Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Open Adoption Project: Answers

The Open Adoption Project is a collaboration between an adoptee and a relinquishing mother. Pulling quotes from actual articles all over the internet, their goal is to give an accurate, honest perspective in what the adoption websites claim about open adoption. Each week they will print a quote that has been found on an adoption based website, and attempt to debunk the myth from their own perspective or experiences in adoption.

About The Writers

Kat is an adoptee who was raised in open adoption. At age four, she had regular visits with her biological family. Throughout her childhood, she spent time in the summer with her biological family and they visited her adoptive family’s home as well. She began blogging about her experience in March 2013 at Sister Wish. Originally, she thought she would be a single voice, showing how she was profoundly affected by adoption. As she continued to write, she noticed that there were many other voices with similar stories. More incredibly, these stories weren’t being heard.  At Sister Wish, she shares the details of her open adoption and how it has affected her both in her childhood and into adulthood.

Danielle is the mother of three children, one of whom was relinquished in an open adoption through LDSFS in the early 2000’s. The adoption allegedly began as an open adoption, but maintained semi-openness throughout the first decade before the adoption was closed by the adoptive parents. She currently blogs at Another Version Of Mother where she openly shares her experience in adoption with honesty. She hopes to use her experiences to help other women understand the ins and outs of adoption, what it means to be a birthmother, and advocate for adoption reform.

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“Open adoption provides immediate answers to the adoptee’s questions, as well as accurate information — answers to basic questions that all adoptees wonder about, such as “who do I look like?” and “why was I given up?” The adoptive parents can communicate facts, instead of half-truths or unknowns. There is also an opportunity for ongoing access to information. For example, when the child asks a question that his/her parents cannot answer, they can turn to the birthparents for the answers.”

http://www.adoptionhelp.org/open-adoption/benefits

From Kat:

There are many incorrect assumptions in this statement. Open adoption doesn’t provide answers. People provide answers. And that is only if they are so inclined to do so. Here is where what is promised in this statement goes wrong. We are talking about a child seeking answers. It is difficult enough for adults to provide answers to other adults in complex situations. Giving those answers to a child adds additional layers to the complexity.

I was about six or seven when I began trying to understand why I had been “given up.” My first questions were asked to my adoptive mom. She gave answers such as my biological mom already had two children to take care of and it was tiring for her in addition to being a drain for her financially. When I saw my biological mom, she didn’t look “tired” or “poor” at all. In fact, she seemed youthful, beautiful and energetic, as well as funny and entertaining.

When I expressed my doubt as to those being accurate reasons for my relinquishment, my adoptive mom encouraged me to ask my biological mom my questions. And I had every intention to do so. But here is where there is a huge break down in this statement of how open adoption leads to answers. I didn’t ask. I chickened out.

Why? Imagine being seven years old and having a visit with your original mom. You’re standing there with a perfect opportunity to ask all of your questions of this woman you are completely enamored with and you have absolutely no desire to displease her. In fact, you don’t want her to feel uncomfortable at all. So you shower her with compliments and praise and try to make her laugh. But the last thing you do is ask questions that will be painful or bring up raw emotions.

That is how I felt. I wanted to ask “why did you give me up?” The “why” of it all was all I ever thought about. But I didn’t ask. I never wanted to bring up negative feelings.

As I got older, I did hear different variations of the “why.” Different variations that different people offered up, not one matching another with blame placed on various individuals. As an adult, I still don’t have that one answer. I can piece together many different versions to try to assemble an answer, but I still don’t know that it’s a complete truth.

Ascertaining “facts, instead of half-truths or unknowns” seems like a benefit of open adoption, but having lived through an open adoption, I found it to be impossible. All of these promises of the ease with which adoptees can obtain answers to their questions sound great in theory, but the truth is that it isn’t so easy. There are many challenges to adoptees obtaining answers to their questions and open adoption is not the quick fix it was intended to be for this challenge.

From Danielle:

“Open adoption does not guarantee immediate answers to an adoptee’s question for several reasons. Presumptuously, this statement furthers the myth that adoptees only want access to basic information about themselves, and nothing beyond what can be found via paperwork, or through a relative. When you think about what children who have not been adopted “know” about themselves, it goes far beyond any paperwork, or a picture. The need to understand, see, and seek out our genetics is inherent in all of us, even in those who are not adopted. We are eager to find those who think like us, who act like us, and whom we can relate to. A lot of this information cannot be summed up in a simple sentence, or a line in a paperwork, nor is it possible to foresee all the types of questions an adoptee may have as he or she grows.”

Click to read the rest of Danielle’s perspective.

Emotions

“get a hold of yourself you fn loon”

“u fool”

“not all adoptees have neg experience”

“you should try to get a hold on reality”

“makes you out 4 a nut”

“deep seated emotional problems to internalize a stranger’s circumstance”

 

Many adoptees have spoken out about the events that unfolded yesterday evening for Veronica Brown. As adoptees were speaking out on Twitter about the pain they felt for Veronica, some were attacked for having such strong feelings by using the above statements.

