The subtitle of Anne Bauer’s memoir is An Adoptee’s Quest for her Origins because one of the main reasons she wrote The Sound of Hope was to “get people to realize how damaging it is to make adoptees feel guilty when they want to know about their origins.”
Three years ago, we wrapped up her book tour, and today I’m republishing an interview with memoirist and adoption reformer Anne Bauer as part of the #flipthescript series, in which adoptees take over the mic.
Image: Tracy Hammond
NJ Adoptees Can Soon Get Their Original Birth Certificates!
Are you still an active champion for the rights of adopted persons, specifically original birth certificates and open records?
Yes! I keep in contact with NJCARE (NJ Coalition for Adoption Reform & Education) which is a grass roots organization that supports honesty in adoption through educational outreach and legislative advocacy. I’m pleased to report that “persons born in New Jersey and adopted within or beyond its bounds, or persons born elsewhere and adopted in New Jersey, age 18 and over, will be allowed access to a copy of their original birth certificate from January 1, 2017, forward” (source).
In 2009, I appeared on a television talk show called RealTalk. There was a panel of four people including me, representing the adoptees, a birth mother, a social worker, and a lawyer who was advocating keeping records sealed. It was an interesting experience and it felt good to voice my opinion.
However, these opportunities to appear on network television are few because the general public doesn’t seem to demand attention to the plight of adult adopted people in 40+ states. This could be the result of many people assuming that all adopted adults can access their own information. Education about the need for adoption reform needs to be publicized to those not within the adoption mosaic. There are too many false assumptions and prejudices still circulating which need to be addressed in order to have legislators approve new laws.
Split in Half
In 2008 you wrote: The day I realized I has two mothers I was cut in half. and The bruises and scratches weren’t visible. They resided inside the heart. These injuries hurt the most and take the longest to heal. How has your healing journey progressed since your book came out?
Writing this memoir was such a tremendous healing experience. So many memories and feelings were brought to the surface as I wrote each chapter of my life. I never realized how much stuff I actually went through at such an early age and saw that I had pushed a lot of my feelings down deep inside. Bringing up these memories actually forced me to face these issues head on. As I recollected my childhood, scenes were brought to the forefront and I spent time analyzing possible intentions on the parts of everyone involved. I tried to get into my family member’s shoes and did my best to see the situation from their perspective.
This process was extremely healing because I came to understand that everyone in my family truly loved me. Although they disregarded my feelings over and over, I feel the reason for this was them being so absorbed in their own unresolved problems such as the hidden grief from infertility, stresses of working full-time and having to deal with an alcoholic in the family. When it came to dealing with the fact that they had adopted children, they had no ongoing counseling available to them at the time and they truly didn’t know that it was in the best interest of the child to talk about adoption.
Since writing this memoir, I no longer get teary-eyed when I think about how lonely I felt when nobody supported me with my search or the highly emotional day when I first met my first-mother. These two experiences were the hardest for me to face at the time. I find myself now looking back on those memories –even the one about whom I could invite to my own wedding — with a smile on my face, and now consider these past experiences valuable lessons in life for all parties involved.
How Adoption Affects the Way an Adoptee Parents
Did the experience of being an adopted person impact your parenting?
I definitely think my experience as an adopted individual has greatly impacted my parenting style. I have made it a point to be completely open and honest in regards to all family matters with my children. I keep the information at the level of their age and their ability to understand the issue, and I make it a point to never gloss over any problems that may be happening within the family. Because they are always in the loop, I never have to worry that they may overhear something that they shouldn’t know about because we do not keep secrets.
I also am an avid genealogist and have involved my children with the research. Documenting the family lines fosters a sense of belonging, and finally being able to obtain my original family history has been a project of ours for the past decade. This is one of the reasons why I am so adamant about obtaining my original birth certificate. There is no accessible paper trail linking me to my biological family, and if a future relative of mine decides to trace the genealogy, they would believe that I was in fact born to my adoptive parents. My future generations should also know their true heritage and be able to accurately trace their own lineage as well.
My Adoptive Mother Would Not Have Been Happy
How did your family members respond to your book? This must be a peril of writing a memoir: how do you be true to your observations of a person but also aware of their reactions to your observations?
Everybody in my family knew I was writing and publishing my memoir because I was required to have everyone sign a release form so I could tell their part in my story. Sadly, nobody has mentioned the memoir to me since except my first mother and my adoptive father. My Dad was not surprised about how he was portrayed and has since apologized profusely to me and my brothers for his treatment of us over the years. I know without a doubt that he never intended to hurt any of us. He has his own demons from his childhood to deal with and these unresolved issues come out in bursts of rage in his daily life. My first-mother told me she was sorry that she never tried to find me sooner and offered that she was willing to go to counseling or whatever it was that I needed in order to heal from the experience. Writing this memoir was healing and since then I have felt whole and complete.
My mother died three years before I published the memoir and I honestly do not think she would have been happy about me broadcasting to the world about family problems. I’m sure my cousin Maggie has read it but no comments have been made. As for Sara, I cannot say whether she has read the memoir. My first mother has a copy and I am sure she offered it to Sara but there has been no mention about it. As for my brothers, I do not know if they read my memoir. I told them both about it and gave them the information when it was released but neither has acknowledged the subject nor wanted to talk about it since signing the release form. They know it’s there and someday maybe they will be ready to read it.
Anne Bauer is an adult adoptee in reunion with both her birth mother and birth father for more than 20 years. Her deeply personal memoir, The Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee’s Quest for Her Origins, was written to open the hearts and minds of everyone to the fact that adopted individuals have a normal basic need to know and understand the details surrounding their origins and should be supported unconditionally if a reunion is desired.
Anne lives in NJ and works as a Public Health Nurse in the community and incorporates yoga, meditation and holistic living into her daily life. Please visit her at her blog, The Sound of Hope.
Other Posts in the #flipthescript Series:
- 1: Why Are Adoptees Doing It?
- 2: Whose Script? Whose Voice?
- 3: Who is Best Placed to Talk About the Adoption Experience?
- 4: Someone Profited From My Adoption But It Wasn’t Me
- 5: Adopters: Want Trust? Give Truth.
- 6: Adoptee Rights Begin at Birth
- 7: Hold On
- 8: Adoptees Are In Reunion Whether They’re Searching or Not
- 9: The Healing Power of Open Adoption
- 10: I Guessed My Birth Mother’s Name
- 11: Abuse to Adoption to Addiction to Affirmation
- 12: A 1970s Adoption Story
- 13: Adoptee Healing & Hope
- 14: Adoption & Eating Disorders
- 15: In Adoption There Is No Easy Button