Category Archives: Adoption

How to Survive Mother’s Day if You’ve Experienced Adoption or Infertility

Flickr - Whiternoise - Dead flowers, Pére Lachaise CemeteryNot everyone gets warm Hallmarky feelings about Mother’s Day. While the maternally privileged (like me, currently both having a mom and being a mom) buy cards and flowers and/or receive cards and flowers, others dread this time of year.

Many of these Mother’s Day dreaders are connected through the experience of adoption, some also through infertility. Who are some of these outliers?

  • Women experiencing infertility
  • Women who are waiting to adopt or who have adopted
  • Women who placed a baby for adoption
  • People who were placed for adoption

Though the situations are different, healthy strategies for getting through mid-May with one’s sanity intact are similar (as excerpted from the book I wrote with my daughter’s birth mom, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption).

mother's day can hurt, infertility, adoption

3 Tips to Surviving Mother’s Day

1. Find balance. You don’t want to dwell on your pain or discomfort with the holiday, but neither do you want to deny it’s there, because denial gives it power. When emotions arise, acknowledge them — maybe even aloud (“OK. I’m feeling really angry that other people are celebrating what I lack”) — and release. You may have to do this more than once (ha, once would be too easy!). Maybe a dozen or a hundred or a thousand times between now and Monday, May 12.

2. Stay present and in your physical body. When we grieve our wounds, we are in the past in our emotional body. When we worry or are fearful, we are in the future in our mental body. So find something to do that keeps you in your body and present, like physical or creative activities or just plain stillness.

  • Move. In the remaining days leading up to Mother’s Day, plan to walk, run, hike, dance, mountain bike, swim, rock climb, do martial arts or yoga or another activity. Physical movement prevents emotional stagnation.
  • Create. Supplement all that movement with creativity. Write, compose, paint, draw, choreograph, mix a song, rap, blow glass, make pottery, or plant and tend a garden. Creating allows your energy and emotions to flow and not get stuck.
  • Find stillness. Meditate, do tai chi, or simply find focus in whatever you are doing — walking, cycling, washing dishes. Practice finding this place of presence, of uni-tasking and being where you are, of calming the chatter of your mind.

3. Connect with others. Find a tribe of people who have walked or are walking a similar path.

  • Infertility and Adopting: Melissa at Stirrup Queens tends a ginormous blogroll sorted by neighborhood (such as assisted reproductive technology, third-party reproduction, adoption, living child-free). Creating A Family is also a rich resource, both its site and its Facebook community. And Keiko Zoll from The Infertility Voice has compiled a helpful list of infertility support organizations.
  • Birth/First parents: Birth Mom Buds and Concerned United Birthparents are two of many online support group options. For in-person gatherings near you, do an Internet search of “birth parent support” plus your zip code.
  • Adoptees: Adult Adoptees Advocating for Change, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, and Adoption.com offer resource sections for adoptees. You may also conduct an Internet search for “adoptee support” plus your zip code to find face-to-face meetings near you.
  • Everyone: If you don’t find an in-person support group to suit your needs, why not start one?

More Tips from the Trenches

Let’s hear from experts, those who have been there, done that and survived infertility and adoption.

Tips for Women Longing to be a Mother

  • Keiko Zoll of The Infertility Voice reveals 3 tips on the RESOLVE New England website.
  • Cristy of Searching for Our Silver Lining shares her survival guide.
  • Melissa Ford of Stirrup Queens offers her advice and encouragement.

Tips for Women Waiting to Adopt and Adoptive Moms

  • Creating a Family lists 42 things you can do while waiting — any of them during the month of May.
  • Brandy, a Colorado adoptive mom, says, “Don’t let anyone steal your hope, joy or excitement. If it would make you feel good to receive a Mother’s Day card, drop a not-so-subtle hint to someone who would arrange for that.” Sarah, another mom via adoption, offers, “Avoid people who don’t understand or who make you uncomfortable. On holidays, be selfish and indulge in what you need, and not what others expect of you.”
  • If Mother’s Day is difficult because you feel guilty or sad about your child’s first mom (or even if you don’t), says Rebecca Gruenspan, “reach out to her and thank her. Let her know her child is doing well. Give her some peace of mind.” Being kind and respectful makes you feel good, too.
  • Michelle, adoptive mom of teens,advises that you expand your view from the short-term BECOMING a mom to the long-haul BEing a mom. Read a book about adoptive parenting. Ahem.

