Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Coming out of the Fog

This morning I woke up and saw heavy fog out my dining room window.  I had to get out in it to drop off my daughter at school and swing by a generous friend's house who had left me a food-present in her freezer inside of her garage.  As I was driving through this thick fog down Dorothy Lane through a school zone, I started thinking about what it used to be like when I was living in the adoption fog.

For some of you, "adoption fog" might be a strange-sounding term that has no meaning to you.  Let me explain.  Quickly link here for a brief idea of what will follow:

Adoption Reconstruction Stage Theory

When this diagram was first posted on Facebook, there were some upset people who commented. Many said they didn't agree with the final stage of acceptance, especially that we "find peace" with our adoptions.  Many pointed out these stages were not be in order.  Like the stages of grief (Shock, Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Acceptance), you can flip flop through stages and may never fully reach "acceptance".  Everybody grieves in their own time-line.  Adoption Reconstruction Stage Theory is similar to grief in that once you get past the initial "fog" (denial), you will start to feel lots of emotions and have realizations that may have been buried for (quite possibly) decades.



To illustrate the fog a little clearer, it can look like this:

Believing that relinquishment and adoption played no part in your life and that it does not matter in the slightest.

"I'm not interested in knowing anything about my history.  My parents who raised me are my only parents."

(Said to your birth mother) "Thank you for not aborting me"

Considering oneself chosen and lucky to be adopted. (not referring to being thankful for parents here)

Adopting a child from another country believing that you have saved an orphan just like you were saved from a potentially horrible fate.

Getting really angry and/or judging other adoptees who speak freely about their pain, anger and outrage at a system of adoption based on profits.

Believing all adoption is good because yours was a good experience and accusing other adoptees of being angry, bitter and ungrateful if they express a less-than-perfect view of adoption

Continuing the myth that Adoption is the only alternative to Abortion (really, parenting is).

Denying that you ever think of your birth parents, circumstances at birth or place of birth on your birthday or Mother's Day and that you are only grateful to be alive.



What it looks like when you come out of the fog:

You start to wish you knew somebody who looked like you and shared your dna.  (sudden realization that you are tired of being the only one in the family with dark skin and is 6'3").

You have just given birth and you cannot possibly fathom what your birth mother was thinking when she left you with strangers to raise.

You innocently call up your adoption agency and you are shocked to learn that your own records can be viewed by strangers but you cannot see them.

You order your birth certificate and realize that your real birth certificate is sealed from your view but the clerk at the Vital Stats can look at it any time he wants.

Your mother dies and when sorting through her belongings, you find your adoption paperwork containing information that you never knew before.

You realize the story you were told about your "real" parents dying in a car accident was a lie.

You have just given birth and you have to leave your child in the NICU and can't stop crying because you are checking out of the hospital without him.

You see for the first time in your child, the genetic similarities in looks, personality and interests and finally realize that DNA really does matter, despite what others had told you.

You finally start to understand why you were always depressed on your birthday and/or Mother's Day.

You read The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier or Journey of the Adopted Self by Betty Jean Lifton and your perspective shifts dramatically.

You meet another adoptee who feels exactly like you and realize you weren't crazy after all.

You spontaneously cry or feel triggered whenever you watch Elf, Matilda, Little Orphan Annie and the other hundreds of movies based on the cultural view of adoption.

You realize when filling out your umpteenth medical history form that you really do have a right to a medical history like everybody else. (and if you are ornery like me, you write on the form "Adopted! Yep! It sucks!)

You meet your birth parents and realize they weren't the crack addicted, homeless people that others led you to believe and/or you imagined.

You meet your birth parents and realize they really loved and missed you and didn't just drop you off and forget about you.

You understand and have empathy for other adoptees you meet who are still in the "fog" and you allow them to be who they are and walk their own path in their own timing (it's not easy, but we have been in your shoes before).














Monday, November 25, 2013

Adoptees Supporting Adoptees

This past weekend I had the pleasure of driving to Indiana to meet in real life with a fellow adoptee who I had met on Facebook, spoken to by phone and through Skype.  Her name is Lisa and I will be posting her interview on the Adoption Perspectives show regarding her adoption story below.

We met in Richmond, Indiana at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant where Lisa ordered her favorite food -- chicken and dumplings.  I ordered the sampler platter and only liked the Chicken and Dumplings. Our lunch felt comfortable, like we had met many times before.  Lisa shared with me the details of her reunion with her brother who too loves chicken and dumplings.  Lisa also shared with me the many difficulties she has experienced while searching and processing new information she has learned during reunion.  Details aren't important for this blog; however, it was so nice to be able to speak freely with another adopted person about our struggles growing up adopted, how we began to heal and search, and laugh about how God is Great, Beer is Good and People are Crazy!


After lunch, we drove to the Antique Mall in Centerville, Indiana and spent a few hours browsing the never ending shelves of antiques.  We giggled and just walked down memory lane as we saw different toys from our childhoods and commented on how many of our relatives owned these trinkets at one time or another.  We managed to spend hours shopping without buying one single thing!



Today I am reflecting on what makes it so easy to be able to talk to another adoptee and I had also thought back to all the adoptees I have known personally over my lifetime.  Here are some common traits I have noticed in adoptees:

Laid back and easy to talk to
Will call bullshit when we see it
We are not trying to be somebody we are not
We go our own separate way than our adoptive families while still loving our families
Are fun to hang out with!

Ok, so maybe I'm a little biased, but that is what I've seen amongst adopted people I know.

The greatest thing in my opinion about hanging out and talking with other adoptees, and Lisa was no exception, is that you can speak freely about your adoption, share both positive and negative feelings, the good, bad, and ugly aspects of reunion without having to explain or answer a ton of questions.

No need for explanation as to "Why are you searching? or "What does your adoptive mother think about you searching?

That is the beauty of hanging out with a fellow adopted person.

THEY JUST GET IT!

I am posting a recent interview that Lisa did documenting her struggles growing up adopted. She is able to truly verbalize these struggles in a way that many adoptees cannot so not only do I admire Lisa for her honesty, but by speaking out she is helping other adoptees and adoptive parents understand what it feels like growing up in our shoes.




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Warning! I have issues!

As an out-of-the-closet adoptee, people may assume that I have completely come to terms with all things adoption-related. Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have some major issues, which I would call life-long, as an adult adopted woman. Are these issues post-adoption or just life issues? Who knows! They all blend together, I guess.

It is true, that I no longer feel ashamed for speaking about my losses, pain, fears, anger, etc.  The part of me that was not o.k. with myself has been healed for the most part.  However, there are some life-long issues I deal with in marriage, at work, as a parent and a friend.  

