Saturday, June 26, 2010

Should Secondary Infertility Rates of Birth Mothers be Disclosed in Adoption Counseling?

I came across a very recent study that was published in the journal Psychoanalytic Inquiry and conducted/written by Isabel Andrews titled "Secondary Infertility and Birth Mothers."  Isabel Andrews is affiliated with the Adoption Jigsaw, an entity that has provided search and reunion services, counselling, and support groups for mothers and adoptees separated by adoption in Western Australia.  Andrews was extremely respectful to mothers and recognized the deep loss that many of these mothers feel and expressed it eloquently in her article.

Why Look Into First Mother Infertility?
It was actually two books by Nancy Verrier and finding other research that repeated/supported Verrier's finding that 40-60% of mothers who have lost children to adoption did not go on to have other children that prompted Andrews to conduct this study.  She too found that 40-60% of the original mothers seeking support from Adoption Jigsaw did not go on to have other children and wanted to determine if this percentage was accurate.  She conducted a study that recorded (1) secondary infertility of original mothers seeking support from Adoption Jigsaw (2) secondary infertility reported from data recorded during the search and reunions conducted through Adoption Jigsaw and (3) information that was returned on questionnaires sent out to original mothers.

Andrews categorized her findings by listing three distinct groups of original mothers.  Of original mothers who attend support groups, 40-60% had not had other children.  Andrews feels that in society, original mothers may not necessarily be regarded as being "mother" to the children they relinquished for adoption which may cause a more profound feeling of loss if they have not experienced motherhood and parenting by having more children.  However, when they attend a support group with other original mothers, their motherhood is acknowledged which is supportive and uplifting.  13-20% of the randomly selected group of first mothers had not gone on to have more children.  23% of original mothers who searched for their surrendered descendants have not had other children. 

Though a small sample in WA, Andrews feel that these findings can apply to first mothers universally or at least extend to the first mothers in the rest of Australia.

Andrews speculated that since stress has had ties to infertility that perhaps stress is also a factor in why some original mothers do not have additional children.  She does state that there is no way to know for sure without doing individual case studies.  Some respondents to her study confided that the relinquishment of their child impacted their lives and that they did not find men they wanted to have children with or did not want to have any more children.  Over 60% of the respondents to the survey chose a 9-10 (on a scale of 9-10) on how much their surrender had impacted their "decision or inability" to have additional children (Andrews, 2010, p. 87).  Andrews acknowledged that medical infertility does not encompass all mothers who have not had additional children; most of the mothers who did not chose not to.
"Losing a baby is one of life's greatest traumas; losing a baby to adoption is just as traumatic, if not more so.  When a baby dies, the parents receive enormous support, love, and understanding,  A funeral is held, cards, flowers, and visits recognize their devastation.  When a mother or couple lose a baby to adoption, particularly in the past, there is no recognition of birth, and thus none of loss" (Andrews, 2010, p. 91).
When this study was reported in the adoption community in the U.S., the headline introducing the abstract and link to the article (which the general public cannot access without paying about $30 or having a membership to the journal) stated, "Most Birth Mothers Have More Children."  From the actual text of the study, this was clearly not the implication that Andrews drew from her own research. Andrews concluded by nodding toward the United States, urging a change in how we counsel expectant mothers.  Andrews holds that secondary infertility (whether by a medical issue or simply unintentionally never having anymore children) is a real issue in this population and that counselors are compelled to disclose this in adoption counselling.  This current pregnancy may be a mother's only opportunity to parent and it is unethical, as is so often done in counseling, to tell her she is guaranteed to be able to parent other children in the future.

(Andrews, I. (2010). Secondary infertility and birth mothers. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30(1), 80-93.).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Infertile Wound

I was adopted by infertile parents. I grew up knowing my mother felt threatened by things that she could not provide to me (my birth, my DNA, my health history, my facial features, my heritage). It was something that she might have tried to hide but I noticed. I was a joy to her but I did not ease her pain.

Later on, I discovered my own struggles with fertility as it took me 18 months to get pregnant with my son--a pregnancy I experienced pre-reunion and with no family health history, no idea of what to expect. I was terrified.

It took me 16 months to get pregnant again after he was born.  I lost this pregnancy I lost a just few days ago.

Growing up and even now, individuals in my life who know that I have struggled with fertility frustrations with a successful pregnancy in addition to being adopted have come to me looking for hope. They think that maybe what worked for me will work for them.  If it doesn't work, they I can tell them something that will make them feel good about the possible prospect of adopting.

I cannot talk about adoption with those that I love without talking about all of it.  The loss.  The lifelong processing of the meaning of adoption.  The policy issues that need to be changed.  Sometimes these things are very hard for people in the midst of grief to hear.

My original mother, my adoptive mother, and I, we all lost something, didn't we.  We all gained each other. It is hard to hear about loss--but it is how we gain empathy for each other.

PA Call to Action HB 1978


A Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights Call to Action
End Adult Adoptee Inequality in Pennsylvania

Promote Adoptee Rights in PA, Help PROMOTE HB 1978
HB 1978 is a bill pending in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee.  It impacts the portion of law governing the right of Adult Adoptees to access their Non-Identifying and Identifying information.  HB 1978 says that upon reaching adulthood, an Adult Adoptee will have the right to request either one of their birth certificates (the Amended or the Original) under the same law (Vital Statistics Law), for the same price, and by the same process as every other Pennsylvania Citizen.  HB 1978 is the Adoptee Equality Bill.  Read the bill here.

