Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour: Found, a memoir

by Lori Lavender Luz on January 13, 2012

in Adoptee,Adoption,Book Club,Books

Today kicks off the latest Open Adoption Examiner Book Tour. With this third outing of the OAExaminer Book Club we are discussing Found: a Memoir, by Jennifer Lauck.

Adoption plays a major role in Jennifer Lauck’s memoir, but the book has appeal beyond those who are connected to adoption. You do not have to have read the book to read along on this tour.

As I read Found and the author’s revelations about herself, I discovered that Jennifer Lauck and I have many things in common:

  • We were born a year apart, almost to the day.
  • We are the same height
  • My husband and her significant other have the same name
  • We are both yoginis and meditators
  • A person close to me placed a daughter for adoption in the same time period and geographic area as the author’s birth mother did. This was a big secret and I found out about it only recently, as an adult.
  • We are both writers (this I knew before I read the book)

Perhaps these points explain why I felt a certain resonance with Found. The gripping story she has lived includes being orphaned at 9 by her adoptive parents and suffering abused by later caretakers, searching with almost mystical guidance for her birth parents and healing from her early traumas. I appreciate that Lauck presented not only the tale of her primal wound but also chronicled her journey in healing from it.

One paragraph gave me a new way to frame the age-old issue why some people seem to have more than their share of bad things happen to them:

If we are talking about cause and effect — karma — what is the energetic power of the traumatized brain? Is it a force of its own, like a magnet that drags terrorizing circumstances, people, and events into its path in order to reexperience traumatic responses that have become familiar and even comforting? If terror is what the mind knows, is terror then sought out? Is this how predators identify victims? Is this power what attracts cruel people into the lives of trauma victims and has them stick around year after brutal year? Had my brain — with its unique wiring and built-in responses — been drawing me into situations that resulted in rape, abuse, neglect and cruelty? (p116)

I ultimately value the book for the fact that Lauck explains how, with awareness and mindfulness, she turned her karma around. She now teaches others, especially adult adoptees, to do the same.

Here are the discussion questions I chose to answer.

On pp 17-18, Jennifer talks about a baby searching for her mother after being born. How did this sensory-rich passage strike you? What thoughts did it trigger about the role you play in adoption?

This was a painful passage for me, a mother by adoption, to read. I was there the moment Tessa was born. I watched her snuzzle with Crystal that first 36 hours in the hospital. And then I brought her home (albeit with a detour). In my memory, Tessa was a calm, happy baby. I recall no frantic searching, “outrage, panic or terror.” Did I simply miss it?

With Reed, I wasn’t present for his first three weeks, one of them being in the NICU, one with Michele and the other with cradle-care parents. Was he then and does he remain in a state of “amnesia — shock-based unconsciousness”?

I hesitate to say a flat-out no because of the “thou-doth-protest-too-much” thing, but I didn’t see signs.

The passage had the effect of making me look. And to be on the lookout.

Assuming the loss of a first mother is extremely painful for an adoptive child, is there a way to empower or help an adoptive child heal if an open relationship with their first mother is not an option?

Yes. An adoptive mom (or dad) can foster such an open and trusting relationship with her son (or daughter) that he feels safe feeling his emotions and allowing her to witness him doing so. For the mom to do this, she must work through any botheration* she may have about her role in her son’s life as a second mom, and be aware of her own feelings of sadness, grief, jealousy or guilt she harbors for her son’s first mom.

I believe that feelings get stuck and rot only when they are squashed beneath the surface of consciousness. When a son is allowed to feel and process sadness, grief or anger, with the support of someone who loves him deeply and is unimpeded herself, he is more likely to be able to release and be free of painful emotions — in essence, to heal, to be empowered.

It takes a lot of self-work to provide that space to a child, because you have to have that space within yourself.

If a first mother is not willing to have contact with her child or adoptive family, is it prudent to attempt to compel the first mother into an open relationship?

No! The “open” in openness refers not only to the type of adoption but also the spirit of it. To compel someone to do what she doesn’t want to do is a recipe for resentment, disappointment and heartache all around.

However, I’m all for persuading people into open adoption relationships. By using logic — it will be better for your child in the long run if you can have a steady and positive presence in her life — or by using emotion — you’ve already done the hardest thing out of your love for your child; now stay in her life so that she can continue to know herself better through you – I wholeheartedly support gentle and repeated reminders about why the first mom (or dad) should participate in an open adoption.

I realize, however, that not all birth moms are open to being open. My son’s birth mom has such tendencies toward closedness, and sometimes the most I can do is stay Friends with her on Facebook. We adoptive parents are the caretakers of the relationship between our children and their birth parents until it is able to happen on its own.

What I suggest in these cases is that adoptive parents make it clear to a first mom that they desire an Open Door adoption, in which the first mom can walk through when she’s ready. For one thing, it shows that adoptive parents see in her the potential to heal and to return to the relationship, and for another, people change and grow. Having an open door adoption leaves a way to accommodate that growth and create or resume a relationship.

* It’s a word!

To continue to the next stop of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn January 13, 2012 at 7:38 am

For starters, THANK YOU for organizing this book tour. I enjoyed it very much and I’m glad that I was able to participate.

Next, I have to say I was surprised that an adoptive mother picked this book. I’m not saying I don’t think adoptive parents should read this book (in fact I think it’s a must read for adoptive parents to see the other side of things). I was just surprised.

I really admire you for giving your children room for grief. And I really admire that you’re willing to try to see adoption from all sides, from all perspectives. Some people don’t have a good experience. Some people have an OK one. And some people have a great experience. You have to take all into the mix when talking about adoption. There isn’t a one-size fits all. Good choice.

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Thriving Despite Us January 13, 2012 at 8:34 am

I too want to thank you for organizing this tour and picking this book. I agree with the above comment. As an adoptive mother, I don’t think I would never have chosen to read this book on my own and I am so glad that I did read it.

I love your answers to the above questions and am relieved to hear that you do not see signs of the amnesia based unconsciousness in your children. I don’t see it in my children either and sometimes I worry that I just don’t see what I don’t want to.

Thanks again for organizing this.

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Jjiraffe January 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

“I believe that feelings get stuck and rot only when they are squashed beneath the surface of consciousness.”

Can I get a witness? Seriously, this is the wisest bit of advice I’ve heard in ages. And particularly relevant to my life right now.

I really enjoyed reading your take on the book as a parent with children in an open adoption and also, from the karmic point of view about how people can get beyond the terrible things that have happened to them.

I always learn so much on these book tour adventures. Thank you for organizing them!

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Esperanza January 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

Very interesting to read your take on both the author and the book. I also appreciated how instead of dwelling on the possible negative effects of separation from their birth mothers to your children, you are using your concern to be more vigilant and better prepared to see the signs of that possible trauma in the future. Your children are very lucky to have you as their mother. I wonder what book Ms. Lauck would have written if her adoptive parents had been more like you.

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meghann January 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

Oh, Lori—have I told you lately that I love you? :)

Not just for organizing this book tour, which is phenomenal & I am so excited to read the other responses—but because so often your words resonate with me.

The three questions you chose to answer are all ones I considered but didn’t answer, and I’m glad of that because your answers are so much more succinct than mine would have been! But the things you say here are what is in my own heart—I remember particularly your earlier words about “open door adoption”, when I was struggling with “closedness” on the part of my children’s first mother—and I appreciate so much your putting it all out there for others to read.

I often think one of the most important things we can do as adoptive parents—in open adoptions or otherwise—is to get over ourselves well enough that we can fully meet our children wherever they are at a given point in their experience. You have a nicer way of putting it than I do, though! xo

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m. January 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Lori, you are an amazing woman and mother.

Thank you for stimulating this amazing exchange, and for adding your two cents to these questions which weren’t terribly easy to answer. Pages 17-18 were painful for me to read as well, and I really appreciated reading your perspective, because I was wondering what it might be.

The book opened my eyes a bit as well – and now I am questioning which pieces of me were shaped by adoption and which molded themselves through other experiences. Its impossible to know, but it is interesting to look at things from a different perspective. I’m not sure you know how much I value you for yours.

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a January 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm

I’ll email you with my take on the book – I’ve been meaning to anyway…

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Kelly January 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Thank you so very much for all your work on putting this book club together. I am amazed!

This book was a hard one for me. I’m an adoptive parent and was “nervous,” if you will, about how my son’s adoption would affect him. The book pretty much confirmed my fears, and then some… But I can’t tell you how much I loved what you said:

“I believe that feelings get stuck and rot only when they are squashed beneath the surface of consciousness. When a son is allowed to feel and process sadness, grief or anger, with the support of someone who loves him deeply and is unimpeded herself, he is more likely to be able to release and be free of painful emotions — in essence, to heal, to be empowered.”

This is such incredibly great advice, in my situation, and in most of life’s curveballs really… I am a mom, even if by a deviation from “the norm,” and I’m a super lucky mom at that. But I must always remain open to healing for and by all of those I love.

I really enjoyed this book, even as I cried for the pain that my son will have to deal with. Nobody wants their child to feel sadness. But I guess with sadness, we grow and become empathetic individuals… I can only help by being a strong person to help with that.

Thank you for putting this all together… Did I already say that? :)

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Tonya January 13, 2012 at 8:45 pm

I also found the passage about an infant searching for his/her mother difficult and thought-provoking. Like you, our children were placed with us very soon after birth — 5 days for my daughter and 3 for my son. I also don’t remember any sense of searching. They were both easy, calm babies. But, of course, I can never know what the experience of being separated from their birth mom was really like for them. And, I do know my daughter (who is 7) does now feel that sense of longing often.

I also love your response to the question about “forcing” openness. Our children have the same birth mother, and for a long time she had very little contact with us. We sent letters and pictures and occasional small gifts. And we invited her to contact us, but she didn’t. And no matter how sad that made me, I just kept up our end of the contact and always, always made sure to end any communication to her with an invitation for her to contact us if she wanted. Finally, this last year, we’ve seen an increase in communication from her, which has really meant a lot to my daughter. I’m hoping that communication just grows from here.

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Jennifer Lauck January 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

Lori! You may have noticed that yours in the last site I have commented on and that is for one specific reason. I needed to get my latest resource text on karma before I began writing.

In this last year my understanding of karma has been expanded. And this is what I wanted to write about here. Karma as I used to understand it, was defined as cause and effect and I was using that definition in order to get down to churning’s I had about why we do as we do and more specifically about my own brain, it’s trauma based patterns, and if I was attracting trauma-based experiences toward me as a way of deepening the pattern. This was really my own thinking on the question because no one I knew was talking about habituated patterns, trauma and karma in this way. I was just damn curious. And this thinking was very lonely because culturally, there is a blanket denial of trauma in relationship to adoption. Translation: I had no one to discuss my theory with because the topic was simply too controversial (and remains so). But there it was.

I am reading a book titled Wake Up to Your Life by Ken McLeod and he puts down this definition of karma, which came from a Tibetan master: “physical, mental or verbal acts that imprint habituated tendencies on the mind.” McLeod also goes on to write: “the teachings on karma are intended…to dismantle belief and help us open to the mystery of being.” So this means that the idea that karma, as my step mother interpreted it, being a kind of “great equalizer in a just universe that balances out good and evil,” missed the mark. Karma is habituated tendency and the result of the habit.

Oh my goodness, as I read this, I was able to deepen my own thinking about trauma in the brain of a person who has had one blow after another from birth forward. I was also able to see clearly that my habits of disorder, fear, chaos, lack of trust in others, etc were all just that…habits. The good news was that habits could be broken.

I was no longer a slave to what I believed or what society told me to believe, I was now free to study experience, see the habituated pattern and dissolve it in attention. This means I am free based on my own effort of attention and mindfulness and it is true–as within, so without–meaning I create my reality.

Ah ho! Great happiness. I got it.

I wanted to share that with you, a kind of deepening about this conversation about karma, because it felt very important.

We have these beliefs about karma and about everything. But beliefs are simply a way for the mind to explain what cannot be explained. All mystery is eliminated when I cling to “beliefs.” As McLeod wrote, “beliefs are a form of sleep.”

And that is why this conversation is so amazing and I thank you for opening Found to this tour opportunity. The beliefs surrounding adoption, on all levels, need to be challenged. For too long we have wanted to believe our adopted children are blissed out beings blessed by the fact of our loving presence and that birth mothers are disposable and even irrelevant because it’s nurture, not nature and that we are heroes for giving hearth and home to the adopted child who otherwise would languish in a miserable situation. We do this because these beliefs bring comfort but they also bring a deadness to the mystery of being. There is this inkling deep within that something is amiss and before we know it, that “something” explodes to the surface in the form of a book like Found and Primal Wound. We rage and reject and turn away. We refuse to read. But then we are haunted because the lid of Pandora’s Box has now been lifted! We cannot go back. We have seen past our cherished beliefs into another reality and it’s undoing, terrified and seductive.

This is good news. This is the best news of all. We are awakening to our own dilemma and in this context–adoption seems very small in retrospect. The dismantling of beliefs, patterns, rigidity and fear, now that’s what I’m interested in.

Thank you again Lori.

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Judy January 14, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Each child is different, born with a unique temperament and with their own set of circumstances; these facts impact their life’s journey. We must give room, permission, validation, and support to our children so that they can grieve and process what having beed adopted means. We never know when (if) confusing feelings about having been adopted will surface. We all bring baggage into our relationships, and we need to be aware of this.

Thank you, my wise friend, for creating this platform for discussion. Love it. May it broaden the minds of those who tour our posts… :)
Judy

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Kathy January 14, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Just wanted to let you know that I was here, reading and appreciating the discussion, even though I didn’t sign up for the tour or read the book this time around. I LOVE book tours and was curious to see what some of you had to say about the book, see what questions people wrote and chose to answer. I agree that I (and others) don’t have to have read Found to get something out of the tour. Thank you, as always, for sharing your thoughtful perspective on what you took away from this memoir. I can only imagine what it was like to read it as an adoptive mother wanting to give your children the best possible life and continue to help guide them through their experience as adoptees.

As an aside, I look forward to participating in the book tour for your book when it comes out next year!!! I hope the writing is going well and I am sending lots of musing thoughts and prayers your way. xoxo

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Kelsey Stewart January 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

I loved the way you brought up the karma that Ms Lauck talked about in the beginning of the book. I paid close attention to what she was trying to convey in those words, and was not at all surprised how karma, or fate .. which ever it is that you believe in… kept showing up throughout her search. And you put the nail on it, Ms Lauck was determined to turn it around.

Thank you for your thoughtful words about birth mothers and the closeness that may or may not be welcome in an open adoption. It is an extremely difficult road for mothers to travel, one that does not include their children, and often our need for space to grieve, heal and grow is taken as a means of cutting off communications. This is not always the case, and I have seen many hearts broken because they could not explain to their child’s families that just needed time to come to grips with what is happening in life. I think you said it beautiufly here:
“it will be better for your child in the long run if you can have a steady and positive presence in her life”. I could not agree more with you on that.

Thank you for your insights on this book Lori, and also for being the one to throw all of us together to read, discuss and share this page turner with many more out there!

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Dawn Davenport January 20, 2012 at 6:49 am

The comments on the Book Tour review of memoir “Found” have become pretty heated. I think this blog I did earlier hits the nail on the head of some of the undercurrent. A number of people have re-found this blog, so thought I’d repost here to hopefully expand the discussion. “A Dialog Between an Adoptive Parent & an Adult Adoptee” http://bit.ly/yjsx42

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Lori Lavender Luz January 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Thank you, everyone, for such a wonderful and respectful dialog. I have been reading the comments on all of the posts and I have thought thoughts I’d never thought and seen viewpoints I didn’t know existed. This has been fascinating.

I remember that post, Dawn! I’m coming to check it out again.

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shannon January 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Thanks for the review – I haven’t read the book, but I thought that passage about karma was really interesting. I’d like to hear more about how she “turned it around.”

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