Monday, November 12, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 11: Personal Opinions Regarding Adoption

Personal Opinions Regarding Adoption What is your opinion of adoption today? Are you in favor of or against adoption, and how do various circumstances affect your opinion? Has your opinion changed over time? If so, what caused you to rethink your former opinion? What do you think is the biggest need for change in the adoption industry or is the current model for adoption fine the way it is?

My opinion now is simple. It's the first and last thing on Deanna's post on Lost Daughter's today...

No secrets. 

That's it. That simple. There is only the truth - no matter how painful, dark or complicated the truth is, there should only be the truth. 

Brutal truth is better than beautiful lies. 

NaBloPoMo Day 10: Reactions to Searching

Reactions to Searching If you've searched for or are thinking of searching for your natural family, what would you say to those who think your desire to search means you are unhappy in your adoptive family or had a bad childhood? If you don't have a desire to search, what would you say to those who wonder why you have no interest in knowing where you come from?

I just finished writing the Superhero post. Many superheros that I know of are adopted. But, the big difference is that their original parents are dead. If the original parents are really dead, and the child is adopted because they are an orphan, I wonder if there's the same stigma to searching? 

The stigma, of course, is the inevitable question everyone asks, "How do your adoptive parents feel about it?" It's implied that their feelings should come first, and the desire to know your history is secondary to that.

I've been extremely lucky. I had supportive adoptive parents that were cool with the search and have even gotten to the point where my mom has said that she's happy I'm in reunion with my birthfamilies because when she and my dad are no longer around, I'll still have family. Yeah, they're pretty amazing. 

However, I do think they would hide their feelings from me if they did have doubts, reservations, anger, betrayal. They wouldn't want it to be about them, they just want to support me. But it would be good to know if they do have any issues with it. Or maybe I'm just doubtful that they really can be that comfortable with it, I don't know. 

At this point, 22 years into reunion, I don't much care if people judge me. Or, I care, I just don't seek out others' opinions. 

I like the picture here at the left, which is a "reaction" that is similar to a stone being thrown in a still pond. Yes, you create ripples, but they extend far beyond you at the center. Your story influences so many people because it reaches so far.

The best reaction that I had to reunion came from a young woman at my son's daycare, and I wrote it in a post awhile back, but I'll repeat it here because it's worth sharing.

I had taken the day off from work so Kate and I could write together, and she came with me when I went to pick up Reed at the end of the day. My favorite teacher there, Katie, was standing outside with the kids. She's only 22 (I had Reed bring her in a 22-ounce beer when she turned 21 and she laughed so hard to see the little three year old with the big bottle of beer), but she's bad-ass as anything - country girl, goes hunting, knows about animals, grew up on a farm.
When I introduced Kate as my birthmother, she just asked simply, "Did you say birthmother?"

"Yeah," I said. 

"That's so cool!" she replied, looked at Kate and said, "Right on."

My hope from that small interchange is that younger people aren't so uptight about what and how families should look like. There was no judgement in Katie's voice. Her reaction was genuine and non-sensational. Just, "cool." I felt similar reassurance when Dane asked our five-year-old son, Quinn, if his friend had a single mom and he replied, "dad-mom, mom-mom, dad-dad, single-mom, whatever." It really is no big deal for him.

NaBloPoMo Day 9: Becoming a Parent

I became a parent when I was already seventeen years into reunion with my birthmother and seven years in reunion with my birthfather. So my kids have 8 grandparents:
  1. Nonna
  2. Papa Jim (Dane's mom & stepdad2)
  3. Grampa Joe (Dane stepdad1)
  4. Nanna
  5. Papa Pete (my mom & dad)
  6. Kate / Grammy Kate (birthmother)
  7. Uncle-Grandpa Steve (birth-step-father - kids gave him the "uncle-grandpa")
  8. Grandpa John (birthfather)
For my kids, that's the way it is. It's not particularly strange or unusual. But, for me, it constantly amazes me.  

