Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Connected, Part Four: Facebook as Metta Meditation (Guest Post)

Techquanimity
I am delighted to feature the following guest post by Joyce Genet of Techquanimity. Joyce left a comment on this blog recently that got me thinking, so I invited her to expand on the comment. The following post on mindful use of Facebook is the result. I hope you will enjoy her post and will check out her website as well. You can also connect with her on twitter and, of course, Facebook.

There I was. I'd sit down "for a minute" to check Facebook. Miles of scrolling and 1,500 clicks later I’d realize it had been hours. My eyes would be tired, my butt sore, and I’d hardly remember what I read. No wonder some people want to stay away from Facebook. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Connected, Part Three: Interdependence Versus Independence

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security 
-- Albert Einstein
Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Connected, Part Two: Is the Internet Changing Our Brains?

Is the Internet changing our brains?

In his 1998 book The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, author Leonard Shlain explored the historic changes that took place as written language evolved and spread across the globe, accompanied by a shift from cultures oriented toward goddess-worship and feminine values toward more patriarchal, male-dominated societies. His theory was that writing stimulated left-brain thinking, causing a collective shift away from the more holistic, right-brain modes.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Connected, Part One: Collaboration and Dialogue on the Internet

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last month I wrote a post at the Lost Daughters that was inspired by an experience I had while reading the memoir Taking Down the Wall. The book's author is the adoptee Christine Murphy, a virtual friend of mine whom I "met" through facebook. My Lost Daughters post (on the subject of adoptee anger) generated not only a lot of comments at at the original post but also three responses by first mothers at the blogs helloooo, i'm bleeding, here!, One Option Means No Choice, and Letters to Ms. Feverfew. I was thrilled with the responses!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Knot

I know how to tie a bowline knot.
So does the father who didn't raise me.
But because he didn't teach me I tie mine upside down.
Or he does.

I only know we approach from opposite directions
And end up with the same knot.

I often wonder,
Have I lived an entirely different life
Or the exact same life
Upside down?

bowline
Credit: woodleywonderworks

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Art of Finding

The mother who raised me taught me to shop for bargains the way our distant ancestors taught their daughters to search for the best nuts and berries.

She also taught me to gather sea glass.

Years later, when I met the mother who didn't raise, she too was a bargain gatherer. I watched her move along the racks of the thrift stores rubbing fabric between her practiced fingers, a habit learned from her mother and grandmother, reflective of the family's history in the fabric industry. My first mother shops by touch.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Art of Losing

"The art of losing isn’t hard to master." So wrote the poet Elizabeth Bishop in her poem "One Art."

I have been practicing the art of losing since the day I was born. I lost my first mother on that day and would not find her again for almost thirty years. As an adoptee, my birth loss was particularly acute, but all of us, truly, enter the world in a moment of loss. The womb is our first lost home. We can never return.

After that, a million other losses, all leading toward the day we leave behind what remains. If there is one thing we are here on this earth to do, it is to practice the art of losing.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The Buddhist path of non-attachment? 

Can I claim to be a master?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What Happened This Week: A Community Responds To News of "Baby Veronica"

The following is basically a reformulation of things I shared on facebook during the past week.

(c) 123RF Stock Photos
The best phrase I can think of to describe what I observed in the adoptee and first parent community as the news broke of Veronica's transfer is "mass reactivated trauma." The cumulative effect as the news spread through social media Monday night was stunning. It was as though people throughout the adoption community were falling to their knees wailing. Or as Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy wrote of the "collective consciousness of sadness," quoting Star Wars: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

What It Feels Like To Be a Woman

My senior year in high school I rode the bus to school on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. But not on Tuesdays. On that one day of the week, my friend Michelle was allowed to drive her parents' car to school. She'd pick up me and a couple of our other friends (both of whom were named Jen), and we'd head over to the local greasy spoon for breakfast before driving to school.

One morning as we waited for our check to arrive we began distractedly creating a pile from various things from the table, while simultaneously continuing to be engrossed in our conversation. We started with the large, metal-topped sugar container and then added knives and forks, packets of jam, etc., until we had created a "sculpture" of sorts in the center of our table. We pronounced it a work of art and decided it needed a title. Someone suggested "What It Feels Like To Be a Woman," and we all laughed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Open Adoption & School

The current Open Adoption Bloggers prompt is as follows:
Write about open adoption and school.
Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My answer to this one will be concise. The main thing I want to share is that I have frequent conversations with Erica (my daughter's biological mother) about our daughter's academic life. Erica is able to provide me with important insights because her learning style is similar to that of our daughter. If our adoption lacked the level of openness that makes our conversations possible, I firmly believe that I would be less effective at guiding and supporting my daughter in school.

