Monday, December 1, 2014

Living Outside Reality: A Guest Post by Deanna Doss Shrodes

“I’m not saying any of it is untrue. I’m just uncomfortable with it.”

This was said to me by a family member when I wrote my story (which is now being released by Entourage Publishing as a memoir) on my blog, last year.

While the response to my story was overwhelmingly positive to say the least, there was a family member who was unhappy. No one accused me of stating untruths, at all. In fact, I offered to immediately remove anything that  was untrue if it was brought to my attention. (I am aware of no untruths in my story then, or now.) I was assured, it was all true. They just didn’t like it.

I have learned since then that there are plenty of people who believe their own discomfort is reason enough to silence others. In spending many hours pondering this issue here is what I’ve landed on. When people tell you that what you are stating about your personal story is all true, yet they ask you not to voice it, in any form (especially publicly) what they are saying is this:

“I’m not living in reality or ready to live in reality. Please leave me in my undisturbed bubble so I can go on denying reality.”

I don’t pose this question to be mean or even the slightest bit disrespectful. But, how can one see this posture as anything but making a conscious choice to live outside the realm of reality? If one speaks truth and especially one’s own truth, and is asked by others to refrain from sharing that truth, does that not speak of the fact that the person asking you to refrain is living somewhere other than reality?

Surely it indicates they are living in a place of pain and discomfort, not ready to face reality. But does this mean they should hold others hostage with them in the process?

When I was wrestling with a family member's plea for me to stop sharing reality on my blog, I had a cup of coffee and conversation with Felicia Alphonse, a woman in my church who just happens to be a therapist. I asked her opinion about whether people should share personal truths even when they are unsettling to others in their lives.  Tilting her head to the side and taking a moment to ponder she looked at me and said, “You have to heal…” and I said, “Yes…okay, and…?” She went on, “An important part of healing is speaking the truth and leaving secrets behind. It’s unfortunate that some are uncomfortable with it, but the bottom line is – you need to heal.”

The conversation with Felicia was really key to my decision to continue being as open as I have been on my blog, with my legal name attached to all my writing.

It was a key conversation in deciding to go forward with my book when I was presented with the opportunity.

There are times others in our lives are not ready to live in reality.

But if we are desirous of healing, it doesn’t happen with cover-up.

Covered things don’t heal well. Just try keeping a bandaid on a wound forever and see how well that works. It doesn’t. You have to expose the wound to the air at some point in order for the healing process to happen.

I understand why many people want to live outside the realm of reality. When you first face truth, it has the power to slay you. I spent many a night crying in the bathtub or unable to get myself together enough emotionally to face friends. The grieving process is challenging. But ultimately, facing reality and living in it has enabled me to live the beautiful life I’m now living.

I wouldn’t trade living in reality. It’s not easy to get there but so worthwhile once you do.

Deanna Doss Shrodes is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and has served as a pastor for 27 years. Currently she serves as Women's Ministries Director of the Pen-Florida District of the Assemblies of God. Deanna and her husband have been married for 27 years, have three children and live in the Tampa Bay area where they serve as lead pastor of Celebration Church of Tampa. Deanna speaks at churches and conferences internationally and is also an accomplished musician, worship leader, songwriter, and certified coach. An award winning writer, she is also a contributing author to Chocolate For a Woman's Courage, published by Simon & Schuster, a contributing author to Lost Daughters: Writing Adoption from a Place of Empowerment and Peace published by CQT Media and Publishing, Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age published by Entourage Publishing, and the author of the book Juggle:Manage Your Time, Change Your Life. Adopted in 1966 in a closed domestic adoption, she searched and found her original mother, sister and brother and reunited with them in 1993. Deanna blogs about adoption issues at her personal blog, Adoptee Restoration, and also serves as the spiritual columnist at Lost Daughters. She leads a support group, Adoptee Restoration Tampa Bay, for adoptees in the Tampa Bay area.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lost and Found

I found her relatively easily, once I worked up the nerve to look. It took me another ten years after that to find him. Then five years passed before he was ready to find me back.

