Dan Rather Investigates Adoption & Coercion
Yesterday, April 6th, 2012, I was interviewed by Dan Rather.
I usually don’t like writing these kinds of “I’m going here and doing this” kind of thing because it feels insanely self promotional and I end up feeling like a show off and that’s not my intention. However, enough people know and will ask me about it. The one thing I love about blogging is I only have to tell a story once and then just link to. Plus, my hope is to share the how’s and whys and what it is like so that other’s realize that it’s not such a big deal and hopefully more can speak out as well.
Adopted or Abducted?
In case, you have missed it. Dan Rather is out new champion in adoption land. No longer with CBS, but still an investigative journalist heading Dan Rather Reports on HDNet.com. From what I now understand, they were already keen about doing a piece on adoption based on a phone call a while back, but the timing of the Australian Adoption Apology, has them going full bore. If you haven’t read Adopted or Abducted? please do so you see what I mean. They get it.
I’m still kind of in shock for many reasons.
- I’m shocked because long at last someone in the main stream media cares about adoption enough to do a full on investigation into the coercive practices of voluntary domestic infant adoption in the USA.
- I’m kind of shocked that the producers of the Dan Rather Reports included me in their investigation. For one, they were, to my understanding looking at the older practices. The forced adoptions, the interment of maternity homes, and the older moms who did not see adoption as redemption and “choose” it as I did.
- I’m really shocked at the company that was also interviewed and feel a great honor to be among them. In many ways, it’s like a who’s who of our adoption community: Ann Fessler, Rickie Solinger, Joe Soll, Karen Wilson Buterbaugh, Carol Shaefer , plus a whole slew of moms who were originally interviewed in The Girls Who Went Away.
- I pretty surprised that I actually got to meet Dan Rather. I had expected that, once invited to come down to NYC to speak to them, I would talk to the producers, maybe be filmed while they stood in. I didn’t think I would actually MEET him, much less be interviewed by Dan Rather Himself, but I was. I mean this is the man who told us our nightly news for most of my life. He covered everything from the war in Vietnam, to Kennedy’s assignation before I was born, interviewed Saddam Hussein, and he talks to ME? This was never even on my “bucket list” because it seemed so incredibly far fetched!
- I’m insanely surprised at how not insane it all felt.
How I Ended Up Talking to Dan Rather
I had originally sent the email over to the producer Sean when I saw the notice going around Facebook. While I did fit what they were looking for “Catholic, over 18 when relinquished” I didn’t think they would want to hear from me. I wasn’t tied down to a bed to give birth, I wasn’t drugged, my parents didn’t send me to a maternity home, my signature was not forged, etc.
My purpose at that point was to beg, to plead, that they didn’t cover the story with the viewpoint of “the way adoption WAS…” I wanted them to be aware that adoption was built on the current foundation of crimes and lies and obvious coercion, but that nowadays, the kinder, gentler face of adoption was just remarketed, slicker, but just as coercive if not more subtle and more deadly because they had perfected the seduction. Yes, I was surprised when they wanted to talk on the phone, but happy to oblige and figured that was that.
A few emails later, and I was delighted when I understood that they wanted me to come down to New York.
Going to NY to Meet Dan Rather
So I took the day off from work and got up at 6am, because when Dan Rather wants to talk to you, you go! Being that it was Good Friday, I got down to the city without a hitch and without a bit of traffic at the Lincoln tunnel; something rather unheard of. It was a beautiful day and since I had time, I left Port Authority and walked down 8th Avenue toward 21st Street where the interviews were to be stopping for coffee at a Dunkin Donuts.
After I had my single cup of coffee, two would have made me talk too fast, I meandered over to the west end of 10th Avenue where I had a choice of doors bearing the same address that I was to be at. Luckily, I had already stalked Sean the producer online , so I recognized his face, plus he was standing next to none other than Ann Fessler, so I had to be in the right place! The filming had been set up in a gallery owned by our very gracious hostess of the day, Valerie. The building also houses Carol Schaefer’s studio space, hence how we all managed to find our way there.
Dan was running a wee bit late and I was, miraculously, early so after a bit of chit chat, I went and sat in a small dark room with the cameramen and they did things with lighting and whatnot. And then, dressed to the nines, and completely unimposing, Dan Rather himself arrived. After he got light up properly and whatever technical things they do, it was my turn to be interviewed.
What I remember of the Interview
After Montel Williams, my biggest concerned with being interviewed was to not babble so I don’t miss my turn to say important things. I also knew that I didn’t want to talk too fast, not dwell too much on MY story, nor look quite as unaffected as I think I did on Related by Birth. I had spent the night before gathering up some research studies on the affects of adoption that were in print before I relinquished in 1987, read over the NCFA: Mothers, Money, Marketing and Madness piece, looked at the tax returns for the NCFA, Gladney and Bethany, and hoped that I could tie it all in.
