Monday, May 21, 2018

To my Friend Whose Message to Her Birth Mom Went Unanswered


You did it! You reached the goal line.  You outlived the laws that said you couldn’t have the information.  

You are the Queen of your own life because you didn’t back down.  

You kept the faith.

You didn’t forget the woman who gave you life.  You knew what you needed and you pushed through. 

You supported the person in your life, also adopted, on his journey. 

He supported you.  You had each other and that is no small thing. 

You confided in me.  You trusted me, a complete stranger you met on the internet, to help you walk through this journey with you. 

You cried and you were scared.  And I want you to know that I see you as brave. 

I am sad that your message to your mother went unanswered.  I am frustrated for you that she deleted her Facebook page.  

I want to call her up myself and say, “Look what you are missing out on!”.  You have a beautiful daughter, beautiful grand kids and a great granddaughter!

It sounds like she is not in a place to acknowledge her place in your life. Sadly, I’ve heard this story before . . . but my message to you is this . . . don’t give up hope now!  

You’ve waited this long. .  .you can wait a little while longer while your original mother digests this new reality.  

Maybe a reunion is not in the cards . . . or maybe she just needs time.  

Either way, you are a wonderful human being with people who love you and want to be in your life right now. 

I don’t wish any more pain to be brought your way.  Acceptance by birth family does not have the last word on your worth as a human being.

You are enough.

And sometimes just knowing is enough.

Thank you for trusting me to be part of your journey over many, many years.  I wish you peace and happiness always.

Your friend,
Lynn

Sunday, April 8, 2018

5 Reasons You Should Listen to Adoptees Instead of Adoption Experts

1.       Experts in past eras got a lot of it wrong.

Blank slates, secrets, born-as-if-to and separating twins and triplets in an effort to study nurture versus nature (and provide more babies to waiting families) are just a few examples of how the adoption experts of bygone eras got it so, so, wrong.  Just read up on child trafficker, Georgia Tann, and you will see the corruption that facilitated sealed records.  From doctors and lawyers who “knew somebody” to judges who signed off on questionable adoptions, if we look to the Baby Scoop Era for guidance, there is only one conclusion:  the “experts” got most of it wrong.   20/20 recently reported on this.  


 2.  Most adoption experts are benefiting financially from the adoption industry.

Money tends to cloud ones motivations when it comes to educating about adoption.  Employees of adoption agencies benefit when adoptions occur.  Adoption attorneys benefit financially.  Even churches can benefit financially from adoption (i.e. more members).  When you are watching a talk show or news story about adoption, realize that you are getting biased information if the person speaking about adoption is also benefiting financially from the adoption industry.  Thankfully, there are many adult adoptees who have received training in counseling and social work who are actually experts.  Seek them out.  If you don't know anyone who is both adopted and has professional training, ask an adoptee for a referral.

3.  A professional in one field does not an adoption expert make.

Have you ever gone to a new counselor only to learn that they have zero knowledge about adoption?  (most universities do not educate counselors about adoption).  Have you ever talked to your doctor and realized that they have no concern or plan B for an adopted child (or adult) having no medical history?

Churches are now acting as a form of adoption expert in that some largely embrace the orphan care movement, without also providing proper education and support for the families that are adopting in large numbers within their congregations.  Many adoption agencies have traditionally been run by the church which results in a conflict of interest when deciding who does the church actually support?  In any event, just because someone went to seminary or medical school, does not make them an adoption expert.

 4.  Adoptees Have Lived Experience

There is no professional counselor, social worker, attorney, pastor or other professional who can tell you what it feels like to grow up adopted and to walk through this world as an adopted person, except a person who is themselves adopted.  You can study adoption until you are blue in the face. You can have all the letters you can gather behind your name as you can achieve, but you will never understand adoption on the same level as someone who has lived it. You can empathize and you can listen (and you should); but unless you are adopted, you will never understand how it feels to be adopted living in a non-adopted world.

