Conflict of Interest ?

I got seriously triggered with my husband yesterday. I need to work through my thoughts and I’m sure this is going to prove a lengthy process of contemplation.

Some background –

Both of my parents were given up for adoption in the 1930s. Their circumstances were somewhat different and somewhat similar. My mom’s genetic biological parents were married but at 4 mos pregnant after 4 mos of marriage for reasons I’ll never really have reliable answers to (but a few theories given what I have learned), her husband left her. He didn’t divorce her for 3 years, so there is that as well. With no husband in sight, she was sent to Virginia from Memphis TN to give birth and I would assume expected to leave the baby there but she did not. Instead, after her return to Memphis with my infant mom in tow, she became a victim of Georgia Tann.

My dad’s mom was unwed. She had an affair with a much older married man. Then, she went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers to give birth. After about 2 or 3 months, she was released with my dad still in her custody. It appears my dad’s father never even knew he existed. When my grandmother found no support for her and the baby with her cousin, she returned to the Salvation Army seeking employment and was transferred with my dad still in tow to one of their homes in El Paso Texas.

My mom’s adoptive parents relocated to El Paso Texas and in high school, my adoptee mom met my adoptee dad. Probably during the summer after my dad’s graduation from high school before entering a university my parents had sex and my teenage mom discovered by Autumn that she was pregnant. My dad’s adoptive parents supported him marrying her and quitting his hopes of a university degree to go to work and support his new family. I’m pretty certain my mom’s adoptive parents, had they had a chance, would have sent her off to have and give me up. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

So the truth I cannot deny is that had my parents NOT been adopted and had they both not ended up in El Paso TX and attended the same high school where they met at a party through mutual friends, I would not exist at all. I owe my very existence in this life to ~gasp~ adoption. I think I once described this situation as imperfectly perfect.

Until about 5 years ago, when I was able to uncover the identities of all 4 of my original grandparents (something that both of my parents died still not knowing), I thought adoption was the most natural thing in the world and that my parents were orphans. I had no idea there were people I was actually genetically biologically related to living out lives as unaware of me as I was of them. I knew nothing about the mental and emotional impacts of the trauma of my parents being separated from their mothers may have caused. I’ve learned a LOT about that since then – as this blog very frequently shares. To be honest, I now would prefer to see vulnerable women supported, so that they could raise their own babies.

So what is my conflict of interest ? My husband’s desire that my writing add some revenue to our family. Of course, I would love for that to happen as well. I have developed a negative attitude toward Christian Evangelical saviorism as it applies to adoption. My husband wants me to make my next book oriented towards Evangelical Christians (I have just finish a revision of my parents’ adoption stories for the 3rd time and will go about trying to obtain a literary agent for that work).

What !?! I accused him of asking me to betray my values for monetary reasons. He spoke of “witnessing.” That stayed with me all afternoon. I reflected on the kind of people my adoptive grandparents were. 3 of the 4 were religious. My dad’s were fundamentalist in the extreme. When one church wasn’t as strictly interpreted per the bible as they wanted, they changed churches to a stricter one. My mom’s adoptive father has been described as morally ethical but not religious. I see that same characteristic in my husband. My mom’s mother however had a surprisingly enlightened spirituality – especially when I consider what I have heard of her own very bible religious mother (to the extent of neglecting home and family). This grandmother’s spirituality was not far different than my own (which was what surprised me when I discovered it). My husband has a negative perspective on religion in general and believes vulnerable people are exploited by it. So I could not believe that HE would suggest such a thing to me. He admits that he is a bit like Mr Krabs in the SpongeBob episodes – all about the money (only really he is incredibly down to Earth, he just worries about supporting this family as he ages).

Yet, aside from the last 5 years of having it banged into my consciousness through my favorite adoption triad group, where the voices of adult adoptees are given preference and describe all that is wrong with adoption and foster care in general, what is it that I actually know from my own experience ?

My parents each felt differently about their adoptions. My dad never spoke to me of his but cautioned my mom against her efforts at locating her birth mother – who had already died by the time she was actively seeking that. One of the last things she wrote to me before she died was an explanation regarding why she couldn’t complete a family tree at Ancestry.com – “it just wasn’t real, because I was adopted but I’m glad I was.” Though I cannot say that she truly was “glad.” She didn’t know any other life.

Both of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. I cannot honestly say that my niece or my nephew would have been better off being raised by my sisters. They are good solid people – both of them – now married in their own adulthoods.

So the question is – can I find a way to target a Christian Evangelical audience, who is going to adopt anyway – regardless of how much I might preach to them about all of the impacts of trauma in this child they desperately want for whatever reason (I do believe there is a bit of missionary purpose in those desires) – and gently prepare them for reality and hope this brings about better outcomes for the adoptee ? Honor fully my evolved values in the effort ?

Folksong by Cory Goodrich

corygoodrich.com

This is not my personal story but I do know at least one friend for whom it IS their story as well and so, I have become more interested in NPEs.

Cory Goodrich is a NPE or the recipient of a non-paternity event. This is when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is NOT in fact the biological father. This presumption may be on the part of the individual, the parents, or the attending midwife, physician or nurse.

“I’ve always questioned so many things about my family and my life throughout the years, and also about my own mother, who always seemed to be holding back,” Goodrich said.

“I finally decided to ask myself the questions: If a family tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to see it, do I even exist?” I do love this tree related quote !!

A promotional description paragraph sums up the book, Folksong by Cory Goodrich.

“It’s a story about the father who took her in, the father who took her away, the father who gave her away, and her 89-year-old mother, whose broken heart finally gave out while still protecting the secret to Goodrich’s identity. Sifting through the remnants of a life captured in letters and old Polaroids, Goodrich discovers a secret that sets her on a journey with life-altering consequences. In the era of Ancestry.com, DNA testing, and social media, Goodrich was able to gather together just enough pieces of a puzzle locked away for over 50 years to clearly make out the unfathomable image it depicted. Goodrich reminds that while things aren’t always what they seem, stunning fortitude and unexpected legacy can rise from the disorganized ashes of a toppled identity.”

Goodrich says, “I describe ‘Folksong’ as a memoir of love and longing, an ode to self-discovery, an emotional ballad of grief and forgiveness, and a heart-stirring look at the lengths to which a family will go to protect themselves and each other.”

Sometimes, a few breadcrumbs are all you need, as I discovered during my own family roots journey. Since my dad’s mom was unwed and she didn’t name his father on his birth certificate, I thought I’d never be able to know who my paternal grandfather was. I will admit that getting my DNA tested at Ancestry and some intriguing “hints” of some people I seemed to related to – actually were – right on target. When I finally had a last name for my paternal grandfather, the man I once contacted through Ancestry, who finally months later, wrote me – I wish I could help but none of the names you have given me seem related to me. Then, I gave him the new name – mystery solved – my grandfather was his grandmother’s brother.

Disclaimer – I have not read this book. Still I would recommend it to anyone feels they may also be a NPE.

The deception with tact, just what are you trying to say?

You’ve got a blank face, which irritates

You see dimensions in two

State your case with black or white

But when one little cross leads to

You run for cover so discreet, why don’t they

Do what they say, say what you mean

You told me something wrong, I know I listen too long but then

One thing leads to another

~ partial lyrics from The Fixx song One Thing Leads to Another

When There Is Another Mother

Cinderella and her Step Mother

Step-mothers have an enduring place in the societal imagination and like natural mothers they come in all types from loving and kind to cruel and indifferent.

I often relate to original mothers who have lost a child to adoption.  In my case, I lost custody unofficially to my husband when he remarried a woman with a child and they proceeded to have another child.  Because my daughter grew up for the most part away from me, I suffered every bit as much as any mother who has lost awareness of her child’s day to day life.  I am grateful that I continue to have my daughter’s presence in my life though it is mostly at a distance and that for the most part our relationship is a good one with no more than the usual number of bumps along the road of our life’s path and unfolding.

When I was on a path of discovering who my original grandparents were, a big breakthrough was learning that my dad’s unwed mother had subsequently married and what her married name was.  I learned that thanks to finding a copy of a will on Ancestry.com that was her step-mothers.  It was clear between the lines that there was some kind of rupture in the relationship of the step-mother with her husband’s children by a previous wife who died when my grandmother was only 3 mos old.

When I discovered a cousin with the same grandmother thanks to 23 and Me DNA testing, she told me stories she had heard about my grandmother’s life with her step-mother.  How the step-mother would tie her to a tree in a lightning storm either to scare my grandmother into being compliant or in the hope the tree would get struck and eliminate the life of my grandmother.  Who can know now?  But it was traumatic for my grandmother.  Also that her step-mother put her to work in a rayon mill, barely a teen, in Asheville N Carolina when they migrated there from Oyster Bay Long Island.  Her step-mother would take the money she earned to assist the family’s financial support and while that is not unusual in itself for a family in poverty, it was still yet another area of conflict between them.  So my grandmother “divorced” her family in effect by refusing to return to N Carolina and instead stayed in La Jolla California with her aunt.  It was there that she met the father of my dad.