It's through my kids where the true integration of all sides of who I am comes through. They understand that the musical side come from my birthmother's side, that Reed's eyes are like my birthfather's side, Quinn's love of hockey from my adoptive dad, a bunch of their sayings come from my adoptive mom. They are all of it, without question. 

NaBloPoMo Day 8: Adoption in Fiction (or...Why Star Wars is the Ultimate Adoptee Story)

I really like the prayer they use in AA about accepting the things you cannot change, having the courage to change the things you can, and having the wisdom to know the difference. I quickly tire of people who complain just to complain, but aren't willing to try to actually change the situation. In my opinion, you don't have the right to complain unless you've first tried to change. If you made a concerted effort and things can't be changed, then you can complain. For a little while. Then, accept it and attack from a different direction.

I think a good example of stories that accept the "just what it is" of adoption are the stories where rather than relinquishing of the child, the parents died. The first that comes to mind is Spiderman. He's raised by his aunt and uncle. He knows they're not his parents but it doesn't mean they love him any less. Everyone recognizes his loss. Dead parents make it easier to see the adoptee in their true situation - the tragedy of losing your parents and being raised by others.

Then there's Superman. Sure, his parents relinquished him, but that was to save him from an  exploding planet. AND they provided a handy-dandy video with information about his roots that he could access when he was of age by going to his fortress of solitude, so that's probably the most like a real adoption / reunion story (okay, except maybe for the part about flying and seeing through things and wearing a cape... actually, i do wear a cape on occassion), except that those of us in closed-adoption system never got that much information! Sure, you can get all the information about your original family if you're from outer-space, but if you're in the U.S., forget about it.

My favorite, though, is Luke in Star Wars. He was relinquished to his aunt and uncle. They raise him as best they can.
Luke thinks his parents are dead, but there's something that just drives him to search out who he is.

It turns out his dad is alive and kicking (and weilding a light saber). Ooops! Guess I should have said "Spoiler Alert!" on that one.

He needs to face the 'dark side' of adoption and relinquishment and not just be the good kid anymore. He needs to battle until he can accept who he is as a whole.

Hey, there's even Biological Attraction thing with his sister (oh, yeah, another spoiler). 

Why I think Star Wars and Superman (and maybe Spiderman) are the perfect adoption stories:
  • No one was trying to pretend the child was their own by birth or hiding the fact they were adopted
  • They accept that there is grief and loss for the child
  • The adopted parents all accepted that their children were different from themselves and tried to raise them to their best ability by acknowledging the differences
  • The adoptive parents tried to help them to adapt to the family and world they were being raised in, again acknowledging that it was not their native habitat but a different world entirely
  • Eventually, (well, at the threshold of adulthood - during the "coming of age") the adoptee had to go off on his own to explore his origins to gain acceptance of the whole of who he is. (okay, maybe not so much with Spidey. He may have learned that with great power comes great responsibility, but he's still not really willing to look into his dark past. We get it. You're not there yet. Though, I don't know who Venom is - maybe he has something to do with a dark past).
  • People don't think that the child is ungrateful or loves his adoptive parents any less just because he searches out his origins.
  • The adoptive parents' love is more apparent in their acceptance of the search.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 7: Childhood Adoption Narratives...KathleenCathleen

I thought that it would be fun for Kate and I to co-blog on the prompts coming from the Lost Daughters on our Wednesday blogging date. Yes, we're late, it's no longer Wednesday, but that won't stop us...

Childhood Adoption Narratives: Cathleen (adoptee)
Describe the story your adoptive parents told you growing up. What age were you? What feelings and questions did you have about this “adoption narrative”? Was it a satisfying explanation for you? Explain. As an adult, whether or not you are in reunion, comment on how much of that story turned out to be true. Has your adoption narrative changed? What story, if any, do you share with friends, acquaintances? How to others react to your narrative? Are they curious, supportive, silencing?

