March 27, 2013

Shaking The Adoption Fog Out of Adoptees
(A Conversation With Laura Dennis)

Monday I introduced you to my dear friend Laura Dennis in a guest post and today we’ve decided to publish one of our private talks on both our blogs, the subject of which is dealing with adoption fog. 

Photo Credit: ChristamosMissYouMuchMrRickyRIP
On my blog we’re talking about shaking the fog out of adoptees, and on Laura’s blog the conversation continues as we go in the direction of shaking the fog out of non-adoptees. So once you’re done reading here, click on over to Laura’s place and read the rest of the conversation. We hope you find the subject matter as enlightening as we do! 

Laura -- Deanna. I am so frustrated. Sometimes I simply want to shake the adoption fog out of fellow adoptees!

Deanna -- I understand, Laura. It frustrates me too. Once you are out of the fog, you not only see yourself more clearly, you see others more clearly too.

Laura -- Let's backtrack a moment. It was only recently that I was ever exposed to the phrase, "adoption fog." For me, it refers to that hazy perception that everything about adoption is simple, straight-forward, beautiful, and most importantly, not to be questioned. How do you define "adoption fog"?

Deanna -- I concur with your definition and also define it as what I was taught as opposed to what I discovered myself.

 I got most of my adoption fog from society, and Christians at large. Growing up, my a-family had a plethora of extended family, friends and acquaintances. I also attended a Christian college. Sometimes even strangers contributed to the haze.

I have blogged before about being told many times that I was blessed that my b-mother never aborted me. To be clear, my a-parents never said such a thing. But I heard the "be glad you weren't an abortion" from various other Christians and even strangers who found out I was adopted. I believed it. For a long time I believed it even as an adult. I would share my life's testimony in churches and say, "I could have been an abortion but God spared my life." Then I came out of the fog later on this and many other issues, realizing that abortion wasn't even legal until 1973. Nor would my mother have had an illegal one. I have since come out of a whole other fog to realize that these are two separate issues entirely.

Laura -- I tend to have a hard time with the “be grateful you weren’t aborted” advice, as well. If that’s considered good advice for adoptees to find healing, then we have a long road to walk, Deanna. Take those fabulous five-inch pumps off and grab your sneakers.

Here’s a news flash: there are many women--who give birth, raise their children and are great moms--who considered abortion. [Gasp!] No one says to non-adoptees, “Aren’t you grateful your mom [who’s standing right here next to me] didn’t abort you?” What an obvious faux pas that would be! Yet society feels comfortable making assumptions about the women who relinquished babies.

Even adoptees themselves make huge, often incorrect, assumptions about their birth mothers! Your story about testifying that you could have been an abortion is such an excellent example. Tell me, Deanna, how did you finally make the connection that abortion wasn’t legal when you were born, and that your mother would never have gone through with an illegal one?

Did you put two-and-two together yourself? Did someone else? Specifically, how did you swat the fog out of your face and see clearly?

Deanna -- I don’t know why it didn’t ever hit me sooner that abortion wasn’t legal until 1973. I guess I wasn’t even looking to make that connection. I just made an assumption which was easy to do with all the adoption propaganda I had digested over the years. Later, I came to the realization that abortion was never an option for my mother. So I started speaking that truth.

To give you an example of how unsafe it can be to speak your truth, right away some Christians started countering my new-found truth with, “Well, she could have just had an illegal abortion.” But  I am in reunion with my mother now. She told me out of her own mouth the first night we were reunited that abortion was not in her plans. And as far as her going through with an illegal one, it is almost laughable to me. Even if she would have wanted to, my mother would have never done such a thing. We are talking about a woman who would not have lasik surgery because it’s “too invasive”. I am absolutely certain based on what I know of my mother she would have never had an illegal abortion. Yet it’s amazing to me how people who want to prove a point that doesn’t exist will say to me that I should still thank God I wasn’t an abortion, and be thankful that she “went through with having me.”
Photo Credit: Laura Dennis

Laura -- I wrote recently about how these false assumptions are often based on the non-identifying information provided by adoption agencies. People shared stories of birth families who couldn’t say the truth if their lives depended upon it hide the truth, adoptive parents who “fudge” certain unsavory bits, and social workers who make mistakes, tell lies, and generally have no problem letting the adoptee believe what they think is a “nice story.”

