The Unexpected: Is there an area of your life that most people would not suspect has been affected by your adoption in which being adopted has been an issue? How do you handle that area when discussing with other people?
Since adoption is woven into the very fabric of who I am, it permeates every single area of my life. The expected and the unexpected areas.
Although every area of my life is affected by adoption, I haven't always been aware of the reasons behind my feelings or actions. Concerning it's impact on areas of my life that most people would not suspect, I find most people are completely unsuspecting about everything. They can't grasp the fact that something that happened to me 46 years ago would still affect me in any way today. Therein lies one of the biggest problems for many adoptees, including myself.
With a majority of the world in the dark about adoption's impact on infants as well as post-adoption issues for adult adoptees, they expect nothing.
So everything is a surprise to them. Everything is unexpected.
"Wait...you're telling me that something that happened to you as a baby is causing you to have these feelings now?" [Insert skeptical look here that brings on mega-trigger.]When you dare to open up and the first reaction is that you are hyper-sensitive, lacking in faith or simply need to get over the past and move on, it wounds all over again.
I've always had personal awareness that adoption affected certain areas. In the past, I handled it by staying to myself, for the most part. I knew most people didn't understand, not through assumption but by broaching the subject a few times. When I dared to open up, I would most often be told how I should think, feel, and act. This quickly sent me back inside the safe cocoon of my own mind.
Practically everything in mothering has presented issues. And I knew why, right from the start. I didn't try to explain myself, or stop. I just followed what my heart longed to do. At times it caused issues with my husband, being that he's the only one I opened up to about the reason for my actions.
Things are important to me that I've assumed most if not all non-adoptees don't care about to the degree that I do. And, if they knew they would probably think I was a few fries short of a happy meal.
Family Planning on Steroids
Planning my children was important to me. Not just in a general sense as with many people, but in a detailed way. I grew up having little knowledge of the circumstances of my conception or birth. All I knew was, my birth parents apparently weren't in love because my father abandoned my mother upon hearing of the pregnancy, and then she didn't keep me.
The details haunted me. So much so, that I never wanted my children to wonder about anything. So I probably went a lihhhh-tle
I was uber careful about birth control.
When I had kids, I wanted them to know they were planned.
That their father and I loved each other and desperately wanted them.
If birth control failed, I would have welcomed a child. I'm just saying, my dream was to plan all of my children since nobody except God ever planned on me and that distracted me for a large portion of my life.
I always knew I wasn't planned by humans.
It bothered me that from my first father's vantage point, I was someone to not acknowledge, and in my first mother's eyes I was someone to make arrangements for. At least that's what I always thought, growing up.
I carefully planned all four of my pregnancies (We have three children that lived and one that was lost in a miscarriage.)
I wanted them to know their father and I were in love.
I wanted them to know that they were planned.
I wanted that for them more than anything.
Because I never had that. So many times as parents we try desperately to give our children what we never had and longed for.
My kids' childhoods were replete with scrapbooking and journals on their behalf, and whatever else I could think of to record their history from conception to their growing up years. I even wrote a daily blog (by hand) for our now 23 year old son, before blogs existed online.
With each labor and delivery, I asked
I thought that one day they might ask, "Mom, you said you were adopted...was I ever adopted?"
They did ask.
I gleefully ran to the scrapbook to whip out the picture of the moment after their birth and said, "No, you weren't adopted and I have proof!"
It has always bothered me that there are no newborn photos of me. I wanted my kids to have a book full of them. I sometimes concentrate more on blogging, journaling, photographing and video recording life more than actually living it. My husband often gives me gentle reminders to enjoy the moment rather than fret over preserving it.
I don't think my husband and children believe any of this is because I'm adopted, rather that I have a flair for complicating things.Him: Deanna, does everything have to be such a detailed production? [sigh]
Me: Ummm...no, just some things.
Him: Okay. [bigger sigh]
They would never guess
Speaking of newborns, No one in our church has any idea that every time I go to the hospital to do a pastoral visitation for a newborn baby and mother, post-adoption issues hit me square in the face. As our church has grown we have a visitation team that does a majority of the hospital visits. But my husband doesn't ever want to give the newborn visits up because they are his favorite. And he loves that from the beginning, we've always done them together. So we still do as many of them as we are able to. It's not that I dread them or hate them. I love the babies in our church and I love the families as a whole. It's just that the maternity ward and all it entails provides a non-ending stream of adoption triggers. I never mention it to people within the course of my work. It wouldn't be appropriate. I simply need to be there for them.
Most people are surprised to find out that my birthday is a sensitive subject. Once again, I dreamed of the opposite for my children, so I've always tried to make their birthdays great. I do crazy crap for my kids, like going with the flow when they invite 174 people at the last minute to their birthday party.
Even now my husband says, "Babe, relax...you don't have to kill yourself for the birthdays...we can just do something simple." I explain to him over and over why it's important to me. He says, "Exactly. It's important to YOU. But understand that the kids don't need you to have a meltdown in order to provide something on their birthdays. They know you love them. You can relax a bit, and just enjoy them...enjoy life."
I hate goodbyes. I'll do almost anything to avoid one. Goodbyes to me are just abandonment all over again.
I have reacted poorly when friends have let me down.
More work issues...
Last year, I was disappointed by a small group of individuals I lead in the course of my work. My hurt was not unfounded. But it almost became paralyzing. Something that is a common occurrence in my profession turned into a devastating blow. I never realized the root of my deep disappointment until a colleague spoke into my life after I confided in her about the situation. She said, "Deanna, this is real, and it's disheartening. But honestly? It's normal in our line of work. Although you have every right to be disappointed, can I just gently point out that I really feel there has to be something deeper at work here?"
I knew she was right. But I had yet to identify why it was bothering me so.
My friend followed up by asking me, "When is the first time in your life that you ever felt this emotion that you're feeling right now?"
I had to admit the first time I ever felt it was associated with my adoption.
I then realized that although I was angry at the individuals who let me down, it was greatly compounded by my post-adoption issues.
I have a heightened sense of awareness now. When someone lets me down, says goodbye, or rejects me in any way, I already know it's an adoption trigger. It really has the potential to impact my work. Being alert is important, to keep a healthy work environment. I don't discuss my post-adoption issues there, as I believe it is inappropriate. However I have sought appropriate help, and I keep myself in check.
Love DOES mean having to say you're sorry
When I fail by reacting to my triggers in inappropriate ways, it's important to me to apologize. I simply say, "Wow, I blew it. That was really wrong of me to say/do that. Please forgive me." Of course, it's my goal that those times become less and less. For me personally, leaning into my faith has helped with that, as well as receiving understanding from fellow adoptees.
The bottom line for me
How I handle the expected or the unexpected will either break me or shape me.
I wake up every day, still adopted. But I don't have to let it destroy me.
I have learned that being adopted doesn't mean I have to get by and just survive. I can still thrive.
But I must stay aware. Or those triggers could take me everywhere I don't want to go, keep me longer than I ever wanted to stay, and cost me more than I ever wanted to pay.
*Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.com except family photo