Are You Happy You Are Adopted?


I’ve been asked this question many times.

It’s a question that tends to irritate me because 99.% of the time the person asking has an answer in mind that they believe is the only appropriate answer to give. They aren't asking to really know my feelings.

Yes, I really found this in a bookstore. Eeek!
Seldom if ever do I feel a person asking me this really wants to know my answer, or doesn’t already have an expectation of the “correct” answer.

Especially within the Christian community, the majority of people asking the question want it to go like this:

Person questioning me: “Are you happy you are adopted?”

Me: Oh it’s wonderful to be adopted. And of course I’m happy to be adopted. I could have been an abortion, after all.

[Sigh.]

If I give this answer, most folks will be pleased as punch.
Never mind that ANY of us could have been an abortion.  

And, that my natural mother told me the very first night we reunited, “Abortion was never a consideration for me.”

My adoption had absolutely NOTHING to do with abortion. 
But I digress…

Here’s the truth many do not want to hear, and usually ends in a reaaallllly triggering discussion for me so I usually say something like, “You know, it’s complicated,” and change the subject. Unless I’m in the mood for a two or three hour exhausting discussion that ends in me going home with a really bad headache. Or praying the questioner would magically turn into a pinata. And who wants that?

Perhaps nothing is more stressful than people asking questions who really don’t seek to understand. They just want you to tell them what they desperately, for some reason, need to hear.

The truth for me is that being adopted is like being different in any sphere of life that you wish were normal but is not.  Or as a Christian, that you wish were in God’s divine design, but is not.

 For instance, I believe marriage is for life. I don’t believe divorce is “God's perfect plan.” There are biblical reasons to get divorced -- reasons that make it perfectly acceptable to get divorced due to your circumstaces, but it’s certainly not preferable. God’s divine order is that marriage is a covenant for life with your spouse, until death do you part. I don't believe divorce is a "first choice" for anyone. No one grows up saying, "My dream is to be divorced." 

I believe divorce is something that happens in life that hurts really bad. It’s not the unpardonable sin, but it hurts. It hurts everybody involved. It’s never fun. It’s not something you go, “Yippee!!! I love divorce! Bring it on.” God forgives divorce when it happens. God forgives anyone or anything when a person just asks Him to. But there’s no way out of the fact a divorce hurts everybody involved.

Well, for me adoption is the same way. When someone asks me about how I feel about adoption it's like asking me how I feel about divorce. Because in order for me to become adopted, a divorce had to happen -- losing my entire first family, at least for a while.

Asking an adopted kid or grown up adult adoptee, “Are you happy you are adopted?” is kinda like asking them, “Aren't you glad your parents got a divorce?” 

Most kids I know are not happy at all when their parents get divorced.

In fact, my adoptive parents got divorced and it was really hard.

I really love my step mother. My Dad got remarried after the divorce, and his wife is an awesome woman. A Godly woman. She is so good to my Dad, and to all of us. I appreciate her a lot. But am I happy my parents got divorced? No. I will ever be happy about that.  I had to learn to cope with it. Had to go to counseling and get help, to move forward from the divorce.

Adoption has been the same way for me. I also had to learn to cope, go to counseling and get help to move forward. It’s a process.

Does any child or adult say, “Yipppeeeee! My natural family could not keep me!! It was sooooo awesome! I was surrendered for adoption and it was the greatest thing EVER!!”

Nobody that I know, and I mean NOBODY I have ever run across in the adoptee community is thrilled that their natural mother or family was in such condition that they made the decision to relinquish.   

In this area of my life I will never be “normal,” whatever that is. I am an adoptee living in a world where most people are not adopted. I do not have so much as accurate documentation of my birth, critical medical information that may prolong or save my life, nor did I grow up with things like genetic mirroring that is important to identity and development.

But I digress again.

There is help available for those of us in this situation. We have to look hard to find it but it is there. 


 Probably the hardest thing for me when it comes to adoption is coping with people who believe that not only is being adopted nothing traumatic to move forward from, nothing to go to counseling over -- but they truly believe in their heart of hearts that it's nothing but bliss.

And that’s why when asked these questions, I most often tighten my lips like I do before I get ready to say something difficult and simply say, “It’s complicated,” and ask them, “Is that just decaf coffee on the table over there or is there some regular?” and quickly change the subject as soon as I can. 

*Photo Credits: Deanna Doss Shrodes

Selling Your Soul to Reunion


What would possess a mature, grown, confident and otherwise wildly successful person to throw all common sense and self respect out the window?


