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On June 1, 2018 Rebekah Henson published an important thread on Twitter critiquing the hashtags #FamiliesBelongTogether and #Ke...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Adoptee - Through The Looking Glass

I had a major realization about a year ago when a coworker who was older than I was asked me when I was going to change my "Alice in Wonderland" look and begin to act my age.  I was not shocked by this comment as this woman was from a different era and twenty plus years my senior.  But I did began to think about the fact that I was still, at age fifty, trying to keep myself like that youthful little girl I had always been.  And, being the introspective person I have always been wondered why I have never really changed my look or my hair style much over the years.  And then I had an epiphany.

It's hard to grow up and into "yourself" when you are adopted and don't have the foundation to build upon in knowing where it is you came from.  Or, the situation for many adoptees, that of not fitting in where you where placed.  There is a lot to be said for the knowledge of roots and family history, something adoptees have no say in or right to in most states and adoption situations.  I have to tell you I DO feel exactly like Alice in Wonderland in Through the Looking Glass.  Well, why shouldn't I resemble her then.

Adoption is such a surreal experience for so many adoptees.  Sometimes I feel as though I am trapped in a  dream I can't wake up from.  With all sorts of characters and people trying to tell me what and who I should be that doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever.  A land where everyone feels at home and I am a foreigner searching for some sort of normalcy.  A world where everything I feel and experience I have to question because I am told it is wrong and admonished and reprimanded for not adhering to the status quo.  And just as Alice, when I try to voice my opinions or what I think, I am treated as a perpetual impertinent child who is incapable of behaving properly and as expected.

Adoption as it has functioned will never make sense to me.  I feel as though I don't fit it to this world.  I know I am far from the only adoptee that feels this way.  Most times, I just feel invisible.

Invisible

People look right through me as if I don't exist.
Like I am invisible and easily dismissed.
There are no explanations, or reasons simply defined.
This life that I am living, it's doesn't feel like "mine".
I watch as people act their parts as if the world's a stage.
I feel part of the scenery and not part of the play.
The sham I run is innocent always pretending all is well.
Hidden deep below the surface are secrets I don't tell.
Playing roles to fit the story changing day to day.
As a ghost bound to it's castle, so I am I to this charade.




Finding my "Territory"

My husband and I went on a weekend getaway to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. We were walking through the strip district; walking....walking......walking. We were looking for a place to eat but passing countless establishments and vendors. After hearing a few of my husbands explanations of why we couldn't eat here or why we couldn't eat there, I realized that we was searching for just the right place that he thought I would be most comfortable and enjoy. Yes ladies, he is that sweet and he's alllll mine! He knows I am not picky, he was just being kind. I ultimately told him that wherever was fine. I was happy standing on the sidewalk eating BBQ chicken purchased from a vendor along the street. And it was good. It was nice being considered because I never expect anyone to do that. I am a self-reliant person. I have always felt like I should try to adapt to where I am, not ask or expect it to adapt to me. There is a difference between trying to belong to where you are (but still feeling like you don't quite fit in) and feeling like where you are belongs to you.

yummmm!

I grew up in a small seashore town that doubles as a bustling resort area in the summer, quickly deserted by all but the locals in the winter time.  I spent my summers at the beach nearly every day; when I wasn't swimming in the cold Atlantic waters, I was knee-deep in the marshy muck, looking for fiddler crabs and other creatures.  I was very athletic while at the same time somewhat bookish.  When I wasn't working, I spent most of my time at sports events, reading, or shopping.  When I wasn't with friends, family consisted of mom, dad, and me.  I had a lot of quiet time where I sat, listened to music, and drew with pastels on enormous pieces of paper.

During my senior year, I stayed for several days in Manhattan in New York City with my classmates in a fancy, penthouse suite.  We put on our best clothes and went to Broadway after dining at Tavern on the Green.  We went window shopping at the fanciest stores, relished our freedom as we hopped from cab to cab, and gasped in delight as snow began to fall and decorated the beautiful city even more.  We spent late nights drinking lattes and eating over-sized pieces of pie at a fabulous cafe.  This was my first time to New York.  A small town girl in a big city.  And I loved it.

Later that same year, my classmates and I did a service learning project in Arizona.  Here we slept several to a room in a boarding school in the Navajo Nation where there was no hot water and spent our days hours away from the nearest town in the middle of a canyon in the blazing sun, listening to stories and climbing rocky walls looking for fossils.  I cleaned, I hammered, I painted, I carried things, and I looked after children.  When our trip was over, I was sad to leave.

Again later that year, I traveled to South America, this time to see the young man I had been dating for quite some time in his home country/town.  His family lived in a wealthy neighborhood and was planning to move to a different house, giving my suitor and I their family home as a gift (which I declined as the relationship ended a few weeks later).  They had employees who cooked and cleaned and did laundry.  I don't recall lifting a finger while I was there.  I spent a lot of time sitting on the balcony looking out over the mountains and buildings that dotted the hills.  I spoke in Spanish with his friends and family.  I was sure I could see myself living there.

When I reunited with my first family and went to New England to visit them, I was greeted by an enormous family, aunts, uncles, and cousins, who had all grown up together.  They live in a very cold climate where the snow in the winter reaches outrageous heights.  They love to camp and to fish.  Especially ice-fishing which the older of my two younger brothers loves to tell me about.  The wood stove crackles gently at night while giving the house the most comforting heat, and they have neighbors that will do anything for you.  I think I would have liked growing up there just fine.

Nearly everywhere I went I felt like a fish out of water--and thus, the fish out of water feeling became normal to me.

