Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Are Doing WHAT?!

Lately I've found myself disgusted by the concept of "adoption disruption".

First of all..."disruption"? Puhlease!!!! Let's not be so PC when referring to the "giving back" of an adopted child! It is true that the "return" of an adopted child is a disruption for the child. No arguments there. As one definition shows, disruption certainly defines well what is happening FOR THE CHILD - "To throw into confusion or disorder" seems about perfect in this usage! The problem for me is that when a-parents use the term disruption they do so because it sounds prettier than "return", "give back", "let go", etc. So, for those people, let's call it what it IS! It is the removal of a child from your home because YOU can no longer cope with the downside of adoption!

Secondly..."adoption disruption"? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! This concept angers me to the core! More often than not the children involved in disrupted adoptions are children adopted at an older age who learned quite quickly, through no fault of their own, that the only person on whom they can rely in their life is themselves! They are then thrown headfirst into a family who wanted nothing more than to have a child to call their own. When this child does not reciprocate the joy and excitement of joining his/her new family as expected, circumstances take a serious turn for the worse! Because these parents refuse to accept any responsibility for the child's reaction to their family and because they choose not to empathize with the pain and fear exhibited through the child's behavior, a-parents lean on diagnoses such as RAD, ODD, and OCD to label their anguished, scared, hurting, and confused child. And once these labels come along the child ceases to become a child, but rather a falsely advertised product!

"I wasn't told there was a history of abuse!" "I didn't know the child had been abandoned 3 times prior." "The agency failed to inform that the child showed signs of RAD and ODD." "What am I supposed to do when a child threatens to murder me in my sleep?" "I must protect my family and my marriage." On and on and on the defenses go! But you know what?! YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT A CHILD!!!! A damaged, scared, hurting child! Don't tell me not to judge you until I walk in your shoes! How about walk in your child's shoes for just 1 FREAKING day!!! How dare you put your own wants, needs, desires, and dreams above that of the child you welcomed into your home! How DARE you!!!

Adoption disruption - where's the bucket?!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Please Don't Tell Me What a Bad and Difficult Child I Am/Was

I am currently reading the book Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. I intend to elaborate more on my thoughts about the book and perhaps even dedicate a separate post to each of the "Twenty Things" and how they relate to my personal adoption experience and that of my adopted daughter. However, this past week I discovered a twenty-FIRST thing I wish MY a-Dad knew.....

"Please Don't Tell Me What a Bad and Difficult Child I Am/Was"

Adoptees already face the heartbreaking fear that in some way we did something terribly wrong to result in our relinquishment. Did we cry too much? Were we always sick? Did we have major temper tantrums? Were we too demanding? Were we unlovable? Ugly? Sad? Not easily entertained or amused? Did we not smile or laugh? So much goes through an adoptee's mind of what we might have done differently, even as a small baby, to make our Moms love us and want to keep us.

When my a-Dad announced on more than one occasion this week that I was "a very taxing child" I began wondering if perhaps that was the case even BEFORE I was adopted. Is that why my Mom chose to "get rid of me"? Had I worn her ragged in my 2 short years of life and made her decide she wasn't capable of raising me? For so long I was led to believe my relinquishment was such a loving choice on her part! But was it? Or was it a personally selfish choice because I was a difficult baby?

Imagine my sadness this week as I've considered the idea that I displayed such deplorable behavior worthy of bringing up even 30 years later! I mean, what am I supposed to do with that information? Am I to apologize for putting my a-Parents through such hardships in raising me? Am I to become defensive and declare that I thought parents knew, when deciding to start a family, that their children might not always be perfect? Am I to extend my deepest gratitude for them muddling through and keeping me after my Mom clearly chose not to keep her horrendously disobedient baby?! I mean really, if I was that bad I'm sure they were well within their rights to just give up on me too. And if they made the decision to fight the hard fight of bending and molding me to their will, why still hold me accountable 30 years later?

Oddly enough, I do not remember being a bad child. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall the exact opposite. But now I wonder...was I so horrifically awful that I'm repressing those memories? Or is it natural for children to think they never do wrong thus are ultimately unable or even unwilling to acknowledge their shortcomings? I don't know because I would be the first to tell you that my relationship with my a-family was less than pretty during my late adolescent young-adult years, due mostly to bad decisions made on my own part. I can acknowledge that I gave them a pretty good run for their money after I started college. But honestly, prior to those years, I cannot point to a single thing that I ever did that was so terrible.

