A year ago I published a letter from Charlene that explained her son had found his birth mother and they had all attended his college graduation. The reunion had gone so well that the son had decided to move to another state to live with his birth mom and get to know his biological family.
Charlene was happy for her son, yet also had many other emotions and was feeling confused by their coexistence.
That post resulted in a lively and helpful discussion. Charlene wrote in this week with an update, and she doesn’t mind that I share it with you. We both feel there is value in seeing what happens when a person has no choice but to trust the process (well, I suppose you can fight the process, but in adoption that rarely ends well).
I am an adoptive mother of three. My son, now 23 , graduated from college this past May. Throughout his upbringing his father and I would talk about adoption from time to time and always told him (and the other kids, too) if they ever wanted to search for their birth parents we encourage and support and will help in anyway possible.
None of our kids ever took an interest, until earlier this year when my son was in his senior year of college. It seemed from out of nowhere, but all of a sudden he wanted to reach out to his birth mother. I knew her last name and the state she last lived in. With that information, voilà, he found her on Facebook.
My son met with a counselor who specialized in adoption search and reunion and we met with them to navigate the process. My son asked for my help, asked if I could message her through Facebook. At first I was hesitant but after composing what I thought was a thoughtful , acceptable letter, the message was sent.
That was February of 2016. We held our breath. Will she open the message, will she be open to corresponding, will she reject him? What will happen???
Fast forward a few months. We flew her and her entire family to his college town to attend his graduation this spring. They stayed for a week. Four weeks later my son decided to move to another state and live with them.
So this has been a whirlwind. It has been such an array of emotions. I am so grateful his biological family accepted him and immediately loved him and were open and kind and appreciative towards us.
On my bad days I feel like….. what. just. happened.
Available now in eBook (less than $6) and paperback, Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age: An Anthology is a must-read for anyone involved in adoption, especially adoptive and adopting parents who wish to hear from possible grown versions of their children who have traveled an adoptee’s path.
More than 20 voices are featured, neither in harmony nor unison nor discord. The experiences they share are varied, the viewpoints unique. You’ll hear about adoption reunion from not only adoptees but also from first parents and even adoptive parents (I contributed Chapter 6, “We Didn’t Want Reunion So We Chose Openness Instead”). Other voices include social workers, therapists, activists, a novelist, a DNA testing adviser and a minister.
Speaking of that minister, her name is Deanna Doss Shrodes, and I have the pleasure to interview her about her chapter, “When a Reunion Isn’t a True Reunion.” Deanna writes regularly at Adoptee Restoration, and you can read an excerpt from her chapter by clicking there. But you’ll have to get the book to read her transformative Casket Chat!
Below are Q&A between Deanna and me. And below all that is information on a giveaway of this book. You can also read Deanna’s interview with me.
You were able to reunite with your mother and sister and brother, and you are in the midst of a search for your father, with a very hot lead. To what degree do these points in a series of reconnections have in giving you back your pieces, in healing the wounds you have as a result of having been adopted?
For me, these connections are huge. The knowledge, without the “reconnection” or relationship is tremendously helpful in itself.
As far as the search for my father, the lead we currently have is on a man who is deceased. A lot of people have said to me, “Don’t you hope that DNA proves this man to not be you’re the one, so you will still have a chance that your natural father is alive?” No. Of course I would prefer not to find a grave at the end of a search if I had my druthers, but having some answers is better than having nothing.
Right now this man is our only lead. And with this lead, I have found a paternal family that accepts and welcomes me, should DNA prove us related. Even if they did not, just knowing the truth of where I come from is huge. In my personal experience, with every bit of history or truth I receive, another part of me settles down inside. I thought everything about this would be solved when I met my natural mother. It wasn’t. However, a great deal of what was unsettled inside me did settle down.
I’ve never expected to find perfection in reunion. I just want truth. Whether it’s good, bad or ugly…I just want reality instead of the fantasies my mind wandered to for 27 years on the maternal side and now 47 years on the paternal. All that wandering gets tiring. Not bragging at all here, but simply to make a point…I’ve accomplished some important things in my life. But I wonder how much more I could have accomplished had I not been constantly distracted by thoughts of the unknown. Every person whether adopted or not will face questions about the unknown. However, adoptees deal with this issue at the very core of our identity. That is not easy and even if you are a Christian, you have a relationship with God and a strong spiritual walk, those questions will roar. A lot.
I’m so tired of wondering about those things and wish I could have it settled once and for all.
You say “I believe every human being has a right to look into the eyes of the two people they originate from, at least once.” When mediating among competing rights, how does one decide whose right trumps the others’? How should the law (if indeed it is a legal issue — maybe it is more of a moral issue) handle mothers sharing information on the identity of fathers in order to fulfill the rights of the resulting child?
