Monday, November 29, 2010

Can you Tell Your Story Without Hurting Someone's Feelings?

My husband asked me a question today.  He wanted to know, which is more important: avoiding hurting people's feelings or blogging your truth?

I thought about it.  People are always the most important.

But we're not really talking about blogging being more important than people here, in my opinion.  We're talking about being able to express how I really think and feel.  And not saying your thoughts and feelings to avoid the possibility that others might misunderstand is not exclusive to blogging: I wouldn't be able to say my thoughts and feelings in-person, in email, or on the phone either.  I think the question is "which is more important, talking about your feelings or not talking about your feelings so that no one else could possibly misinterpret it and have their feelings hurt?"

Is being honest not important?

There may come a time when I blog something that might unintentionally hurt someone's feelings.  My experience being bullied in elementary school really impacted me, yet today I am friends with some of the individuals who perpetrated it.  There were teachers who I feel didn't stick up for me--I am still in contact with some of them and still think fondly of them.  I was in an abusive relationship with a former partner whose mutual friends could read a story I write of that experience and not understand.  Then there's the general life's hardships.  My families, both by birth or adoption, could read about struggles I've had in life and feel like they could have prevented those things, someway, somehow.

Telling a story can run you the risk of hurting someone's feelings, no matter how well you tell it, if they internalize it.  I can only hope that when my loved ones read my stories, they can see my heart.

If they ever are hurt, I would hope they would come to me and talk about it.  I don't blog because I am mad at any one or want them to feel badly.  I blog because I think it is important.  There are pieces of my story that are both good and bad.  I blog as a form of activist to do my part to give back to the large dialogue of change.  If more people aren't out there speaking about how they really feel about something, how will the world ever know any different?

"Where is there dignity unless there is honesty?"  --Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Photo credit:  Francesco Marino

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Remembering my Tumor Without Family Medical History

It is two days after Thanksgiving and my parents are still here visiting.  We were sitting in the living room, watching TV.  Well, they were.  I was watching the pictures flip through my digital photo frame my dad got me.  I have seen those pictures a million times but I still love looking at them.  One picture in particular caught my eye.  I was holding my son, sitting with my head turned to the side.  You could see my scar; the one from the tumor (benign) surgery. I suppose I am not used to seeing the scar down the side of my neck and face because the surgeon specifically made the large incision to follow the curves of my neck and face so that it is not apparent when looking at me or talking to me.  But there's no hiding it when my neck is turned to the side.

My scar always makes me think.  It makes me remember how this one experience in my health care made me reflect on all of the, at-the-time, adoption-related unknowns in my life.  Not just that I didn't have a family medical history, but because I hadn't known about my life pre-adoption, or met my mother at that point.  It makes me think of how terrifying it is to not be able to tell a doctor what runs in my family when I am having a health crisis.  It makes me think of all of the individuals still in that place and how I know how that feels.

I thought about how my paternal aunt had just sent me our family medical history and how I felt when I read it.  Cancer....cancer....cancer....cancer....cancer.....I lost track of the cancers.  A few types of cancer were extremely well represented.  These were intimidating pieces of paper to look at.  I cannot neglect to say that I am thankful to have had good health thus far.

So at some point that evening, I asked my mom if she wanted to see the family medical history my aunt had sent me.  I know my original mother's medical history because I know and am able to talk to those family members and receive updates from them regularly.  My connection with my paternal family is different; I am only connected with one aunt who was kind enough to share with me a thorough list of our close relatives and their medical problems.  She looked at it and said something to the nature of: 

"Gosh, maybe it was better not to know."

"Not knowing family medical history does not make it go away or make it irrelevant," I said.

She then mentioned how we knew about my maternal family medical history.  What an adoption worker wrote down, removed identifying information from, and passed it along to my parents after interviewing my mother as a teenager was not family medical history.  I knew what was recorded of my mother, aunts, and uncles at the time of my surrender--all who were in their 20's or younger.

Knowing my grandparents had "this" or "that" at that time period still added to the mystery because I had no information or observation of family patterns--were their ailments more likely to be from lifestyle choices or from genetics?  I had no way of knowing.  Even before I began on my reunion journey and before I began my journey of allowing myself to think and voice my feelings from my adopted perspective, I refused to accept this family medical history.  I left my family medical history forms blank at doctor's offices.