Reunion.

Yup.

Adoption reunion has the power to turn a powerhouse into a groveling wimp.
I only say that cuz’ I’ve been there. As the wimp.

But no more. No sirree Bob. The showings of the  Wimp Chronicles Starring Deanna Doss Shrodes have closed and are no longer available, even on DVD. 

I know so many adoptees who are the kind of people who slay dragons with one hand behind their back in every other sphere of life. They kick tail at work and their other endeavors. But reunion turned them into Jello. When they enter reunion, they begin to agree to things no strong, self-respecting person would otherwise agree to.  

What is it about reunion that causes one to act like they never would in another area of their life?

For starters, the most insane desire for approval…ever. 

Even if you don’t struggle with that in other situations…it so often seems to come with the territory in reunion.

Because you just want a seat at the table.  
A full seat.


So you put up with craaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy stuff that you would never put up with when it comes to anything else in your life.

Whatever you have to do to get that seat, you do it.

You compromise, going beyond any reasonable alteration to a place of losing yourself at times, just to gain what you lost at birth or shortly thereafter.

But you can never totally regain it anyway because the tremendous volume of loss of shared history can never be regained.

But you try, oh do you try.
You knock yourself out trying to create and recreate shared history.
Trying to fit in.

And no matter how hard you try, you don't absolutely fit in like a perfect puzzle piece with your natural or your adoptive family because there are such gaps with both. Typically a shared history gap with one and an understanding gap with the other.

Amidst all of this change, you encounter the "nons" as we know them, who (with or without invitation) will give such brilliant wisdom as, "See...this is why reunions are not always good...they open up a can of worms...you have opened Pandora's box...it's best to leave well enough alone...blah blah blah..."  

You have embarked on a sometimes unrecognizable version of yourself in exchange for active relationship. And then, you wake up one day and ask, “What in the world am I doing?  I am agreeing to things I would never concede to in any other situation in my life.  I am compromising in places I never would with a friend, or even my spouse. What in heaven’s name is driving me to agree to put up with these expectations or this treatment?” 

Perhaps you have agreed to be kept a secret after reunion, just to stay relationship.

Or maybe you’ve agreed to refrain from openly sharing your feelings with anyone, or writing publicly.

After realizing the ridiculousness of this demand,  you may suddenly see that you don’t have to live that way anymore.



You do not have to compromise for one more day.

You can stop talking yourself into the fact that it’s okay in this one area, just because it’s not comparable to anything else in your life.

You can refuse to be someone other than yourself, just to hold onto what is left. 

You can just say no to doing whatever it takes to keep them happy so you can still have some shred of contact left.

You can stop selling your soul to reunion.

You can be who God created you to be, and let the chips fall where they may. 

*Photos by Deanna Doss Shrodes

Birth Certificates: Lying is NOT Okay
(Just Because It's Legal Doesn't Make It Right!)


The first official documented proof of my existence that I am permitted to have in my possession is a lie.

It is replete with false information concerning my birth, and has remained so for the duration of my thus far 47-year old life.


A recent post by Lorraine Dusky at Birth Mother First MotherForum reveals how uninformed most of the population, including many adoptive parents, are about this issue.   

Lorraine says:

"So it was with dismay that I learned a few days after that that an adoptive mother of my acquaintance--a bright, appealing woman who is involved in the community--expressed ignorance on the issue of sealed birth certificates. Upon learning that what I was fighting for had something to do with  "birth certificates," she remarked to a friend that she didn't understand what the issue was. She said something along the lines of--That's odd--my [adopted] kids [two] have their birth certificates.

Both of her two adopted children are in the twenties; both were adopted in New York. The oldest lives in a distant state; the other lives at home. Unless an Act of God intervened in their cases, they do not have their original birth certificates. The adoptive mother's name is on their birth certificates, as well as her (former) husband's, as if they conceived their adopted children and she gave birth to them. How clueless is she? I was alarmed and dismayed. If this intelligent woman doesn't know squat about the reality of this aspect of her now-grown children's lives, no wonder we can't get these laws to fade away faster. If she doesn't know this, what hope is there?"


Unfortunately, the beliefs of Lorraine’s acquaintance are not rare.  When someone actually cares to discuss this subject with me, I have to go to great lengths to explain that I do have a birth certificate, however the majority of what is on it concerning my birth, is untrue. 

The information on my certificate has almost nothing to do with my actual BIRTH, but instead reflects my adoption. 

What's the problem with this?

