adoption

Episode #2 - The Adopted Life

In July, Bryan and I traveled to Los Angeles, where I interviewed two sets of transracially adopted siblings. All four of the teenagers had bottled up a lot of their adoption-related feelings. When their interview time came, it was as if they were ready to explode! It was an incredibly humbling experience for me to assist in allowing their truths to come out. What a privilege! 


In addition to extending positive thoughts towards these four brave individuals, I'd encourage you to use the sentiments they've shared toward the betterment of the adoption community by sharing the video with your friends and family. You never really know who may be impacted by adoption and may also find power or healing through these voices. 

In case you missed Episode #1, you can find that HERE

When You Check The Box

Even though I'm hearing impaired

I am a healthy adult.

Even though this wasn't learned until my late childhood

I was a healthy child.

 

She didn't always eat healthy while I grew in her belly

There were no prenatal visits or vitamins

Still I am fine and I'm healthy.

You should know that still I have worth.

 

I know you checked the box on that homestudy preferences list

that you were not open to prenatal drug use,

a family history of depression or bipolar

you checked the box that you would not adopt a child

whose birthparent's wanted to choose their name.

 

Does this have anything to do with the needs of the child?

Or is this just you playing a matchmaking game?

Does my health depend upon your understanding of medicine?

Is healthiness a societally constructed concept?

Is an autistic child unhealthy? Down syndrome? High IQ?

Does a lack of birthparent history dictate the child's future health?

Are you seeking perfection in a child; A valedictorian graduating magna cum laude?

Is a "special needs" adoptee incapable of success? PTSD? Anxiety?

 

Not knowing family medical history can feel scary

and in utero drug exposure may concern you

But know that adoptees will seek righteousness with Malala.

We Will Rise with Maya Angelou

We strive for peace like Benazir Bhutto

and have hoop dreams like Sheryl Swoopes

 

Although I may strain to hear you at times,

or I may lose my balance,

I may need a sick day or two to recoup

Still I am healthy and I am strong.

 

Dyslexia doesn't define a soul

anymore than a perfectionistic mother in defeat.

ADHD shouldn't equate to "I can't parent this"

just as "normal" is not synonymous with healthy.

 

Prenatal alcohol exposure doesn't make my brother less human

Prenatal drug use doesn't make my sister's body wrong

We aren't a series of labels, or orphaned bodies to experiment on.

We were healthy children that have grown to be healthy adults.

We were adopted as we were, and have grown in to who we are.

We have struggles, and faults, we succeed, we laugh at times we gain ground,

and at times we fight bad thoughts.

 

When you go to check the boxes

Please don’t predetermine what healthy might mean for me.

Please examine your own beliefs first.

I wonder, what does “healthy” mean to you?

Communal Catharsis Aboard the Carnival Cruise

we should not forget why the flowers
decided not to drink the rain
and chose to grow old instead

we should not forget why a small star
quit the glittering night
and died in silence and solitude
— Choman Hardi

For 50+ years, society has succeeded in communicating that my birthmom's trauma journey was not to be spoken of. Virtually no support, counseling or affirmation for her need to place me for adoption aided in her decision to keep my birth a secret. Psychological literature asserts that when traumatic memories are invalidated, one can feel their reality to be different, less meaningful, worthless even. Elie Wiesel's novel, Night, is a great example of the perils in believing ones story unspeakable. After years of living in literal darkness - blinds closed, overhead lights turned off, minimal contact with others & insomnia - I am greatly pleased to know that my birthmom has finally met full acceptance via the Soul Cruise. Her once numbed senses are activated again as she shares a week in the presence of 10 other birthmoms aboard a Carnival Cruise to Mexico. In the few short years since meeting my birth mom I've come to understand that decisions made by the oppressed are typically not made out of fear, but rather necessity. 

                                                                         Deborah and Soul Cruise Founder; Ashley Mitchell

                                                                         Deborah and Soul Cruise Founder; Ashley Mitchell

Ashley Mitchell, the brain-child behind the magic that is the Soul Cruise has worked tirelessly to secure donations for the birthmoms; Old Navy donated flip flops, the Little Cookie Shop donated sweet treats, party supplies were delivered from Knot & Bow, they'll even get to commune around this fun faux campfire. Ashley will lead the women in daily workshops, offering opportunities for these women to bear witness to each others' pain while disallowing the sun, sand and surf to make a mockery of their efforts. These gifts reinforce the truth that happiness and forgiveness (of the self) is possible when supported by a community such as this. 

Ashley and I have emailed back and forth the past few days to make sure all logistics were in place. After a few snafus and unexpected airline woes, Deborah arrived in Los Angeles allowing both of us to exhale a big sigh of relief. While communicating about next steps Ashley peppered in heart-felt text messages like, "I can't wait to meet Deborah and give her a big hug!" and "The other gals are really looking forward to meeting her." I soon began receiving photos of Deborah with the other gals, including her bunk mate, Sonya. The adage, BE STILL MY HEART has been my repeating mantra as I sit in my home hundreds of miles away watching this human display of reconciliation play out. 

Reflecting upon the changes I've seen in Deborah since her secret has come out (and broadcast on Netflix), I recount some of the blessings - her first taste of flavored lattes (she enjoyed the caramel macchiato), first airplane rides (she wondered why airplane travel didn't feel like a rocket blasting through the air), first time stepping foot in another country (she straddled the line of the Canada/US border), and simply the ability to be in daily communication with her daughter. I am pleased to have played a small part in her newfound loves; traveling, exploring the genealogy of her family and gardening. It is with confidence that I can assume this week will be one that she'll wish would never end. This assumption alone is a dream come true, especially when juxtaposed with her days of yore when each painstaking minute was a minute too many. 

I'll be thinking of her often this week (i.e. anxiously awaiting text message and Facebook updates) and am resting assured that her burdens are dissipating at a rate much faster than ever before.  

                My birthmom (far left) pictured with other birthmoms on the cruise ship. What a gorgeous group of strangers, brought together by decisions they made for their children.

                My birthmom (far left) pictured with other birthmoms on the cruise ship. What a gorgeous group of strangers, brought together by decisions they made for their children.

A Poem About Domestic Infant Adoption

While working as a domestic infant adoption caseworker, I'd routinely jot notes in my journal while sitting in my car outside of the hospital. The intensity of my feelings were too great to be bottled up inside me. This is one of my private journal entries, written in 2013. 

 

"For years, we’ve struggled to conceive a child.”

I remember this family had shared this with me months ago, fighting back tears. 

“We are choosing to adopt because we just want to shower a child with love, security, stability and opportunity." 

I wonder if they realized that this is also many birth parents' wish.

 

She’s 14 years old. He’s 15.

Her friends don't yet know, as she hasn't begun to show.

They stood next to their gym locker, discussing their options.

After class, they call the agency to learn about adoption.

 

She’s schizophrenic, and doesn’t understand reality. 

How’d she get pregnant?

She does not cry.

I want to cry for her.

 

We are sipping lattes, hot chocolates and tea together.

Me, pre-adoptive parents, birth mom, birth dad and the pregnancy counselor.

The unborn baby is also there.

Hidden underneath skin, clothing, and shame.

We discuss plans for the baby.

 

What gets to hold her first?

(the hospital social worker asks)

My best friend is a professional photographer, can she take photos in the hospital?

(the adoptive parents ask)

I'd like you to be the only one in the room

 (the expectant mom says pointing to the pregnancy counselor)

 

Who will leave the hospital first?

The birthmom? Wheeled away without the proof of her labor.

The birthdad? Silenced by cultural myths and misunderstandings of his role.

The Adoptive parents? Proudly showing off their newborn, abandoned child.

 

The logistics, the emotions, the questions, the fears.

I strive to advocate for this pre-verbal baby (the soon-to-be adoptee) at the center of it all.

I hold the baby for a little while and tell the newborn,

“I understand this is traumatic for you.

This arrangement is peculiar; however I believe it to be the best option.

These parents have agreed to make sure you know who your birth parents are, and for that I am grateful."

I hand the baby back to the birth mom, who snips off some hair as a memento.

 

The nurse asks me to sign on the dotted line, where it says “Legal Guardian.”

I sign as though this is a transaction and I’m the middle man.

I go home mired by confidentiality,

my mind is doing backflips

I settle in to my bathtub and close my eyes,

when I receive a text message:

"Birthmom 'K' is in labor. Likely to deliver tonight. Call pre-adopt parents to let them know. See you at the hospital."

All in a days work.

 

Amidst the chaos of creating an adoption plan in the most respectful and thoughtful way for all parties, I remember that none of us really had a choice in our birth. Adoption or not. What is it that those without the ability to speak our language wish they could say? I work so hard to advocate for these adopted newborns, but who is advocating for the babies born and raised by their biological parents? Hopefully, their biological parents have their best interest in mind. However, I know this is not always the case.

 

Birth is complex. Perhaps it's the complexity that makes it beautiful.