Today, I woke up in his guest bedroom and walked out into his kitchen. His was the first face I saw, and the first words I said were “Happy Father’s Day.” Today I hugged my father on Father’s Day--the simplest of acts, the most ordinary of exchanges between a daughter and father.

Except that it was never supposed to happen. Except that being together on Father's Day was a first for both of us.

We lost each other so thoroughly that it took us four and a half decades to find each other again.

But there we were. The art of finding may be hard to master, but it is not impossible. Today I walked into my father’s kitchen, on the feet I inherited from him, and claimed something I’d lost.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

"Nice Guys" #YesAllWomen

The Rodger shooting and the #YesAllWomen hashtag are pulling up a lot of memories for me, among them a time when I stood in my waitress uniform in front of a group of male coworkers who were talking to me about what they viewed as the primary problem in the world. It was this: that girls like me didn't go for "nice guys" like them.

But here's the thing. Their approach didn't feel "nice." It felt threatening and manipulative.

They were right, to a certain extent. I was young and restless and full of uncertainty about my future. I was mostly interested in having fun with my friends, and I tended to be attracted to the kind of guy who wasn't likely to get serious or weigh me down.Were they nice? I don't know, but they were a lot of fun.

And yes, I got caught in my own trap. I fell in love, in spite of myself, and I got my heart broken, again and again. But it was my choice. My life. My risks.

I knew what "nice guy" meant. Nice guys were the once who came to me with the weight of expectation, dreaming of love and ever-after and wanting me to fill some role in their lives that actually had very little to do with me. They weren't the ones who came out onto the dance floor with me and my friends. They were the ones who watched from the side, wishing we would stop dancing and come sit with them. Nice guys wanted me to sit still and stare lovingly into their eyes. They didn't understand that at that time in my life I was all about movement. They claimed to "like" me, but they actually didn't really like much about me at all.

I can't think of a single nice thing that those "nice guy" male coworkers had ever done for me, though one of them was in training to be a minister and perhaps assumed that that was credential enough. I know that each was standing in front of me certain that if "a girl like me" would just give him a chance he could provide her with everything that he had decided she must want.

I probably should have told those guys they were full of shit, but I didn't. I smiled and played dumb and mumbled something noncommittal like "I don't know." Because even then, I knew that it wasn't the so called "bad boys" who were truly dangerous. The ones you really needed to watch out for were the self-proclaimed "nice guys" with the simmering resentment.

Image courtesy of stockimages /

Sunday, May 25, 2014

An Adoptee Confession

A recent blog post on the website Creating a Family shared the story of an adoptive mother who described herself as having been "blindsided" by the revelation that her adult adopted daughter had been building a relationship with her original mother over the years.

I started to leave a comment on the blog, but I had so much to say and so many conflicting emotions that I found myself stymied.

The adoptive mom describes herself and her husband as "full of fear and puzzlement," and her anguish stirs up something in me that is probably related to my own guilt, confusion, and sadness about why I hold back parts of myself from my adoptive parents, and sometimes also from others.

Here's my confession, and for some reason it's a particularly hard one for me to share:

My adoptive parents know only a small part of who I am. I hide other parts from them.

I don't reveal the whole of myself to my parents, and perhaps this is not uncommon, even for non-adoptees. Don't we all reveal different parts of ourselves in different relationships? Surely many of us -- adopted or not -- play a role in the families we grew up in that is different from the full expression of our adult selves.

I have a complex relationship with my adoptive parents, and especially with my adoptive mother, as is also true for many non-adopted people. So, why do I feel so guilty?

There is an aspect of my guilt that seems to be adoptee-specific. Adoptees are only allowed one official emotion in relation to our adoptive parents, and that is gratitude. I want to emphasize that this is certainly not something that my parents ever told me, but I got the message anyway from the broader culture. Adoptees receive that message in countless ways throughout our lives -- sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.

Another aspect of the guilt lies in the specific nature of what I hold back. I hold back details of my reunion with my original family. I hold back the complexity and the depth of my adoption-related emotions and struggles. I hold back parts of my personality and leanings that seem to be genetically acquired ... the parts that don't "fit" in the adoptive family.

