Tag Archives: adoption reunion

Adoption Reunion in the Social Media Age: Anthology and Giveaway

See that gap on your bookshelf, those empty kilobytes on your eReader? They are ready to be occupied by this new anthology of adoption reunion stories that just came out, edited by Laura Dennis (whom you’ve met on this blog before).

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?

Pastor Deanna Doss ShrodesFor 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

Also this:

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.

Want more of this anthology? Click over to read Deanna’s interview with me.

~~~~~

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.
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Laura Dennis: What Adoption Reunion Can Teach Us about Openness

One of the best things to come from the Adoption Blogger Interview Project is that each year I run across new-to-me bloggers who help me see adoption from a new perspective, who make me ponder yet another facet of it.

Laura Dennis, authorI was happy, then, to “meet” Laura Dennis last month, despite the fact that she lives in Serbia. Laura is a mom to two small children, a trained dancer, an adoptee-in-reunion, and an author. She grew up in Maryland, went to graduate school in Southern California and expatriated to Belgrade, where she wrote her memoir, Adopted Reality.

I read it — in just three sittings. I gave it a bunch of stars. I’ll have a future Q&A post with Laura about her book, so pick it up yourself if you want to follow along at that time.

For today, though, Laura and I are swapping blog posts. She offers here a post about the lessons of reunion that can be applied to open adoption relationships.

For Openness as well as Reunions, Be Flexible But Tenacious

Reconnecting with my first mother was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Knowing her filled a hole in my sense-of-self that I hadn’t quite realized was there.

I have so much to say about my reunion, I could write a book about it. Oh wait, that’s right, I already did. Adopted Reality, A Memoir, is about my adoption and reunion, and brief bout with insanity. However, it doesn’t address the topic of maintaining a long-term first family relationship.

The Adoptee-First Family Reunion
As the Baby Scoop Era enters the Open Adoption Era, those participating in each can benefit from learning from the others’ experiences.

Each first family reunion is unique. It’s a family relationship like any other that needs work, time and nurturing to grow and develop.

I met my first mom when I was 23, and during the first few months, she and I constantly felt we were playing catch up. Truly we were … we had 23 years-worth of separate lives to rediscover!

loving hands

I missed the shared experiences of my first family — vacations, holidays, inside jokes. Not only that, but I’d had my own, in my adopted family.

Merging these families is something akin to what happens when a couple gets married. Who do you visit for Christmas? Who do you spend vacations with? The questions extend beyond logistics. … What happens when the shiny reunion glow begins to wear off? How is a “real” relationship built after the honeymoon period?

Creating a Lasting Relationship
I’m not exactly sure when this began to happen, but over time, my first mom became just another family member. I stopped trying to play catch up.

Just like my adoptive family, my first mom and my biological extended family are now just … my family.

When that happens, we should all be happy. It means those who felt such a deep loss over so many years are letting go of their hurt.

Figuring out what that connection is won’t be all fluffy kittens and prancing through the park. It may involve disagreements and misunderstandings. But that’s okay. In a family, we don’t reject one another. We may be hurt, but we get over it, we forgive, we let go.

Because that’s what family does.

Why should anyone care about adoptee reunions?
Here’s the thing about closed adoptions. First mothers and adult adoptees are coming out and saying, Maybe that wasn’t the best way to do things.

Maybe cutting off all contact between the birth mom and the baby isn’t for the best. Maybe the adoptive parents are open-minded enough to see the birth mom not as a source of emotional competition, but someone who also loves the baby.

Open adoptions are so new; we don’t have a “crop” of adult open-adoptees who can talk about their experiences … yet. One of the problems, though, is that many open adoptions are closing after a few years. Fewer letters and phone calls, eventually no more face-to-face meetings.

Worse, there is generally nothing in place that legally or contractually binds the families to remain in contact for the sake of the child. There are adoptive parents who mislead the agency, stating they wanted an open adoption … just to get the baby, intending to cut-off communication once the ink dries. There are also first moms drifting off with their contact, finding it too hard to watch someone else raise their child.

What can these open adoptions learn from closed adoptees in reunion? My advice would be:

  • Try to keep in mind: kids grow up. I, too, have this problem. My (biological) kids won’t always be two and four. No doubt, they will hold me accountable for the mothering I do now. Adopted children become adopted adults. Adoptedness doesn’t just “go away.”
  • Take your child’s interests and desires into account as he or she grows.
  • Be flexible. We’re all human, imperfect, with good days and bad days.
  • But be tenacious. Don’t give up. Please don’t let an open adoption become a closed one.

When the relationship settles into that normal, day-to-day phase? When the original mom to your child is “just” another family member, and vice versa? That’s a good thing.

Just keep at it.

~~~~~

East Coast US native Laura Dennis lives with her husband and two crazy kids in Belgrade Serbia, where she blogs about expat (adopted) mommy life. Her memoir, Adopted Reality, is available on Amazon in paperback and ebook.

Photo credit: tungphoto via freedigitalphotos.net

Reunion in Open Adoption 6: What Was the What

It seemed, in this dark period, as if we had made a huge miscalculation, committed an unfixable mistake. One that our daughter would suffer for.

Our crime? We had chosen open adoption. And despite thumbs up from all the grown ups in the equation, it was not working out well. At. All. For Tessa.

She was the pudding. She held the only proof that mattered.

Previous posts leading up to this part of the story

Part 1: Considering Joe
Part 2: Telling Tessa
Part 3: The Horrible Wait
Part 4: The Meeting
Part 5: Crash

birth fathers on father's day

Despite our best intentions at a gradual and functional reunion with her birth father, Tessa had ended up in angry tears two weeks after spending a day with him. (“I DON’T WANT TO HAVE FOUR PARENTS!!…I NEVER WANT TO SEE THEM AGAIN!”)

First, we had to determine (as best we could): was this a parenting issue or an adoptive parenting issue?

Finding no evidence of The Worst Thing during the time she was with Joe (which I can’t even type, but you can probably guess), we deduced Tessa’s trauma did have to do with adoption.

But what? WHAT??

Enter my sister, Sheri.

I alluded to an intuitive reading she did for me at the time (see Problem #2). She was able to help me see through Tessa’s eyes, feel through Tessa’s heart.

And it wasn’t near as big or as bad as I’d feared.

I had been full of remorse and fear that I’d screwed everything up by embracing open adoption so whole-heartedly. Had I been too enthusiastic about keeping Crystal in our lives? Too driving in bringing Joe into our lives? And my most secret fear: would this have played out differently if I hadn’t become an open adoption advocate and blogger?

Sheri helped me to take myself out of the equation. For Tessa, it wasn’t that the last 7 years had been one huge mistake; it was that the one episode with Joe had been, simply, too much, too soon.

Tessa is a child who needs boundaries — both the figurative and literal kinds. She can sleep only against a wall and with pillows surrounding her. She must, at all times, know just how far she can go with a given person in a given situation. She is constantly rubbing against my boundaries with her, as well as others’. It’s her way of (1) figuring out her world, and (2) feeling secure in it.

And although she professed to be eager to spend the afternoon with Joe, she was unable to predict the feelings of unsupportedness that would ensue. Not because Joe was unsupportive, but because it was all different.* He smoked. He and his friend called each other “Duuude” in a way she doesn’t hear from Roger and me. These two minor things became symbolic, for her, of being in a very different, possibly scary, place. One in which she had no navigation skills, no anchoring, no steering mechanism.

And, at a very deep level, she also may have been considering that this was her Road Not Taken. Profound implications come with that thought.

So, two weeks later, after spending the night with family friends (Roger and I had an overnight date) Tessa’s feelings and fears of unsupportedness surfaced, this time demanding to be dealt with.

And THAT, my friends was the what. Or my best guess of the what.

So simple yet so complex.

I am relieved for Tessa. She has processed this episode, and has resumed telephone contact with Joe. She is asking now to see him again, but not alone. For the foreseeable future, our family will once again be a package deal.

We did not have to throw away the proverbial baby with the open adoption bath water. We will continue living in our open adoption — just a little bit wiser.

* Please understand that in discussing the life Tessa has with us and the life she might have had with Crystal and/or Joe, I am not saying one is better and one is worse. I don’t have the omniscience to make that determination on her behalf. I am simply saying that one path is familiar and one is not. Such a comparison is unknowable and irrelevant anyway — she gets to live only the life that is, not the one that might have been (as do we all).

The End