Erica's potential to be a resource in this way wasn't something I consciously considered when I started down the path of open adoption, but it has definitely been one of the benefits. 


For more responses to this prompt, please click here and then scroll down to the comment section.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

On My Father's Boat: Yet Another Story of Adoption Reunion

My father is at the helm. I am standing just to the port side of him. We are motoring along the coast of Maine, and on the shore that we are passing is the town where he and my mother grew up. Their story, and mine, began in the usual way: boy meets girl. But sometime after that, our tale veered from the usual course.


In a different scenario, the town we are passing now might have been my first home. Instead, I was raised in a different town further up the coast, by different parents than the two with whom I began my life.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

One Day My Daughter's Story Will Trump My Own

I am an adoptive mother who has chosen to have a very open relationship with my daughter's biological family. The relationship is one that enriches my life in countless ways. In fact, I have come to consider my daughter's other mother one of my closest friends. But I often tell people that as much as the relationship benefits me, my primary reason for building and sustaining it is the benefit to my daughter.

But how do I know openness benefits my daughter?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Update Post

I haven't been blogging much lately, but I've been keeping busy in the world beyond my computer. (Yes, it does exist!)

I've already shared here about the day Erica was forced to make a quick departure from her apartment as a result of a domestic violence incident on the part of her ex-partner. What I didn't share at the time, for safety reasons, was where she went that day. Now that she's no longer here I can tell you that the undisclosed location where she and her sons were hiding out was my house. Yes, that's right. We took open adoption to a whole new level. Two moms under one roof!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Domestic Violence: How You Can Help One Woman Move to Safety

A few months ago, my daughter's other mother brought a roomful of people to their feet when she spoke the following words as part of speech she was giving at an event sponsored by the organization MotherWoman -- a speech in which she touched on various challenges that she had overcome in her life, including domestic violence: "I am no longer in any abusive relationships." (See video below.)



Her words, in the moment, were completely true. 

But, unfortunately, an event beyond her control loomed in the future.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shoes

So, I have this pair of shoes. Very nice shoes. Top quality. In fact, it's hard to imagine a better pair.

Except, they don't quite fit.

You may say that having a pair of shoes that doesn't quite fit is better than having a damaged pair or having no shoes at all. You may point out that lots of other people have shoes that don't quite fit.

I won't dispute that.

But I still have this pair of shoes that don't quite fit.

Image: artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I Am My Father's Daughter: A Year In Review

Open Adoption Roundtable #49: The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. 
The current prompt: Write about adoption and your father.

Last year on Father's Day, I responded to an Open Adoption Roundtable prompt by writing a blog post in the form of a letter to the father I had never met. A few days later, I mailed that post to my birth father, along with an additional letter further explaining my reasons for contacting him. It was not my first time reaching out to him. I had made an earlier attempt, approximately five years earlier, to which he did not respond. In this second attempt I was much clearer in my wording. I made a direct request. I said that I very much wanted to meet him at least once.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Glimpse Into My Adoption Reunion

It's my aunt's birthday today. I'm so glad adoption reunion brought us into each other's lives. Here's something I wrote earlier this week about our first meeting:
Her hair was a color similar to mine and cropped into an almost identical style. We were dressed in the same colors. We stared at each other all evening long. In my face, she saw my mother as well as aspects of my father's family. She noticed that I turned my hand a certain way when talking, a gesture I share with my mother. It was the first time I had experienced that kind of recognition, and something that had long been off-kilter in me clicked into its proper alignment as I saw myself reflected in her eyes.
Click here to read the rest of the post at BlogHer.

nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Learning to Inhabit My Body

I have struggled all my life to be fully present. As a child, I was frequently identified by others as "spacey," "a daydreamer," and "off in her own world." I moved into adulthood as a reader and a writer. I tend to live in my head, ignoring -- or attempting to ignore -- the body.

sixninepixels at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I say "attempting to ignore" because, truth be told, the body refuses to be ignored. For as long as I can remember, I have dealt with chronic pain -- a condition that I share with many of my fellow adoptees, as well as with countless other sufferers. In my case, the pain is a slippery one, moving around my body, settling in one spot for a while and then moving on to another. My neck and shoulders are its most common residence, but it has also been known migrate down to my lower back or into my hip, knee, or even my ankle.