But there's the paradox. While I can't remember my failings as a child, clearly I had some. And how my heart aches at the thought that it was those very failings of which my a-Dad speaks that caused my Mom to abandon me.

Monday, September 29, 2008

"When Do/Don't You Talk About Adoption Post-Placement?"

This was a question posted on a Message Board I frequent. The OP's actual question was:
"At what point do you talk about adoption with strangers? And do you do so more if your child looks nothing like you (where it might be obvious or more obvious that he/she is adopted)? I'm a TMI kind of girl if someone says to me 'I like your necklace!' I'll respond, 'Thanks! I wanted it for so long! Then I found it in Clearance at Macy's for just $5! And it's Tommy H!' I just get excited and I'm a really open person.... I don't want to transfer this to adoption b/c I don't [want] to just scream 'adoption' all the time.... Thoughts?"
I was a little disheartened that some AP's suggested that they don't bring up their child's adoption with strangers at all, while others fear they do so maybe too much; some just say "Thank you" when receiving comments about how good they look for just having had their baby; others answer "Yes" when asked if their baby has his/her Daddy's eyes; still others even answer "Yep" when asked if they had a lot of heartburn while pregnant because their baby has so much hair. Their responses were well-intentioned, as most of these AP's were concerned that talking about their child's adoption too much would label them or would take away from them sharing their OWN adoption story. But after reading SO many of these same responses professing that they had no intention of denying their child's adoption, but rather were protecting their CHILD, it became more and more concerning to me that some AP's seemingly appeared to ENJOY receiving credit for having created their child! After so many of these same responses I finally jumped in as an adoptee and posted the following:
I think from the perspective of the adoptee it's better to be open and honest. I don't mean you tell your child's entire story to perfect strangers, as it IS your child's story to tell. I mean that when someone comments on how good you look for just having had a baby or on the amount of heartburn you experienced because of all the baby's hair, it's perfectly appropriate to inform that person your child was adopted. You see, to just say "thank you" or "yup" in response does the exact opposite of what you are trying to convey. It DOES come across as trying to cover the fact that your child was adopted. I believe you can simply answer with "Thank you. That's very kind. Honestly, we welcomed our child into our home ____ months ago through adoption, and we feel so blessed that he/she is a part of our family." Simple, polite, to-the-point, HONEST. That's all that needs to be said.

I understand and respect the concern of labeling your child as adopted by sharing with everyone that he/she is in fact adopted. But really, the label concern comes in when you introduce your child as "this is my adopted child _____" or when you wish to receive accolades for your sacrifice and kind-heartedness in bringing someone else's child into your home (not that I believe ANYONE here hopes for such commendations...I know just the opposite is true).

Here's some personal experience....
~First, my parents never directly spoke to me about being adopted until, at 7 years old, I overheard my Mom telling a postal worker about my adoption. Imagine the confusion and sadness I felt at overhearing my story being told to someone not even directly connected to our family (we lived in a small town, so it was likely my Mom knew this postal worker as more than just an acquaintance, but still....). I cannot remember any discussions taking place, even after that, until I was 16, and even then it wasn't exactly an "open for discussion" kind of talk. More of an "I'm sharing with you all we know so don't bother asking anymore" type of talk (just the impression I got).
~Second, from as early as I can remember, even after learning I was adopted, the response we gave when people asked where I got my red hair was "from God." When a car salesman commented that he knew where I got my good looks my Mom and I just looked at each other and rolled our eyes. That moment was SO awkward for me because I felt that we were hiding something with which I should have felt comfortable and at peace. And sure...I was 17 or 18 years old then...I COULD have made my own decision to say something to him, but because my Mom and Dad never shared that info with people it made me uncomfortable to do so in their presence, out of fear of hurting them. I never felt it WAS my story to share. I felt it was my parent's pain and sadness of infertility that I had to help hide.

