Her name is Tisha . She was born on March 13, 1969. Tisha came to live in our home (mine and Judy's, my first wife) in May of 1971. She became our legal daughter a few months later, but she was really ours from the day we met. I think that was also the day when she decided to become a doctor. Of course, that's not realistic. Two-year-olds are not capable of making such life decisions, are they?
But as long as I can remember, Tisha has always wanted to be a doctor. After years of hard work, she made it, and in the Ivy League, no less. Correct. That's President Clinton shaking her hand at the Dartmouth College commencement in 1995 as she joins that very exclusive club of African-American women who have the letters "MD" after their name. There are probably fewer in that sorority than in the association of New York Times Bylined Writers (my claim to fame). And she had to work a lot harder.
We're really proud but we'd be real proud if she had chosen to be a waitress or an assembly line worker. Whatever our Tisha does, she does with pride. How could parents not be proud?
She completed her residency and is employed, among other places in the Emergency Room of the University of Florida's Health Center in Jacksonville, Florida. Tisha is an ER physician, just like the kid's on the now defunct TV Show by the same name except they make more money and don't get to dip their hands in real blood. She has taught EMT's at community college and worked as a volunteer doctor in emergency response teams from forest fires to potential terrorist incidents.
The photo just to the right appeared on her "graduation" page when she completed her residency in 1999 at University Medical Center. That page is no longer on the Internet. But the larger photo below is far more recent.
While we're on the topic of children, and adoption, I'm going to use this page to touch on an issue of concern to virtually all adoptive parents. What follows may sound a bit like making a case for "politically correct" language. Before you judge, think about the issue for a moment. If you were in my shoes, how would you feel. This was written quite a few years ago in reaction to some things that were said in the NY Times. I am happy to report that the Times no longer uses the language that I wrote about. I don't think I had much to do with it, but who knows?
NO ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS by Marty Gallanter
In no less a publication than The New York Times, in no less a place than on its revered editorial page (1/3/92 - "A Warning From Margarita), another representative of the American media has chosen thoughtless, even careless, language and, once more, demeaned, disenfranchised and insulted tens of thousands of decent parents.
The use of language is intensely important. Small words have large meanings. Though maybe a little too slowly, the media has learned about the pain that the choice of single word can bring. They use "alleged" when referring to accused criminals. They have become, for the most part, sensitive to demeaning racial and gender terms. Except when it is essential to a story, they rarely reveal the race of a criminal suspect. But when they talk about my daughter, they don't seem to care who they offend.
My little girl's grown up now and a medical student. She graduated high school valedictorian and college cum lade. She starred on the women's soccer team and is prettier and more confident than any 22 year old has the right to be. Of course, I'm a proud father. It's only natural.
But every time a story about adoption or foster care hits the press, her mother and I become "unnatural parents"... delegitimized by the media's choice of words... because this wonderful human being happens to have been adopted.
This callous contamination of language first became obvious to adoptive parents during the famous Baby M case centering on the rights of a surrogate mother. Television and news writers apparently decided that the woman who carried the child would be labeled "the natural mother."
It was almost as if the parent who was destined to care for and raise the youngster was composed of a concoction of substances from a laboratory. Maybe they thought of her as the "unnatural mother." The thoughtless misuse of these terms reached new and more insulting heights a year later with the tragic death of little Lisa Steinberg. Thousands of adoptive parents protested to newspapers and to TV and radio stations as the media referred to the woman who had given up her baby as Lisa's natural mother.
You'd think they'd learn. But then, only three days into the new year, we are greeted with the same careless words as the most prestigious newspaper in America editorializes on a foster care fiasco and refers to the drug abusing biological parent of little Margarita as "her natural mother."
Our daughter came into our family because my wife and I, like thousands of other couples every year... like Margarita's foster parents, voluntarily entered the public adoption and care system. Despite its flaws, it remains of the most closely regulated processes in our society.
We were investigated and examined, tested and reexamined. Nothing was too private to be revealed, because the protection of the youngster was the prime concern. When we were at last approved and received the child in our home, it was still only on a trial basis. And when the adoption became final, they reminded us that we were a legal family, with all the same rights, privileges, obligations and responsibilities as if she had been born of our bodies. The day the judge signed the papers is still one of the most cherished of our lives.
We loved her, fed and clothed her, provided comfort, nursed her illnesses, punished transgressions, rewarded successes and nurtured her to the borders of adulthood. There was nothing unnatural about our parenthood.
The privilege of being a parent is earned, not inherited and certainly not assigned by newspaper. The task that nature requires of a parent goes well beyond conception and birth. In reality Lisa Steinberg had no "natural parents." Certainly the Steinberg family failed to comply with a parent's natural duty to nurture and protect Lisa. Her birth mother did not fulfill the role of raising and caring for her daughter until she could care for herself. She never went beyond that part of the function that is only biological. So why was she honored with the title by the media?
In a world of economic decline, in a society besieged with social problems, the choice of words in news copy may seem like a very minor issue. But to thousands and thousands of adoptive families, who provide quality parental care every day... to people who are part of the solution, not part of the problem, the public use of the term "natural parents," is painfully, deeply offensive.
My daughter's mother and I filled that function. We earned our title. True, we didn't experience nine months of gestation and the pain of labor, but --- after two decades of care, concern and love --- does that mean that our proper place in the universal order should be assigned to another on the editorial page or on the six o'clock news?
With a growing awareness of child abuse, with thousands of drug addicted and AIDS infected babies joining our population, more human tragedies centering on adopted and foster care children will unfortunately be appearing in the news. When the copy is written, maybe the reporters and editors could consider the entire task that nature requires of parents. In thousands and thousands of adoptive homes, all over America, there are no artificial ingredients.
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