As I continued on into my 20's, I one day conscienciously asked myself the question "wait a minute, Amanda. What belongs to you?"  A chameleon, always adapting to my surroundings....what things do I like?  Where do I want to be?  What do I want to do?  This is what my 20's, and thinking critically about adoption to discover how it has impacted my life, has been about.  It is about finding who I am and making a place for myself where I always belong.  My husband has been my partner in that, accomplishing this goal together as a family.  In our little Victorian house, we're creating our "territory" where we don't have to try to fit in, because we already belong.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Sisterhood of Adopted Women

by Julie

"You know what the secret is? It's so simple.
We love one another. We're nice to one another.
Do you know how rare that is? --Carmen"

From The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

I recently had the privilege and honor of spending time out in the actual world with one of my fellow Lost Daughters. It was our first time meeting in person despite knowing each other online for many months. And we did something that normal women do all the time--lunch and shopping.

What struck me during our outing was how comfortable I felt in her presence. We discussed all kinds of things from motherhood to career to religion and yes, adoption. The connection and sense of camraderie was wonderful because for the first time in my life, I was able to exist in my entirety as an adopted woman.

The more we chatted, the more I realized how, for me, the typical conversations women have when getting to know each other often end up being tempered somewhat because I don't feel free to let my adopted woman out. It is sometimes difficult for me to make small talk about such seemingly inane topics like where I grew up or where my family lives because there is an underlying current to subjects such as these to which non-adopted women can't relate.

It was so freeing for this to not be the case because I was lunching and shopping with another adopted woman. We threw out terminology that mere mortals would not use. I was able to say things like "my n-dad said this" or "my a-mom did this" with relish because my companion spoke the same language. I didn't have to explain how adoption played into anything because she already knew. I didn't have to temper myself at all. Spending time with her was like letting out a huge sigh of relief after the airplane has landed safely on solid ground.

The experience got me thinking about us as adopted women and how our life experiences influence the way we maneuver through life and exist in the world. Throughout history, women have often been expected to be demure and obedient; understated and accepting. This has changed a lot over time, but not really for adopted women. Our adoptions have no doubt impacted how we relate to other women, how we might approach motherhood, and how we present ourselves within society-at-large. Yet we are still expected to be grateful, accepting and quiet when it comes to a huge part of who we are as women.

Time to shatter those expectations ladies. Together we are strong. We are a Sisterhood of Adopted Women. And we don't have to be quiet and demure.



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

13 days...

[I wrote the following on 6.9.2009, 13 days before leaving for Korea to reunite with my Korean mother and father for the first time since my relinquishment in 1975. But for some reason I never published it at my blog, so I will share it here in honor of the 2 year anniversary of that fateful trip...]

I.

Originally, I had been told not to expect my birth mother or birth father to tell any of their family members about me until after my visit to Korea--that basically, it was unlikely that either one of them would open the closet and show this skeleton to anyone, any time soon.

But the closet got opened. And the skeleton is about to come bone to bone with a strange and uncertain mob.

Needless to spell it out, but I'm going to anyway--I recently discovered that I will be meeting more of my birth family than initially expected: two half-sisters, three cousins, an aunt, and possibly one of my half-sister's husband and daughter--all on my birth mother's side.


II.

In light of this new knowledge, my contact at the agency suggested that it might be appropriate to prepare for other such events.

She said you don't know how your birth parents will feel after they have actually met you. Emotions run high. They may be so emotional after meeting you that they want to tell everyone. Or they may not. But just be prepared.

I'm prepared. About as prepared as a newly hatched bird. The only way they learn how to fly? Jumping the nest and hoping instinct will kick in at just the right moment.


III.

It's not that I do not want to meet my birth mother's family. I just had not expected this. At all.

It has caught me off guard. And adds to the nervous anticipation.

My contact consoled me that they all want to meet me. That most likely they're not angry with me, that most likely they will not despise me.

But there is no way to know for certain how any of them are feeling, for worse or for better.


IV.

Someone told me recently that many of these families just want to move on with their lives. They don't want to be disrupted or interrupted.

Yet, in my mind, opening one's heart to the potential for love is a worthy disruption.

It is true enough that some families shun those adoptees who come looking for them.

But that I should feel that I must approve of such a decision is the kind of thinking that perpetuates the kind of exclusion and alienation that has for so long characterized the blemishes upon our species' history.

Rather than open our hearts and minds to let in those who have been estranged and cast out, we tell ourselves that this is the way our world works. And this is the way that we must embrace.

Keep to your own kind. Don't go fidgeting with the order and convenience of the status quo. You need to be accepting and open-minded enough to conform to what has been and always will be.

Tell me, then, what is so accepting and open-minded about telling an adoptee that she is shut out from the one who gave her birth? What is so accepting and open-minded about conceding to the societal standard that the sense of love and family cannot extend beyond the social barriers that we have fortified and seem unwilling to tear down?

What is so loving and accepting about a birth mother fearing that her husband and children will despise her should they ever come to know that she gave birth to another human life years ago?

Why else would a birth mother feel the need to "move on" and separate her heart from a child she has born other than the fact that she has not been given the support, approval, or kindness to do otherwise? If her acceptance is threatened should she choose to remain attached to her love and longing for the child she has born, would this not naturally create a sense of pressure and obligation to sever that relationship?

Needless to say, I have difficulty consigning human life and relationship to the antiquated social constructs that exclude and condemn those who have had to face absurd decisions due to those very constructs. It is a vicious cycle.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spilling The Beans

I had my natural mother...I had the pictures...now came the quandry.  Telling my adoptive mother and sister my news.

I sat in my best friend's kitchen, trying to figure out what to do.  I'm not sure why I felt like I had to tell them so soon after this all happened...but for some reason, it was important to me.  I think I was afraid that if I waited, I'd hear "Well, why did you wait so long?  Are you embarassed by them?".  I'm not exaggerating when I tell you, that would have pretty much been word for word what I would have heard, by the way. 