You are probably wondering why I decided to write about my "issues" in this blog post.  I guess part of the mythology that comes along with being adopted is that we are either expected to have peculiar psychology (like a serial killer) or we are considered completely FINE with all things adopted since loving parents raised us (assumption-- not necessarily truth).  The truth always lies somewhere in the middle.

I have my issues and I have my strengths.  I accept myself, warts and all, and I hope that by sharing my own warts with you, it can help you in some way wherever you are in the adoption constellation. 

Adoption itself is an issue for me as I have (hopefully by now) shown within this blog. However, what does that mean exactly?  It means I have some learned behaviors in reaction to losing my first family and gaining a different one.   I also have learned behaviors from growing up in a dysfunctional home.

Identity

This major issue has been covered the most in my blog; however, it bears repeating:  when you don't know where you come from, it is a major stumbling block.  Search and a reunion with my maternal side as an adult has been very healing for me as well as learning about myself through DNA (see this blog where I learned my ethnicity after living over 40 years not knowing it).  However, identity issues still haunt me. 

I am currently in a place of working on acceptance in this area.  However, I will not gloss over the fact that not having my paternal history puts both me and my son at risk by not having a complete medical history.  I write about this issue here.

Pushing people away

My husband can attest to this one.  We have some communication limitations in our marriage, like most marriages, and when the heat is up, I will push him away in response to his pushing me away. When both people are pushing, it makes for a difficult time to come to together and resolve things. This is an area I will probably never fully heal as it has been an ingrained behavior since childhood.  I just accept it for what it is -- my protecting myself from rejection.

Hanging in relationships too long

I attribute this to my reverse fear of abandonment.  Because I fear abandonment, I don't want to abandon others when clearly there is a big white flag waving in my face that the relationship needs to end.  I have drug some relationships out and even tried to revive them after death.  This part of me has been healing and I have recently ended a couple relationships in my life as a result of this healing. I finally realized I deserve to be treated as well as I strive to treat others.  

I have noticed since I ended some painful relationships, I have had much more time and energy to focus on my "business" and I am improving in that area daily.  My psyche is also freed up from the negative input that was surrounding me within those relationships.  

Being the ear for everybody

I was not listened to as a child.  So as an adult, sometimes instead of dealing with my own stuff, I listen to everybody else's and I am told I am good at it.  I probably should have become a counselor, but the truth is, I am a little exhausted from hearing everybody's problems!  Now I listen when I am in a good place and when I'm not, I don't answer my phone, email or the door!  I have learned to take care of myself but this is an issue I still struggle with. I work with a population that tells me their stories on a daily basis and I feel that this is where my gifts lie, but sometimes I need to hang up the counselor/listening hat and just be alone. Being alone is my favorite activity -- it re-energizes me and allows me to be a better person.

Guilt

Guilt is something I have struggled with alot in the past year.  I am healing in this area.  Ending painful relationships leaves you with guilt -- even if you know you have done your best.  It is something that can be worked through and I am facing it head on.  In my head, I know the difference between true guilt (when I have breached my own ethics) and false guilt (guilt from other people's drudge).  My heart is slowly catching up with my head.

I have relied on God and praying alot this past year at work especially.  It really does help me to put myself aside and really hear people that I talk to.   I could be sitting in my car crying 10 minutes before work but then have a really good day in spite of that.  (Yes, this is a true story that repeats some days).

Not taking care of my business

One of my good friends says, "If you don't take care of your business, your business will take care of you".  Oh, how true that is.  I am really bad about sorting through paperwork/mail, etc at home.  I just want to pretend it is not there and sometimes I do just that.  I ignore it.  Well, we all know that if you don't stay on top of your stuff, appointments will be missed or worse.  I'm working towards facing my disaster of a dining room full of only God-knows what, one paper at a time.  It's like I have a fear of actually looking at this stuff. I have no idea what this is about but I'm fighting against my avoidance of all things paper.  The crazy thing is, I have really good organizational skills.  I know where most things are in my house, except for my paperwork.  

You may have completely different or many similar issues as I do.  Whatever they are, I hope you will have the strength and commitment to face them, accept them and love yourself in spite of them.

Peace to you:)





















Sunday, September 22, 2013

When Your Adoption Reunion Goes Bust (Hold on to the Good)

I wanted to do a post about "failed" adoption reunions because I hear from many adoptees who are in the same boat as myself. I don't like to view my adoption reunion as a failure. I have had many people (including other adoptees who have not taken the plunge themselves) assume that my reunion was a failure because there were certain outcomes that did not meet my expectations.

 I look at my adoption reunion as successful, even though the relationship with my mother could not last.

I have no regrets at all about my reunion. I had two decades to think about having a reunion with my mother and deal with all the emotional baggage that comes along with being raised in closed adoption.  At some point, I decided to hell with the outcomes, I was just going for it.  (I got in touch with my inner badass).

On some level I knew that my reunion with my first mother would not be a life-long relationship. Before I flew into Philadelphia, I had carefully prepared a photo album of my life for her because I secretly feared that we may only see each other that one time. I knew something was amiss after speaking with my mother on the phone, but I ignored the little voice that was trying to tell me something.   I just wanted my mother to have that photo album of my life in case at some point, she no longer had me.

My friend Vaseem who has walked this journey with me, said to me one time early in my reunion:

"Your finding your mother is probably going to be more important for her, than it is for you".

I could not totally understand what he meant at the time.  In the high emotions of finding my mother, I could not imagine that I would be more important to her than she was to me my whole life.  I figured she thought about me now and then, but finding her was one of my biggest life quests that thinking she could be affected as much or even more than me, was not yet registering on my radar screen.  Like all children (even adult ones) we tend to be self-centered.

This reunion was about me!  Once I was knee-deep into the reunion, and talked to other mothers-of-loss in the adoption community, it finally hit me that my finding my mother was a huge moment for her as well.  I jumped into reunion without being fully prepared for the many outcomes.  One of my blind spots is always to do things myself, instead of seeking out the guidance of others who have walked the path before me.

I don't know if my mother also went into a depression, almost got divorced and thought she had lost her mind, like I did -- I will never know, because our relationship could never get past the surface.  But even with the emotional hell I went through, I have no regrets.

I do know that whether my mother admits it or not, losing me was a profoundly painful experience.  And then realizing I was alive and well, must have been both painful and healing for her.  My reappearing in her life  forced her to face things in her life that she had successfully buried for decades.  I have never walked in her shoes and I can only imagine the difficulty she experienced upon giving me up and never knowing if I was o.k..

When your reunion goes bust, the healthiest thing you can do is hold on to the good.


My mother is beautiful.  I never thought I was beautiful growing up but since meeting my mother, I now see myself as beautiful too.  My mother is artistic.  I am proud of her for never giving up on her creativity.

Because my mother said yes to me, I learned I have siblings -- most importantly a sister. I always wanted a sister.  Somebody who I could tell secrets to growing up.  Fortunately, God gave me that person when he put Marla (another adoptee) in my life and house growing up.  We are still sisters to this day but it is still really cool knowing I have a sister-by-blood.

