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Friday, December 9, 2011

The Holiday "Show"


Since I have no idea who or where my biological family is I will always have in the back of mind many thoughts and questions especially at certain times of the year like Christmas.  What religion or faith, traditions, dishes and recipes have been passed down, and where do they gather and visit?  Growing up I always related my adoption and family rejection situations to "The Little Match Girl", or "Land of the Misfit Toys" in Rudolph, my favorite was "Frosty The Snowman" 'cause the little girl's name was Karen and she got to escape and travel away from her family.

My adoptive family were not Holiday type people.  It was a chore to even put up a tree, there was no decorating, and the cooking was usually done by my grandmothers who we only saw once or twice a year.  They were very stoic and unemotional people so joy and expression of it was something that seemed to be looked on as a sign of weakness.  My family was far from poor but gifts were practical ones, money was not to be wasted, so no extravagance was shown, no stockings were hung, no sweet sugary goodies baked in the kitchen, and no wreath on the front door.  I was taught life was long and hard and you endured it and it was to be taken very seriously.  My loud sense of humor growing up was not appreciated and squashed at every opportunity, along with my expressive emotional nature and my very soul.  I knew we were different from others at a very young age.

So, the holidays for adoptees like myself can be very lonely and difficult times of the year.  I am not allowed to know the names of my biological parents, my siblings don't know I exist, and the relationship with my adoptive family (not for a lack of trying to extend that olive branch) is basically nonexistent.  This time of year can be so hectic and stressful for most people but it also magnifies how much of an outsider many of us are.

This poem is not one of my best.  It was one of my first I ever wrote.  But it does define exactly how I feel, as many adoptees feel, about being left out in the "cold" by one or more families.  Certainly I have my adoption community family and I am thankful for that every day.  But it does not replace, nor will it ever, the loss of two families I will never truly be a part of.

The Christmas Show

I see my friends at Christmas going to visit their families.
Groaning, moaning, and complaining about all the difficulties.
To get to all those people that have to see.
To buy and wrap all those gifts and go where they're expected to be.
There's always people arguing and rushing to and fro.
Sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, grandparents and more.
Too much to do too little time and they are wishing all the time,
that they could be somewhere alone, or someplace else rather than go home.
I guess they'll never imagine in any form or way.
How much I envy watching all their crazy days.
For if you've never lost it then you will never know.
How much of an outsider, I feel watching "the show".


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Honesty

Well folks, reunion number two has failed.  No more contact, save email.  And maybe a phone call now and then.  All because I sent a "Hope you're having a good day!" text message.  And the wrong person saw it and started asking questions.  Happy Holidays!

There are so many reasons why reunions can fail.  But when it comes down to my failed reunions at this point, the big reason is honesty.  Honesty is so important in life.  It's where we get our integrity.  It's how we are open about who we are.  Its the basic part of a relationship.  You can't have a relationship, not a real one, with someone you can't trust.

My first mother and I weren't honest with each other.  Our reunion failed in part because I wasn't honest with her about my feelings.  She would say something that was hurtful and I would let it go and pretend it was all alright.  And these hurt feelings just keep building.  And so when things headed south, we had a relationship that was based on her hurting me and me not saying anything.  That's not the kind of relationship that can survive for a long time.  Our reunion also failed in part because she wasn't honest, with me or my first father.  She wasn't honest about what she wanted.  She let me think that she wanted to talk to me or potentially meet me and when I asked, the truth came out.  She doesn't think of me as her daughter and can't ever imagine meeting me.  She also wasn't truthful to my first father when I got in contact.  They are married so there was no reason for her not to say anything.  When I contacted him eight or so months later, she was furious with me for letting her dishonesty known.  Lies and secrets doomed our relationship from the beginning.

My first father and I started our reunion a little over a year ago.  I learned my lesson.  When he hurt my feelings, I told him about it.  When things weren't working out a certain way, I told him about it.  I wasn't mean, we couldn't always make changes to fix what I was hurting about, but at least he knew.  And he was able to apologize.  An apology can at times go a long way.  But unfortunately he kept me a dirty little secret in his life.  Our reunion has failed because he lied about who I was again to people who should know about me.  He was point blank asked who I was and he lied.  And because he doesn't want to be forced to lie again, he's cutting me out of his life except every once and a while.  Honesty would have gone a long way here.

I guess this post is to show people how important it is to tell the truth, even if it's hard to hear if you are forging a bond with your adoptee/first parent.  Let my tale be precautionary to you.  Secrets and lies hurt. They leave wounds that cannot be healed by a simple apology.  And that hurting will keep coming back.  I shutter to think of how others will react down the road when they do find out about me and realize they were point blank lied to.  So be honest.  It's a hard thing to do.  I know.  But so worth it in the end.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Interview with Second-Chance Mother author Denise Roessle

Trace blogs here:
www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com
When I first starting writing about being adopted, I went searching for a natural mother's voice, a blog by someone who might explain why my own mother gave me up.
I soon found Denise's blog, http://write-o-holic.blogspot.com/.  I am not endorsing her new book since I have not read it but I do endorse her blog since I've read it over 5 years. I call Denise a pioneer in thinking outside the adoption myth.
In many ways, I think my own natural mother Helen would have appreciated Denise's blog, for the simple reason, adoptees and mothers are real people who need to tell real stories to heal separation anxiety and the primal wound.

Vivacious Suz at Writing my Wrongs did this is an incredible interview with Denise, about her new book "Second Chance Mother" and the ruckus surrounding her writing it. Yup, it's not exactly a subject people want to read - unless of course you are an adoptee or the mother who lost a child to adoption, or someone who still wants to have a successfull reunion.
As Denise writes, watch your expectations in reunions.
That is good advice.

Here is the link: http://writingmywrongs.com/2011/11/28/interview-with-second-chance-mother-author-denise-roessle/
To read more about Denise: http://www.secondchancemother.com/SCM/Welcome.html

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adoptee Rights Advocate, Linda Bebko-Jones, Passes at 65

Dear sisters, below is the obituary of a retired PA State Representative who passed away a few days ago.  During her time in office, she advocated for our rights as adoptees.  I think it is important for Lost Daughters to take a moment to reflect on our allies and honor those who have passed away.  Our thoughts and positive wishes are with the family of Linda Bebko-Jones at this time.  We thank her for her advocacy on behalf of adult adoptees.

Linda Bebko-Jones, age 65, of Erie, retired Pa. State Representative, passed away Sunday, November 20, 2011 at UPMC Hamot. She was born in Erie on May 1, 1946. Linda was a graduate of Villa Maria Academy and Erie Business Center. She became active in the political system as a Legislative Aide to several Senators. Linda was elected as a member of the Pa. House of Representatives from 1994 until her retirement in 2006. While serving as a representative she was a strong advocate and sponsored many bills to support military and veteran benefits and health and human services, including adoptee rights, substance abuse prevention and women's rights. Some of the many awards Linda received included the Democratic Woman of the Year; Pa. Federation of Women's Outstanding Elected Women; and Women's Club Woman of the Year. She also served as a delegate to the 2000 Democratic Convention and served on many local and state boards and associations. Her lifelong involvement in her local and state community was her main hobby and interest until the birth of her granddaughter. Linda is survived by one daughter, Pam Kulich of San Diego, Calif.; one son, Bryan T. Jones of Erie; one sister, Gretchen Bebko and two brothers, Larry Nimeth (Dorothy) all of Erie and John Bebko, Jr. of Cleveland, Ohio; one granddaughter, Tegan Kulich; her best friend, Carol Krysiak; three stepchildren, Kevin, Mark and Laurie; nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas F. Jones; her parents, Helen Sobolewski Bebko, John Bebko, Sr. and Joanne Nimeth Bebko; one brother, Mark Bebko and one sister, Nadine Bebko. Friends may call at the Dusckas Funeral Home, Inc., East, 2607 Buffalo Road on Tuesday from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. and on Wednesday from 11 a.m. until the time of the Funeral Service there at 1 p.m. conducted by Rev. John Detisch. Interment, Calvary Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society ,-Erie Unit, 2115 West 38th St., Erie, PA 16508. To send condolences, visit http://www.dusckasfuneralhome.com/.