Someone who is biologically-raised might understand how important family medical history is but perhaps in a different way.  Being able to grow up surrounded by relatives and gradually, over the course of your youth and lifetime, receive updates about various things going on in the family does not seem like it would be all that shocking to the system (not to dismiss those who feel it is--I am writing from a place where that was not my experience so I truly don't know).  Going through reunion and finding out everything everyone of the previous three generations has had and died from is overwhelming.  It's a difficulty that comes along with being adopted--but family medical history is no less important to know for us than it is for someone who grew up gradually gathering that information as a part of their upbringing and interaction with family.

One of the most mind-boggling things about this is, I had a mother who was more than willing to share and update her information and my parents would have accepted that information.  The willingness for openness didn't matter to an adoption system that was designed for secrecy.  It still is designed that way, really.

My thoughts and prayers go out to those today who still struggle because of that secrecy.

Photo credit: jscreationzs

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The History of Open Adoption vs. History of Open Adoption Records

I think it's so important to learn about history, especially the history of something that I personally am connected with.  Seeing what happened in the past helps us evaluate the present and make changes for the future.  No more interesting to me is the history of OBC access as well as the history of openness in adoption.  These histories are not widely known; I would hazard to say that they're not even widely known within the larger adoption community. 

OBCs (Original Birth Certificates)
The groups that oppose OBC access rely on two main tactics to do so: (1) adoption stereotypes and (2) selective representation of adoption history, where the history of "Confidential Adoptions" is intertwined (or one in the same) as the history of records access.  The current view by many of these groups is that confidential adoption, which included the sealing of the OBC, was preferable because it allowed an original mother to live her life free of the stigma of unwed motherhood, the adoptee free from the stigma of illegitimate birth, and the Adoptive Parents a child whose past was sealed neatly away.

This summary intertwines the record closures with the state of openness (or lack thereof) in adoption.  But when you look at the actual history, it doesn't fit.  In fact, open adoption vs. open records in adoption have opposing historical trends.  As adoption practice has become more open, records pertaining to an adoptee's pre-adoption history have legally become more closed.

In actuality, amending and sealing began as a way to hide  the "illegitimate" and "bastard" labels that, up until the 1960's, most states were still checking/writing/stamping/placing where the father's name should go, on the birth certificates of children born out of wedlock.  Especially decades ago, the title "bastard" was a defining label and could follow the person for a lifetime.  Adoptees often could access their OBCs until more closures started happening, this time to appeal to Adoptive Parents by enforcing the severance of ties with the Original Family by making the OBC unavailable even to the Adult Adoptee.

To learn more about that history, I recommend the many works by Dr. E. Wayne Carp, Dr. Katrina Wegar, and Professor Elizabeth Samuels.  To learn more about the history of illegitimacy, I recommend "The Sins of the Fathers" by Dr. John Witte.  Ricki Solinger is a leading Historian in Women's Rights and has researched and interviewed surrendering mothers.

I think the codes stating the reasons closures happened that have been found, the actual legal process of amending and sealing, the ads in the newspapers listing a surrendering mother's name (seeking the putative father), and the fact that all adoptees (step-parent, kinship, customary/tribal, etc.) regardless of whether or not they are raised by their natural parent(s) or relatives also have their birth certificates sealed, speaks for itself that OBC access being closed did not have anything to do with concern for whether or not original mothers actually wanted to be anonymous.

Confidential vs. Open Adoptions
As for the history of Confidential vs. Open Adoptions, my reading has lead me to believe that this is completely separate from OBC access.  Foremost, because throughout history, birth records have gradually become more closed (except for the few states that have recently been reformed) while adoptions have gradually become more open.  If they were one in the same, one would think the pattern would be the same.

You  might recall that I wrote about adoptees and their invisible history; how we have foremothers and forefathers who have gone before and fought for our rights.  BJ Lifton, whom our community recently just lost, was one of them.  But original mothers have pioneers in mother's rights too.  I have too often seen these mothers criticized for speaking out.  However, I believe it is the voices of these women that played a large part in why there is more openness and information sharing today.  If it weren't for the mothers who share their stories and spread awareness for change, how much progress would we have made?

And I in no way mean that to assume that adoption is perfect now.  It is far from it.