I've used a variety of techniques over the years to manage the pain: medication, yoga, massage, chiropractic care, etc. All have been effective to varying degrees, but pain management, I've found, is an ongoing process. Sometimes I manage well; other times, not so well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Should Adoptive Parents Tell Their Children They Are "Gifts"?

David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I encountered something online this morning that led to a discussion about whether or not adoptive parents should tell the adoptee that he or she is "a gift from God." I myself am not in favor of such wording. A twitter friend just asked me to explain, and since I can't fit my explanation into 140 characters, I am answering here.

First of all, let me say that I understand that biological children are also sometimes referred to as "gifts" or "blessings." But the terminology is frequently used in a very specific way in discussions of adoption. This is what I'm referring to. Parents may consider both adoptees and biological children gifts or blessings, but adoptees are much more likely to grow up hearing this emphasized. Is there something inherently wrong with considering our children, bio or adoptive, to be gifts or blessings? Not necessarily. But adoptees tend to be sensitive and alert regarding the language used to define our connection to the family. "Gift" has some subtle implications that might not be immediately obvious but make sense when you think about them.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Fragment in Time: Recovering a Key Piece of My Adoption Narrative

In the early hours of the morning, shortly before waking, I dreamed I opened a trapdoor in a wooden floor and discovered a pulsing, hot ball of pain. I recoiled immediately, as if burned by fire. In my head I heard a voice saying "If you really want to heal, you are going to have to deal with this."  
"Not now," I answered. "Not yet." 
-- me on January 31, 2013
I know what's under the trapdoor, but opening it requires rewriting a key piece of my official adoption story.

When people ask me when I learned that I was adopted, I usually answer that I've always known. Of course, I recognize that this is not true in a literal sense, but saying so was my way of explaining that my adoptive parents brought up the subject in a child-friendly way from such an early age that the fact of my adoption was woven seamlessly into my life's narrative. There was no shocking moment of discovery.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

With All Our Flaws

Today's "fragment" is a quote from a blogger I admire:
Life is inherently out of hand; death, illness, pain, loss, grief, war, disasters natural and man-made, trauma, heartbreak, abuse, cruelty, racism, sexism homophobia and heteronormativity, oppression and injustice in all its forms, including the depletion, exploitation, and hoarding of the earth’s resources. In the face of all that life can throw at you there are times when blatant mental imbalance is the sanest, healthiest most healing response. 
We are all embedded in enormous systems, familial, social and planetary, which are also cycling, swinging wildly, falling in and out and passing through imbalance, equilibrium and back again. Living and breathing balance requires and contains imbalance within it. 
We will all lose our footing. 
No one is impervious. We will all drop the ball.   
-- Martha Crawford, What a Shrink Thinks 
As I mentioned yesterday, lately I've been a little bit in love with the human race. Illogically and insanely in love. Not in spite of our flaws, but because of them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Parking Lot Philosophy

Lately, I've been a little bit in love with the human race. Crazy, I know!

But here's the thing: in keeping with the theme of sea glass, I keep finding myself thinking about how we are all flawed and broken and yet somehow beautiful.

I probably should have named this blog "the strange, strange musings of Rebecca Hawkes." As I was walking into my office this morning I engaged in a bit of parking lot philosophy in the short distance from my car to the company's back door.

Credit: graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I was thinking about how our eyes point forward, literally limiting our range of vision such that we can never see all of what is around us at any given moment. And I was musing on how this extends metaphorically to other ways we are restricted in our vision. Point of view. View point. James Joyce's parallax.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Backseat Radio: Perfect Moment Monday

My car radio is broken. Well, not broken, exactly. Just not working. What I need is the code, but I can't remember it and I'm to lazy or busy or whatever to call the dealership, or whomever I need to call, to get it.

Also, I'm in no hurry.

