Thoughts On Adoption Motherhood, In Black, White And Technicolor

Within our sisterhood of adoptive mothers, we are a bit hard on each other.
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When my book was published a Beverly Hills based writer-friend, who also happens to be an adoptee with famous adoptive parents, offered to do a favor for me. Namely allow her publicist to stir up Hollywood celebrity adoptive parent publicity to pair with my memoir Pushing up the Sky. But I declined her offer.

What was the promotion that I decided not to embark on which promised to land my book a mention, which I was assured would result in an sales rank number lower than Jack Nicklaus golf score?

The plan was simple. All I would need to do was autograph a book for a famous adoptive mother. But there was a catch. We wouldn't wait until she read my book, and got back to me.

"You don't want to be waiting around if she decides to take the book with her and read it on her next jaunt to China or Africa." The publicist explained.

"I don't mind waiting." I countered. Moving slowly comes natural to me. Especially since escaping the Los Angeles-Hollywood scene 25 years ago and relocating 100 miles north on the California coast where I've permitted my bones to sometimes lie for hours at a time on sandy shore lined beaches, often reading, and more often watching my kids surf the waves. Didn't celebrity adoptive mothers deserve equal kid watching leisure time and reading pleasure?

Instead the rush-ahead plan was to build on a story that hadn't finished happening. The publicist wanted to run a "guess what the stars are reading" blurb along with the cover of my book, and immediately publish the news bite on Mother's Day. Because the theory is, after all, that if a certain famous mother was reading my book, it must be good, and everyone else would want to read it too.

"Don't worry," the publicist assured me. "This is how it's done all the time in Hollywood, and since reviews cite your book as wielding enormous impact, she (meaning famous adoptive mother) has as much to gain from this as you do."

I wondered how. Above all, every ounce of me knew I had plenty to lose. If we didn't wait for famous mother to release her statement and give her consent, I would not be genuine. So even if the plan was a success, it wouldn't work in my mind.

When I told the writer-friend who had recommended the publicist, that I couldn't do it, she said, "Good for you for turning that idea down -- I wish more people understood what it's like to live in the spot light, and that they didn't categorize actors as either good or bad depending on what the press decides to publish about us, whether it's true or not."

At this point my daughter's ears perked up. "You are friends with who?" She demanded to know. "How long have you known her, and where did you meet?" Let's just say I know a couple of people of influential means. How? From my days of hanging around with writers who learned from Allen Ginsberg way back in the 1970s. Comrades who stayed focused on their craft and were excellent at what they did, and went on to become successful well-known personalities. Folks who didn't take time out in their careers to start families and have babies or adopt children, and some who did.

I know a few who have managed to make it big by the wings of grace, and many more who have reached the top with the assistance of glitzy media boosts along the way, like the publicity opportunity my writer-friend offered me, and I rejected.

After all, if I wanted to be associated with pop idol fame I wouldn't be dividing my time between writing and working at a youth crisis shelter. I wouldn't have chosen KAAN as my publisher. More importantly, if my goal had been to court a star-struck audience of readers I would have written a different book.

Most of all, I'm wondering, when did writing about motherhood get to be so complicated? Toss in adoption. The home study process with its series of self-studies focusing on our ideas regarding parenting and our child rearing philosophy gear us toward extreme self-improvement. This is where the rubber meets the road, particularly in International and transracial adoption. It's the juncture where a fire is lit in us to question our values, and often this process leads some of us to judge others whose models do not match our own.

We accept the need to put extra effort into adoption mothering. We read everything we can get our hands on about adoption. We participate in adoption conferences, email group discussions, and support groups. In this setting, is it little wonder that in our eagerness to become enlightened, in our sincere desire to better ourselves, that we have a tendency to become overly critical?

For as long as I have been a mother which began on a joyful day in 1981, one thing has remained a constant. Within our sisterhood of adoptive mothers, we are a bit hard on each other. Comparisons are constantly made, and someone always draws the short straw. Perhaps it's because the adoption process with its long wait list to be matched with a child drives us to be competitive.

Certainly none of the adoptive mothers I know are guided by the stars, meaning celebrity status. And only a handful view celebrity adoptive moms as equals in the sacred clan of motherhood by adoption. Yet we share a powerful common bond.

Why is it that so many have a tendency to believe that if an icon turns adoptive mother that she may have fudged on her homestudy. Or that she may not be sincere enough, or love her child enough, or be able to meet the adoption parenting standards we set for ourselves, or are as dedicated to parenting as we are?

Deep down do we believe that mothers who are rich and famous can't be good parents? Or is it because the media has led us to believe the cult of celebrity trivializes everything it touches, including adoption?