5 Ways to Take Action and PROMOTE HB 1978 Now!

1.    Contact Legislators:  Make sure legislators know that HB 1978 needs a hearing and needs to pass un-amended and in its current condition.
a.)  Contact your Representative and make sure they know you support this bill. 
b.)  If your Representative is not already a co-sponsor, please ask them to become a co-sponsor.
c.)  Contact the members of the Health and Human Services Committee and tell them that this bill needs a committee hearing and that it must pass the committee hearing un-amended and in its current condition.

Contact information for these Representatives will be provided at the bottom of this document.

2.    Brush Up on the Issue:  It is vital to approach a legislator prepared in order to keep our bills clean, on topic, and from addressing other issues not related to Adoptee Rights.  Adoptee Rights is about the Basic Human Right to identity and the Civil Right to equal treatment under the law.  We lay out Adoptee Rights arguments, the rebuttals to common misconceptions, and provide links to documents, court cases and research to help you explain this important cause.  Check out our education page found here.

3.    Follow us on Facebook:  Do you have a Facebook page?  “Like” our page, found at  Invite everyone on your friends list to “like” our page too.  It doesn’t matter if they do not live in PA or if they are not directly impacted by adoption.  Anyone who is interested in or a friend of Adoptee Rights can “like” our page and by doing so, show legislators the interest that there is in our cause.

4.    Join Our Mailing List:  Facebook is one way to follow us but we also have a mailing list which is a great way to get urgent calls to action right in your email inbox.  Have your name counted as a member of our organization by joining our mailing list at our Google Group page found here:

Legislator Contact Information

To find your legislator, please visit the PA General Assembly website and enter in your ZIP code in the “Find Members” search box in the upper right-hand corner.  For more information on each legislator in the House of Representatives, please visit our spreadsheet.

House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee:
Hon. Frank Louis Oliver (Chairman)
34E East Wing
PO Box 202195
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2195
(717) 787-3480
Fax: (717) 783-0684

Hon. Matthew E. Baker (Chairman)
108 Ryan Office Building
PO Box 202068
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2068
(717) 772-5371
Fax: (717) 705-1835
Hon. Tim Seip (Secretary)
115B East Wing
PO Box 202125
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2125
(717) 772-5771
Fax: (717) 780-4759

Hon. Seth M. Grove (Secretary)
52-A East Wing
PO Box 202196
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2196
(717) 783-2655
Hon. John Myers
305 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202201
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2201
(717) 787-3181
Fax: (717) 772-4038

Hon. Karen D. Beyer
B14 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202131
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2131
(717) 783-1673
Fax: (717) 787-9463

Hon. Eddie Day Pashinski
27A East Wing
PO Box 202121
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2121
(717) 783-0686
Fax: (717) 772-2284

Hon. Bryan Cutler
147A East Wing
PO Box 202100
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2100
(717) 783-6424
Fax: (717) 772-9859

Hon. Ronald G. Waters
328 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202191
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2191
(717) 772-9850
Fax: (717) 783-1516

Hon. Mauree Gingrich
430 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202101
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2101
(717) 783-1815
Fax: (717) 705-2569

Hon. Jake Wheatley
311 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202019
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2019
(717) 783-3783
Fax: (717) 780-4753

Hon. Katie True
7 East Wing
PO Box 202041
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2041
(717) 705-7161
Fax: (717) 705-1946

Hon. Louise Williams Bishop
326 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202192
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2192
(717) 783-2192
Fax: (717) 787-2960

Hon. Kerry A. Benninghoff
41B East Wing
PO Box 202171
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2171
(717) 783-1918
Fax: (717) 260-6528

Hon. Vanessa Lowery Brown
330 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202190
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2190
(717) 783-3822
Fax: (717) 772-2384

Hon. Gene DiGirolamo
49 East Wing
PO Box 202018
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2018
(717) 783-7319
Fax: (717) 772-2414

Hon. Mark B. Cohen
128 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202202
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2202
(717) 787-4117
Fax: (717) 787-6650

Hon. Nicholas A. Micozzie
105 Ryan Office Building
PO Box 202163
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2163
(717) 783-8808
Fax: (717) 783-0688

Hon. Paul J. Drucker
323 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202157
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2157
(717) 705-2003
Fax: (717) 772-2943

Hon. Douglas G. Reichley
5 East Wing
PO Box 202134
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2134
(717) 787-1000
Fax: (717) 705-7012

Hon. Thaddeus Kirkland
320 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202159
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2159
(717) 787-5881
Fax: (717) 787-9074

Hon. Katharine M. Watson
B16 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202144
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2144
(717) 787-5452
Fax: (717) 783-8934
Hon. Kathy Manderino
125 East Wing
PO Box 202194
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2194
(717) 787-1254
Fax: (717) 780-4770

Hon. Barbara McIlvaine Smith
121A East Wing
PO Box 202156
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2156
(717) 705-1922
Fax: (717) 780-4778

Hon. Tony J. Payton Jr.
308 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202179
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2179
(717) 787-1354
Fax: (717) 780-4789

Hon. Ken Smith
28B East Wing
PO Box 202112
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2112
(717) 783-1359
Fax: (717) 780-4757
Prepared by Pennsylvania Adoptee Rights Advocates, ,, June 2010
PAR Advocates promotes openness and truthfulness in adoption practice and the right of Adult Adoptees to access their Original Birth Certificates without condition.