The Weird Joy of Reunion

Sharing the current state of reunion that one adoptee has experienced.

Change. Change can be so beautiful, but very difficult. The past six months, I started my journey to find my birth family. Not only did I find both my mother and father. I found many other family members.

When I found my parents it was extremely exciting, but honestly, it brought up so many different emotions I didn’t expect to be brought up. It was weird talking for hours with these strangers that somewhere weren’t strangers. It was even weirder loving these two people that I’ve never even met. It confused me how it could be possible. How can I love two people that I don’t know. Looking at it now, it’s so beautiful. God intended natural family to be together. It wasn’t intended for adoption to be a thing. That love I have for them is wired in me. I didn’t know I would feel that way from the start. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t even like them. Thankfully, that love just comes naturally with parents and their children.

I am lucky enough to be building a relationship with them. It has been all I wanted for almost nineteen years and now I have it. It still blows my mind that I know them. Not only do I know them, but they want to know everything about me. I couldn’t be more blessed with who they are.

So yeah, you could say my life has changed. This change has brought sadness, happiness, confusion, and about any other emotion you could think of. Memories good and bad have been brought back to life. I am so glad God chose my adoptive and biological family to love me. Through all of this, I have seen just how lucky I am to have so many people rooting for me. I am even luckier that my biological mom chose my family. I get to tell the people who made me about the people who raised me and be so proud. Although this journey has been hard for my parents, birth parents, and everyone else involved, I am so excited for my future with my entire family.

Another Rejection Of Me

For many adoptees, simply the fact that their original family is not raising them is a rejection. That is why this story really touched my heart.

I’m an adoptee that’s been recently reunited with my first mom and her side of the family. They have been so welcoming and want a relationship with me, and it’s been so great getting to know them. Unfortunately my adoptive family isn’t taking it well. I’m just so sad that they can’t be more supportive and are taking it personally. I’m not surprised at all by my adoptive parents reacting this way, but my one safe person (my adoptive paternal aunt) is also taking it badly. I wish I could just have the joy of reunion without the overwhelming guilt. Their rejection of my biological family feels like another rejection of me. I so wish they could share in my happiness. They say they can somewhat understand my curiosity about who my biological family is but they don’t understand why I want to have a relationship with them. My biological family on the other hand has expressed wanting to meet my adoptive family and it breaks my heart that the feeling isn’t mutual. I hope they have a change of heart, but in the meantime I am grieving.

Becoming Whole

This is what it is like to relinquish a child and then one day find them again and realize you are coming full circle and putting your pieces back together to become whole again. One birth mother’s story for today.

Summer 2018:

While working with my husband (repo agent) doing research on debtors, I stumble across a Facebook profile pic that makes my heart stop. After years of searching with very limited info, I finally saw a picture of the man my son grew to become. (He happened to be FB friends with a debtor we were looking for). My own eyes were staring back at me.

I chew nervously for days on what to do. Do I reach out? What if he doesn’t want to meet me? My heart is racing almost non-stop, and I’m functioning barely in a constant state of fight or flight.

I bite the bullet and send a message. Crickets for a few days, and then a very guarded/nervous response. I back off because I can’t even imagine what he’s thinking/feeling. And then, I receive a friend request.

I can see his life in posts, pics, and a piece of who he is. It’s such a gift…one I had long ago conceded I’d never receive. We tread carefully back and forth on social media for some time. I immediately put myself into intensive therapy to deal with the unresolved trauma and PTSD issues I had ignored forever. I search for and join multiple groups both for support and adoptee perspective. I, for the first time in my life, focus on self-improvement instead of self-destruction.

February 2019:

We meet face to face for the first time in a neutral location. He hugs me, and I’m shaking externally from all the emotions I’m feeling. I’m trying to absorb everything because I’m so scared this is going to be it. I have gifts for him in the car (a hand written letter, framed pic of me holding him as a newborn, and a watch engraved with

Always loved… Never forgotten…

I wait until our lunch is over and ask if he’d be ok with a couple of gifts. He readily accepts them, and we part ways. I’m terrified that I’ve done too much, but only 30 mins later I receive a message thanking me for everything. He goes on to say that the picture and letter would have been more than enough, but absolutely loves the watch.

