Closed adoption

Every Separation Is A Link

I recently consulted via Skype with a fellow adult adoptee who had recently gained her birth mother's contact information and was seeking my advice in deciding upon a method of contact that may feel the least intrusive to her birth mom. Before our scheduled consult, I re-read a bit of Simone Weil's work, and felt guided by her quote:

"To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."

Prior to contacting me this adoptee had already surveyed her husband, friends and other adoptees, in an effort to gauge and quantify the risks of choosing snail mail vs email, vs a phone call etc. to make this first contact.  She was working so hard in contemplating how she could tactfully and respectfully gain this precious (albeit basic and foundational) information.  She was working so hard trying to appease everyone else, and trying to preemptively ensure that her birthmother would feel comfortable in an inherently uncomfortable position.  During the course of our conversation, she coyly asked: "How do I explain how it is that I found her phone number?  I had to snoop (search angels, confidential intermediaries, agency contacts etc.) to find it!" My response:

Of course you had to sleuth! How else does an adoptee in a closed adoption gain this information?

It is only through the unfortunate separation of this adoptee and her birth family that she and I were able to be linked together. We shared a life-giving conversation that both honored others while she learned the value of honoring herself in weighing her personal thoughts of best practice in this unchartered territory. As Simone Weil states; “Compassion directed toward oneself is true humility.”

Adoptees have a unique understanding of the fact that our rights are largely subject to varying circumstances, however we cannot deny the incredible pull we feel in needing to know our roots. There is no perfect way for even the most sycophant of adoptees to gain information that should've been made available years ago.

Anticipating My Birthmother's Visit

Tomorrow my birthmother will be in town. Last night I watched Rain Man. Today I clearly see the correlation between these two happenings. This poem used to served as my desperate plea:

"I wish I could turn away and move on with my life

but my heart won't allow it when I try

That sounds so weak coming from me

a woman who overcame extreme adversities

If you don't want me to find you

whatever the reason may be

do me a favor and sign up to the registry

Send me a few pictures, a reason, and my medical history

give me some closure and set me free."

I used to wish that I could turn away from this search and reunion madness and move on with my life. I used to wish that I didn't need to fulfill this selfish curiosity of learning more about my roots. I waited for the magical moment when her name would match up with mine on the registry. I thought - if only I could see what she looks like, if only! Now I no longer need to fantasize, or try to wish away intrinsic desires. Now, I can simply ask her all of the 26 years of pent up questions.

While watching Rain Man last night, Charlie (Tom Cruise) attempted to convince his brother Raymond's court appointed psychiatrist that he should have legal custody of his brother so they could be together, as a family. Charlie said "I just don't understand. Why didn't dad tell me I had a brother? Why didn't anyone ever tell me that I had a brother? Because it'd have been nice to know him for more than just the past six days."  This statement cut to my core as Charlie no longer cared about the lure of a multi-million dollar inheritance, or his limited understanding his brother's autism or the extraordinary differences between his own self-centered living in Los Angeles and his brother's confined reality within the walls of the mental institution. He simply wanted to be with his brother. I'd imagine many adoptees can understand the beauty in seeing this seemingly incompatible duo spend these six days together.

I echo these thoughts of the convoluted and difficult to understand relationship. I find it to be superbly beautiful, uniquely refreshing and a clear definition of family. With all the differences between myself and my birth mother I nervously/contentedly await her arrival tomorrow, and look forward to allowing her to spend a few days with my family and I, AKA, her new family.

Life and Death

In my line of work, I often get asked "What is so wrong with closed adoptions?" Well, the answer is, for some birth parents it's a lot like experiencing a tragic death, similar to a stillborn child.

I strive to educate people about the fact that whenever there is an omission of the facts, or we simply do not know the truth (about birthparent's reasoning for choosing adoption, or why a baby died minutes before delivering etc.), we tend to make things up to fill the huge void where there are so many unanswered questions (oftentimes, things like; I'm unworthy, the baby was unwanted or defective, or I'm a throwaway etc.).

Sometimes adoptive families feel as though life would be easier if they didn't know their biological parents, and that knowing an birth parent may aid in confusion in knowing who the "real" parent is. The truth is, the "real" parent is the one who actively parents, the person who takes care of the child, financially, physically, emotionally etc., however the birth parent is a huge piece of the child's identity and the child's life. There is simply never an advantage to maintaining secrecy for the adoptive parents' own satisfaction and ease or for any other reason.

Truth and openness always wins out. I have yet to hear of a scenario where knowing the truth was a hindrance or a misfortune.

I have known families to go through the awful pain and heartache of miscarriages, but never have I seen so closely the pain and anguish of having a stillborn child. This weekend I attended a funeral that devasted my heart, and completely restructured my thinking about life. The  funeral was for a stillborn baby, and not only the death of the baby, but the loss that the parents are experiencing.  The death of a baby is a profound loss. Attachment to a baby begins before conception, some parents read to their child, sing to their child, feel the child and fantasize about life with this child.  Not only have they lost a baby, but they've also lost the chance to see this child grow to become a living part of their family.

I can't help but let my mind wander towards adoption, and I have drawn comparisons between a stillbirth, and a closed adoption. In both scenarios birth parents go through excruciating pain in childbirth, and then are literally  never able to see the fruit of their labor. It's a tragic loss that deserves explanation, but in the case of a stillbirth sometimes there is never an explanation. People may never know why a death happened. In the days of old, when closed adoptions were the norm, this was a tragic loss of ever getting to know the life that you created and birthed.

To all, who hope to adopt someday please know that nothing the birth mother did or didn't do while pregnant with your child is directly related to their unique qualities, whether that's in the form of a disability or a superb ability. Whether it's Cerebral Palsy or super star athlete. We don't get to choose. And some people don't get to choose why they bear a child dead on arrival, or why merciless adoption caseworkers demanded secrecy surrounding the child that you birthed.

And, to all of those who hope to bear children biologically, we must know that nothing is ever a given. Every life (both in utero and out) is precious, and a miracle.