Friday, December 19, 2014

What We Share


Sometimes I wish I could just take a break from adoption and reunion. The holidays are hard enough, family drama is inevitable. When you're in reunion with all branches of your family, your chances of some kind of chaos are inevitable. 

I've been in reunion for over twenty years and it's still hard for me to have my various families come together. I don't know why it is that way. It should have normalized by now. But, it hasn't. As I plan my holidays, I'm trying to get everyone in. But it's not working. 

This has been one of the busiest times of my life having just finished by first term of my MBA while working full-time and having my family responsibilities. Aside from my kids and my husband, my family responsibilities also include taking care of my 83 year old adoptive mom. She's doing great - she's healthy and strong. But, I'm in charge of bills, business and planning. It's a lot. 

So when I try to fit in my birthfamilies, I get stuck. There's not time, there's not space. Not enough, not for everyone. I can understand that family and friends may feel left out of my life right now, that I'm neglecting them. I get it. I wish I had more time than what I have to give to my immediate family, my work and my school. But that's all I have right now. 

I know I'm fortunate. I know I'm lucky to have so much family that loves me. But sometimes it ends up feeling like a weight and a burden. I am not enough for everyone. 


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to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thursday, December 4, 2014

The “M” Word


The florist asked what I wanted the card to read for Kate's birthday flowers. "Happy Birthday..." I said, and paused. 

I'm usually terrible with birthdays and planning ahead to send a gift. Flowers were a great solution, but the card...

Kate and I have not come to a good solution of what to call her in terms of her relation to me. My relationship to her is simple enough - I'm her daughter. But, referencing her is more challenging.

We've been in a limbo of birthmother for a long time. Neither of us find that satisfying. There's so much more to our connection, our heritage. She didn't just give birth to me. She and my birthfather are my blood, my lineage, my people - but is she my mother?  

On one level, yes. Last year, over dinner, Kate argued that technically she is my mother - that it's a biological fact. I said I understood that, but that there was more to it. We left the dinner unresolved. There was no tension, it was a pleasant, well-intended conversation, and we left dinner happy. But the content of the discussion has stuck with me ever since.

By being part of a writing group with adult adoptees, this is not an unique question. We all struggle with what our relationship to our first parents ("first" happens to be one of the terms used) are, should be, what we want them to be. What to call them is an issue in and of itself.

Some of the adoptees I know are passionate enough to take action to re-form the break that happened at birth and legally change their names to include their birth names. The first time I heard of someone doing that, I felt electrified.When you're taught, as adoptee, to accept your adoptive parents as your only parents, taking back your birthname seems like a shocking and rebellious act. But, really, it just makes sense. We all come from somewhere - and telling adoptees that they don't really screws with the mind. I believe children who are relinquished for adoption should keep their birth names. They should never have to lose them. Taking our original names away is cruel - it's a severing that is equivalent to a lie. You can add on your adopted family name, but you should still get to recognize where you came from. Even if you're not in contact with your first families (yet another term sometimes used), having the name at least keeps you connected to the earth.

I love the idea of taking back my family birth names. I would love to do it. I picture doing it with ceremony, including Kate and John as part of it - and fully recognizing just where I came from. It would be emotionally huge. But I won't do it. Not yet, anyway, I won't put my mom through that -my adoptive mom.  I'm not brave enough for that.

But, I thought, maybe I could be brave enough to at least recognize Kate as my mother on her birthday flowers.

My birth-sister refers to Kate as Mama. I always thought it a little out of place for an adult to call their mother, "Mama." It's a baby's term. Maybe that could be it, I thought. There was more to us than just birth. For a day or so, I was her baby, and she was my mama. For a day.

"Mama," I said to the florist. "Happy Birthday, Mama" I said. My heart was racing. I felt like the florist would call me out, would know that it wasn't right, would hear my hesitation, but she took the information without comment. Such a small thing, but I felt empowered, emboldened. I did it! I recognized Kate as my mother.

Later that night, Kate called and left a gushing thank you voicemail about the beautiful flowers. She didn't mention the card, but I knew that was included in the gush. She was happy. I was happy. It was perfect.

I was going to class, so I didn't have time to call her back. As the night progressed, my delight started slinking into something else. Something darker. Something like guilt mixed with doubt mixed with sadness.

I did it, but I couldn't do it. Not yet. Something is still not right.


***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

What It Means to #FliptheScript

I wrote my first ReunionEyes post on 5/22/2011. 