Tips for Birth/First Moms

  • Chanel Young, birth mom in Texas, says, “Be honest with yourself about how you are really feeling and dealing and if the situation permits be honest with the other mother. I am very lucky to have such an open and understanding couple, I don’t really know how I would deal with this if they weren’t as inclusive of me or if it had been closed rather than open.”
  • Ames Markel, who is an adoptee as well as first mom to a 13 year-old son, says, “It’s OK to cry! Mother’s Day is hard. Let yourself grieve, but always remember that your decisions were made from pure love. And love is a wonderful gift any mother can give her child.”

Tips from the Trenches for Adopted People

Last but perhaps most, for the children-who-become-adults at the center of adoptions…

  • Author Laura Dennis counsels adoptees (and first parents) to allow themselves to heal, especially if they are in limbo about reunion. “For anyone who may have emotional triggers about Mother’s Day, my advice is super simple, but not at ALL easy: Even if you are hurting, you can HEAL. You are not powerless. You can work on your own pain, your own hurt, to make yourself the most whole, ready, emotionally open, and secret-free person you can be, no matter what comes.”
  • Deanna Doss Shrodes, pastor and writer at Adoptee Restoration, says, “For adoptees who do have children and find this holiday hard to navigate with first mother or adoptive mother issues, I recommend shifting the focus to celebrating your own life as a mom.”
  • Cultivate kindness from within, says writer and adoptee JoAnne Bennett. “Feeling bitterness from the losses [of my birth mother and adoptive mother] has not been an option for me, but rather the ‘hard parts’ have strengthened my belief that being a caring and sensitive human being with a genuine love for one another is what is most important.”

If you’ve endured infertility or adoption, what coping strategies have worked for you around Mother’s Day?

Flower image by Joshua Veitch-Michaelis (Pére Lachaise Cemetery) via Wikimedia Commons 2.0.
Life preserver image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

CLOSURE Film: Review & Special Denver Screening Information

Angela Tucker is a transracial adoptee who joined a family in the Pacific Northwest after being born in the South and placed into the foster care system. Closure is a film that documents Angela’s two-year search for her birth family and its efect on her, her adoptive family, her husband, and, of course, members of her birth family.

Denver Showing Offers Q&A with Angela Tucker & Filmmaker Bryan Tucker

A special Denver screening of this film will take place on May 7 and May 8, sponsored by the Colorado Department of Human Services and Adoption Options in celebration of Foster Care Month. These events begin at 7 pm and are held at the Sie Film Center at 2510 E Colfax. Due to limited space, advance tickets are highly recommended.

What makes this screening so special? Angela Tucker and filmmaker Bryan Tucker will appear after the film’s showing to answer audience questions.

And I’ll be joining their panel the evening of May 8. I’d love to see you there.

Angela Tucker film ClosureClosure is a gripping story full of emotional highs and lows, and it gives adoptive parents like me a peek into the hidden wonderings adoptees can have about their origins and the pressures they may feel to act on their curiosity — or not to.

From Either/Or to Both/And

As Angela’s story unfolds, I witnessed how some members of her adoptive family began in an Either/Or mindset — either WE’re her family or THEY are. But out of their love for Angela, these same people were eventually able to cultivate a Both/And heartset. For example, Angela’s adoptive sister asks, “Aren’t our parents enough?” And Angela’s mom says early on, “I did worry about being replaced as a mom because I wasn’t sure I could handle that because they were MY kids.”

But later, Angela’s mom says, “As Angela got older I really felt deeply like I was her mom. In her 20s I realized it wasn’t going to change my status as being her mom if she found her birth mother. And I became as curious as her. Who was her birth mother? What’s her story?”

