Friday, March 17, 2017

Advice to Adoptees Receiving Their Original Birth Certificates




Senator Bill Beagle, Adoptee Becky Drinnen and myself visited the studio of WHIO yesterday  for a taping of the show, "Adoption in the Miami Valley" which will air March 26, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.
I hope you will watch!


Monday, March 6, 2017

Adopted Son Wants to Live with Biological Mother

Question:  Our 14-year old son, who was adopted by open adoption, now wants to go live with his biological mother.  She was completely out of the picture until a couple of years ago when she suddenly showed up, telling us that she'd completely changed her life and wanted to re-establish contact with "her" son.  At first, it was just phone calls. Then she asked for daytime visits, then overnights.  Then he wanted to go on vacation with her last summer.  In the meantime, he's become more and more difficult to live with -- moody and disrespectful, mostly and his grades have taken a nose dive.  He's told us he doesn't want to live with us anymore.  I think he believes there will be no rules with her and he'll be able to eat ice cream all day long, figuratively speaking. What should we do?  (2.27.17 Triblive.com)


My reply below:










My book recommendation to both John Rosemond and this adoptive family.



Read about the editor and contributors.





Saturday, February 25, 2017

Adoption Video Blog Answering a Question Often Posed to Me





Hi friends!  Thought I would do a video post today.  If you have any questions for me, please post comments and I will reply to them.

Thanks for watching!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Announcing Indiana Adoptee Network Spring Adoption Conference


Rhonda Churchill



Patty Hawn

Brian Stanton performs "BLANK"







For more information about the conference and to sign up, go here




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"This is Us" Honors the Complexity of Adoption


It’s a rare moment when I can turn on a T.V. show that has adoption as part of its storyline and not cringe, roll my eyes and talk back to the T.V. about how they just don’t get it.  Sometimes it’s just downright painful to watch the same old stereotypes and adoption rhetoric play out.

I don’t have that same experience when I watch NBC’s This is Us.  In fact, there are so many “I can’t believe they got it right” moments that it would take a whole series of blogs to ponder them.

What the writers really get, is the complexity, that is adoption.  It appears that the writers did their research and interviewed transracial adoptees and read adoptee blogs to understand the complex experiences of being a transracial adoptee.

Here is a list of some of the issues that are addressed in This is Us:

*loyalty
*fear of loss
*abandonment
*fear of being different
*racial and sexual identity
*identity crisis
*reunion
*family secrets
*being gifted
*sibling rivalry
*perfectionism
*body image

A few examples from the show:

IDENTITY

In one scene when Raymond’s adoptive parents are pondering his identity, Raymond’s father Jack states to Raymond’s mom, Rebecca, “It kills me that he will always have this hole not knowing who his parents are.  He has questions – they are not going to go away.  I don’t want him resenting us.

 In a later episode, upon learning that Raymond’s birth father, William, is musical, Raymond begins questioning his career focus on math and science.  He tells his wife, “There is this whole genetic side of me that nobody ever knew existed.”

ABANDONMENT ISSUES (with a bit of guilt on the side)

In an imagined conversation by Raymond, his dad says, “we gave you everything! The most loving family, private school, we made sure you had black influences so you could understand your background.” 

Raymond responds, “And all I was supposed to feel is grateful! I was supposed to just shut up and be grateful that I had parents that wanted me when my birth parents didn’t.”

If I had known that the man who abandoned me had regretted it and wanted me back, that would have made all the difference in the world.

FEAR OF LOSS AND LOYALTY

Jack asks Rebecca, “Why are you against even trying? (to find Randall’s birth parents)

Rebecca replies, “Because what if they are great?  What if they regret abandoning him and they want him back? His birth parents could have rights and I cannot lose my son! I cannot lose my son – I can’t.

Jack:  “I would never let that happen, ok? I promise.

Rebecca:  “We need to be enough for him!”

REUNION REGRET

Raymond tells his wife Beth on Christmas Eve in the final episode of the first season, “You know what I want? I want it to go back to the way it was before, before I went and stirred everything up and found William (birth dad) and opened the door to  everybody’s drama.”

I am really excited that This is Us is educating the general public about adoption complexity and I look forward to being able to write more about how this story line unfolds in the second season. 

I imagine there are many adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who, like me, have had many “a-ha moments” and shed a few tears watching the real and emotional scenes portrayed. 

This is Us is on Tuesday nights on NBC.  If you want to watch full episodes of Season One, go here.





Saturday, December 10, 2016

She Didn't Remember My Birthday

The day I came home to my family (2-25-66)
Today is my birthday. Traditionally, growing up I loved my birthday.  My mom always made me my favorite meal (lasagna) and chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  It was nothing extravagant like kid birthday parties are today.  It was just the four of us -- mom, dad, my brother Scott and me.  And that was enough.  There were no expectations that we would go to Bounce U, Laser Quest, McDonald's or have ponies parading in the yard.  I kind of miss those simple times.

Having a December birthday, many people feel "ripped off" when they get the famous combo gift at Christmas, but that was not the case for me at all.  Far enough away but still able to take in the Christmas excitement on my birthday.  My 16th birthday was the best because I was able to invite four or five of my closest high school friends over to the house.  There was no drinking -- just cutting up and having fun.

Birthdays as I got older into my young adulthood, usually had me thinking about my other mother somewhere out there.  Lots of unanswered questions, a mix or happiness and frustration of my powerlessness not to be able to have answers, but nothing too heavy.  I still liked my birthday.

So, I think I was a bit surprised to learn later in life as part of the adoption community that so many adoptees struggle with negative feelings on their birthdays.  I don't recall experiencing that as a child. But I understand now completely why there would be mixed feelings.

Karen Caffrey, attorney and therapist, contrasts the excitement of the birth of her grandneice with her own birth as an adoptee:

"Bathing in the reality of such an outpouring of love and welcome towards this infant, I have been struck that my arrival in the world, and that of my fellow adoptees, was almost without exception, very, very different.  Our mothers (and fathers) were either planning on being separated from us, or were being forced or coerced to do so.  Our grandparents were unaware of this impending separation, complicit in it, or were in fact responsible for orchestrating it."  Good God.  This is just the beginning of the story about the circumstances that lead so many adoptees to feeling rejected." (The Adoptee's Healing Journey From Rejected to Beloved, The Adoptee Survival Guide, pp.158-159.)

Wendy Barkett talks about her feelings and fantasies as a child and also as an adult surrounding her birthday:

"The wish was the same every year with a twist in the sequence of words....I made the same wish until my 32nd birthday: I wish to find my birth mother.  Each year on my birthday morning, I woke with hope.  There were years I would have never admitted to such dreamful hopes, but they were always there.  As a young child, I would hope that my birth mother would show up at our front door with a huge bundle of balloons.  I could never see her face in these daydreams, as the balloons were in the way.  However, I would know it was her the instant I opened the door and she always got to stay for my party.   As I became a teen, the hope turned to a phone call or letter from her. Each time the phone rang, my body tensed with hope and then disappointment.  The balloons, the letter and the phone call never came.  I stayed silent about my wish because I knew the golden rule:  Don't tell anyone your birthday wish or it won't come true. (Birth Day, The Adoptee Survival Guide, pp. 6-7).
First meeting  at The Cradle with Mrs. Magee, the social worker
Fast forward 40 years.  The social worker at the agency of my adoption found my mother late summer of 2016. Shortly thereafter, I recall sitting in the basement on the couch listening to my mother's voice for the first time. Her voice and the conversation was not what I expected.  I felt like I was living in slow motion, in some kind of pretend world.  She talked alot.  I listened.

She remembered by black hair.

She looked at me through the glass in the nursery.

She didn't hold me.

She knew it was near Christmas as she always grieved for me at that time of year.

But she didn't remember my birthday.

I was crushed.  All those birthdays as a child, I was convinced she was thinking about me. Convinced.

And I guess she was at least thinking about me during the month of December.  But not on my birthday specifically because my birthday was foggy enough in her mind that she did not remember the day, nor did she call the agency to clarify the day, nor did she call the agency to see if I was placed with a good family, nor did she try to find me when I became an adult.

Of course, there were perfectly reasonable explanations for all of the above.  I'm sure there will be birth mothers who send me messages explaining to me about birth mother trauma, the era that I was born in, that she will always love me, etc. (please, just don't).

However, the rejected baby still lives within me and now (post-reunion) she rears her head on my adult birthdays.  I have spent a decade grieving the reality that my family of origin did not want me.  It's my birthday and I can cry if I want to.

I can also celebrate!

I have an amazing family that loves me right here in this house! My adult son is bringing me sushi at 2:00 p.m.  I have a beautiful daughter and a husband who takes care of me and loves me to no end.

Yet, my own mother didn't remember my birthday.

 I think I can finally forgive her for that.







Sunday, November 20, 2016

My (fill in the blank) is Adopted But Is Not Interested in Searching

Photo credit: Adoptionlearningpartners.org
If I had a quarter for everytime somebody said the statement, "My ______ is not interested in searching" I could go on a nice vacation.

Somebody said it to me me this week.  I cannot remember who but I remember it being said and it causes my mind to swirl with emotions and begin to shut down.

