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.  








Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Ancestry.com Can Become Your New Best Friend


The yellow is my 11% Irish :)

You've seen the commercials . . . . . .she didn't know she was Native American . . . .he didn't realize he was Italian . . . . . .but what the commercials don't tell you is that by simply paying $99.00 and shipping your spit off to Ancestry, you can learn this. . . . . . . .

1.  The name of your biological father that left you were when you were too small to know the story of what really happened.

2.  Your mother gave up a child (your sibling) in the 1970's before you were born and before she married your father.

3.  Your parents never mentioned you were actually adopted.

4.  Friends or neighbors you personally know are actually related to you.

5.  Your father was busy in the 1980's and you have several new siblings to prove it.

Ok, all of these situations sound pretty shocking and your first reaction might be, "But I don't want to know!"

Fair enough.

However, knowing that you have a different blood line than you believed can actually save your life. I mean, what if you need an organ transplant?  What if you are having a multitude of unidentified physical or psychological symptoms and when you meet a close family member, the mystery is cleared up about certain medical conditions that run in the family?

Maybe that one blood family member you never really thought you cared to know actually has something positive to add to your life?  Sure, it could be a disaster -- meeting relative strangers could potentially go down in flames (when Pandora's Box is opened) and when family members have to find a way to fit you into the picture -- but again, it could be amazing and beautiful as well! You could develop lifelong relationships with one or more of your new cousins!

Building a family tree is a fun and popular hobby for many people -- but for those of us who were not permitted to know our blood lines as both children and adults due to discriminatory laws, find genealogy to be life changing in so many ways.  Even if you have no skeletons in the closet, or skin in the game, the cheapest, fastest way you can support an adoptee in your life is by purchasing an autosomal DNA test.


The adoptee you help may just be your niece!

So what are you waiting for?  Order your Ancestry DNA kit today!

You'll never know what you didn't know until you spit into the little tube and mail it back to Ancestry.com!

This has been a public service announcement -- not for the purposes of advertising a product but for the purpose of celebrating National Adoption Month 2016 by improving the lives of adopted people and bringing truth and transparency to adoption.



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Heading to National Conference of State Legislatures - Chicago 2016

NCSL-Minneapolis, MN - 2014

The Adoptee Rights Coalition is gearing up for another exciting opportunity to speak with state legislatures and their staff members about sponsoring bills in closed record states for equal rights for adoptee access to original birth certificates.

This year will be different in that we will be educating lawmakers on the boom in DNA/genetic genealogy testing and that through this testing, there is no longer any reasonable expectation that privacy or anonymity exists between a parent and their offspring (adopted or not).

For $99.00, anyone can purchase a DNA test and be matched up with cousins and sometimes, close family members, who also have tested.  Just a few years ago, it was only a lucky few who were getting close matches.  Nowadays, people are getting first cousin, grandparent and sibling matches on a regular basis.

I myself have a first cousin match at Ancestry which has allowed me to see which of my other matches are maternal versus paternal.  I am fortunate to be adopted in the state of Illinois which allows most of their adoptees access to their OBCs.  A majority of adoptees are still discriminated against in their home states of adoption.

Gaye Tannenbaum of the ARC has written about this phenomena in her blog titled DNA Game Changer - Part I: Thoughts on the "birthparent privacy" argument.  Please share this article far and wide.

If you will be at the NCSL, please visit BOOTH 824. We will have DNA tests as door prizes.

Hope to see you there!

Lynn