Babies in Prison, What Comes Next?
The intricate and sometimes hidden ties that bind, define, shape and hold us.
Posted Apr 11, 2014
Deborah Jiang Stein has a new memoir out called PRISON BABY. She is currently on tour, speaking about the book. Some of the stops on her tour are prisons. She is a national speaker and founder of The unPrison Project (www.unprisonproject.org,) a 501(c)3 nonprofit working to empower and inspire incarcerated women and girls with life skills and mentoring to plan and prepare for a successful life after prison. Prison Baby (Beacon Press) is about an adoptee “struggling to find her place in the world when she discovers a letter in her adoptive parents’ bedroom that reveals that her biological mother she never knew was a heroin addict who gave birth to her in prison.”
I wanted to share Deborah’s book and story with readers. To that end, I wanted to host her here. I asked Deborah to keep in mind that Adoption Stories is read by any person who may have been touched, even remotely, by adoption, some of whom have had a parent who was incarcerated or who themselves may have been incarcerated.
I asked her to talk about the delicate balance emotionally that the mother of origin (or family of origin) and the mother of adoption (or family of adoption) has in honoring the other when a parent is in jail, prison, or long-term psychiatric treatment, or treatment for addiction that might cycle with going back to prison/jail. How about the dad if the mother is in jail—or vice versa? How does incarceration of the mother or father revisit the child as a grownup—what should foster or adoptive parents, and original parents know? My thinking was that though yours is s personal story, readers are coming to/looking for something global that they can consider for themselves. I asked her please to discuss the global issues she'd like to discuss that extend out and beyond from her personal story.
"I've given some thought to your general question below and, while on first reading it may seem like my story and Prison Baby are about birth in prison and adoption and addiction, the global message is one of secrecy, shame and stigma, and healing from deep loss and trauma.
These are all part of adoption, which is an institution of loss for everyone involved. For the adoptee of course, who's lost her or his roots and source, for the parents of origin who've lost their baby, and the loss for adoptive parents who may be infertile or whatever reason for adoption. It's all coated with loss, and renewal, which I know from many different perspectives.
Every adoption story is different so I think it's not easy to say, "This is THE way." I don't believe anything is ever absolute.
There's a delicate balance to honor everyone involved because each has an emotional story, from the parents to the family of adoption and of course the adoptee.
I believe truth and open dialogue are the keys to healing. This goes beyond adoption, too. Everybody seeks healing and wellness, it seems the human way. Adoption is life long journey of healing."