Plus, with my adoptive sister, she'd found out some stuff out about her own mother and father but she wasn't interested in finding them.  Just not interested.  Probably afraid that her mother would be as crazy as our adoptive mother and who the hell wanted to have to deal with THAT?  (Again, not exaggerating the craziness...take my word for it).

And so, my friend told me to call them up and just tell them that I had something to talk to them about...as soon as possible.

I called them...and my sister said she'd call my mother to figure out when the talk could happen and she hung up...after asking "What's the matter?  Is this a bad thing???".  I hate that her immediate thought was that I'd fucked up again.  After all, I DO have two kids out of wedlock from two different "gentlemen". 

She called back and said she'd be driving out to our mother's apartment that afternoon at four, and could I meet them then?  I said yes.  She said, can you just tell me if something's wrong so I know what I'm walking into today?  I said, it's nothing bad.  She said okay (but didn't sound convinced) and hung up.

I brought my laptop with me to my mother's apartment and walked in.  My sister and mother were in her living room and I sat down. 

"So, I got this email yesterday...and I'd like you to read it...."

I passed out a copy of the first email I'd received from Christine and let them read it.

My sister looked up first..."This was the one thing we didn't think of when you said you had to talk to us!  We'd thought either you were pregnant again, or Steven had broken up with you, or your car had been repossessed again.  How do you feel about her emailing you???"

I pushed back the feelings of anger and hurt and said, "I think it's amazing."

My mother sat there and said, "Well, your father and I knew this day might come..."

I showed them the pictures I'd received.  My sister also thought that the picture of Cate was me at first...lol.  They were politely interested...but I could tell it made them a bit uncomfortable.

My mother didn't say much actually until she turned to my sister and asked her how SHE was feeling about this whole thing.  Was she upset that I'd been contacted?  Was she okay with all this?  She was afraid that this was going to bother her.

In that moment, I wanted to bolt.  It was the beginning of me shutting down with them in regards to my reunion.  I realized that for the first time, I was on my own.  I kind of liked it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

How Is It For You?

Von writes:-
As you may know I'm still looking for an adoptee blogger older than I am....it gets lonely in this decade sometimes, even mothers are younger than I am!
So what's it like being an adoptee for this long? It will be 67 years come September, so plenty of time to get used to it you'd think. During that time progress was mostly very slow. I waited until I was 32 to know the name of my mother and my own name.
They were given to me on a tiny scrap of paper, by the man I called Dad, who seemed at that point by the accompanying spiel, to be indicating he thought it was a good idea if I found my family. I felt he was washing his hands of me and maybe he was, given the later developments. The story of my mother being a medical student and a talented pianist couldn't have been more incorrect! I learned around that time never to trust anything you are told about your adoption or family unless you see written proof.
That red herring was to waste many years, although a pleasant correspondence ensued with the medical student, by then a Doctor and still very possibly a relative.She and my mother shared a name and year of birth. I learned too that these coincidences pop up all the time in adoption and I'm still trying to find the time to have a good think about what it means.
My disinterest in my father and his family was changed by reunion with my mother, but it still took many years before I pursued that. A genealogist friend changed my lack of knowledge overnight and I was soon in contact with those of my half-siblings who wanted to know me.
I am here a few years later having run the gamut of emotions, hopes and dreams, with the door closed on most of my biological relatives. The damage on one side is more than I can cope with or want to cope with and on the other side relatives are few. Oddly enough I pass the practice of one cousin almost daily, it reminds me of his mother, after whom I was named.
I've done reunion. I've been lucky to have the legislative support and the opportunities to know and to understand my family history on both sides. I have a collection of wonderful stories; enough for a book about my Great-Great Grandfather and some very special mementoes, including photos. I am content to know my background, to have a context for some of my traits and need nothing more.
At this time in my life I accept myself for who I am; accept with gratitude that I am able to know all I want to know and more. I am comfortable with being an angry adoptee when it comes to injustice and the rights of adoptees and feel particularly strongly about stigma, the adoption myths, untruths and the lack of ethics in adoption.
I have a fulfilled life in a beautiful place and have achieved more than was expected and haven't finished yet! I expect to keep on learning, changing and having new adventures for as long as I have. Adoption teaches us resilience, survival and tenaciousness, what a shame it would be to waste any of it!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Lost Daughter: Sealed Adoption Records Debate

By Trace A. DeMeyer
I am a Lost Daughter. I am an adoptee. There are millions of adoptees like us. Sure, there are more than five reasons adoptees need their “top secret” sealed adoption files. The following reasons are MY TOP 5. I really do believe all adoptees on this planet deserve to have a copy of the original birth certificate AND their sealed files opened and handed to them on a silver platter. This vital information needs to be – now and forever – a human right for all children placed in an adoptive family.

