It Is Wrong To Hide The Truth

A person should not have to live to the age of 19 before knowing they were adopted. A person should not go through life being they come from a culture they did not. However, that is what happened to Melissa Guida-Richards. That was the point in her life when she learned she was not Italian at all bur a Columbian mestiza or mixed race. Melissa shares her story in a Huffington Post op-ed – My Half Siblings Found Me On 23andMe. I may never have learned the identity of my own dad’s father but for 23andMe hooking me up with cousins with the same grandmother (who I lived over 6 decades knowing nothing about).

That same 2017 year that I began to learn who my parents original parents were (both of them were adopted but at least they grew up knowing they were adopted all along), Melissa did 23andMe and learned about her cultural genetic make-up (Latina with Indigenous, Eastern Asian and some African roots with less than half of her genetic makeup from Italian or even European sources). She finally knew why she felt different from her entirely European adoptive family who came into the US straight off the boat from Italy and Portugal.

Before she knew she was adopted, she had grown up hearing stories of her adoptive father tending goats in Italy and her adoptive mother washing clothes in a stream in Portugal. She was taught to have pride in those cultures … but these were not her own birth culture. She experienced a sense of frustration over the way she had been raised. This built up inside of her until she made the decision to go into therapy when she was in college. Eventually, therapy allowed her to come to terms with some of these things, yet she was still pushing some of the others aside, finding that easier than confronting them. It takes time to grow through an evolution like this.

Like many adoptees, it took having biological children genetically related to her to give her that connection to kinship that was missing all of her life. Then, very much like what happened in my circumstances, two years after having her DNA tested by 23andMe, she received this message – “Hi, this may be weird and I don’t mean to bother you but I’m your half-sibling.” In a matter of seconds, she went from having no biological ancestors, and yet now children who were related to her, to having a sibling only a few years older than her. And she shares, what many adoptees feel when they discover biological, genetic relatives – Finally, there was someone else out there like me. After years of feeling like the broken, weird, outsider in my adoptive family, there was someone else.

Her feelings at that point, echo the anger many adoptees feel as they become mature – while her initial emotion was feeling overwhelmed with joy, she soon felt the grief. She says, How was it fair that I had no idea of this? That we, two siblings, were separated and yet adopted to the same country? Why did the world think that that was okay? Why did my adoptive parents act threatened when they found out about my sibling?

As she became acquainted with her half-sibling, she felt the novelty of experiencing actual similarities with a relative. All of her life, she had very little in common with her cousins by adoption and not surprisingly, her brother who was also an adoptee. Now this all made more sense, it had taken learning she was adopted.

She also experienced her adoptive mother withdrawing, becoming very quiet. Then, she received another message that she had yet another half-sibling who had the same original mother. It turned out that both of these half-siblings had been adopted but had been raised by the same adoptive family. Her adoptive parents lying about her adoption hurt even more. What also hurt for her was that these two half-siblings had not conveyed to her the full truth from the beginning of their making contact. They had both known about her for months, had looked at her blog, and on social media. They had decided together that it would be easier to go slow with the revelations and while the first one was open to creating a relationship with her, the other older one was not.

This whole situation felt like a betrayal to her. She says, “As adoptees I would have thought they would understand how any information about my birth family was vital to me. That hiding any part of our family would hurt me . . . since they had grown up together and knew about their adoptions since they were small, it didn’t really process for them why it felt like such a betrayal to me.” Eventually, she realized what hurt. It was one sibling protecting the other because that one wasn’t ready for a relationship with her. Their bond, from growing up together, and being biologically related, was something she could never have.

She shares some truth about adoptee reunions that I have seen more than once myself – they are often not like the movies. There’s heartbreak, anger, numbness and general confusion. People often expect an instant connection with their biological relatives because they share blood, but that can take some time or often never fully develops. I have certainly found that with my own newfound relations. They have histories together that I didn’t have with them. That gap of living different lives totally unaware of one another is very hard to fill – in fact, I have come to believe it is impossible. I am grateful for whatever relationship I can develop with each but I must keep my expectations in that regard very low.

The author arrives at this realization – My biological siblings and I may have come from the same mother, but we don’t share the same experiences. Society has pressured us to immediately connect upon meeting one another, when we barely could pick the other out from a crowd of strangers. It’s okay for reunions to be imperfect and painful because not all things in life are meant to be the way the movies portray. Having a relationship with both siblings during this (pandemic) time has filled some of the holes in my heart that adoption left. I’m beyond glad to have them in my life, and only hope that one day soon the world is a little less dangerous so we can all meet in person.

She ends with “we are still family ― flaws and all.” Yes, I totally get that sentiment.

Spiritual Godmothers

When I was a child, we had godmothers. It was actually a religious thing, associated with the infant baptisms that were part of being raised Episcopalian. I never really knew my godparents. I got a gift or two early in my life but when I was old enough to actually know I received it and from whom.

However, today being Mother’s Day, it occurred to me that adoptive mothers are like godmothers who are present all the time. One could also put step-mothers in that category if the were the “good” kind and not the evil kind. For some people, aunts or even mother-in-laws are like godmothers (mine certainly was and treated me like a daughter the many years, decades really, we were together).

While the wound that adoptees suffer in being separated from their gestational mother is serious and primal, and while much not appreciative nor grateful can be said about any woman who takes a child in that they did not give birth to, I think that on a day like today, when mothering in general is celebrated, it is fair to take a step back from reform interests, just for today to acknowledge “god” mothers. These are mothers sent to us by the spiritual heart of Life itself to assist us in one way or another. Foster mothers fit into this category as well.

The all-pervading, all embracing, unchanging, and unceasing Love that evolves, supports, nurtures, protects, and provides space for its children to reach maturity. Some religions have made the effort to move away from concepts of a male god or they conceive a wholeness of the duality mother/father god. During my later adult years, for some extended period of time I entered into a practice called the Gaia Minute. In doing this practice, twice a day, I came to think of the Earth herself as my mother, the Sun as my father. Larger than the human entities that provided for us during our childhoods and for some time beyond that, indeed while we were made of these, this continues to be true throughout our human incarnation.

Sadly, some children lose their mother so early, they have no clear memories of her physically. That certainly happened to my paternal grandmother, who’s own mother died when she was only 3 mos old. That certainly happens to adoptees who are given to adoptive parents within hours or days of birth.

The maternal nurturing energy of the feminine is not bound by birth, nor even by gender (my husband is surprisingly nurturing as a human being). Our spiritual godmothers, however we obtain them, whenever we obtain them, help birth our soul’s journey by their grace. They encouraged us when we were down, they were they for us when our heart and soul ached (my own human mother could sense me in distress when I was in a different room).

The Divine Feminine of mothering energy is there to remind us that we are never alone in this thing called Life. Happy Mother’s Day to each and every person who has ever fulfilled that calling to serve another human being with the energy of Love, compassion, nurturing, safety, provision and presence.

There was something complete and nebulous

Which existed before the Heaven and Earth,

Silent, invisible

Unchanging, standing as One,

Unceasing, ever-revolving,

Able to be the Mother of the World.

~ Tao Te Ching

Carmen Martinez Jover

Here my newfound values related to all things adoption and foster care bump up against my decidedly new age tendencies and personal experience.  It’s always about the bunnies in my household.  Though these bunnies have human hands.  Oh my.  That part is a travesty.

The adoption group I am a part of does not appreciate Carmen Martinez Jover because of her books on adoption.  One adoptee writes – “My thoughts to you Carmen Martinez Jover: I did not chose this, I did not want this, I reject this, fuck adoption!”  This is tough ground.  I am not an adoptee but I know too much now to ever dismiss the feelings and trauma an adoptee experiences in being separated from the mother in whose womb they grew.

Her books seek to explain adoption to adopted children.  She and I also share an interest in past lives.  The manuscript I have in process is actually about reincarnation and being given a mission to deliver a message in a Syrian refugee camp.

As a matter of fact, her theory is that adoption occurs by the choice of the child’s soul.  This is hard because we really can only theorize about consciousness before physical life.  However, due to my own personal beliefs, I find it difficult to criticize her on that point.  I see this belief structure as being about empowerment, not fault finding.

Here’s one quote –

“The soul is with its soul group, then goes and visits the Elders who give the soul advice on how to be happy when it’s born. The soul is then shown glimpse of possible lives and chooses the parents it wants. Understanding that it cannot be born in a conventional way and is born in another woman’s womb and with the help of adoption lives happily with its chosen parents.”

I do realize that such thinking is not for everyone.  Jover has experienced infertility firsthand and is a fan of Dr Bruce Lipton, who I once met in person and also deeply appreciate.

What I do know about adoption has led me to feel that, of all the options for addressing infertility, egg donation is the kindest to the child.  That is my lived experience thus far.  My obstetrician suggested it to my husband and I when an attempt to jumpstart my very last egg failed.

I would not call it a fully informed decision based on what I know now.  Both of my sons know as much as they are interested in as teenagers about their conception and we are fortunate because the egg donor for each of them was the same woman.  There is some sadness in my youngest son that he doesn’t have any of my genes, though my emotions and the foods I ate throughout his pregnancy contributed to the body his soul inhabits.  My sons would not be who they are otherwise.  This is the bottom line truth.

There is some adjustment needed in my own feelings and emotions as we have all done 23 and Me.  My grown daughter (who is biological to me and my first husband and thus carrying our genes) is also there at 23 and Me.  I see her shown accurately as my daughter.  That feels good.  But I do not see my sons.  The woman who donated her eggs also has a 23 and Me DNA result account and she is shown as their mother.  Genetically, that is the truth that I can’t deny.

This is the world modern medical science has made possible.  I loved my pregnancies with both sons.  I loved breastfeeding them each for over a year.  I love that I have been here for them from day one and will continue to be in their lives until I die (hopefully, before either of my boys).  It means a lot to me to have mothered them because I have faulted myself for being a horrible mother.  Due to poverty and my ex refusing to pay child support, my daughter ended up living with him.  He remarried a woman with a daughter and together they had a daughter.  This gave my daughter a family with two sisters, the same family structure I grew up within.

I paid a steep price for not raising her, I lost so much and know it, and I continue to pay a price for the choices I made as a young adult.  Though I have a good relationship with my daughter now, her childhood wasn’t as good as I once believed but I didn’t know the truth then.  Just like once upon a time I didn’t know anything about adoption.  Just like I never saw inexpensive DNA tests changing everything for donor conceived children.  I do still believe in eternal souls.  I do believe there is much more to this thing called Life than any one person can know or understand.  Only the “All That Is” intelligence can know that.  Some people call that God.  I am good with whatever anyone wants to call what I have discovered for myself somehow exists.

Hope Springs Eternal

It is a story as old as humanity.  The rebirth through time of the species.  Every child spends time in its mother’s womb.  Every child carries the seeds of its father.  Every human being is precious.

Sadly, many children are born into humble beginnings.  Just as the old Christmas story tells us of the struggles of the young family who give birth in a stable for animals because there was no room for them at the inn.

All of us who live have reason to be grateful.  No one promised us a rose garden on being birthed into physicality but many many humans have proven to us that anyone with enough persistence and determination can change the circumstances of their life.

When times are exceedingly difficult, we can be comforted with knowing that change is constant.  When times are abundantly good for us, we should remember that this too is likely to pass into something else.

Christmas Eve is a time when the whole world hopes for peace, goodwill towards men.  However you celebrate and whether you celebrate or not, may your holidays be blessed with warmth, loving souls around you and harmony for at least some few moments so that you too know that it is possible.

 

Missed Opportunities

Evelyn Grace Johnson (later Harris) at age 2

I’ve only known about this family of cousins since October 2017.  The first time I became aware of this one is because her name appeared on the back of her parents’ gravestone in Pine Bluff Arkansas.  I was at the cemetery to visit the grave of my grandfather, Jay Church Moore.  Nearby was the grave of my mom’s half-sister Javene.  I only missed her by about 2 months because she lived to a very ripe old age.

I googled and found that Evelyn lived in Pine Bluff but could not locate a phone number and so we went on to Memphis that day.  Then in May 2018, we returned to the Arkansas area to visit Evelyn’s sister, Sherry, who gave me so much insight into the family, shared so many pictures and stories that I felt as though I had lived in this, my family, for all my life.

I didn’t see Evelyn during that journey either.  I talked to her on the phone.  She said she wasn’t well but maybe when she was better we could meet.  That day, sadly, didn’t come because she passed away last Friday without us ever accomplishing that someday meeting.

I feel I missed opportunities three times now – once with Javene and then twice with Evelyn.  However, I am blessed that I even know they existed.  For over 60 years, my two parents status as adoptees meant we didn’t know our original family roots.  Now I do.  And so today, I mourn a missed opportunity – while counting my blessings – at the same time.

 

If Not For You

How humbling and profound it has been to learn about my family’s true origins.  If not for . . . so many things, I would simply not exist.

Had my Danish paternal grandfather not been allowed to immigrate, I would not exist.  One could say he is an example of chain migration because his uncle came first and then his sister.

Had a superflood not complicated the possibility of my maternal grandparents reuniting, my mom would not have gone where she had to go to meet my dad.  I would simply not exist.

There is a comfort in understanding that what may appear unfortunate on the surface of things eventually serves a good purpose.  There is a sense of peace and rightness about the world that allows one to take a long perspective on everything that happens.

Losing A Mom

Many of us have lost our mothers.  Whether we had her for a short time, almost no time at all, like my paternal grandmother who lost her own mother at age 3 mos.  Or whether we had her for a bit longer, like my maternal grandmother who lost her own mother at age 11.  Or whether we had her for much longer.  I lost my mother in 2015 at the age of 61.

My mom carried a deep unhealed wound that was caused by the unintended (unintended by her own mother) separation from her mother when she was exploited due to financial desperation.  When my mom tried in the early 1990s to get her origins information and reach out for contact with her original parents, she was told her mother had already died and that devastated her.

There was an emptiness that my mom carried her whole life and it was real and not imagined.  She was alone in a real sense with the issues that her life presented her with and we all are in reality.

Death is inevitable.  I accepted that almost 20 years ago when I learned I was positive for hep C but would never be treated for that.  Even though I knew nothing about my original grandparents and my own parents were still alive, my OB said he was more worried about my heart than my liver.  It seems he was intuitive.

Having now located who all 4 of my original grandparents were, I also know they all died of heart related causes.  Both of my own parents also died of heart related causes.  So I have to take my own health seriously in the aspects related to that.

Even so, no one can save my life.   We are all born to die and the timing of our death is never known until it is upon us.  What matters to me is the quality of the lifetime that I have available to me.  I do my best to honor that gift.

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.

I Go Back To May 1937

In Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird near the end she shares this poem that makes me think so much about my grandparents.  My mom was born in 1937.  My grandfather certainly was not the young man portrayed in the poem, though Georgia Tann made both of them young college students.  My grandmother, though never a college student, was that naive.  I can’t regret what happened because my very existence depended upon it but I am left still with way too many questions that I’ll never be able to answer.

Here is Sharon Olds poem –

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books on her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the
wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips black in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don’t do it – she’s the wrong woman,
he’s the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot image you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,
his pitiful beautiful untouched body,
but I don’t do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips like chips of flint as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.