I am sad about this. I am 47 years old and still trying to make myself small enough to fit into the space of an expectation.

My parents didn't get what they signed up for. I know that. They were told I was a blank slate. They were told that adoption wouldn't affect me in any significant way. They were told that they should tell me early on that I was adopted and that as long as they did that, carefully explaining that I was loved and chosen, all would be well. I would be, for all intents and purposes, no different than as if I was born into the family.

But that was an untruth. I was never a blank slate. I am different than the child my parents would have created from their own genetic material. Being adopted is different than not being so. Adoptedness is a significant factor in who I am.

Michal Marcol
Why do I hold back parts of myself? I do so, in part, to protect my parents, and I also do so to protect myself. On one level I know that I am loved by them and that their love is unconditional. On another level, I don't fully trust that. Could my parents really handle it if I showed up with all of who I am, including my adoption-related pain? Could I handle it, if I saw them recoil, "blindsided" by my betrayal?

Betrayal. Betrayer. I am the betrayer. I must betray them or betray myself. I cannot win.

To be myself, rather than the daughter of their expectations, is a betrayal. I know that. But here's the rub: it is also a betrayal to imply that their love is conditional or that they would want me to be anything less than myself. Haven't they always told me that they love me? Haven't they always only wanted what was best for me, as any parent would?

My parents are good people who have tried hard to do the right things and to be the right kind of adoptive parents. I often tell people that they did a good job of "nurturing my nature." What's more, they always supported my reunion with my first family.

But I've also noticed that my mother has a tendency to forget things that I've shared about my relationship with my original family. She is not typically a forgetful person, and I have therefore long suspected that this particular forgetting is self-protective. When I tell my adoptive parents things about my relationship with my biological family members, they seem mildly but not especially interested. I never get the sense that they want more details; rather, I perceive them as wanting as few details as possible. I worry that my relationship with my original family is painful for my adoptive family, and I don't want to cause them pain. So I hold back for that reason, but I also hold back for the opposite reason. My relationship with my original family is extremely important to me. I don't want to taint it by sharing it with people who can't fully appreciate that and celebrate it with me.

I suspect I am not the only writer who finds it easier to share my work with strangers on the Internet than with my own family members, but in my case there is also the additional factor of my subject matter. When I was growing up, adoption was something we didn't talk about outside the family. Now I air my laundry in public. As a writer I reach into the innermost place and pull out what is most raw and personal. I turn myself inside out, bringing what was hidden into the light.

And what do I find in the innermost place? I find all my complicated feelings about being an adopted person.

I did try once try to talk to my adoptive mother about my journey of discovery as an adoptee. It didn't go well. She seemed uncomfortable and soon changed the subject.

Am I reading too much into the small signals of my adoptive parents? Maybe. But this is part of the adoptee package. For as long as I can remember I have been alert to signals from other people, looking for clues to how I should act and, in essence, who I should be. I wish I could drop this. I wish I could just be as I am, and trust that people (including my adoptive parents) will accept me or not, and be fine with that.

I've made a lot of progress through the years, but I'm not there yet. Maybe someday.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers, Plural: Mothers, None

I gave birth to one daughter and it altered my body, my heart, and my life forever. I am also raising a daughter that I didn't give birth to, and she is equally imprinted on my heart and life though it is someone else's features and traits that are imprinted in her DNA. The mother who brought me into the world left the hospital with stretch marks and empty arms but never stopped being my mother. Some people say that it is raising a child, not birthing one, that makes one a parent. Others claim the opposite is true. For me, it will always be both. I have one mother who is my mother because she gave birth to me and another who is my mother even though she didn't. Or to put it another way, I have one mother who is my mother because she raised me and another who remained my mother even though she didn't get to do so.

Those nine months in the womb matter. Birth matters. DNA matters. Changing diapers, cooking meals, reading at bedtime, and driving to and from afterschool activities matter, too. Love. Nature. Nurture. All of it. As a daughter and a mother, my life is lived in the rich, full space of both/and.