  1. NAME: I have three enormous family trees - not just my adopters but both my birthparents. Since I was illegitimate, my father’s name was not listed in my adoption documents. That meant I’d need to find HER in order to find him. Since she didn’t want to meet me or acknowledge I exist, that landed me smack up against a new brick wall. So I drilled an opening but it wasn’t easy. (Read my memoir ONE SMALL SACRIFICE to find out how I got my own name back and how I found my father.)
  2. OBC (original birth certificate): Nowadays, if you have a fake (amended) birth certificate, Homeland Security could decide not to give you a passport. Some adoptees who have forged documents say it can happen when you apply for anything official: like your driver’s license, social security card or library card. Hello! Didn’t anyone stop and think about adoptees when they made such stupid rules? Even scarier, if you were born in another country and your new parents forgot to get you USA citizenship, this could be real BAD for those adoptees who could end up deported adults!
  3. MEDICAL HISTORY: The first time you visit a doctor’s office, you’ll get forms that require you fill in your “real” parents and grandparents medical history. Are they kidding? NO. Secrecy doesn’t serve adoptees. We have no clue who our natural parents are or their medical conditions or cause of death. What I needed most and why I opened my adoption file in the first place was exasperation at my doctor’s office paperwork. I wanted and needed my medical history. Apparently the adoption industry didn’t think about this. Their “secrecy is good” mentality makes me ill.
  4. ANCESTRY: Yup, Ancestry.com promises you can find out if grandmum ran a restaurant or grandpop was a dog breeder-poet. Adoptees have enormous family trees with branches to climb and roots to examine. Ancestors could forever remain a mystery if you are an adoptee in a closed adoption. Not to mention you might date and marry your first cousin (almost incest and a downright scary genetic nightmare) or you might be working the swing shift with your own brother and not even know. Ancestry is serious stuff -  if you're dating or planning a family.
  5. BABY HISTORY: Those 1st nine months were critical to brain development. Lack of bonding with one individual (hopefully a mentally fit mother) did affect who I could trust for a lifetime. Placing me with a stranger - months later – after her miscarriages - was truly not a good plan. I could not replace what my adopters lost. This did break my spirit (but I recovered eventually when I opened my adoption in Wisconsin with a kind empathetic judge.) In a closed adoption, you’re not even supposed to wonder who you are, let alone ask out loud. Who wrote these ridiculous rules anyway? I was lousy at pretending which is why I had to know my name, my ancestry, my medical information. Last November I finally read my sealed adoption file from Wisconsin via court order. I have had no luck getting my OBC in Minnesota but I’m not giving up.
We (adoptees) have suffered enough...

The creators of this animated debate on YouTube do cover the most important points Click here

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fallen Princesses: the God's Honest Truth About "Waiting" and Being "Responsible"

By Amanda
A couple days ago on my blog, a commenter, a few other readers, and I went back and forth in the comments section about the ethics of money in adoption, the ethics of advertising for adoption, and the ethics of adoption being put as a priority before preserving families and helping them in times of need.  Toward the end of the conversation, my beliefs were labeled by this commenter as more or less idealistic.  The commenter said I was seeing expectant mothers considering adoption and surrendering mothers as "fallen princesses," who could be easily helped to support their children, when it isn't the case.  While I am fully well aware that some families cannot be repaired, I cannot be so automatically judgmental of other women because I acknowledge that all it takes is one circumstance to separate me from the women I would be so harshly judging.

I graduated high school, went to college, fell in love, got married, graduated and had my first career.  We were both employed and homeowners before we even thought about having children.

Don't pat me on the back and tell me I did things "the right way."  Do not tell me how responsible I was or tell me about how "other women" are not responsible.  My husband had the privilege of a degree that his parents paid for.  I had the privilege of a degree that my parents partly and my husband and I mostly, were able to pay for.  We had the privilege of support from our families.  We had the privilege of happening to have skills and education in fields that were still hiring and needing workers during this time when the economy was not (and still isn't) so grand.

There's nothing that makes me more deserving of those privileges than anyone else.  It is what it is.  I am not better than the next person.  Furthermore,I did not "wait" until I had all of those things in place before having sex.  I was not carefully more "responsible" than anyone else.  I could have very well gotten pregnant when I wasn't planning or prepared for a baby.  The reason I didn't?

I had fertility problems.


I don't often talk about this issue in this way, as I have in this blog post.  While I have been married for nearly five years now, there is still a great deal of shame for me discussing pre-marital sex and the fact that I had it.  I was taught in my private Christian school that sex outside of marriage was shameful and not only diminished your worth in the eyes of others but also in the eyes of God.  Embracing feminist ideals and working towards the equality of women and speaking out against stereotypes about women has never quite erased this shame for me.

It is a fair to assume it was my fertility problems (unbeknownst to me at the time) that prevented me from getting pregnant during a time I wasn't prepared or planning for a child.  I have been treated for PCOS and when I was actively trying to conceive, it took me 18 months to do so when I finally became pregnant with my first son.  It is very well that my fertility issue was the only thing separating me from how my life has gone so far and going in the direction that other people expect me to judge so harshly.

I was never any "princess," just a real woman who would have likely needed help and support had I gotten pregnant before graduating high school, college, or before being in a steady relationship with someone who was committed to helping support our child.  Not all colleges have a daycare.  Not everyone can afford daycare.  Not everyone has someone that can watch their children for them.  Not everyone can get a job that works around a childcare schedule or school schedule.  These are not a woman's short comings, these are society's.  Yet society is still content to dictate what women in what special set of circumstances are allowed to reproduce and if they reproduce out of the acceptable set of circumstances, promoting and advertising adoption is prioritized above simply helping them meet their needs.

I will never think that viewing and treating women this way is acceptable, not only because I am a daughter who was lost to adoption but because I believe in treating others how I would want to be treated.  Even the "fallen princesses;" I could have been one.

Credit for photo of castle: Tom Curtis

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ruined through redemption

"Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life."  ~Albert Einstein
 

My maternal Grandmother had a massive, more than likely fatal stroke over the weekend. I sobbed when I found out. I did not know her, yet I grieve. 

I grieve for my Mother, and the secret she kept from her Mother. Her secret, me, was never known by her Mother. Her secrets, my children, my Mother's grandchildren, my Grandmother's great-grandchildren, were never known. 

I grieve for my Mother, because she is weak. I grieve for myself, because I was weak. I was too afraid to lose my Mother if I told her secret. I grieve because I lost my mother twice, yet I kept her secret from her Mother, and got nothing in return. Nothing except a slap in the face, much more cruel than the slap on my bare naked baby ass when I gasped for my first breath of air.

I grieve because of what I lost- them. I grieve because of what both of them lost- me. I grieve because I will never have the chance to know either of them.

I grieve because I can't send flowers when she dies now, can I? "With love, your secret Granddaughter." I grieve because I cannot send my Mother a card. And I certainly cannot go to my Grandmother's funeral. Honestly, I couldn't handle that funeral. I mean, how does one behave at the funeral of a family member they never met? "Oh...she looks so peaceful. Hey, look, everybody, Grandma has my nose, and orange lipstick looks bad on her, too!" And then of course, there would be all of those poster boards with pictures of all her kept Grandchildren. That would be swell, huh?