A birth certificate is just that – a BIRTH certificate.


A birth certificate is supposed to document your BIRTH.


Proof of Birth?

Not long ago, I saw a post on Facebook by a Christian adoptive mom. She said, “I am my kids’ mom! I have the birth certificates to prove it!”

While I don't dispute the fact that she is a mother to her children, I don't believe having the children's now-amended birth certificates proves anything except for the fact that she possesses a falsified document regarding her children's birth.

A birth certificate is not a certificate of one's parentage.

It is not a mom certification.

Nor does the certificate belong to the parents.

A birth certificate belongs to the person whose birth it is intended to record.

Unless the adoptive mother carried said children in her own body and delivered them at said hospital, the birth certificates in her possession prove  absolutely nothing except the fact that our government recorded information on legal documents that claim one woman delivered children who were actually conceived, carried and delivered by another. 

Legal But Not Right 

How can a Christian believe the changing of a document to reflect false information is morally acceptable even though it is legal?  Just because something is legal doesn't make it right.


How Much Can Be Changed is Shocking!

The only things that may be true on my birth certificate are the date and time of my birth as well as the hospital. I say may be true, because I am not sure, even of those things.

Sadly, I recently learned that in some states, the date of birth, city, state and hospital can be altered as well, at the request of the adoptive parents. 

I have an adoptee friend who just discovered his birthday he has celebrated for over 40 years isn't even his actual birthday. Although this may seem like a small thing to non-adoptees, to him and to many others in the same shoes, it's quite a blow to find out that what you thought was your birthday isn't even your birthday.

People have asked me, "Why would an adoptive parent request the date of birth, state or hospital be changed on a birth certificate?" The answer is that if these things are changed on a certificate, a child would not necessarily have to be told they were adopted unless the parent chose to tell them.  It also makes it much harder for the adoptee to search when they become adults, because they don't know their correct birth date or location of birth.Without this information the search is much harder.

There are no words to even express my feelings about that. And I'm pretty good with words. But I digress...

Trust Issues and Learning Curves

It is any wonder why many adoptees have trouble feeling as though they really “exist” or struggle with trust?

When none of the information on the piece of paper the government uses to prove you exist is true, it’s kinda a learning curve, to say the least.

I received help navigating the curve, and was able to come to terms with the fact that although almost nothing on my birth certificate is correct, I do indeed exist.

Not only do I exist, but I’m amazing.
God has a purpose for me.
I am living that purpose.

And I have learned to trust, despite challenges.

But It Still Doesn't Make Sense

Why can’t I have my accurate birth certificate -- the original, that bears the truth of my existence?

This certificate exists. 
It is not lost.

My original birth certificate is held under seal, at the Virginia Department of Health and Vital Records.

Recently at Adoptee Restoration Facebook, Gaye Tannenbaum made this comment:


What most people don't understand when they ask "Why can't you be okay with not knowing?" is that the key document is not lost, we are SPECIFICALLY PROHIBITED from seeing it. Some comparisons:

You get a medical test and your doctor refuses to tell you the results. You don't need to know, right? Your doctor will take care of everything.

Your employer tells you that someone (customer? employee?) filed a complaint against you - but they can't tell you who it was or even what the complaint was about. Just trust them that it will be dealt with accordingly.

You've been arrested but are not told the charges. Your lawyer knows and reassures you that "everything will be okay".

Angry yet?

"Is it such a big deal?" non-adoptees often think or say.

That's easy to say about something that doesn't personally affect you. 

But if you walked a day in our flip flops, you may feel differently. 

Several people have said to me, "Who cares about a dumb birth certificate? You're alive!"

*facepalm*

If it's so inconsequential, then what's the problem with having it? 

The bottom line is -- it's just not right, even if the government says it's legal.
 

*Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes

Trusting & Fully Loving Your Spouse or Significant Other
(10 Important Choices Adoptees Can Make)


During our one-year engagement, Larry and I had a long-distance relationship. I worked as a counselor at New Morning Ministries (NMM)  in Newark, New Jersey.   NMM was a home for trouble teen girls – mostly runaways. I loved serving there, although the separation from my fiance felt almost unbearable at times. 

Us...way back when.
Larry would visit once every few months, and as soon as he arrived, I would start crying. Puzzled, he would ask why and I would respond that it was because he was leaving in a few days. He would always say, “I just got here! Enjoy me while I’m here.” For reasons I would not understand until many years later, I always focused on the impending goodbye, and not the joy of the present.