 5.  Adoptees can help Adoptive Parents and Others Understand Adoption.

Although not all adoptees see it as their mission or responsibility, the reality is that adoptive parents (and the “experts”) have a lot to learn from adopted people.  Some of us grew up in completely closed adoptions, some of us in semi-open, others in open and others in kinship.  What can you learn from us?  Read our blogs, books and watch our documentaries to find out.  Understand the special issues revolving around identity, self-esteem, belonging, mirroring, genealogy, etc.  We have something to teach the world if you will only listen.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Happy DNAnniversary and Update on my Birth Father Search




*70% of first time testers get a 3rd cousin or closer match.  Now that is some AMAZING STUFF!

Christina Augilera (Video: Hurt)


Go here to learn how to start your own search party.

Rhonda Noonan (Churchill)'s book, The Fifth and Final Name.

More on Lynn's reunion with her maternal birth family and her search for her father at this podcast.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Response to the New York Times Column, "What If I Don't Want to See the Child I Gave Up for Adoption?"

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the January 24 article, “What If I Don’t Want to See the Child I Gave up for Adoption?”

As part of the adoption community, I take exception to several assumptions The Ethicist makes in his response to a woman who was uncomfortable when the adult adoptee (not “child”) wanted to get to know her and the adoptee's biological siblings.

It would not just be an act of generosity on the part of the biological mother to meet her child and answer her valid questions.  I see it as an obligation of the biological mother for at least a one-time meeting (which this mother offered) with the adult adoptee who was too young to know the circumstances of her conception and birth. (I am not advocating "forced contact"; however, information, photos, and reasons for relinquishment, the father's name, etc. would be a kind response in the absence of a face-to-face meeting). Biological mothers are not entitled to perpetual anonymity, covenant* or not. 

A loving adoptive parent would, of course, want to provide as much known information as to allow the adoptee to form a solid identity, experience genetic mirroring, understand talents and personality traits, in addition to gathering information on ancestry, ethnicity and medical conditions of family members.  Knowing more about the genome can never take the place of knowing which blood relatives have diabetes, cancer, auto-immune disorders, mental illness, etc. Just ask the Surgeon General who urges everybody to gather their family medical history.  The Ethicist minimizes the importance of the above information when he states an adopted child is just merely “curious”.

Is The Ethicist aware that the vast majority of adoptions today are open?  This case illustrates a closed adoption, several decades ago.  It is not representative of today’s adoption landscape.  States are opening birth certificates, DNA testing companies match genetic relatives for $99.00, social media allows unprecedented connection, and the number of genealogy and reunion shows in the media point to increased awareness that all people (not just adoptees) desire and have a right to know where they come from.

Respectfully,


Lynn Grubb, Adoptee and Adoptive Parent

*I did not sign a covenant or agree to be forever separated from knowledge of my biological kin. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

It’s O.K. to be a "bitter and angry" adoptee (when seeking support)

The title of this blog is tongue-in-cheek, because so many people new to online support groups (especially adoptees like me, who also become adoptive parents) ask a very common question in some form or another . . . . .it usually comes about after the person joins an on-line adoption support group and lurks for a bit trying to get a feel for the energy in the room . . .if the energy leans toward the negative (i.e. discussing the negative feelings surrounding being adopted), it is only a matter of time until a comment like this appears in the room:

“I am just curious as to why in this support group there are so many bitter and angry adoptees who seem to hate adoption. I loved growing up adopted and had wonderful parents.  It makes me very concerned for the child I adopted that there is so much negativity coming from adoptees.”

Depending on the room this is posted in, this could invite an onslaught of criticism from the adoptees who are working through the negative aspects of adoption currently in their lives and could result in the administrator closing the thread before people escalate to name calling.

If the original poster (OP) truly wants to be educated and understand, they are more apt to get insightful and helpful responses using words other than “bitter” and “angry”.  Judging somebody else as “bitter” does not put you in a positive light with the people you are addressing.