Published in the Erie Times-News on November 22, 2011

Thank you to Karen from PARR for passing this information along.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

View the Response to the Russian Daughters Switched at Birth Through my Adopted Lens

You may have heard about the Russian parents who discovered that the daughters they had raised for 12 years were not their biological daughters.  This was due to a hospital mix-up where each couple went home with the other couple's  baby.  When the parents of one girl split and a paternity test was ordered, it was discovered she was not the biological child of either of her parents.  A CafeMom blogger wrote about the issue and asked readers what they would do if they found out that their child had been switched at birth with another person's baby.  I read the blog entry and the comments made to it and I thought it would be a perfect example of the complexities of being adopted, the expectations, and the double-standards.

Foremost, do I think biological relationships are important?  Yes, I do.  Are they important to everyone?  No, and I'll just say that once instead of having to qualify the points I make every time with the disclaimer *not all adoptees feel this way.*  And essentially, that's really up to the individual person to decide for themself.  I think it is perfectly understandable for an adoptee to want to know their biological family members and to feel a bond with them or want to establish one.  I have my own opinions on where this need to connect comes from such as the nurturing experience during pregnancy and birth.  Perhaps the need to see ourselves reflected in those around us.  It may even be the collective unconscious, what perhaps explains the adoption "synchronicity"--something about us and our families that nature and nurture cannot explain, yet still connects us to others, our loved ones.

This post is not about any of those things, it is about a fourth reason that I could speculate, rather.  It may or may not be a driving force that leads us to want to reunite but it is definitely a reminder of how we're different.  It's the cultural lense we are given to view family, belonging, and connection that we see in our everyday lives.  It's not that we were told that biological relationships are meaningful to a lot of people. In fact, I am betting a lot of us were told the opposite and we may have tried really hard to believe it for ourselves.  No, it is that we could see that many people value their biological relationships with our very own eyes. We live in the same communities that the non-adopted/biologically-raised do, we see the family relationships around us, we learn that biological relationships are valuable.  At the same time, we're sent the message that the same relationships cannot be valuable to us.  People will say and write to adoptees "biology doesn't make a family" but many of us just can't help but notice that quite a few people don't actually feel that way when it comes to their own family.  When it came to working out what role adoption plays in my life and identity, it was perhaps that double standard that would sting the most.

Looking at the comments section of that CafeMom article, I can see what others really feel when it comes to valuing biology:

Six commenters are glad their children LOOK like them because it is how they tell that their children are THEIRS.  Yet for adoptees, we're supposed to believe it is silly to notice that we don't look like anyone in our adoptive family and feel a lack of belonging because of it.  Yet when adoption isn't the theme of a situation, for the parents, who looks like them signals who belongs with them.

One commenter speculated that the two girls and their parents had frustrating relationships and no bond because the girls were not birthed by the mothers who raised them.  This commenter writes:
"Imagine not feeling an emotional bond with your child or shared interests and blame yourselves and find the reason is because that life you carried inside of you for 9 months you never raised. The same way with the child..feeling like you never really "belonged."
Do adoptive mothers and adoptees often times report frustration in their relationships when they are completely different people with different interests and talents?  Yes.  Do adoptees often report feelings of not "belonging?"  Yes.  However, I find it remarkable, likely because adoption isn't in the equation, that someone would automatically assume that not being biologically-related and not being raised by the mother who nurtured you in the womb would automatically mean you and your parents had a horrible time and no emotional bond.  Good grief.

About half of the comments had some sort of theme of how horrible it is to find out that the child you raised isn't really "yours" (translation: biologically-related to you).  As a mother to biologically-raised children, I will condede that I do feel it would be horrible to have had this happen to my family.  Not because of the same reasons a lot of CafeMom commenters clearly felt that way (e.g. because the non-biological status meant the kid didn't belong) but because I personally feel that children have a right to be raised within their biological families if and whenever possible and when it doesn't happen, especially because of an avoidable mix-up, it is sad that the child was not able to benefit from this right.  But here we see how opinions about family and biology are different when the entity that is adoption is not in the picture and we have a labeling of the situation that is very parent-centric.  When parents do want to raise a child that is not biologically related to them and adoption is involved, non-biological relationships are the most wonderful thing ever.  When you raise a child that is not biologically yours on accident and it was never your intention to do so, it becomes, as at least one commenter put it this strongly "every parents worst nightmare."

One commenter, who says she is the adoptive mother of six children, says that biology doesn't make a family but concedes it must be scary for the daughter to be in a non-biological family, since her parents didn't want to give her up.

Having ambivalent feelings or not about your family ties based on whether or not your  parents are satisfied with how the family is formed?  Yes, we adoptees are familiar with our prescribed acceptable feeling about the adoption experience is supposed to be identical of how our parents feel or what they wanted.  For adoptees, since adoption is wonderful for our parents, we are not generally culturally permitted to have an acceptable opinion otherwise about adoption or any sadness about missing biological relationships.  In the HuffPo article about this case, we see the panic that sets in when biology=belonging and one of the Russian girls, who was raised by her parents for 12 years, begs her mother "mum, please don't give me away!"

One person did say that she, as a mother, would handle this situation "[t]he same way they did, sue, and love my child despite the parternity and give them opportunity to know the birth parents. But I would be upset very upset."  I could nitpick but it was probaby the best (no, I'm not being sarcastic) comment.

What I take from this are three main themes: how biological relationships and families are viewed when adoption as a theme is or isn't present, the cultural view of family around us that adoptees are magically supposed to rise above and reject the same things being important for ourselves, and how a family experience must be based on how the parents feel or wanted, as just like in adoption, the dominant sought-out voice is adoptive parents and people still won't seek out adoptee opinions about the adoption experience.  Although there are many APs who the world could learn a thing or two from--adoptees are certainly the most under-utilized resource adoption has.

I was not raised by biological family.  I value both of my natural and nurturing ties.  I accept what I cannot change and I am happy with my life.  However, I no longer be held to a different standard of what I can or cannot value just because I am adopted.  I no longer accept people trying to convince me that what I see other people value about their families (e.g. biology) is just a figment of my adopted imagination.  I gladly continue to lend my voice and support the voices of other adult adoptees so that society can continue to come to accept that there are more people in the adoptive family whose opinions matter other than just the adoptive parents (my a-mom will say this to you too "ask my daughter").  I won't try to convince myself that what I notice others value about their families isn't real.  I won't pretend that it doesn't hurt to see people say that having raised a non-biological child is "every parents' worst nightmare."

Good luck to these girls and their families.  May others be kind to you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ask An Adoptee: Married First Parents

I have often wondered how adoptees feel about learning that their first parents have married after giving them up? Would you be comfortable elaborating more on that?

My adoption file was very confusing for me.  I assumed that nobody ever knew who my father was because my adoptive parents never said anything about him.  Yet there he was on my non-identifying information.  And his family didn't know about me.  So I assumed I was the product of a one night stand (Turns out my mother hid her pregnancy, he was in basic training for the army reserves so wasn't around, and while she saw his family all the time, nobody ever realized she was pregnant with me).