I was reading a study on openness in adoption, from 2003.  It does confuse OBC access with Confidential Adoptions when giving the historical background of openness in adoption.  Other information in the study was interesting to me, especially because it involved so much history.  The study included history in its literature review but was based on history itself, interviewing adoption agencies in 1987-89, 1993, and 1999 to gather their perceptions of the shift from closed adoptions to more open adoptions in the U.S.
  • Large numbers of Adult Adoptees and original mothers were returning to agencies asking for information (p.3).
  • Organizations supporting Adult Adoptees and original mothers (e.g. ALMA and CUB) began advocating for adoption reform (p.3)
  • These individuals and groups sharing their voices helped bring awareness that openness could be healthy--a concept that was often abruptly rejected before (p.3).
  • The decreased stigmas of unwed motherhood, the decreased amount of babies being placed for adoption, as well as the availability of more reproductive choice gave a new platform by which expectant mothers could speak (p. 3)
  • Some agencies began to realize that it was important to offer open adoptions because of the benefits to the child.  While other agencies may have disagreed with this, the gradual shift towards openness spread.  This was due to the fact that, without complying to the demand that there was for openness, they would not have been able to stay in business (p. 4).
  • During the first interview period '87-'89, 87% of the agencies were offering mediated/confidential adoptions and only 36% offered a "fully disclosed adoption" (p.8). 
  • During the second interview period 1993, both open and closed adoptions were widely offered and only 53% of adoptions were closed.
  • By the final interview period in 1999: "[n]ot a single agency at Time 3 offered only confidential adoptions" (p. 8).
  • Consistent with the historical overview of openness in the study's literature review, agencies from all three time periods stated that the trend toward openness was because mothers demanded it (p.11).
Historically, a lot of poor stereotypes have been spread about adoptees of closed adoptions who sought to open their records or essentially "open" their adoptions by reuniting.  Research consistently credits these adoptees and original mothers who did the same for the existence of open adoptions.  Socially, they changed the "norms" where now surrendering mothers and adoptive parents would not choose adoption unless there was openness.  Agencies had to adapt to the changing social norm.  They were also responding to the closed adoption adoptees themselves who went back to them and said, "this did not work."

The militant mother and adoptee activists from decades ago, whose words are so often hard to hear?  Thank them for open adoption.  They are the reason that it exists.

Things are absolutely not perfect--we still need people sharing their views and experiences.  While the trend toward increasing awareness of both mother's rights as well as openness in adoption was largely due to mothers and adoptees speaking out that the closed system had not worked for them, expectant mothers being able to voice their demands, and increasing societal awareness that things needed to change.....change is still needed.  Openness may be encouraged in the best interest of children but most openness is still not legally enforceable.  A mother who wants an open adoption may surrender with the impression her adoption will be open only for it to close.  Openness in adoption may be used to mislead mothers considering adoption--and this isn't right.  Mothers continuing to speak out about their experiences is vital to spreading awareness and promoting the rights of mothers.  Likewise for adoptees.  Hearing the voices of women and families is vital to understanding what is needed to preserve families.

Thank you, to all who have and are, fighting for the rights of adoptees, women, mothers, children, and families.

Henney, S., McRoy, R., Ayers, L., & Grotevant, H. (2003). The impact of openness on adoption agency practices: a longitudinal perspective. Adoption Quarterly, 6(3), 31-51. Retrieved from Social Work Abstracts database.

"Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. " — Margaret Mead

Monday, November 22, 2010

Challenging the Idea that Oppression is the Fault of the Oppressed

Words can hurt, can't they?  It doesn't matter what movement you are a part of, people who are resistant to change or who lack empathy can say really hurtful or dismissing things.  After a while, these things take their toll.  It's helpful to keep some simple truths at hand to uplift your spirits.

What people with privilege say to oppressed people:

"You're just having a pity party for yourself."
Or....maybe because they have a unique experience, they choose to speak from it so that others can learn and understand what the needs of their group are?

"You're just looking for things to be insulted by."
Or...maybe there is a difference between looking for things to be insulted by and standing up for yourself when something is oppressive to you?

"You just want to tell people what to say and not to say."
Or....maybe that's just another way of saying that you're not willing to make the effort to refer to others in a way that is appreciated and promotes acceptance and positivity for that group.

