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).

Rebecca: There are lots of similarities in our stories, but one difference that jumped out at me in your anthology piece is that you reached the point of realizing that you needed to meet your birth family at an earlier age than I did. What do you think were some of the factors that contributed to the timing of your search? What do you view as some of the advantages of having had your birth mother in your life from the age of 15 rather than later?

Jessie Wagoner Voiers
Jessie: One of the biggest factors that contributed to the timing of my search was the desire to know who I looked like.  My younger sister was 8 when I was 15 and she physically looked so much like our mom and dad while I had no idea who I looked like.  I really wanted to be able to make that connection.  I was also tired of trying to fill in the blanks to questions I didn’t have answers for.  My parents had always tried to answer questions for me but they didn’t have many answers either.  I wanted to know my medical history, I wanted to know the story behind my adoption.  I just hated the unknowns so much!  I knew my parents would be supportive so I figured why wait! 

The biggest advantage of having my birth mom in my life from the age of 15 is that we have been able to share so many important events together.  She attended my high school and college graduations, we participated in each other’s weddings, she is Grandma Hottie to my kids.  I can’t imagine not sharing those things with her.  I’m so thankful that we have been back together for so long! 

R: Your adoptive mom was very supportive of and involved in your reconnection with your birth mother.  Do you think she has served as a model for you in some ways in terms of your sons adoption?

J: Yes, my mom served as a great model for me in terms of my son’s adoption.  I find myself encouraging him the same way my mom encouraged me in regards to being adopted.  I will always encourage him to ask questions and I will help him find answers.  Most of all my mom taught me how loved I was by my birth family and adoptive family, my hope is that my son knows how loved and wanted he is by all of his family members. 

R: I really liked the point you made in your recent blog post about the movie Elf that adoption reunions can be both challenging AND successful. I especially liked this sentence: "Reunions involve acknowledging loss, forming relationships, navigating the differences in families, and lots of communication." What are some of the ways that your reunion has differed from either your own pre-reunion impressions of what reunion would be like or from how reunions are often portrayed or perceived by others.

J: Reunions are so frequently portrayed in movies and other media as these perfect reunions where everyone loves each other and is already bonded and things are just rainbows and sunshine.  I do feel like my adoption reunion is successful but that is only because everyone involved has worked hard at making it a success.  All relationships take communication and team work and adoption reunion relationships are not an exception to that.  Prior to my reunion I thought “Oh we will meet, my birth mom will be so thrilled to see me, we will all be happy and stay in contact and it will be just fine.”  What I didn’t take into consideration is that while yes my birth mom was happy to see me it also meant coming face to face with a very difficult period in her life, it meant she had to work through things that she might not have been ready for, it meant that she had to explain me to her boyfriend and other people in her life.  While she did all those things amazingly well it was a lot of work for her, a lot of emotional work.  It is important to me that people acknowledge that adoption begins from a place of loss and when those reunions occur they begin from a place of loss.  It is our choice how we move forward.  If you are willing to do the work and build those relationships I think that feeling of loss can change and be very rewarding.    

R: As adoptees, adoptive moms, and members of families created by marriage (my husband became a dad to my bio daughter as you have become a mom to your bonus five) , you and I both have complex family situations. Complexity can be a source of richness but it can also add challenges to family life. What are some of the ways that you have handled complexity, within your family and/or in interaction with others?

J: Oh complexity!  Saying my life is complex is such a strength based way to say crazy!!! I’m kidding, kind of!  Our family is complex and challenging from time to time.  My mom taught me early on how important laughter is and I fall back on that so often.  When things seem to be particularly challenging I go back to finding the humor in the situation.  There are many days that I think we only get through the rough patches because we are a family that laughs.  I’ve also accepted that there is no such thing as a “traditional” or “normal” family anymore.  Our family, like many families, looks different.  I have made the decision to not try to explain our family to anyone anymore.  We know what our relationships mean to each other, we understand our family and our bonds, our strengths and weaknesses, and that is what matters most.  If we don’t fit the mold that other people have in their minds,  that is their problem not ours.  I think we are pretty fortunate to be different, or complex, or even challenging.  I can’t imagine our family being anything other than unique!  

Please also visit Jessie's blog to read my answers to her interview questions. 


  1. As a mother of loss to adoption in a reunion gone silent, I am very interested to read this book. I read everything I can written by adoptees in my search for understanding.
    Thank you for creating this work.

  2. I expected basically nothing but have been lucky enough to have gained an aunt and cousins that are truly family. My birth mother and siblings are a different story. Because I expected nothing I feel very lucky for what I have received.

  3. The questions and answers seemed to flow so easily that it was like the two of you had know each other for years...I am impressed :). I liked how you noted Rebecca how much emotional work it was for your birth mom. I was just thinking that the other day when I helped one of my adoptee friends write a letter to her first mother all the different emotions she might be feeling. Personally, I believe that is the key to helping make relationships work, trying to put yourself in their shoes, while not disregarding your own feelings. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love this so much: "adoption reunions can be both challenging AND successful." Yes, not either/or but both. And also the point made that sometimes relationships work because people work hard to make them work.

  5. What is it about adoptees that make us more resilient in the face of complexity? It's the grey area, the in-between, the complicated-ness (yes, I know, not really a word) that exists for so much of our lives.

    Embracing IS, I think, maybe not the only way -- but the most healing way ... to remain sane.

    Thanks so much to both Jessie and Rebecca for this insightful interview!


  6. Congratulations, Brett! You are the winner of the free ebook. Please send me your email address at and I will pass it along to Laura so she can send you your book.


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