When I went searching, I looked for my first mother.  I had her first name and birthday (as well as his first name and birthday).  I sent away for a report that would tell me all the people with that name and birthday born in the state.  I figured a bunch of names would come back.  There were only two.  And they also listed family members.  And one of them had the same first name as my first father.  And the free online birthday database confirmed it was him.  She was married to my first father, or at least had been at one time.

I remember staring at the computer screen wondering if I was reading that right.  Then I did some more Google searching using the names I had found.  And I found my youngest sister's birth announcement.  They were defiantly married, and had two more children.

I personally was thrilled.  I was so excited.  I was scared that I was the product of two people who didn't love each other.  They were married, had two other children, and his Facebook profile picture was one of the two of them.  So they must have been happy.  And that made me happy.  It's surprising to me now because I would have assumed I'd be angry.  But to be angry never crossed my mind.  It never entered into the picture.  I was just happy.

Them being married however makes things a lot more complicated.  They don't agree on how to handle me.  One would prefer not to deal with me while the other wants very much for me to be included in the family.  It makes things harder because it did hurt my relationship with my first mother when I got in touch with my first father.  I made her deal with their differences.

It would have been easier if they were totally separate and I could deal with them separately.  If my first father wasn't stuck in the middle.  If my relationship with him didn't have her hanging there as a ghost.  I've read that parents who are married are more likely to reject their children when they come knocking.  It doesn't surprise me.  They have found a way to make it work (they just don't talk about me or deal with me together) but it's not easy.  He lives an active lie each and every day.  I can't even imagine what he goes through on a regular basis.

But as hard as it is, I still am happy that they ended up together.  I like that at the end of the day, they have each other.  And that I share the same parents with my sisters.  I like that my sisters grew up in the family unit I would have grown up in.  It's a nice thing to think about.  I could be angry about it, but I'm not.  It is what it is.  It's in the past, and I can't change it and insert myself in the picture.  I can just hope that in the future, I'll be able to fit in somewhere.   



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Foot in Two Worlds

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about this whole adoption thing.  I mean, it is November after all and it's pretty much forced down everyone's throats.  So naturally I've been thinking and pondering and complicating.  What exactly does adoption mean to me?  I mean in a real, tangible way.  How has the fact that I'm adopted (note the present tense) affect my life?  Interesting questions to think about, and clearly one blog post isn't going to cover it well enough, but I'll at least take a crack at it (seeing as it is November).

For starters, from the get-go I've had four parents.  Four very real parents.  There are no fake parents in my life.  How does that affect me?  Well, it means that while most people have to deal with insanity at some point from just two of their parents, I have to deal with it from twice as many people.  It's no secret that I think my adoptive parents are great.  My first parents are pretty cool too.  They did produce me after all...  But every family (more like every person) has their flaws and I have twice as many flaws to deal with.  I have to deal with two fathers who are intent on embarrassing me.  It's cute, until it's not.  I have two families to worry about in terms of safety.  You know, like when we got hit by a hurricane in New England, I had to worry not only about my adoptive family, but also about my first family who lives a lot closer to where they were supposed to get some serious damage (which didn't happen thank goodness!).

And this also means that I have twice as many birthdays to remember.  I'm horrible at remembering birthdays.  But I find myself having to remember a lot more now.  Now the lucky part is that I can't send my first parents cards without it causing major problems.  So that helps a lot.  I do have a budget to keep after all.  Even though I don't have to send cards, I still have to remember my adoptive mother's birthday, my adoptive father's birthday, my first mother's birthday, and my first father's birthday.  Not to mention that I have an adoptive sister, and two first sisters.  Even though they may not know about me and therefore I'm under no obligation to acknowledge the day, I still want to remember their birthdays.  Oh and rather than just remembering my adoptive parent's anniversary, I have to remember my first parent's anniversary too.  Which actually isn't that hard because my first parents were married the day after my first mother's birthday.  What a nice gift to their offspring.

On the plus side, I do have two strong women in my life to look up to.  I may not always see eye to eye with my first mother, but when it comes to anything other than me, she's a great person.  And my adoptive mother is amazing.  One of the best.  So it's pretty cool.  Also, because I only live with one set of parents, I can laugh about all the crazy stuff with my first father because he only sees my side of the story.  It keeps me sane.  I have two dads to ask advice from.  I have three parents I can depend on to have my back, maybe even four.  So ultimately, that's a pretty special thing.

So being adopted means I have four parents, and all that goes with it.  This manifests itself everyday in my life.  It's something that affects me every day.  Along with that, I have two sets of extended families (one of which doesn't know about me).  Surprisingly this is sort of cool.  Whenever someone in my adoptive family does something stupid or idiotic (which happens quite a bit), I can point and laugh because "Those aren't my genes!"  It's special.  At the same time, nobody knows my extended first family so they don't know of the insanity that happens on that side of things.  Insanity that kept me from being "kept in the family".  Which isn't fair, but who said life is fair?  What my cousin's don't know won't hurt them :-)

What it ultimately breaks down to is that sometimes I am caught between two worlds.  I have one foot in the world I grew up in, and another foot in the world I was born to.  There are times I feel it pulling me apart, like when I'm on the phone with my first father, and my adoptive dad calls.  Do I switch over?  Do I ignore the call?  Talk about being pulled apart!  But these incidences tend to be few and far between.  It's something I'm learning to deal with.  It's something that every adoptee in reunion has to deal with and come to a decision about.  Some won't want to deal with it and will pick a side.  Others will try to ride it out and pray that someday it gets a little easier.

So that's part of my answer of what adoption not only means to me, but how it affects my everyday life.  If you've made it through this rambling post, kudos!  Clearly I need more caffeine.  Until next time,


Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The Girls Who Went Away" Makes Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction List (and Why This is SO Important)

By Amanda

Ms. Magazine has named "The Girls Who Went Away: the Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade" by Ann Fessler, among the Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction books.  Fessler is an adult adoptee who collected the narratives of mothers who surrendered to adoption in the post-war pre-Roe v. Wade period and recorded their stories of social stigma, societal scorn, and experiences of coercion and pressure to surrender their babies to adoption because they were pregnant and unmarried.

I am extremely glad that this book is being considered one of the most important feminist books because often times I feel like feminism has forgotten adoption or fails to see how feminist values ought to play a role in adoption.  My fellow adoptee and friend, Joy, and I discussed this a while back as how we often see adoption come into play in feminism is when it is divided by class.  I mention Joy because she put the concept of middle class vs. lower income class in feminism and adoption so eloquently (and I probably won't do what she said justice in my summary of the conversation here).  Too often when adoption meets feminism is when the middle class woman who perhaps put off childbearing to complete her education and advance in her career is now at a place in life where she would like to have children but is unable to.  She opts for adoption which will indeed enable her to become a mother.  This is where feminism forgets that this is often at the expense of a mother of lesser economic means, who did not have opportunities to advance in life, and who cannot find sufficient support to provide for herself and nurture her child because of patriarchy and sexism in society that hinders the enactment of more progressive and adequate laws and support systems based on the idea that all women on welfare make a career out of having babies simply to gather more government "hand-outs."

I'm no fool; I understand that not everyone who has a baby and surrenders to adoption wanted to parent.  However, the fact of the matter remains that adoption has not served all women well; certainly not the ones who would had chosen differently have they been given a chance and certainly not the adopted women whose identities are amended and sealed.  Adoption did not and does not serve women, adoptive, surrendering, and adopted alike, well, when it is used as a method of redeeming women for "illicit" sex and "extra-marital" childbearing.

Because feminists must know these facts, because feminists cannot forget adoption in women's history, thank you to Ms. for adding Fessler's book to this list.