 Like many adoptees, I feared goodbyes - and more than anything, loss in general.
 
    "Adoptees suffer from a fear of loss. They see loss all over the place. Even those adopted in infancy feel the loss…if it happened once, it can happen again."  

~ Dr. Marshall Schechter, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and nationally recognized expert on adoption

In the beginning years of our marriage, I feared that Larry would leave me.  It was very difficult for me to trust him even though he never did anything to break my trust. Even if we had a small  fight, I feared he would leave. I didn’t respond by clinging tighter or becoming needy. Instead, I just never let him know I needed him. I became as self-sufficient as possible, always preparing for what I believed was his inevitable exit. I braced myself for life without him, convinced it was coming.

I told Larry I loved him, often. But it wasn’t until at least a decade or more of our marriage that I ever said the words, “I need you.” Those words scared me out of my mind, to let Larry or anyone think I needed them. Because in my mind, the more you need someone – the greater potential of their leaving. So in my mind, even subconsciously, that’s what I was preparing for all along life’s path.

I loved with reserve. Not needing people in the first place seemed so much easier than needing them and losing them.    

I never told Larry I was afraid, but he figured it out. And one day sat me down, looked into my eyes and said, “Deanna, I’m not leaving. Get it through your head, I am not leaving. I’m never leaving. Ever.”

I finally believed it. 
I relaxed a bit.

But a part of me knew although he could promise me that in an, "I'm not-leaving-this-marriage" sense, he couldn’t promise me that he wouldn’t leave this world. And so, I still worried.   

The better our marriage got, the more I feared losing him.

With all the choices we make in this life there are still a few we can’t make. We can't control when we come into this world and we can't totally control when we leave. We can increase or decrease our odds by taking care of our health and such, but sometimes things still happen.

I remember a particular birthday Larry planned for me that was almost other-worldly. The plan, or so I thought was to go to  Carrabbas. On our way, Larry said he had to swing by the church to pick something up. When we arrived at the church, a limo was there. When the chauffer opened the door, imagine my surprise that six of our friends were waiting inside!  From there we went together to Donatello's, a four star Italian restaurant. Just when I thought the chauffer was going to take us back to the church parking lot, he headed in another direction and pulled up at the Grand Hyatt, and thereafter pulled out my suitcase. I wondered how it got packed and my friends just giggled and said that Larry had taken care of everything and my amazing weekend had just begun! They said goodbye as we headed off for a romantic escape.

The next morning I woke up wrapped up in the sheets and staring at the ceiling thinking, “When am I going to lose all of this?”

I know…it doesn’t seem logical.

When experiencing perfectly wonderful moments, nothing used to scare me more than realizing it could all come to a screeching halt and there was nothing I could do about it but survive. 

Larry and I could have the most amazing times ever, and afterward it was like a black cloud descended on me. Things would go from elation to despair. It took me a long time to figure out why. Even after he promised me he would never leave. I was afraid of an “act of God”, the devil, a freak accident or whatever outside of my control-- might take Larry or the kids from me.


I finally realized why I had these fears and came to terms with them.   

I know this will not be much help to readers who aren’t people of faith. That’s one reason why, quite frankly, I don’t know what people do who don’t have faith in God.  I do believe with Him, anything is possible including overcoming the fear of loss.

Here’s what I’ve settled on…

Sooner or later we will lose everyone who means anything to us, from this world.  

Either we will leave, or they will.

Nobody gets to stay on this earth, indefinitely. This is a fact of life.

All of us say goodbye to this world and enter another one.

As wonderful as it can be, this world is not our final home.

Realizing this helps me make 10 important choices in regarding to loving and trusting my husband and others. These choices make it possible for me to enjoy life.


10 Choices

1) I choose to love without reserve.

2) I choose to let people in. Walls built to try to keep pain out just keep love from getting in. 

3) I choose to accept that I need others and they need me.

4) I choose to trust those who have proven themselves and give me no reason not to trust.

5) I choose to revel in memory-making moment and not fear the “what-if’s”…

6) I choose to appreciate every moment with my husband, children and loved ones.

7) I choose to live in the the joy of the present and not agonize over possible future losses, thereby stripping me of the joy of now.   

8) I choose to stand in faith and not fear.

9) I choose to believe that whatever loss I may face in the future, I do not face alone. The same God who was with me in my early losses will be with me through whatever I may face in the future.

10) I choose to cling fiercely to the One who has been with me since the beginning and has never left me, and never will.

You have the ability to make the same choices. 