So, basically, by being honest even with those unsolicited, off-the-cuff, sometimes rude, "none of their business" type comments, you are showing your child that it's OK to talk and be honest about how he/she joined the family. I believe it better to start off with sharing that your child is adopted and THEN allow your child, as he/she gets older, to decide if it's something he/she wants shared with anyone who asks. So often we say that it's our child's story to tell, but if our child doesn't know, from example, that it's OK to share their story, then it becomes a family secret that your child feels uncomfortable and even embarrassed sharing. Honesty, on the parent's part, from the beginning, removes the burden of secrecy from the child.
As is usually the case when I respond to an AP's thread wearing my adoptee hat, there were only a couple direct responses to me before the thread sort of fizzled out. Oh least I offered my $.02 and while people might not respond hopefully they at least read my thoughts!

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Wonder....

....If my Natural Mom really DID love me. Like REALLY love me. The way a Mom is supposed to love her child. Or, like Juno, did she just view me as a "ball of cells", an "it"? I have seen more than one teenager get pregnant and choose to parent her child. I have seen these same teenagers become young adults almost instantaneously as they look into the eyes of their innocent and helpless newborn baby! Babies do miraculous things to those young women so many consider too young, too immature, to poor... So I just wonder if the same was true for MY Mom? Did her life and priorities change when I was born? Did she truly love me with that same love that I see these young women, who were equally not ready to be parents, give to their babies?

....If my Natural Mom made the decision to relinquish me in her own time, in her own way, on her own terms. Was she coerced? Convinced that she was failing me by some government bureaucracy? Was I taken away by cover of darkness? Dragged out of her arms as she pleaded for one more chance? Or did she just throw her hands up in surrender and relish the thought of a future without the burden of ME? What was that day like for her? For me? Were we happy? Sad? Overwhelmed? Relieved?

....What happened my first 2 years of life, in which my Mom chose to parent me. Was I a good baby? A happy baby? Did I cry a lot? Did I make her life stressful? Did she nurse me? Hug me? Hold me? Tickle me? Did we giggle with one another and make each other smile? Did I know her as Mommy? Who was she to me, and who was I to her?

....About my personality, my character traits, my talents, my looks, my history. Who do I look like? Who do I take after? Where did I get my musical talents? Where did I get my red hair and freckles? Why am I shy, quiet, introverted? Was my personality formed through nature or nurture? Am I anxious, fearful, worried as a result of my adoption and those things that happened later in my life or as a result of heredity? Do I love to laugh, play, have fun because I was born with those genes or because the parents who raised me did so in a carefree, fun-loving manner?

....If my Mom thinks about me, wants to know me, told anyone about me. Did she move on with her life? Did she graduate from High School? College? Did she have other children? Get married? Divorced? Married again? Is she even alive? Has she tried looking for me? If I were to find her would she welcome me into her life and her family or would she request no future contact? Where is she? Who is she? Is she still my Mom or is she just a woman who happened to give birth to me 34 years ago and has since forgotten about that part of her life?

....If I have any siblings. Do they know about me? Were they too relinquished for adoption never to be known or heard from again?

....About my grandparents. Do they know about me? Did they try to help raise me? Did they encourage my Mom to parent? Or did they lean her toward relinquishment? Did they love me and spoil me the way grandparents do or was I a burden to the entire family?

....About my Natural Dad. Did he EVER know about me? Did he care? Where is he? Who is he? What happened? Does he think about me or has he long since forgotten I ever existed?

....Why? Soooo many why's they cannot even be covered in this single post. Why was I relinquished? Why after 2 years rather than immediately after I was born? Why did my Mom not fight to keep me, to raise me, to love me?

The WONDER of it makes my head spin and daily brings tears to my eyes! Will I ever learn the answers to my questions? Or will I be left to wonder? I guess, as with so many other questions in our lives...only time will tell........................

Thursday, July 10, 2008

What It Means to Be Adopted

I used to think it meant love - an amazing love shown to me both by my Natural Mom and by my a-parents. I used to think it meant chosen and special - a precious gift meant-to-be for a family longing desperately for a child to call their own. I used to think it meant happiness, joy, laughter, and fun - things I never would have felt were I not adopted. I used to think it meant honor and privilege - I received something those less fortunate than I never had the opportunity to experience - the love of a family who truly wanted me and who was more capable, thanks to maturity, marriage, and money, of caring for me than the adolescent who gave birth to me.

