Little Fires Everywhere

Just in time for Mother’s Day, I finished reading Celeste Ng’s book.  I don’t think any author could do a better job of weaving in EVERY topic I’ve ever spent writing a blog about in this effort.  She manages to address transracial adoption, abandonment, infertility, surrogacy and abortion before the book is completed.  Race and class underline all the characters and how they interact with each other.

I spent the last few days unable to attend to my own research for my own manuscript in process because I was so very engrossed in this story and could not stop reading.

I will try not to spoil it because you should read it for yourself.  I learned about it through an adoption group I belong to and not because of the book per se but because of the TV series.  I don’t know how close that series was able to stay to the book but I don’t get commercial TV here.

It is a  story about mothers and today we celebrate Mother’s Day.  These women’s stories interweave and clash in different, sometimes shocking, sometimes deeply moving ways. At the heart of the drama is a court case trying to resolve the difficult question of who “deserves” to be a mother.  I would say there is no such thing as “deserving” to be a mother.  One either is or one is not.

The author has friends who’ve conceived easily, who’ve struggled to conceive, who’ve adopted or gone through invasive IVF procedures or used surrogates, or who’ve decided not to conceive. Ng says – “The main constant seems to be judgment. Motherhood seems to be a no-win battle: however you decide to do (or not do) it.”

She continues, “Someone’s going to be criticizing you. You went to too great lengths trying to conceive. You didn’t go to great enough lengths. You had the baby too young. You should have kept the baby even though you were young. You shouldn’t have waited so long to try to have a baby. You’re a too involved mother. You’re not involved enough because you let your child play on the playground alone.”

“It never ends.” And I personally know ALL of that is true.

Ng concludes her thoughts with this insight – “We give women less information about their bodies and reproduction, less control over their bodies, and less support during and after pregnancy – and then we criticize them fiercely for whatever they end up doing.”

Celeste Ng writes in such a skillful manner that I feel humbled in my own attempts in comparison.  I cannot recommend her book enough to do it’s brilliance justice but do – read it – if you have not already.

 

Facilitating The Search

The more enlightened adoptive parents are prepared from the beginning for their child’s curiosity about their original parents and even a desire to know these people in person.

How does an adoptive parent lay the groundwork for this to occur?

In my own immediate family, each of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. Both of these children, a niece and a nephew, have had support from their adoptive parents to experience a reunion with their roots.

Many begin when the child is very young to admit to the adoption. Even a safe haven baby can someday use inexpensive DNA to locate related persons who might be able to lead them back to their original family. That has certainly worked for me with my own cousins and an aunt (both of my parents were adopted).

Whether this hurts the adoptive parent should not prevent any adoptee from knowing their true origins and as much of their birth story as is possible so that they understand what led to their relinquishment.

Let your adopted child know that you will do everything you can to help them if they want your assistance.

Never pretend you are the only family or parents. Accept the reality and know that family matters at lot and that adoption doesn’t magically make the other family disappear.

Your adopted child will appreciate your reassurance. You do not need to pressure them to reach out to their original family. The choice to do so must be their own.

Normalize these feelings by letting them know that you would want to know if you were an adopted child.

The Need To Know

I love to read stories about happy adoptee reunions.  They do not always turn out well.  I do believe that the need to know is universal in adoptees, even when they think otherwise.  Human beings are not meant to have no continuity, no connection to their origins and genetics, only a black hole leading into the past.  I have experienced a black hole beyond my parents and I now have the information they lacked.

My mom yearned for a reunion she never realized.  She once wrote to me in an email – “When I found out that my Mother was dead and my Father’s whereabouts unknown, the purpose of my search sort of fizzled out. I just felt that as a Mother I would be devastated to lose a child and never know what happened to it.”

So I love happy stories of adoptee reunions when the adoptive parents are supportive and encouraging of their adopted child’s need to know.  Today, I read a very nice story about a young man named Alex.  His parents were high school students and he was adopted when he was only 5 days old.  His adoptive parents are Jewish.

Alex was a Communication Arts major at the University of Wisconsin and was taking a documentary film-making class.  He needed a personal project and decided he wanted to look for his biological mother and document the development of his search.  His adoptive mother had his baby bracelet that came home with him.  It had his biological mother’s name on it, Trina Dunn.  He used Google and found four women named Trina.  One turned out to be the right Trina.  The reunion is happy and he has discovered another “family” religious perspective.  His original genetic family is Catholic and his parents have been married all these years.

Another story I read today was about Jenna, who was helped to find her original mother thanks to DNA and MyHeritage.  Their DNA Quest project is a pro-bono initiative offered to adoptees who have little information to aid a quest of their own.

Jeanna says, “When you’re adopted, you have no idea of the background that led up to your adoption. I didn’t know if she would be accepting. She was, and everyone in her family was completely accepting.”  Jenna says she now feels a sense of completeness that was lacking in her life.

If you are an adoptee and want to search for your genetic origins – know it is your basic human right to discover where you came from.  If the reunion doesn’t go well, you will know that at least you tried.  There is so much guilt and shame attached to any mother giving up a child that it is not always possible to overcome the damage.  Her response to your effort is not about your worthiness but about her emotional wounds.