"You're asking people to be politically correct." what?  Political correctness is a weak gesture towards another human being.  Using acceptable language to refer to others takes a lot less effort than seeking to be kind and discovering what words others appreciate most.

We must stop making oppression the fault of the oppressed, and labeling it as their own personal flaw if they cannot find a way to "get over it."  It makes more sense to instead spread education and teach kindness than it is to apologize for ignorance so that it perpetually exists for no reason at all.  It can be really easy to be discouraged by people who simply do not understand or don't want to.  But I suppose that's what comes along with standing up for what's right. 

Don't be discouraged.

"Correction does much, encouragement does more" -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Photo credit:  Salvatore Vuono

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Rest in Peace Psychologist, Author, & Adoption Activist BJ Lifton

As some of you may already know, BJ Lifton (Betty Jean Lifton) passed away on November 19, 2010.

Lifton was an Adult Adoptee, an Adoptee Rights Advocate, a Psychologist, a therapist, a lecturer, and an esteemed author.  She wrote many books and professional journal articles.  Lifton spoke out about the complexities of being adopted during a time where adoptees rarely did such a thing.  Because of her and many others, we have increased awareness of the many issues surrounding adoption and an improving societal atmosphere to discuss them in.

When adoptees and Adoptee Rights Reformers were criticized, Lifton took a stand for us.

Her books include:
  • Twice Born, Memoirs of an Adopted Daughter
  • Lost and Found, the Adoption Experience
  • Journey of the Adopted Self: A Quest for Wholeness
...among other books and articles.

Lifton also had a website and a blog that I encourage you to check out.

I was only ever able to speak with her a few times when she emailed me after finding my blog.  I had no idea who she was at the time and regret missing the opportunity to ask her questions about her work.

Lifton has been writing, supporting, and advocating for the rights and needs of those within the adoption community for much longer than I've even been alive.  I didn't know her very well and am still diving into her various works; I hope you will check out the blog postings by others who also had a tribute to make to this wonderful woman.

Betty Jean will never be forgotten.  If you are a friend on her Facebook account, please make sure to post a comment on her Facebook wall.

BJ's Obituary

"No one has yet put into words the complexity of being adopted" --BJ Lifton

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Today is National Adoption Day 2010: What Have we Learned?

National Adoption Day is a day where courts across the United States finalize adoptions from the public foster care system.  It is often a day (and November the entire month) where adoption in-general is celebrated and promoted.  I am not a fan of this because: (1) adoption encompasses a great deal of individuals, not all who feel celebration is appropriate or fits their experience in adoption; (2) NAAM and National Adoption day is about promoting the needs of children in foster and the focus on their needs is where the attention should lie; and (3) adoption policy is far behind the advancements adoption has made.

This post will be short; I don't have a lot to say (imagine that!) but what I think people could use today to focus on would be:
  • What are the rights and needs of children, mothers, and families?  How can we serve their needs best?
  • You do not need to erase a person's past and issue altered birth documentation to give them a home.  Let's revisit this issue and restore access to adult adoptees.
  • Who do you know that has been impacted in some way by adoption?  Do you make assumptions about them or have you talked to them personally?  Find out what's important to them.  Become an ally.

Photo credit:  Francesco Marino

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adoptee Feelings are a Reflection of their Experience--Not a Judgement of Others

In the community that I grew up in, there were a lot of stereotypes about unwed mothers and adoption.  In my journey, I've noticed that there are a lot of adoptees who encountered those same stereotypes and there are some who have not.  Of course, the people I've met are not necessarily a representation of what  the majority of adoptees think, it does provide me with insight as to what stereotypes and issues adoptees may encounter.

I recently read one adult adoptee's amazing blog about the struggles of being adopted.  Somewhere in the comments section, it was suggested to him that his adoptive family would be offended by his feelings.  Later, someone suggested that his original mother would be offended of his adoption-specific feelings of ambivalence.

I think part of the disconnect is that some people may not be recognizing that adoptees have their own experience within adoption.  We are not merely an addition to someone elses' experience in adoption.  With a unique experience in adoption comes a perspective that other individuals with different roles in the adoption system may not have.