Without the radio, my daughters (ages 11 and 12) have taken to providing the musical entertainment themselves. On Saturday afternoon, as we drove around doing errands, Mackenzie was the radio, and Ashley was the human in control of it. Every time Ashley "changed the station" (and she did so frequently), Mackenzie would slide effortlessly into a new song, hitting a range of genres as she did so. (My husband Paul has made a point of exposing both girls to a diverse selection of musical styles.)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sea Glass & Other Fragments: Why I've Changed My Blog

Whoa! Wait a minute! What the [insert expletive of choice here] is going on here?

I thought this blog was called Love Is Not a Pie. What's with this "Sea Glass" stuff?!

Calm thoughts. Deep breaths. Especially you adoptees! (I know some of you really don't like change!) Everything is going to be okay.

So, why have I suddenly changed my blog title, nixing one that was perfectly fine to begin with?

I'm glad you asked.

I love the title Love Is Not a Pie, and it seemed a perfect fit for a blog that focused on open adoption and adoption reunion. But lately I've been coming to the realization that I want to broaden the focus of this blog somewhat. The new title and look of the blog are my way of announcing my intention to branch out a bit with my writing.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bad Seed Vs. Blank Slate: Why Must Adoptees Be One or the Other?

I suspect that most adoptees are conscious of a tension in adoption ideology -- an undercurrent that is rarely raised to the surface but is present nonetheless. In the eyes of others, we are often viewed as either "blank slates" or "bad seeds." At different times in history, one view or the other has prevailed. When my adoptive parents brought me home, during the baby scoop era, they were told I was a blank slate. The prescription: raise me as their own and nurture would prevail. But during a recent online conversation with some adoptee friends, many of whom were of the same era, it became apparent that the blank-slate doctrine was not universally accepted, even in our time period. All of us had experienced the situation of having false, prejudicial assumptions made about us because of our supposed inherited "bad character." And then there are the adoptive parents I've conversed with who have changed their views over time. They speak of how they once bought into idea of the blank slate, believing nurture and love would prevail, but then the child grew up differently than expected -- began to struggle and make bad choices, spiraling into dysfunction beyond the parents' control -- and they realized they'd been sold a false idea. Clearly, the adoptee must have been flawed from the start, in a way that nurture couldn't correct.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Adoption, Trauma, Addiction, Etc.

Thanks to TAO for bringing this Paul Sunderland lecture to my attention. Many of my readers may have encountered it before, but it is new to me. It's long, but very much worth a listen.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Why I Write What I Write

I write about adoption because adoptee voices have been left out of the conversation for too long. I write because an entire system has been created, supposedly with the "best interests" of adoptees in mind but with very little input from those most affected. I write because it took me so long to find my voice and now I am determined to use it. I was given a map by others that was supposed to guide me through my experience of adoption, but it was inaccurate and more-or-less useless. It was a map created by people who hadn't walked the territory. So now I am a cartographer, drawing on my experience and the experiences of others to help create a truer map.

Click here for the latest Lost Daughter's Round Table to read what others have to say on this topic. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Adoption as a Joining of Families

Credit: K. Dahlquist & R. Bangert 

Dahlquist & Bangert continue to be on a roll with their adoption-themed graphics. I'm sharing this one today because it hits on some of what Erica and I will be talking about today when we present at the Rudd Adoption Research Program's annual New Worlds of Adoption Conference. We are looking forward to sharing our personal story of joining families.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Adopt a Family

ponsulak
FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The first time Erica and I had lunch together, at the beginning of our open adoption relationship, we discovered that we shared a vision, and it is something that we have talked of numerous times since then. Though in our case open adoption has worked well as a means of creating a non-traditional family structure that encompasses both a biological and a non-biological definition of family, we are both also drawn toward the possibilities of another model: supporting mothers together with their children. I believe in family preservation; I believe in keeping children connected to their biological parents, siblings, and other family members whenever possible. But I also recognize that sometimes families need support. Yes, it's true that there are times when it is necessary to separate the child from a dysfunctional family situation for the safety and well-being of the child, but that is not the case in all of the situations the result in adoption. Sometimes, it's not that the parent is unable to parent so much as it is that the parent is unable to do so alone, without support. Is the separation of the parent and child really the best solution in such cases? What if a model existed that would pair them with people who were willing to help them both? What if instead of adopting a child alone you could adopt a family?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Adoption History: Georgia Tann

Credit: K. Dahlquist & R. Bangert

My thanks to K. Dahlquist & R. Bangert for creating the above graphic and for granting me permission to share it here. I have in fact been doing some research lately, and I was surprised by what I learned.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let's Stop Shaming Teen Parents

In our current societal structure, there is a gap between the typical age of first sexual activity and the age of financial and emotion stability that is considered ideal for beginning a family. What's the solution?