From as young as I can remember, I knew I was adopted. I must have been five or six, but it seemed like it was even before I was in school. So maybe four? It was a cool spring day and my brother, Peter, and I were playing outside in the backyard—a long rectangle of grass with a metal swingset in the middle, surrounded by a four-foot chain-link fence with white slats.  

My mom called out the kitchen window for us to come in for a minute. We shuffled into the living room without taking off our coats. We stood by the front window that looked out to the small front yard and my mom and dad were standing across the living room by my mom’s armchair, but they didn’t sit down like they normally would. I figured there would be a lecture coming about something or other. But then my dad hesitated and started talking without saying a whole lot. I don’t remember what he was saying, but it wasn’t a lecture—his tone was soft, delicate. I was confused. If this wasn’t a lecture, why were we talking? 

Finally, my dad told us that we were adopted. I stood there a frozen moment. I was aware of my brother without looking at him and could feel the bubble of frozen time that surrounded him as much as me. We were both the same, but separate. When we didn’t say anything, my dad asked, “Do you understand what that means – adopted?” 

“Yes,” I said, “Now can we go back out and play?” 

My dad looked to my mom and not having a fair objection, they agreed that we could go. As we ran around the backyard a few minutes later, I had a new definition of myself, one I didn’t know what to do with.

Thinking back on it now, I suppose there must have been more to the conversation. I know they must have explained that they loved us and that our “biological” parents (they wouldn’t have called them “real” parents) couldn’t keep us. I know my mom must have said things about it too. I know that they must have explained that my brother and I weren’t “blood” siblings but had different biological parents.

This is how I pictured my adoption, that I was abandoned, and lucky to be taken in.

That was the start of it. Of knowing. On one hand, I think I might have felt that it was a bad thing, known that it was a bad thing. But I also know that I was brave and proud and would have decided that it was fine and it didn’t bother me. On the other hand, I don’t think I did feel that it was a bad thing. I knew what adoption meant and it didn’t seem like a big deal. I had parents, family, and they were standing there in front of me.

My fantasies about my birthmother vacillated between two extremes (usually the fantasy was about the birthmother. Sometimes I threw in the birthfather in the supporting role, but mostly it was the “mother”). Maybe she was someone famous, rich, talented and amazing who got pregnant too young and made the desperate decision to give the child up.  In the other extreme, I imagined someone poor, drug-addicted and desperate who gave me up without a second thought.

But in my day-to-day life, I would sometimes wonder if my mother was just one of the nameless people I passed on the street on any given day. When I was performing in a school play or when I was an altar-girl at church and sitting perfectly still and erect in my seat, I would imagine my birthmother out in the church unseen, anonymous, and proud of what a great girl I turned out to be. I wanted her to be impressed, and maybe a little sad that she wasn’t my mom. 

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

Childhood Adoption Narratives: Kathleen (birthmom)
Describe the story you told people when you were pregnant. What age were you? What feelings and questions did you have about this “narrative”? Was it a satisfying explanation for you? Has any of the story turned out to be true. Has your narrative changed? What story, if any, do you share with friends, acquaintances? How to others react to your narrative? Are they curious, supportive, silencing?


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


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Taking a Break...No NoBloPoMo

Dad's in the hospital, flew to Florida last night after work. No NoBloPoMo for now.


It's my fourth day in Florida now. ICU sucks. I know my mom likes to stay next to my dad, but I can't handle it. It's just too awful in there and I don't like seeing my dad like that. At first I felt like I was being selfish, but then I realized that if it were the other way around, I would just want people to leave me alone and let me heal on my own - not watch me in the process.

It reminded me of when I was in my third day of labor with my first son. My labor was a bitch - kept turning on and off. Someone would be quick to say that it's "false labor," but, believe me, kneeling by the side of the bed every ten minutes during the night became the pain is so intense ... there's nothing "false" about that. But, since it was ten minutes apart and then the labor would stop for an hour or two, my midwife decided to just let it ride. 

