Birthmotherhood

Jennifer Padre

My story is a modern day example of a very successful adoption and there are many more out there, however it seems that the perception of adoption has not made the jump into the 21th century entirely.

When I was growing up I had a friend named Kat.  She was adopted. She had a Korean
brother, Jun who was also
adopted.  As a child, Kat and Jun
were my frame of reference for adoption. 
Being a child, I had never given adoption much thought.

 

Many years later, as a teenager, adoption became
something that was personally defined for me.  I was 16 years old when I learned I was pregnant.  I was a typical teenager.  I liked to hang-out with my friends,
went to school and did the typical teenager things.  I was a good student. I was popular.  I had lots of friends. I was involved
in sports, student government, music and many other extra-curricular
activities. I came from a respected upper middle class family with well
educated parents.  I did not fit
the stereotype of the ‘pregnant teen’.

 

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When I realized that I was pregnant, I systematically and
consistently put the idea out of my head. 
I went about  my every day
teenage life.  When my family and
friends ultimately found out I was pregnant, they were very supportive, once
the initial shock wore off.  My
parents were divorced and I lived with my mother and two younger brothers.  My Dad lived very close by and I saw
him often.  I had six very good,
loyal and close friends who were incredibly supportive and protective of me.  I was lucky to have such a solid
support system.  These six friends
are still my best friends today. 
We are grown women with families and responsibilities and yet I know
even today if I needed them, they would be there.

 

When I gave birth, options were discussed with me
regarding what to do about the baby. 
Should I keep the baby and raise it with the support of my parents?  For me,  there seemed no choice but adoption.  My parents were very clear that they
would support me in whatever decision I made.  I was now 17. 
The thought of raising a child was an impossibility. I wanted to finish
high school.  I wanted to go to
college.   I wanted to have
fun.  I wanted to hang out with my
friends. I just wanted to continue to be a teenager.

 

What I wanted for myself seemed untenable if I were to
attempt raising a child as a teenage mom. 
More importantly though, without adoption into a stable, mature, loving
home, my child would have many limitations in his life.  How could I ever give him what my parents
had given to me?  My parents had
been  ready to be parents. I was
not.  How could I have any
confidence that he would have all the opportunities I had as well as grow to be
a healthy and well-adjusted human being? 
As a teenage mother – I could not see that happening.

 

I met with a social worker from the adoption agency to
discuss the process.  I was allowed
to look through a variety of profiles of perspective adoptive parents.  The adoption was to be a closed
adoption.  This was 1987 and open
adoption was not as common as it is today.  It was important to me that his adoptive parents be educated
and interesting but most importantly warm and loving.  J. and A. were all of that and more.

 

I remember vividly the day that the social worker came to
the hospital to take the baby.  He
was four days old.  He had been
snuggled, cuddled and loved by my parents, my brothers, myself and the nursery
staff at the hospital during his four days with us.  As I changed him and got him ready for the big journey to
his new home, I was sad. But I knew in my heart and mind, that this was the
right and best choice for the both of us. 
It was a bittersweet experience saying goodbye.  I both hoped and yet knew, that this
was the best decision for everyone.

 

My baby was
named Jordan by his parents and for the next 14 years I maintained contact with
him and his parents through the adoption agency.  At least twice a year I would send a letter accompanied by
recent photos of me and my family. 
I always got a return letter from his parents, J. and A. In addition,
they faithfully included recent photos of ‘our son’ as they referred to
him.  I have photos of Jordan from
a few months old right up to his teenage years.  I got to know him and his parents over the years through
these communication.  It was
wonderful and comforting to see the photos of him in his crib, playing with
friends, on the beach, skiing with his family, traveling all over the place and
enjoying a wide variety of different experiences.  I saw him doing all of the things I had hoped for him but
could not have necessarily provided for him as a young mom.

 

I had always hoped when the time was right that I would
have an opportunity to reconnect with Jordan and meet him again in person.  I didn’t know if that would ever happen
and never discussed it with J. and A. through our letters. 