And yet, in a way, the people who say that giving birth does not make a mother are also correct. Giving birth was only the first step. My mother remained my mother by holding me in her heart through the years of our separation, and she became my mother in a new way when she embraced me in reunion and through her actions in the years that followed. Similarly, my other mother became my mother, in a sense, by signing some papers, but is that really what made her my mother? No, she became my mother by mothering. "Mother" is both a noun and a verb. 

There is so much pain in adoption, and on this Mother's Day I am well aware that the holiday is a difficult one for many in the adoption community. Among my friends, for example, are adoptees who have ended up in no-man's-land, rejected by and separated from two families, rather than embraced and held by both. Today, I honor my mothers while also holding the unmothered (and others for whom this day is difficult) in my heart.
No matter what your point of pain or challenge today, I want you to know that you are not the only one. Somewhere over a silly Mother’s Day breakfast, there is a woman faking a smile who feels just like you do. Somewhere in a very silent house with no one to call, there is a woman who is tending the ache of her loss, just like you. Somewhere standing in a shower there is a woman who is feeling it all and letting the tears come, just like you. -- Notes from a Hopeful World
Images courtesy of arztsamui /

Monday, April 21, 2014

Open Adoption: The Extraordinary Ordinariness of My Extraordinary Family

Victor Habbick
It's the week of school vacation in the Northeast. My daughter is in the backseat of a car, heading south. She is squished in the backseat between her two brothers. It's been a long drive and everyone in the car is ready for the drive to end and the week at the beach to begin. It's a family scene that is ordinary to the point of cliché. But in this case, it is also extraordinary.

The situation is exceptional because the mother in the front seat of the car is the one who lost the daughter years ago to the foster-care system at a time when her own life was in crisis. Back then, she could hardly have imagined that she would be as she is now: healthy, sober, stable, with a good job and a strong relationship, heading south for vacation with a backseat full of kids. But there she is.

It's exceptional because there is another mother—me—states away from the traveling car, receiving updates via text messages and snapshots of road signs. When I began my journey into foster-care adoption, could I have predicted this outcome? No way!

My family is one that is stitched together by adoption, biology, and choice in almost equal measure. And for us, this is ordinary. I rarely write about open adoption anymore because the communications, the visits, the meals shared, etc., are simply part of the fabric of our life. It is ordinary that my daughter's other mother has become one of my closest friends. It is ordinary that the daughter we share communicates openly and frequently with each of us and that we communicate openly and frequently with each other. It is ordinary for two middle-school girls and two pre-school boys to be running around in my backyard with a soccer ball as the adults chat in the kitchen, preparing a holiday meal.

It's so ordinary that I sometimes forget how extraordinary it is. There are many ways to be a family. This is mine.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Yes, We Are Aware That Bad Things Happen in Biological Families, Too

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
In the past year, as a result of several factors (the publication of Kathryn Joyce's book The ChildCatchers, the Reuters rehoming scandal, and media attention to several heartbreaking cases of adoptee abuse or death at the hands of an adoptive parent), the issue of abuse and maltreatment of adoptees within adoptive families has been receiving an increased amount of attention, both inside and outside of the adoption community. Adult adoptees and others have also been drawing attention lately to less extreme but more widespread instances of microagression against adoptees, such as those illustrated at the tumbler account Sh**ty things adoptive families say to adoptees.

From my point of view, this increased awareness and attention is a very good thing. Until recently, the occurrence of abuse within adoptive families was adoption's dirty little secret obscured by a cultural tendency to believe only good things about adoptive parents. Among my acquaintances are adoptees who attempted to report abuse as children only to be dismissed and disbelieved by people who could not believe that the adoptive parents (perceived as good, selfless, and rescuing) could be capable of abuse. It may seem to some people that the current level of attention to adoptee maltreatment is overkill, but when an issue has long been kept in the dark it is natural and right for it to receive extra scrutiny when it at last comes to light.

But, not surprisingly, with the increased attention has come the backlash, primarily from adoptive and prospective adoptive parents. We are being reminded with increasing regularity that "abuse happens in biological families, too" and "some people are just horrible people who would be bad parents in any circumstances." We are reminded that lots of people, not just adoptees, have troubled relationships with their families. We are accused of giving a pass to biological parents and of always focusing on the negative in adoption.