Choosing Forgiveness on Father's Day, and Every Day


Yesterday, my adoptive Dad asked if I had heard anything else about my search for my natural father. He asked me when I called him for Father's Day, because he honestly cares.

Maybe he thought it was a hard day for me and gently took the time before we hung up, to ask if I was struggling. 

Truthfully, I wasn't. 
The day was no harder for me than any other day. 

I live with the realization of what is, but determine every day to forgive.

It's an act of my will, not something that is determined by my feelings.  

Feelings are terrible leaders.
So I choose to lead myself by facts, not feelings.


Bathtub Revelations

The most introspective thoughts and prayers seem to come to me as I'm soaking in my big tub. Maybe because it’s really a sanctuary for me. I arrived at the thought that most people who experience something traumatically life-altering have to make a choice daily to forgive.

Numerous people have hurt me over the span of twenty-seven years in ministry, but it doesn’t require me to wake up daily and forgive for the same offense. Godly and wise people loose things like that and let them go. Some people who caused harm to myself or my family years ago, I don't even remember the names of, at this point! But then, there are other things that affect your life profoundly whereby you are forever altered. Sitting in my tub pondering this, I had the thought -- it’s not so much about holding a grudge, it’s more about waking up so undeniably changed that you can’t avoid the obvious. It would be like waking up every day without your legs because they were blown off, and trying to ignore the fact.

After a life-altering act, you can move forward but life doesn't go back to the way it was. You wake up every day with the realization that things are different because of a choice someone made. That’s kind of where I reside daily, but I live victoriously despite having lived through the unthinkable. Every day I say,  “As an act of the will, I forgive…” and then keep moving forward.

Choosing Empowerment

I read a quote by T.D. Jakes recently:   “Forgiveness is about empowering yourself, rather than empowering your past.”   

That’s one of several reasons I choose it.

I was grateful that yesterday not one person felt the need to tell me that because of four great fathers in my life (my adoptive Dad, step-dad, father-in-love and the amazing father of my children) any other loss was utterly meaningless.  Yippee for trigger-free days!

As many adoptees know, yesterday was a day with much trigger potential for us.  Having the impact of significant losses dismissed is not only triggering, it’s exhausting. It was a good day for me to be thankful for all four of these men, yet at the same time live in the real world. Because that’s where I live - in reality.   

Fatherless?

An adoptee friend made the point yesterday that all children have fathers. 
No child is fatherless.  Or motherless.

Every person in the world who has ever been born has a father, and that will never, ever change. 

The fact is simply, some fathers are involved and some aren’t.
Some are known to the child and others not. 
Some step up to their responsibilities and others don’t. 
But we all technically have fathers.
 It takes both a mother and a father to create a child. 
Whether they actually raise the child they conceive is another story.

So, I have another a natural father out there, I  just don’t know for sure who he is.  

Whether he’ll look into my eyes or vice versa, within my lifetime remains to be seen.   

Until then I’ll keep waking up every day -- empowered, choosing forgiveness and kicking the devil’s tail.

*Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes

When Those Who Hurt You Try to Dictate the Terms of Your Healing



“You don't get to hurt someone and then outline the 'appropriate way for them to heal.' Perpetrators don't get to write the rules of healing.”


 Last night I wrote this quote on my Facebook, when the thought hit me that many times, those who hurt us try to dictate the terms of our healing. When the person who caused our hurt attempts to control the way we heal, it’s sometimes as painful as the initial injury.

When I’ve gone through the more traumatic times after losses incurred, I notice how some want to set a clock on my grief, or tell me the appropriate ways to go about seeking healing. This is accompanied by shame for seeking healing in ways they aren’t comfortable with.

The rules vary from person to person.

It may be everything from, “I don’t understand why you need counseling for this…” to “Is it really necessary to write about this?”

Well here’s the thing…if they caused the hurt they have no right to speak into the situation.

One of my heroes is Martha Tennison, a very well known evangelist in our denomination. I’ve listened to her preach since I was just a little girl and I still sit in awe of the many things she shares. One thing she often says is, “Those who hurt you cannot heal you.” What wisdom!

Not only can those who hurt you not heal you, but they aren’t the ones to turn to for wisdom or boundary setting on how to move forward. They may try to tell you what’s right and wrong, exactly how you should proceed to move forward or how you aren’t progressing quick enough for them. But that’s not their place.   

I have found it’s uncomfortable at best to deal with such individuals but for my health, developing healthy boundaries is important so I can actually move forward. 

At my pace.
And my rules.

*Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes