doing it.

I need to learn to relax. I need to trust that if I’ve stepped over the line that I will be politely told with no hard feelings.

Easier said than done. I am powerless. Really, IKL is powerless. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know our last names and I would bet that her adoptive parents determine when she can look at pictures we’ve sent and which things she is to have now versus later. I remember, at the beginning, sending a letter along with her right after TPR. I told her all the reasons I was doing what I was doing. I’m sure there was a lot of “adoption positive” speak. I have no copy of the letter but I remember the general gist of it. I poured my heart out with love. I also gave pictures of my other children and family members to her parents-to-be and the first letter they ever wrote talked about her “birth family box” and how things were being stored in there for her. I wonder if she’s ever seen any of this or if they don’t feel it’s the right time yet.

Yes, we have no control. Neither does IKL. Even as a teenager.

My oldest daughter, M, did not write this time. When I informed everyone we were sending off another package in time for the Easter holiday she said, “Do I have to write her?” My heart broke. I asked her why she wouldn’t want to and she replied, “I don’t know what to say. She never writes back.” I think the withholding of a letter (the first time for M) is a way for her to have some control over things. She is hurt that IKL has never written back and is upset that J received the first letter when he had never written at all. Her reasoning is probably, “Dad didn’t write at all and she wrote him. If I don’t write then maybe she’ll write me.”

How do I help her understand? I feel like the limbo of my life also extends to my children and juggling doing what is best for them and protecting them. But what is protecting one child may be hurting the other. I cannot force M to write to her sister but this means that IKL may get her feelings hurt with the absence of a letter from M for the first time. And I am powerless to get IKL to write to M. Even if I wasn’t, I would never want to force her to do something she wasn’t comfortable with either.

These are all the things I wasn’t told about. A successful reunion, in the future, relies on more than just me and IKL. There are so many outside factors to be included that could make or break it. My other parented children, my husband, IKL’s family. I worry that M not writing to IKL may hurt our chances of building a relationship in the future.

This all sounds so very self-centered, and maybe it is. I want nothing more in the world than to have a part, any part – even a tiny part, in IKL and her family’s life. My heart has been hurting for so many years.

This isn’t what I signed up for. I had no idea. I really didn’t know.

The Christmas Hangover

Please see “EDIT” at the bottom before reading.

While New Year’s hasn’t yet come upon us, Christmas is said and done. Holidays and birthdays are always really hard in this life as a “birthmom.” I imagine that for some adoptees it is as well. I can only write from my point of view, in my role, though.

Open adoption was supposed to be a way for me to not feel so sad. To not wonder. To have a small part of my daughter, especially around birthdays and holidays. At first I would get pictures (even a video on her first birthday) on these hard days to make it a little easier to cope. It’s been some time since I received actual birthday pictures or holiday pictures. I haven’t seen pictures of my daughter opening up birthday or Christmas presents in years. I always send an email or letter on or just before these days to let them know I am thinking of her (and them) and I always hope that they will find it in their hearts to send something along for me to make those days better. Something to let me into that little part of their lives, their celebrations with her. This year I sent my Christmas email a couple days before Christmas and have yet to get any response. I don’t think I’m going to. Like I said, it’s been years.

Other emails, those not written around holidays and birthdays, are usually responded to within a few days or a few weeks. Sometimes they include a picture, sometimes a short line letting me know they received whatever I sent. These emails that I send are not usually time sensitive so it’s okay if they are answered late. Sometimes I play the devil’s advocate and think, “Maybe they aren’t aware that I would like a picture of her on her birthday or Christmas. I can’t expect them to be mind readers.” But these are just excuses. Why WOULDN’T I want a picture on these days? An update? It doesn’t take a mind reader to be considerate and think of me. Sometimes it feels almost willful and purposeful. I can never say for sure so my mind allows that sliver of hope that says it’s just an oversight. My heart says otherwise.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m still being purposely punished for the falling out we had 12 years ago when I changed my mind about relinquishing my subsequent child to them. They did promise I would never see IKL again and, so far, that promise has been kept. And that is when everything changed.

So this is what I call the “Christmas Hangover.” While the holidays (and birthdays) themselves can be a hard time, it’s the silence that comes afterwards that lingers. Like the headache after a heavy night of whiskey and beer. It’s the reminder that you are really not important enough to be considered. It’s the reminder that you have no control and they have all control – and they will use it accordingly.

In a few weeks the holidays and their hangovers will be officially over and things can return to somewhat of a norm. I won’t have to start processing these deep emotions again until October/November when her birthday rolls around again. For that I am thankful.

**EDIT** I am leaving this up to further reiterate the mind set of a birthmom. I wrote this under the assumption that I had been disregarded and found out shortly after that the reason for the silence at the holidays was because of the surprise in the mailbox. (SEE: The Letter) One of the horrible things about the bad side of being a birthmom is the insecurity it holds.