To this I say, just stop. Please.

First of all, such critics are raising awareness of something of which we are already perfectly aware. Because biological families are the norm and adoptive families the non-normative exception, every single one of us, adopted or not, almost certainly knows more non-adopted people than adopted ones. We all know of people who were abused by biological parents. We all know people who have crappy, dysfunctional relationships with family members who are related to them by blood. We know that plenty of non-adoptive people have also had sh**ty things said to them by family members. No one who is working to raise awareness about maltreatment of adoptees within adoptive families is unaware of or denying any of this. In fact, in some cases, the very people who are raising awareness about adoptee abuse are the same people who are on the ground working to improve conditions and outcomes for all children.

It is a fallacy to assume that raising awareness about one kind of abuse or maltreatment denies the existence of other kinds of abuse. Those who have been speaking out in recent years about sexual abuse by members of the clergy, for example, are not implying that only clergy members commit abuse or that all clergy members commit abuse. Rather, they are raising awareness about one kind of abuse that occurred within a particular purview and was long kept in the dark. They are also examining the factors that are unique to this particular context of abuse and that need to be explored with an understanding of the context, such as the systemic cover-ups that occurred within the church itself.

Similarly, child abuse may happen in non-adoptive contexts, too, but it is still important--essential even--to look at the specifics of abuse and maltreatment as they occur within the adoptive context. In many cases, maltreatment in adoptive cases can be linked specifically to adoption-related causes, such as lack of parental preparation for the behaviors displayed by trauma-affected children or lack of bonding and attachment linked to the child's attachment disruption from the original family or to genetic dissimilarities (in temperament, etc.) between the child and the parent. (Dissimilarities can obviously occur in biological families, too, but are more likely in adoptive families. Additionally, if the parent has been falsely led to believe that the adoptee is a "blank slate," that too can be an aggravating factor.) Though it didn't happen in my family, I've heard many adoptees express that they were treated very differently from non-adopted siblings in the family, sometimes to the extent that the adoptee was abused and the biological child was not.

Adoptive families are also different from biological families in that they are legal entities created by way of human institutions. Because humans created the adoption institution, we are called to look at it more closely when its flaws come to light. We need to look at adoption-specific factors such as home studies and post-adoption support (or lack thereof). We need to be asking what can be done to fix what is broken, and we can't do that without first acknowledging the problems.

We also need to look at adoptee abuse within the context of the prevailing "better life" mythology of adoption. Many expectant mothers have been told they are selfish to consider parenting themselves rather than allowing their child to experience the better quality of life that adoption supposedly provides. Criticisms of the current adoption system are often countered with the argument that adoption combats abuse and neglect by getting children out of bad situations, without any acknowledgment that abuse and neglect happen in adoptive families as well. Furthermore, many adoptees hear throughout their lives that they are "lucky" and that they should feel grateful for the wonderful life that adoption has supposedly provided. When it turns out that for some adoptees the promised "better life" is actually something much, much worse, that is a story that deserves our attention. 

It's also important to acknowledged that adoptees who are mistreated in the adoptive family have been doubly harmed, first by the many losses associated with the separation from the original family and secondly by the maltreatment in the adoptive home. The biological parent who suffers the loss of a child to adoption only to later learn that the child ended up in an abusive home is also doubly affected. These stories deserve to be heard, and, until recently, there has not been a place for them in adoption discussions. It is not the job of people who have suffered as a direct result of adoption to make adoptive and prospective adoptive parents feel better by "focusing on the positive."