I grieve because no one seems to be sure if they should talk to me about it. Me- this stranger-baby-all-grown up. I grieve because I don't know how I am supposed to feel. Grief is nothing new to me. But every time it hits me, it is as fresh as the smell of funeral flower arrangements with the sweet undertone of formaldehyde.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know I'm not religious. But I like to think that wherever she goes when she passes, my Grandma Johanna will know the secret. I imagine my Grandpa running up to her and saying, "Ooooh, girl- you are not even going to believe this!", and then my Grandmother replying, "Well, that daughter of yours, she was always a sneaky one!" But that's just my imagination, because in reality, I have no idea what they would say...you know, because of that whole adoption thing.

I do know she is as Irish Catholic as they make 'em. I also know that even if my Mother had gone to her when she found out she was pregnant with me, the outcome would have been the same. My Mother and I were both ruined through redemption, really. Pray, sacrifice, and give those nuns your baby. And never tell your secret.

I drank a glass of Guinness and made a toast to my secret Grandmother Friday night.


"Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up.  I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something.  Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery.  People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap.  Who wants flowers when you're dead?  Nobody." 
~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1945

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Job Hunt as an Adoptee

Job hunting is horrible. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are people out there who love the thrill of the chase, the interviews, the bragging about how good you are and why you belong at that particular company. And those things can be fun sometimes. And those things are going to be in my future very often as I picked a career that is full of switching jobs and always looking for the next big thing. Unfortunately for me as a female adoptee, job hunting is like getting a root canal with no Novocain.

For starters, I’m not the type of person who likes to brag about my accomplishments. I have a hard time selling myself. I grew up thinking that I was a throw away baby, so my self-esteem is admittedly in the toilet. When asked questions like “Why are you the right person for this company?” I go into a cold sweat thinking “Well, I’m not really sure why I’m the right person for my family so…” I have gotten good at faking a good answer, but sometimes it is hard to sell yourself when your first mother hasn’t returned yet another email and you’re feeling just a bit worthless. But I digress…

As much as I love the interview process, it’s the waiting afterward that’s the hardest part. It brings me right back to the early days of reunion. Did I say the right thing? Did I impress them enough to want to call back? Did they like me? Waiting around for a phone call or email that could change your life isn’t my idea of a fun afternoon. I don’t do waiting well. I don’t do staring at the phone well. I don’t do checking my email for any news well at all. It’s like I’m waiting for my first parents to get in touch with me all over again.

I’ve now been through this process about seven or eight times. This economy is not the best for trying to find a job right out of college. When I finally do get the news, more often than not it’s “We liked you a lot and think you’re a great person, but you just aren’t the right fit for our company.” And I am crushed each and every time. I’m back in the position of being rejected, back in the position of being told that it just wasn’t going to work out, and back to feeling like a loser all over again.

Now I know I’m not a loser. I know that eventually, I’m going to find a job. And I’m thrilled that I can actually apply to multiple jobs. Every day there are new job postings and I routinely get called to apply for one job or another. There are plenty of jobs out there and the economy is starting to get better in my field so it’s really just a matter of time. However, with each new job that I apply for, it reminds me that I only have one first family. I can’t log online to Monster.com and find another first mother. And her requirements are not going to change to something that I’m more suited for. And me getting more experienced or taking a test to prove my skill level is not going to change how she feels about me.

I can’t wait for the day when I get that first job. I can’t wait for the day when someone calls to tell me that they want ME and that they are thrilled that I’m going to be working for them.  I love lounging around my parents’ basement in my pajamas until two in the afternoon and eating ice cream out of the container because I can just as much as the next person. But it’s getting a bit old and my life is pretty boring at this point. And I can’t wait until I can fight back the sting of rejection with a normal acceptance. Until then, I’ll be here blogging and hoping that eventually someone decides that I’m worth taking a chance on. And maybe someday my first mother will change her mind. Miracles happen right?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nothing At All

As those of you who follow my blog oncewasvon  know, things can get heavy over there and the topics that always bring the most lively comments are the primal wound and the breastfeeding of adoptees. I'm happy to say I won't be touching either of those areas on this shiny bright, new shared blog.
While all human beings are touched at some time by tragedy, sadness, loss and the joys of being human; adoptees live complicated lives with a very generous helping of those things that make us human. It's all about how we deal with them that determines what sort of human being.
We adoptees get double the deal with anything to do with family, unless we are a foundling, when we get nothing, sometimes a small scrap of material, a token, to connect us to our mother and another life we will never know or understand.
Reunion may bring us two extra families to make decisions about, try to blend with, to close the door on or to hunger for and extend our pain and be triggered by - the rejection, acceptance, fears, concerns.Whatever the outcome we have gained understanding and knowledge. I'd always rather know than not, if the opportunity is there.
Some of us are the victims of bad legislation and have no choices except to circumvent that which puts up a roadblock. These means seem more and more successful, although not without dangers and downsides.The recent case of the adoptee duped by a woman pretending to be her mother is heartbreaking and that someone would go to such elaborate lengths is tragic.
Apart from managing our complicated lives, coping with what triggers us, the stigmas and frustrations of adoption and combating the myths, we all have full lives, with families, study, work and 'normality' to deal with. In that, we seem to be highly successful, perhaps because being adopted makes the rest of life look like a piece of cake?
                       Von

Barely Breathing

Amanda asked to hear more so here goes…

The night that we first started emailing was very odd.  I hadn’t told anyone yet about this mysterious woman…this woman who I now believed was my natural mother.  It was like I needed to have her to myself for a little while…plus, if I said the words, “She found me”, it would make it that much more real.  And I was hanging on to a thin thread of sanity at that point.