"My mother came and got me and let me stay at home for a few weeks.  I was three months pregnant.  She said 'you don't look it now but you will soon as I want you out of this house.'  And she said, 'if you keep your baby, you can never come back."  --a surrendering mother on Fessler's film "A Girl Like Her."  See the trailer here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

COLD AS ICE: My Top Five Personality Changes as an Adoptee

cold as ice (icy photo by Trace)
1 – CONFUSION - As a child I was terribly confused about being adopted. My adoptive parent’s lack of an explanation as to how or why I became an orphan only made it worse. I wanted to feel sure there was nothing wrong with me but I could only guess. My a-parents never bothered to share pertinent details with me, like it wasn’t important - but it was.  My identity and the truth meant everything to me. All I knew was I was abandoned, made an orphan and placed with strangers who legally became my parents. I had questions no one wanted to answer or could answer. I lived in a confused fog until I was 22, until I opened my adoption. Then confusion faded away.

2- BLAME – I did blame my adoptive parents for my situation. They had adopted me yet seemed clueless to my inner grief and torment.  I recall how Edie my adoptive mom would say, “You act like you don’t like me.” I don’t remember exactly how I acted but I do remember her words. I am haunted by her words. Yes, I had a rebellious attitude in my teens but I didn’t act it out. I had decided to open my adoption, no matter what. Blaming my adoptive parents for my situation went on silently for years.  I blamed them for birth pain they didn’t create; of course now this makes me feel guilty and terrible but I do understand why!

3- ANGER – There is no simple way to express anger or articulate the stress of adoption when you are a child. I blocked my emotions splitting into different people… I taught myself how to act. It was not safe to show real emotions. I was cold as ice. I imagined if I acted angry, I could end up kicked out, sent to live someplace else.  This is a very difficult and dangerous proposition for a child… when you are forced to pretend you’re happy and ok… Fantasy is normal but normal kids do outgrow it. Adoptees are not treated like normal people, forced to accept adoption as permanent…closed, no discussion. Today, I have healthy anger. What makes me angriest is how no one checked on my brother and me when we were placed. The social workers missed the fact that my adoptive dad was a raging alcoholic and their marriage was tettering on disaster after Edie’s miscarriages. I am angry that adoption records in too many states are sealed and lawmakers ignore adoptees and don’t ask us how this can affect us our entire life!

4- LOW SELF ESTEEM – Healthy self-esteem was not taught at home or at my school - just the opposite. I was a child who measured self-worth on crazy notions of wealth, prestige (nice clothes and cars) and high grades. Attending Catholic School, life was about morality, hell and sin. Was I the bastard child of an illegitimate pregnancy? What did people think of me? I questioned if I was good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Adoption and religion crushed my self-esteem. I could have worn a sign that said, “Don’t get too close or I’ll run!” I was unsure of who I was. I fled good people and bad situations and didn’t stand up for myself.  After I opened my adoption and met my dad and knew my ancestry, my self-esteem started to bloom.

5- HOPELESS – Too many adoptees live in a state of hopelessness. In my 20s I knew my situation was hopeless when I learned adoption records were sealed in Wisconsin. I hoped to find my parents and meet them but it looked hopeless. Then I met a judge who respected my right to know my identity. He let me read my adoption file. Not every adoptee has had this happen. Unless laws change in North America, adoptees are forced to live in a hopeless fantasy, forced to accept that we’ll never know, and forced to accept laws and secrecy. Feeling hopeless is a lot like feeling helpless. This destroys self-esteem, healthy emotions and our ability to trust and love.  Many adoptees I know cannot handle close relationships because of the trauma of being abandoned, left to guess what happened. This stress does not heal until adoptees meet relatives and hear the truth.  Until then, hope seems only a dream. I hope for the day we are no longer hopeless...
Please visit my blog: www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lost - Stranger In The Dark

I went off on a tangent last week for hours.  I found an actress who was the exact size, hair and eye color, and grew up near where I was relinquished for adoption.  So, logistics fit too.  My biological mother is only 4' 10" tall so that is a very defining piece of identifying information.  However, after thirteen years of serious searching and even having the best searchers attempt to navigate with the minor tidbits of information I have, and without my biological parents releasing their identities and with no names, cities, or states to go on, I gave up and put my energy into helping others and adoption reform.

But, the searching never goes away and is usually ongoing in some capacity.  I will always search faces in crowds, my heart will always skip a beat when I hear "You look just like someone I know", or like what happened last week's brief frantic attempt to "find".  I will always feel the power that not knowing my biological family has over me that will never go away.  I can not "get over it", I can not leave it in the past it IS my past I need to move on to the future.  And, I still feel like a stranger is looking back at me in the mirror.

Stranger In The Dark

Sometimes it seems so close and yet I stand so far away.
I seek the signs along the road to help me find my way.
Long distances I have traveled yet so many miles to go.
Against all odds I search around these obstacles that grow.
Traversing unknown territory I pray someday I'll find.
Solutions to enigmas that will easy my burdened mind.
Like Alice through the looking glass I strive to comprehend.
These mysteries that unravel in this unfamiliar land.
Clues are few no indications pointing to an end.
Lost track of all the hours and the time that has been spent.
Revealing truths in this life journey upon which I embark.
To unearth secrets that keep me a stranger in the dark.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ask an Adoptee: What Should our Daughters' Names be?

By Amanda

An Adoptive Parent asks....

"We are an American family who recently came back from living in Africa for 4 1/2 years. During our time there we adopted twin girls. We are very fortunate to know some of their family.. When we met the girls at the orphanage they hadn't been given names. We had the opportunity to ask their family about names they would like us to give them, or ways we could try to incorporate family names from their family with names from our family. They actually didn't want to help name the girls because they said they are ours now, and we should name them. We took a long time to explain that they are not just ours that they will always be a part of their family too and we want to honor them and connect them to their family. Finally they told us names of various family members and we chose their paternal grandmother's name for one of their middle names and their mother's name (who died at birth) for the other's middle name. We then chose names that were french (as we lived in a french speaking African country) and that were also names of well known African women who fought for independence in various ways. So, both girls have first names that we chose but that are significant African women which are easily pronounced and familiar in their country and also middle names of their family (of origin/birth). And then they have our last name. I have been reading more and more adult adoptee literature I have read a few posts about adoptees trying to incorporate their family name (of origin/birth) into their current names or change their name altogether. We have a chance to change their names before they get readopted in the U.S. My question is this, should we consider adding to their middle names by adding the last name of their father as a second middle name? So they would have their current first names, the next name would be a family (birth) members names, and then the next name would be the same for both of them and would be their father's (birth) last name, and then our family last name. I will be honest in saying that there is some painful hard past with their father, but I still think I want to consider it. (My father failed me in many personal ways growing up, to the point of abandonment, but I still kept his last name as a middle name when a I got married, I still wanted the connection.)"

First of all, I think the amount of thoughtfulness you put into naming your daughters is wonderful.  There's a small part of me that believes that names are meaningful and powerful to the individuals they are bestowed upon.  I purposely named my sons after family members that I admire; my adoptive father, my adoptive grandfather, my husband, and my father in law.  As I am one of the adoptees who will be changing my legal name to incorporate my maternal and paternal original surnames into my middle name, I thought I would respond to this question.

It sounds to me like this is something you want to consider and if you think it is the right thing to do, perhaps it is something to consider.  I can't answer as to what you should do.  But I can speak from my own thoughts about my own pending name change in hopes that it might help you.

The connectedness is important to me too.  This is why I am choosing to incorporate my original surnames into my middle name.  My biological father was not a particularly nice person and I did worry that me adding his name to mine would make it look like I wanted to honor him in some way.  I have to remind myself that is not why I am doing it.  I am taking it back because it is mine.  The heritage is mine.  His ancestors are my ancestors.  My paternal family members are also wonderful people who can't be labeled by the things that he did.  I won't deny my rich heritage because of the bad things he has done.  And believe me, the man was despicable.  My name change is about me, not him.

