Why I Celebrate

Birthday Hat, created by my husband

My 67th birthday comes up in 2 days now. The image here is from early in my marriage, before our sons were born. We will celebrate 33 years this June.

There is so much I am grateful for but first and foremost it is that I was not given up for adoption. I could have so easily been lost to this family I grew up within. My mom was a 16 yr old high school student in El Paso TX who found herself pregnant with me and unwed. My dad had just started at the U of NM at Las Cruces that year. They are both deceased now. When I was cleaning out my parents belongings to ready their house for sale, I discovered that my mom had kept every love letter she got from my dad during that time. I also found a note where she was worried about telling him she was pregnant.

Both my mom and dad were adopted. That is why I think it is a miracle I was not given up. My mom’s adoptive parents were well to do, had made a lucky early investment in Circle K just as the stores were beginning and on top of that my adoptive grandfather was a bank vice president. My adoptive grandmother was a socialite. I believe it was actually my dad’s adoptive parents who were always poor, entrepreneurial sorts who made custom draperies for a living, that preserved me in the family and supported my dad in marrying my mom.

Because I was preserved my two sisters were born. Maybe they would have been or maybe my parents would have gone their separate ways but that is not what happened so it is a moot point. I believe I have now fulfilled my destiny in this life. Within a year of my parents deaths (they died 4 mos apart after more than 50 years of marriage), I had uncovered who my original grandparents were. I have met or made contact with an aunt and some cousins for each branch of my grandparents families. I am the only link between them because the four of them went their separate ways.

My maternal grandmother remarried but never had any other children. My maternal grandfather also remarried but didn’t have any more children with his third wife. Yes, he and my grandmother were married at the time she conceived my mom. It will always be a mystery why he left her 4 mos pregnant and why after being sent from Tennessee to Virginia to have (and probably expected to give up) my mom, he didn’t respond when she returned to Memphis and tried to reach him. Her desperation led to Georgia Tann getting her hands on my mom . . .

My paternal grandmother had a hard life growing up. My dad was conceived with the assistance of a Danish immigrant who was married to a much older woman. He probably never even knew about my dad. My grandmother simply handled it as the self-resourceful woman she was. She did remarry twice and had 3 other children. At the time my dad died, her last child (my aunt) was living only 90 miles away, totally unknown to my dad.

I celebrate that I am alive and I am happy to have now become whole in ways my parents (who died knowing next to nothing about their origins) never were. I had to wait over 60 years before that happened for me. It is true that, if my parents had not been given up for adoption, I would simply not exist at all. Even so, there is much wrong about the practice of adoption (I write about that here all the time) . . . including that the state of Tennessee denied my mother access to her own adoption file in the early 90s. No one told her when the law was changed for the victims of Georgia Tann to be given access but because of that law, I now possess all of the documents in her adoption file. In her file there were black and white pictures of my maternal grandmother holding my mom for the last time at Porter-Leath Orphanage. It was to that storied and respected institution that my grandmother, in desperation, turned for temporary care of her precious baby girl. The superintendent there betrayed my grandmother by alerting Georgia Tann to my mom’s existence.

At the Dorchester in London
thanks to a trip with my adoptive maternal grandmother

It’s Complicated

I find myself in conversation with a diversity of people about a diversity of issues related to adoption and mother/child separations.  I am always amazed at how many people have some such issue in their family and friend’s lives.

Even though I have had a radical change of heart about adoption due to learning about the wounds that causes, I also acknowledge that the issue is not simple but very complicated.  There are times when children definitely need a safe and loving space to exist in.  There are times, when knowing the circumstances, we can admit that adoption was better than the alternative.

But there always are alternatives and some are less damaging than others.  Harder to arrive at is why people become wounded and messed up.  Why they don’t do better.  Why the children are often the ones to suffer the most.

Learning about all of the circumstances at play in my own family’s lives has given me an appreciation for the big picture and how things progress over time.  I am in the midst of editing a new manuscript that I actually wrote the rough draft for six years ago and then events delayed my return to it.

At this point in the story, I am in heaven.  And the topic of predestination and free will comes up between me and a trusted friend of the heart there.  I think this perspective may be close to the truth of the matter and so, I share –

“Are you telling me that everything is preordained and that I had no choice in how my life unfolded?”

“Absolutely not.  The nature of reality in this realm is that everything is adjusting instantaneously to every choice and circumstance that happens.”

What happens if different choices are made ?

“It would have all morphed and changed to suit new circumstances.  In fact, there are layers upon layers of redundancies. There are trajectories and unfoldings that are the natural outcomes of current events and like your own micro circumstances it is all morphing and adjusting continuously.  There are situations that, if they don’t occur,  could delay your next lifetime.  Other situations could speed up your return to Earth in another incarnation.  We really don’t know the hour of our birth, just as we really don’t know the hour of our death; and yet, it is all completely natural.”