The next day I raced over to my best friend’s house with my laptop in hand.  She was the first person I told.   She cried after she read the first few emails, looked up at me, and cried even harder.    As we were sitting there, another email popped up.  The subject line said, “Pictures!”.

I opened up the email…breathless.  In the body of the email, my mother wrote that the picture was of my sister.  I clicked on the file and for a minute, I was completely confused.  How the hell did she get a photo of me?


Cate
 


Christina

Except It wasn’t me.  It was my flesh and blood sister.  I turned the computer towards my friend.  She gasped…then said, “Wait…is that a picture of you??  Where’s the one of your sister?”.

Yeah..it was THAT creepy.

For the first time in my life, I could see my eyes in the eyes of another. 

And then, another email.  “Me” was all it said.

Another breathless moment…it was her.  In all her tattooed, nose ringed glory..and she was beautiful. 

Christine




Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Child's Thoughts

By Mei-Ling

Cross-posted at Exile of Xingnan

I found this bit of writing in a small notebook. The handwriting is quite elegant, so it must have been a reflection within the first year of contact:
…..
I have always known I was adopted, well before I even know how to verbalize what the term ‘adoption’ meant. I can remember at about age 7 asking about my adoption, the question that is asked by all young adopted children:
“Why did my mother give me up?”
My adoptive mom’s answer must have been researched, as if she was just waiting for me to ask: “She loved you so much she gave you up.”
“But why?” I remember asking. “Why didn’t she keep me?”
My mom further attempted to explain.
“You were a very ill baby, so she made the sacrifice to give you up for a better life.”
Perhaps she thought her answer was comforting, reassuring, that it would placate my curiousity. Perhaps it is what she believed I needed to hear. As a young child I did not believe that someone who supposedly ‘loved me so much’ would still give me away. And so, I cut off any spiritual or emotional thoughts towards the woman who gave birth to me.
I picture my “mother” and “father” standing outside an old, rusty wooden shack. They are buried in poverty, with ragged clothes, and thin, worn faces. They are very elderly and can barely afford to feed themselves.
I just happened to be a burden, something to “throw out” due to the consequences of poverty.
…..
Because love means giving up, and sending your child away in the likelihood you will never see them ever again.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Parent Trap

Okay, you probably think that I'm going to write some long-winded essay on the many trappings of being a female adoptee with four parents. A veritable "parent trap" of major proportion. But ha! I fooled you. I'm actually going to write about the beloved Disney movie titled, yep, "The Parent Trap." The Hallmark Channel recently ran a double feature of the original 1961 version followed by the 1998 remake. I watched both. Couldn't help myself. And during both viewings, I thought about how this movie impacted me as a young female adoptee.

Being a Lost Daughter of a certain age, the original version staring the fabulous Hayley Mills (younger folks might remember her from her days as Miss Bliss on "Saved by the Bell") was a childhood favorite of mine. The premise of this movie is completely ridiculous. Sort of. Two girls who look exactly alike meet at summer camp only to discover that they are identical twins.They soon realize that when their parents divorced, they each took a kid. It then becomes apparent that nobody on either side of the family mentioned, or wondered about, the missing twin. But who cares! All the girls end up thinking about is how to reunite their parents. So they--wait for it--decide to switch places and go home to the other parent after camp ends with the goal of getting the parents back together. Get it? It's a trap! To get the parents back together! A parent trap!

Anyway, Disney magic and suspended disbelief aside, something struck me as I watched this former childhood favorite film. I remembered how I felt when watching it. That could have been me. Really. It could have been. I attended sleep away camp and I was adopted. It was entirely feasible that I could have been strolling lakeside while waiting for the dinner bugle to sound under the late-afternoon Vermont sunshine and happen upon my identical twin. Back then, I imagined what it would be like not only to see someone who actually looked like me but who looked exactly like me. In my adopted girl fantasy version, however, my twin was living with both of my biological parents who lost me when a freak thunder storm broke out while we were camping and I simply vanished. 

Hey, it could have been true. And something tells me that non-adopted girls did not conjure up the same fantasy with complete certainty that it could actually be real. But I was an adopted girl. So I really believed it could happen. I dreamed that one day I would be reunited with my sister and my parents and would never feel lost or alone again.

As a young girl, I identified most with the twin who lived with the father, Susan. She was a tomboy and had short, blonde hair. Just like me. She could have been my sister. Then again, anyone could have been my sister. Or one of my parents for that matter. But I wasn't allowed to know anything about the people who brought me into the world. I wasn't allowed to know anything about myself. So the best I could do was make it all up, Disney style.



Friday, June 17, 2011

The Other Side Of The Fog

I had taken a break from blogging for several weeks...and came back to find this opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with many wonderful women who I look up to and who also inspire me with their spirits and their writing.  I just hope I can do this blog justice.  Forgive my gratuitous usage of ellipses...I've tried to curb my enthusiasm for them...but they've become part of my writing style.

I was in the fog for many years.  The fog was a place that I felt safe in.  Yes, I knew I was adopted...but I had grown up knowing I should be grateful for being taken in and saved from the unknown horrors of being raised by a single teenaged girl.  Yes, I was abused...but I deserved it for not being good enough.  Yes, I felt abandoned...but at least someone had wanted me, right?

And then, there I was in June 2008 right after my birthday had passed, minding my own business..dealing with some ugly issues with my son's father online when I received a message..THE message..in my Myspace's Truth Box. 

I believe we met, briefly, 34 years ago.
Because of the issues I'd been having with my son's father, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he or his wife had left the cryptic message.  And because I sometimes can't control my inner filter, I posted a scathing message to the anonymous author.  A day later, my ex emailed me, asking what I was talking about on my Myspace page.  He swore that it hadn't been him, nor did he believe it was his wife.