 

Imagine that. Imagine knowing someone had just suffered through a trauma that you, yourself had been through. Is it possible you may have a strong reaction to hearing about the same type of trauma you endured? Is it possible that the reaction would even be extreme? Is it possible that this may trigger deep feelings of your own experience?

 

It seems to me that this would be very normal.

 

As an adoptee, I am accustomed to experiencing deep emotions as I connect to other adoptees, both in real life and online. I can read another’s story and shed tears for them. Sometimes, I have a stronger reaction than simple tears.

 

Is that okay? Is it normal?

 

Or am I abnormal and the people who attack these reactions and call me “a loon” or “a nut” normal?

 

Is it possible that my extremely strong reactions are normal and those who are uncomfortable with my expression of it are the abnormal ones?

 

Why is it that I can show extremely strong emotions, possibly crying out for another and be okay with that to the point of describing it in an open forum and another person is so uncomfortable with it, that they not only do not want to hear about it, but actually attack my reaction?

 

Maybe they are the abnormal ones. Maybe they are uncomfortable with emotions. Maybe they are insecure. Maybe a lamenting adoptee makes them so uncomfortable that they do not know how to handle their own emotional reaction so they lash out at the adoptee. Maybe if they minimize (and try to make fun of) the adoptee, it actually helps them minimize their own emotions.

 

Insecurity. I think that is what it truly is for those that try to minimize and marginalize the adoptee experience.

 

Adoptees have complex emotions. If others cannot handle an adult adoptee crying out in pain for another adoptee, if others cannot handle our self expression, if others cannot handle the complex emotions we have due to adoption, I ask you, how in the world can they handle an adoptee child expressing his or her emotions in a similar way?

 

Veronica, I hope you are able to express your emotions. I hope that others do not say you’re a “fool” “loon” or “nut” for doing so. No, you have a right to your emotions, even if your other rights have been taken from you. So I hope you express yourself all that you want. I hope that you have the freedom of expression the same as you expressed yourself in those moments of your “transfer” as it’s so eloquently described. You knew how you felt then as you spoke out “I do not want to go!”

 

I hope it doesn’t end there.

 

But I also realize that many adoptees must numb themselves to the pain. If it is a must for self preservation, if those around you try to make you feel uncomfortable with emotions, I understand that. It happens to adults too. If you must wander into a deep wooded forest with thick dense fog, I understand. But one day, when you emerge, your emotions will be waiting for you.

 

Your experience is an individual one, but your fellow adoptees understand deep, strong emotions. I hope when you express them, you are supported.

And if you are not, that is the other person’s incapability.

That is the other person’s lack of understanding.

That is the other person’s insecurity with emotions.

A Rebellious Teen in Open Adoption

It wasn’t a pretty picture. I tore through my teen years – this little Taz type character with all of the destruction and none of the charm. And I had plenty to rebel from. I spent my childhood trying to make myself fit into some sort of mold in two separate families and completely failing in both. I went back and forth from one household to another, one mom to another, one sibling group to another, each time stirring emotions of rage and jealousy. They say that open adoption can be like one big extended family. I try to see how that is possible and hope that those who are making such efforts are being successful. For me though, it deteriorated into a fact of no family. Not two families. Not one big extended family. Not even one slightly successful family. Just a feeling of not fitting into either family. Completely on the fringe. Completely isolated.

 

In that isolation and in an effort to find a place to belong, I rebelled against all the rules and norms of my so called family. I was naïve enough to look for a place to belong where none existed. I suppose many teens rebel while trying to find their place in the world. I don’t know that I was any different. But I do know that after a while, my adoptive mom grew tired of trying with me. She had a standing appointment with the principal at my school every single Monday morning. I had a conduct and academic report that I had to have signed by all teachers every single Friday. Neither of these were effective deterrents to curb my behavior.

 

Really, there was just so much freedom that came with entering middle school. With fewer rules, an overbearing mom and the typical teen attitude, along with my adoption issues, I just seemed to be lost. The typical “bad crowd” was waiting for me with open arms. We developed a sort of kinship amongst us, like any clique of teens might. I completely bought into the “us against them” attitude and carried it to the full. As I said before, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

 

In my adoptive mom’s exasperation, she drove me by the girl’s home regularly. Each time, she would slow the car for full effect. She would say, “if you don’t start behaving, you are going to have to go live there.” I would always weigh that as a completely viable and possibly better situation than I was in at the time. I thought surely they would have adults there that might be able to help me. Maybe someone could help me think more clearly and slow down the tornado of thoughts that constantly swirled in my mind. But then I would wonder if it might be a worse situation than my current one. What if they had less patience for me than my adoptive mom? I never interpreted the threat in the way she intended it. It just seemed like an option that I could decide if I wanted to take her up on.

 

The first time she drove past, I can remember her pointing at the house and the way she looked at it. She had this look in her eyes like she had found some sort of solution to a problem that wouldn’t go away. I knew it was her ‘out’ from dealing with me. At first I didn’t believe it was a girl’s home. It looked like a regular house. She made a point of saying that girls went there when the adults couldn’t control them anymore. I knew I fit in that category, and I was slightly proud of that fact. The first time she drove me passed it, I sort of panicked at the thought that I was getting dropped off there right that moment. But then I became accustomed to the weekly drive by. It seemed like an empty threat for the most part, though I knew my mom was capable of anything.

 

In the meantime, I distanced myself from both my biological and adoptive family. I became much, much closer to friends who I referred to as my “real” family. Of course, in my attempts to prove my worthiness in these groups, I put myself in harm’s way. There was nothing I wasn’t willing to do to show that I was as “tough” as anyone else in the group so that I would be accepted.

 

It’s interesting when I think of these three “families.” The contrast between my adoptive/biological family and the “friend” family was striking. With my friends I didn’t feel the need to pursue them so intensely. Though I did go out of my way to prove I could fit in, I didn’t feel that I had to try hard to make a relationship happen. It seemed to be growing organically. Maybe it was a family of misfits. I’m not sure.

 

Just to be clear, I am not saying that open adoption leads every adoptee to this place I found myself in my early teen years. I don’t believe that every adoptee travels the exact same path. I am simply telling my own individual story. For me to move forward, to feel heard, to explain what adoption and open adoption has done … to me, it must be told.

Touched By Adoption?

Today I read another article marketed to those “touched” by adoption.

 

It sounds so endearing, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to be “touched” by adoption? Those words carry such sweet and innocent connotations. It seems like a beautiful act. 

 

Just lovely.

 

I remember a saying my mom used when she was describing someone “crazy.” She’d say they were a little “touched” in the head. Not exactly politically correct terminology. 

 

Guess what? Neither is saying that people are “touched” by adoption.

 

It’s offensive. It irks me. It gives me that eye twitch I find so annoying.

 

Adoption changes a person’s entire life. It doesn’t “touch” it and then leave. No, it stays forever. It changes all circumstances, situations and environment in an adopted person’s life. It changes the birth parent’s life. It changes the lives of biological siblings and extended family. It changes the adoptive parent’s life. It changes the lives of the siblings in the adoptive home. It changes the lives of the adoptive extended family members.

 

The entire present and future is changed for those “impacted” by adoption. To use the word “touch,” minimizes that fact.

 

To say it “touches” us insinuates something light in feeling and reassuring. Adoption hasn’t carried that feeling for me. No, it’s been more like a slap across the face when I wasn’t looking, a punch that left bruises, and on some days, a kick to the gut that left me on the ground, unconscious. (A lot of days).

 

I wish I had simply been “touched” by adoption but that is not accurate.

 

So maybe we should change the jargon to something more realistic:

 

Here’s to those who have been slapped by adoption.

Here’s to those who have been kicked by adoption. 

Here’s to those who have been punched by adoption.

 

I know, I know. It doesn’t sound as pretty.

 

Okay so if that doesn’t work, let’s change the definition of the word “touched.”

 

I was “touched” by adoption the way one might be “touched” by a bullet from the wrong end of a gun.

I was “touched” by adoption the way one might be “touched” by a tsunami.

I was “touched” by adoption the way one might be “touched” by a Mack truck barreling down the freeway, going the wrong way in a head on collision.

 

I’m assuming nobody wants to redefine the word “touched” in this manner though.

 

Oh, you adoption industry marketing experts, using sleight of hand techniques and language that have sold this idea, than an act that should be considered a last resort, is actually a best first option.

 

That money must keep rolling in so let’s make sure everyone knows it’s beautiful to be “touched” by adoption. Let’s place it right up there next to the parenting option for expectant mothers.

 

“Parenting – such hard work and you are so young. A drain on money. A drain on your resources. A drain on your time and your energy. If you do this you will be oh so tired and inexperienced and uneducated and the poor child will suffer so.”

 

“But adoption? The loving option. The gift. The opportunity to give yourself a chance at life as well as your child. You’ll provide a loving home to your child. And on top of that we’ll pay your bills.”

 

“What’s that you ask? Will it be hard on the child? Oh that’s just silly. Of course he’ll be grateful. You will give him a chance at life, education and … more vacations.”

 

“You read that adoptees have a higher risk of suicide? Oh that’s just those pesky angry adoptees and bitter ‘birthmothers’ skewed take on things. Ignore them.”

 

Did anyone just feel the backhand “touch” across their face with any of those statements?

 

I did.

 

Those “touches” leave me seeing stars sometimes.

 

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Others have written about this subject much more eloquently than I have done here. These are a couple of links to read what others have said about being “touched” by adoption.

 

Laura Dennis. Laura-dennis.com. “Touched By Adoption – Glossary Spotlight.” Feb. 2013.

 

Joss Shawyer. Voices From Exile. “Touched By Adoption, With A Blowtorch.” Feb. 2004.