The power of family member’s love for Angela and their security in her love for them help make the crucial shift that supports Angela in her pursuits. I adore this depiction, and wish all adopting and adoptive parents could see how easily such a shift can be made.

I’ll leave you in suspense about how birth family relationships develop. Who is found? How meandering is the search? Who embraces Angela and who denies her? What happens at first meetings? What happens after that?

I urge you to watch this film (if you’re not able to attend the screening, you may also rent or buy the film, starting at $4.99)

The theater is small and the event is expected to sell out, so get your tickets now.

“For the rest of my life I’ll be connected”

I’ll share two more quotes from Angela’s birth family members that stood out for me.

  • What you do in the dark will come to the light. She thought this secret would never come to light. She needs to get over it…She needs to forgive herself. Once she forgives herself, then the lines of communication will be open.
  • Through a child one day, we all got connected whether we knew it or not. We were connected. For the rest of my life I’ll be connected.

Angela Tucker blogs at The Adopted Life and will return to Colorado this summer to mentor young adoptees at the African Caribbean Heritage Camp.

How Not to Handle Your Own Ignorance On the Internet

Now I know how adoptee Laura Dennis felt when she was called adoption’s “house slave.” In an ironic turn of events — considering that Laura and I work together to promote adoption ethics and adoption awareness — yesterday I was called out as a leader of a “lynch mob.”

My last post was picked up by the Huffington Post, which is great because there it’s more likely to reach an audience that may not already have an understanding about adoption. From there, a woman named Bethany Ramos wrote a post in response on a site called Mommyish.

But before we go there, let’s talk about the word “ignorance.” The dictionary version of the word is is less emotionally charged than the way we often use it.

definition of ignoranceWhen I say “ignorant”, I simply mean lacking knowledge, with no intended slam against one’s intellect. With that in mind, we can now address…

How TO handle your own ignorance about a topic

My friend, Lisa, a birth mom, wrote on Facebook that the Kay commercial triggered her. Others began talking about being triggered, as well. Lisa’s friend Angela, who seemingly has no personal connection to adoption, began to remedy her ignorance by asking questions of the people on the thread.

Why can’t we see a loving family celebrating becoming parents? Why do you refer to it as separating mothers and their babies. I have not been in the situation and am trying to understand.

And people responded respectfully to her questions. Angela, open to listening, now has more understanding about  why this commercial was triggering, especially to birth parents and adopted people, and she also has greater awareness about what goes on in an adoption from the three main points of view.

In contrast…

How to use your own ignorance as a billy club

[lynchy-snarky portion edited after a taking few calming breaths]

Post writer Bethany Ramos demonstrates  her ignorance with her post’s headline:

“The Adoption Lynch Mob Needs to Take a Chill Pill Before Freaking Out About This Commercial”

Melissa of Stirrup Queens calls Bethany and Mommyish out as linkbaiters:
Do you know what a lynch mob is?  Wikipedia sums it up nicely: “Lynching is murder by mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a specific sector of a population.”  It’s a means for a dominant group to control a weaker group.

Bethany then goes on to gloat about her ignorance. I have no personal experience with adoption, but I always have thought it to be a wonderful, selfless act.

Being able to imagine herself in only one of the three positions of the adoption triad, Bethany says,

Apparently, this touchy-feely commercial overlooks all of the heartache that goes into adoption, i.e. hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, as well as emotional pain and stress. I’m not denying that all of these things are true, but why are we looking a gift horse in the mouth here?

Yes, she’s able to feel the heartache from the adopting parents point of view, but had she read the Huffington Post article with an open mind, she would have remedied her own ignorance about the presence of placing parents and adoptees in every adoption situation, a stereotype that Kay’s commercial was effective in solidifying in her.

And who, exactly, does a “gift horse” represent?

Many of Bethany’s commenters go on to prove my point about ignorance, that the commercial perpetuates the myth that adoption is “wonderful” to all involved. The comments below show that like Bethany, the commenters are able to see only the adopting parents’ perspective. They’ve been further brainwashed by the commercial! They can’t seem to get that there are other people involved in every adoption, people who hurt. People who may still be hurting.

