March 25, 2013

Adoptees In the Waiting Room
Guest Post: Laura Dennis

Laura Dennis, Lost Daughters blogger and author of Adopted  Reality,  has become such a dear friend to me. Although we live across the world from one another, we are closely in each other's heart-space. If you don't already know Laura, I can't wait to introduce her to you today in this guest post. She's a prolific writer with a unique voice that motivates scores of adoptees every day, to live our truth. Enjoy these words of wisdom from one who is living the journey. ~Deanna


If it weren’t for the Lost Daughters blogging community, the paths of Deanna Doss Shrodes and me, Laura Dennis, would never have crossed, let alone intertwined in such a fulfilling friendship. 

You see, Deanna is a Pentecostal preacher in Florida with three nearly grown children. I, on the other hand, am an East Coast bred, former dancer/non-believer living in Serbia (yes, you read that right) with two crazy small children.

The most obvious thing that we have in common is that we’re both adoptees. Yeah, yeah, you adoptees like to gang up on everyone else, wallow in your pain, and accuse the rest of us of ruining your lives. I can see where this post is going.  

But there’s more to it than that. 

We’ve held cyber-hands through some tough emotional situations. We have helped each other face ongoing, complicated post-adoption issues. Show me a simple adoption issue, and I’ll show you a cold day in hot place. That’s another thing Deanna’s taught me: sanctified cussing.

Photo Credit: Freddie Pena, Creative Commons

Deanna recently told me that some adoptee friends of hers are “waiting to hear” from birth family members they sent letters to, initiating contact. These friends desperately want an answer. They’re in that, "OMG I'm so nervous!” stage. Deanna wondered, Would I have anything to say about “The Waiting Period”?

Of course, I jumped at the chance to help Deanna in any way she asked (she seems to have that effect on people). Not surprisingly, I do have something to say about all of the self-doubt and wondering that accompany any potential adoption-related rejection. 

Using “The Waiting Period” to do more than just wait

To begin, I must quote Deanna, “Get ready, get ready, get ready!” The following are words you NEED to take to heart:

You are exceptional. 

You don't need to change anything about yourself to be loved or loveable. The response, or non-response, from whomever you wrote to has absolutely no bearing on this fact. 

You are brave.
You did what so many people want to do, dream of doing, but are too scared to do. You stepped into the ring. The person you desire contact with may take to the ring also. He or she may hug you. Or cuss you out. The cussing may not be sanctified.

Photo Credit: Flo450d, Creative Commons
No matter the result, by taking this step, by refusing to stay quiet, by choosing to step into the emotional fray, here’s the kicker: Your future is going to be better than your past. 

Not because your family member will meet every single one of your expectations, or because he will cry that he always loved you. No. Your future is going to be better because you stared potential rejection down, you reached out anyway, and now, guess what? 

You are free.  

You are free to move forward. 

You are free to open the door to your own life, to invite someone in again, and you don’t have to expect anything in return. 

You are free to feel sad that so-and-so didn't write back. You may feel pain, but that pain will make you learn. You will learn that you can step into the ring. You will learn that you can step into the ring in other areas of your life. You can face potential pain or conflict, and you don’t have to be afraid.

You are free because you are exceptional and you are brave. You offered love, and whether or not you receive any response, you acted with integrity and an open heart. 

Photo Credit: Anemone Jones, Creative Commons
The Source of Adoptee Resilience, Revealed

Have you ever heard of adoptee resilience

It says: Because of and in spite of adoption, adoptees are tough. Resilient. Able to withstand. This resilience will come in handy. Think of it this way: By making contact, by initiating contact, you are the one on the offensive. That’s right, I said offensive.

That's why it's so flippin’ scary. 

For such a large part of our lives, we’ve been the quiet, grateful, compliant adoptee. We’ve been in survival mode. We’ve convinced ourselves, our friends and family members that we fit in, that we're normal (whatever that is). It's not that being adopted makes us "abnormal," it's that being compliant puts us on the defensive. We defend our place in the family; we hold on for dear life to the status of “favorite,” “teacher’s pet,” “star athlete,” ____ fill-in-the-blank.
Our past defensive stance has kept us from taking risks. 

When you turn it around and go on the offensive, the control rests in your hands. (And aren’t adoptees often control freaks?) <waves hands and points to self>

I am here to tell you that you faced a fear, you faced one of The Biggest Fears that adoptees can have. Can you guess what it is? 

Photo Credit: TA.D, Creative Commons


Ding-ding ding-ding! Correct.

Rejection. You faced rejection. I know, right, it sucks. Rejection has the power to make you feel about two feet tall. It has the power to make you crawl into bed and cry for days. 

But. know. this: You faced it, you faced potential rejection and YOU ARE STILL HERE. You are no longer the teeny, tiny baby who had no say in the matter. No. You are a fully empowered adult adoptee. You exist. There is nothing wrong with this. 

You stepped into the ring, you faced humiliation, failure, rejection. And guess what?

You didn't die.
No matter the outcome, no matter what anyone says or does in response, you will get stronger. The emotional wounds will heal. Your life will be more positive as a result.

And you know what else? You are not alone. You have support. This is exactly what Deanna’s Adoptee Restoration site is about.

If you think I’m just pulling this post out of a donkey’s ear and have never been in your shoes, you’re wrong. I reached out to my birth father and was rejected, loudly. I waited twelve years to try again with my father’s side of the family. Twelve years! Finally, just a month ago, I summoned the courage to write a letter to his oldest son, my half-brother. He immediately blocked me on Facebook. I checked the police database; turns out I’m not a criminal, or even a social misfit. Go figure.

I wrote a letter to his next oldest son, also my half-brother ... aaaaand I haven’t heard back. I haven’t been blocked, either. I’m holding out hope, and I’m still waiting. 

I’m waiting, and I’m living my life. 

I opened the door for him, and maybe, just maybe one day he’ll be willing to stand on the proverbial welcome mat and acknowledge the truth of our biological connection. I’m waiting, but I’m not sitting by the phone, if you catch my drift. If I get rejected again, loudly, I know I’ll have Deanna and the rest of my adoptee network right here to support me, to lift me up, and to help me heal. 

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Laura Dennis was adopted in New Jersey and reunited in 2001. A professionally trained dancer, Laura also worked as sales director for a biotech startup. With two children under the age of three, in 2010 she and her husband sought to simplify their lifestyle and escaped to his hometown, Belgrade, Serbia. Her 9/11 memoir Adopted Reality, tells of her adoption, reunion and brief bout with insanity. Available on Amazon. She blogs at Expat (Adoptee) Mommy.