AdoptLit: The Sound of Hope book tour

Several book lovers are sharing our thoughts about Anne Bauer’s memoir, The Sound of Hope: An Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins. Even if you aren’t part of the tour* and even if you haven’t read the book, check out what people are saying about it — you might find that this book is one you want to put on your wishlist.

See the master list at the bottom of this post, following my own contribution to this book tour.

I grew up in the 1970s when closed adoption was, duh, The Way to Go. Babies were considered blank slates on which parents could etch any template they wanted. Women (and men) who surrendered a child were told they would forget about their babies and move on. They were offered a way to atone for the shame of becoming pregnant out of wedlock — by giving their babies to more deserving couples. People becoming parents via adoption were allowed a way out of the shame and secrecy of infertility.

But the shame and secrecy cast a looooong shadow.

I did not, in those days, question the closedness of such adoptions. I had friends who had been adopted, and they did not question it then, either. It was what what we knew, The Way to Go.

But after I became a mom via adoption, I came to know some adoptees online who did question, who did challenge The Way to Go. Who most definitely knew they were not blank slates. Who sensed that their birth parents did not easily move on. Who challenged the idea that being married was, in itself, the qualification that made for good parents.

Anne Bauer's book cover for book tourAnne Bauer’s memoir debunks many of these myths. The concept of “closed” begins as The Way to Go but is revealed to be dark, stifling, shameful and repressive. Anne deals with her inner roiling by seeking light, and her brothers, also adopted, deal with theirs by sinking further in darkness. Her narrative shows the difficulties imposed by The Way to Go of the closed adoption era. I found it an engaging read, and Anne’s tale confirms what I have always intuited about the importance of openness in adoption: it’s essential to help children in adoption integrate the various parts of their identities.