For example, let’s say you are at the beginning of a divorce and you recently separated from your Significant Other.  You have been battling it out for a few weeks and currently are not speaking.  You see your local Lutheran church has a divorce support group, you decide you will check it out.  You show up for your first meeting and are sitting in a circle with other people going through the divorce process.  You share about the recent fights and how you were served divorce papers that week and about how angry and sad you are about your marriage ending.  Let’s say instead of understanding and nodding heads of “getting it”, you get this response from one of the other members . . . .

“Why are you so bitter and angry that you are going through a divorce?”

You went to the divorce support group for support. But instead you received judgment for your feelings. Are you then motivated to come back to the support group?

I loved reading a recent thread surrounding the “bitter and angry” question while I was away on a Christmas vacation.  I logged in briefly to Facebook and saw in one of the many on-line support groups I am a part of a question similar to the above.  The original poster used “bitter” and “angry” but somehow managed to balance it with genuine curiosity and openness to learning and listening.   I just smiled to myself reading the varied insightful answers to the question. 

There have been times in the past when this subject is addressed where all I can do is roll my eyes and shake my head. .  .when people in a support group are put on the defensive, they feel the need to defend their anger  . . .

Sometimes the reason for the anger is a valid reaction to a bunch of crappy cards dealt or a difficult storm one is navigating.  We all get dealt crappy cards and we all navigate storms.  The problem as I see it, is that many people don’t want to acknowledge that certain aspects of adoption have potential for crappy cards and storms.  An adoptee can be dealt a great hand in terms of a loving family but sometimes they are the ones who have a hard time “hearing” the adoptees who were not dealt a good hand (of course, this can also happen in reverse).  Sometimes the adoptee dealt the good hand will be dismissive of the one who was not dealt the good hand, instead of realizing that he/she had a leg up in life by having supportive parents and/or a positive reunion with birth family. An example of an angry or bitter post might include some form of this:

“I no longer have contact with my adoptive parents.  They were abusive and cut me off when I searched for my birth parents.  I later learned my birth parents want nothing to do with me.”   

You hope upon reading this revelation, that the other members of the group will rally around this person and tell them they are not alone and that they are valued members of the support group family instead of kicking them when they are down, which could result in them (and others) leaving the group.

I do think sometimes adoption-is-all-positive people occasionally join these on-line groups in order to smack down others in the group.  I have never seen this dynamic in a live support group but it has happened quite frequently in the on-line adoption world.

Adoption as an industry needs to keep up the positive PR or things could go south quickly. . . . as in, if adoptive parents think that every adoptee will grow up angry and bitter (and ungrateful) . . .why bother investing any time and energy into their children?  Why adopt at all?  It is this constant need for positive adoption PR that result in websites like “Brave Love” where they promote infant adoption solely in a positive light – a win/win for even relinquishing mothers!

Personally, I think Brave Love and other movements like it are trying to do damage control.  The word is out:  Adoption is complicated and is based on loss.  They feel a need to present a unilateral sense of positivity and security so both relinquishing mothers and adoptive parents can feel like everything will be smooth sailing . . .and they do it in the hopes that adoptees will jump on board  . .  the problem? They aren’t presenting the full picture.

And this to me is the heart of the matter . . .adoptive parents can become fearful once the adoption is final if all they have heard for months was positive pep-talking, religious or otherwise, and then at the first sign of trouble, turn to Google and Facebook and begin hearing adoptees speak via blogs, social media posts and memoirs.  This new awareness may result in their imagining a scenario which includes their own children being angry with them, rejecting them in favor of birth family, having unproductive lives or growing more bitter and angry into old age.

Before jumping straight into the fear that adoptive parenting is all for naught . . . and instead of shooting the messenger (adoptees who feel free to express anger, bash adoption, etc) . . the intelligent response is to (1) listen to what the original poster may be angry about, (2) empathize with the  person expressing anger; (3) if their comment triggers you in some way, ask yourself if there is a parallel to their situation and your own; and (4) If there is something about their situation that applies to you and your family, learn from that anger and be prepared to parent in a way that will not result in anger in your own child over that particular issue, if appropriate.


