The “She loved you so much…” Line

Within a few minutes this morning, I came across two posts about the same thing. I take this as a sign. Both posts were about the old adoption cliche’ which goes as follows: “She, (your birth mother), loved you so much she gave you to another mom and dad…”.  Probably most of us as adoptees were told variations of this sentence back in the day with the intention of reassuring and comforting us.  It might have even worked when we were very small.

Then we grew up and began to process what was told to us in more mature and educated ways.

How can this be? Who loves a baby enough to relinquish it? Why was I really adopted? What happened?

What most of us as adoptees think now is that the “She loved you so much…” line is no longer an appropriate thing to say to an adopted person, especially an older adoptee who is trying to make sense of what happened years ago. Being relinquished and placed with another family is a big deal, and it is normal to wonder what in the world occurred. Good or bad, it was a part of our lives. It IS our business.

Here’s why it’s not appropriate any longer to use the “She loved you so much…” line:

1- It sounds like and is a fantasy story. If we were not consciously aware at the time, we honestly don’t know what would cause a birth mother to make a certain choice. It could have been in part out of love, but there was probably a multitude of reasons for why she did what she did.

Saying anything like the “She loved you so much…” line is putting words into the biological mother’s mouth. It takes away respect for someone who is unable to speak for herself. Adoptees, as well, do not like people speaking out for us, especially if they are not a fellow adoptee. Why would a birth parent want someone to speak and make assumptions about them?

2- The “She loved you so much…” line is often invalidating to the adopted person’s feelings. It’s a sentence intended to shut them down and convince adoptees to not question the past. When adoptees hear this, in particular from non-adoptees who are friends, adoptive family members or any authority figure, we feel as though we do not have the right to wonder or speak our minds, and if we do, we run the risk of destroying the relationships we do have.

Believe me, not destroying relationships is the last thing we want to do since we adoptees understand that one (or two) very critical relationship(s) was severed from the get-go, and we do not want to experience this again just for being ourselves.

Instead of the antiquated response, how about saying :

1- “I don’t know why it happened.” if you really don’t know why because you did not speak to a direct source, (the biological mother), you honestly do not know, and it’s OK, to be honest about not knowing.

No birth mother would really give up a baby without a super-damn good reason. Since we do not know that reason, we should not judge or speak for someone else.

2- “It’s fine if you want to share  what you do know or remember.” This is reassuring and opens a door for fair and honest communication.

3- Depending on the era in history when the adoption took place, this is a good response: “Lots of things were probably out of her control, especially if she was underage.” It shows compassion for the birth mother’s situation and does not take away from the adopted person’s feelings and ideas.

How can we as adopted people respond if a listener chooses to use the old-school response?

1- If they are much older than we are, understand that they come from a different era, and that is the only response they know. It will be difficult to change someone else’s mindset if they are unwilling to change and see another point of view.

2- You could say, “I believe there is more than that to my story and since it is my life I would like to know more.” This does not tell the other person that they are wrong. It adds to the conversation and steers it in a more favorable way for you.

3- Ask, “How would you feel if someone you thought you knew pretty well, suddenly exited your life without explanation? (This is the best comparison I could think of in the moment.) Wouldn’t you care enough to want to know why they went away and if they are alright? Wouldn’t you be just a little curious or concerned?” This question shows compassion for others and shows that your motives are not entirely selfish.

It’s a challenge and always will be to find ways to enlighten non-adopted folks about our inner lives. The other way to enlighten others is to reach out to younger generations of people exploring societal topics. We are all entitled to our own opinions ultimately, but no one should have to accept invalidation for what we feel.

 

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Featured in Memoir Writer’s Journey

https://krpooler.com/truth-in-memoir/reflections-on-truth-in-adoption-by-memoirist-paige-strickland#comments

What is “The Fog” Anyway?

inspired by a question I saw in an online adoption group:

 

“Coming out of The Fog” is, in part, realizing the impact that a bunch of new-found information or feelings have had and still have on you. It is understanding that adoption, your own and others’ is not a simple, single, scripted story.

Exiting from The Fog is sort of an “ah-hah!” moment in that you figure out truths you might not have considered before. It doesn’t just occur on one day. Sometimes it’s a slow reveal over time or you have a moment when you think you get it, but something new pops up, (due to what we commonly call a “trigger”), and there you go again pondering and processing once more.

While in The Fog, you might feel that regarding adoption, you have no problems with it, and neither does anyone else. Out of The Fog means you have a greater insight and awareness of your problems / concerns / feelings about adoption and the fact that other people feel in these ways as well. Also, “out of The Fog” means that you might not have all positive and endearing attitudes toward your personal adoption experience any longer nor toward the industry as a whole.

Emerging from the nebula is more intense for some people than for others. People with great childhoods can have a more heightened “unfogging” because they become critically aware of their good fortune in contrast to the suffering and level of loss experienced by others in the adoption community. It may sadden them either temporarily or forever. Hopefully with a good support system of friends or loved ones in real life, and or online, the sensations of morose or anger will be temporary.

I personally believe you can feel both grateful and joyful for the life you got with adoptive parents and still have compassion, grief, anger, etc for what you did not get to experience and for whom you did not get to meet. Once away from The Fog, you can empathize with other adoptees with diverse stories in a way you could never do prior.

When you are out of The Fog you see adoption not just through the stories and beliefs of your adoptive parents or the documentation provided by your agency, church, state or what have you. Out of The Fog is a step toward finding out who you really are as an independent, functioning human being.

The Fog is a protective barrier like glass block windows. Like those thick, strong chunks of chamfered material, The Fog can insulate you from feelings and information which might penetrate and threaten your security. The Fog has the power to alter what you perceive as reality. Having no fog may feel frightening at first and as though you’re exposed to the elements because without The Fog you have different boundaries and new freedoms to critically think and explore your beliefs on your own terms.

Freedom from an opaque point of view takes time. It might feel shocking initially, and no adoptee should ever be criticized or belittled for not fully understanding. Leaving The Fog is a process. Sensory overload will backfire. Everyone works at their own speed. Remember too that some adoptees can become unfogged and maintain similar opinions anyway. This is fine, but at least they have awareness and the educational tools to cope, accept and forage ahead in their adoptee journey.

Review of Adoptee documentary, WHO AM I?

We can never have too many first-hand accounts when reporting and sharing adoptee truths.

Filmmaker, Joey Ashbridge created a masterpiece in the adoptee world when he filmed and produced Who Am I? in 2015. It is about his experience of being an adoptee and acquiring his Original Birth Certificate and associated documents from the state of Ohio when OH opened their records in 2015.

Joey is personable, humorous and real. If you watch his film, you will journey with him as he pre-processes what being adopted has been like for him and what his biological family members might also have processed throughout the years prior to attending Ohio’s “Opening Day” ceremonies and convention in March of 2015. He addresses his situation in a caring and sensitive way.

Ashbridge also shares his experience in the moment of receiving his 23 and Me DNA test results while waiting for his OBC to arrive. For an adopted person who knows nothing about his or her actual heritage, this information is invaluable. Ashbridge muddles through bureaucratic red tape and angst while enduring the waiting process.

Viewers have the opportunity to watch an adoptee, (Ashbridge), open his OBC on camera and experience what it is like to finally have one’s actual, personal adoption facts revealed. It’s emotional, intense and completely honest. Next, we follow Ashbridge to various locations as he seeks background information and ultimately connects with some of his biological family members.

Ashbridge handles his new found knowledge and relationships with compassion and respect. His film is a great and realistic example of how to conduct a successful search and reunion in the digital age. He’s made his work available to all via YouTube so please take advantage of the adoptee documentary, Who Am I? when considering materials to study and prepare with during a search and reunion process.

Link to the film on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dg2K6NszSTs

My Article in Carrie Goldman’s Column, Portrait of an Adoption

http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2017/11/what-adoption-means-to-me-2/

Adoptism-Brain: It’s real!

I have a mental condition called “Adoptism-Brain”.

Oh, you’ve not heard of it before? Allow me to share.

It occurs when you are an adopted person, and you think about being an adoptee a lot, and you know you have two names and two sets of family out there. It’s when you are painfully aware that you are not enough like your adoptive family, even on the best of days, and even when you wish you could be more like them.

It’s when you look like your birth family members, but there’s still a ton of missing information because separation for so long causes this. It’s like looking at a censored document with key words blocked out of the paper, or at one of those pixelated pictures of someone naked. So you know some stuff, but you can’t know everything because you didn’t get to experience a past together or see all these people face-to-face. Adoptism-Brain makes you think and see the world in a different way from non-adopted people.

It’s part science and part psychology. When you are exposed to limited stimuli, (in my case: visuals, audio, touch, and scent of the biological family) you grow up missing something. Instead, (in my case again), I was provided with substitute stimuli. It met my basic needs, but…

My adoptive family was pretty darn great. I will not deny this. I had all the stuff a baby/growing kid could ever want and need, including loving grandparents, summer vacations to Florida, a red Huffy bike at Christmas and a big, loving Boxer dog with droopy jowls and a thick, furry neck I could throw my arms around to hug tightly.

It’s not that I lacked decent stimuli, (after I was placed). It was that I lacked authenticity. The message conveyed by my parents and society at large was conflicting to the lesson adults also taught me, which was to always be truthful. The Institutions in Authority back in the Baby-Scoop Days fully believed that accepting substitutes and false / hidden facts was OK. That was the thinking back then. I don’t blame my mom and dad. They were raised to not question authority.

The problem was, (and still is for so many), that it’s confusing and not that simple. It’s not OK. Fake news is not OK because it messes with your head. It makes your mind work to constantly adapt to and work around all the missing sensations and details to find a wholeness in your identity.

Adoptism-Brain makes you function differently from other people.

Adoptism-Brain made my brain do flip-flops while trying to learn in school because I had this one extra layer of personal information to process that no one else had to deal with.

Adoptism-Brain made me incapable of noticing little things like when someone in my family would say, “Oh, look at that pretty blue bird over there”, and everyone else would turn to see it and go, “Oooh-ahhh” at the birdie, except for me who would be saying, “Where, what bird?” because I had more important things to stay watchful for.

Likewise, this condition might have caused me to unintentionally miss a detail of information you’ve verbally shared because my thoughts are also constantly split between what is actually going on in the present world and what might have happened concerning some very significant people from my first past. I will never stop wondering about the real story of how I came to be.

Adoptism-Brain makes me wary. It makes me question what is true and right.  It gives me a deep distrust of symbolic talk and superficial behaviors.  I want your exact words and for you to only say what you mean. No BS-ing.

I’m not a scientist or a doctor. Still, it is true that my brain is not wired like a non-adopted person’s brain. I know this is a fact because I live it and observe it every day with all people I interact with. I also know that without a bigger reason, no one will just freely offer up CT scans MRIs or EEGs to find proof just because you’re an adoptee. Those tests cost a fortune, and folks in immediate life-threatening situations need to access that level of care first.

Our brains work funky in ways that can’t be quantified in a traditional, methodical way, ( at this time), which is why it’s such a challenge to convince the academic community that Adoptism-Brain is a thing. Believe me. It’s a real thing.

If cancer patients can experience “ Chemo-Brain”, ( which appears to be a real thing but hard to quantify), then it’s also possible for the adopted to experience Adoptism-Brain. Right?

The thing now is, what do we do about it? Can we make Adoptism-Brain go away? I can only share that finding out as much truth as I possibly could is the thing that helped me the most. Today I know what my reality is and what might have been. It’s not a matter of finding better or worse. It’s a matter of knowing.

Just knowing.

 

A Teachable Moment

Recently I found myself in this discussion with someone regarding the release of my sequel memoir, AFTER THE TRUTH. I believe she truly wanted to understand:

Her: “So what’s it about?”  (the book)

Me: Still adoption but what adoption is like as an adult instead of how it felt as a kid.”

Her: “Did you really not like being adopted?”

Me: “Um, getting adopted was fine. Being adopted not a lot.”

Her: “How come?”

Me: “I wanted to be born in the family like everyone else. I wanted to be born and in like you were, and like ___XXX___ was. I wanted to feel more real, and there was no way to make that happen, no matter how good it was.”

Like, as an adult it’s better because you don’t have to worry about kids bullying you on a playground over it.

And now people care less since it’s all out there in real life and on TV. We have baby-mamas and baby-daddies and we aren’t putting them down. But when I was a kid, that stuff was still like a sin and a shame.

Now people talk about it more.

Her: Yes, times have changed.

Me: Now that I actually know a bunch of other adopted people who are my age and think the way I do, it’s better. I’m less different.”

Her: “Oh.”

Me: (taking advantage of my chance to speak freely here),  “It’s like what if I was born with 3 missing fingers instead? Ya know? You learn to compensate, you move on. You find a way to have a life, but 3 missing fingers sucks even though it won’t kill you. You might want to hide your bad hand from a lot of people and wonder what it would be like to have normal hands even if you do figure out how to hold a pencil. You learn to deal but you still would like to not have those missing parts.”

 

#adoption #afterthetruth #akintothetruth #adoptee

Review: When We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate

When We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is a historical fiction account of five siblings, separated by tragedy and impoverished circumstances in the 1930s. When their mother suffers serious pregnancy complications, their father must leave the children alone on a shanty boat to seek medical help.  While away, the unthinkable happens. The children are abducted.  Curtailed by poverty, no formal education, a lack of societal support and fear, the children and parents become separated.

Cut to present day when a young, aspiring attorney from a Southern, aristocratic political family happens upon a family mystery and secrets when she returns home to visit and attend to her father who is ill.

Elements from the past combine with the present to unfurl the truth regarding this family’s past history.

I personally enjoyed the “voice” of Rill, the teenaged oldest sister from the 1930s, who struggles to protect her siblings from danger, abuse, and further separation. She is courageous, personable, spirited and bright.

Avery, the modern day lawyer is struggling with her own identity as a woman in a position of prestige in the public eye. She must discern between her wealthy family’s expectations and traditions for her future and her personal aspirations which might break from the presumed path of duty, humility, and conservatism.    

Some adopted readers might find this account filled with “triggers” relating to their personal situations, but it is a worthy and well-done read. It is another truth relating to adoptions and child-brokering for profit conducted by Georgia Tan many years ago. Sadly these crimes do happen in present times around the world, (although, to be fair, not in all adoption cases.)

When We Were Yours is descriptive and draws you into the past through creative story-telling and engaging dialogue.

Review of: The Kid, (What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to go get Pregnant) an adoption story by Dan Savage

Writer/ Journalist, Dan Savage appears to be an adoptive parent who gets it. He’s written a book about his and his partner, Terry’s experience when they decided to adopt a baby in the 1990s.

With great detail, humor, and compassion for their son, his birth mother and fellow adoptive parents, Savage explains the deeply thought out process of deciding to become parents. He describes how he and his partner felt while attending pre-parenting classes and meetings with the biological mom which their Portland, Oregon agency arranged.

This book is important for all members of the adoption constellation because Savage offers his unique perspective as a future adoptive parent in the public eye due to his career plus also a member of the LGBTQ community. It is unique because there are few adoption-themed books available from this social group, although the vast majority of his experiences and attitudes while waiting are universal to many couples who are expecting a baby. The Kid is probably one of the funniest books you’ll ever read on this subject as well.

This was a fun summer read because it was light and uplifting. However, Savage is the kind of person who masters humor to cope with and deflect his sincere feelings of compassion, love, care, and respect for the community of adoptive parents, social workers, his partner and especially their birth mother and son.

Review of Little Sylvie, An Unforgettable Adoption Story

This memoir is Sylvie Gagnon’s, account of her adoption experience and what her adoptive parents went through during the process of adopting a baby from Canada. It is also about Sylvie’s feelings regarding being an adoptee and connecting with her biological mother as a young adult. I chose to read this memoir because Sylvie is an adoptee from Canada, and I have a friend who is also an adoptee from Canada and naturalized in the USA.

This book reads fast and is very much to the point. It proves once again that as adoptees, our feelings and beliefs are all over the spectrum. I would have liked deeper reflection and description in the writing, but Gagnon makes some essential points which all adoptees can relate to.  She went through a time where searching for bio family was not a priority for her. She believes this is because she had a blessed life with her adoptive family and she was lucky enough to have a sister and a couple of close school friends who were also adopted. Gagnon never felt isolated or unsupported. One message this very short book delivers is: Surround yourself with go-to “safe” people, with whom you can freely discuss important needs and ideas.

Eventually, Sylvie Gagnon, (a pen name), did realize that she would like to thank her bio mother for giving her life and making the decision she did in the 1960s. She was also wondering about heritage and health history since having nothing of substance to provide doctors was both annoying and disappointing. These beliefs ring true for many adopted people.

Gagnon discusses how she was found by her birth mother by a private detective and what a shock that was, considering her adoption was considered closed and she was still a student in grad school, trying to figure out her life.

During the course of correspondence by mail, Sylvie’s birth mother shares some important-to-know but difficult information. (no spoilers). The next message to fellow adoptees and anyone who might be searching for a missing family member is: Try to not focus too much on any negative feelings you might experience because of the past. Instead, focus on how you can be the best person you can be now. She goes on to advise the reader to think very carefully before making the decision to search for and contact a missing relative. Careful consideration is a key to having successful relationships and having your unanswered questions resolved.