I think it is very good to encourage empathy and understanding with others.  But there's a difference between encouraging empathy and telling someone their feelings are invalid because of how someone else feels.  I know my original mother has experienced adoption-related pain.  I also know that part of my hurt is knowing that she hurts; she is my mother and I love her.

I remember one of the first things an adoptive family member said to me, they specifically called me to tell me this, when they found out I was seeking reunion was to be sensitive to my parent's feelings.  I don't think anyone can really understand how hard it is to embark on reunion and then to have others enforce the concept of eggshell walking.  At times, I felt like my personal journey was more about making sure everyone else was OK than it was about me.

I will always encourage my children to share whatever they're feeling with me, even if it hurts my feelings, so that I can be there for them.  I hope that no one would ever discourage them from that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Reunions & Boundaries: Being Rejected by my Brother

When I reunited, I was embraced by the entirety of my maternal original family.  Waiting for me on the paternal side, was one aunt.  I also have met one paternal cousin.  My aunt is a wonderful woman.  I have a paternal brother who had spent the entirety of my life thus far convincing himself that I did not exist.  Well, not that I didn't exist as a person, but that I was not his sister.

The first letter I got from my original mother from the intermediary I can remember reading about the two maternal brothers I have.

I have brothers!

Growing up an only child.  I was thrilled to find out that I have not one, not two, but three brothers.

My aunt gave me my brother's email address and gave him mine.  She badly wanted us to connect.  I emailed him and waited.  A few weeks later, he emailed me back.  It was a "it's not you, it's me" type email about how he didn't want to get to know one another.

He was very kind and I don't think that my feelings could have been handled with more care.  But, it still hurt.

My birth State doesn't believe that adoptees are capable of managing boundaries in their relationships with their original families.  Adoptees who reunite through the State are what is called "vetoed."  This means that contact is approved through the government.  At any time, our original families can request that contact be limited or revoked.  This means that we can be held to criminal and civil penalties for contacting our families if our family vetoes us.  Only certain people can request to enforce a veto.  Original mothers can veto adoptees from speaking to their aunts and uncles, for example, even if those adult family members very much want to speak to the adoptee.

However, because my biological father is not officially recognized as my father on my paperwork, I cannot be vetoed from speaking with his family.  I can reach out to my brother at anytime.

But I don't.  While my birth State may not believe adoptees to be capable of managing boundaries in our interpersonal relationships with others, I know that we can assumed to be capable as any other person can be.  I respect my brother's boundaries.  He does not wish to know me at this time.  That is his choice and I respect it.

"Can two walk together without agreeing to go in the same direction?" --Amos 3:3

Photo credit:  jscreationzs

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ignoring Diversity When it Comes to Seeing Adoptees as a Group

I can't help but read/hear quite often the "I know an adoptee who is 'fine' so why aren't you?" answer to an adoptee expressing that something offended them or when they attempt to offer a different perspective on something someone else is saying.  This dismissive response just makes me chuckle to myself any more, because the more adoptees I meet and talk to, the more ridiculous it sounds to me.

The reason being, we are so absolutely diverse.

We are domestic adoptees, infant adoptees, foster adoptees, step-parent adoptees, tribal/customary adoptees, kinship adoptees, transracial adoptees, and we are adoptees from all over the world and residing in countries all over the world.  Sometimes we are a combination of those things (I am sure I missed some).

What our experience in adoption was like can also widely vary.  Some of us know/knew nothing of our original identities and families.  Some of us were raised by at least one natural parent.  Some of us were raised by natural family members.  Some of us were raised in open adoptions.  Some of us did grow up with identifying information on our natural families.  Some of us were able to be open with our adopted status.   Some of us experienced being silenced when talking about it or knowing it was a taboo topic.  Some of us didn't find out we were adopted until later in life.  Some of us have positive relationships with our Original and/or Adoptive Families, some of us do not.

Some of us, hold positive and/or negative opinions, not from our experiences, but because we've researched it.

We may hold membership in other minority groups on top of our adopted status.  Some of us are women, some of us are differently-abled, some of us have surrendered children, some of us belong to racial and ethnic minority groups, some of us are in the aging population, and some of us are members of the LGBTQ community.  Our religious beliefs--or lack thereof--as well as political affiliations and world views may also widely vary.

So honestly, when someone says "oh I know an adoptee....." and they use what they think they know about that person's life to tell me that my experiences or thoughts do not count or don't have a place at the table of adoption discussion; it's a little absurd.

We are a minority group; we have our own unique challenges.  What I like about the adoptee community is that the common ground we share unites us in strengthening our voices and making a positive change in our communities and the world around us.  Individuals who respect one another can go beyond appreciating what they share in common and can appreciate each other's differences and acknowledge that we all have something to "bring to the table" of adoption discussion.  For someone, especially someone that's not adopted themselves, to turn around the strengths in our community as a way to ignore or belittle another community member....I don't know if people understand how truly dismissive and hurtful that is.

This post is part of my series for November's National Adoption Awareness Month.

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono

Monday, November 8, 2010

God's Mandate & the Modern Christian Orphan Movement

Lately I've been seeing a lot of blogs about orphans.  A lot of them are Christian blogs, talking about how God loves adoption and how he calls us to help the orphans.  And thus, they are considering adoption for those reasons.  I've been thinking about this.  I do not believe that modern, physical adoption in any way mirrors spiritual adoption.  However, God does indeed tell us to care for the orphan.

The orphan and the widow.
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands (Deuteronomy 24:19).
In the Old Testament, provisions were made as a sort of Social Welfare program, to provide for families who had no male to provide for them (e.g. mothers and their children) as well as sojourners and strangers.  Women in that time could not own land.  If widowed, they would often marry a male relative to be provided for, to "redeem" her and whatever land/belongings that may be involved (Kinsman Redeemer).  For widows and their children who were not redeemed, they could provide for themselves by following closely after the workers in the fields and vineyards to "glean" what was dropped. 

This was no easy task; while it was against the law for the workers to pick up after themselves so that widowed families could glean, various Bible passages would lead us to believe that they may have been taunted and harassed by workers while gleaning.  The book of Ruth perhaps provides the best description of this part of the law being carried out to provide for sojourners, orphans, and widows.

Mention of "the fatherless" in the King James Version appears 43 times. Rarely are "the fatherless" mentioned in scripture without also mentioning the widowed along with them.

The UNICEF definition of "orphan" is a child who has lost ONE parent and has one still living.

We absolutely need to help and support orphaned and abandoned children.  However, we cannot view these children without also viewing the original context of their families. Where are their families?  What happened to them?  What are their needs?  Our Christian principles affirm this.  God rarely made mandates to meet the needs of children without also including their parents or families.  Christians need to understand that this new and improved "orphan movement" largely decontexts these children from their families as if their families do not exist.  God doesn't do this when he speaks about the orphan and watches over them, and we shouldn't either.

"One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed."  --Proverbs 28:27

This post is part of my series for November's National Adoption Awareness Month.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Using Classism as an Affirmation of Adoption

There were so many other bloggers covering Grayson's case that I didn't make mention of it on my blog yet; I read what they wrote and didn't have much to add.  But some things I have read and heard, such as in news articles, words spoken by anchors themselves, in the comments sections of news articles, topped with recently reading one adoptee blogger's summation of Grayson's case have left me wanting to make a brief posting of my own.

What bothers me is the devaluing of a father's constitutional right to nurture a child that he fathered because he has less of what society values---money.

It makes me sad to hear some adoptees chiming in that they are so glad their original family didn't raise them and then apply it to another adoptee's story.  As if Grayson's father cannot love him or care for him as much as an Adoptive Family could because when adoption is involved, the taboo is always directed at the original family and everything we can find wrong with them.  This isn't the first time I have noticed adoptees speaking poorly in wide generalizations of original families.

Things I think about when I hear certain statements.....

"I am so glad I wasn't raised by her.  My birth mother is a mess...."
Have you ever considered the impact surrendering you might have had on her?  How might her life had been different if support systems were in place?

"I don't like my birth family's values....."
Have you ever considered that you have the values that you do because you were nurtured by a family with those values....but you might have different values, completely unfazed about it, if raised by another family, simply because you wouldn't know anything different?

"I am lucky because my first family is poor...."
Have you considered you would love any family that nurtured you because you were loved and cared for, regardless of their income?  Do you only love your adoptive family because they aren't poor?

Talking about destiny reminds me of this commercial.....

