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.


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.

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?


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.


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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Day story about Open Adoption

As an adoptive parent in a "kinship adoption" arrangement as the professionals call it, the words "open adoption" and "closed adoption" weren't thrown around at the time our petition was filed.  Since we knew very well our daughter's original mother, there was not much thought about whether it would be an open adoption.  It was open from the start due to circumstances.

However, as we all all know, "the best laid plans of mice and men" don't always pan out.  Our adoption was no different.  Little did we know, what we believed was the kinship adoption arrangement for our family turned out to be something entirely different. 

Our daughter came straight home to us from the hospital.  We had anticipated the original family member changing her mind and were prepared for that.  There was no foster care and no adoption agency.  There was no involvement of Child Protective Services, other than a one-time home study.  (I remember the home study was very brief as the social worker was sick and she came on my son's birthday:  February 15th.  I had to ask her to look at the nursery.  She briefly spoke with the original mother, us and then left quickly).  At the hearing, she was feeling better and seemed in good spirits and was really happy we were adopting as was the Judge that day.

There was minimal Court involvement other than the normal processing of the petition and a hearing date set six months later.  Ohio courts give preference to close family members.  I remember the Judge asking us if we understood that from here on out, we would be the parents and be responsible for the child's welfare from now on.  Absolutely we realized it.  We welcomed it.
The gavel the Judge gave us at the final adoption hearing minus the pink bow

Our adoption was a far cry different experience than what my adoptive mother tells me hers was. My mother entered into a mysterious process in the 1960s where secrets were the norm.  In a 2005 relative adoption, there was a background check but no real "digging" into our family history, like in my parent's adoption of me.  We didn't need references.  They did.  We didn't jump through many hoops at all.  My parents had to jump high if they wanted to adopt myself and my brother.  Some would say that the closed adoption hoops of yesteryear were not enough.  With tales of mentally ill adoptive mothers running rampid in the closed adoptee rooms on Facebook, many believe not enough was done in closed adoption to ensure the safety of adoptees. 

In a kinship adoption, one could argue that just because people are blood, does not mean the child is safe.  When you are a blood, biological family, the government does not interfere into your parenting unless there is a report of neglect or abuse. I do think there are two sides to the issue.  Adoptive families are treated with suspician if they want to adopt and blood families are not.  That is a double standard for sure.  However, I do think it is appropriate for the Courts and the law to value blood relationships and make it easier for kin to keep their own within the family.  Children deserve to know and live with their biological family, if possible, and some Courts/laws make it easier for that to happen. (Mind you, other laws make it harder -- especially for putative fathers).

So as I mentioned, there was no talk of closed versus open adoption when we adopted our daughter.  It was just assumed that because we are family, it was open.  But open in the traditional sense was not to be in our case.  We have not heard from our daughter's original mother in over 7 years.  Not a word.  Yes, our daughter knows her name, has pictures, etc (I write about that here).  But visitation, letters, cards, phone calls?  It has never happened.

My husband and I have very mixed feelings about the lack of communication, especially because of how it affects our daughter.  Due to circumstances that I cannot divulge, on the one hand, it is a blessing she moved away.  However, our daughter wants to meet her original mother.  A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it's not enough according to our daughter.  We never imagined that our daughter would one day never remember her own mother, as she was a baby when her mother left.

We do not control this.  For whatever reason, Mary's* (not her real name) birth mother felt she could not be in relationship post-adoption. We have moved on and accepted that this is just how it is.

On the paternal end of this kinship adoption, we have the elusive original father.  I had one phone conversation with him prior to the filing of the adoption petition.  He gave us his blessing to go forward with the adoption.  He said he had a college scholarship.  He went into the navy and I made a brief effort to communicate with his father but heard nothing.

Fast forward 6 years.  I log in to Facebook and I receive a message from my daughter's original father.  He is interested in meeting her and wants us to come to his wedding.  (here is where the best laid plans start slapping us in the face).

We intended to have our daughter's mother in her life full-time but we never intended to have our daughter's father in her life as we assumed he was not interested.

As my daughters says, "It must be opposite day!"