Today:

I honestly could write a book on our journey so far. There are so many things that have occurred that aren’t included in this small recap – but I’ll save that for another day.

This is what I want to share –

Less than 2 years after reuniting, he joined us on our annual family vacation. He left his car at my house and endured a 10 hour drive with myself, hubby, his half brother and our dog.

He loves hiking and the outdoors!!! I’ve spent many family vacations dragging my husband and other 2 kiddos hiking only to hear complaints. This year, I had an Ally!!! I listened for hours to my husband and him talk cars, my youngest son and him talk video games, and my daughter and him talk science and politics.

I don’t ever want to forget these moments.

My son asked me during our first meeting…”Does your husband know about me?”… My response was “Of course! I told him about you only 2 weeks after meeting him. I hoped I would find you one day, and I could only be with someone who could accept and support that.”

My husband has done more than just support me….he’s accepted my son, included him and embraced him. I’m still a broken woman, but my pieces are coming together. And my family is finally whole.

Taking Off Rose Colored Glasses

Today’s story –

Four years ago, my husband and I became foster parents. Our first “placement” (geeeze I hate that term), turned into an adoption. Our son, now 4 1/2, will be meeting his biological mom for the first time in December when she is released from prison. We have constant contact with her via phone calls and emails, as well as visits with grandparents every few months. My question is, what can we be doing to make her transition home easier-for her, and for him? He calls her by name, and knows that she is his tummy momma who grew him and gave him life and love, but he really hasn’t asked many questions beyond that. I’d love to have some feedback, so we can do our very best to navigate this the best way possible. I am far from a perfect parent, but this is obviously something that I don’t want to mess up.

PS – until recently, I viewed foster care and adoption through rose colored glasses, but that is no longer the case. My eyes and my heart are now open to the hard parts of adoption. 

Immediately was this response – as a birth mom. Drop the tummy momma crap. We are humans, we weren’t incubators.

The woman understood immediately and said – Thank you all so much for your honesty. “Tummy mommy” will stop immediately. You’re so right, that’s an awful way to refer to her.   I am doing my best to dig deep, not for me, for them. I don’t want to mess this up with any of my own bullshit feelings. They’ve been through enough.

A compassionate response came next – Offer her acceptance for any and all emotions she may experience. Work your way from there. Allow him to be around her as much as she and him are comfortable. Encourage playtime/movie time whatever he likes. Be understanding above all else. These are extremely difficult emotions for his mom just as much for him so offer as much kindness as possible.   This is never easy and remember she is in pain and your son IS traumatized at some level because of losing her. That is a fact and you as an adoptive mother HAVE to make peace with it.

One suggested way to deal with this is – be mom (your 1st name) and mom (her 1st name).. that will better help him associate who she really is to him – his mom. He will know her, he will sense something familiar about her and she will feel like home to him because they already have that birth connection. She is his mother in a biological way that will never change. Kids aren’t as confused about the duality of multiple moms as we are as adults. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard uncomfortable (for you) things to actually support this relationship.  He’ll get to know her over time and much easier if there aren’t adult issues and expectations on it.

Finally, some important advice – You need to find a genuine love for her beyond her being the person that is the reason you have your child.  Just going through the motions you think you should in terms of open adoptions isn’t enough. It should not be what you think you should do. It should be naturally what you want to do. Coming out of prison is difficult. You are treated like a pariah. Getting a job with a record is hard, getting any help from anyone or any government funded programs is difficult to impossible. Some programs you cannot even apply for if you have a record. Welcome her. Make sure she knows she has an important place in his life. Do NOT talk about boundaries and make her time with your son a top priority.

Please Don’t Take Another One of My Babies

Reading these words – “Not another one. Please don’t take another one of my babies”.

This was in a tale of adoptions but not adoptions by strangers.  The story was one about how a woman took two children from two different relatives.  It is sad that “family” can be so cruel.

The first one – the mother was unable to have more children so she stole babies from family members.  This child’s original mother was told that she was incapable of caring for her child and that she would be in much better hands in the woman’s household. That was all a lie. The adoptive mother would say things like “she is lucky to have us. I treat her like my daughter”. But this girl was not treated equally. Sadly, according to this woman’s one biological daughter, they were all abused but this adopted girl had the worst of the emotional and mental abuse.