The New York Human Resources Administration appears to have decided recently that the answer was to unleash a campaign of shame against teen parents. If you are not already aware of the controversy surrounding the advertisements in New York, I invite you to check out the following articles:
  1. NYC Teen Pregnancy Campaign Brings Shaming to Bus Shelters and Cell Phone
  2. New York City Tries to Shame Its Teens Into Not Having Babies
  3. Activists Launch Campaign Against NYC’s Teen Pregnancy Ads
  4. An Update on NYCHRA's Teen Mom Shaming
This seems like an appropriate time to step back and get some perspective. Teen parents encounter a great deal of judgment and stereotyping. Are the dire predictions for teen parents and their children accurate?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Secondary Rejection: Painful by Any Name

Spoiler Alert: This post reveals aspects of the plot of Laura Moriarty's novel The Chaperone.

The main character in Laura Moriarty's novel The Chaperone is Cora Carlisle, a middle-aged Midwestern woman who had arrived in Kansas years ago by way of an orphan train. In the novel she returns to New York City with hopes of learning something about her personal history. The nun she speaks with at the Catholic-run “Home for Friendless Girls," where Cora lived prior to being placed on the train, is dismissive of Cora's desire for information, condescendingly telling her to leave well enough alone. But with the help of the orphanage handyman, Cora is able to get a hold of her records.

In them is a letter from woman named Mary O'Dell, who claims to know Cora's mother. Cora and Mary arrange to meet at Grand Central Station. When they meet, Cora recognizes immediately that Mary is not merely a friend of the family; she is Cora's mother herself. Mary does not deny it. They have one hour to spend together before Mary must get back on the train to return to her life in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

We Can Do Better: A Call to Move Beyond Adoption as We Know It

There was a time in history when children without parents or extended family members to care for them ended up in poor houses, orphan asylums, or baby farms, all of which were pretty horrid places. One could certainly argue that the societal shift from viewing unattached children as potential sources of labor, as in indentured servitude, to viewing them as children to be raised as one's own offspring represented a clear improvement. But the horrors of the past do not excuse us from looking critically at the institutions of the present. We can focus on moving forward, rather than back. We do not have to accept the status quo as merely "better than before" or "good enough." We can do better.

The fact that so many of today's grown adoptees report having experienced pressure (sometimes subtle; sometimes overt) to feel "grateful" for our "better" life demonstrates something important about residual cultural attitudes towards bastard/orphan/unwanted children. Lingering beneath all the warm fuzzy rhetoric of modern adoption lies this unpleasantness: we are still held by many as less deserving than those raised by their own biological parents. We should be grateful for what we got. We should not complain.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adoptee Restoration: When It's Hard to Breathe

Please click on the link below to see an amazing video. It was created by some non-adoptee friends of adoptee Deanna Shrodes, who has recently emerged as an important voice within the adoption community. As Deanna says, her friends Steve and Indy Dixon "get it," and they have created a moving song and video combination that captures that understanding.

Adoptee Restoration: When It's Hard to Breathe

Monday, February 18, 2013

Adoptive Parents and Adoptee Rights

I registered my daughter for a new soccer league the other day, one that requires that we show her birth certificate as proof of age.

"Oh, can I see it?" she asked, with excitement in her voice, when she saw me with the copy in my hands.

I hesitated. This was it: the moment when I had to tell my daughter that the primary legal document of her life, the one she will be required to produce for identification purposes countless times throughout her life, is a big fat lie.

Ashley, who joined our family by way of foster care and is now our legally adopted daughter, knows and has regular contact with her biological mother. She has also seen the hospital records of her birth. She has read the minute by minute description of her first moments on the planet. Among other things, the record indicates that she was placed on her mother's stomach and that "bonding was noted."

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Strange, Strange Life of a Traumatized Adoptee in an Adoption-Loving World

I'm what some people would call an "unhappy adoptee" or an "angry adoptee." I get these labels because I speak up about the negatives of adoption, including sharing my own personal story of trauma and loss experienced as a result of my separation from my biological family, and in particular from my mother. I am aware that this loss has affected me throughout my life and continues to affect me to some degree even into the present day. I will never be "not adopted."