Finally, before I close I'd like to look in more detail at one particular accusation that has been put forth against those of us writing, speaking, tweeting, etc., to raise awareness of adoptee abuse and maltreatment, which is that by shining the light on adoptive parents who abuse we are "giving a pass" to biological parents and thus contributing to the number of children who end up in foster care. In addition to the fallacy that raising awareness about one issue is the equivalent of ignoring another, as I discussed above, this accusation includes another problematic assumption: all or most children in the child-welfare system are there as a result of abuse or maltreatment at the hands of a biological parent. I want to emphasize that if even one child has ended up in the system as a result of biological parent abuse, that is one child too many. I am not giving a pass to any abusive parent, biological or otherwise. But it is important to acknowledge that the reasons why children end up in state care are many and complex. Yes, some end up in care as a result of abusive or incompetent biological parents. Some end up there because of the actions of a step-parent or live-in partner of the biological parent; others as the result of factors such as the parent's failure to provide sufficient food or adequate housing (in other words, because of poverty); still others as the result of "discriminatory practices in society (reports of abuse and neglect) or within the child welfare system (investigations, substantiations, placements, permanency outcomes)" that result in racial and ethnic disproportionality in foster care and foster-adoption. 

All instances of child abuse and neglect deserve our attention and outrage, but we do not serve children by oversimplifying complex realities. We need to be looking at child welfare with a wide lens and with full cognizance of the various (and at times differing) factors that affect biological and adoptive families. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Raising My Voice for Mothers and Children

Image courtesy of sippakorn /

Today is International Women's Day. This afternoon I will be delivering a speech as part of Women's Voices Worldwide's Celebration of Speech event. The following is the transcript of my speech.


I was born into secrecy, shame, and silence. The year was 1966. My mother was an unmarried teen who had been kicked out of high school and made to turn in her National Honor Society pin two weeks before graduation because her pregnancy was beginning to show. She was not allowed to hold me in the hospital. She was not allowed to name me. She left the hospital with empty arms -- and stretch marks. A short time later, she wore white gloves to the courthouse to sign the papers that said she was relinquishing me to adoption of her own free will. A choice is not really a choice if there is no other option.

She was told she would move on and forget. She didn’t.

I myself fared relatively well in that I ended up in a good adoptive family, with parents who loved me and raised me well, although I have also struggled throughout my life with various psychological and emotional issues that I now understand as rooted in the loss of my original family and with the challenges of growing up in a non-genetic family.

On December 10, 1948, almost two decades before my birth, the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Allow me to read article number 25 to you now. Bear in mind that this was 1948 so the masculine pronoun is used, but it is intended to apply to both men and women.
• (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
• (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
In 1966 my young mother was told she was not worthy to parent me because she was unmarried, and her lack of financial resources was used as evidence of her lack of capability. No one saw this as a violation of human rights, hers or mine. 

I want to emphasize that this is not an anti-adoption speech. I acknowledge that adoption can be a positive thing in the right circumstance, and in fact I myself am an adoptive mother by way of older-child foster care adoption. I am not “anti-adoption” any more than a person who speaks out about sweatshops, child labor, and other problems in the garment industry is anti-clothing or a person who raises awareness about mistreatment of immigrant workers or overuse of toxic pesticides in agriculture is anti-agriculture. What I am is pro-social-justice. Pro-reform. Pro-human-rights -- including the basic right of parents to raise their own children when they want to do so. One woman’s motherhood must not come at the expense of another woman’s basic human rights. 

When women of any age are unable to raise their own children because of socioeconomic factors, I view that as a human rights violation and a societal failure.

When women of any age face the agonizing choice to let others raise their children because they don't trust that they themselves can keep their children with them and also keep them safe as a result of domestic violence, I consider that a to be human rights violation and a societal failure.

When women are unable to heal from the traumas of their own early lives by way of adequate access to mental health and other services and instead acquire addictions and other destructive behaviors that prevent them from effectively parenting their own children, that too is a human rights violation and a societal failure.

Many years have passed since 1966 and some things have changed and some haven't. Rates of adoption and teen pregnancy have both dropped significantly, but teen mothers still face tremendous stigma and cultural shaming. Many young expectant mothers still experience familial, religious, or societal coercion to relinquish children whom they might otherwise, with adequate support, choose to parent. And we still live in a society that does not truly support parents or value the work of mothering, regardless of age.

In many ways, the world is not so different from that of 1966. But for me, one significant thing has changed.