Eventually, the original mother had an apartment and car and job and never did she stop loving her daughter.  When this girl turned 15, the adoptive mother decided the original mother was actually “good enough”.  In truth, the adoptive mother didn’t want to deal with the teenage years and so kicked the girl out.

Then, the second one elicited the quote and title of this blog.

A distant cousin had a new baby boy and the adoptive mother decided the original parents couldn’t care for him properly. The adoptive mother drove over to visit.  Then, right after leaving, she called the Department of Child Welfare and reported her cousin. The very next morning, the adoptive mother had the baby boy in her arms. He was only 1 month old. He has 9 other siblings. The woman telling this sad tale said, “I’ll never forget his mother’s sobs as we drove off.”

The adoptive mother made herself out to be the hero of the story and of course, the biological parents were the awful people. This adoptive mother played the loving mother until the date for his adoption, at around 8 months of age.

Then the adoptive mother pushed all the “mother” responsibilities onto the woman conveying this story. She was 15 years old at the time.  She did love the little boy with all her heart.  She wanted to give him the best possible chance.

It may not surprise the reader to know that eventually the adoptive mother ended up having a mental breakdown and went into a treatment facility.

The Liar’s Club

It never ceases to amaze me how I end up reading books with no idea they are relevant to my interests here and then, near the end of the book, something happens and I’m like Wow !!

I don’t believe that what I will share with you would in any way spoil a reading of Mary Karr’s book. There is a mother/child separation and reunion story that occurs near the end of this book.

She writes – “Those were my mother’s demons, then, two small children, whom she longed for and felt ashamed for having lost. ‘It was like a big black hole just swallowed me up. Or like the hole was inside me, and been swallowing me up all those years without my even noticing. I just collapsed into it. What’s the word the physicists use? Imploded. I imploded’.”

“Mother did what seemed at the time the Right Thing, though had she Thought, she may have Thought Twice about how Right the Right Thing would wind up being, for surely it drove her mad. She tore up the papers giving her sole custody of the two minor children, Tex and Belinda.”

After she found a husband willing to take them, they were too big, “They didn’t want to come.”

And why hadn’t her mother told her subsequent daughters about the marriage and the lost children ? “It’s one of the more pathetic sentences a sixty-year-old woman can be caught uttering, ‘I thought you wouldn’t like me anymore’.”

Her sister hired a detective and they found those kids. They were damn eager to be found and within weeks arrived at her Mother’s house, bright and fresh-faced and curious as all get-out.

Karr tells her story with spunky narration that never fails to stay in a deep love for her admittedly flawed parents. Their flaws never seem to be a lack of love for these their children but more personal in nature, though impacting their ability to parent well. I do highly recommend her story. It is riveting and even scary at times. There is one significant sexual abuse episode that could be triggering for certain readers.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I continue to unwrap the gift I have received late in life of knowledge about my natural grandparents, meeting my genetic relatives and understanding the impacts of adoption on my entire family.  It is a gift that has not stopped giving to me more and more each day.

One year ago, I completed a family history as a gift to 9 of my relatives.  Having recovered our unknown genetic history and having some additional family stories I felt were worth saving, I self published it economically in a spiral bound book.  If something ended my life, I did not want the knowledge lost again.

Over the last year, I’ve been retelling the story of finding my original grandparents but soon realized I could not convey an accurate understanding of the final miracle in that journey without delving into something I did not cover at all in the family history.  That is my journey as executor of my deceased parents estates and having to contend with a brilliant but delusional sister.  It certainly adds an element of tension, uncertainty and conflict.  Truth be told, two parts of my on-going story have only revealed themselves this last November.

Even so, I’ve decided I am now “complete” with a version that I hope will be commercially published and bring some modest amount of revenue into my family’s financial support while opening a door for me to publish whatever comes next (I have a couple of ideas in progress – one has waited 5 years for me to have the time to take the rough draft into a finished form).

May your own heart be warmed with the love of knowing family.  No family is perfect and often they vex us and yet, they truly polish us into stars of shining light for others to be inspired by.  May all your holidays be bright.

 

About Fostering Teens

This comes up frequently in adoptee discussion groups. The concern is the many older children in foster care who would benefit from the stability of being in one single home/family for the duration of their childhood – where the possibility of being returned to their original parents may never exist, for whatever reason that is the case.

