Do You See a Baby as a Blank Slate? Lesli Johnson on the Neuroscience of Adoption

Separation from one’s biology — it really changes the way people view themselves in the world. Some common themes and beliefs adoptees have are:

It’s not safe to trust.
I’m not lovable.
People leave.
I’m not worthy.
I’ll be whatever you need me to be.

Lesli Johnson,
Marrriage & Family Therapist,
adoptee, adoption thought leader —

Lesli Johnson, MFT, on What Adoptive Parents Need to Know about Adoptees

Therapist and adoptee Lesli Johnson, my latest guest on Adoption: The Long View, was a consultant about adoption and parenting themes for the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere. Lesli also wrote an article many years ago that goes viral just about every year. In 10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know, Lesli reveals so many of the things we adoptive parents need to know to create the trusting and connected parent-child relationships we long for.

What Happens When We See Baby as a Blank Slate?

For decades, we considered an adopted baby as a blank slate and formed our adoption and parenting practices accordingly.

In this episode, Lesli and I explore old concepts about newborns, babies, and toddlers in light of newer research in neuroscience. We cover what this means for more effective approaches to adoption and parenting today — knowing what we now know. Here’s some of what you’ll hear:

  • Is a newborn baby a blank slate?
  • The nature vs nurture argument.
  • Implicit memory, grief and loss, loyalty and wondering about/searching for birth parents.
  • The easy-to-shift mindset that can keep adoptive parents from evoking divided loyalty in their child (painful!).
  • How adoptees are in reunion whether they’re searching or not.
  • A special story at the 22 minute mark: “I have permission to tell this story. Their son was 8 years old, he was having trouble in school. His parents wanted me to work with him. And he was adopted…
Many see a baby as a blank slate. Therapist Lesli Johnson talks about the latest brain science.
Continue reading Do You See a Baby as a Blank Slate? Lesli Johnson on the Neuroscience of Adoption

To the Woman Who Longs to Be a Mom and Who Says “I Want a Closed Adoption”

Hello, 30something woman on baby forums and infertility groups. May I call you Jessica? You don’t know me, but I was once where you were. I had finally met the man of my dreams, the guy I wanted to build a life with, the father of my future children. I felt so lucky!

Then after a few years of near-unbearable amounts of physical and emotional pain and expense, it became clear we could not make a baby. No way, no how. End of story. Not gonna happen. So WRONG. So unfair. So unlucky.

It was the most horrible thing I’d ever been through. It almost broke me. I was so deeply hurt. Angry. Jealous. Lost. Devastated. I couldn’t take much more. I wanted to be a mom. Was that so wrong? People do this effortlessly — even accidentally! — all the dang time.

Adopting After Infertility

Eventually, we set foot on the path of adoption. Surely after all we’d been through, the gods would bless us with an easy path. Surely we deserved something simple and doable. After all that bad luck, things had to even out, right? Please god, just bring us a baby. We will be the best parents ever. I promise promise promise.

Continue reading To the Woman Who Longs to Be a Mom and Who Says “I Want a Closed Adoption”

Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart: Two Open Adoption Pioneers on Figuring it Out

It takes a strong back and a soft front to face the world.

Roshi Joan Halifax, Zen teacher,
as quoted by NYT best-selling author
Elizabeth Lesser in Cassandra Speaks
and by Brené Brown, PhD on Unlocking Us

And, I submit, to cultivate an vibrant and effective open adoption — as you’ll discover with this latest episode of Adoption: The Long View.

Three things converged as I prepared for this episode.

First, The Talk

I interviewed Kim Court, a birth mom who placed her son for adoption in 1988, and Linda Marie Mueller, who became an adoptive mom to a son in 1992. Both are my friends, and I have long wondered how each of them figured out how to create a healthy open adoption way back in its early days, before practically anyone else was doing it and before there was much guidance on it.

Prefer to read Episode 10? Here’s a transcript (but listening is so much better).

Continue reading Strong Back, Soft Front, Wild Heart: Two Open Adoption Pioneers on Figuring it Out

adoption, parenting, mindfulness, open adoption