I have two really cool cousins that I just love to pieces.   My first cousin Jackie I met in 2011 in Florida.   It was amazing to see how much we are alike.  She is blonde and blue-eyed but my husband said our mannerisms are very similar.  Our daughters hit it off and it was such a wonderful two days we got to spend together.

My first cousin John (who lives 10 minutes from my house) is a local celebrity in my home town.  I ran into him last night at a Taste of Miami Valley and I couldn't stop hugging him.  I love that guy!  He welcomed me immediately into my new family and even brought me some photos of his family (including my mother) when they were living in Chicago.  I felt an instant connection with him upon our initial phone call (probably because he too is an adoptee). When I'm holding on to the good, I hold John in my heart.

My family tree on ancestry makes my heart happy every time I log in.  Every time my editor (Zack) adds another branch to my tree, I feel more connected to the human race.

Since my reunion, I have met many amazing people involved in the Adoptee Rights Coalition and now I too am part of that amazing group.  I have spoken to and corresponded with hundreds of adoptees around the United States and even beyond --

The door that opened me up to all these experiences was that day I sent $500.00 into The Cradle Adoption Agency, Post-Adoption Services.  The year was 2006.  And it changed my life.








Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Adoption law in the U.S.: The True Villain in the Baby Veronica case


I don't claim to be a legal expert* -- only one of many millions who have watched this train-wreck of a case come to pass. I'm just another adoptee who has an unknown father out there somewhere in the world.  My father was not considered in my adoption nor was his parentage considered as important to my "case".   My father was neither notified or asked what he thought of my adoption -- according to my adoption agency.

I was talking to my husband today about how the Baby Veronica case demonstrates the larger problem of father's rights in this country.  My husband, one of the best men and fathers I know, was treated poorly by crappy divorce laws (like millions of other men) and he responded by doing the right thing (paying child support and driving out of town to visit with his daughter every other weekend for over 10 years).   Like Dusten Brown, my husband's  role and importance in his daughter's life was minimized and marginalized by not only his former wife, but the law.

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) has become the main focus on this case, which in all fairness was a technicality Dusten's lawyers could use to stop this unethical adoption in its tracks.  Because let's face it, had Dusten not been a member of Cherokee Nation, he would have likely never received his daughter for the 2 years he has been parenting her.

This does not make the ICWA a bad law or a problem.  It was put in place to stop the exploitation of Native children and should remain in effect.  It's one of the few laws that actually does attempt to keep children with their biological families and should be respected as is.  The real problem that is being covered  up by all the hoopla in the media is that unmarried fathers are in a no-win position when it comes to private adoption.

The mother, Christy Maldonado, did two right things.  She informed her attorneys who the father was and that Dusten Brown was a member of the Cherokee Nation.  The attorneys knew this, yet somehow his name got misspelled and his birth date listed incorrectly on the correspondence sent to Cherokee Nation. All three parties of this case (Christy, Dusten and the Capobiancos) have been vilified as the problem in this case; however, I say that the adoption industry along with unfair adoption laws are the bigger problem.

What jumps out for me is that had Dusten not been a member of Cherokee Nation, he wouldn't have had a leg to stand on if he had not known about Veronica when he was away serving our country. 

Dusten, being an unmarried father, would have been treated like the other unmarried fathers in this country.  As a nobody without any rights.  Mothers who relinquish have all the rights to do what they see fit for their baby. Adoption law puts the mother in a superior legal position to make decisions at the expense of the father's and child's rights. 

The child's right to continue his tie to his biological family is not even considered in adoption law as long as the mother consents to relinquish.  His very identity is not even addressed except to cover it up with an amended birth certificate.   A mother can disconnect her child's ethnicity, blood, rights to inheritance, name, and future all by signing a one page document in front of an attorney, social worker and notary outside of Court.

In other cases, we see this scenario played out repeatedly:  we have a hormonal, sad and angry mommy (with very little support by society to keep her baby), signing over her baby as soon as she is released from the hospital, many times without the father's knowledge or consent and we call this ethical?  We call this "best interests of a child"?

Make no mistake, Dusten Brown was lucky he even knew about his child.  He was lucky to get the famous "text message" where he supposedly gave up his rights.  The way the laws stand in many states, the mother had no legal obligation to tell Dusten a thing.  She could have quietly left the state, handed over the child and lied about who the father was (like mothers were encouraged to do during the Baby Scoop Era) and the adoptive parents and father would be none the wiser.

In many states, the Putative Father Registry is what allows relinquishing women to get around the unmarried fathers of their children.  The theory is, if the father is interested in parenting, he would sign up for this unheard of and unknown Putative Father Registry in order to obtain legal notice of an adoption of his child.

I know this is true in Ohio because this law applied in my daughter's adoption.  The Putative Father Registry serves a purpose (because of unknown fathers or fathers who disappear) but is a horrible idea in actual practice.  This registry is supposed to be advertised but have you ever heard of it?  The registry requires that unmarried men sign up with the names of every woman they have ever had sex with in order to be notified of a potential adoption.  No, I am not kidding. (Read Erik Smith's post about his crazy experience with the registry here).

This is an unfair burden to put on men.  We talk about men not stepping up and then we see one who does and suddenly, he is vilified and told to go back to Oklahoma because the "real parents" are in South Carolina.  It's the typically sad portrayal similar to divorce in the U.S. "Mom versus Dad"  "Adoptive Parents versus Dad" . . . couldn't we better spend our energy on thinking about how we got to this point of vilifying parents and pitting them against each other?  Until we can understand how we got here, there will be many more Baby Veronicas in the future.

Even though the law said my daughter's unmarried father had no right to know anything about our adoption petition (because he failed to sign up for the Putative Father Registry), I called him anyway.  It was the right thing to do.  He gave us his blessing.  He did not hire an attorney, he did not file a paternity case, he did not provide support nor did he ask to visit.  He did what most fathers do when they don't want to parent:  nothing.  He went on with his life. 

Now contrast this to Dusten.  Initially, Dusten was reported as being less than enthused at the thought of being a parent again (he has another daughter).  However, when he realized that his daughter had been placed for adoption (without his knowledge), he hired a lawyer and fought.  And he is still fighting.  This is what is expected of a father who wants to parent his child:  pay a lawyer untold amounts of money so you can have a right to your own child.  Why no presumption that Veronica is better off with Dusten from the start?

In family law cases outside of adoption law, the presumption is that children should live in their original families unless the parent(s) cannot achieve the goals of a case plan.  If the case plan is completed, the family is reunited. Parents have a year or two to prove that they can reunite the family before adoption would ever enter in as a possibility.