That’s a whole different ballgame than adopting healthy infants or toddlers.

Nobody is stealing teens from their families. They’re just harder to place and most child welfare agencies would rather not have to bother doing the work, quite frankly. Teens who’ve been in the system since their younger years are even harder to place because of the continual trauma that being in the system has done/continues to do to them. The best (and possibly only) thing a Foster Parent can do for a teen Foster Youth is give them a safe, supportive place to land until they can be reunited with their parents or other biological family members; or if that isn’t possible, at least support them through to maturity and beyond the Foster Care Emancipation process.

In 2016, over 400,000 children were in Foster Care in these United States.

The Safe Families Act has been implemented in several American states.

There are three pillars of the Safe Families Act, all with the intention of returning children to their parents as soon as possible.

[1] Hosting – parents choose to allow certain approved families to care for their child until the parents are able to again.

[2] Befriending – providing a supportive environment for the parents of children in care. Support meant to return the ability of parents to adequately provide for their children.

[3] Resources/Physical Needs – rehabilitation services, job assistance and counseling. Food and childcare help. Community organizations willing to step in.

Especially because of the Opioid Crisis, the Foster Care System is overwhelmed.

It is heartening to know that there are so many people looking for better ways to ensure the well-being of our nation’s children.

Adoption – Open or Closed – What’s Best ?

Today, in modern adoption, there are more open adoptions than there were in the past.

In an open adoption, a young adoptee may grow up alongside the parents who conceived them and gave birth, though these parents are not part of the family household the adoptee grows up within. Even so, there is sharing time together, visiting and writing to one another.  In an open adoption, you see and get to know your original parents but you don’t have them as your parents.

Up until recently, most adoptions were closed and so, in order to know the people an adoptee was born to, they had to seek a reunion after they became an adult; or at the least, a much older child, as in a teenager.

If it were actually possible for any adoptee to  compare the outcomes they would have experienced with each method, what would they choose in full awareness ?  Would they want to know their original parents throughout their whole lives ?  Do they think that knowing them would make their lives better or worse ?

Of course, there is no such choice for adoptees.  Open adoption seeks to make the adoption experience better by taking away the secrecy and shame.

Are the issues the same for an adoptee whether it was an open or closed adoption ?  Or does an open adoption simply create a whole new set of issues that didn’t exist within
the close adoption system ?

In a good reunion process, the adoptee is able to explain to the original parent(s) – their feelings of hurt, abandonment and/or anger – which were all caused by the decision of their original parents to surrender their child for adoption.

Can any child go through something as traumatic as being given up and still process it all at the same time – are they able to talk to the original parent about the feelings common among all adoptees at the same time as they are being experienced ?  This is not an answerable question as the two kinds of adoption experience do not allow such comparisons.

It can be quite painful for an adoptee to hear about a birth mother who is satisfied with having relinquished her child for adoption.  Yet, many such mothers were absolutely convinced at the time they made that choice that they were doing the best thing for their child.

Years later, many birth mothers wish they had kept their child, and that is why there are groups of adoptees actively working to encourage young unwed or troubled expectant mothers to make an effort to parent first before making a decision to relinquish their child to adoption.

The fact is – adoption exists – and it will likely always exist because there is a need and/or desire for that in some circumstances.  The hard truth is that not all parents to be actually want to devote themselves to raising a child.

In seeking to reform the practice of adoption, the more we are able to ask piercing questions, explore with those involved the reason for their decisions and just plain understand at a very deep level all aspects of the experience, the better we will be able to shape the future of adoption into better outcomes for all concerned.

Why Go Looking ?

Someone once asked me, if the adoptive family was a good one, what’s the issue ?

People not affected by adoption often struggle to understand what would motivate an adoptee to go searching for their original family.  If one knows where they came from, it can be hard to relate to not knowing.

An adoptee that grows up in a loving, supportive family, will be strong enough to search for who they came from.  If their adoptive family was a very good one, they might even expect that they would not like what their search found once they arrive there.

Maybe it would help to understand that this kind of experience was never intended to replace the adoptive family the adoptee grew up in. Yet any adoptee will feel that they have a few “missing” pieces. It is only natural.  And once a puzzle has been revealed, completing it makes sense.