I think I was a good hour in the chair, under the lights, talking to Dan on camera. I have no idea how they are going to be able to edit this thing as they have spoken to so many of us and I am sure we all have important things to say. I know that there is no way that all my words will be on the final cut, but I was amazed that I got to say so much.
- Yes, we talked about how the industry is based on profit and I got to hit the dollar amounts again!
- We talked about how it is an industry and not the nice warm and fuzzy win-win that adoption is supposed to be.
- Yeah, I said adoption is supposed to be about finding homes for children that need them, not families that want babies.
- I was able to say that the NCFA began in 1980 as a lobby group to promote adoption because the numbers were so low and that they did market research.
- Yes, I spoke about myself as if I was a target market that my agency was delighted to connect with and how they offered me everything I thought I wanted.
- I got a chance to talk about how birthmothers live in denial because sometimes that’s all we have to survive as no person could go on living everyday with such a wound.
- I was able to speak about what made me see adoption with different lenses when I realized that what I had been taught might actually end up hurting Max. That I was told that saying I never regretted my decision would hurt him.
- I told Dan Rather that it was ironic that this act, this adoption, that was supposed to allow me to resume my life as if I had never given birth was moot, since here I was 25 years later, talking to him. But that in five seconds, I could be 19 and alone in this hospital again, a puddle of hurt on the floor right at our feet.
- I was able to say that I knew my son was a product and that adoption was about supply and demand.
- I was even able to bump the notion of non-profits and declared Gladney’s 50 million in assets and revenue.
- And yes, I was able to say that we really needed to open records in this country because the adoptees deserve it and we need to listen to them since that is what adoption is supposed to be for.
I said a lot more too, but of course, it is all a blur. I thankfully, did have the wherewithal, to ask Dan Rather for a picture and managed this sad, put viewable shot!
Ann, Carol, Leslie, Lunch!
Then, I had to do a few shots of walking down the street talking to Dan Rather! And so, we chatted a bit and made small talk while we got filmed walking around NYC. Did I say how I’m still kind of shocked?
The other part of my day that was lovely.. I got to hang out with Ann and Carl for a while, plus Leslie Mackinnon, another Girl Who Went Away, was up from Atlanta to be filmed as well. Leslie and I had a delightful lunch together which was a last minute but fab plan if I don’t say so myself. In some ways I am almost more excited by my lunch with Leslie as she is a therapist specializing in adoption issues. Something that for a while now I have called my “goal for my fifth career”, I had abandoned the concept of going back to school to get some more letters after I broke my arm and then stumbled upon career #4 at DragonSearch. Meeting up with Leslie, receiving the knowledge that there are only a handful on birthmothers in the country that are adoption therapists, has really made the dream bubble up inside me again. It doesn’t feel like it’s something I want to do. It feels like something I am meant to do.
Back again at the gallery/studio; Dan rather was finishing up an interview with what I believe to be an attorney and then, oddly enough, he was gone. What was even odder than the fact that he didn’t actually interview Carol, nor Ann, nor Leslie, nor Rickie Solinger who was due in that day as well, was,, can you guess it, shocking. This also now scares the pants off of me. I was expecting to be a bit player who ended up mostly on the cutting room floor. Of course, now, I am thinking of all the other things I should have said. I am mad at myself for completely going blank when he asked if there was something I felt I had to say. Or ask. I am worried that I missed an important point, or the biggest fear with interviews, that what I did say can be spun, cut or taken out of context of make it, me, us, look bad..or adoption look good.
Post Interview Fears
That’s always the scariest part about doing this kind of stuff. I am always the optimist and believe the best about people, and even as I write this, I am still completely trusting that they guys do get it. Yet, now, realizing that not everyone was filmed speaking to Dan himself, I’m bugging out. I am so glad I didn’t know this before hand, but I will be worried now until this is over and is done! I know I did well, I know I spoke calmly, I know I got tears in my eyes where I should, but…..I’ll be most relieved when I see the final piece.
The other two things that are worth noting: Dan rather thanked US like a million times. So very gracious, but we all had to make the point that NO, they were to be thanked and WE were so grateful that they were doing a story about this issues. I think that went back and forth like a dozen times! Overall, the whole experience was both unbelievable and then, rather low key and completely normal. Sitting across from Dan Rather, he told me fishing stories and we talked about trout. And if he wasn’t THE Dan Rather, he would have been a gracious entertaining gentleman, but then there was his VOICE..and in a way it was like hanging out with the TV news, except this time it didn’t just tell you the news of the day, it spoke directly to me.
And then, my finial OMG did that just happen point of the day: Dan Rather said to the effect that *I* was very good on camera and should be on TV! I have allowed myself to roll that one around for a while. It’s not every day that one of the most distinguished and experienced journalists around gives one a compliment. Later on that night, sitting in bed, eating a later dinner and wearing my Old Navy comfy yoga pants, it didn’t all seem possible, but remember that compliment, I went to bed with a smile on my face.