Though Life is so very complicated that any action we may take could be beneficial or detrimental regardless of the best of intentions, even knowing all that could possibly happen that we never considered, we act anyway – for not to act might bring some irreversible harm that could have been prevented.

Adopting To Create Converts

I have 3 new books related in one way or another to adoption and was holding off the mention of any of them but I have long suspected that evangelicals are adopting to create converts.  Similar to my blog yesterday related to overpopulation, this is another way that a child is objectified to accomplish a mission that is not actually related to the child’s well-being.

So, I haven’t read this book yet but I will and after I read it, I may have more to say from my own perspective.  There is so much wrong with this.  Transracial adoptions are by far even more damaging and complex than same race adoptions and I recently wrote about one of those as well.

“Evangelicals felt that they had kind of unfairly lost a claim to the good works side of Christianity, the social gospel, the helping the poor,” the author tells Fresh Air‘s Dave Davies in an interview, “and so they wanted a way to get back into doing something for poor people’s rights, and adoption and orphan care came about as something that, I think, they could really invest themselves into without challenging or changing their stances on the other social issues that they care about.”

Joyce says that the connection between abortion and adoption is also key in that many Christians see adoption as a ready answer to the longstanding abortion debate.  Conservative evangelicals have helped orchestrate a boom-and-bust adoption market in countries where people are poor, regulations are weak, and families are vulnerable to these agencies that are sending representatives abroad to recruit “orphans.” It is not uncommon, says Joyce, for these orphans to come from caring families who have a different understanding of adoption than Americans do: They agree to send their children away, thinking it’s temporary – for a better education and opportunities – and that the child will eventually return.

These evangelical Christian couples believe that God has destined this child to be in their family from the beginning of time.  There is absolutely a missionary or evangelizing angle. A lot of the leaders in this movement, who have written some serious books talking about the adoption of children, describe this as the way that Christians can best mirror the experience of their own salvation – that Christians were adopted by God – and so Christians must reflect that experience by then going and adopting children.

A Sacred Quest

Art by Stephen Delamare

If every life is actually a sacred quest to know who and what we really are, mine has certainly been easily viewed as just that.

I feel as though the “real” me has finally emerged out of the broken family tree that once concealed my true origins.

Now I know that we never were what we were forced to pretend we were due to adoptions.

We now have family, always had family, but that family was intentionally hidden from us until I was able to discover it in only the last year and a half.

Certainly, there are shadows and unanswered questions and it may be impossible to shed light on them now that so many years have passed.

But I am grateful for what I know and the “new” family I can build relationships with now. They are no more “perfect” than the members of the adoptive family that I still consider my “relations” as well.

It’s just that I know the same blood that runs in the “new” family’s veins, runs also in mine and for that I am eternally grateful.

I feel that I have fulfilled some part of my life’s purpose now.

Fulfilling My Destiny

Even if the person who suffered the original trauma has died,

even if his or her story lies submerged in years of silence,

fragments of life experience, memory and body sensation can live on,

reaching out from the past to resolution in

the minds and bodies of those living in the present.

~ It Didn’t Start With You by Mark Wolynn

My grandmothers . . . both lost their own mothers at a young age.  Both lost their firstborn children.

When I was growing up with both of my parents known to me as having been adopted, I didn’t know they had another family except for their adoptive parents.  I thought they were orphans.  I don’t know when they knew they weren’t orphans but they never knew their original families either.

For my mom, it probably started when the baby stealing and selling scandal of Georgia Tann, who was at the head of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis, broke while my mom was a teenager.  Her adoptive mother did her best to reassure my mom that she wasn’t one of those children who had been stolen.

Yet, she could not reconcile how she could have been born in Virginia but adopted from Memphis only a few months later.

My dad seems not to have wanted to know the truth of his origins.  I believe he was afraid to find out.  He would dissuade my mother’s yearning with “it might open up a can of worms”.  Even so, she tried to find out.  The state of Tennessee rejected all of her efforts in the early 1990s.

Finally, in 2017, I was able to receive her full adoption file, including her own letters and rejections from the 1990s.  Her mother never intended to lose her and suffered the remainder of her life from having been exploited the way she was.

Motivated by success, I started trying to discover my dad’s origins.  His mother was unwed, so I thought it unlikely I would ever know who his father was.  But in less than a year, I discovered that as well – thanks to a newly discovered cousin on his mother’s side.

Now I know why I was born.  Living in me were my grandmother’s desires to have the true stories known.  What a fulfilling outcome to my life (not that I am ready to die yet).