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.