And yet, I am neither unhappy nor angry on a regular basis in my actual life. In fact, I would describe myself as relatively happy, on the whole. It's been a long road, but I find myself in a fairly good place here in middle age. I'm aware that my personal adoption story has much that is positive about it when compared to the stories of other adoptees I have met. I was relatively well-matched with my adoptive family. When I was ready to search for my biological family, the information that I needed was available to me and I had the support of my adoptive parents in searching. I have been able to process my adoption issues through therapy, writing, and other means. I have been able to learn about myself and to experience the relief of genetic mirroring through reunion. I currently have good relationships with four pretty awesome parents. I have a supportive online network of adoptee friends who "get" me.

Not a bad situation, all in all.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Understanding Adoptee Loss

If you are an adoptive parent and your journey included infertility, you likely had to mourn the loss of a hypothetical biological child ... the one who would never be born. If you came to adoption by another route, you may have experienced other kinds of mourning. Beginnings are always endings as well. When we choose one path, we walk away from another. Feelings of sadness are normal even in times of joy and new beginnings.

But I'm going to guess (with a high probability of being correct) that you probably didn't have to exchange an actual biological child for the adoptive one you now love and cherish.

www.123rf.com
Imagine for a moment that you had been required to make this unthinkable exchange. Actually, go further still and imagine that you didn't have any choice in the matter. One child was taken from you and another given in its place.

What emotions might come up for you around this exchange? Sadness? Anger? Confusion? I imagine you might experience a complex mixture of emotions at best. Even if you came to love the replacement child, would you not still feel the loss of the original one? What emotions might come up for you each year near the anniversary of the exchange? Even if you still got to see the first child sometimes, if you knew where he or she was and got to exchange gifts, make phone calls, and even Skype, wouldn't you still miss the child? Or imagine that you were reunited with the original child years later ... would you not you not still grieve the lost years, years you could never get back? Can you even imagine that in some ways, you might never fully recover from the loss of the first child, regardless of how much you might love the second?

When adoptees speak of loss or pain or trauma, we do not do so to be mean to adoptive parents or to make them feel bad about their families. We do so because this is our experience. Even if we appreciate our adoptive families, even if we wouldn't exchange the life we ended up with for another, loss is always a part of the equation for us.

And then there are the original parents ...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's Under the Rug?

In the early hours of the morning, shortly before waking, I dreamed I opened a trapdoor in a wooden floor and discovered a pulsing, hot ball of pain. I recoiled immediately, as if burned by fire. In my head I heard a voice saying "If you really want to heal, you are going to have to deal with this."

"Not now," I answered. "Not yet."

In a halfway state between sleep and waking, I asked myself: How can it be that even someone like me who has dealt with loss in therapy and writes and talks openly about trauma and healing could have such a well of undiscovered pain? Is it possible that my strongest pain is still beneath the surface ... that I haven't even touched it yet?

When adult adoptees speak about adoption using words like "loss" and "pain" and "trauma," we are sometimes countered with the statement, "Not all adoptees feel that way." And it's hard to argue with that. It's certainly true that no two adoptees are identical, in their feelings or anything else. And while I have met many adoptees whose experiences and feelings seem similar to my own, I have also met those who hold adoption very differently than I do.

I often wonder about those adoptees, the ones who are so unlike me. Do they have no trapdoor? Have they just not found it yet? Have they seen it and refused to open it?

I suppose there may be some who opened their door and discovered a milder, gentler pain than I did. Perhaps they took it out of its hiding place and carried it around for a while before eventually misplacing it and barely noticing its absence. Or maybe they keep it on a shelf and are not bothered by it.

But I can't help but wonder if there are some who opened the door and recoiled, as I did in my dream. Not now. Perhaps not ever. And then what? Cover up the door with a pretty rug and pretend it isn't there?

As I said, I wonder.

Cheerful! But what's underneath? 

Image courtesy of John Kasawa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Adoptive Parent's Role in Adoptee Narrative

"Don't you ever mention that bitch/slut in my house again!" 
"If she gave a damn about you, she wouldn't have signed those papers. She only cared about herself. She didn't want the responsibility and work of being a mother." 
"Don't get any ideas about looking for her; she probably doesn't want to be found, and if you did find her you'd probably be disappointed anyway. She could be a crack addict for all you know."
Do these seem excessively harsh? Exaggerated? Perhaps it even seems impossible to imagine an adopted parent saying such things to an adopted child.

