Tuesday, April 12, 2016

If I Knew Then...

More thoughts from the American Adoption Congress Conference:

After I had agreed with Suz to participate in her "Mitigating and Managing Collateral Damage: Impact of Adoption on the 1st Family" presentation, I thought of many examples of the collateral damage in my life.  When it came to the "managing and mitigating" part, the only thing I could come up with was to not lose a child to adoption in the first place.  I know that it's not a perfect world though, so adoption is going to be a choice made by some moms.  I was still at a loss for answers though and counted on Suz and Kathy to have some for that part of the talk.

The night before our presentation, I was asked if I would have made the "choice" for adoption if I had known then what I know now.

That one kind of threw me.

Because, to be totally honest, that answer would probably be yes.

Given the exact same circumstances, that answer would be yes.

I was adamant that my child would not grow up in the life I was living.  I grew up in a house of anger and hate.  Oh, there were some good times, yes.  Holidays were usually wonderful, spent with grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles and cousins who made life fun.  The day to day mess of life though?  Not so pretty...

Even if I had been told of the life-long  and deep reaching effects that adoption could bring to my life, I'm sure I would have still signed those papers.  For it wasn't my life I was choosing adoption for, it was my unborn child's life I felt I was saving.

I, of course, at that time had no idea of the possible effects of adoption on my son.  Even though there were plenty of studies and papers written about the effects of adoption on the adoptee, that was not information shared with the general public, much less mothers considering adoption for their unborn children!

That was a hard question to think about.  If I had known then all the effects adoption could possibly have on my child, would I have still "chosen" it?

I hate to say it, but given the exact same circumstances, that answer would probably have still been yes.

Because I was SO sure that I was saving my son from myself, from my life in a house of hate.

Add those fears for my son to the strong societal views of the times towards single, young moms and I most certainly would still have believed him better off without me.

15 year old me, with no honest counseling, no parental guidance, going through this experience basically on her own, would have had no way of believing anything different.  I would probably have believed that the "price" he might possibly pay for being adopted would have been far less than the price he would have had to pay with me being his mom.

I probably would have just prayed all the harder for him.  In addition to praying that he got great parents, praying that he was healthy and happy, I would have prayed for him to have none of the issues that adoption could bring to him.

So yes.  My answer to "If I Knew Then..." would have been yes.

That insight gave me some of the answers that had been illusive to me regarding mitigating the collateral damage.

I should have been told that I wouldn't simply go on as before.

I should not have been made to feel as though I wasn't really a mother.  Because I was.  I was a mother without her child.  How could that NOT effect every aspect of your life going forward??

I should have been told that it was NORMAL for a mother to grieve the loss of her child to adoption.

I should have been told that when if I was lucky enough to have more children, to be aware that the loss of my firstborn child would have effects on my future motherhood.  I should have been counseled in the things to look for, beliefs to avoid, and ways to navigate through.

I should have been counseled to be aware that in the future each of the "reasons" I was choosing adoption for could possibly become issues to deal with without even realizing it ~ financial (too poor), sexuality (shame of it), unworthiness, etc.

I believed that there was something wrong with me because I kept thinking about my child lost to adoption.  I failed at forgetting.  Could I do nothing right?!?

I believed that I was pathetic ~ using an innocent baby to "make" myself cry.  Me to myself: "Really? You are making yourself think of Christopher just to have a reason to cry?"  Yes.  I really did think that.  I know.  I weep...

I lived for more than three decades in shame of my sexuality and in the shame of giving my child away.

I lived for more than three decades trying to prove my worthiness, feeling that the "real me" (a 15 year old who got pregnant and gave her child away) wasn't worthy of the wonderful life I went on to have, wasn't worthy of the wonderful husband and in-laws who I loved so deeply.  What a waste.  I cheated not only myself, but also my husband and everyone else in my life that I loved and who loved me.
I will be forever thankful for the first voices I found online after reunion who helped me see that the grief was normal, that there was nothing wrong with me after all.  I really believe that those first brave moms I found speaking out ~ Suz, Cassi, and Cheerio ~ along with all of the rest of the moms and adoptees I found in the following years, saved me from insanity and going back into that damn closet. 
Thank you Suz for asking me to be a part of your presentation ~ while it was fear that I first felt with your question, in the end it brought such healing.  To be able for the first time to talk about the experience out loud, knowing I had you, Kathy, and Rich there to support me if needed, to be met by so many others in the audience who "get it"...  It was an experience that I'm thankful for!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

American Adoption Congress Conference 2016

After attending AAC 2016, I have too much to write about to fit it all in one post.  Here is a summary of the experience, more to come in the following days:

The Week of Firsts

  • I attended my first ever "real life" adoption event ~ the AAC 2016 Conference.  
  • I traveled alone for the first time, which I surprisingly actually enjoyed.
  • I was a presenter on a workshop panel ~ the first time I've ever spoken out loud to a group regarding adoption loss in my life.  Another thing that I very surprisingly enjoyed! 

The Stories
The biggest take-away from the conference for me were the stories.

So very many different stories.  

Different stories, but all rooted in loss and covered in confusion.

Adoptees, mothers, and adoptive mothers ~ even a raised son of one of the mothers presenting on Saturday morning spoke a little.  

Not only stories of the keynote speakers and the various workshops I attended, but also many people attending.  The questions and discussions from the audience after the keynotes and workshops were also insightful.

I am a people watcher, and couldn't help but watch and eavesdrop listen to the many stories being told all around me at various times throughout the conference.

The People
I thought that my favorite thing about attending was going to be meeting some of my adoptionland friends in real life.  It was awesome meeting Suz & Amanda, as well as seeing and meeting others that I "knew" through various blogs and forums.

The thing that most effected me about the conference though was the experience of just being with so many people who "got it".

The son, who was about the same age as Christopher, and his natural mom.
The daughter, also about the same age as my son, and her adoptive mom.

The moms.  Oh, the moms.  There were some amazing, strong, beautiful women of many ages, a few years to decades of loss, in or not in various stages of reunion with their (now adult) children.  All so supportive and caring.

The adoptees, who were so open to sharing their own reactions in reunion.
Who spoke of the times they pulled away from their original mothers and couldn't even explain why. Who were so open with helpful advice or caring, supportive words.

People who didn't look at you with pity, or reply with "what a wonderful thing you did" or...  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

American Adoption Congress in Denver

I am getting excited to attend the AAC Conference in Denver at the end of the month!  There are a few reasons I decided to finally attend an adoption related conference.

This one was close enough to consider driving to ~ about nine hours away, but in the end I decided to fly in order to have more time there/less time away from work.  

The chance to meet in real life some people who have become friends here in AdoptionLand on the www.  I'm most excited about that than anything else, I think!

The chance for more healing.  

One reason has come up in the last week or so, long after my decision to attend was made.  In the fight for adoptee rights, nothing makes me more mad than to see us moms blamed for the continued discrimination against adult adoptees.  (Well, other than the fact that they aren't allowed their obc's in the first place!)  I'm glad to be attending the conference just to be present and show that natural moms are not some pathetic beings, cowering in the corner, terrified of her child lost to adoption. I fully support adoptees to have the right to their true facts of birth ~ their original birth certificates as well as any adoption records the adoption agency/lawyer has on file.  I also believe all mothers should have the same right to their child lost to adoption's birth certificate just as they do to the other children they gave birth to.  

The latest reason I'm excited to attend (yet a little nervous too) is that I have been asked to join Suz Bednarz, Kathy Aderhold and Richard Kish and present on "Mitigating & Managing Collateral Damage: Impact of Adoption on 1st Family"!  The reason I'm nervous is first of all ~ public speaking!  Secondly this is my first event of anything like this, and I'm kind of scared that the 37+ years of mostly being unable to cry about my adoption loss might be unleashed, leading to a torrent of tears that won't stop.  The thirty years of denial and living in the closet before reunion did a great job on making it impossible for me to cry about Christopher.  Oh, the tears begin to appear, the lump in the throat grows huge, but the complete (even if illogical) fear of falling into that deep pit of despair, never to find my way out again, will not let me "go there"; therefore stopping any more tears before they become too many tears.  Hmmm...  well, there is one more thing to add to the list of collateral damage adoption has left on my life!

Will you be at the AAC Conference?  I hope I get to meet you ~ in real life!!  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Adoptee Rights to Their Original Birth Certificates

As a mother of adoption loss, I would first of all like to (again) make it known that


Those who try to use us mothers as the reasons that adoption records and original birth certificates are sealed are either lying or falsely believing someone else's lies. 

Most moms would openly welcome being contacted by their sons and daughters lost to adoption.  Most moms dream of finally having answers to their questions ~ is their son/daughter even alive?  If so, healthy?  Happy? A parent or grandparent now themselves?

If it was true that the natural mother's privacy is the reason for sealing records, then why aren't they sealed until an adoption is finalized?  Wouldn't they be sealed upon relinquishment?

If it was true that the natural mother's privacy is the reason for sealing records, then why are the adopted sons and daughters STILL not allowed to receive a copy of the OBC after being reunited with their natural mother and/or father?  I have been told that even if Christopher and I were both to ask the Iowa courts to release his original birth certificate, it would be denied due to lack of "due cause".

If it was true that the natural mother's privacy is the reason for sealing records, why then would I (the natural mother) be denied a copy of my firstborn's birth certificate but be able to obtain a copy for the children I gave birth to and raised?  I need to hide myself from myself??

But let's just pretend that we ARE the reason our children aren't allowed their OBC.  What power do we hold to allow discrimination against the (adult) children who we signed away all rights to?  None.  We have no rights to that (adult) child, remember?

I believe that all United States citizens should have the same access to the original, true record of their own birth as any other citizen.  If one citizen can walk into the courthouse and get a copy of their original birth certificate, then ALL should be able to.

I am a mother who signed away her rights to raise her child ~ I did not sign away his rights to his own birth information!  I advocate for Adoptee Rights ~ do not ever use me as an excuse to keep even one person's own birth information from them!



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Validating My Motherhood

One of the biggest hurdles I have had to overcome in the six+ years since being reunited with Christopher has been the claiming of my motherhood ~ from my very first pregnancy, not just from the birth of the children I raised. 

For I never allowed myself to consider that Christopher was my child, therefore I was not "really" a mother to him.  He was always "the baby I couldn't raise". 

The things your psyche does to protect itself...

The first crack in that thinking was 16 years after his birth, when my daughter was 13.  She found the envelope of papers and photos of the brother she didn't know existed.  When she finally confronted me with the knowledge, she called him her brother.  My brain screamed "he's not your brother!" (I may have even said it out loud?).  Then my heart skipped a beat as I realized that yes, he was.  He was not just the baby I couldn't raise.  He was her brother.  He had two younger brothers also.  He was my son, I was his mother.  But I wasn't...

After reuniting and being able to fully acknowledge my motherhood, I still struggled with it.  I struggled with letting what other people think make a difference.  I allowed other people's attitudes that I wasn't really his mom since I didn't raise him take away from my truth.  I was letting my assumptions of Christopher's feelings (or lack of feelings) for me take away my truth also. 

When I was finally able to allow my heart to know and embrace my motherhood, to know what every other cell in my body knows is true ~ no matter what society or anyone else may say ~ that was a major milestone in my healing. 

While outside validation shouldn't be necessary ~ oh how wonderful it is to get it though!  Especially when it comes from outside the adoption world and friends I have found online. 

I got the most amazing and unexpected validation just a few days ago.  Christopher's mom and I occasionally send texts, have talked about getting together again for another visit.  I had been in their part of the state recently (to visit Christopher!) but didn't have enough time to stop on the way home and visit her this time.  I messaged her that I hoped I would be in her area again soon.  She replied back, and part of her message said "Don't we have a terrific son?" and "I hope you had a terrific visit". 

"Don't we have a terrific son?"

Six little words...  As happened in Whoville long ago, my heart grew three sizes!

I know I shouldn't need validation from anyone, but...  wow.  To get that validation from his mom is about as good as it gets for me.  Especially since it came on the heels of an after-visit melt down a couple of days earlier.  In such a short time to be at the steepest drop and then back up to the highest high ~ a roller coaster ride for sure!

I don't know what I've done to be so very blessed in this reunion journey of ours, but I am thankful for it every single day! 

Oh ~ and the visit!  I went on a road trip west to spend the evening with Christopher and his family last Friday.  It was a wonderful visit that had been too long in the making ~ it had been 14 months since I saw him and his wife, two long years since I saw his son and daughter.  We went to dinner then back to his house for a few hours.  The highlight of the night was hearing my sweet little 6 year old granddaughter calling me "grandma"!  She also gave me a tour of her bedroom and all her treasures. (There is a heaven on earth ~)   I had a great visit with Christopher and his wife after the little ones went to bed.  I even got a little one-on-one time with Christopher as he gave me a ride back to the hotel.  My heart was full as I was able to give him a hug goodbye and once again tell him I loved him in person. 

Life is Good ~

Monday, August 31, 2015

"7 Core Issues In Adoption"

In her latest blog post, Tao linked to a website that had lists of "7 Core Issues In Adoption", one list for each person in the so-called "Triad". 

Every item listed on the "Birth Parent" list was spot on for me. 




As Tao mentions in her post, these type of lists try to simplify things that are much too complicated to be put into bullet points.  When I saw that this list was on a web page described as "A non-profit adoptive family support center, serving families, professionals and educators since 1998", I was sure that the list for us moms was going to be far from reality.  

I'm still surprised at the honesty they have listed.

If only any mother considering adoption could read this page and KNOW the truth behind it!  

My surprise ended as I browsed the rest of that website however...

Under the description of their support services for "Birth Parents/Families" was this gem:

C.A.S.E. provides support for the birth parent(s) in grieving the loss of their child upon relinquishment as well as other times in the future when memories of that child surfaces (i.e. having other children, telling a spouse/partner, dealing with self-esteem, and dealing with the larger issues of social and political opinion surrounding adoption.)

Because, you know, memories of our children lost to 
adoption only surface in a few circumstances in the future. 



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Six Years Ago Today... Happy Birthday Sweet Girl

Six years ago today, I had been in reunion with Christopher for 7 months and 3 days. 

Six years ago today, I realized just how much I really lost when I lost him to adoption.

Six years ago today, Christopher and his wife welcomed their beautiful baby girl into the world.

Six years ago today, the reality hit me that I not only lost my son to adoption, I also lost my grandchildren...

Happy 6th Birthday sweet Brooklyn ~ Grandma Susie loves you more than you will ever know.  I hope that one year I will be able to celebrate your birthday with you in person.  I hope you enjoy your present as much as I enjoyed being able to send it you!