Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Interview with Second-Chance Mother author Denise Roessle

Trace blogs here:
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,