After writing about my experience of reunion for the memoir, blogging was the natural next phase. Our goal was to bring the birthmother and adoptee experiences of the same topic out to the world. Having a blog was a way to keep it current, in "real time," vs. a memoir where the focus is mostly on the past.

In writing about my adoption experience, I found myself turning to friends of mine that were also adopted and in reunion to discuss different topics that were coming up. I found that there was so much shared experience and added insight in having a discussion about reunion. It made it richer and deeper than when I was just talking about it on my own. I wished I could have that kind of experience for the blog. This was my first post:
This is my first post to this new blog. I want it to be a space where adoptees in reunion can talk about their experience. I want to talk about my experience because my experience has a breadth and depth that astounds me. Twenty-two years in reunion. We've come a long way, but there will always be issues, always things unresolved, and I still find it all so interesting. 
... our strange family - us adoptees in reunion - still feels a little in the dark. It's uncertain, and we all just plod through it on our own. But, when I talk to friends who have had similar experiences as they try to adjust their lives to fit this new, strange, blended family, I am amazed by the reassurance I feel. We are not alone. There are things about this that make sense, that are predictable, that are "normal."

Then I found Lost Daughters. I didn't have to create that experience I was looking for - it was already
out there. Here was a group of women who were all talking about things that I was passionate about, sharing things inherent to the adoption experience that non-adoptees just don't get. And it was such a range of experience and demographic and history.

So, it was about a year after starting ReunionEyes, that I wrote my first post for Lost Daughters. It was thrilling to get a quick response in comments to posts I wrote. It was fascinating reading others' stories - whether it was someone who was still searching for the birth families, or someone who was starting that path, or someone who was struggling in the midst of it all.

What I didn't expect though, was how much being part of that group would change me. Suddenly I was around people advocating for adoptee rights, people who were speaking out against the societal misconceptions about adoption, women unafraid to speak their minds and tell their stories - even if their stories weren't what society thought was acceptable.

Their voices challenged me to rethink my understanding of not only adoption in general, but my experience of adoption. After all, my experiences resonated with theirs, but I had always confined my thoughts and voice to the memoir and then, to some extent, to the blog. But there was something about it being my own unique experience that made me not want to step out as the "voice of adoption experience." It could just be me - my thoughts.

But, that was just it, having a collective where we were putting adoptee voices together changed the dynamic from the one unique experience to a collective harmony of experiences. The whole was greater that the sum of its parts.

One of the Lost Daughter writers decided to #FliptheScript on what society was pushing out into the world about National Adoption Month. She wanted to get the adoptee voice out there too. The adoptee voice needs to be part of the conversation, and she got it out there. Now #FliptheScript has been mentioned in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, along with countless tweets and posts. Now, they're on T.V., on the news talking about #FliptheScript. And ... people are listening. 

One of the posts I wrote for #FliptheScript on Lost Daughters was about Loki as an adoptee. It was a post I particularly enjoyed so I decided to share it with my regular facebook friends, not just the adoptee-centered blog connections. Suddenly I was getting responses from people I've known for years and years who said, "I never thought about it that way before." 

That's when I started to get what the effect of Lost Daughters can be. What #FliptheScript is doing. It's not just about telling our individual stories - as I've been doing here with Kate. And, it's not just about sharing it among other adoptees - which was what was what I found so exciting about Lost Daughters. It's really about sharing our stories with the world, with everyone, and by doing so reframing the understanding of adoption as a whole.

And that is a pretty cool thing. 

Click on Lost Daughters, to read more ...


***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts ... #flipthescript on holidays and adoptees



What happens when families separated at birth come back together later in life? Well, it makes for confusing holidays. 

My holidays are traditional. My mom is up from Florida, we're taking her and the kids to my mother-in-law's house for Thanksgiving dinner. My husband's mom is going to make the turkey and stuffing, we're going to make the pies. This, after all, is my family.

My birth-families are there in the backdrop, not quite a part of things. It's not that I intentionally leave them out, it's more that I don't understand how to fit them in. They have their families, their traditions, their lives. I have mine. 

At other times of the year, our reunited life can feel normal-ish - a summer barbecue, for example, where we're all together feels simply ... easy. But, during the holidays, there is a spotlight on the separation. 

Although other families have to deal with their family vs. the in-laws and different families from divorce, those are situations of balance - which family do you visit for which holiday. This is different. I could never NOT spend the holiday with my family, opting instead to spend one of the holidays with my birth family. Maybe others can do that, I cannot. 