I will give you an example from my own life.  I went through a period of time wherein I was angry at my adoptive parents for not advocating for my right to know where I came from.  Part of the issue was lack of education and a big part of the issue was fear.  In any event, I had to do all of my own advocating once I became an adult with mainly the support of my husband. In the parenting of our daughter, we have provided (and sought) all information as it relates to our daughter's history so as not to create an identity gap and in the hope that this is one area where our daughter will not have to deal with anger (we acknowledge there are other issues that may come up).

If you are an adoptive parent reading this blog, there are many ways you can advocate for your adopted child (stay tuned, I will probably be writing on that topic next). 

Also, it’s helpful to keep in mind that a person can be posting angry thoughts on Monday about their recent telephone call with their birth mom, yet the very next day on Tuesday, is posting photos about celebrating their adoptive mother’s birthday.  You aren’t getting the whole picture from any particular post or comment in adoption on-line support groups.  One benefit of a live adoption support group is if you come often enough, the other members of the group can get a somewhat linear description of the issues you face over time.

We all know we can be furious about one thing in our lives, yet be pretty darn happy and grateful about most other aspects of our lives.  We are not one-dimensional people.  We are human beings juggling many different roles, hats, circumstances and experiences at one time. Each of us go through peak life events, experience cycles and have anniversary reactions.  Some peak life experiences relating to adoption can cause negative emotions to become exacerbated and may prompt one to seek out support.  It’s o.k. to be angry, bitter, sad and downright pissed off when seeking out support.  You are helping yourself by seeking support from others who understand. You are also potentially helping others with your posts about what it is you are currently dealing with, which has caused your anger.

There are special circumstances in an adopted person’s life (that may never affect somebody who is not adopted or separated from birth family) when they may be more apt to seek support (and may present as angry or bitter) when grieving and navigating issues such as . . . . . .

*Facing the reality that you were raised in an abusive home and recognizing that the social workers did not adequately vet the adoptive family you were raised in (this cannot adequately compare to biological parenting in an abusive home because of the higher standards that adoptive families are required to meet and because these homes are already receiving a traumatized child).

*being lied to about your identity or adoption circumstances (i.e. why you were relinquished, who your mother/father is or knowing that your entire extended family and friends knew your story and you did not.)

*wanting a reunion, but being rejected by the people you are attempting to reunite with

*Not wanting a reunion and being found by someone you don’t want to have a relationship with

*getting DNA results that are proof that you have been lied to your entire life

*knowing that your records are being withheld by the state or adoption agencies because you are part of this minority through no fault or decision of your own

*not having medical history while navigating a serious illness or parenting your own children (writing “unknown” on every doctor/dentist form you fill out).

*never feeling like you were accepted by the family you were raised in or your biological family

*feeling abandoned, thrown away, not loved and confused about why everybody keeps insisting you be happy about being adopted

*when you recognize that in order to be chosen, you had to be “not chosen”

*being rejected by your adoptive family as an adult

*inability to find a therapist who understands the lived experiences of adoptees (and support groups may be the only place you can truly discuss your anger openly).

In other words, being adopted comes along with it, bonus experiences that the average person being raised by biological family, will not navigate.
Most of joined a support group for S U P P O R T.  Expect to hear strong emotion in some members’ posts.

All feelings should be welcome (of course, no personal attacks).  All stages of processing the journey will be represented.  People need to feel they can be honest in a support group so they can work through whatever issue is causing their current distress.

What you are seeing in any given support group/blog or Facebook discussion is a snippet of time in many people’s journeys. . . . . some will be at the very beginning of their journeys . . .some will have been long-time travelers. . . . some will be in the thick of hell.  Other people’s anger should not make a happy and content adoptee or adoptive parent feel insecure . . . . we all have felt bitter and angry about SOMETHING.

 Just because that something may be adoption-related does not mean that the angry person will forever be frozen into that angry state for all eternity.  Do some people carry their anger and bitterness too long?  Sure.  But that is not for you or I to judge or change within the context of a support group.  If we go into an adoption support group, we should expect to feel or experience any number of feelings, including:
*Understanding
*Confusion
*Grief
*Anger
*Joy
*Bitterness
*Happiness
*Guilt
*Camaraderie

You get the idea . . . .