* Disclosure: The author has provided compensation for organizing this book tour.

~~~~~

In this book tour, we each submitted questions to the others. Here are three questions I chose to answer.

Anne writes of her adoptive family, On the outside, we look very much alike. We have the same eye color, the same fair complexion – yes, the adoption agency did its job well. What are your thoughts on how important appearances were at that time (the 1960s)? Have we made progress? What do you think contributed to the change?

I can only make assumptions about how matches were made prior to the days of open adoption, in which the expectant parents choose adoptive parents for their baby. Was it simply by who had been waiting the longest, who had made it to the top of the list? Or was there some criteria-matching that was instituted? My guess would be a bit of both.

If there were matching criteria, what was it? Anne suggests is was based on appearances. I wonder if social workers would, for example, declare that a baby of northern European heritage would do better with parents hailing from Scandinavia that with parents from the eastern Mediterranean. Really, what else was there to go on? So much about the closed era was about appearances — how things looked to others. How to avoid the judgment of others. How to make a family look as seamlessly created as possible.

Based on my experience only, I do believe the open era has brought progress. Through the homestudy, our agency made sure our marriage was stable, that we understood that “discipline,” at its core, was about teaching and not punishing, and that we were likely to be loving parents who could set appropriate boundaries. In other words, the problems that emerged in Anne’s adoptive family were screened for. (That said, had we not made the grade, would we have been turned away?)

What’s more, the agency did not do any matching — our children’s first moms did. Crystal looked at the then-available crop of hopeful couples and chose us (well, as her second choice) to parent her baby. Two years later, Michele did the same thing. Their criteria for their babies.

What contributed to the change? As we progress from closedness to openness, the locus of control for such decisions is gradually moving from the all-knowing agency to the all-caring first mother or father.

But clearly there is still a ways to go.

The afterword states that the author wrote her book in the hopes of raising awareness of civil rights of adoptees and instigating reform in the current laws pertaining to adoptee records. With as much exposure as I’ve had to successful open adoption scenarios, I admit I was surprised to learn how few rights adoptees have to their original birth records. Were you similarly surprised to hear how little control adoptees have over their own records? Why do you think it is that this information is not more widely known?

I was unaware of the plight of adult adoptees as first, too. Because I was in possession of each of my children’s original birth certificates, I didn’t question whether or not my kids would be able to get theirs on their own someday. According to Colorado law, they will, but only because they were born at an opportune time.

But not all adult adoptees born in Colorado can have access to their personal records. People whose adoptions were finalized in the 30-year span between July 1, 1967 and August 31, 1997 — many of the people I grew up with — are SOL. Their records are sealed except via court order. Can you believe that?

  • If your adoption was finalized on June 30, 1967, you have access. One day later, you don’t.
  • If your adoption was finalized on September 1, 1997, you have access. One day earlier, you don’t.

How can this be justifiable?

Anne speculates that much of her brothers’ problems may stem from their verbally abusive adoptive father. Do you agree? Are there other factors that might have been at work in Thomas’ abandonment of his own young family and Brian’s years of social withdrawal?

Yes, I agree and yes, there were other factors that contributed to Thomas and Brian’s difficulties. Besides the verbal abuse from their father, I believe the repression inherent in a closed adoption made both brothers stuff down their emotions. That which we resist persists. If you leave something in the dark and occasionally shovel manure on it, you shouldn’t be surprised if the result is rot and decay.

To continue to this book tour, please visit the links below. Comments are much appreciated by the book tourists!

  1. Lori of Lavender Luz (see above)
  2. Kathy at Bereaved and Blessed
  3. Laura at Laura-Dennis.com
  4. Judy at Judy M Miller
  5. GeoChick
  6. Liz at Poemfish
  7. JoAnne at Stories by JB
  8. Peach at Neither Here nor There
  9. Tonya at Mommy Musings
  10. Kellie C at All in the Family Adoption
  11. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully
  12. Dora at My Preconceived Notion

We hope you have enjoyed our discussion of the issues raised. Thanks for reading along!

19 thoughts on “AdoptLit: The Sound of Hope book tour”

  1. Anne’s memoir, like the majority of adoptee memoirs, deals with domestic adoption, however adopting internationally can also be shadowed by secrecy and shame. As a parent I have to be VERY careful not to place my Western biases on other cultures, for example China and the “lost daughters.” In the arena of openness my husband and I strive to shed light on the difficult truths, while not passing judgment. We don’t want our kiddos to shoulder the shame or feel the rejection tied to decisions made prior to their births. Our kids emotional health and safety is of first priority. We have so much to learn from adult adoptees, and I know that more and more are listening because progress is slowly being made.

    1. That is a balancing act, isn’t it, Judy? To ” strive to shed light on the difficult truths, while not passing judgment.”

      I have learned so much from you about finding the sweet spot.

  2. Man, this agency matching is such a funny thing. I have no idea what these agency workers were thinking! They made stuff up for the “non-identifying information,” and then took wild guesses as to ethnic matching. My agency did a “good job,” too–and they seemingly let my birth mom choose between Protestant couple vs. Catholic nurse and computer programmer. … It’s amazing how must these seemingly innocuous decisions at the time have such HUGE ramifications for adoptees!

    Thanks, Lori for hosting this blog tour …
    Laura

  3. I fixed the link!

    I don’t understand CO laws either – it doesn’t make any sense. With this book, I’ve also been reading Adoption Revolution and just got finished learning about the N.C.F.A. and their work to keep adoptions closed and records sealed. Oooh, another day and another rant coming!

    I agree with your assessment of her brothers. I think there were many factors that contributed to their difficulties.

    The agencies may have done their job matching them to people who look like each other, but in meeting her first-mother, we find out that they did not necessarily do their part to make sure that Anne was placed in the type of situation she had envisioned for her daughter. Her first-mother seemed to feel that the agency failed her in their promises regarding the type of family Anne would be placed with.

    1. I’ll be interested to hear your rant. I’m told also that the NCFA may be open to modifying their stance. Wouldn’t that be grand? I think we’ll see a shift in the next decade or so. They may be deciding to lead the parade rather than be drug along the route by freedom-of-access groups.

  4. My first-mother was not given any input at the time as to the type of parents/family that she preferred for her child. The only consideration she was given was her religious preference and they promised to place her baby in the same denomination as she was, Catholic. I know today this is different and just about all first-mothers are given the opportunity to select the parents they want for their child. Who knows if at the time she would have preferred my parents if she was given the choice, that is a good question I should pose to her! I have a feeling that at the time she would have liked the idea of my joining a family where I would have 2 brothers.

  5. I saw a post on Facebook today, an older woman trying to find her birth mother, for health issues. She was holding a sign saying that she had a happy life and family of her own, and just wanted to thank her birth parents … but that it would be good to know some things about her past. Especially given what the NYT wrote about place and story recently, it made me stop and think longer than I would have before about rights, and I’m surprised, too, that there are such disparities in access. It simply doesn’t make sense.

  6. I am a bit overwhelmed (with the knowledge and discussion) in this book tour, as a newbie to the world of adoption (*only* being the aunt of two adoptees who are 3 years old and under and friend to a few adult adoptees). But as always, I am grateful for the opportunity to open my mind to people and subjects I am less familiar with. In this instance I ma learning to better understand who and what makes up the adoption mosaic (as you have referred to it).

    This quote really speaks to me: “So much about the closed era was about appearances — how things looked to others. How to avoid the judgment of others. How to make a family look as seamlessly created as possible.” I have not spent much time thinking about that and appreciate your perspective on that era of adoption.

    I also like how you describe what contributed to the change in the locus of control, “As we progress from closedness to openness, the locus of control for such decisions is gradually moving from the all-knowing agency to the all-caring first mother or father.”

    Adoptees not having access/the right to see their original birth certificates in this day and age baffles me. I get the thinking in the closed era, but can’t comprehend how and why those laws have yet to be changed in light of what we know now and how I thought things had changed when it comes to perspectives and understanding about adoption.

    Finally, I echo your answer to the last question. “That which we resist persists. If you leave something in the dark and occasionally shovel manure on it, you shouldn’t be surprised if the result is rot and decay.” Well said.

    Thank you for hosting this tour and encouraging me to read this book/participate! It was hard for me to fit it in to this spring break/Easter season, but worth the trouble and I am glad to be learning more about a topic that is dear to my heart (because of loved ones more closely connected to it), but I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did about.

  7. Justine, no it doesn’t make any sense. The laws have to catch up with the times and it doesn’t help when there are still many out there actively fighting to keep adult adoptee records closed. Could you post a link to the picture on my facebook page for my book, I’d like to comment on her status cause I really feel for her wanting to know her own information.

  8. thought-provoking post Lori. What I found especially interesting is the question about Anne’s two brother’s difficulties. Having a non-biological brother that is also adopted I see no matter how “absent” and confusing our adoptive parents were throughout our childhood, he would have still been very messed up. My adoptive mother certainly couldn’t “etch our slates” so to speak.

  9. I also have my children’s original birth certificates, which I didn’t think much of at the time we finalized their adoptions. Now that I know so much more about lack of access, I’m really glad to have them so that they’ll be able to have those one day.

    One of the things that surprised me most when we adopted was that a whole new birth certificate was issued — one that implies that I gave birth to them. And because my kids were born in Arizona and we live in New Hampshire, I often get comments when I have to show their birth certificates and I always feel a little uncomfortable — almost like I’m lying.

  10. First, I wanted to thank you for hosting this book tour. I am so glad I was able to be a part of it. I learned a lot.

    My daughter managed to get two certified copies of her daughters birth certificate before the adoption was final. We lived in Illinois at the time, and we walked into the office and they gave it to us. She even received the first one for free. We didn’t know anything about the plight of adoptees then. We were clueless.
    The birth certificates are in a safe deposit box and her mother can give one or both of them to her when she is an adult.

    1. Thank YOU all for participating in this book tour.

      Kellie, I also have two birth certificates for each of our kids. I figured that adoptee rights regarding access to original birth certificates did not therefore have any bearing on us. But someone pointed out to me that it’s possible that my kids STILL can’t go through vital records to get something others can get.

      And that’s why I fight for adoptee right even thought my children have their records through ME. They and all adopted people should be able to get them ont heir own. http://lavenderluz.com/2012/08/why-i-fight-for-adoptee-rights.html

  11. Much food for thought, for sure. It seems baffling to me that it would ever seem like a good idea to cut out the birth family from any decision as to where their child should be placed. The whole matching process seems counter-intuitive to me … avoiding the nature component that each of the children placed would inherently possess just seems wrong! I am so thankful for openness in the selection process now – although it will not always ensure a flawless match, it definitely helps to mitigate some of the biggest flaws.

    One of the links between our daughter’s birth mother and our family is music – there are no guarantees that our daughter will be musically inclined, but there is a good chance that she will be. I can’t imagine how stifling it would have been for this little girl (and her birth mom) to be a part of a family that doesn’t nurture this innate gift!

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