When it was looking like Kate was going to be back in Portland by Thanksgiving, she had planned a large extended family gathering to take place that weekend. Not on Thanksgiving itself, but the Saturday after. It was a way for us to celebrate the holiday together. But through no one's fault, plans changed - both on her end and on mine. Now Kate's extended family Thanksgiving is happening on Thanksgiving itself, and without me. Just as mine is without her. 

The results of relinquishment run deep and continue on. Although we are part of each others lives and call each other family, it is still not quite right. Not quite blended. There is segregation - together, but separate. We're looking over into each other's lives. I see the family I should have been a part of, but I am not part of it. It's not that I am unhappy being in the family I am in. It's just a strange experience to be able to see the other life - the one you don't have. We live the natural consequence of a choice made 43 years ago. A choice I had no say in. 

And that's just what it is. This is normal. 

Grateful for what we have, but bitterly aware of what we're missing. 


***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone



Thursday, November 6, 2014

National Adoption Month #flipthescript



Adoption is such a personal, private, and now, public thing for me. I find it interesting that it's such a big part of my life, such a big part of who I am.

I also find it interesting that adoption is promoted, pushed and ... celebrated. It's National Adoption Month. A month where adoption is celebrated.

I love my adopted family. I respect my friends who are adoptive parents. But, I don't think people are really thinking when they are asking to celebrate something that is inherently sad (if not also tragic, life-altering and painful). It shows an inherent ignorance in what adoption is. It's trying to be something it isn't. I don't think people realize that at it's core, it's propaganda. It's a lie. Adoption is a big money business and they're selling it.

As an adoptee, I just want to say I don't support National Adoption Month. It's icky. Celebrate love, yes. Celebrate family - whatever your family make-up is. But don't celebrate someone's core tragedy.



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to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Friday, October 3, 2014

Exposed



I had always been an avid writer, but everything I wrote was tucked away in journals. The experience of writing the blog has been very different. It's a mix of trying to be exposed enough so that I'm honest, while being resolved enough that I'm not just spewing.

It's very different than how I am in my real in-person life. I don't like being so exposed in my feelings. Friends would describe me as somewhat reserved, I think. It's a more comfortable space for me. I am not in my element being so out about my feelings. It's not my nature.

I'd kept to my journals for so long because writing for an audience takes a bit more arrogance than I have in me. Why should I think I have anything to say that's worth reading? If I didn't have my experience of reunion, I think I would have kept to my journals. But I feel like the story is worth sharing. I want it to make sense to others. I hope maybe it can be of service. Maybe someone who is going through something similar will get some insight out of it, recognition or hope or relief of just a knowing nod. Maybe. 

But, I just wanted YOU to know that this is hard for me. This is not something I go into lightly. Right now, as you're reading this, I am cringing just a bit, hoping it is worthwhile.

But, I'm also really glad to be sharing it with you. You know a little more about me, and maybe there's value in that. Maybe it's not about arrogance or self-centeredness ... maybe it's about connection. And there's value in that.



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to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Moving Home to Portland

After college, I accepted Kate's invitation to come out to Portland. I would spend the summer "rubbing elbows with my genes." It was supposed to be for the summer. Instead, it lasted eighteen years.

It was such good fortune. I was eighteen when I met Kate. I went to college for four years and then moved out to Portland. And then, for just as long as we were apart - eighteen years - we were together, living in the same town. It still blows me away.

It felt like we cheated fate. Kate had relinquished her rights to be my parent, she promised to stay away from me, we had no way of finding each other, yet there we were - together. It was a precious, unexpected gift.


I fully expected it to end. 

It was a few years ago that Kate told me she was leaving Portland. Despite all that time we had been living together in the same town, I still wasn't surprised that she was leaving. It was as if we had been on borrowed time all along. It might have been eighteen years we were together, but there was part of me that was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I think that's the burden of reunion. No matter how long you're in it (and for us, it's been over twenty-five years now), the initial wounds never fully heal. Rationally, I know we're solid. I know she loves me unconditionally and completely. But, she left me. When I was a baby. When I needed her. 

No matter how long Kate and I might be together, I will always expect her to leave. I can't help it...

Only now she's coming back. 

I am thrilled to have her and Steve in our lives again. Not that they weren't in our lives. It was fun to visit Seattle, and to have them stay with us when they would come to Portland ... but there's so much more richness to living in the same town. They can come to the boys' soccer games, or meet us for dinner, or Kate can smuggle me out for a drink some spontaneous evening. My boys can have the music lessons I lacked. They can have the family that I was denied AND still have my adoptive family both. Complete. 

I want to just be happy. 

Only now I have to wait for her to leave. Again. And brace for that. 

***

to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone