I Am Right Here

On my maternal side – I was able to visit the graves of both of my maternal grandparents, one half-aunt and one set of great grandparents too (but I did not talk to the “greats” at their grave – still have some very difficult feelings towards my great-grandfather for being unwilling to take my grandmother and mother back in when my grandmother was pregnant and her husband had returned to Arkansas. Believe me, I have done my best to come up with all kinds of kinder theories about why but still . . . I will always feel in my heart that he was the cause of my mom being adopted . . . I am certain of those feelings about him.)

I Am Right Here

Looking into the darkness, I call out “where are you?”
The darkness does not call back.
Instead I hear nothing so I wait, knowing that when my words reach you there may be a reply “I am right here”
I keep walking not able to see in front of me.
Again I call out “are you there?” but nothing comes back to me.
So I continue with hands outstretched in front of me walking in darkness and feeling my way through space.
Black empty space that feels every part of my vision.
Waving my hand in front of my face I cannot see what is in front of me.
So I continue walking through the darkness.
“Is someone out there?” I say.
I can hear faint words now, it sounds like someone screaming “come this way?”
I keep walking straight ahead toward the sound.
It gets louder and I start hearing footsteps coming closer.
“Is it you?” I call loudly
“Is it Who?” I hear back
“You?” I say to the voice
I continue walking toward the sounds and keep talking to it.
“I have been lost without you,” I say.
“Who has been lost without me?” the voice asks.
“Me, I have, but where are you, I can’t see you?”
“Just keep moving forward,” it says.
“I am trying to but I keep getting lost,” I say sadly.
No more footsteps are heard.
Suddenly light begins to invade the space and standing in front of me is the one I have been looking for my whole life.
They reach their hand out to mine,
“I am right here and have been the whole time.”
~ Brandy Ford

I Try To Stay Humble

Before I began to know who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) – adoption was the most natural thing in the world. How could it not be ? It was so natural both of my sisters gave up a baby to adoption. So, in only the last 3+ years, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the impacts of adoption has passed down my family line, ultimately robbing all three of my parents daughter’s of the ability to parent. Though I did not give my daughter up for adoption, finding myself unable to support myself and her financially, I allowed her father and step-mother to raise her without intrusion from me. To be honest, I didn’t think I was important as a mother. I thought that a child only needed one or the other parent to be properly cared for. Sadly, decades later, I learned that situation was not as perfect as I had believed. My sister closest to me in age actually lost custody of her first born son to her former in-laws when she divorced their son. He has suffered the most damage of all of our children and is currently estranged from his mother’s family, viewing us all as the source of his ongoing emotional and mental pain. I love him dearly and wish it wasn’t so but it is not in my control nor my sisters.

I realize that not every adoptee has the same experience. We are all individuals with individual life circumstances. Right and Wrong, Better and Worse – such exactness doesn’t exist. Everyone heals in different ways. We all begin where we begin. I began where I was when I started learning some of the hard truths and realities about the adoption industry as it operates for profit in this country. I also know that the adoption practices of the 1930s when my parents were adopted are not the same overall in 2021. There are only a few truly closed adoptions now and many “open” adoptions. I put the “open” into quotation marks because all too often, the woman who gives birth and surrenders her baby for adoption because she doesn’t feel capable of parenting, just as I didn’t feel capable in my early 20s, discovers that the “open” part is unenforceable and the adoptive parents renege on that promise.

Those of us, myself included, have become activists for reforms going forward. Society has not caught up with us yet. Certainly, there are situations where the best interest of the child is to place them in a safe family structure where they can be sufficiently provided for. No one, no matter how ardently they wish for reform, would say otherwise. The best interests of the child NEVER includes robbing them of their identity or knowledge of their origins. In the best of circumstances, I believe, adoptive parents are placeholders for the original parents and extended biological family until their adoptive child reaches maturity. Ideally, that child grows up with a full awareness and exposure to the personalities of their original parents.

Any parent, eventually reaches a point in the maturing of their child, when it is time to allow that child to be totally independent in their life choices, even if they continue to live with their parents and be financially supported by them. It is a gradual process for most of us and some of us are never 100% separated from our parents until they die. Then, regardless, we must be able to stand on our own two feet, live from our own values and make of the life that our parents – whether it was one set with a mother and a father or two sets of mothers and fathers (whether by adoption or due to divorce) – made possible for us as human beings. I do try not to judge but I do try to remain authentic in my own perspectives, values and beliefs. Those I share as honestly as I can in this blog with as much humility as I have the growth and self-development to embody.

Reunion Disappointments

Search on “adoptee reunion disappointments” and you will come up with a lot of links.  Many adoptees, while they are children, fantasize about what their original parents were like and how they would have treated them differently than the adoptive parents raising them.  The reality cannot live up to the fantasy.

First there is the joy in discovery and finally, finally, knowing the truth of where one came from and perhaps how they came to be conceived (which may or may not actually be a very happy story).  Then there is the old “nature vs nurture” story.  How much of who we become is due to genetics and how much is due to the culture we are raised within.

Finally, there is the issue of gratitude.  Adoptees often feel like they need to be grateful to the parents that raised them for saving them from ?  That is the problem.  There is no way of knowing what would have been better.  Reality is whatever it was.  There are always issues of abandonment and rejection and fears of causing more of those wounds if the adoptee betrays the affections of those who raised them.

Here is one adoptee’s story –

Paul had spent his whole life dreaming about his mother. He imagined what it would be like to meet someone who looked like him, who offered unconditional love and who took away the empty feeling he had always carried in the pit of his stomach.

“I thought meeting her would make me whole. I had had a happy childhood but somewhere deep in my gut, I have always been hollow,” said Paul, now 42 years old and living in Kent.

But Paul’s meeting with his mother was a disaster. “I now believe you can never recreate that mother-child relationship,” he said. “Away from the dreams, the initial rejection an adopted child has suffered makes unconditional love impossible to recreate in the cold light of reality.”

“I understand why my mother gave me up but I still find it impossible to forgive,” he said. “Now I have to come to terms with the fact that I have spent my life looking for something that was never there.”

One study revealed that, eight years after first making contact, almost 60 per cent of adopted children have ceased contact with, been rejected by or rejected further contact with their birth parent.  It is rare that a birth relative rejects the adoptee.  Even so, the birth parent may have higher expectations of a renewed relationship than the adopted child, who may only want to answer questions about their own identity.

According to one survey, over 70 per cent of searchers and 89 per cent of non-searchers fail to feel an instant bond with their birth parent.  One in six new relationships break down within one year after initial contact and almost 43 per cent of relationships are abandoned within eight years.

From my own experience of discovering my genetic relations (I am not an adoptee but both of my parents were), one cannot recover lost time nor opportunities to forge closer relations.  One can only begin where they find themselves to slowly, over time, develop whatever relationship is possible.

 

Complete Moving Forward

It is that end where nothing actually changes but we move forward into the next one which this year also sees the change into a new decade.

I feel a sense of completion this year as I have continued to learn about the impacts of adoption and the wounds of separating children from their mothers.  I have spent the last year reviewing the most significant events of my entire life.  One was being the executor of my deceased parents’ estate.  I have no doubt that it was a blessing that my parents, both adoptees and high school sweethearts who were married for over 60 years, died only 4 months apart.  I had to make arrangements for my mentally ill sister’s support in ways my parents feared to initiate.  Sadly, my lifelong close relationship with her was wrecked by my having to do so as there was no one else who could.

I also finally managed to come full circle in learning who my original grandparents were and because they are all dead, managing to find living descendants with whom I can begin to create new relationships.  I recognize that relationships are not instantaneous and we have lost decades but I do my best to go forward and feel a wholeness and peace that I could not even know I was lacking until I found that.

A year ago, I self-published a limited edition of our family’s true history and genetic cultural roots.  Sadly, it wrecked a relationship with one of my nephews.  Honestly though, there was barely a relationship there.  That he could not see the purpose of my revealing what I did related to his own relationships with his maternal line, I can’t help.  Though I regret his decision to close the door on half his family, I still feel the information was necessary within the family and so I accept the outcome with sadness.

I’ve spent the last year rewriting a commercial version of my story that includes the aspects mentioned above.  I had not gone into my parents’ deaths and the ramifications of those deaths in the previous publication but realized that to tell the story of my discovery of my grandparents, it was necessary to look at that difficult time in my own life to give context to the final miracle that unfolded.

In the coming year, I do hope to acquire a literary agent and find this book commercially published.  May that prove to be so.  Best wishes to all of you who have chosen to read my blog over the last year.  I hope you continue to follow me and if my hopes and dreams come true, will want to buy and review my book.  Happy New Year – soon.  Like in a few hours now.

 

 

Hiraeth

I have started reading The Lies That Bind: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Rejection, Redirection, DNA, and Discovery by Laureen Pittman.  I may have more to say about her book when I finish reading it.

Yesterday, I came across this concept of Hiraeth. It is a Welsh word meaning a homesickness for a home or place to which you cannot return, somewhere that perhaps never was; nostalgia, yearning or grief for the lost places of one’s past.

Hiraeth is an unattainable longing for a place, a time, a person or people; a history that no longer exists or may never have actually existed at all. To feel hiraeth is to feel a deep incompleteness and yet recognize it as familiar.

There was something left undone within me when I embarked on discovering my family’s true origins.  There was a deep desire for the real.  My original grandmothers both nursed and cared for my parents for several months of their lives, approximately 6 to 8 mos of those lives.  This is far different in my own mind than the mother who gives up her baby at birth.  These women were beginning to know the person that these babies were becoming.  I cannot imagine the pain that followed them throughout their lives.

This morning “family of choice” has a different meaning for me.  My adoptive grandmothers chose my parents to raise as their own.  I cannot say that my original grandmothers truly had a choice.  They were pressured into relinquishing their child.

As I have been uncovering their stories, there is a deep longing in me to know them and I never really can.  I’ve been able to find some cousins and an aunt who can share with me some things about the persons I long for, including the grandfathers I’ll never know as well.  It helps but cannot fill the hole left in my soul when my parents were taken from their parents by strangers to raise.

Renewal

Today is Easter Sunday and Spring is everywhere evident in Missouri.  In pondering the idea of Resurrection, the concept of coming back to life after death, I realize that for my own family, I have brought our original grandparents “back to our lives” though all of them have died and we will never be able to know them one-on-one.

These days, families are often geographically distant from one another and may not know each other well.  I have to content myself that what I do know may be almost as much as many other people may know (without the complications of adoption within their own families).

For myself, it has to be enough to know that I have allowed these dead relatives to speak to my heart about their sorrows and sacrifices, that make the life that I live possible.  It is a kind of reward and vindication – not of what they lost or what was done to them – but for their choosing life.  It is true, that other options didn’t really exist at the time my parents were born or when I was actually conceived out of wedlock myself.

While holding precious every life that exists in my own family, I am also grateful that women have had the right to make safe decisions about their own lives and I sorrow that those rights are being eroded.  The planet actually has more people than it can sustain.  Part of life’s ongoing nature is that some die and some are born.  A renewal of life is ongoing.  All we have to do is look honestly around us without politically advantageous sentimentality.

Looking In The Dark Place

My adoptee father said to my adoptee mother when she wanted to find her original family that she shouldn’t go there because she might be opening up a can of worms. Now that I have gone there, I find it very sad. His own half-sister was living 90 miles away from him when he died. She could have told him so much about his original mother.

I read this morning in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird these passages –

We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. The writer’s job is to see what’s behind it.

You can’t if your parents are reading over your shoulder. They are probably the ones who told you not to open that door in the first place. If the truth were known, they would be seen as good people. Truth seems to want expression.

I opened the closet door and let what was inside out – liberation and even joy rushed through. It’s wonderful to finally open that forbidden door. What gets exposed is people’s humanity. Turns out that the truth, or reality, is our home.

What I learned was that I was where I was supposed to be. As much as I have already revealed for my own self, I hope there is more yet to come. I will bravely go into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses because it has been utterly satisfying to have gone in and looked around – to finally know the truth of my family’s origins.