With very few exceptions, I believe it’s the fog talking when adoptees say, “My adoption happened when I was a baby. I have my family. What’s the big deal about opening a can of worms with my birth family?”

Which is why I just want to shake the fog out of these adoptees and say, "what you think you know might be a big fat lie! Weren’t you taught to think critically?"

Deanna - - No, they were not taught to think critically. Not at all. I find that many adoptees were told what to think, not taught how to think. Adoptees are rarely given freedom to come to their own conclusions. We are told the perspective from which we should see our adoption. And, I've learned that sometimes we believe lies because our mind is too afraid to let us realize the truth and feel the full impact of it. Some adoptees may stay in the fog because to feel the truth is too painful. I know adoptees who have told many people over the years that they were perfectly happy or had no desire to search, but it was a mask for a lot of pain inside. They simply weren't ready to go there yet.  Then they suddenly come out of the fog or start searching and people respond with, "wait a minute...I thought you said this never bothered you..."
Laura -- I, too, have shied away from painful realities. For me, it started with adoption and post-adoption issues, but then it spread as I grew up. I didn’t even realize that I was repressing my true desires, not taking care of myself, not acting in a way that kept me true to myself. The effect was disastrous. Sorting through these truths is not fun; coming out of the fog is not fun. But would I want to go back?

Not. ever.

I’m still sorting through my own adoption fog--in terms of educating myself on legislative issues such as access to Original Birth Records, birth father rights, and, well things I don’t even know I don’t know.

Photo Credit: Anninaislove, Creative Commons

 Deanna -- How well I understand, Laura. My therapist picked up on the fact almost immediately that I “detached” my entire life when the pain got too great. My way of detaching was planning, organizing and working.  The greater the trauma, the more I detached. I did it to cope -- to survive. Now in mid-life I am faced with breaking the habit of detaching. I too failed in the area of self-care and made decisions that were not true to myself and experienced the disaster. Since coming out of the adoption closet and also adoption fog, I have moved light years ahead. The process has not been easy but would I ever go back? No. A thousand times no.

I am still learning too. A lot. As you know, last night the Lost Daughters sisters educated me about Safe Haven laws. I didn’t even know about it and was stunned. I found myself aching for other children who would grow up to face this reality, an even worse prison of secrecy than I have encountered. The more I find out about the injustices, the greater the grief but the greater the fire, to do something.

Going back to the subject of the fog, I understand why some people want to stay there when they come to the edge and begin to see some things clearly. It’s scary. At times, it’s much more comfortable to stay there than come out. To come out you have to face not only the reality of your own past and present but also the reactions of your family and friends.  But I know for me, there was freedom and healing out of the fog (and out of the closet too) that I’d never experienced before, and I want that for others.

When other adoptees want to stay in the fog, it’s frustrating. You see their post-adoption issues even if they don’t. I know one adoptee whose control freakish tendencies scream: POST ADOPTION ISSUE ALERT!!! But they wouldn’t see it that way. If confronted they’d just get defensive and say, “I’m just a strong personality who expresses myself, has idiosyncrasies and weaknesses…like anyone else. It has nothing to do with my adoption…you can't blame everything on adoption, yada yada yada..." [face palm]

Laura -- I have people in my life like that too! Now my fantasy of shaking the adoption fog out of people has expanded to ... Shaking and yelling, “Post-adoption issue alert!” Awesomeness. (Which, of course, I wouldn’t dare do in real life. A girl can dream, can’t she?)

 Deanna -- Yep. This girl is dreaming. I’m dreaming of a world where adoption fog lifts.  Where people say, “How can I help you?” instead of “Have you considered adoption?” Where adoptees have equal rights.  Where non-adoptees seek to understand. Where families are reunited and more importantly preserved.  I’m dreaming of this and more and will never stop.    

Continue the conversation with both of us in the comments, and meet us at Laura’s blog as we shake even more of the fog out!