Are they old enough to express what they would like their names to be?  Is this something they would be able to change later if they decide they do not want the name included any longer?

If it is of any solace to you, I will tell you that I am not changing my name because I think my adoptive parents did a bad job.  It is a cultural norm in U.S. society to change a child's name upon decree of adoption.  My parents had a name already picked out and were excited to give me this name that was packed with meaning.  They did not know my original name; they were not permitted to.  And perhaps, even if they did know my original name, they would have chosen not to keep it.  Not out of disrespect to my original mother who named me so carefully and thoughtfully, but because that's something that goes along with adoption, I guess.  I had three different first and last names before my first birthday.  It sort of symbolizes the blank slate everyone in the 1980's still thought I must have been.  My parents had no way of foreseeing what names I would want.  My name change isn't about correcting something they did wrong because they didn't do anything wrong; it's about me.

So I guess what I am simply trying to say is that whatever you choose will be meaningful and special because it was chosen by you, a person who loves and cares for your daughters.  If they choose to change something about their names later on as adults, it won't be the end of the world, and it won't be because you didn't name them with thoughtfulness, love, and care.  And that's what really matters.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How do we Mend the Hoop?

By Trace A. DeMeyer (Winyan Ohmanisa Waste La Ke)

Years ago I was embarrassed to say I was adopted. I did not feel lucky. I did not have a clue that my adoption hurt me so badly, its tentacles reached into every aspect of my life, even as an adult. My hoop, my connection to my ancestors, was broken by my adoption.
I ached to know my own mother, the woman who created me.
One expert wrote, “Loss of the most sacred bond in life, that of a mother and child, is one of the most severe traumas and this loss will require long-term, if not lifelong, therapy.”
Really?  No one helped me with this. I had therapy twice. The counselling I received in my 20s or 30s concerned my dysfunctional childhood and yet all my issues stemmed from my adoption wound and loss. They missed it or didn't inquire or connect the dots. Why is that?
For close to 20 years, on my own I searched and simply wanted to find answers and the truth. I made calls before I showed up anywhere; I did not disrupt anyone’s life.  If I was invited to meet relatives, I went. This year alone, two cousins have filled giant gaps in my ancestry. Prayers are answered, even the unspoken ones.
I can see how adoption loss can last a lifetime. For some friends, they're stalled with sealed adoption records, not knowing which tribe, and suffer greatly with grief and depression.
For them, I wrote my book as a journalist and adoptee and now I write a blog for other American Indian adoptees, raised by non-Indians.
For those who attempt to open their own adoption, or simply want to understand, I explain many stages, steps I had taken: some good, some hard. 
Sharing stories is how we heal, how we mend the hoop.
Even now there is persistent rampant poverty in Indian Country. Even now it isn’t easy being Indian, on and off the reserves. But it is definitely better to know who you are, which tribe, and not live in a mystery. Someone needs to build a bridge for these adoptees. Open records will accomplish this.
It's hard to admit but adoptees with Indian blood find out soon enough their reservations are closed to strangers. Without proof, without documents, you’re suspect.
We don’t always get our proof since state laws prevent it.  Just one Minnesota tribe, White Earth, decided to call out to its lost children/adoptees; this made news in 2007.  Just a few adoptees showed up. Why? Adoption records are still sealed in Minnesota.
America’s Indian Adoption Project was not publicized or well known, just like a few more secrets I found out. Congress heard Indian leaders complain in 1974, “In Minnesota, 90 percent of the adopted Indian children are placed in non-Indian homes.”
I was born in Minnesota.
For any adoptee going back to their tribe, this requires a special kind of courage. Adoptees know this. Rhonda, a Bay Mills Tribal member, an adoptee friend of mine, was told early on – be happy, be white.  Ask yourself, how would you react?
When did Indian Country become such a bad place to be from? When did this happen? How did this happen?
My mission is to find these answers and build new bridges... it is time to mend the hoop for all adoptees.

The Hoop symbolizes the never ending circle of life which starts with birth, then goes to maturity, then to old age and death with the completion of the hoop in rebirth here or in the spiritual world. The individual who has his life in order stands in the center of the hoop to see, to understand, and to be guided by the various paths of life around him. The best compliment one can pay an individual is to say that he stands in the center of the hoop of life or that he lives on the correct path of life. http://www.grandfathersspirit.com/Hoop-of-Life-Buffalo-Skull.html
Visit my blog: http://www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Women In My Life

(Photo Credit Danio_16 on stock.xchng)
Growing up, I had several female role models in my life.  These women helped to shape me into the woman I am today.  They helped teach me right from wrong, how to be a good person, and how to love.  These women were a powerful force in my life and continue to do so.

For starters, my adoptive mother is one of the best people I've ever met.  She is one of the most kind, caring, and compassionate people I know.  She consistently puts her family first, never complains when things don't go her way, and has always been there for me.  We differ a lot when it comes to personality.  She's serene and gentle where I'm all over the place like the energizer bunny.  I could see how some people would have a problem with that, but she's always loved me for who I am.  She has her faults for sure, but she's always been my biggest fan and without her in my life, I don't think I'd be the strong and independent woman I am today.  She taught me so much about how to stand up for myself with grace and dignity.  There's still a lot left for her to teach me.  I feel lucky to have her as my mom.  I could have ended up with anyone, and I got her.

My grandmothers are two very different people.  One is like my mother, quiet and steady, while the other is more like me (aka all over the place).  Both have taught me a thing or two.  From my maternal grandmother, I've learned that sometimes it's best to sit back and listen.  I've learned the value of listening from her and taking the time to really hear what the other person is saying.  My grandmother knows everything that's going on because she pays attention to detail and reads between the lines.  It's a good skill to have.  My other grandmother is always happy.  She's always baking something yummy and would talk your ear off if you'd let her.  Because she's more like me, I always valued time I spent with her.  I learned the value of surrounding yourself with good people from her.  I learned that sometimes you need to speak up for yourself and advocate for yourself.  And I learned that the best way to win a person over is to give them a homemade cookie.  It works like a charm!

My dance teacher has always been a mentor to me.  She took me under her wing and taught me a lot.  She's very outspoken and taught me to be proud of my thoughts and opinions.  Listen to the other side of things, take it into consideration, and be educated.  But don't let people change your mind with one argument.  She taught me to stand my ground.  And she gave me an outlet for my pent up energy.  I sometimes struggle with how to express myself in the heat of the moment and she taught me how to dance it out.  For this I will always be thankful.

Finally, my first mother has been a huge influence on my life.  I knew next to nothing about her.  All I knew was that she got pregnant at 21 and gave her baby up for adoption.  You'd be amazed at how much that has affected my life.  I've made choices that I'm not sure I would have made had I not been adopted.  "Good" choices.  I was never the kind of person who thought "It'll never happen to me!" because it had happened to her.  I learned from her that sometimes things aren't black and white.  After getting to know her a little bit, I've learned to appreciate the gray.  I may not like it, but there's a lot to be said at looking at the world for various shades.

All of these women have shaped who I am today.  I wouldn't be here writing on this blog or my own had they not been in my life.  So thank you to all those who have shaped me, and to the other woman (some of whom also blog here) who are continuing to show me how to be a strong and independent woman.  I appreciate it more than you know!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lost Hope


Recently in my personal blog I wrote about the non-id letter and 40th birthday card I received through the adoption court from my biological mother.

http://assemblingself.blogspot.com/2011/09/40th-birthday-card-from-my-mother.html

I waited for thirteen years clinging to these two pieces of communication from my mother.  It gave me comfort and solace while I awaited the time she could come forward and release her identity to me, and tell my siblings about my existence.  I now realize, that is probably never going to happen.  After being rejected and abandoned by two families it is truly hard to feel whole, worthy, or to have any sense of belonging or real place in the world.