The child is the one who is actually adopted. If it’s all about doing what’s right for children, then do that. The law is handled simply by providing adoptees with their original birth certificate (OBC) and requiring that they be provided the names of their original mother and father. Simple as that. I believe this is a separate issue from contact, reunion or relationship. Knowledge is different from all those things.
In response to the closed-lips your mother maintained about your father until her death, you have become super-open with your children. Do you think there are any bits of info that a parent might hide from a child, for his/her own good? What are the effects of such secrets on a child? Could that outweigh the possible effects of revealing those secrets on a child, even an adult child?
I believe there are things we may keep from our children for their own good that have nothing to do with them. I’m extremely open with my children but I don’t gather all of them together and drop a bunch of information on them that doesn’t touch their personal lives. I don’t tell my kids “everything” in the literal sense. I do not break confidences within my personal friendships or that which regards my job. But if something is about them personally or has an effect on their lives and they are the rightful owners of that information as well as me — then, I tell them.
Last year when I was in therapy for eight months, they knew. This affects their day-to-day lives. Children are perceptive and know something is wrong even when we say nothing. Rather than make them wonder, “What is wrong with mom? Why is she crying a lot? Are her and dad fighting? Are they getting a divorce?” and sending their minds in a tailspin as to what could be wrong, I sat them down and told them the truth. I shared what had happened between their grandmother and me, and why I was in therapy. Had they been younger, I wouldn’t have used the same exact words.
When the boys were very young, I faced secondary rejection when my natural mother declined to meet me after the confidential intermediary contacted her. I was distraught. I tried to hold it together in front of my two little guys, and most days I succeeded but some days I failed. Our middle son, Jordan, was too young to verbalize or ask what was wrong. He was still a baby in diapers. But Dustin, a preschooler, was so intuitive and verbal and he came out and asked, “What’s wrong, Mommy?” I remember explaining to him in very basic terms that someone I cared about hurt my heart, and this was the reason for my tears. Years later as they grew up they heard the full story. In fact, all three of my children have read my story on the blog even though they already knew the whole thing and lived through it. As they grew in maturity my explanation of things expanded.
The question above may imply that your mother kept your father’s identity from you for your own good. But I sense that is not the case, that her reasons were more self-protective. What are some of the thoughts or techniques or verses from scripture that helped you find forgiveness for your mother in your Casket Chat?
It’s an ongoing process and I call on God daily for wisdom and strength. He has been faithful to give it, daily. I could share a plethora of things He has imparted to me from the time of the falling out with my natural mother, until now. I’ll pick two.
My natural mother declared to me even before she knew she was sick that she would “go to her grave with my father’s name”. I held out hope that she wouldn’t, after she got sick. But, she did. I have to admit, there are still some days I wake up even today and say to myself, “Did that really happen?”
I remember feeling the most intense defeat I have ever felt in my life, when she died. Yes, because she was dead, but also because she died with my natural father’s name.
It felt hopeless, utterly hopeless in those first few days. One of the most powerful moments for me, and I’ve held onto this every day since, was when my friend Michelle, a Lost Daughters blogger, wrote on my Facebook page: “She is not the victor…”
I felt the opposite of Michelle’s declaration at the time. But I held onto it and knew that even without having knowledge of my natural father (yet) I was a victor for who I had become in the process of the previous months. I learned a lot about who I was in 2012 even though a lot of my history is still a mystery. My natural mother wasn’t treating me with kindness during that year, but my therapist reassured me that mounting courage and walking into her hospital room in her final hours was more a statement about who I am than how she was treating me.
I’ve gone to a whole new level in my life of learning what it means to do the right thing, as far as it depends on me. Verses that have been lifelines to me are:
My life verse:
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous… — Joshua 1:5 and 6
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. — Isaiah 41:10
Some days the thought of forgiving was so overwhelming I could only wail. There were days words failed me completely but God said, “You’re right Deanna, you can’t do this on your own but I will strengthen you, help you, uphold you and enable you to do what you can’t do on your own.”
He is faithful.
Deanna Doss Shrodes is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and has served as a pastor for 26 years, along with her pastor-husband, Larry. They have been married for 26 years, have three children and live in the Tampa Bay area. Adopted in 1966 in a closed domestic adoption, she searched and found her original mother, sister and brother and reunited with them in 1993. Deanna blogs about adoption issues at her personal blog, Adoptee Restoration, and also serves as the spiritual columnist at Lost Daughters, and well as being a regular contributor at Adoption Voices Magazine.
One eBook is available for giveaway through this post. Please leave a comment below by February 7 and I’ll use random.org to select a winner. Make sure I have your email address to notify you in case you win.
**Northern Star — you win! Look in your emailbox for further information.**
Thanks to Pastor Deanna for sharing her resilience, determination and reclaiming. For more posts by and about contributors to this anthology, see below. [listly id=”EBD” layout=”short”]