Adoption law makes placing children with strangers too easy.  It's too easy for a mother to sign a relinquishment in many cases 72 hours after birth while hormones are pulsing through her and emotional distress is heavy on her mind.  She fears abandonment, homelessness, possibly losing her other children, and she is supposed to make this huge, life-altering decision for herself and her child and never for one moment waver or later change her mind?

It is no accident that the law makes it easy for mothers to relinquish.  The laws are in support of the money-making private adoption industry.  Lobbyists for the adoption agencies have the money and time to make sure adoption laws are slanted in their favor.

In private adoption, once a relinquishment is signed by the mother, the adoptive parents are on equal legal ground with the mother.  This is not good if the mother changes her mind before the adoption is finalized.  She is forced to fight people she many times hand-picked to parent her child.  Parents with more money and the ability to continue paying their lawyer.

We pretend that Mom having her own lawyer makes this all ethical.    If that same mother changed her mind four months into an adoption placement (before finalization), she would be vilified just like Dusten Brown and the majority of the people would cry "no-do-overs, Mama!".  Her lawyer would likely tell her to hang it up and forget it.  No do-overs, Mama. . . sorry you lost your child forever and your child has lost you and her original identity as well.

Why is this ok?  And why are there no laws in place protecting a child's right to her OWN parents and her OWN heritage instead of laws that swiftly take away these birth rights? Answering these questions with the tired, worn-out reply that adoptive parents are the real parents doesn't hold water.

Handing adoptive parents an amended birth certificate in no way changes the reality of who gave birth, who fathered the child, who their ancestors are and who they look like. A final adoption decree does not necessarily mean an adoption of a child was handled fairly and ethically.  When we leave fathers out of the picture, how can we say adoption is ethical?

As it stands now,  the unmarried father -- if he is even aware there is an adoption petition filed-- is on even lesser legal ground than the mother and the prospective adoptive parents, unless he has jumped through the prescribed hoops:  providing support to the mother and child in utero and after birth, signing up for the Putative Father Registry, filing a paternity action, and asserting his rights in Court. And even then, he has to prove he is more fit than married, financially stable adoptive parents. (Fathers, go here to find out how to stop your child from being adopted without your consent).

If a father has not jumped through the prescribed hoops, he has legally abandoned his child.  The legal abandonment is what allows many adoptions to become finalized. (One glaring problem being - how can a person truly abandon a child when he doesn't even know the child exists?)

The father has to be psychic (sometimes) and super-human to ever stop an adoption of his child. And we wonder why some men give up and walk away from their children.  We demoralize fathers before they have had even had a chance to show what they can do.

And the general public stands on the sidelines cheering this injustice on.  We cheer for the adoptive parents, many who are infertile, because we feel they deserve to be parents. They put in the sleepless nights for the first few months and should be able to keep the child, right?  They paid medical bills for the mother, and home study fees and their lawyer, so giving back the child to his or her original family would be too much to ask, right?

Note that foster parents put in the same commitment and work in as do prospective adoptive parents but we would be outraged if they refused to return children to their biological families.

When a child was removed from a parent's home in the custody cases I used to work in, there was a "due diligence search" required, meaning the case worker has to make every attempt to find a family member where this child could be placed before putting the child into foster care.

Why no due diligence search in private adoption?  Why is the mother's preference more important than the what the father and his family wants?  Why no law that protects Veronica's right to her original family (other than the ICWA) until the Judge is absolutely certain nobody in her family wants to parent her and is fit to provide for her? 

My position is that all fathers, even unmarried ones, deserve to know they fathered a child.  If this slows down an adoption, then so be it.  DNA tests should be ordered and proof of notification of the biological father and consent should be received before an adoption is finalized. Good fathers should not be penalized for the sins of the deadbeat dads.

Children want and deserve their parents, even if they live on a dirt floor (with thanks to my sociology professor).  Even if there are others out there with more money waiting in the wings to rescue them.

Their parents can include adoptive parents but adoption should only occur after all efforts have been made to preserve the original family. We need laws in adoption that better protect and support mothers, fathers and children.





 *all legal opinions expressed here are solely the opinion of this author. This article is not to be construed as legal advice and is not to be copied without this author's express permission.







Friday, August 16, 2013

Being a "bitter" and "angry" adoptee is hard work

How many times have I been accused of being an "angry adoptee"?

Well, usually I am accused of this when I point out something blatantly wrong about the adoption industry.

Usually, it is a non-adoptee or an adoptive parent who says it.  It is usually never another adoptee unless they have not dealt with their own adoption issues.

In fact, I've been accused of being too adoption-loving by some adoptees.  That one just blows my mind!

I'm usually accused of this through electronic communications (probably because adoption is not my favorite topic of conversation in real life) by people who have big computer screen kahunas, but would never call me up and say "Hey, help me to understand your perspective here." 

I have been told not to show so much emotion on my blog.   I've been accused of stepping off my spiritual path.  I've been told I have "anger issues".

And you know what?  I take all of these comments as a compliment.

I know -- sounds crazy, doesn't it?  But what it really means to me is that I am not in "the adoption fog" or "numb to my feelings".  It means that I can feel the ups, downs and heart breaks of this journey called adoption.  People who can't feel are in a world of hurting. They just go through the motions of life without really experiencing it.  They make decisions with only their heads -- not their hearts.

It may be hard for some people to believe, but adoption is only a very tiny aspect of who I am as a person.  You may know me for three years or a lifetime and have never heard me discuss adoption with you (unless you asked me a question adoption-related).  I would never try to pressure another adoptee to search for birth family or join the Adoptee Rights Coalition because I truly believe these decisions are very personal and should be made only when and if one is ready or interested.

I love my life. I love to make jokes and have fun.  I love people, animals and sunsets. Basically, I'm pretty much just like you, except that I was raised within an institution that I do not agree with.

Does that mean I don't love my adoptive family?  Absolutely not.  Does that mean I am not thankful for my adoptive family? (grateful needs to be permanently removed from adoption)?  No! 

What it means is that I do not agree with lying to children about where they came from.  I do not agree that falsifying documents is a good legal practice.  I thought the law was supposed to be about justice.  Call me naive, but that is one of the things I like about working in the legal field -- the justice aspect of it.

Currently, I see very little justice within private adoption in the United States.  I don't see any justice in the Veronica case either. (a little plug for Two Worlds Radio that will be interviewing several Lost Daughters including myself and Trace DeMeyer, a Native American adoptee, about this case--this Sunday night at 10:00 p.m.)  You can visit Trace at her blog.

Does adoption give children a safe and loving home? Hopefully, yes.  Sometimes, no.   I hope that adoption gives all adoptees a safe loving home because isn't that what adoption claims to be about?  I hope all current and future adoptees grow up to become happy, healthy and whole.

Part of growing up happy, healthy and whole is knowing where you came from.  Knowing that the people who say they love you aren't lying to you.  Knowing that you are treated equally as a U.S. citizen to every other person in this country.

I did not grow up whole and yes, it makes me angry.  I don't want other adoptees to grow up feeling like I did and then have layers of guilt to uncover to get to the truth of who they are.  I get really tired of non-adopted people who say that their life was so much worse growing up with their biological families.  (and have some silly adoption fantasy about how their life would be better).  This is not a comparison of whose life was better or worse.

What you can compare is that the greatest majority of biological family members take it for granted that the people who raised them are their genetic family.  They take it for granted that they can call their grandmother for information or research their family tree and have an accurate starting place.  They take it for granted that their birth certificate has accurate information on it. 

 It makes me angry that I am still trying to piece together my history like a whole series of Who Do You Think You Ares but instead of answers by the genealogists, they are scratching their heads and going, "Sorry, we just don't know". 

Angry people are the change-makers.  Do you think women were happy when they couldn't vote?  Do you think slaves were content with their plight?   When people get angry enough about mistreatment, generally, they stand up and try to to fight for change.

I do not want to be remiss in thanking the overwhelming majority of you who read my blog and post comments and message me privately with support.  That means alot to me.  In fact, knowing your stories helps me to heal my own wounds and continue to fight the good fight.

So when you accuse me of being angry -- thank you.  I will continue to be angry about the injustices I see in adoption and I will continue to fight for change.






Thursday, August 8, 2013

It only takes one person to believe in you


As I was cheering a friend on today through a really ugly drama, I remembered a story told by Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  I have read all her books so I believe I read it first and then heard her talk about it on her radio show when I used to listen.  (Please don't even go all "I hate Dr. Laura" on me because I love her even though I disagree with her ideas about adoption).

My friend referred to has been in an isolated situation within her marriage.  For years, she had nobody to talk to. She always reminds me that I am the one person she can talk to (for which I feel honored).  We met by chance when she thought my dog (a white Maltese) was her lost dog (a white Shitzu) one day at a children's playground.  Our kids are like siblings at this point and we see each other every day.


 But back to Dr. Laura's story . . . .

When Dr. Laura was in practice as a marriage and family counselor, she counseled a woman who had past drug issues and not a very supportive family.  Dr. Laura found this client to be highly intelligent and throughout the counseling, mirrored this and other positive attributes she saw back to the woman.

This woman, not only went through drug treatment successfully, she went on to receive several college degrees.  Why?  Because Dr. Laura saw something in her that nobody else had cared enough to see.  Dr. Laura believed in this woman which in turn helped the woman believe in herself.

This may sound like a hokey story for the average person who has many supportive friends and family.  But there are people in your circle right now who confide in nobody. There are people who feel alone in their pain.

How does this translate to adoption?   I had one person for years who supported me throughout my search for my roots -- my husband.  He was my rock and for that, I will truly be forever grateful.  Later, my search angel, Greg, mentioned that he was helping me in my search to "pay it forward".  Thinking back to how he put his neck on the line for me (a complete stranger) brings tears to my eyes.

If I accomplish nothing else, I want this blog to be a safe place for adoptees to come and know that even if nobody else in their lives are supportive of their need to know who they are, I am. If nobody else in your life understands the frustration of having no records, information or clue about your identity, I do understand, because I've lived it. 

If every single person in your life is saying "just get over it -- let sleeping dogs lie"  -- know that I will never say that and will be cheering you on when you accomplish each and every milestone in this life-long journey of adoption.

Many adoptees feel stifled, afraid and alone. Many only feel safe in speaking to one confidant or none at all.  Many only speak freely in the private Facebook adoption groups.  I listen and converse with adoptees every day.  Many of them are very well-adjusted, from loving adoptive families, are well-spoken professionals who have everything in their lives together, but this one piece (adoption).

There is shame involved in being adopted, but it is more of a hidden shame than what adoptive parents feel about infertility and birth parents feel about being unmarried and pregnant.   It's an un-named shame which some will call the "fog" and others will deny because we didn't "do anything" to earn it.  But it's there, along with the fear and the denial. 

As a society, we have a long way to go to allow honest dialogue from adoptees without the bashing, assumptions, myths and glamorization that come along with adoption.


It only takes one supportive person to help another believe in themselves and push forward.

Be that person.








Friday, July 26, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Relative Adoption


Pro:  Keeping a child within their biological family

I listed this first because I believe that this is the biggest pro of relative adoption (also known as "kinship adoption").  Roots, family and kin are so important to adopted children.  It is a child's right to be with their kin if it is possible. 

Knowing where you come from should never be underestimated nor should a child's knowledge that the family he was born into wanted them to stay part of the family.  Many adoptees believe that there is no good reason for adoption even amongst relatives, but I disagree.  Adoption, as it is currently practiced, is the best form of permanence currently available for children.   I didn't say I liked the way it was practiced, but its permanence is something I do like. 

Con:  Visitation and contact is not guaranteed

Just because a child is being raised by an aunt and uncle or a grandmother, there is no guarantee that there will be any form of contact.  Once the adoption is finalized, visitation and contact is completely decided by the relative adoptive parent(s).  Check with an attorney in your state to see if open adoption agreements are honored by the law.  In most states, they are not.

Pro:  Adoptive parents get to make decisions about child's welfare

The pro side of not being forced into visitation and contact with certain family members who are dysfunctional is that the Court will not force you.  Under the law, you are seen as the biological parents once the adoption is finalized.  If drunk grandpa won't stop saying inappropriate things to the child, like any parent, you can decide drunk grandpa won't be around the child any longer.  Adoption allows parents to act like parents without the worry that they will be hauled into court for every decision they make (like in divorce court).

Con:  Family roles change or become confusing

This is one area that my family underestimated.  We were warned by the social worker about this, but you never really know how this will play out until the adoption is finalized.  There are dual roles in relative adoption.  You could be aunt and mom.  You could be dad and grandpa.  You could be uncle and brother.  People worry that it is confusing for the child, but I have found that not to be true so far in our family.  It's more confusing for the adults who get their roles confused. Am I grandma or great grandma? Am I really mom or should I tell the child I am her aunt as well?  In our family, we have been honest as questions are brought up by our daughter. So far she has taken it all in stride.\

Pro:  Name change

This is true in any adoption -- not just relative adoption. The adoptive parent(s) may keep the child's original name or can change the child's name if this is a decision that the parents believe is in the child's best interest.  Many adult adoptees see their name being changed as a con and will, as adults, legally change their name back to their original name. 

Con:  an amended birth certificate

An amended birth certificate will be issued with the adoptive parent(s) names and the original birth certificate with biological parents names will be sealed by the state.  A majority of states will not allow the adoptee a copy of his/her original birth certificate. This is true for step-parent adoptions too. I urge all adoptive parents to get involved in adoptee rights and change these horrendous, discriminatory laws.

Pro:  The amended birth certificate allows for privacy and will allow the child to go through school without the curious public asking questions about the child's name. 

Pro and Con:  Family relationships change forever.  

I believe in our case, that we protected our daughter from a life of dysfunction, neglect and pain.  She gets to be a happy kid, with her biological kin and know she is loved.  Whenever i think about the con of losing her mother (our family member), although completely unexpected, I have to say it was worth the price.  It's sad and we didn't know we would be losing her at the time the adoption was finalized, but it is the way it is.  This may not be true for every relative adoption.  Maybe you will lose more than one family member.  Maybe your entire family will turn on you for doing what you believe is right. 

If you are raising your sister's child, there will likely be resentment by your sister.  Your mother may consider your child to be your sister's child.  Your father may favor your sister's subsequent kids.  Family dynamics are unique in each family and will be played out in a unique way post-adoption.  Just be prepared for the these types of situations ahead of time and get a good family therapist if you need help.

We all walk a different path and can only come to our own conclusions about family, but understand that family relationships will be changed forever after a relative adoption-- for the good and the bad.








Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Please stop glamorizing adoption!



I cannot turn on my t.v. or go to the movies without an adoption theme running through the story-line.  What is the obsession with adoption in this country?

I purposely watched Switched At Birth last night as I tuned out for most of this season and watched Smash and now that Smash was cancelled, I'm back to Switched at Birth.  I love the way the writers can capture what it is like living with people you are not blood related to.   It doesn't mention adoption but it really captures the essence of what adoptees feel.  It shows the difficulties inherent in switching children in families.  It does not glamorize adoption per se.

But back to my rant . . . . .I'm Having Their Baby?  The title is so disgusting to me that I can't bare to even watch it one time.  No, honey -- you are not having their baby . . you are having your baby.  If you want to hand the baby over to strangers, then it is your right; however, let's not try to white wash reality -- you are not a "birth mother" until you sign the relinquishment papers, and even then the term birth mother really annoys me.  You are actually a mother. Plain and simple.  You just chose not to parent.

I know that my opinion is probably not P.C. but that is how I see it.  You are a mother if you give birth.  Even if you never hold that child, you are a mother.  Even if you deny being a mother because you want to erase that time period from your mind, you are still a mother.   Even if your child's birth certificate does not list your name and instead lists the adoptive parents -- you are still a mother.

But why glamorize this truly sad start to a child's life?  It is not glamorous to be an orphan.  It is not glamorous to feel "saved" by people who, hopefully, but many times do not, love you and raise you well. It is not glamorous to find out as an adult you are treated like a second class citizen under the law.  It is not glamorous when friends and strangers cannot understand why you are not deleriously happy about their questions and comments about how lucky you are and asking where your "real mother" went.

If I weren't such an open book by nature, I think I might give myself a do-over and NEVER tell another soul I was adopted.  Not one kid in middle school who could use it against me and not one adult who could project their own ideas about adoption onto me.  I can totally understand why adopted kids don't want to talk about it.  I completly get it because it's like opening the door to a bombardment of questions.

Just sharing with people that I was undergoing dna testing, the questions hit me like a ton of bricks.  I instantly felt defensive, although I try not to come across that way, as my hope is to educate.  But really, why do I have to explain why my dna is important?  Why do I have to explain why I want to know who my father is like you do?

The fact that adoption is glamorized in the media is one of the biggest reasons I think people want to know about the adopted life.  Because it is so interesting.  I admit, my life is interesting, but in a weird way like I'm a fish in a fishbowl and everybody is staring down into the bowl trying to figure out why fish don't enjoy fish bowls.

Yes, in a way, I've brought this on myself because I write about adoption.  But trust me -- this was not a life plan by any stretch of the imagination.  I have fought against it.  I have told God no!  I will not continue to do this.  I quit.  As soon as I quit, somebody asks me to write something for a blog, a book or asks me to join a committee.  So I am now cooperating with God instead of fighting him, but one thing that I just can't take while I'm here trying to change laws, discuss myths and write honestly, is this glamorizing of adoption.

So please, just knock it off.





Saturday, July 20, 2013

How does your mother feel about you searching?

One of the extra fun bonuses about being adopted (and especially for those of us who speak out about it), is that other people (mostly non-adopted) believe they have the right to ask silly questions such as "how does your mother feel about you searching"? (referring to my adoptive mother).

Within some of these questions are hidden meanings such as "you should feel guilty" or "how could you be disloyal to your mother like that?" among other messages that give me a headache to even contemplate.

So today I will answer this question once and for all . . . . .

I have no idea.

She has never directly told me how she feels about it.

She has said this:

"It hurt me when your birth mother did not ask me about your childhood"

It took her seven years post-reunion, for my mother to admit this to me.  This is a touchy, sensitive topic between my mother and me.  It was so difficult for me to tell my mother when I found my birth mother, that my husband actually broke the news to her, because I could not.  Why?

The loyalty/guilt factor becomes so overwhelming during the search.  In hindsight, I can easily say I had every right to search, but during the actual search, I was still unable to completely own that it was my right to know where I came from and that my mom's feelings were her responsibility -- not mine.  I felt I was doing something wrong against my mother -- like, my searching somehow meant I didn't love her enough.  That in some way she was inadequate as a mother because I needed to find my first mother.  That somehow this was a personal attack on her motherhood and who she was as a woman.

I sense the non-adopted believe these assumptions as well.

"There must have been something wrong in that family if she needed to search".

"That adoption must not have gone very well".

These are false assumptions.  I can tell you my adoption went very well. I had a wonderful childhood.  Did we have problems?  Yes, absolutely.  The problem was not the adoption per se.  The problem was the "secrets" surrounding my adoption and my lack of understanding as a child about where I came from. There was not open communication within my adoptive family (like many families) about our feelings.  I have since tried to cure myself of this, and can freely say I am in touch with my own feelings (some days I wish I could turn them off!) but I can't say my other family members are at this same place.

When people ask questions to adoptees about somebody else's feelings (their mother's), it is just one more way to take away power from the adopted person.  Trust me, most adoptees felt powerless at some point in their lives --at a minimum because they had no say in what happened to them as children  -- and then after they've pulled themselves up by their boot straps, taken risks, spent money and faced their fears, why are they then expected to explain somebody else's feelings about this monumental thing they just did?

The proper question is this. . . .

How do you (adoptee) feel about searching?

How do I currently feel about searching?  I feel frustrated, annoyed, angry, sick and tired, and in disbelief that people still think it's o.k. to hide my personal information from me.

How did I feel before I embarked on the search for my birth mother?

SCARED AS HELL!!

F (Fantasy)
E (Expectations)
A (Appearing
R (Real)

I have talked to many adoptees who have already written the book before they even started their search.
They fear that their birth mother didn't love them because she hasn't found them yet.  They fear that there is some horrible secret that is better left buried.  They don't believe they can actually handle the truth.  They don't believe they are entitled to the truth.  They have bought into the myths that something must be wrong with the family they grew up in if they search.  And something must be wrong with them for not being satisfied with the family who raised them. 

My adoptive mother bought into these same myths when during my search she said,

"Your birth mother must not want to know you if she hasn't searched for you."

Her assumption turned out to be untrue.  I have explained to her that when my name changed, that information was sealed from my birth mother as well.  My adoptive mother's fear that my birth mom would show up on her doorstep was  unfounded.

However, her fear that I would one day want to know the woman who bore me did come true. 

How does she feel about that?

You'll have to ask her.


 



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Adoption is a legal solution to a spiritual problem

I wrote a poem called "Adoption is" and wanted to expand the poem with a blog.

Today I will focus on how adoption  can be viewed as a legal solution to a problem that, in my opinion, is spiritual in nature.

I am not enough

This is one of many thoughts that a pregnant woman has when she is considering relinquishing her child for adoption.  It is the central theme in my own relinquishment and in my daughter's relinquishment.  If either of our mother's believed they were enough, then adoption would have never entered the scene.  Believing we are not enough is a spiritual sickness.  It's a way of not loving ourselves. It's a society sickness when people tell a pregnant woman that she is not enough because she does not have enough a) money b) maturity c) support or d) love to raise her own child.


I am not going to argue the point that there are many things necessary to raise a child and that in some situations a woman may not be have the proper tools to parent, but it is my belief that the sickness of "I am not enough" is behind all the other obvious fears of lack behind relinquishing.  If women believed they were enough and their families believed it and society backed up that belief with proper support, then adoption would be a much rarer occurrence.

Give up your child and you can have a "fresh start"

More spiritual sickness falls under the belief that handing your newborn over to others will somehow magically wipe your slate clean.  And the slate of the child's.  The child will never look back again and you, as the woman, surrendering will never have regret over not being a mom to your child while you pursue your "dream" career and of course, travel and meet Mr. Right without the cumbersome baggage of a kid.

It would be a different world if all women everywhere supported other women having babies to keep and raise their own children.  Instead, there is a spiritual sickness within adoption agencies placing advertisements for vulnerable women to relinquish their newborns by promoting the lies of "open adoption" and "a fresh start".
 
It would be a different world if people understood immediately adoptees' need for their true history, without judgment, condemnation and laws that stop a minority segment of society from knowing and understanding themselves.  We all deserve our true history and I can tell you from personal experience, the slate was not wiped clean when adoption changed my name, my location, and my personal data.  I'm sure my mother could attest to the same thing.  Her slate was not wiped clean when she remembered my black hair every Christmas and the regret of never holding me in her arms.

My rights are paramount over your rights

You can never legislate feelings, blood, biology or love.  But adoption tries to do this by ending all legal rights of a child to his original family.  The heavy hand of the law ends all legal relationships with the original family, including inheritance.  Why?  It doesn't seem necessary to me.  It seems kind of like hitting a fly with a hammer when a fly swatter would do.  But we Americans have our rights and our rights include ownership of a child.  Our rights include changing the child's name.  Our rights include making sure nobody else can come waltzing into our homes and take our property.  Adoption is the hammer when legal custody would do.

Legal custody is not perfect, but it does not change a child's name.  It does not alter history.  It does not amend birth certificates.  It is legal non-fiction.  It tells the story without fictionalizing it like adoption does.

Conclusion

If each one of us valued the other person's original identity, heritage, name, and blood and we backed up those beliefs with fair laws, and legal proceedings that did not steal another's birth right, the world would be a better place and I suspect adoption would become a much rarer occurrence.








Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Big Lie: Birth Parent Confidentiality

photo credit:  deebright.com

Myth:  Birth Parents were (are) legally promised confidentiality.  A friend of mine who is on the board of the Adoptee Rights Coalition has collected many Birth Parent Surrenders (some from long ago and some more recent) and in none of them is there a "promise" of confidentiality (or anonymity) to the birth parent from her child.  There may be a clause that prevents the birth parent from contacting the adoptive family.  But the gist of the Birth Parent Surrender has legal terminology that is clear that the parent is no longer the parent under the eyes of the law.  Period.  No promises are made other than she no longer has any responsibility or rights for said child.   I have a copy of  the legal surrender that my daughter's birth parent signed. It only takes away rights and does not give her any form of anonymity, confidentiality (other than what is expected in attorney/client privilege) or promises of privacy.


Myth:  Birth parents will not relinquish their child for adoption if they believe they can later be found.

The reality is that very few birth parents do not want to know who their children are, where their children are, if they are safe, alive and if they were well cared for in the adoptive family.  There are some; however, and the law gives a minority of original mothers an opportunity in some states to submit a Contact Preference Form. (Note: The contact preference form is about reunion.  Birth certificate access is a civil rights issue.)

However,  if a birth parent does not want contact, then the laws that protect all of us from harassment and stalking also protect birth parents.  I have yet to hear of a case of stalking or harassment by an adoptee, but I suppose it could happen in rare cases.  The law allows the same remedies to birth parents as they do to Joe Schmoe down the street who has is dealing with an over-eager person trying to make unwanted contact.  Again, reunion is a whole different ball of wax than using the "confidentiality" argument as a way to keep adoptees from having a copy of their original birth certificates (discrimination).

Open adoption is not the same as open records.  There is a reason the majority of birth parents want an open adoption -- so they can see for themselves how their child is fairing.  The decades of closed adoption caused, many times, severe trauma to birth mothers without any knowledge or information about their child.  Children grew up without any (or much at all) knowledge of where they came from and sometimes were not even told they were adopted.  Adoption records can be opened by Court Order and no promises were made to birth mother that adoption records were sealed forever.  There was never an expectation under the law that adoption records were sealed for life.  Judges can open them any time and have done so. 


Unfortunately, the prevailing myth of the "hiding birth mother" is alive and well and a way to keep the status quo of discrimination of adoptees in the states still sealing original birth certificates from their rightful owners.


Original birth certificates for all (not just the non-adoptee majority)

Every single person born in the United States has an original birth certificate.  I have one too.  But the only way that original birth certificates are actually sealed (from the adoptee and others) is AFTER adoption finalization. This could be 6 months after birth or 6 years or never, depending on when or if an adoption takes place. Meaning, if a woman surrenders her child, that child MAY NOT be adopted.  That child could be raised in foster care.  That child could go under the Legal Custody of a relative.  That child could remain orphaned for life but be under guardianship.

In all of the preceding examples, except in adoption, the Original Birth Certificate REMAINS as it is and unsealed.  In adoption ONLY (including step-parent adoption), the original birth certificate is sealed and an AMENDED birth certificate is put it its place removing the birth mother's name and substituting the adoptive parent(s). name(s).  In the majority of states in the U.S. (not true in other countries), adoptees' birth certificates are then sealed away from them by the state.   In adoptee-speak, this is referred to as a legal myth

But wait! What about all those birth parents who signed away their rights but their child was not adopted?   The birth certificate is not sealed or amended.  What about their confidentiality/anonymity/privacy?  They have none because there never was any to begin with.

The original intent of the process of amending adoptees' birth certificates was to protect the child and family from the prying eyes of the public.  In other words, it was never to protect the birth parent. The current three-tiered law in Ohio, denying 1964-1996 adoptees their OBCs was drafted by an adoptive parent, who later regretted his own role in the current law.  This adoptive parent's daughter, Betsie Norris, is the force behind the current legislation to restore adoptees' rights to their OBCs. She has dedicated her career and life to undoing the law her father initiated which violated the rights of his own daughter and those of other adoptees in Ohio. (read about Betsie here).

 I have written previously about Ohio H.B. 61 and S.B. 23 (which is awaiting a vote in the Senate. Go here for an update) This is the first time in decades that the Ohio Catholic Conference and Ohio Right to Life has backed an adoptee rights bill in Ohio. In the past, they fought it due to myths outlined in a previous blog.  Finally, this time, there was enough testimony from experts, adoptees and birth parents to convince two of our greatest opponents that these myths have no basis in fact. 

We adoptees in Ohio are all holding our collective breaths waiting for this bill to become law so that the adopted people affected (adoptees born between 1964-1996), will finally have the same rights as the adoptees born in other years and the non-adopted. A day when they will finally be able to have a copy of what is rightfully theirs:  their original birth certificate.

This is not about reunion  Reunion has everything and nothing to do with original birth certificates.  Mention adoptee rights and there is always a response asking about reunion.  An original birth certificate may be the only piece of paper that an adoptee has ever held in his/her hand that lists her own birth name.  If that adoptee then chooses to use that piece of information to search and reunite, that is between the adoptee and the birth parent.  Adopted people and their mothers are adults and can decide if they want to meet or not.

But let's be clear:  original birth certificate access is NOT about reunion.  It is about equal rights for all.  Many adoptees have used other means to seek reunion, but still want their OBC.  Many adoptees do not want a reunion, but they still want their OBC.   Each adopted person has a right to their own birth record, their own name and their own genealogy and to use their Original Birth Certificate in any way they see fit.

 “A birth is simultaneously an intimate occasion and a public event — the government has long kept records of when, where, and by whom babies are born. Such records have myriad purposes, such as furthering the interest of children in knowing the circumstances of their birth.”
 –6th Circuit Court, Doe v. Sundquist















Friday, June 21, 2013

I will never stop searching for my father




"The Force will be with you... always."  -- Obi-Wan Konobi

I was talking to other adoptee friends of mine who are in reunion with their birth fathers and realized that birth fathers as a whole are invisible.  And once found, if they are decent men, they have a hard time coming out of that invisibility, because they feel guilty for not being there for us in the beginning of our lives.  They feel like failures or ashamed for not supporting us financially, emotionally and otherwise.

The media has always glamorized the idea of adoption but alongside that comes the stigma of being a “bastard” for not knowing who your father is and/or being abandoned by your biological father.  Society has many ways to band-aid the problem of being a bastard (adoption, step-parents, and mentoring uncles or grandfathers), but the reality is there are many of us walking around as adults still not knowing the men who created us.

I found this conversation from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when Princess Leia realizes she is Darth Vader’s daughter: 

On a footbridge in the Ewoks village:

    LEIA Luke, tell me. What's troubling you?
    LUKE Vader is here...now, on this moon.
    LEIA (alarmed) How do you know?
    LUKE I felt his presence. He's come for me. He can feel when I'm near. That's why I have to go. (facing her) As long as I stay, I'm endangering the group and our mission here. (beat) I have to face him.
    Leia is distraught, confused.
    LEIA Why?
    Luke moves close and his manner is gentle. And very calm.
    LUKE He's my father.
    LEIA Your father?
    LUKE There's more. It won't be easy for you to hear it, but you must. If I don't make it back, you're the only hope for the Alliance.
    Leia is very disturbed by this. She moves away, as if to deny it.
    LEIA Luke, don't talk that way. You have a power I--I don't understand and could never have.
    LUKE You're wrong, Leia. You have that power too. In time you'll learn to use it as I have. The Force is strong in my family. My father has it...I have it...and...my sister has it.
    Leia stares into his eyes. What she sees there frightens her. But she doesn't draw away. She begins to understand.
LUKE Yes. It's you Leia.
    LEIA I know. Somehow...I've always known.

How I watched this series without ever realizing Darth Vader was Leia’s father is a mystery to me; however, I am living with the same predicament.  I have been told my father is Darth Vader (no not literally, but figuratively).

I was not “worthy” or “kept” because of who my father was.  He was a nobody to my birth mother.  Or he was a somebody so big that she cannot speak of it to this day.  He was probably handsome, but she describes him in ugly terms.  He probably came from a decent family, but she describes him as a criminal. Whoever he is, he is half of me and I am half of him.
I know many people could care less about family trees, “sperm donors” and deadbeat dads because they love the man who was there for them, biology or not.    But to me, that is a whole other issue unrelated to WHO the man is.  There is a difference between knowledge and relationship.

Why do I want to know who my father is when I had another father? 

My human adoptive father failed me as a parent.  Even so, I don’t expect my biological parent to replace him.  At middle age, I don’t need a father so much as I need to be loved and embraced by “my people”.  My people, for the most part, encompass the chosen people in my life that I allow into my circle.   I don’t really “need” more people in my circle; however if my father were a good man, and he had a loving family who embraced me, I would embrace them.  Otherwise, I would embrace information, knowledge, a culture, food, history and knowing myself in a deeper way. 


Why do you want to know somebody who didn’t fight for you or support you?

Because I carry half of his dna.  He carries my son’s dark eyes, my heritage that has been lost to me up until this point in my life.  He carries stories of his own birth, upbringing and tales of the Depression that many older folks tell.  He could potentially fill me in where the Native American ancestors met with those leaving Spain and arriving in America. He has my family medical history.  I can learn of the difficulties he experienced as a minority in this society and show me a whole culture I missed out on growing up white. He personally does not need to do any of these things, but knowledge of who he is, will provide me with the opportunity to learn new things about myself and the missing people from my family.

I don’t know he didn’t fight for me.  I don’t know that his mother (my grandmother) didn’t want me.  I don’t know anything because one person who carried me in her womb, does not want me to know. 

I will never stop searching.  The Force is with me and always will be.