I wrote this about the time I when I was twenty-two in New Orleans having a street artist sketch me.  I hung it in my bedroom and spent uncounted hours staring at it wondering where my face came from.  It's something the 'real' world can't understand.  It's the most basic human right to know our heritage and our genetics.  It will never be something I will be able to stop thinking about.  And most days, this is how I feel:

Sketches

Sketches of this person here can't illustrate my inner fears.
I pose afraid the artist sees just how this picture is incomplete.
But what is missing, what is gone, can't be seen, it can't be drawn.
No shades can show the gaping holes left in my heart, deep in my soul.
The pallet holds no color near, nor tint, or shade of hidden tears.
For what was lost taken away, the pain a brush stroke can't portray.
No pencil either lends a clue.
No crayon, chalk, will show the hue.
Of this facade on which I depend, because I know not who I am.
Perhaps someday I will reveal these deep held emotions that I feel.
The fragments of myself not shown.
Searching for family never known.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What's a Sister Anyway?


My parents tried to conceive for something like 10 years by the time I was adopted.  By the time they would have had money to adopt more, I suspect that it would have been at a time in their lives where they weren't in the baby-phase or expanding the family phase.  Though, they did keep trying to conceive after I was adopted; my mother had a miscarriage when I was four.  I was raised an only child but always wondered if I had brothers or sisters somewhere out there.  I was delighted to find out upon reunion that I have three brothers; two are younger than me, one is older than me.  Then the thought crossed my mind....I have no idea what being a sister really means.

I ran through the relationships that are kind of close:

Cousins: a cousin, to me, was always someone who lived far away.  Who I was related to but didn't know anything about.  We shared the same grandparents.  Our parents were brothers and sisters.  No, my friends who had brothers and sisters seemed closer to their siblings than how I had been with my cousins.

Friends: I have close friends I would do just about anything for.  Our families are close, but as close as siblings?  I'm not sure.  My friends seem closer to their siblings than they are to me.  No, being siblings seems more meaningful on some level than being friends.

Well, I'm a mother but being an older sister isn't really like being a mother.  They have a mother.  We share a mother.  I'm protective of them but I'm not responsible for their care nor am I in charge.

Figuring out how to be a sister is hard stuff.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Jamie Shares her Adoption Story

By Jamie

Jamie is a German-born adult adoptee and author of the blog Cue Your Life. 

I’ve always known that I was adopted. I don’t ever even remember being told, there was just never a time I didn’t know.  In developing this blog, one thing that I really want to keep focused on is being an open and honest writer. While there are certainly things that are off limits, there are also things that I feel like I need to share in order for you to really understand who I am, and what I could possibly have to offer.

I am here to motivate, inspire and encourage you…and to make you laugh. To do that, I feel that it is important that you see me as a person; as a woman who laughs and cries, succeeds and fails, and as a woman who struggles with her own issues…on a daily journey toward joy.  The following is part of that journey. 

I was born in Germany, to a 22-year-old woman who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to, or couldn’t, take care of me. I was  born though, so in my mind, she fulfilled her job in my life. She had me. She didn’t have to, but she did…and then she did another amazing thing.  She gave me away.  Going through the process of carrying and delivering a baby, I can tell you, it must have been agonizing for her to know I wouldn’t be going home with her. She is a good person. Her name is Debra. That is all I know.

Like I said, I’ve always known that I was adopted. It was never really a big deal to me, growing up in the Air Force all over the world, everyone looked different from everyone else anyway. There was so much diversity that it was never an issue that I wasn’t my parent’s biological child.  Adoption is so cool, because everyone’s stories are so different. My adoption was a closed adoption, which means that after the 2 month, (or so, I’m not totally sure, and this was in Germany) waiting period, my adoptive parents (Mom and Dad CYL) took me home and there was no further contact with my birth family. Not all adoptions are like that. I’ve known people who talk weekly to their birth families, people who send and receive pictures, people who were adopted out of social services, and people who were adopted from orphanages. Every story is so unique, and up until about 7 years ago, I would have told you my experience was the ideal situation for adoption.  I first remember thinking about finding my birth mother when I was in high school. I was having some serious health issues and had to undergo extensive medical testing to rule out conditions that wouldn’t have been necessary, had I known my family medical history.

The desire to find her came and went, without any real research.

The next time I had the desire to locate my birth mother was when I found out I was going to be a mother myself. Every time I went to the doctor for OB checkups, they would ask about my medical history. It confuses doctors when you say that you don’t know, even when it’s been charted 10 times the reason why. During my pregnancy, I would have liked to have a medical history…but when it came down to it, it didn’t really matter all that much.

Then something changed.

The first time I felt my tiny Bean kick in my belly, I thought about my own birth mother. She had, at one time, felt me kick inside of her. As I grew larger (and larger) I often wondered who this woman was…where she was, what she was like, what she looked like.

When my Bean was born, she looked like me. Well, after that alien-baby look faded…she looked like me. It was strange, because no one else looks like me, and I don’t look like anyone else, either. My birth mother was on my mind often those first few years.

I did a little searching every now and then. Google. Facebook. MySpace. Nothing ever came up. It’s tough when the adoption process took place in a foreign country, was completely closed, and then not researched at all  for 20 years. I began to feel something was missing in my life. An identity of my own, of sorts…just wasn’t there.

Where did I come from?  Jump forward to recent history, almost 2 years ago. I met someone who is very, very special to me. This person grew up with her biological mother, but not her biological father. When she was a teenager, her mother told her who her father was, and her step-father helped her locate where he was, as well as contact information for him. For whatever reason, this amazing young woman decided to contact her father. A relationship developed, along with relationships with all of her father’s family. She became a part of that family, as if she always had been.  Shortly after that, her father passed away suddenly, and without warning.

I had heard her story before I actually met her. It broke my heart. After I met her, it made my heart melt. By choosing to be brave and find her father, she had a chance to meet him, love him and become a part of his family. It didn’t matter how much time they had, her bravery, and his love gave them time they never would have had otherwise…and a lifetime of love from his family.  All of a sudden, my own birth mother’s mortality was something that dawned on me. Until that point, I always thought I could find her whenever it made sense to me. Now, I wondered if I’d waited too long.
A thousand questions began to develop in my mind. Who is this woman who had given me away? What is she like? Am I like her in any way? Could some of my quirks be something passed down?  What color eyes does she have? Where does my mousey brown hair come from? Do I have siblings?  Would she want to know me? …or her own biological grand-daughter? If she would want to…would I be willing to let go and accept that I really have no idea what I may find? Would I be able to put myself and my daughter through that? If not, would I always regret it?  Months went by. I wasn’t sure what to do.

I talked about it, slept on it, and cried over it…and a decision was made. I'll tell you about that decision, next time.

Editor's (well one of them, Amanda, any way) note:  I hope everyone will please welcome Jamie into our online community and pose questions and responses with kindness.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Another Mother's Daughter

By Mei-Ling

.....

It is difficult to reconcile the image of the mother who held me as an infant with the image of the mother that I met through reunion.
.....
Having been the infant that my mother chose (planned) to get pregnant with gives her a special kind of significance. No matter how much my adoptive mom loves me, she cannot take that place - the place of intimacy between a mother and her newborn infant. Having been the daughter that my adoptive mom raised to know in an intimately familial way also gives her a certain kind of significance. No matter how much my mother nurtured me in her body and held me before giving me up, she also cannot take that place - the place of the mother who nurtured me beyond infancy.
Yet, this brings me to the question: Even if my mother has her place through the intimate connection of birth, and my mom has her place through the act of raising me, and it ended up working out - can a mother be replaced by a substitute caregiver?
.....
Once I announced I am adopted, people don't see me as having the right to exist. If I say my adoptive mom was a good person and raised me well, I am greeted with nods. If, however, I claim my mother was also a good person, I'm told that I am just placing her on a pedestal since she didn't raise me.
*sigh*

Being called one name indicates I am more of one mother's daughter than another. Likewise, being called by another name insinuates I am more another mother's daughter.