I react to this statement viscerally because I'm sure it could have been said about me at some point in my life.

And on top of that, I feel that this statement is a way of  negating anything I ever said to that person about my own adoption search, anything that they have ever heard me say about adoption or read that adoptees experience being adopted -- and even everything they heard from their adopted friend/cousin/niece/nephew/grand child) who doesn't want to search gets thrown into the box.  Then the box is labeled "Adoptee who Doesn't Feel Like You."

It may sound dramatic and you may accuse me of over-reacting and that's o.k.  Because I've heard it so many times that I completely understand why it is used so much.  People like neat categories to help them make sense of things they can't control.

"Adoptee A is a bit of a rebel and has 'problems' -- his birth father was an alcoholic."

Adoptee B is an honor student and is not interested in searching."

See how that works?

I actually overheard a conversation similar to this at work a few years ago which prompted a blog on a similar topic.

It's an Us versus Them--- US are the adoptees who search and speak out about our adoptions and learn that their birth families are less than perfect.  Then there is THEM-the ones who never even think about it let alone act on it!   It's a way of separating us into two camps, both camps opposing each other.

We have in Camp 1 -- the inquisitive, questioning, outspoken, wanting answers, bad, adoptees who won't let it rest and we have in the opposite corner . . . .

Camp 2-- the compliant, happy, contented, good adoptee who accepts what he/she is told about her adoption and never questions that narrative (even in her own head).

Yesterday I read a life-changing article titled What We Lost: Undoing the Fairy Tale Narrative of Adoption by Liz Latty. I urge you to read it from start to finish.  This paragraph really jumped out at me.

"As a child, I never let on that I didn’t feel as excited as my parents did to celebrate my Special Day. This is a complicated hallmark of an adopted childhood. Adoptees often take on the emotional labor of holding our difficult feelings in places where no one can see them because we want to protect those around us from feeling hurt. There also often exists a very real and primal fear of further rejection. We understand we are loved and we understand love is tenuous, so we hide our feelings away because what if we didn’t? How will you feel? Will you be mad at me? Will you be hurt? Will you love me less? Will you send me back? I don’t want you to feel sad or think that I don’t love you, so I hold this hard truth. I hold it for you. I celebrate this day, in this way, for you." 

We hold many hard truths.

We hold our feelings inside as a way to protect you.

We don't tell you about how we had an urge to yell at the teacher for assigning a family tree assignment.

We don't talk about how we are thinking about where our birth mothers are because we know it will hurt your feelings.

We try to pretend the comment about us not looking like the rest of the family didn't hurt our feelings.

We don't mention that we wanted to throttle the cashier at Walmart for asking us if we feel lucky because we are adopted.

We don't tell you about the kid at school who said our real parents didn't want us.

We don't tell you about the girls in middle school who said we we weird for being adopted.

We don't tell you about how the next door neighbor commented about how "you never know what you are going to get" about the adoptee in his family.

We didn't mention about the choir teacher asking if we were grateful we were not aborted (because whether you acknowledge it or not, my being adopted somehow prompts people to ASSUME I was seconds away from being aborted)


If you live in a family that does not value the discussion of feelings, you can fly under the radar like I did.  My parents just assumed I was a kid who did not have many feelings (they never saw beneath the veneer that I am a highly sensitive person).  I learned to never discuss what I was feeling in my childhood home.  It was never safe and I don't mean in the sense, that somebody would have been violent.  I just never felt safe to talk about my feelings.


Have you ever watched the television series Dexter?  It's about an adoptee who is a serial killer. In the show there are flashbacks to Dexter growing up and being trained by his adoptive father on how to channel his killing instinct into a positive way (he only kills bad people who have killed others).  He trains and teaches Dexter how to FAKE his feelings and emotions so that other people will see him as normal. Dexter is able to fit in at work, in his neighborhood and even with his unsuspecting girlfriend.  As I watched this last night, I was thinking about the irony of how this applies to real life adoption.

 Adoptees will do whatever it takes to fit into their families -- many times the cost is their silence.

That is an important takeaway for adoptive parents who read adoptee blogs to understand.

We are taking a giant leap of faith by admitting how we feel now -- it may be after we are all grown up, but we do it to support other adoptees. 

Adoption is complicated.  It does not fit into neat little boxes.

You can't put us in two separate camps, because the truth is a non-searching adoptee this year becomes a searching adoptee next year.  

A compliant, happy adoptee this year becomes a sullen, angry, grief-stricken adoptee next year.

You can't control it.

The boxes don't help. They shut down the conversation.


Adoptees have been well trained to hold pain for others and not grieve their own. We know what we stand to lose and we won't open up unless we feel safe.