When Adoptees Have to Take a Step Back




In my travels, I found this book in a used book store.  "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Adoption."

Truth be told there is no such thing. There's nothing easy or uncomplicated about adoption. And sometimes it all becomes too much and you have to take a step back.

I haven’t met an adoptee yet who hasn’t told me that they take periodic breaks from reading or writing adoption related things. Emotional overload can take a toll on you --  body, mind and soul.

I’ve been in that mode for a while.

Staying away completely and having a 100% respite in your mind isn't possible because of all the questions, comments and triggers in the world.  For me the topic comes up at least once a day most of the time, and a lot of that has to do with my line of work.

Some adoptees tell me they don’t experience adoption related talk daily, and maybe the question should be reframed, “How often do you experience talk in any form that intersects with the subject of adoption?"

Daily, I get questions that I have to stop and think carefully about before answering.  And sometimes I don’t answer. Confession: sometimes I pretend I didn’t hear the question. As crazy as it sounds, sometimes I'm not up to answering a basic question.


“Does your mom or dad have brownish green eyes like yours?"

“Did you hear Eddie and Stacey are adopting from foster care? It might be a sibling group, not sure yet…”   

“Where are you from?”

“Does anyone in your family have a history of breast cancer?"
 

Questions like these come on a daily basis. They aren't mean spirited...they are simply questions people ask in the normal course of conversation. Far too often than not I’ve answered them the way the person asking me wants them to be answered versus the way I want to answer, just so I don’t have to listen to an unwanted speech.

I travel and speak a lot at churches and when I arrive I’m often hit with a trigger before I even set up my things in the lobby.  It’s not uncommon for children to be running around and someone will introduce him or herself and their adopted child and give me their story. Many of them have absolutely no idea I’m adopted. They just want to share. I understand. It's their world and what's happening in it - and what's important to them. I nod my head a lot and smile. I even receive a lot of requests to pray for people who are trying to adopt. And from people whose adopted children are acting out in some way.

Adoption is so complicated. I am never going to gain real understanding or come to an agreement on such deep issues with someone on something so complex in a few minutes of foyer conversation.  So I let it roll and go peaceably to the Green Room to sit in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee and go over my notes one more time and breathe.

Breathing is good.
Peace is good.

I hate that so often we adoptees have to be silent to get it, but it's the way it goes.

I don’t always share with people that I’m adopted, or anything that is inside of me on that subject because quite frankly, it’s easier for me. Especially before I have to get up and speak and need every speck of physical and emotional energy I have.

Over the past few years I’ve discovered there are a lot of things in this complicated world that an adoptee can only share with another adoptee. And even so, you have to be careful about what adoptee you share with, depending on their level of awareness.

I know it’s not always the best thing to do if you want to change the world. But sometimes, for my own sake, I need to step back. Some days it’s not about changing the world, it’s about my health.

(Before I get a bunch of mail asking if I'm quitting...NO. This doesn't mean I'm not writing or reading about adoption anymore. Simply making the observation that we all need a break from time to time or our own peace of mind, especially regarding something this complicated and never-ending.)

Adoption, Dying, Regrets and Curls Out of Control



Some people say they have no regrets and I’m inclined to think they are liars. Who doesn’t wish they would have done something differently? Saying you have no regrets is kind of like saying you’re perfect. Well, I’m not perfect. I have made mistakes and I have things to learn, and henceforth a few regrets.

One of my regrets is not going to visit my foster parents the moment I found out who they were. They were still in existence on planet earth and in their 90's.  They took care of me in the time in between my birth and the time my adoption was finalized. Through the adoption agency, I found out their identity last year. We connected through a phone call and they remembered me right away although it had been over four decades ago. I was able to find out things that helped me piece together the time in between my mother relinquishing me and my adoptive parents taking me home. I was so thankful.

I didn’t act immediately even when finding out about them. I know, that was really stupid. I was trying to juggle all the things I’ve been juggling, and I kept telling myself I’d get to a visit soon, but I didn’t.

This past week I called their daughter to say I wanted to stop by for a visit. She said, “I’m so sorry…Mom passed away and Dad is close to it.” My heart sunk. I had waited too late. Now I would never see them in person in my adult life. “Your call meant so much to them, Deanna…” she went on to say.

I sat there kicking my proverbial butt all evening.

Why the heck did I wait, even a few weeks? Well although it's no excuse, the simple answer to that is, I was struggling at times just to keep basic things done. Even so, time was of the essence and I missed the window. I had control of the situation and I blew it.

Contrast to that, a situation I do not have control over...    



I have taken every DNA test there is to take. Ancestry. 23 and Me. Family Tree DNA. GED Match.

Followed every lead that comes my way.

Have a search team of sixteen people helping me. (Three have just been added.)

And I still don’t know who my natural father is.

We have followed every lead we have regarding the name that was given by my mother to the adoption agency.  And we come up cold. Because NONE of those men, not even ONE of them in the United States of America with that name, has ANY Greek in them.

The sixteen people on my search team have looked at every man ever living past or present in the USA with that particular name. And not one of them checks out. Because none of them have a drop of Greek blood, and I am overwhelmingly Greek. Too much that could ever be ignored or explained away for any of those men to be my father. And my maternal sister DNA tested for me so that we could exclude maternal matches from my results, and guess what...my mother has not one drop of Greek blood. Therefore, ALL of it is from my father.

So we’ve come to the conclusion, my mother probably gave a fake name to the adoption agency.

Although what is ironic is, the name she gave the agency is very similar to the name she gave me. It's as if she named me after him. My original name is Melanie. His, according to agency records -- is Melvin. 

So we are -- Mel and Mel.  

My stepfather (my natural mother's husband/widower) STILL calls me Mel to this day.  Go figure. Even the social worker said, “Yeah, this has to be your father. You’re named after him.” 

I’ve come to the conclusion that Melvin wasn’t my father but the name of someone who was very kind to her or a pleasant memory. Even though he is  not my father, I wonder, who was this person in her life?

And I know, his is not a Greek name. At all. But it's what is in the files at the adoption agency. 

I believe my natural father's name is Gus. Why, you ask? Back in 2013 I was heavily praying about this situation. My prayer was, "God, I am in agony. My mother has died and taken his name to the grave. So just tell me what it is. Just tell me my father's name. You can do it. I know you can. So will you, please?"

And as I prayed, I kept sensing this name..."Gus" in my spirit, every time I prayed. 

Now, most people would just say, "You're crazy, Deanna." But the people who help me? No, they don't think I'm crazy. Or maybe they do but they love me enough not to say it. First, I told my friend Laura Dennis and my husband Larry what I had sensed in prayer. Then, I told Priscilla Sharp, one of the best search angels in the world who I'm blessed to have working on my search, about what I was hearing in prayer. I said, "Pris, I know I'm asking you to go on a search based on a prayer. But will you?" She immediately said, "Absolutely!" and we set about researching Gus's. Now, the plot thickens...

A year later, I had a conversation with someone in my maternal family and asked them to tell me anything they knew about my father. Anything at all no matter how seemingly insignificant. They said, "Deanna, I never met him, but to my best recollection, his name is Gus." I almost fell off my chair!

We have researched many men by the name of Gus and continue to. And, we will not give up. Time is ticking away and unless a total miracle happens, I will probably find a grave. Gus is elderly right now if he's alive. I won't have regrets if and when I find Gus or or whoever he is, because God knows I’ve tried so hard to find him and haven’t been able to. I’m the type of woman who has done most everything I’ve set out to do in life. But this escapes me no matter how hard I try. Even with sixteen people who know what they are doing spending a lot of their precious time helping me.

I hope those who withhold information from adoptees -  whoever they are – mothers, social workers, agencies (it’s different in everyone case) have some regrets. Because even as we try so hard to get to the bottom of where we come from, time goes by and so many adoptees find a grave, not a person. And some won’t find at all. They will die wondering, “where and who did I come from?” And how is that right? Why the needless pain and suffering?

I feel this way about finding my natural father and people respond with: “You came from God.” 

Yes, I know I came from God. (Sigh) So did you. So did everyone. But here on earth…who do I come from? Why do I get up every morning and try to tame curls out of control?   

“But you’re so blessed………”

The fact that I’m blessed has no bearing at all on the fact that I have a hunger to know where I came from.

Tripolis Greece. Among the Peloponnese people. That’s all I know for now. This is a scientific fact as to where my Greek ancestors came from, gleaned from my DNA results. 
But I want to know more.

And unless something really big changes, I will know nothing more. Or, I will find the grave of a man who came from Tripolis among the Peloponnese people.


Do For Someone Else What No One Did For You



My writing has been scarce here for a while between the combination of my full time job outside the home, and having temporary custody of my great niece, Olivia. 

I have learned to do most things with one hand - such as load the dishwasher or cook dinner.  She wants to be held most of the time and I gladly do. I  want her to feel as secure as possible. Most things I do while at home are with her on my lap or in my arms.

Many people approach me and say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it,” and to that I say, “Some days I don't." When they ask what I mean I explain that they might judge me if they knew how many things fall through the cracks. I won’t even write them here for lack of emotional bandwidth to handle a debate with anyone right now.  But suffice it to say, my home is not as clean as it used to be. Lots of things don't get done.  Even though I wrote a highly acclaimed book on time management, there are plenty of things I just don't have time for anymore.   These are not things like washing the windows or cleaning out the gutters. They are things that should be done on a weekly basis and others might say, "Ewwwww gross!" A maid could change all this.   

As challenging as it is on many days, I wouldn’t trade this decision for anything, to take care of Livvy this year. Her mom is excelling! We are so proud of her. She misses her so much and is in touch with her often. She is eager to complete the program and get back to parenting on a daily basis.

Although the circumstances are not the same (Livvy is not relinquished nor being placed for adoption), what we are doing for Livvy is what I wish someone in my original family offered to do in my circumstance. 

I realize there are people in the world who believe it was best for me to  leave my birth family and be adopted. Even for those who believe that, is it not sad that not one person offered to help, even temporarily?

Some would say, "All the more reason you should have been adopted."

Maybe they the devil's advocate have a point there. 

Others will say, "Well, taking care of a child is hard work. Maybe that's why they didn't offer to help."

All I'll say about that is, anything worth it in life is hard. Anything significant is hard. Anything life changing is hard.  

But still others will say, "If a parent wants to relinquish their child, the family needs to accept their decision and let the child go into the foster care or adoption system."

And all I'll say to that is, God help any of my family members who do that.   Deanna will go from woman of God to Cruella DeVille in 2 seconds. Seriously, I would go ballistic if any of my family members relinquished their children. And I'd fight for them.

How sad is it that a child can be relinquished without even one person in a family stepping up to the plate saying, "Let me help so she is not lost to the family..."? 

More than one grandmother in this day and age - not the baby scoop era - have corresponded with me as a result of this blog and said, "I had no choice. My daughter got pregnant and decided to relinquish the baby and I simply respected her wishes..." Seriously lady?  Sorry, the compassionate preacher has now exited the building... I don't even know that I have a response to that kind of ridiculousness.

Years ago I had a talk with all three of my (unmarried) children and told them if an unplanned pregnancy happened to any of them they would have no choice in whether to keep a child. Children in our family stay in our family. It's the way it is. There is no other choice. Other than Deanna going to prison.
 
So when my niece needed temporary help, I didn't waste two seconds in deciding to help.


Many people approach me and say, “What you guys are doing is so special. You are a rare couple.”

Well that stinks.
Why are we rare? That’s part of what’s wrong with the world.

As long as we are rare and special in this way, there is way too much loss and pain in the world and kids leaving their families whether temporarily or permanently. 

And even if it's necessary at times such as in the case of abuse or neglect, is it still not pathetic when not even one family member steps up to say they will help? 

My non-identifying information from the adoption agency says that everyone but one of my mother's siblings thought she should relinquish me. That person (according to adoption records) thought she should keep me, but only as a punishment of sorts, a consequence of her mistake.

I don't have angry feelings about this, nor do I  walk in bitterness or unforgiveness. So why do I even write about it today? Because it is largely this experience in my life that strongly compels me to live differently. In so  many facets - perhaps even most areas of my life - I want to do for others what I would have them do unto me. (Hmmmm where have I heard that before? Could it be...the Bible? The Golden Rule?)

So with all this said - the point of my post today is that I am a supporter of kinship care.

I hope as time goes on, kinship care becomes more the norm in society.

Attention Moms: It's 2016



I’ve been MIA for a while. In addition to working a lot of hours, I have custody of my 16-month old great niece until July 2016. It’s a privilege and a joy – and also brings a change to how much I am able to do things like blog. Or be in the bathroom by myself. But here I am today with some thoughts. First I want to thank those of you who reached out to me during the holidays to say you were thinking of me, and are thankful for what I write here, and about adoption in general. I appreciate that you expressed that more than you know.

Me on my birthday this year. It's how I spend the day, with my great niece.

So, although I could write on and on about the journey of caring for a baby from day to day, let's get to the heart of what I'm going to say that's adoption related.

This story is on Lynn Grubb's blog today. It's the journey of Buck Winslow, an adoptee whose natural mother refused to tell him who his father was, lied about the name, ultimately confessed the name but caused a lot of pain and heartache all around regarding it. In the end, through DNA he finds his paternal family and regarding that reunion it seems things are just wonderful at this time. While in some ways it’s a great story in other ways it’s so sad.

I am disheartened by two things - how common this behavior is among mothers and how many people dismiss a grown woman’s wrong doing. I guarantee there are some people out there reading this article who feel for  Buck's mom.  Many times when a mother behaves this way we hear about how they had no choice, how the times were so different then, how they were mistreated, shunned, etc. While I don’t deny any of that, it’s 2016.  It’s not 1966 anymore.  We know you get triggered and flashbacks, and emotional pain even though it’s not the fifties or sixties or whatever-era anymore. And whatever has happened then or is happening now – it doesn’t excuse your responsibility to tell the truth and to pursue emotional health NOW for yourself and the good of those around you. Take the excellent advice of therapist Karen Caffrey, LPC, JD in her article, Birthmothers and the Responsibility to Heal.

It’s sad that this behavior exists but more maddening to me anyone enables or   sympathizes with it. I already know I'll be more than likely vilified for this in the comment section, but I don't care. It that happens it's only a reflection that it touches a nerve and further proves my point. 

I believe one of the reasons some people dismiss the wrong-doing is because they believe adoption makes up for it. It’s my hunch that many who are not in the adoption constellation don’t see why any of this is important as long as God “worked everything together for good.” Maybe everything hasn’t worked together for good yet. Have you thought of asking the adoptee and prefacing your question with an assurance that you really want to know  their true feelings and will not judge?

So today’s thought from me to you, although it is nothing ground breaking and earth shaking is that I become tired of people excusing wrong behavior and would like moms to realize we are living in a new era and healing is available. There is absolutely no good reason, no acceptable reason, no God-honoring reason why anyone would not know the truth of their origin. And, for the record, the calendar just turned another year and I have yet to know half of mine.

     

Help When Reunion Blows Up
A Conversation with Laura Dennis

Today I'm doing one of my favorite things to do! I'm having a conversation with my dear friend, Laura Dennis. Specifically we are talking about being restored personally after reunion blows up in your face. I wrote about this in my recent book release, Restored. The first part of this conversation is at Laura's blog, so if you've come here first, hop over there and read and then circle back here for the ending. Here we go...

Deanna – Thank you! That means so much to me. I have a lot of compassion for all people who have been through this type of pain. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone! I guess we all tend to think our pain is the worst because it’s what we know, what we have experienced. As you know it’s important that we never dismiss nor mock a pain we haven’t endured. I try to be sensitive to all types of wounds that may be people’s reality. And, admittedly I am more attuned to this one because I’ve experienced it. My heart is to tell people, there is help, there is hope. I see so many of our friends and acquaintances who make comments on social media saying things like, “This will never get any better,” and “there is no hope, no moving forward for me…” and I want so badly for them to experience what I have. This was the catalyst for Restored. 

Laura Dennis
Laura—I would also add that you are a highly empathetic person, so that helps with your sensitivity and attunement. You really did come from such a broken place—but you walked (sometimes crawled!) that path to healing, and you stand so much stronger today.

I know that Restored is going to help so many people. It’s actually the best bit of advice I could give someone who thinks there is no hope: 

Muster just enough hope to start reading this book. 

What other advice would you give to someone in the depths of their despair? 

Deanna—Know that no matter what it looks like today, it really can be different tomorrow. It won’t automatically be that way. Victory doesn’t just fall on you. So much of restoration is putting yourself in position for it. As you take steps toward healing you can and will move forward. There are many tangible and practical steps I give in the book in the Restoration Toolkit chapter. But if I were to just give a few words of advice–I would say three things.

First, if you don’t have enough faith to believe for restoration right now–hold on to someone else’s. Hold on to a friend, a family member, or mine right now. Know that although this may be your darkest hour, there is help and hope for a different tomorrow. Refuse to give up!

Second, get some help from human beings who know what they are doing when it comes to this. Realize you don’t know it all. Admit that you need help. Eight months of therapy were invaluable for me in the healing process. I wouldn’t be writing this right now and furthermore, I don’t know where I’d be had I not gotten that help.

Third, know that God is there and cares for you. Reach out to Him. Maybe you don’t believe in God right now. I challenge you to simply ask Him to make Himself real to you… to show you that He is truly there and cares for you. There is no judgment in this challenge, only love. God loves you and He has a plan for your life and your restoration.  He will walk with you through this pain and help you get to the other side.

Laura—Such great advice, I truly hope it speaks to those who need to hear it. I also want to remind both of our readers how much authors value (and need!) their honest reviews—they definitely help future potential readers make a buying decision, so please leave your review of Restored once you finish reading it. 

Deanna - Yes! Reviews are golden and I so appreciate every single one of them. If you have read the book, it would mean so much to me if you would give a review on Amazon. Thank you all for reading and joining us for this conversation today.