Just as if you go into a divorce support group, or a smoking cessation support group, or in our case, an adoption support group, we are all there for the same reason . . . for support to manage the struggles of the adoption journey.  There is a lot to grieve. There is a lot to process.  There is a lot to be joyful about.  And while we process, we will feel anger, which is normal and healthy.  We don’t want to get stuck in the anger, but when we are in the thick of it, we don’t want other people to judge us for it either.  We need to be able to sit in that anger for a time so we can move to acceptance of whatever difficulty we are facing, hopefully coming out on the other side accepting our losses/gains and moving forward with more wisdom and some pretty cool friends to boot.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Your Story is Not My Story

I was reading this poignant Dear Adoption, If I Could post today written by a 17-year-old Colombian adoptee.  The feelings are raw; however, I could identify with all of them.  In the comments, there was one that stood out to me which was kind but explanatory of why a child might be given up . . . .the commenter, Cindy, writes, 

“Please know that so very many mothers and fathers wanted their children with all their heart and soul.  .  .. . circumstances or forces beyond their control often separated them from the children they loved and wanted. If a family is in severe poverty and no one aids them and there is no hope of help, a parent’s heart will find a way to keep their children alive . . even if it means letting them go to someplace or someone who can ensure they will be fed and cared for.  It’s no ‘choice’ but rather desperate circumstances . . . . . “

On the face of it, this comment seems perfectly true and appears to want to help the original writer to decrease their pain because a “choice” was not made – only circumstances prevented this child from being kept within the biological family.  However, as I read the comment, I couldn’t help but think about all the times when I or others I know have expressed pain at our predicament as adopted people, only to have a handy explanation served back.

But here’s the thing . . .

You don’t know what her/his family’s circumstances were . . . .so why are you trying to imply to someone that their family had to choose between starvation and keeping their flesh and blood?  This happens a lot when both adoptees and birth mothers get talking on the same Facebook thread. 

Example:  Adoptee posts about experience/pain/reunion story, and birth parent comments that she had no choice because of the culture/finances/parents/age/etc. 

This might sound harsh but, I don’t want to hear your explanations about my situation.  Your explanations do not necessarily apply to my situation.  You don’t know the whole story.  You weren’t there.  Your parents might have coerced you to relinquish and you wanted to keep your child with all your heart, but decided ultimately to relinquish.  Your best friend may have been living in near-identical circumstances and she decided to parent.  Your circumstances, story, ideas and values do not apply to me.  You are not my mother and you did not necessarily share my mother’s identical circumstances.

This adoptee who is from Colombia may have not been anywhere close to starvation.  It could have been an affair.  It could have been a family that did not value their offspring.  It could have been any number of situations.  But here is the thing: It doesn’t matter.  It does not change the feelings of inadequacy, the guilt, the loyalty conflicts, the pain.   After hearing an explanation that may or may not apply, I don’t suddenly feel happy that I am adopted.  No, not even close. It feels invalidating to receive explanations from people who are not part of your story, no matter how well-meaning. 

You might think you know my situation, my circumstances, because a social worker/family member/church member told you my story, but you weren’t there.  You didn’t live it and you have no idea what you are talking about.  Not all Baby Scoop era adoptees were given up because of the taboos of single parenthood.  Not all international adoptees were relinquished due to starvation.  Not all open adoptions in the U.S. stay open for the duration of the child-rearing years. 

You don’t know someone else’s story so please do not try to explain my story based on your story’s circumstances.

Adoption is never black-and-white.  Adoption is not a one-story-fits-all.  Listen.  Validate.




Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I LOVE ADOPTION!!


Recently, when talking to an adoptive parent and explaining a talk I will be doing in November about supporting adoptive families, the parent exclaimed loudly, “I LOVE ADOPTION!!”

It really took me off guard.  He was practically cheerleading me to go out there and promote adoption.  I think I burst his bubble when I then explained that my presentation comes from an adoptee viewpoint first. Dead silence.  With rare exceptions, most people are silent when I mention that I have a different view as an adoptee, or they look at me funny as if to say, “There is another view?”