The only difference between this young ballet dancer being the dancing and the one auditioning, the one serving food in a fancy restaurant and the one hobnobbing with important people at the fancy restaurant, and the one performing in the ballet and the one watching the ballet.....was how long it took for her cell phone to load before she set out on her journey that day, the few seconds the phone was delayed not allowing her to be in just the right place at the right time to meet the gentleman that connected her to her dreams.

Of course, it is only a cell phone commercial.  But it does make me think, how is any one ever to say that if "this had happened but not that, life would have been this way, not that way."  It's OK for someone to like their life how it is.  But our reasons for loving our adoptive family far surpass consumerism and wealth.  We do not need to use classism to say why we were glad we were raised by whomever raised us.  Coming to terms with adoption is an important task---but we should be kind and thoughtful in how we verbalize this.

"Obvious enough that generalities work to protect the mind from the great outdoors; is it possible that this was in fact their first purpose?"  --Howard Nemerov

 This post is part of my series for November's National Adoption Awareness Month--promoting the truth about adoption.

Photo credit: jscreationzs

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Adoption & Feeling Blamed

I remember when my son was born.  After 2.5 hours of pushing I was nearly exhausted.  It didn't help that my doctor was absolutely gorgeous and my nurse was a stunning vision of Jennifer Love Hewitt without one hair or a bit of makeup out of place, while I lay there feeling tired and sweaty in my thin hospital gown.  When he was delivered and placed on my chest, I remember my mind doing some sort of mom gymnastics.  I was loving him, amazed by him, and glancing over every part of him to make sure he was OK while bursting into a sudden realization of what motherhood is.  I couldn't help but notice that when he opened his mouth to cry, something seemed odd with his tongue.  I felt concerned yet simultaneously ashamed of myself for noticing that something seemed not-quite-right with this perfect child.  I just wanted to know he would be OK.

I asked about it but the nurses didn't seem concerned.  They were busy making other arrangements to transfer me to the post-delivery part of the maternity floor.  Later on I was told that he had a "tongue-tie" where his frenulum is so short, he is barely able to lift his tongue.  I was informed that this can interfere with his eating and breastfeeding as well as him being able to develop speech later on.  He did have trouble breastfeeding in the hospital and I remember feeling stressed and overwhelmed as each nurse shift would change and another nurse would come in and tell me "a better way" to feed my son. 

Along with the informative explanation about tongue-tie, we were told it was genetic and at some point in the conversation I recall being asked if it ran in either of our families.  My husband was unaware of it being an issue in his family.  Then there was me, the (at the time un-reunited) adoptee with no family medical history.

Back years ago, they would fix tongue-tie right in the hospital, now they want children to go to a specialist.  I realized that if I had been born with it and it had been fixed in the hospital or any time within the first 4.5 months of my life, I would have no way of knowing about it because I had no information about my life or medical care from that time period.  I had no idea if there was anyone else in my family who had it.  I immediately conceded "it must have been from my side," feeling sheepish that I went through 9 months of pregnancy with no genetic information to pass down to the child I had just brought into the world.

I felt horrible.

Maybe I felt like I was indirectly being blamed because they asked the question about family history and I thought it must have been my side he got it from.  Maybe I was blaming myself because when I love someone and want to do everything in your power to make life perfect for them, and when something goes wrong, I can feel like it's my fault even when it isn't.

A professor of mine once talked about how it is important to explain things to others and work on finding the root and a solution, but at the same time not phrase it in a way that makes a person feel like they are being blamed for the issue or problem.

Sometimes I think talking about adoption can be that way.  No matter what some one's connection is in adoption, when we talk about the problems that they feel involve ones they love, they may feel like they're being blamed.  I think it's important to be able to speak about adoption, acknowledge the truth and the problems it entails, and not be hindered by taking things personally.

No, I am not speaking about excusing unethical behavior or suggesting we not correct stereotypes and generalizations either. It has, at times, been hard for me to explain my adopted experience to others because there's adoption-related emotional "stuff" another person may carry that stands in the way of them truly understanding my perspective.  That is what I am reflecting on today in this post.

In case you're wondering now that I'm reunited, I know that tongue-tie doesn't run in my family either!  Go figure!

"The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it." --Terry Pratchett

This post is part of my series for November's National Adoption Awareness Month--promoting the truth about adoption.