Saturday, March 28, 2015

American Adoption Congress Conference - Part 1

I admit it, I was a little star-struck at meeting some of my Lost Daughters sisters for the first time. After all, I have seen their picture and read their work for the past few years. They've influenced and inspired me. There's something about getting to know someone through their writing, and then meeting them in person, that makes it richer and deeper from the start. It's like you already know them, a least a little bit.

There are several of us Lost Daughters at the American Adoption Congress Conference in Cambridge Massachusetts this year. We're presenting in a round-table tomorrow (okay, since it's 1:30am then technically, it's later today). For some of us, it's our first time at an adoption conference, and for others, it's one of many. For me, it's my third.

I attended my first AAC Conference in 1997 with my birthmother. It was eight years after we first met and we were in the eye of the storm of reunion, we were sorting through the rubble of the post-honeymoon phase. Seventeen years later, we attended again, just last year, but as presenters on long-term reunion.
This time it's different. It's the first time I'm here without my birthmother. I'm not alone. I'm with my sisters from Lost Daughters. All of us are adoptees. We all have different stories, but we have that crucial core that links us together. You can only understand how powerful that is when you've experienced it. Suddenly, you share in common one of the things that is most private and unusual about yourself with everyone else in the room. Suddenly, you're normal. Suddenly, everyone gets you.

Being in a room full of adoptees, and hearing them talk about adoption is a kick. All the things you think but can't usually say, are said. Things you think of as strictly forbidden, are fodder for mockery. And things you think you shoulder alone, are shared.

Even with my birthmother, with whom I'm close, there is a separation in how we've experienced the conference. Although we've gone to it together as a pair, we come at reunion from two different sides of the same experience. This time, with my Lost Daughter sisters, I get to approach it side-by-side.

In a few hours I get to meet another group of my Lost Daughters sisters. Ten of us will be presenting. We get to sit together and talk about our experiences in person. But we won't be alone. We will be with a room full of our other sisters, many lost daughters like us, and share our stories ... together.


Cathy Heslin is a reunited adult adoptee of closed domestic adoption in New Jersey. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two boys. She met her birthmother when she was just 18 and moved out to Portland after graduating college to live with her birthmother. She has been in reunion with her birthmother for nearly 25 years, and with her birthfather for 15 and has a complicated extended family that includes all sides. 

She writes about adoption with a focus on long-term reunion. She has written a memoir in partnership with her birthmother called Kathleen-Cathleen — A True Story of Adoption and Reunion, where she and her birthmother write alternating chapters sharing their experience of reunion from both the perspective of the adoptee and the birthmother (not yet published). They also write parallel blogs on shared themes: Cathy's blog is Follow Cathy on Twitter @CathyHeslin.