Of course, this parent was not adopted.  And it’s his right to love adoption.   But his comment has weighed on me.  And whenever something weighs on me, I begin writing blogs about it in my sleep, so I decided to get out of bed and put my thoughts on paper (so to speak).

This may come as a shock to some, but I don’t love adoption. I am adopted and I don’t love adoption.  Some days I don’t even like adoption.  (oh no, here she goes, getting all angry about her “bad experience” . . . . .)

I want to explain why I don’t love adoption and why I love permanence for children instead.

If somebody LOVES adoption, by default, they are also implying that they love everything that led up to the reason that child needed to be adopted.    Not true, you say?  Well, at least consider that when you tell an adoptee you love adoption, that is what they may hear you saying.

I have a suspicion that when somebody loves adoption, it is because of the love and joy it brought to their lives, to their families lives and to their child. And that is noble.

However, I can guarantee you if you asked that adopted child, once they were old enough to reason this out, it is not adoption per se that they love.  They love being loved, having stability, being safe, having their needs met within a family.  This is what they love, not adoption.   

Adoption was the result of not being safe, not having stability, not having a family that wanted to parent (or couldn’t parent for whatever reason).  

Adoption gets too much credit. 

Adoptees can love their adoptive parents and still not love adoption.

When I was thinking about why exclaiming one loves adoption didn’t sit well with me, I had to think about what I loved instead.  I love permanence.  Permanence gives everything that children need (love, safety, stability, needs met), but does not require a legal relinquishment (sometimes), a long drawn out case file (sometimes), could potentially include adoption, but may not need to include adoption.

For example, when a child can grow up with a loving biological family, that is one example of permanence.  Or if that is not possible, the child grows up with a loving aunt, uncle, grandparent, adult sibling, etc. To me, that is better than adoption because the child has her family unit on some level, even if the first family (mom/dad) are not in tact. 

Then there are other forms of permanence such as an informal adoption (biological family raises child together without involving courts), guardianship and legal custody that can give a child a loving family without the need to relinquish, change a child’s name and sever all ties to the biological family and culture. 

Adoption by non-relatives should be the last resort.  Adoption by non-relatives implies that there was NOBODY AT ALL IN THAT CHILD’S BIOLOGICAL FAMILY who could successfully parent and that is heartbreaking to an adoptee. 

So, please understand I don’t love adoption and many days, I don’t like it one bit because it sets me apart from the majority of people who grew up in the families they were born to.  It makes me different than most people. Adoption makes me sad on many days.  One of the reasons, I recently shared with my husband is this:

If I could have back all the hours and hours I spent digging up bones and spent searching for my birth family, I could have learned an instrument, a language or gotten a master’s degree with that time.  I can never have that time back.  And I can never stop feeling the anguish from being a child and adult who was kept in the dark about their family (and continues to not know half of my parentage). 

I am not asking you to feel sorry for me; however, please understand why I do not love adoption. Adoption took away my original name and hid it from me.  Adoption took away any knowledge of my biological family growing up.  Adoption delayed my identity development.  Being adopted made me feel less than others when I reached an age to understand how much I lost and that those around me had it right at their fingertips.

I cannot and will not promote adoption as a way to save orphans (I strongly dislike the term orphan because of its negative connotation but that is another blog) when I know that most “orphans” have biological family living close by and are not in fact orphans at all.

So why even bother with all this adoption work if I just don’t love adoption?

Because people need education about adoption from an adoptee viewpoint – desperately.  We have become an adoption-loving country without understanding that when you announce you love adoption, you are also implying you love relinquishment, trauma, coercion, loss, secrets, discriminatory laws, etc. 

Maybe you don’t love adoption as much as you think you do. 

In any event, please be sensitive to the adoptees in your lives who may not love adoption as much as you do.  Of course, we love our families (whether birth or adoptive); however, I have never one time ever heard an adoptee exclaim, “I LOVE ADOPTION!”