"You really are both Canadian and Chinese. You choose who you want to be."

If I say I am my mother's daughter -> "Well, sure, she gave birth to you - but your adoptive mom raised you."

If I speak Chinese -> I alienate those around me whom only speak English

If I say I feel I am more Chinese at times -> "Of course you're Chinese, but don't forget, you were raised Canadian."

If I claim back my name or my blood family, or listen to Chinese music or watch Chinese dramas, or anything Canadian-Chinese mainstream, I get all sorts of not-so-lovely reminders that it's good I'm enjoying those things, I shouldn't forget I'm "really" Canadian. Why, thank you dear world, for dictating who I am. Or who I should be.

.....

Someone once said to me in a Chinese chat: Hey, where are you from?
Me (I was using a Chinese alias): Canada.
Person: Oh? Where were you born?
Me: Asia.
Person: Cool, which country?
Me: Taiwan.
Person: Did you grow up there?
Me: ... no.
Person: How old were you when your parents immigrated with you?
Me: Um... they didn't. I was raised by white people.
Person: Oh, so you're adopted.
Me: Yes.
Person: You're not really Chinese, then. (seems to convey this air of disappointment)
Me: Er, yes, I am.
Person: No, you're not.
Me: You can't dictate who I am. I'm ethnically Chinese, and just because my parents didn't come with me doesn't mean I'm not Chinese. Nothing can change that.
Person: Sorry to disappoint you, but you're not Chinese. You were raised culturally Canadian. Your parents are white. You're not Chinese. You're just a banana. An Asian-wanna-be.
Me: ... (unable to really refute this) I'm still from Asia.
Person: Doesn't mean anything. You were raised by Caucasians, so you're not Chinese. If you really want to prove your Asian background, then why do people wear red hats on Chinese New Year? What does that mean?*
Me: ... I don't know.
Person: See? You're not Chinese.
How can someone use a Chinese name when everyone else refuses to see that person as being of that ethnic background? How can someone use a Chinese name when they're told you have to know the language/culture of origin in order to claim you're culturally of that background?


Last of all, how can someone justify "becoming" Chinese when their legally identified parents are Caucasian?
.....
(*An actual real-life example of Chinese culture that I didn't know about)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Love Is Not a Pie

Rebecca asks here Are You an Attuned Adoptive Parent?:
Most parents will bend over backwards to meet the needs of their children. Love, safety, a sense of belonging. Anything that is beneficial, we want them to have it. But what happens when an adoptive parent tunes in and hears the child asking for a connection, or more of a connection, to their biological family?
An essential read for any adopter; words of wisdom and sense for someone who is both adoptee and adopter and has the perspective to enhance understanding. A must read! I hope it has a wide audience that takes it to heart, implements the advice and benefits many young adoptees.
When young adoptees are not validated in their need for connection, knowledge of their identity and ancestors trouble undoubtedly follows. You cannot deny the rights of one sector of a society without implications and consequences. Adoption has many examples, far too numerous to go into here, which is why many have written books, articles, blogs and theses on various aspects and the numbers are increasing constantly. Does it mean we are taking adoption loss and trauma seriously at last? Hopefully so.

Macing Female Peaceful Protesters: What are you Thinking, New York?!

Violence against any protester is not ok.  However, I take exception especially to violence against women.  Foremost, I am a woman and we are an oppressed group.  Secondly, we have a right to peaceful protest and to be free from violence while exercising our right.  We're not all that far past women being beaten in the streets for marching for their right to vote.  I am sure there are some people who would more than love to take that away from us.  We have our right to voice in our government.   You may be familiar with the arrests taking place and the women who were sprayed in the face with pepper spray, just for holding signs, down at the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.  This movement seeks to call attention to the greed in the United States to say that the 99% of people who don't hold the wealth in this country are tired of what's going on.  Movements are starting up in major areas all over the country.


As a woman, a civil rights activist, and someone who has protested on more than one occasion, I have to say this: this violence against protesters is not OK.

It is just not OK.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Questions from a birthmother

the first pair I made
Osiyo& Hello: I wanted to share a link to my recent blog post Seed Beads and Porcupine Quills here. It concerns a friend's question: “If you love someone you want to know everything about them… Why don’t adoptive parents want to know everything about their child?” 

I also wanted to share this question with Lost Daughters and readers. What would you answer?

Linda wrote: "I wanted to keep my baby. Is it right that I was manipulated and coerced and lied to because I was single? It was 1971. The church I attended at the time and have since left still tells single girls and women that the RIGHT thing to do is surrender their baby. If I had had some support until I could get on my feet, or had a mentor who would have helped me, that would have been good. Instead it is 40 years later and I still have an unnecessary hole in my life. And I know from listening to adoptees that they suffered even in good homes. Losing a baby to adoption is something a woman never recovers from. And adoptees deal with issues their whole life.
Why was a couple's desire for a baby more important than my desire to raise my own baby?
Is it right that a mother can sign a relinquishment form 24 hours after giving birth? (in the state of Washington, 1971) In my case, it was more like 36 hours because of the time of birth.
Is it right that if there is time to revoke the relinquishment, the mother is not told this?
Is it right that an agency will NOT give a copy of the forms to a person who signed it.  And then later still refuse to give the woman who signed it a copy? Also is it right that they refuse to let the mother see the records about her own child?"
I will share with my friend as you post your replies...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Adoption Changes?

Scroll to the bottom of this Newspaper Article of 1878 for an advertisment which is in many ways reminiscent of the advertising of today. Perhaps the language is slightly different in some instances, prettied up for a customer base that wouldn't accept an advertisement that seems so blatantly to be about finding free servants. No doubt 'donations' changed hands and some money was involved.
Most of you have seen those lists of babies available for adoption, or as they are sometimes called  'adoption situations'. Can we honestly say there is any difference, that adoption has changed in any way?
 Parenting may have changed over the decades and the adoption industry, taken advice from the advertising industry and made changes in order to sell adoptees 'better' to willing buyers. Some adoptees who would once have had access to records and information no longer do, although others have experienced changes for the better. They are few. Sadly not so for the adoptees who remain uninformed of their adoption, some of their relatives uninformed of their existence.
My own brother and sisters knew nothing about me, their half-sibling, for over 60 years. Fortunately their mother was dead once they knew, as it is suspected she did not know either. I was very relieved not to have to have been instrumental in bringing the glad tidings to her and would have avoided it at all costs. It is adoptees, those 'little mistakes', who take the burden of the indescision, negligence and choices not to tell, who agonise over what to do and try to balance that against their need to know medical history, ancestry, identity and where they have come from.
Adoptees who have not been told they are adoptees by their adopters and discover by accident or in some other way, have enormous adjustments to make to their sense of self, their place in the family and their course for the future. If they also happen to be someone who's existence has been kept a secret in the biological family, a double blow bringing with it other fears and concerns!
Those who take their identity and history for granted sometimes seem to think so little about how it must be not to have that certainty and security, the dilemmas, the contradictions and complications.  Lucky them!