I used to think a lot of warm, fuzzy thoughts about being adopted. And sure, many people might still argue that those things listed above are still true. But as I've aged and as I entered the arena of adoption for the 2nd time in my life (this time by choice) I've learned that being adopted means SO much more than what I used to think.

Being adopted means...

Losing my family
Losing my history, both personal AND medical
Losing my identity with people who look like me, sound like me, SMELL like me, act like me
Losing the right to MY own documents, including a factual Birth Certificate naming the woman who gave birth to me as my mother
Burdening others with my own desire to know more and have more
Searching not only for answers about my life prior to my adoption, but also searching for who I am and who I might yet become
Guilt for wanting more and for not always feeling grateful to my a-parents for rescuing me from a life "on the streets"
Fear of hurting the people I love including my husband, my daughter, my a-Dad, my Natural Mom
Fear of the unknown and of what I might find should I ever choose to search
Looking at my daughter every day KNOWING that someday, if not already, she too will experience these same feelings of loss, depression, sadness, loneliness, pain, heartache, grief, shame, self-loathing, disappointment, guilt, and fear

No, adoption has not ruined my life. My life is a roller coaster. There are ups and there are downs, as with anyone's life, whether they were adopted or not. Some days I hurt more than others and experience more negatives than positives when viewing my life as an adoptee. Other days I carry on barely spending a moment's thought on adoption.

It's a double-edged sword, really. I once wrote that I have chosen to not let my adoption define who I am. I have now come to the conclusion that I am, in reality, the person that I am today because I was adopted. I LIVE adoption. I BREATHE adoption. I AM adoption. I see it, hear it, KNOW it every time I look in the mirror, every time I look at my daughter. I love who I am, what I have become. I thank adoption for that. I hate how I feel, what I think. I thank adoption for that, too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

UGH...I Finally Saw Juno

I finally saw Juno yesterday. For whatever reason I had been wanting to see it. I read the spoiler...I knew how it ended but still I just HAD to see what all the hype was about! It was a little like a train wreck...I kind of knew it would be bad but I just couldn't look away!

The short of it...I HATED IT!!!! LOATHED!!! DESPISED!!!! It left me heartbroken and SICK!!!! I've barely thought of anything else since watching it yesterday and I HATE THAT!!!! I've been away from the Adult Adoptee forum I visit for quite some time because I found myself feeling things I didn't enjoy feeling. I think things there are just a little TOO honest for me and I'm just not quite ready for that! I was safe and comfortable in my dream world before finding that forum and then all of a sudden I started seeing things within myself that I never knew existed...feelings and emotions I never knew were there! And I HATED THAT!!! I felt like a different person. Like someone I didn't even recognize. So I stopped going there! And life was good (don't get me wrong...I LOVE it there but I just CAN'T be there as much as I was before)! And then I went and watched this stupid movie!!!!

DH even asked, after the movie was over, why I wanted to see it! He thought, before we even went, that I would have a problem with the age of the character (she is 16 and my natural Mom was 14). He was afraid I would make a closer connection than even I realized I would make! Yet still we saw it. And I didn't cry...I didn't shed a tear. I sat there in disbelief at the callous language, feeling that dagger in my back twist with every reference to "it". I for Juno to just ONCE speak lovingly about the child she was carrying! All of a sudden, before I knew what was happening, I was hearing those words come out of her mouth as if she were speaking ABOUT ME!!! For the rest of the movie I sat there imagining how my natural mother talked about ME when she was pregnant. And my dream world just crumbled right around me! Sure, I wouldn't expect anything less from a pregnant teenager. But before seeing this movie I hadn't allowed myself to view that part of my life as a reality.

Going into this movie I thought I would have a much more difficult time with the natural mother references. I thought this movie would be more directed at the decisions Juno had to make and what influenced her to make the decisions she made. And yes...I left ticked off at her final decision and the idea that no one was REALLY there to help her! Sure, her BFF and step-Mom went with her to the doctor and were with her in the delivery room, but where was the HELP?! The real, professional, unbiased help?! Why wasn't there anyone there to tell her that if she wanted she COULD raise this baby just as well as the single woman to whom she gave him?! I found it despicable!