I was born into secrecy and silence -- the powerless, voiceless child of a mother who had not much more voice than I did. But I am not voiceless now, and I will not be silent regarding the rights of mothers and children.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Five Categories of Adoptees Missing from the "Vocal Minority"

I occasionally run across a comment on the Internet that goes something like this:

It's important to remember that the adoptees who write and speak out about problems in adoption are a certain type of adoptee. They don't represent the typical adoptee in the general  population who is perfectly happy with having been adopted and for that very reason is less likely to speak up. I know plenty of adoptees who are just fine with adoption as it is. These folks in the vocal minority don't speak for them. 

Image courtesy of sippakorn /

Ah yes, the "vocal minority" dismissal. It's a slippery one for sure, in part because there's an element of truth to it. I completely agree that no one adoptee or group of adoptees speaks for all of us (and neither, I should add, does any one non-adoptee who knows a few adopted people). On the other hand, the assumption that all of the less vocal adoptees are quiet because they are fine is problematic. Here are some other types of adoptees in the quiet group:

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Book Launch, an Interview, and a Chance to Win a Free Adoption Reunion E-Book!

I am SUPER excited to announce the publication of a new book to which I had the honor of contributing a chapter! Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Ageedited by Laura Dennis, is an anthology that gives voice to the wide experiences of adoptees and those who love them, examining the emotional, psychological, and logistical effects of adoption reunion. In connection with the launch of this book, I am participating in an interview project that paired contributors with one another. I had the great pleasure of being matched with Jessie Wagoner Voiers, who blogs at Then I Laughed. Jessie is an adult adoptee in reunion and also a mother to six children (one through an open domestic adoption and five by way of marriage).

Please read my interview of Jessie below and then leave a comment for a chance to win a free e-book version of Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age. The winner will be selected using the good, old-fashioned method of drawing from a hat and will be announced here on Friday (February 14, 2014).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Post in Which I Ignore My Mother's Shushing and Talk About Race

Confession: I am one of those White liberals who wishes the world were colorblind. But it isn't. And neither am I.

I wasn't colorblind as a child in the 1970s in White, White Maine when I saw her down the aisle from me in that department store. There she was, a girl like me--same age, same size--but with brown skin! I could hardly contain my excitement. I wanted to meet her, to know her. I wanted to ask her about her brown skin! I ran to my mother and exclaimed in a loud voice, "Mommy, Mommy, there's a brown girl over there!" My mother was horrified. "Hush!" she whispered in a harsh tone. "We don't talk about that." Later, in the car, she explained to me that the girl wasn't brown, she was Black. I argued with her. She must have seen wrong. I had seen a girl with skin that was clearly brown, not black. But my mother explained that the correct word was "Black." Also, I shouldn't talk about it. Skin color was not something to be discussed.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mother Unqualified: Revisiting Adoption Language

When I first started blogging one of the first posts I wrote was called “My Birth Mother Doesn’t Like the Term Birth Mother,” in which I explored the different ways my mother and I held that term. I’ve shifted significantly in my position since then. There is still a part of me that likes “birth mother,” simply because it was the word that I first learned for her. It is the word that stands for all that she was to me in the years when I could only guess at who she was. Simply put, “birth mother” was the word that kept me tethered to her through all those years of separation.

These days, I usually use “original mother” or “first mother” in my writing when I want to specify which mother I am referring to, but I think of her as my mother, unqualified. I am comfortable with duality. I have two mothers and two fathers. One mother and father are my parents because they raised me; the other mother and father are my parents even though they didn't. It’s a position that’s hard for some people to understand, but it’s my reality and I am fiercely protective of it. It has taken me many years to get here, but I stand solidly on this ground now. I get to define what family means to me.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Connected, Part Five: Maybe. Maybe Not.

We've almost all had the experience of walking into a room of tense people and immediately feeling our own bodies tense, or of finding someone else's joy or laughter contagious. But how far does inner connectedness extend?

When my then-foster-now-adopted daughter first moved in with us, I experienced several months of intense anxiety. In some ways, my stress was understandable; our family was undergoing a dramatic transition. In other ways, my reaction seemed disproportionate. I sometimes found myself wondering in those day if the emotions I was experiencing in my body were truly all my own. Was it really my fear, or hers? Was her active trauma triggering some kind of mirror response in me, reactivating my own old trauma?
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