The Waiting Game


I started searching slightly afraid of what I was going to find.  I'll admit to buying into the stereotypes and wondering about the circumstances of my birth.  Would I find that my first mother wasn't the person that I wanted her to be?  Did she know who my first father was?  Did I have siblings?  I had no idea what to expect.  I was given very little to go off of growing up.  I was given her first name, how old she was when I was born and the name of the city I was born in.  Thanks to Wikipedia, I was able to learn a little bit about the city I was born in which allowed me to make an educated guess as to my ethnicity.

I didn't have a lot of hope for finding what I wanted.  I figured I'd eventually have to petition the courts.  I knew that would be a hard thing to do because I live in a tiered access state.  I wanted to do everything I could without getting to that point.  I had/have an undiagnosed medical condition so I knew which angle I would argue in court.  I had doctors tell me I couldn't be diagnosed without medical history, so I knew which doctors I would go to for statements to argue my file should be opened.  But I wanted to find them without all of that hassle.  I also wanted instant gratification.  What can I say? It comes with my generation.

I ended up paying for a report.  The report contained all the names of woman born in Massachusetts on my first mother's birthday who shared her first name.  I figured there would be maybe five or six and I'd have to work hard to narrow it down.  Instead, it came back with only two names, and one was very clearly not right.  I had found my first mother for $15.

I started to look into other information the report gave including family members.  That's how I discovered my first parents had gotten married.  One of the relatives that was listed shared his first name, and when I put the first and last name combination into the free online birth date database, it came up as the same birthday I had from my non-identifying information.  I was thrilled.  I was scared that I was the product of something bad, but if they got married, then they had to have at least loved each other once right?  I kept digging.

I came across a birth announcement for my youngest sister.  It's amazing what Google will tell you.  That's how I found out about my two younger sisters.  When I got in touch with my first mother for the first time, I wasn't sure what she would tell me about them.

I ended up with a mixed bag.  They didn't know about me and she wasn't ready to tell them.  They were 12 and 15 at the time.  Now they are 14 and 17, but still not ready to hear about me (my first parent's words not mine).  I've had to play the waiting game for a while now, and I'll be playing it for a long time.

Not only am I waiting for my siblings to learn about me, but I'm also waiting for my paternal family to find out I exist.  My first father never told his family that he gave up a daughter for adoption.  I have an entire group of people out there I'm related to who don't know I'm even alive.  I have family that does know I'm alive, but not that I'm back in touch with the family.  I'd love to get to know my maternal grandmother and my maternal uncle, who I have discovered both share the same profession as me.  I stumbled into the family business without realizing it!

It's hard to play the waiting game.  There is so much information out there at our finger tips with the Internet.  I have contact information for nearly ALL of my relatives.  But out of respect for my first parents, and in order to protect my sisters, I'm sitting on that information, waiting until my first parents let me know it's ok.  I don't think that day is going to come soon.  I doubt it will even come at all.

It's been challenging for me to hold off.  But I keep thinking about my sisters.  I do believe it's in their best interest for them to know about me.  But I also believe that their parents need to be the ones to tell them.  And I also believe that hearing this news from a stranger is also not in their best interests.  So I have to wait because I want what's best for them.  And I hope that when they do find out, they forgive me for waiting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Inequality of Women and Adoptees: We're Never Quite Fully Human


By Amanda

I remember when I first found out that the United States Constitution does not recognize the equality of women.  An amendment to the Constitution has been in existence for decades and has been pushed aside continuously.  I thought, "this must be an oversight!  No one really believes that women aren't equal any more...do they?"  I started to realize it was hardly an oversight as I grew up hearing objections to why people do not support an amendment that recognizes the equality of women in the Constitution...

"Oh, well of course I believe women are equal but I don't support them being constitutionally recognized as such because....."
"wouldn't the professional sports teams have to include both genders?  I'm sorry, but sports wouldn't be as enjoyable for me any more if there were women playing alongside men."


"I want the least female involvement in the military possible."
"they would compete for all of the higher-level positions held by men. Who would be doing secretarial and sales work? Those positions need to be filled too, you know."
"women need a lot of time off from work for having babies and child care and stuff.  Equality means we'll have to force employers to give equal pay when it wouldn't really be fair."


"I don't want there to be an opportunity for women to make 'bad decisions' and policies for themselves, like the right to access abortion services or free birth control."
You may or may not have heard these things, similar things, or completely different objections altogether.  We have some basic themes implied here:
  1. Women can only be trusted to make decisions, specifically decisions for themselves, if they are the decisions others want them to make.  They're not really capable of speaking for themselves or representing the needs of women as a group.
  2. Women are really just possessions.  They can't be seen equally to men because it would ruin things that men enjoy, like sports teams.
  3. Women are just an inconvenience to others.  They can't have equality because their value to various institutions in the U.S. is not equal to that of a man's.
In other words: women are not seen as being fully human.  Full humanity is equality; the same rights for every person, regardless of what diverse group they may belong to.  The feeling you get when people view you as pretty close to equal....but not quite, is a sinking feeling, an anger, a frustration, a deep sense of injustice.

Being told being adopted makes you unequal conjures the same feeling.  Here we look at some objections to adoptee equality (meaning, wanting the same access to your original identity and original birth certificate that all others receive) that you might hear a legislator or an anti-rights group say:

"Well, of course I support adoptees, but if we gave them equal access to OBCs....."

"they would 'bang down' the doors of their original mothers and 'disrupt' their lives."


"pregnant women would all have abortions instead of choosing adoption if they know adoptees can access their OBCs whenever they want.  Adoptees should just be grateful they weren't aborted."


"no one would want to adopt any more.  People don't adopt for their children to be recognized as members of another family.  They adopt to build their own families.  This would catastrophically impact adoption rates."
Here we see some basic assertions and themes made about adult adoptees:
  1. That adoptees as a group can automatically be assumed to be less likely than anyone else in the rest of the general population to be able to maturely handle their own interpersonal relationships with their own family members without government involvement.  Are we not fully human then?
  2. That adoptees can be equally compared to abortion issues.  Anti-choice advocates will say a fetus' rights outweighs a mother's right to privacy and decision making in her own health care.  But then they flip-flop and say that the individual who has been born's rights are outweighed by a mother's alleged desire for secrecy.  Does anything say we are not fully human, more than this?  ** 
  3. An adoptee's place in their family is to be what others want them to be: not to have their own desires, wishes, reality, and individuality respected.  Possessions.  Are we not fully human then?
There is a quote in the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" that I love.  "Go home to your mothers!" someone from the crowd shouts at women marching on Washington.  "My mother is here!" a woman shouts back.

People say "gracious me!" to the adoptee rights activist, "what will your adoptive parents think?!"  I say right back: "my adoptive parents support adoptee rights too!"

The response to undrafted, unaddressed, and unpassed Adoptee Rights bills is perhaps the same to the response to the unratified ERA: "you are basically equal.  Is it really that big of a deal?"  Some fields are becoming less gender segregated, and in some, women earn near enough as men.  Women are surpassing men in some areas of educational attainment.  We can vote and hold political office; we have a voice in government.  Women are almost equal, say some, does it really matter whether or not it is recognized by the Constitution?  In the eyes of others, all adult adoptees are lacking is a "piece of paper."  We're pretty much equal other than that, so what's the big deal?  They fail to recognize that if that "piece of paper" were accessible in all 50 states, then it would become common knowledge that OBC access has nothing to do with abortion or adoption rates or adoptees having a higher likelihood of disrupting other's lives: those not quite human stereotypes would likely, hopefully, go away.  Women are pretty much equal and what stands in the way of adoptee equality really isn't that big of a deal, some say.

If it's not a big deal, good, this should be simple then: PASS THE BILL.

**My purpose of mentioning this is to say what are speaking for mothers.  I acknowledge that this is not necessarily how mother's feel themselves.