I DID find the character believable and the acting very well done! Obviously, just a bit TOO well done, considering I was unable to separate the movie from MY real-life!!! And it made me sad! I hated the story for the story! I couldn't say whether it should have been written any differently to shed a truer light on any particular experience because I have never walked in a natural parent's shoes. All I can say is from the perspective of an adoptee, it HURT!!! It hurt a lot!!!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

"Adoptees Did You Want to Search for Your Bio Family?"

The title of this post was the subject line of a forum thread I visited recently. The author was indicating that she would support her adopted children in searching for their natural family, should the interest ever arise. In fact her statement was: "i wonder if they will want to search for thier bio family. If so it is fine by us." Not a real warm and fuzzy feeling to me. I couldn't quite figure out if she was asking for an opinion or just stating her own intentions. As a result, I posted the following response...

I would like to KNOW my natural family but I have not and probably will NOT search. There are several factors influencing my decision....

1) At the age when I would have been most interested in searching my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. She lived with it for 10 years! I could not imagine, during that time, going to her and asking for any information to help in my search for fear that she might think I was already looking to replace her.

2) After my Mom passed away there was no way I could go to my Dad and ask him for any information for the exact same reason as above...fear that he might think I was trying to find a replacement for my Mom.


3) Concern for my natural mom's right to privacy. She was 14 years old when she gave birth to me. She was 16 years old when she relinquished me. 31 years have since passed. My hope and prayer for her is that she found someone to love her, got married, and started a family, moving on from the pain and sadness I presume she felt after making an adoption plan. It is within her right as my Mother to keep my existence to herself and not share it with her family, and as her daughter I owe her the right to maintain that confidentiality without blindsiding her or her family. Does that make sense? Basically I am saying that if she has chosen not to share with her family that she had a child who she relinquished for adoption then who am I to barge into her life and her family to announce my existence?!

4) Finally, FEAR...fear of what I might find should I search! Fear that she might be dead. Fear of rejection. Fear of breaking her heart all over again. Fear of opening old wounds that have long since healed, with only a faint scar as a reminder. Fear of who she might be and where she might be and what she might be (sometimes the fantasy is WAY better than real life). Fear...the worst reason of all to not search yet in my mind, perhaps the most REAL and HONEST reason!

Please keep in mind that those are the reasons that I have chosen not to search. They might be good reasons or they might NOT be good reasons, but they are MY reasons nonetheless.

BUT...also keep in mind that my reasons for not searching do NOT mean I don't want to KNOW!!! Should my natural Mom EVER choose to search for me and then find me, I would welcome her into my life with open arms! While inconceivable to me, I love a woman I have never met (OK...I met her and knew her for 2 years of my life...I just don't remember). I would love to meet her and know about her and her life since I've been gone. I cannot tell you what a blessing it would have been in my life had someone taken my hand, as you have the ability to do with your 2 children, and supported me in sorting through my feelings and ultimately searching for my Mother. YOU have that power with your adopted children.

My response to you is don't wait for THEM to come to you asking for help to search. Talk about it, plant the seed, make it clear from the beginning that this is something YOU support and YOU encourage and YOU will be there to help with WHEN (not IF) they are ready! The ball was put in my court as a teenager. IF I ever wanted more information my parents would help me. Problem is...the ball was in MY court and MY court was one full of guilt and fear and confusion and concern for OTHERS rather than myself! Ultimately those feelings won and I have never been able to build up enough courage to ask. So instead, I sit as an adult wondering...thinking about who she is and realizing that 2 years of my life are gone, never to be found again! All because I had a choice very few, if any, adopted CHILDREN would ever take. Choose to hurt my parents for my own gain? Or choose to continue living my life not knowing? The choice was easy. I can deal with my own pain but I can NOT deal with hurting someone else!

My plea to you is DON'T give your children the CHOICE!!! Don't put that pressure on them! When they are old enough just talk about it, make it real, and make them aware that they are not being asked to make a choice between hurting you or helping themselves. That there is NO choice for them to make...that you KNOW they want to search and that when they are ready you will be by their sides helping them in that search
I hope my response helps some other adoptive families as they consider whether to support their children in searching for their natural family! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for an adoptee to know that the people they fear hurting the most will be standing right by their side and holding their hands as they make this difficult step forward in their adoption journey!