Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adopted and Still Figuring it Out...
(Can Anyone Give Me One Good Reason for This?)

Today's #flipthescript prompt: Talk about your understanding of why you were relinquished for adoption by your birth family and/or why you were adopted by the family that raised you. Do you know the whole story of your birth, relinquishment, and adoption? Do you feel it was necessary that you were separated from your birth family? Do you feel your birth parents received appropriate counseling and support prior to relinquishing you? Do you feel that members of your extended birth family were allowed appropriate input in your relinquishment? Do you feel your adoptive parents had the best intentions in seeking to adopt a child? Do you feel your adoptive parents were appropriately prepared and received the right amount of education/advice/training prior to adopting? 

Arriving at an understanding of the reasons for my relinquishment and adoption has demanded that I pursue it for my entire lifetime thus far. Just one more reason why I have no time for Netflix marathons.  Most frustrating was that for the first forty-six years of my life, someone was alive and in active relationship with me who knew every single answer to all of it and refused to tell me.

I was repeatedly lied to with the story changing multiple times in an effort to conceal the truth. I am now allergic to lies. The reasons my mother gave me up were randomly transformed depending on how much closer I got to the truth. She once had a career as a quick change artist. 

 Why it helps adoptees to win the lottery

Like many adoptees, I ordered my non-identifying information and paid the required fee for it. The first time I ordered it when I was a teenager, with my adoptive parents permission. What I received in return was one page of information with a few details.  Over time I would order and pay for the non-id several times in an effort to glean any additional facts I could. I was advised by adoptee friends who had searched and found that a new social worker completing a report will often add (or delete) facts a previous worker did not. My adoptee friends' advice to order and pay for my non-id numerous times was on target an ultimately led to a breakthrough in understanding some of the circumstances surrounding my adoption.

Round and round the story goes -- where it stops nobody knows! Except Mom

When I first reunited with my natural mother, I was told that my father was someone she dated for a while. Upon learning she was pregnant, and after my birth - he allegedly refused to accept that I exist. I'm in extraordinary company. A lot of people think God doesn't exist either. My father never supported her throughout her pregnancy. Any time I asked about my father’s identity or further detail, she became extremely agitated and guarded. I gingerly stepped around the issue of my paternity for twenty years of reunion. Where are Montel Williams, Jerry Springer and Maury Povich when you really need them? But, I felt an urgency to press the issue in 2013, realizing he may not be alive much longer if at all. 

How Do You Spell "Hope"? D.N.A.

When my mother dug in her heels and refused to share any information about my father with me, I declared my intention of doing DNA testing with Ancestry, 23 and Me and Family Tree DNA.  It was then that she suddenly changed the entire story and told me that I was conceived in rape. That she had never dated my father or had any type of a relationship with him. She told me she met him one time and that is when the rape occurred.  

 My mother informed me that she would take my father’s name to the grave. Little did she know how soon that would be. Suddenly and unexpectedly she died of cancer less than six months later. She stuck to her resolve to keep my father’s identity from me to the bitter end. Upon this happening to me (everything from her refusal to give the name and suddenly changing the story to rape) and talking about it openly I was saddened to find out how many adoptees that I personally know have faced the same exact thing. And I'm certain countless others I don't know have encountered this.   

 It emotionally slayed me and I ended up going to therapy for eight months which was the best decision ever. I discovered I wasn't the crazy one.

 Oh what a tangled web we weave...

Two years after her death, upon requesting and paying for my information from the adoption agency yet again – I finally uncovered a piece of truth. It came through a very kind and cooperative social worker who shared more with me than anyone ever had before. (I believe part of her openness may be the fact that it was confirmed to her that my mother had passed away in 2013.) With her help, I discovered my mother’s own words to the social workers in 1966 who had recorded them carefully in my file. She confessed to them that she and my father had an affair. He was a married man with a family. In the end he chose his wife over my mother. She was absolutely devastated. 
The secret she tried so hard to keep from me – from everyone -- was that of their affair.

I am inclined to believe the story of the affair is truth regarding my relinquishment and adoption.

What possible reason would she have to make up an affair that does not put her (or my father) in a positive light?  I don’t believe she would have confessed to an affair if it weren’t the truth.

Nothing about rape was recorded in my adoption file. I was told by some first mothers (or birth mothers as some call them) that it was common during the Baby Scoop Era for them to be encouraged to claim that they didn't know who the father was, or that they were raped -- even if they weren't. Sadly, in that era - rape was evidently viewed by some to be more acceptable reason for pregnancy out of wedlock, than  consensual sex. And, many fathers were not contacted or listed on the birth certificate. The social worker told me my father is not on my OBC, although his name was in my adoption file. I still want to have my OBC (Which I am not allowed to have right now. I was adopted in Virginia.) However it is disappointing that it does not bear my father's name when it was known to my mother and the agency.

The strangest twist ever...

I learned from the social worker I spoke most recently that my mother apparently named me after my father. My original first name and his are very similar and the shortened version is exactly the same. She named me before she signed the final relinquishment papers 47 days after my birth, while she was still deciding what to do. I was named prior to making the final decision to give me up or parent me. This means had my mother kept me she would have had a reminder of my father each time she called my name. I have a very hard time believing anyone who was raped would name their child after a rapist.

It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that my mother allowed me to believe I was conceived in rape just to cover up an affair. Nothing changed with the way I felt about myself when she told me I was conceived in rape. I know that has absolutely no bearing on who I am, and I began adjusting to the news. I was simply craving any scrap of truth, and if rape was the truth – I was glad to finally know it, although I was grieved for her. A part of me was sad, believing at the time that my mother had endured being raped. Finding out she had lied to me about it in hopes that I’d give up searching or asking more questions of her required another healing process in itself.  

Opinions are like butts...everyone has one, and many times they stink!

Was it necessary for me to be separated from my birth family? It depends on who you talk to. One thing I’ve come to see about adoption is that whether an adoption is necessary is in the eye of the beholder. If you were to ask a lot of people in my family -- birth or adoptive, their answer would be a resounding yes. My answer? I don’t know. When you’re lied to so many times about what was and what wasn’t, you don’t really know whether something was necessary or not. For many adoptees, adoption is not just complex, it's confusing.

My extended birth family gave much input regarding my relinquishment, as indicated in the newly acquired non-id information. My mother was the youngest of six children. Only one brother felt adamant that she keep me. All of the rest including her parents demanded she give me up. She was kicked out of the house upon announcement of her pregnancy and then after moving back home after birth, the same thing happened again. She basically became homeless, due to her family feeling shamed by her situation. She resorted to going to the maternity home to finish out her pregnancy and then upon coming home after my birth, had to move in with a friend for a while as she had been ousted from family home again.  She shared with the social workers that as no one in her family was supportive, she didn’t see how she could keep me. She thought through the situation and realized she didn’t have suitable child care, nor a job or any resources at the time.

A struggle I'm having in real time...

I was adopted by my adoptive parents because they were unable to have biological children together. I am conflicted even at this moment with my adoptive parents intentions or any adoptive parent’s intentions. For that matter, I’ve begun to struggle with all parents intentions including my own. This is a current challenge that I’m writing about here in real time. Sometimes I write about things I haven’t figured out yet I process openly as people who are close to me cringe and hold their heads in embarrassment and anguish and as I do I tend to begin to develop an understanding of the issue. 
I question…what are the proper motivations for pursuit of parenting, whether birth or adoptive? A part of me believes that parenthood it’s supposed to be all about the child, the child -- and nothing but the child. But is that really the case in most of the family situations in the world – even those with stellar parents? Friends who don’t necessarily agree with my views on this have gently prodded, “Do you think everyone who conceives, births and raises a child does so with absolutely no personal gain in mind? Don’t you see that people who create families naturally do so to gain what was a missing piece in their lives?

I admittedly battle with this. While I have endeavored to stay focused with my own children on parenting being about them and not my personal desires, I do gain a lot from being their mom. They do fill what was a missing place in my heart and life. I did get pregnant because I wanted to experience the fulfillment of being a mom.  Being adopted and questioning my own parents’ motives has caused me to question my motives as a parent over and over. Should I be getting as much out of parenting as I do? Just keeping it real.    

It did feel to me as if my parents adopted me to fulfill the desire of something that was missing in their lives – not to give me what was missing in mine. At times growing up it didn’t seem about me. But then I question, do people raised by their natural parents often feel it was never about them? Or at least a lot of the time not about them? My hunch is, yes.  

Another part of me believes, ”Kids need to grow up realizing the world doesn’t revolve around them. Otherwise they will turn into selfish brats that nobody can stand to be around…”    

Perhaps there is a balance? I'm still figuring it out.  Every newly adopted child should come with a t-shirt that says, "My parents adopted me and all I got was this lousy t-shirt that says: "Go Figure!"    

Throughout life if my parents complained about me or anything to do with me, I would secretly think, “Why did you adopt me?” There was a part of me that wanted to scream it at them at times.

As a pastor for 28 years, I think of members in the congregations we have pastored over the years who have prayed for a child, gotten pregnant, birthed and parented a child they ended up complaining about. I have wanted to slap been saddened by people who ask for prayer to get pregnant and then later complain that a baby is keeping them up all night. Or that kids are expensive to provide for. Or that they make messes. These are things you don’t broadcast as a minister, but speaking transparently here, I get angry about complaining parents who begged God to give them a kid and then bellyached about the work of raising them. Sometimes I want to tell people, “Nobody forced you to have this kid…” And then I go back to my personal situation and think, “maybe all these thoughts I struggle with aren’t because of adoption. Plenty of parents are selfish -- even biological ones. Lots of mothers and fathers are narcissistic -- not just adoptive ones.  I have a hard time discerning how much of the dysfunction in my family is due to adoption and how much is just dysfunction. My family put the func in dysfunction.

Neither my natural mother nor adoptive parents received appropriate counseling. I say “appropriate” I stay away from the word legitimate. Might be because I've been called illegitimate so many times because they have claimed to receive counsel but in my natural mother’s case her "counseling" was from a maternity home. Anyone with half a brain knows that maternity homes are not in the business of counseling unwed pregnant girls to keep their babies. It's not real counseling. The “counsel” my mother received was along the lines of assuring her that after having me she would heal and move forward.  

My family's issues had issues

My adoptive mother needed therapy for multiple issues before I was adopted. When I was a teenager I begged her to get help. She would quote bible verses to me. I loved scripture, and still do. But there are times the most spiritual thing you can do is make a doctor's appointment. God works through doctors, counselors, therapists, etc. In these times of begging my mom to get help she would quote things like Philippians 4:13. One day through tears she said, "I'll be alright. God is my strength." I sarcastically responded, "Well, it seems God's really falling down on the job these days..." I'm surprised I didn't get slapped or grounded, but she was probably so emotionally spent she couldn't muster it up. She just sat there bawling as I said it. Which is what she did a lot of my childhood. And still does. Nothing has changed.
The extent of my adoptive parents' "counseling” was stopping by to talk to the pastor.   I’ve been a pastor for 28 years and while I have the utmost respect for pastors, unless they are a licensed professional counselor they are not qualified to provide therapy. Receiving biblical wisdom, advice and prayer is not the same thing. I say this with all due respect for the Bible, God and the church. As a result of there being no real counseling I was raised by an adoptive mother with many unresolved wounds and this greatly impacted me and our entire home.   

This is the one thing I am sure of and not still left to figure out…neither of my families got the help they needed. Hence one reason I am passionate about it. I jump at the first sign of needing help and encourage others to as well, being that the void of this in my family has caused so much pain. I’ve gone through counseling three times in my adult life and wouldn’t hesitate to go again.    

You know what they say about assuming...

When I’ve gone through struggles over almost five decades of life, the desire for truth gnawing inside me, people have responded with assumptions and expectations that I simply be content. There are times I have prodded that I desperately want to know my history and in response what I get back is a variation of, “Just be glad you’re alive.” Apparently that is the go-to answer for so many when it comes to my longing to understand. I wonder if they would feel the same were our roles reversed and they did not know their basic history.

The “just be glad you’re alive” answer is  puzzling since from the first night of our reunion, my mother told me she never considered abortion. But many people especially in the Christian community just assume I was spared from an abortion because I'm an adoptee. I say this with all due respect to the pro-life community. I am strongly pro-life (and not just pro-birth!) But every person who is adopted was not spared from an abortion any more than anyone else who is born. 

At the end of the day...

I am strong.
I am resilient.
I have moved forward.
I'm am a successful adult.

But why the secrets? I've dealt with them for 49 years and they are entirely unnecessary. 

Can someone give me even one suitable reason why I or any adoptee need to have our personal history withheld from us? History that is OURS?

Deanna Doss Shrodes is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God and has served as a pastor for 28 years, along with her pastor-husband, Larry whom she met at The University of Valley Forge, where they both prepared for pastoral ministry. Currently she is Director of Women’s Ministries for the Pen-Florida District of the Assemblies of God, overseeing 350+ churches. Deanna is a speaker in demand in the United States and abroad. An award winning writer, she is contributing author of five highly acclaimed anthologies and sole author of the books, JUGGLE: Manage Your Time,Change Your Life, Worthy to Be Found, and Restored: Pursuing Wholeness When a Relationship is Broken; all published by Entourage Publishing. Deanna has been featured in many publications worldwide, including The Huffington Post. . Adopted in 1966 in a closed domestic adoption, she searched and found her original mother, sister and brother and reunited with them in 1993.  She is still searching for her paternal family. Deanna blogs about adoption issues at her personal blog, Adoptee Restoration, and also serves as the spiritual columnist at Lost Daughters.

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