I chalked it up to nonsense and brushed the whole thing off.

Until a week later, July 11.  I was at work, sitting in my 8 x 8 cubicle, looking at Myspace on a quick break.  I had a message.

Dear Christina, I think I've gone about this all wrong...
It was from a woman who said she felt horrible for leaving me the message on my Truth Box.  That she hadn't known what else to do.  She had come across my profile and felt like she had to write me.  Her daughter was born on June 19, 1974.  She'd given the child up for adoption and then gave the name of the agency she'd placed the child with, as well as the town that she was born in.

She didn't want to disrupt my life if I was that child...but, could it be that I was that daughter?

I read the email twice...and then shut my phone off.  And sat there...and then went back to work. 

I responded that night...and told her she'd have to forgive me for being skeptical but could she give me any other information so I knew this wasn't a joke?  Honestly, I still firmly believed that somehow my ex had found out my information (he'd hacked my email before) and was using it to get to me.

She emailed back almost right away and said she wasn't supposed to have the information she was about to share, but hoped it would help ease my fears.  Then she listed my adoptive mother's name, including her maiden name...her place of birth...my adoptive father's name..his place of birth...and she knew their home address, where I was taken after I was picked up from the agency.

It was in that moment that the fog lifted began to lift.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Adoptee Resliency

I was on the phone with my dear friend Ms. Marginalia a couple weeks ago.  She was lending a sympathetic and compassionate ear while I regaled her with my day.  My day?  My brakes locked up while I was driving and I was stressed about having to pay for the tow truck and repair.  I had to buy a new computer (more money I wasn't thrilled about spending) because the hard drive on my main computer suddenly fried.  What was worse about that was I lost most of the pictures from the first 7 weeks of my youngest son's life, as well as family photos, because I hadn't had a chance to back them up yet.  And while I was talking to her, my oldest son decided it would be fun to decorate our house with a magic marker.

And while she's listening to me pour out my heart about how bad my day has been, I realize how her day has been.  If she hadn't told me, I never would have realized that the friend listening to my woes had just severely broken her arm the day before (and is now in need of surgery).  If I hadn't already known, I never would have guessed that on top of being in pain and having a broken arm, that her tire had just gone flat and that some random woman had just been incredibly rude to her in the parking lot when she was trying to get her prescription.

Having a much worse day than I was, for sure, she still listened to me with care.  She moved about her day as you would expect a strong woman would.  An extraordinarily strong woman.  One who deals with the chronic health issues a rare blood disorder can bring, can have a load of misfortune pile upon her all at once in 24 hour time, and still have time to validate the feelings of her friend who isn't even having as nearly bad a day as she is.

Which makes me remember, I think there are a lot of people out there who assume that there are no complexities in adoption.  They assume that being adopted isn't a big deal and thus, when an adoptee says "hey yes, it is a big deal to me" and talks about how adoption has impacted their life, the adoptee just must not have anything else going on.  We must be weak because we find fault, problem, pain, complexity, ambiguity, whatever...with something so "insignificant" (so others may think) about adoption.

And on the contrary, the adopted women I know who share their ambiguity, their pain, and the complexities of being adopted with others are strong, resilient women.  They are not self-centered or self-loathing.  They are smart and compassionate.  They are there for you at a moment's notice on a bad day.  They do not talk about adoption because they want pity or because they have nothing else going on.  They have real lives and real struggles, some really tough ones, just like everyone else, on top of dealing with being an adoptee.  They talk about adoption to help and support others.

I wish surrounding society knew this about adoptee women.  We are strong women.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Up and Running!

I am very honoured to be here amongst women adoptee bloggers I respect and have learnt so much from.
I love the way ideas bounce around in blogland; a post is written, someone picks up a thread of an idea and runs with it, amplifying and extending it a way that ever expands our understanding of this complex world of adoption we live in.We can see those threads being woven into a tapestry of understanding, a new body of knowledge about adoption and what it means to adoptees.
Here in Australia, we are lucky enough to have had our rights for decades, those most of you in America are still fighting for and will be for some difficult times to come.That freedom, while appreciated and taken up by many, brings a new set of difficulties.
Reunion in itself is complex and often approached without preparation, with many assumptions, expectations and dreams.The major difficulty for many, is that there can be no guarantees about outcomes. Adoptees often need assurances of security, stability and to know where they stand and those things are hard to come by. Nevertheless, the knowledge we gain from it, whatever the result, is something that gives us certainty and answers, even if we don't like them much.
As you know, we are at the beginning of what promises to be a fairly long Inquiry into Forced Adoption up to the 1970's. Already there have been great gains for adoptees, who are beginning to find each other and to talk together and share their experiences. Being able to speak freely has been of great benefit and there is a new understanding of what we all went through, those experiences being very diverse and in differrent decades.Some of us, like you in America, will never know our true identity, because unofficial placements were arranged and there is no information to be had. Others have found their records were burned or unobtainable.It is the same old story, the one we are all familiar with, of abuse of the rights of babies and children and a disregard for their identity and future.
Somehow, we hope to turn all this mess into something positive for adoptees, a better understanding, a Government Apology and a healthier adoptee support system for those who need it. It is a time of hard work but also of hope, just like the adopted life itself really!

Lost Daughters Introduction

I am honored to be here and to be surrounded by not only so much talent, but so many fellow adoptees that I admire and respect. I began writing about my adoption experience almost immediately after finding the online (and offline) adoption community thirteen years ago. I have written poetry (past tense there is only so much rhyming you can do with adoption terminology) about my adoption experience. Writing continues to be a great source of catharsis and healing and just when I think I've said, written, and expressed everything I possibly could I find so much more that needs to be realized, acknowledged, and examined.