So we were invited to the original father's wedding.  We were shocked and surprised but we had some time to get used to the idea.  We didn't go to the actual wedding, but we did decide to go to the reception.  Our daughter got all dressed up and as we walked in, we introduced ourselves to our daughter's paternal grandfather.  The look on his face was shock.  (I think he thought we crashed the reception).

When he realized we were invited, he graciously invited us to sit at the family table and introduced us to every one of the family.  We were overwhelmed with gratitude.  We secretly expected to be the outcasts there and hoped at best, to not be stared at.  Oh, we were stared at throughout the whole reception but in an interested, kind way.   Our daughter met her paternal grandmother who looks exactly like her.  Her first cousin was practically her twin.  All these genetic relatives in one place who resembled our daughter.  It was simply amazing that we were sitting there amongst all of them who had flown in from around the country.  I took lots of pictures because I literally did not know if we (or she) would ever seen any of them again. 

That was 2011 and we are two years into "open adoption".  The original father and his wonderful wife have done their best to forge a relationship, even though they live out of state.  There are cards, gifts, and pictures/and videos exchanged.  We have built up enough trust to allow them to take her on day outings.  We are working toward actual vacations.  We feel blessed and thrilled that our daughter's "other daddy" cares about her.  He has opened his heart to her and that makes us so happy.

As a mother who never knew where she came from until middle adulthood and who never had a close relationship with her father, it absolutely warms my heart to see my daughter making TWO Father's Day cards and loving two fathers.

 As I was sweeping our sun room Friday night, I overheard my husband (who was sitting at the fire pit with the other dad) telling him that he would be honored if our daughter called him "Dad".

I am convinced God really does have a sense of humor.

Happy Father's Day to all dads everywhere!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Imagine Never Knowing the Day you Were Born

Mayan Indian tribe symbol
I was speaking to my friend Jenny via Facebook last night and she let me into the secret world of adoption in the South American country of her birth:  Colombia 

I first met Jenny when I was trying to decide whether to get my dna tested last year.  She was among many who suggested the idea to me and explained to me her results in being Native American and about the different tribes in Colombia. 

Jenny has shared a lot of information with me about being Latino which has been invaluable to me not growing up in the Latino culture.  I learned this from her:

Hispanic is not a race. It is a word that means anyone of Latin, Central, Mexican, Puerto Rican American descent. Hispanics can be any of the 4 races (European, Sub Saharan African, Native American, Asian). Native Americans in South America, although different tribes, are of the same race as Native Americans, now referred to as First Nation Peoples, in North America. In Colombia the main tribe was Chibcha. Now there are 13 tribes still in existence in Colombia. Most Colombians are a combo of European Spanish and Native American - a result of the conquest back in the 1500's.

Jenny was adopted from Colombia and is a U.S. citizen.  She does not know her birth date.  

Yes, you read that right.  

She does not know the day she was born. 

Imagine not knowing your birth date.

* You would not know how old you are

* You would not know your Astrological sign

* You would not be able to count back to when you were conceived (that clue helps in adoption searches)

* You would be hassled by every government agency you come in contact with

* You would be tired of explaining to people why you don't know your birth date

My birthday feels to me like such a huge piece of my identity.  It is one of the core pieces of information that most in this country cannot imagine ever living without.  I take my birthday for granted.  Sure, it's possible it is false.  My birth mother did not remember my exact birthday.  I have just taken it on trust that the doctors and hospital got it right.  They were there as witnesses and the doctor signed my birth certificate and properly filed it with Vital Statistics of Illinois.

The first question I ask my customers at work is their birth date.  It narrows them down in the database and then I move on to their name.  I can barely imagine somebody telling me that they don't know their own birth date.

Adoptees have a lot of adoption-related baggage associated with birthdays, but if you truly do not know the day you were born, what day do you mourn?  What day do you celebrate with cake and ice cream?  Which birthday do you celebrate when you truly do not know your exact age?

I imagine to have any sense of normalcy, you would just have to pick a day.  I imagine that whoever handled Jenny's birth and adoption, did just that. It is incomprehensible to me to take away somebody else's birthday and identity, but it happens.

Colombia has been known to alter documents in the era my friend Jenny grew up in. This is also true in other countries like China, Korea, Vietnam, India, Ethiopia, and Peru.   Many times, there are no medical records because many were not born in hospitals.  There is no way to safely petition the government like we do in the U.S.  The adoptees who have tried to make change in adoption in their home countries have received death threats.  

Jenny is an educated, lovely lady.  But the circumstances of her birth and adoption has left a huge hole in her past that may never be filled.  I sincerely feel her pain and wish I could do something to help.

Until my conversations with Jenny, I didn't fully appreciate the rights afforded to me simply by being born and adopted in the U.S.:

* knowing my birthday is likely accurate and having a birth certificate to prove it

* knowing accurate medical records were kept on the event of my birth

* speaking with my representative about adoption laws

* being able to freely assemble as a group with adoption signs

* being physically safe while working toward Adoptee Rights
* having a reputable (and mostly ethical) adoption agency to work with in my post-adoption search to    find my birth mother

We adoptees like to focus on the negatives of all the barriers in our searches, and trust me, i don't discount them at all; in fact, there are cases of falsified records in the U.S.  See Georgia Tann's corrupt adoptions in Tennessee.  But the fact that there are even records in existence is a far cry better than having no paper trail of your birth and adoption at all.

 And death threats?

Death threats are the furthest thing from my mind.  Why?

Because if you were born and adopted in the U.S., you have rights.  You have choices.  We may not always like these choices.  We definitely do not like sealed birth certificates and sealed adoption files. But we love Ancestry and public records and search angels.  We love forwarding pictures of ourselves and our non-identifying information on Facebook.  We love blogging and getting the word out via media sources.  Using all of these avenues is a privilege as is the process of changing laws we don't like or believe are unfair.  Having to worry about my safety while working toward change in adoption is not something I have ever personally experienced. 

When thinking about Jenny and the obstacles she faces in her home country, my own challenges in seeking the truth seem small. 

I feel ashamed of not knowing and understanding her struggles before today-- this fellow adoptee who has been so generous with her friendship and information.

My heart goes out to Jenny and I hope and pray that something will change in Colombia.  I'm hoping and praying that the dna technology at some point will lead Jenny to answers.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Dear Grandma Sylvia

My grandmother Sylvia on my birth mom's wedding day

Dear Grandma Sylvia,

As I was pulling a Hershey with Almonds out of my freezer and warming up some of my husband's left-over coffee in the microwave this morning, I said out loud,

"Grandma Sylvia!  Can you hear me up there?  I was a good kid! You would have liked me alot if you would have given me a chance!"

But the truth is I had about a fart's chance in a windstorm to grow up knowing you considering I was born in the middle of the Baby Scoop Era to your unmarried daughter. 

A chance to experience what your daughter describes as a wonderful childhood with her wonderful parents has left me asking "what if?"

I wonder what it would have been like to have a cool grandma.  You see, I will never know what that feels like.  Neither of my grandma's lived near me and we weren't close.  Both of my grandfathers were dead before I could meet them. 

I'm not such a bad grandchild, Sylvia.  For the most part, people like me. Sure, I've made lots of mistakes, but I try to learn from them.  I went to college.  I married the love of my life -- like your daughter.  I look like your daughter.  We have the same eyebrows. 

When I think about you and my mom looking at me through the glass at Evanston Hospital, it makes me sad that you didn't insist on holding me.  That you didn't insist your daughter hold me.  Were you afraid she might get attached and change her mind? 

I know I was an embarrassment to you back then, but I wished you would have thought further down the road how this would affect your daughter, me and my own children.  They will never know their great-grandmother, Sylvia.  Seems a shame.

You and I would have been like peas and carrots.  You loved the piano I understand.  Me too.  I have your painting hanging in my house above my piano.  When I play, I think of you and how it's sad that we will never meet face to face. 

I console myself with the thought that I can at least see part of you in the beautiful beach scene your daughter gave to me.

Are you a chocoholic too?

Your grandaughter,


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Things I'd like to ask 23 and Me

Now that I've had a few weeks to sift through the mounds of DNA information regarding my health, my ancestry and my 900 plus cousins all over the world, the information is starting to settle in. As I was doing dishes today, I started thinking about all the questions I'd like to ask 23 and me, if I had a personal consultant to discuss these results with.

1.  Is there a gene for fat arms?  Because I haven't worn a sleeveless shirt in public for about 15 years.  If there is, where did it come from?  All the women on my mother's side are pretty slim.  I probably have some paternal aunt out there with jiggly Oprah arms.

2.  Is there a fat gene that I'm missing?  Your results state I have a slightly lower than average chance of obesity.  So why am I am fat?  Oh, yeah.  I probably ate too much.

3.  Now that I know that I have 3 markers to increase my odds of high blood pressure, does this mean I have to start exercising? 

4.  How does knowing my 950 fifth cousins help me find my birth father? 

5.  Why do you lump East Asian with Native American?  I'm really confused. 

6.   I know you locked my Alzheimer's results and for good reason.  I won't be unlocking those anytime soon (I'm too scared to open them).

7.  I was brave and opened the BRCA breast cancer/ovarian cancer gene.  I was negative (Phew!  I spent 25 years worrying about those two).  I know this doesn't mean I won't get breast cancer or ovarian cancer, and don't worry -- i will still get my paps and mammograms, but you don't know what a relief these results really are to me.

8.  I was negative for the locked Parkinson's marker.  Another relief.  Thank you.

9.  I have a .6% greater than average risk of bipolar disorder in my lifetime.  Should I call a shrink now just in case?

10.  Do these results come with a money-back guarantee?  I definitely think I got my money's worth, but I really need a first cousin or sibling match, ok?  Can you work on that please?

11. Thank you for telling me I'm Irish.  Family Tree DNA failed to mention that.

12.  Can you please just tell me who the baby-daddy is?

Thank you.

Your satisfied customer,

Lynn Grubb

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"My friend is adopted, and she . . . . ."

Photo credit: Devon Goldstein
After having a very frustrating conversation this past weekend with a non-adoptee, and after reading Deanna's latest blog over at Adoptee Restoration, I feel the need to discuss a few concepts with (hopefully) the non-adopted.  I hope and pray that some non-adopted people happen upon this blog if they know or love an adoptee in their lives.  Otherwise, I am just preaching to the choir, because for the most part, adoptees understand the concepts I am going to outline below.

Living in the United States (the adoption capital of the world) makes it very possible that each of us has some connection to adoption.  If not in our own family, then a friend's family.  Every person I have ever spoken with about adoption, shares with me the connection to adoption in their own life (I love that part about adoption conversations).  However, sometimes, the sharing of their story is a way to invalidate what I am sharing with them.

invalidate [ɪnˈvælɪˌdeɪt]vb (tr)
to render weak or ineffective, as an argument

  Let me give you some examples:
1.  "My son has never asked any questions about adoption so he is fine with being adopted".

I'm just wondering how one person knows another person is fine with a major life event that happened to them.  Is somebody fine when their spouse dies suddenly?  Is your neighbor fine when her child is bullied at school?  No.  Then, don't assume someone is fine who lost their entire first family and may have been (or is currently being) lied to about their lives.  Don't assume that adoptees are told they are adopted.  Don't assume that people like being adopted.  Don't assume what being adopted means to other people when you are not adopted yourself.  In fact, even if you are one of the adoptees who has "no issues" - don't assume others are in the same camp.

Maybe they really are fine.  Yes, it's possible, but don't assume it because of your own limited views of adoption.  Only adoptees understand what it feels like to be adopted.  Do not project your own beliefs about adoption onto them ("adoption is always a win-win and you should be happy!") and decide they are "fine".  You cannot know another person is fine as we all keep deep pain to ourselves for the most part unless we trust another human to hear about it.  And remember:

Adoption is a lifelong experience -- not a one time event.

2.  "I never knew you had so many issues with being adopted.  My brother's adult children are adopted and they don't have any issues with adoption."  

See No. 1 above and then ask yourself if you had lost your first family, had to mitigate and facilitate family relations between two (or more) different families (similar to divorce), had to manage loyalties, hurt feelings, ultimatums, lies, grief, fear, rejection, sealed records, DNA tests all the while dealing with judgment over something you had no control over as a child, how would you feel?

3.  "my best friend's daughter is adopted and she has never wanted to search"

How do you know she has never wanted to search?  Do you live inside her head?  We all have secret longings that we keep to ourselves for fear of ridicule and judgment.  Adoptees have even more pressure to keep their secret feelings to themselves because of loyalty conflicts, myths that abound in general society about adoption, and knowing that as soon as you open yourself up to another human, you will get commonplace statements like the one above.

This statement is another way to invalidate a person for wanting something that others may not want.  Who cares if she never wanted to search?  I do -- I did -- and I'm standing right here sharing my story with you.  The last thing I need is for you to try to make me feel like I'm doing something wrong because someone (unknown to me) did the opposite.   Listen instead please. You might learn something.

Searching is a normal part of being human.  Genealogy is not just for the non-adopted.  People other than adoptees search for family who they have been separated from.  This is not a difficult concept for people to understand.  We all want or need to know "our people".  If you understand this concept, then there is no need to make an adoptee feel bad for doing the exact same thing the rest of the world does.

4. "Johnny doesn't care about his birth family because (whispering) his birth family members are in prison and on drugs"

By assuming a child does not have strong feelings for a family member because of poor choices by that family member, is being naive at best or insensitive and unloving at worst.  Children love their parents and extended family regardless of choices or what somebody else says or believes.  This love extends to birth family members as well.

I know that you are an upstanding citizen who plays by the rules and goes to church, pays your taxes and does the right thing as often as possible.  We all like to view ourselves in these ways.  And the "birth family" has made choices, many times, to put them in a position of not having their own child with them, right?  For the most part, yes.  But judging birth family members in a negative way, does not change a child's feelings for their family members.  The child does not love family any less because of poor choices.  The child may feel hurt, rejected, confused, sad and angry about these choices and his separation from family, but he/she may not verbalize these feelings to outsiders.  On the contrary, he may state emphatically that "he doesn't care" but as any wise parent knows, this is not true evidence that a child does not care. 

5. "Adoption was for the best because the child went to a home with a married mother and a father".

This thinking is exactly what the social workers touted during the Baby Scoop Era when 20% of newborn, white babies were "scooped" from perfectly good, decent, caring birth mothers.  Their only crime?  Being unmarried. 

This statement is judgmental all by itself because it assumes that a child is better off with two parents who are married, rather than the woman who bore him.  I understand that married parents are the ideal standard for raising families in this country and there are many studies to back this opinion up -- that two intact parents can raise a child better (better outcomes in school, less teen pregnancy, etc.)

However, this statement completely ignores many potential realities. This statement bothers me because of it's assumption that adoptive families are superior to birth families and that adoptive families are not subject to the same kind of life stresses birth families are. 

There is assumption hidden in this statement that since we cleaned up the initial problem (single/ unmarried/teen mom/battered woman/lack of finances/orphan in another country) that everything that follows, will continue to "prove" that this child is better off with the adoptive parents.

I beg to differ.  Adoptive parents are not immune to divorce, financial problems, domestic violence, child abuse and neglect or (surprise!) realizing they are gay.  Birth families recover from many times, temporary issues.  The mother finds a a good job, gets married (many times to the birth father), loses the abusive boyfriend and matures.

Wait a minute!!!  You mean, married, adoptive parents aren't superior to birth mothers who aren't married?

Exactly my point.

A very short time after my mother relinquished me, she met her husband who is a wonderful man.  He would have been my father most likely if she had kept me (or not, but I don't have a crystal ball).  They have had a long, in-tact marriage and family since my relinquishment.  They are an average, decent middle class family.  Fortunately my adoptive parents did not divorce, but statistically, they could have.  Did my adoptive family have issues?  Absolutely.  Did my birth family have issues? Probably (I wasn't there).  My point is:  don't assume the adoptive parents were better than the birth family because the mother was unmarried then.  Don't assume that a problem in 1972 lasted until 2013. Circumstances change.  People grow up.

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