I was reading this morning about step-parent groups are as mean and nasty to original parents as some foster/adoptive parent groups.  I suppose it is a type of insecurity that would drive someone to bash the child’s original parent, want to erase the child’s original parents and want the child to replace those with the step, foster or adoptive parent by insisting the child call them mom or dad.  My daughter tells me that her step-mother always insisted my daughter maintain a relationship with me.  I can only guess regarding some of the less than happy thoughts my daughter may have had about me from time to time but as I said, I am thankful for the relationship I still have with my daughter.  Her step-mother died some years ago.  My daughter still honors her memory.  At the same time, I feel less competition, if that is the proper word for it.  I have tried to heal my own wounds around the situation.

One step-mother admitted that she hates it when her step child calls her by her given name. She has to explain to other people hearing that, why her step daughter doesn’t call her mom and is personally embarrassed. She thinks it’s disrespectful of her step daughter because this step-mother accepted her step daughter as her own child. She considers her step daughter her daughter.  I think the most hurtful thing that ever reached my own ears related to my daughter’s step-mother is that she told my daughter that I gave birth to her so that the step-mother could have her instead.  Not an exact quote but close enough.

Regarding these online groups, one woman said of the mommy groups and step parent groups that they can be awful. The entitlement. The control issues. When you marry someone with kids, the kids have parents already. You’re accepting the ex and the child or children. It is very important to never bash the ex partner who is also the child’s parent or have unrealistic expectations about how your step-child relates to you. You came into the child’s life uninvited.

Much the same applies to adoptive and foster parents as relates to a child’s original parents.  Many wounds come from this negativity in an effort to build up one’s own ego.

Family That Isn’t

Ohana is a Hawaiian word which refers to a person’s extended family, which can include friends and other important social groups.  In the case of adoption, “family” is a complicated concept.  Growing up, because both of my parents were adoptees, I knew that my grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins – while perfect stand-ins for the real thing – were not actually related to me.

I was reading about one adoptee’s experience of having an older brother who was also adopted.  She says, “Even though we grew up in the same household with the same parents, I’ve always had difficulty thinking of him as my brother. He’s my family and I love him, but family is such a weird thing for adoptees. My brother and I are so different. So far apart in personality, thoughts, interests and goals. We didn’t have a single thing in common.”

And I reflected on my mom’s relationship with her brother who was also a Georgia Tann baby and I could see the truth of this.  They were never close as near as I could tell, though she did date one of his neighborhood friends in high school.  She once drove over this young man’s foot getting into the car when she knocked it out of park.  On a date with him, she met my dad at a party – and although she went to the party with this guy – she left with my dad.  It is hard to think of my mom as a teenager but I guess she was about as wild as the three daughters she later birthed.  LOL

Having learned who all 4 of my original grandparents were has totally changed who I think of as my “grandparents”.  Oh, I still appreciate the people who raised my parents and they were influential in my own life growing up.  I still love 2 of my “adoptive” aunts dearly, having become close to them all over again when my parents died.  And cousins are still in my life from those relationships.

However, I am keen now to slowly, without too much pressure, create these new relationships with an aunt and some cousins who represent most of my grandparents, though my paternal grandfather seems to have fathered no more children after my dad.  DNA and the matching sites – 23 and Me as well as Ancestry – make possible finding one’s relations that many states who still maintain sealed adoption records seek to block.  It is a new day and thanking all that is good that it is so.

No image can describe what of our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, remains. ~ Rumi

And yet, it does matter that they are there within us always.

Not Real

This is complicated.  It is weird growing up knowing your grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins are not really related to you.  That is what it is like when BOTH of your parents were adopted.  Adoptees experience adoption as individually as any two people experience reality.

My mom had to stop creating the family trees on Ancestry because she said to me, it just isn’t real.  She somewhat hollowly said she was glad she was adopted but I knew from long years as her confidant that wasn’t totally true.  She was glad that as a Georgia Tann baby she didn’t end up in worse circumstances.  She ended up in a wealthy home with privileges.

So much so, that when she conceived me with a boy that came from very humble beginnings, her parents really felt disappointed that she had married below her class.  My adoptive grandparents never shared family holidays until I was well into maturity and then I only remember one occasion when the 3 of them were all present for one Thanksgiving (my mom’s adoptive father having died long before that time).

While my adoptive grandparents certainly played their roles for real and had an enormous impact on all of our lives, now that I know the truth of who my parent’s original parents were, that is who I think of when I think about my grandparents, even though I had no in life real experiences with them.

At my age, it is not uncommon for one’s parents to have died and if that is so, one’s grandparents have also died.  It’s not that I think those adoptive aunts, uncles and cousins are not really “good” people – they are.

Yet, now that I have cousins and one aunt who are genetically related to me, I’m all about slowly without a lot of force, experiencing their lives and all that unfolds in any human life as a way that I can become better acquainted.  To build familial relationships with people that share some of my genetic DNA during whatever time we have left in this world.