Writing was actually suggested to me by my marriage counselor, an adoptive mother, who had gone through the scope of questions and lack of answers she had available to her about her daughter's adoption. From my marriage counselor's experience with her adopted daughter I was encouraged to seek, search, and to try and get answers to the questions I had asked since I could remember knowing I was adopted. For the first time in my life, at age 38, I was validated that I had the right to know about my biological family. Not because of health reasons or the need for medical records but simply because I had that right. It was the impetus I needed to find out who I was, where I came from, and why I had been given up.

No one can ever be fully prepared for the depth of emotions you encounter when you began embark on the journey of adoption search and reunion (or no reunion). It is uncharted and treacherous territory even for the most secure and well adjusted adoptee. And, although there are numerous similarities in experiences in adoption, I have also discovered each is unique.

It's our sameness and our individuality in adoption that bring us together. And, although my story is not a happy one the ending is getting better and better. I may have lost two families, one I was adopted into that rejected me and the biological one that has rejected me, but I have gained the companionship, camaraderie, and fellowship, of a community of dedicated individuals working to change and educate the world to the realities of adoption. And finally, found a family that accepts me unconditionally.

For me adoption is comparable to a long, huge enigmatic math problem with too many variables and unknowns and chock full of subtraction, negatives, and inequalities. And we, as adoptees, are the ones that can offer the correct solutions.

Adoption Equations

They say that one and one makes two but I'm not sure if this is true.
In this case one and one made three explaining how I came to be.
Then three came in between the sum, divides them back to one and one.
These equations seem to break all the laws of give and take.
But life not always plays by rules, nor by facts we learned in school.
I know this all so very well, and only hope to "Show and Tell".
When one and one took separate paths that no one needs to do the math.
To know this story problem's mine.
I'm the remainder left behind.
Karen Brown Belanger



Super Pumped and Majorly Excited

First and foremost, hello!  When I heard about this blog, my very first thought was "Boy, I need to get in on this!"  I'm so excited that I get to participate with some of my all time favorite bloggers.  I've learned so much from this particular group of women and I don't know if I'd be in this place without them.

Here's the basic rundown of my life.  I was adopted when I was two months old to a pair of people who had been trying to become parents for about ten years.  They never thought to try adoption until my mom's friend from work suggested that they give it a try and gave her information to the agency that she used to adopt her son.  My parents were told they could wait up to a year and were extremely surprised when they got the call two months later!  When I was three, my parents adopted my younger sister from the same agency and our family was "complete" in their eyes.  They always told my sister and I that we were adopted, and because they went through the process to get my sister, I had an idea as to how I was brought into the family as well, even if I knew I was a little bit older than she was.

While adoption was a topic that came up in our home from time to time, it's something that we rarely talked about because it "didn't really matter".  My family forgot that we were adopted all the time, and some of them still are surprised if it ever comes up.  However, just because something isn't talked about, that doesn't mean that it doesn't affect a person.

While in college, I ran into some health problems that needed to be addressed.  Apparently, if one doesn't have a full family medical history, it's hard to diagnose a person (insert eye roll here).  I was pretty much told that I couldn't figure out my issues without getting a better medical history.  So off searching I went thinking that my life was already pretty complete and that finding them wouldn't really change anything.  Oh to be young and naive.  I had my first parents' first names and birthdays, as well as some other random facts like where they were born.  I was able to track down my first mother after paying for a report online and found my first father when I figured out that they were married.  My first mother was initially happy to email with me, but things have since gone sour and now I have a wonderful relationship with my first father as I wait for my siblings to grow up enough for our parents to tell them about me.  I've learned so much about myself and where I come from throughout the process and I'd have to say that despite the pain and heartache, reunion is one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

So here I am, a year and a half into my reunion blogging about my experiences.  I'm learning new things and listening to new ideas.  I used to think that the world was black and white, but now I know that nothing is really as it seems and there's loads of gray floating around out there.  I used to think that it was my life calling to adopt a baby when I "grew up" and now I'm a family preservation advocate.  My how things change!  I'm looking forward to blogging about some of the issues with this amazing group of women and I can't wait to see where this takes us!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lost Daughters: new blog, fantastic idea

I am a Lost Daughter and a Split Feather - an adoptee with Native ancestry.
I’m thankful to be among the remarkable women on this blog who share the experience of adoption and write so beautifully about it. We are all related as sacred human beings and as adoptees.


Like so many other adoptees, I want to read about someone who:
·       successfully opened her adoption,
·       made a connection with relatives (or not),
·       balanced two or more sets of parents,
·       found ways to heal, and
·       learned how to navigate all the in-between stuff. (Lots about this is complicated, messy and oh so human.)

There are no real guidebooks on being an adoptee. Many books on Amazon were for those who adopt or plan to adopt. Over the past ten years, adoptee blogs have sprung up like wildflowers. I started my own in 2009: www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com. I was ready to share my research and my own adoptee experience.
Always curious, in the past several years, I published a few articles on the subject of Split Feathers and my life as an adoptee, and I gave an interview to a newspaper in Wisconsin. The subject was so interesting to my Academic friends, they questioned me intensely, since little was known or compiled about Native adoptees.
The most significant catalyst happened right after I attended the first Wiping the Tears in Wisconsin. I attended this ceremony for Native adoptees and families ready to begin the healing process. It was the first of its kind, held back in 2001 on the Menominee reservation.
Even then I was surprised at how many adoptees there were - shocked, actually. Many I spoke with at the ceremonies were shocked, too. We assumed we were the only ones. Now I understand there could be thousands of us.
Burning questions and my own journey compelled me to get my thoughts together and do research for a memoir. After five years, I published “One Small Sacrifice: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects” in 2010. I tried to include as much history as I could find. I believe if you read it, you will never look at adoption or this history in the same way ever again.
On this Lost Daughters blog, I will share stories of my experiences.
It’s a great honor to be here.

P.S. You can also follow me on Twitter: Trace15