 

When Jordan was 14 years old, we did meet again.  He had expressed a desire to meet me
and J. and A. were very open and supportive of this idea.  We met in a very special and fitting
place; a beautiful park in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.  I was born in Oak Bluffs in the same
hospital where Jordan was born.  As
it turns out, Martha’s Vineyard had a special place in the hearts of J. and A.
as well. Aside from being the place where their son was born, they had family
connections to the Vineyard.  They
had been spending time on the Vineyard every summer since Jordan was born.  If you are from the Vineyard, you feel
a real sense of pride about being from that community. For me, it felt like Jordan
had gotten some of that community and connectivity by spending part of every
summer on the Vineyard.  It seemed
more than appropriate when J. and A. suggested this be the place to meet after
all this time. 

 

That first meeting was exciting and nerve-racking, but we
both survived.  J. and A. were
always open with Jordan about the fact that he was adopted.   I believe this played a critical
role in his desire to meet 
me.  My impression of him at
our first meeting was that he was 
bright; a thoughtful young man. 
He was sensitive and he was funny. 
He was adventurous and open. 
I couldn’t have been happier. 
He had many interests, from traveling to horse back riding.  Shortly after our meeting,  my father and both brothers got to meet
Jordan.  My brothers automatically
clicked with Jordan- especially my youngest brother.  They seemed almost like a big and little brother who goofed
around and enjoyed a lot of laughs together.  My Dad, who was a man of few words, quietly observed Jordan
and seemed to just enjoy being in his presence.  I believe it felt like a reconnection for my father.  Meeting Jordan again was an amazing
experience for all of us and one I will never forget.

 

That was eight years ago.  Since that time our lives have changed and grown.  I am now 39 and married to a wonderful
man. I have a 20 year old stepdaughter, an 11 year old stepdaughter, a 6 year
old son and a 4 year old daughter. 
Jordan is 22.  He recently
graduated from a great university and is working for a non-profit organization.
 All of these children consider
each other brothers and sisters – even Jordan.  They comfortably reference one another as brother or sister.

 

Over the years, we have had the privilege of attending
some of Jordan’s high school play performances, basketball games, holiday
events and graduations.  Our family
has created our own holiday tradition of having a brunch together with Jordan,
J. and A. every year.  It is something
that I really look forward to.  We
comfortably and humorously refer to ourselves as a VERY blended family – J. and
A. included.

 

As Jordan grew old enough to drive, he would visit me and
my family on his own.  We have been
lucky enough to always get together over holidays and birthdays at some point
to celebrate.  In his later high
school years and more into his college years, our relationship became more
independent from his parents, J. and A. 
Jordan and I touch base on the phone, email and text frequently.  Jordan recently visited my oldest
stepdaughter at college.  He treats
her like the little sister he needs to watch out for.  It’s adorable and touching.  My six year old son and Jordan have a very special bond.  The time they spend together seems so
important to both of them. When Jordan arrives at our home, Noah’s face lights
up and he won’t leave Jordan’s side. 
They are buddies.

 

This past May my husband James and I traveled to Jordan’s
college graduation.  I felt so
honored to be a part of this incredible day. We sat with J. and A. as Jordan
received his diploma and I was proud like any parent – birth or adoptive- would
have been.  But the strongest
emotion that came over me was that of gratitude.  As I watched this young man cross the stage to receive his
diploma, I felt this was the moment that I had been waiting for.  Twenty two years ago,  I 
made a choice. I hoped it was the right choice. That day I knew.   J. and A. had raised an amazing
person.  He was loved and
happy.  They had given him more
opportunities than I could have imagined. 

 

I feel so fortunate to have Jordan in my life and my
family’s life.  I truly believe
from the beginning his parents and I have always made Jordan the priority.  We have had open communication and
respect for each other.  We put
aside any uncomfortable or anxious feelings of our own and focused on what has
always been  the most important
thing- Jordan.

 

My story is a modern day example of a very successful
adoption and there are many more out there, however it seems that the
perception of adoption has not made the jump into its 21th century reality.  Open adoption is a much more common
experience today than it was twenty years ago.  Sadly, the public’s view of adoption is stuck in the 1950’s
when unwed women and girls were sent away from their communities to have their
babies only to return empty handed in a veil of silence and secrecy. 

 

The public needs to be educated about
modern adoption practice. More awareness and openness about the reality of
adoption today will enable women and girls to consider adoption a more viable
reproductive choice.  One of the
reasons my experience was so successful was because of the support and
acceptance that was given to me by my family, friends and even my
community.  By educating the public
about modern adoption, we will create more supportive environments for women
considering it.
 

 

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.