After each actual comment, you’ll see in bold how it may come across to those who were triggered.

  • Seems to me because of all of the heartache and difficulties they suggest come with adoption, being happy and celebratory IS the right reaction. For the adopting parents.
  • Anti* adoption people make me sick. What do they want to do with unwanted children? Execute them? Put them in labor camps? Hello perpetuated adoption stereotype! People who place babies do so because they don’t want them!
  • God forbid some family take them in and actually love them. All hail the selfless adopting parents, taking in the unwanted babies!
  • Bringing a child home is a culmination of struggle and heartbreak so I agree with Bethany – buy some damn jewelry and celebrate!! Culmination and celebration for the adopting parents!
  • Just look at the cute commercial and smile at a couple of new parents being happy. Yeesh talk about sensitive. Again the smile and the happy are adopting-parent-centric, only a fraction of a  whole adoption scenario.

It’s like Bethany and many of her commenters are living in Pleasantville. They love the Beaver Cleaver neat and tidy style of the 1960s, where things are in black and white and they don’t have to do with the unpleasantries and complications of too many other hues.

I ask Bethany and her myopic commenters to take a cue from Angela and allow those of us who live in color to bring shades of reality to your lives.

What responsibility does an advertiser have regarding stereotypes?

One commenter said, They’re supposed to show the multi-faceted heartbreak of adoption? It’s a bloody commercial, not a documentary.

I don’t expect Kay to teach the complexities of adoption in 30 seconds. But neither should it sell a fantasy that’s full of stereotypes and misconceptions. Yes, adoption can be something to be celebrated. But we need to see it in its wholeness, from 360 degrees, and not just the pretty Pleasantville parts. Yes, there are gains, especially for adoptive parents like me who end up with what we want. Birth parents can also gain a way out of a tough situation, and the adopted person gains a family.

But each of these positions has also experienced loss. Loss of dreams, the pruning of a family tree, the loss of a genetic line and all that was familiar. Visceral, deep, profound losses. This ad was dismissive of the loss — if the ad people even knew there was loss in adoption — and it perpetuated myths for all three parts of the adoption triad.

In the pursuit of a link-baity headline, Bethany and her frenzied followers completely missed that point.

How could the ad have been improved? I would like to have seen a set of birth parents present. Of course, you can’t give the placing mom jewelry without creating another crapstorm, but Don Draper would surely be able to figure out something, even drunk and in the 60s. Many of today’s adoptions include adoptive and birth families coming together with open hearts, connecting with each other as extended family members.

That’s something Kay Jewelers could more authentically link with its open heart collection.

The Internet sometimes makes people forget they are talking about real people

I suspect that Bethany and many of her readers are pretty nice folks. They might open the door for others, pay it forward in the Starbucks drive-through, and volunteer to help their kids’ teachers with the upcoming Valentines Day parties. They probably speak nicely in real life to most people most of the time.

But some switch gets thrown when they play in the faceless Internet playground. They forget that they are talking about real people.

  • Some people need to be punched in the neck, for realsies.
  • On what planet is this acceptable to say to a total stranger on the internet? Seriously, you’re an idiot.
  • F**k you!
  • The implication: If you disagree with me you are part of an angry lynch mob.

Bethany’s post title itself is inflammatory and offensive. Lynch mob? Chill pill? My Huffington Post piece was not designed to convert anyone to my way of thinking, but rather to show how Kay told only part of a story, badly so, while feeding stereotypes.

Bethany’s title and post indicate there’s no room in her world for people who don’t share her opinion. She tells me I need to do something. With her first dozen words she deliberately  creates a frenzy. Her followers follow and feed the frenzy shutting down the likelihood of actual dialog. There’s a whole lotta shouting going on over there and not a whole lot of listening.

And, as Angela demonstrated, being open and listening is how to remedy ignorance.

* I’ve been called “anti” before.