Anyway, my parents were staying with me by that time, they wanted to be there for the birth, of course. But, it was so hard having my mom looming around nervously when I would have a contraction. There was nothing to be done but to go through the pain, so rather than making it better by having my mom there, it was worse because she was fretting over me. I wished I could just agonize in peace, without an audience.

I think my dad would be the same way.

November 6th's topic was "Taking a Break." I had contributed to it on the Lost Daughter's Blog. Then day 7, was my Taking a Break from NaBloPoMo to deal with dealing with my dad, so I'm just going to pick it up from there.

Monday, November 5, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 5: Around the Blogosphere

I've only started reading adoption blogs this past year. I wanted to see what was out there. And there was much, much more than I expected. I'm not a computer junkie - someone who always has to be plugged in, checked in, "liked." Searching out adoption blogs was one of first times I surfed the blogophere, in the true concept of surfing  - I started searching, found some sites, read some more, caught on to some that I really like, they led me to ones that I actively follow and poooom - I caught the wave to where the blogophere led me to a place where I truly feel community and shared experience, nationally, internationally, in all aspects of the triad. And I know there are tons more that I haven't yet discovered. 

Although I mostly follow adoptee-in-reunion blogs, I was delighted when I was paired with a birthmom for the Adoption Bloggers Interview project for Open Adoption Bloggers. Sure, I have Kate, and I really do feel I can ask her almost anything, but what feels amazing about this is that it is a birthmother who has just relinquished her child only two years ago.
The reason we started the book is that we wanted to tell a reunion story from the beginning (the initial reunion) to the end (the blended family / integrated adoptee), since all that we could find out in the world were stories where the reunion was where the story ended. 

Kate's side of the story (which I still haven't yet read) is about the experience of the birthmom throughout the relinquishment and reunion. Although I haven't read Kate's side, I have a good idea of what the experience was like for her. 

What fascinates me is that this birth mom I'm partnered with is in an open adoption, so her experience of being a birth mom is going to be live on the blogosphere for the world to witness in real time. Most of the birthmom blogs I've read have been too bitter for me to take in. It's like they haven't made peace with it all. And that's cool - they can be angry and bitter, and I'm sure there are others in the same place who can relate and feel peace from reading through their angst. But, I've been through the angry / confused / hurt stage and I get it, but what's interesting for me to blog about, and read about, is the peace that comes after the storm and navigating the strange world of true reunion. 

(I say "true reunion" because to me it's the difference between a wedding and a marriage. The initial reunion is the wedding with all the hoopla, and the marriage - the thing that takes commitment, building trust, and dedication, through good times and bad - is long-term reunion...and that doesn't have a name yet). 

Here, in this other birth mother's blog she seems at peace with relinquishment from the beginning, and what I'm wondering is whether it will stay peaceful or whether it will have some drastic swells and crashes as time goes on. Mine is not a sadistic voyeurism - I don't want her to crash at all. In fact, I think she's fabulous - I want her to continue to be this bright beautiful beacon for what open adoption can be. I just don't know if it will. And, I guess that's what makes her blog exciting - I will be wondering what happens next. 

If you want to check out what I'm talking about, her blog is The Great Wide Open

Hmm, I wonder if that makes Kate and my blog boring? You know that we end up in a family-type relationship together from the beginning. Then again, I went to see Argo this weekend and was so impressed that it could have so much suspense even though everyone knows the ending. So, let's hope we're more Argo. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 4: The Natural Father

Growing up, it was always curious to me that searching out the birthmother was what would be talked about (when it was talked about), but not searching out the birthfather. I wanted to be equal opportunity, so when I put in to search, I said I was looking for my natural parents (not just mother), but all I found was my mother, who had very little information about my father.

It was actually exactly ten years after I met my birthmother, Kate, that I found my birthfather, John, and it's been thirteen years since then. That, in itself, is a long strange story. 

What's interesting to me is the experience of being in reunion with my birthfather and trying to figure out what it means. The birthmother relationship is certainly more complicated - they hold the burden of the choice, at least that's true in my case.

I saw John this past summer. We typically only get to see each other once or twice a year. He lives over 500 miles away. But, when I had a business trip down in California, he rented a car and drove four hours so he can see me for a few hours. We had a wonderful dinner together, and he told me he like me. I smirked. He explained that he genuinely likes me, likes who I am, enjoys spending time with me. It was actually a really cool compliment.

I like him too. We've said, "I love you" a couple times - not many. It still feels awkward, but saying that he liked me was better in a way. And, when I'm with him, I feel like a little girl with her dad. It has that feeling and that's hard to explain. How is it that you can not know someone your whole life and still feel that connection? At least with the birthmom, you have those first nine months together, but with the birthdad it's just genes. 

Sometimes I'll look at Kate and John and try to figure out how I was the result of the two of them together. It doesn't quite add up. And I realize that's because there's as much of my adoptive parents that are part of me too. My adoptive parents are my parents, I've never had question of that. But it was a different realization to discover that they were part of me, part of who I am, even without the genes. 

My dad, my adoptive dad, is in the hospital tonight. He went in yesterday. He's 80. They don't know exactly what's wrong beyond that he has a lung infection, which he's gotten pretty frequently over the last five or so years. I'm scared. I know someday I'll lose my parents and then I'll be stuck being the adult. But, what's more is that I lose who I was as a little girl with her dad. I'm not explaining that well. He's my daddy, I'm his little girl, and I want him around forever. Even though I know that's not possible, the alternative is just as impossible.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ancestors - ReunionEyes...Kathleen~Cathleen

(Since I'm continuing with the Kathleen~Cathleen blogs and also doing NaBloPoMo, I'm tagging the title on which one it's for...)

Years ago, a close friend of mine (and fellow adoptee), Tracy, invited me to a witches' Halloween party. They were celebrating Samhain - the night when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.  We could call upon our ancestors, they said, so bring something of the ancestor we wanted to connect with. I brought a book, a Norton Anthology, that had a piece of writing by someone who is supposed to be a long-ago relative of mine through my birthmother's mother's side - Sarah Orne Jewett. She was a writer - an important one - and I'd hoped to be a writer someday, so it seemed like someone I should call on. I participated in the rituals, feeling a mix of east-coast skepticism and West-Coast "why not?" and waited for something to happen. 

That night, I went to bed and dreamed of my ancestors. But, rather than the blood-relative I'd summoned, the spirits who came to my dream were my aunt and uncle that I grew up with - my a-mom's sister and brother-in-law who were the closest family to me outside of our mom and dad. They had died a a few years before, and I was frankly surprised to have them show up in my dream. t was almost as if I was saying, "Huh, what are you doing here?" and having a feeling back from them of, "Um, you were the one who called us here...?"When an adoptee calls on his/her ancestors, who is s/he calling upon? Her blood relatives or her adoptive relatives? 

  I won't go into the details of the dream. Although I can't help but want to believe that it was truly a spirit visitation, I know that a simpler explanation would be that the suggestion of a spirit visitation made it a reality in my dreams. Besides, I can't remember much more from the dream than a vague sense of questions I asked to my relatives and having them answered in a way that was even more it's no matter. What's interesting to me about this is both why I chose to call on a blood relative that I had no real connection with, and why I would have my adoptive ancestors come.

It made me wonder, would my ancestors still have a connection to me, even if I was put outside of the family, would they still know I was their kin? And then what of my adoptive family, would it mean that if I had a connection to the birth-ancestors, I couldn't also have a connection to them?

Believe it or not, it's addressed on the web regarding the Samhain ritual. A wiccan website says:
...many people are adopted. If you are one them, you are fortunate enough to be able to choose whether you wish to honor your adoptive family, your biological family, or a combination of the two. If you don't know the names of your birth parents or their ancestry, there's nothing wrong with saying, "Daughter of a family unknown." It's entirely up to you. The spirits of your ancestors know who you are, even if you don't know them yet.
  So, maybe the adoptee does get to have both? Kind of the way when you meet a "soul-mate" or "sout-sister," someone you connect with spiritually, even if you can't make logical sense of why there's such a strong connection, you know in your heart (or in your soul?) that they have a strong connection to who you are.


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


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!

NaBloPoMo Day 3: Blogging Adoption and Everyday Life

Blogging has been a bit of a strange thing for me to get used to. I have been an avid at keeping a journal for most of my life, so when the time to blog came up, I didn't quite get it. It was somewhere in between writing in a journal and writing a letter - but the letter is going out to no one in particular. 

Then I got laid off. "This is interesting!" I thought, "I'll blog about this." 

How To Be a Housewife had the tag line 

I only did about fifteen posts because it turns out being laid off is pretty boring. Wasn't like I was sitting around thinking deep thoughts. And I really hated being a housewife, getting back to work was a breath of fresh air. I wish I had continued blogging on it - I feel like I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, or in ten years anyway (because ten years seemed the right amount of time to be able to get any schooling, training and experience for what I wanted to do "for real"), and it would be good to track it along as I go. Maybe I will get back to it.

Then I started this blog with Kate after we spent a lot of my layoff working on the memoir about our reunion (that we're still working on - what? it's only been eight years...). A blog seemed a perfect counterpart to continue a present-day dialog about the birthmother vs. adoptee experience, and I feel that that has gotten its footing and we're in a good rhythm with it now and it's something I look forward to doing each week. 

While blogging here, I started writing about trying to transition to being carless - and that became it's own blog that I still try to keep up with (but it's been awhile). 

So, for me, I am just getting into the feel of blogging about what I feel what might be interesting in general. What sticks out for me is that the blogs I most like reading are the other adult adoptee blogs and the blogs on open adoption. I just find it such a rich, wide, expansive experience and while everyone's experience is different, everyone's experience also resonates with me in some way. And, every time I feel like I'm "done" with being in reunion, I discover other aspects that tell me there's still a long way to go. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaBloPoMo Day 1: Stereotypes in Adoption

What I learned quickly as I was growing up was that it was shameful to be adopted, and because it's shameful, you're supposed to keep it a secret. 

In fourth grade, I remember sitting in the front row of our classroom. The teacher was out of the room and I had my head down, reading the section she assigned us. One of the boys, I'll call him Mark, got out of his seat and walked over to the boy sitting next to me, Tim. 

“Tim,” he said, “I just heard that Jeremy in your sister’s class is adopted!”

I looked up and saw Mark looking smug. He said it the same way he would have gossiped that someone had been sent to detention—it was bad and it was secret. 

“So?” I said, looking at Mark, “I’m adopted.” I kept my eyes on Mark and suddenly noticed the quiet around me. I was reminded of being on the stage in the auditorium during the Christmas song recital. I was forcing myself to keep facing toward Mark while fighting the urge to turn around and see the audience. 

Mark paused, stared at me a moment and then grimaced, “You’re not supposed to admit to that.”

“Why not?” I asked to his back as he was already scurrying back to his seat. I knew I wouldn’t get an answer but wished I would. It was normal for me, normal for my family, but not okay out in the world.

I suddenly felt different from all the other students around me. I was different, and I would be judged by it. I didn't know it was supposed to be a secret.

Over the years, I've gone through different phases about my openness with people about my story. But it wasn't because of shame, it was because it was always so interesting to everyone else. And not interesting in a good way - it was interesting in a way that felt sensationalized. So I learned that unless I trusted the person, it was better not to bring it up.

What's finally evolved is a place where I talk about my reunion and my life as it is with the all the complicated parts in place, and try to shrug off reactions. This is my reality, and I'm good with it. I'm not saying that it's all easy, but I can see what it is and accept it. 

Besides, and the more we can expose all the various types of families that are out there, the more people will see the complexity and start seeing that stereotypes just don't fit.