Full disclosure: the quotations above are invented. I made them up. But they are composites, based on actual stories I have heard from other adoptees about how the original mother was spoken of in the adoptive home.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Why "I'm Sorry You Had a Bad Experience" Doesn't Fly

When adult adoptees speak out against adoption practices, we are sometimes countered with something along the lines of the following: "I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but that doesn't mean all adoption is evil."

Sigh.

Yes, it is certainly true that some adoptees describe their experience of adoption in positive ways, whereas other do so negatively, and still others fall into the murky territory of ambiguous emotion. I myself fall into the latter category, and I tell my personal story because it is a part of my history and it is mine to tell. I tell my personal story because I belong to a group of people whose voices were long silenced. I tell my story as a means of personal healing and also to help today's adoptive parents have a fuller understanding of some of the things that their adopted children might be feeling.

But in terms of adoption reform, I acknowledge that my personal story is actually irrelevant.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Even Though

Deanna Shrodes has done it again:
We did not lose each other.
Even though my OBC was sealed.
Even though my a-parents moved us 147 miles away from the city where they adopted me.
Even though we didn't know each other's new names. (She married and changed hers. My a-parents changed mine.)
We were still connected.
-- Affected by Adoption ~ Body, Soul & Spirit
For many adoptees, the big lie of our lives is that one definition of family obliterates the other, that new connections undo old ones. This fallacy is driven home from day one, and reinforced in countless ways. We are given new names and new identities that obscure the original ones. Our parents, biological and adoptive, sign papers annulling one family and creating a new one, and we are expected to play along, as if the new, legal entity was all that ever was. Evidence of any pre-existing history is sealed away, and we are asked to pretend it never existed.

zole4 FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Except that it lives on, in us. In our faces, our hands, our feet, our mannerisms, our quirks of personality. A million sign posts mark us as different from those who are raising us as "their own," and we are expected to ignore them all. Or at the very least, to act as if such things don't matter in the least.

We are told the rules of our new lives, as created for us by others, and some of us excel at following them. Some of us even go so far as to become participants in maintaining the fallacy, repeating our well rehearsed line: "My only real family is the one that raised me."

But on some level we know, we always know (even when we think we don't), that regardless of what we may have all agreed to pretend, the prescribed "reality" is not the whole truth.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Open Adoption Blog Hop # 1

Where do you like to do it?

Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about blogging ... of course.

Here's my favorite spot:


I'm posting this today as part of the first ever Open Adoption Bloggers blog hop. The prompt question is "What is your favorite room/spot/piece of art in your home and why?"

Blogging friends, I don't need to tell you why. You know. I also probably don't need to tell you that my family hates it when I'm in this chair. 

So like all moms, I must strive for balance. Too much time in the chair, and my family gets cranky. Too much time away from it, and I get cranky!

Thanks for stopping by. For more information on the OA HOP, please click here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Featured on BlogHer: Why I've Been Avoiding My Spiritual Community

Featured on BlogHer.com

For the past 10 years, I've been a part of a spiritual community that both nurtures and inspires me. I have been an active volunteer in this congregation. I have felt strong connections to the people there. I married my husband in the sanctuary. A few years ago when asked in a meditation workshop to close my eyes and think of a place where I belonged, it was the building where this congregation gathers that came into my mind.

So why haven't I been there in several months?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Quoting Myself

Bear in mind that parenting adoptive children is very different from parenting biological children, and this is true whether one adopts an infant or an older child. It's not about love. You can love an adopted child just as much as biological child. But adopted children require additional support as they heal from separation and mourn the loss of the original family. Adopted children have unique challenges in terms of forming identity as they process what it means to be a member of more than one family. I believe that it's important for anyone who is considering adoption to understand that they are not bringing a single child into their life -- they are bringing an entire family. That's just a fact. If you adopt, the original family will always be a part of your life, whether you have an open relationship or not (and I hope you will!) because they are a part of your child. -- Rebecca Hawkes at Lost Daughters 
Salvatore Vuono FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Family Reunification Versus Inter-Country Adoption

Please watch the following video. It tells the story of one boy and his father, but is representative of  many other similar situations.



For more information, please visit http://rileysinuganda.blogspot.com/.
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