March 15, 2013

An Adoptee's Husband Speaks
Guest Post: Larry Shrodes

Note from Deanna: Today I'm featuring the first guest post ever here at Adoptee Restoration.  Being that the topic this week is marriage and adoptees, I thought it would be a great idea to invite the person who has walked beside me for over half of my life's journey to speak to this topic. Thanks babe, for being willing to share today.   

As a pastor, I have provided pre-marital counseling and performed countless weddings. During the counseling I always ask the future bride and groom a lot of questions about their family of origin, particularly their experiences as children and the kind of home they grew up in. Whether positive or negative experiences, their marriage will be affected by their history.  I am not saying they are destined to repeat those family experiences, good or bad. And I’m not saying they are doomed by them. I am just pointing out that it can’t help but affect them. I find that a person will usually decide to be just like their family or not at all like their family, nonetheless, their family has shaped the way they process things.

I have learned that adoption is not just about what happened in my wife’s life as a baby, but what takes place in her life in continued relationship with her family members. Family affects our lives - even the ones we don’t live with and sometimes the ones we don’t even know. 

My wife is the strongest woman I know. She's an outstanding wife, mother, minister and human being. I believe she can do anything, and yet I have seen how adoption issues have the ability to cause grief and heartache, the depth of which are hard to describe. The hardest thing for me is the inability to fix it.

She never gives up. Time and again I have seen her rise from the ashes. 

In the movie “Shall We Dance”, Susan Sarandon plays a wife who hires  a private investigator to find out if her husband is having an affair. She asks the investigator "Why do people get married?" He says "passion" to which she responds: "No, because we need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. I mean what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage you're promising to care about everything, the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all the time. Every day you're saying, your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it, your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness."  

I am not an adoptee, and I was not there when my wife was a baby.But I have been her witness for 27 years now. I dated her for 2 years, and have been married to her for 25. I have witnessed how being an adoptee has impacted her during our years together. Obviously these are adult life experiences, not just things that happened as an infant.  

I was a witness as we sat across from a social worker at the adoption agency who had Deanna’s entire file in front of her and could have told her so much of what she wanted to know about her history, but by law, could not. She could only tell her a small portion. I wanted to leap over the desk. I wanted to grab the file folder and take charge. I wanted to put my wife out of the pain of secrecy that she had been in for 25 years at the time. But I couldn’t. The law was not on my side. I had to sit there and hold her hand and pray for the best.

I was a witness when her birth mother said no to reunion.  I held Deanna as she wept in my arms. I was powerless to take the pain away.

I was a witness as she cried herself to sleep many nights for two years after that, feeling horrible rejection. I thought this had to be the deepest wound my wife would ever experience regarding her adoption.  Unfortunately, I was wrong. That would come later.

I was a witness, watching her walk down the sidewalk and knock on her birth mother’s door to finally reunite with her. I was willing to walk by her side but she felt it was a walk she had to make alone - doing it face to face, just as the two of them were the first time, 27 years earlier.   

I was a witness as she was denied her original birth certificate.

I was a witness as she was denied her father’s identity. Although it is known to others, she is expected to be okay with it being a secret.

I was a witness as she was lied to about her history by those who said they had her best interest in mind.

I was a witness to her finding out she had a brother and sister and longed to know them, but feared she would never be able to find them. I was a witness to her doing whatever it took, to find them.  

I was a witness as she dealt with social workers, a confidential intermediary, and a judge.

I was a witness to some people, even strangers, telling her she was less than thankful for searching and that her "real parents" were the ones who raised her.

I was a witness when after years of confusion, and taking medications that weren't needed she finally received a proper diagnosis in 2009 of a hereditary blood disorder, that comes from her birth father. Some believe adoption just affects a person as a baby. As an adult, my wife deals with a disorder from a man whose name she doesn't even know.

I was a witness to the nightmares - the ones that happened while sleeping in our bed and the ones that were reality, when she was awake.  

I was  a witness to her adoptive parents' divorce becoming final, the family crumbling in dysfunction, and her childhood home being no more. 

And there I sat, powerless to change it. A place a husband hates to be in.

No human being deserves this kind of treatment. With reform, things could be different.  No, everything wouldn't be fixed. But a lot could be.

I was leery of Deanna starting this blog. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn't want her to be hurt any more. She’s out there and vulnerable and open when she speaks and writes, and it’s been that way ever since I’ve known her. (Part of the reason I’ve always called her “Sassy”.)  It never surprised me that she writes about all the other stuff she writes about, but I never suspected she’d write about adoption. Because I know what a painful subject this has been for her.  But she did it. And now she’s connected with all of you who read here and that has brought something to her that wasn’t possible before. I’ve had to accept that I can’t be everything for my wife. Especially with this. She needs to talk to others who have and are walking the road. The Lost Daughters group has been a Godsend to her. 

Recently someone asked my wife, “Is there no victory for adoptees? Are you saying adoptees can’t overcome? Are you saying you haven't personally been able to overcome?”

As her witness, I’d like to answer that.

My wife overcomes every day. 

She’s still here. She shows up for life. She’s been told by more than one person that they are surprised she never tried to take her life, with all she’s been through. I’m so glad Deanna chose life in spite of the dark times, because it makes it possible for her to be my wife and the mother of our kids. And now the rest of the world gets to know her too. She's accomplished more in her life so far than many people do in a lifetime.  That’s not due to adoption, it’s due to her working her tail off. She’s more than just a survivor. She reaches out to help people and has always done that. Ever since I’ve known her she’s had a passion to do whatever she could to be a blessing to others. Now she does that by writing here too. I’m proud of her for helping people and speaking out about injustice. If that’s not overcoming I don’t know what is.  

Her blogs this week were marriage directed. I want to close by saying that although I’m not an adoptee, and therefore will never completely understand, I can be a good witness to my wife’s life.  
I can comfort her - physically and emotionally as she faces losses, past, present and future. 

I can pray for her and with her.

I can support her in connecting with others in the adoption community.  Now she’s starting a support group in our church and I’m excited about the difference that will make here in our city. 

I can cheer her on in her effort to join with other likeminded adoptees and make a difference. 

I can support equal rights for adoptees.

If you are a spouse of an adoptee, I encourage you to be a good witness. Your spouse needs your support. You can’t meet all their needs, but you can meet some. Add adoptees and God to the mix and it makes up quite a support system. I know. I see it up close. I’m a witness.

- Larry