August 26, 2013

What Happens When An Adoptee Comes Out of the Adoption Closet

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
 ~ Arthur Schopenhauer 

Ever wonder what happens when an adoptee not only comes out with their feelings, but dares to write about the experience of life as an adoptee?

Photo Credit: deutscher13, Flickr

Wonder no more.

Some of what I’m about to share may blow your mind. 

My Path  

August 13 made exactly one year since I’ve been an adoption blogger.  I was going to publish this post at exactly the one year mark, but writing about the journey of my natural mom's death took precedence. are my reflections one year and thirteen days in as an adoptee blogger.

For those who aren’t aware, I began at Lost Daughters, where I could begin in what I perceived as a “safe environment.” (My perception was correct.) I was surrounded by bloggers who became sisters. They would be there as I came out with my thoughts about adoption, and help me to handle the feedback that would come. 

For many months prior I had private talks with my friend Gayle, one of our church members who encouraged me to write about adoption.   I had been blogging daily for seven years at my site and had a good readership there. But I never spoke of adoption. I feared doing so, more than anything in my life. I knew how much I had to lose.

My fears were not unfounded. 

Some fears we have are unrealistic. I have often it said that fear is F.E.A.R. = False Evidence Appearing Real. 

In this case, it wasn't imagined -- the evidence WAS real.

When you “come out of the adoption closet” as it is commonly called in the adoptee community, you fear further losses, and many times that concern is warranted.

My heart longed to come out with my feelings and thoughts, for a long time. But I kept counting the cost of what I might lose.

Reaching Out

Two years ago I reached out, seeking to find people who would understand the adopted life. I found  TheDeclassified Adoptee and Lost Daughters. They were like a healing balm to my soul.  

I didn’t go to these blogs for the purpose of writing. I went there looking for someone who would understand. I found that and quickly devoured everything on both sites and I began commenting and interacting with the people there. I did this for about six months, receiving the support I desperately needed. 

Meanwhile, Gayle continued to encourage me to write about adoption. I shared my thoughts privately with her and she would say, "Pastor Deanna, people need to hear this." I couldn’t bring myself to do it at out of fear but I wrote this one post, declaring it would probably be my first and last. 

Joining the Sisterhood

The response from the one post at was overwhelming. Most of it came in private responses. I quickly learned, many adoptees don't respond publicly as they are afraid that their family will see it. But the response I got from that one post gave me a boost of confidence to reach out to Amanda Woolston to ask about the possibility of writing for Lost Daughters. She responded that they’d love to have me join the team.  Months later as more people responded positively, I became their spiritual columnist. 

Many people reading at Lost Daughters wanted more from me about adoption and were asking if I’d start my own adoptee blog in addition to writing at LD.  I was soon listed as one of the Best 2012 Open Adoption Blogs…and I didn’t even have my own adoption blog yet! (I received the award based on my writing for Lost Daughters.)  All along the way my Lost Daughters sisters cheered me on, as well as the many readers there. It really is an amazing community.

Starting Adoptee Restoration

I launched Adoptee Restoration on January 1 of 2013 in symbolism of a brave new step. The response was really overwhelming.

Within  the first month of writing at AdopteeRestoration, many days the readership was ten times that of I was overwhelmed at how many people were reading it and even more so by how much mail was in my inbox. 

And yet, were my fears founded? Yes, unfortunately. 

It would be the eternal post for me to tell you everything that’s happened in the year I’ve been adoption blogging. I will list some of the main things, not to elicit sympathy, rather to bring understanding. 

What kind of understanding?

I want to help non-adoptees  understand why adoptees are so afraid of coming out with their thoughts and feelings.

“Why didn’t they ever say that anything?” they want to know.

“Why didn’t they ever bring up searching?” they say.

“If you’re saying millions of adoptees feel this way, why don’t we hear from more of them? Why do I meet so many who seem to be perfectly fine?”

Allow me to educate you.

Since I’ve been out with my feelings and blogging adoption I’ve…

Lost family members. (I thought the probability of this was high. Many adoptees fear it, and not for nothing. The main reason I waited so long was this issue.)

Over the last few  years I've met countless adoptees who don’t search for fear of losing what they already have. We’ve already lost our entire first family once, and we’re afraid of losing another family. So most of us stay quiet about it, out of fear.

Ultimately it comes down to the pain of living a lie being greater than the pain of loss, and finally being willing to take a risk.

I’ve lost count of the adoptees who tell me they are waiting for some family members to die before they search or reveal their feelings about things. Yes, they are that afraid!

Sadly, I lost some family as a result of sharing my truth. My therapist, Melissa helped me tremendously in moving forward from these losses. 

Am I sorry I came out with my feelings? NO. Quite frankly if I lost anyone over this, I don't feel like I really ever had them, or their love in the first place. (In the true sense of what love really is. There's a huge difference between ownership, possession, jealousy and...TRUE LOVE.)  Part of what I've learned in therapy is coming to terms with reality of what love is and isn't, and healing from the subsequent losses.

Lost friends. (And had to ask myself…were they really a friend? Losing friends who really weren't friends made room for those who are real.)

Been damned to hell, repeatedly.  (By some Christians!)

Had my readers and commenters damned to hell, complete with (out of context) scripture references. 

Been accused of losing my faith. (Many Christians equate adoption with salvation.) 

Had a reader threaten me that I was “going to meet my maker.” (Not sure whether this was a threat, or just saying I was getting ready to have judgment served on me by God? Not sure.) 

Had commenters call me names. You may look back on the comment threads here on the blog and wonder, "where are all these negative commenters she's referring to?" Those are very rare, if any actually here on the blog comments. You won’t find them most times on Adoptee Restoration, although I don’t delete comments as a general rule. (I have deleted two that were particularly abusive.)  Most of this type of vitirol happens when the post is shared by others on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Adoption Voices Magazine, etc. Readers usually let me know this is going on or I come across the link myself.

One morning I woke up to a text message from a friend telling me I was being flamed on a site by some adoptive parents, being called everything from a tool of the enemy to mentally ill.  Sadly I have come to realize that it comes with the territory of being an adoptee blogger, and especially a Christian one. Christians looooooove them some adoption! After all, Moses and Jesus were both adopted. Sigh.

If you share anything but flowery thoughts about being adopted you are vilified. When you share the experience of life adopted or give a call for reform, it unsettles so many because there is so much pain in adoption. 

Been called inept, ridiculous, an a$$h%@%, poor writer, vile, hypocrite, rude, peddler of God s#%%, unsuitable to be leading a church, theologically unsound and more.

 Lately I've found that it's better for me to not even go there and read this kind of stuff nor answer to it.  I'm recovering from my natural mom's passing right now. Aside from that, it does me no good to hear such negativity. Commenters like this aren't interested in real dialogue, therefore answering to their comments is of little value. One of the therapists who reads here noticed I was being hammered at another site recently and thought I may need a word of encouragement. She sent a note that said: "Deanna, don't even bother to answer to any of that. It never pays to wrestle with a pig. You just get dirty, and the pig likes it."

Told I need to quit pastoring because I am not an impartial professional capable of dealing with teens or women facing unwed and unplanned pregnancies. 

Informed that I write what I do because I am mentally unstable with unresolved issues.

Accused of writing this blog because I’m angry. (Those who seek to discredit adoptees most often yank out the "angry" and "bitter" and "unresolved issues" cards in an effort to silence us. By the way, this is known as Adult Adoptee Abuse.)

Had someone leave the church we pastor the week after I started Adoptee Restoration. (They are a counselor at a local pregnancy care center.)   Adoption fog is very thick, permeating most of the church world.  Adoptees constantly fight the incorrect assumption that worldly adoption is synonymous with biblical salvation, while the two actually have nothing to do with one another.

Faced losses professionally. I am choosing to not specifically detail those losses here, but unfortunately it's reality and it makes me sad that it's that way.  

Had people send negative emails marking them “confidential” believing this would render me legally unable to call them out on what they said, publicly. 

Had Christians send me lengthy emails begging me to "see the deception I'm in," letting me know they're "praying for me to come into the light."

Received links to videos of Christian songs from some adoptive parents, requesting that I "sit and listen to the song and  allow God to speak to me with the truth." 

Most amusing critical comment via email: "Your blog is like masturbation. It gets people stimulated but has no life-giving potential." Hmmm...thanks for the idea. My next post: Adoption & Masturbation...What Do They Have in Common?

Second most amusing critical comment seen on Twitter: "This woman would be a brilliant writer if it wasn't for all the God crap."  Sorry. God crap's what I do. Although all indications are, God doesn't crap. Although He does give a crap. But whatever.

Make mistakes. I've gone through my first year as an adoptee blogger while on the ongoing reunion rollercoaster with my first family, and  receiving the news of  my first mother's  cancer diagnosis and then, her death.  There are times I've gotten hurt by the insensitive or even abusive comments made, and I've reacted poorly. One day I did so in a moment of overwhelm and frustration and instantly regretted it. Some friends in the adoptee/first mother community who have been doing this a lot longer than I, helped me through. They gave wisdom, counsel, and encouraged me to take a few days and step back and get my bearings. I so appreciate their help in learning how to best respond to these types of people. I'm still learning and will readily admit, I've made some mistakes, popping off at the mouth at some people who really got under my skin. 

It’s helpful to remember those of us who blog are human. 
Some people get extremely angry at what I have to say here. I understand. 

Reasons for bunched up panties...

I'm making a difference.

People are reading here. And commenting. And, there's a ton more positive feedback than hate, every single day of the week. 

I have a part in affecting supply and demand. All of us who blog on this subject, do. 

Some adoptions don't have to happen now because somebody read Adoptee Restoration. 

Adoptions that were closed are now open, due to the adoptive parents reading here and changing their minds and opening the adoption.

Pregnant girls and women who were all set to relinquish their babies have changed their minds.

Moms of some pregnant teen girls have changed their minds about encouraging their daughters to place their babies for adoption, after reading here. These Moms are doing whatever it takes to help raise their grandbabies, to keep them in the family. Moms like Sheri who left this comment on this post:

" I'm the mother of a pregnant 15 year old who really tried to push her toward surrendering her baby to adoption. I just couldn't bear the thought of her losing what's left of her childhood, and I'm ashamed to admit, I didn't want to be "saddled" with a baby again. I've been raising kids since I was 10 and I'm now 47. I wanted to be done. We have been so blessed to have so much love and support absolutely POURED on us. I didn't expect that. I also didn't expect so many people to reach out to me through my blog, which is how I found you. You visited my blog. I'm so grateful for that. It's through stories like yours, and now yours since I've read several of your posts, that I was able to transcend from pain, anger and resistance to complete acceptance and now even excitement about a baby in the house. Not just a baby, but my first grandbaby . I'm so grateful for your bravery and courage in putting your story out there. It's stories like yours that continue to give me strength and gratitude to face what's coming and not have to go through the suffering I now see so many birth families and adoptees go through. I had no idea this was the case. Having no experience with adoption, I had no idea this was so common. I don't even know how to express my gratitude for you and your courage in writing your story. I now follow you and can't wait to read each new post. Thank you Deanna, for helping "save" us!!"
Pastors have commented or contacted me saying that since they’ve read this site their entire viewpoint on adoption has changed! They are no longer counseling their people the same way, or handling situations exactly the same as they did in the past when it comes to an unwed pregnant teen girl or woman.

Christians are asking me how they can start groups to help adoptees. 

More people are supporting family preservation. 

People are encountering pregnant girls and women and asking, "What can I do to help you?" rather than, "Have you considered adoption." Jesus would be so proud.  

There are testimonies on the comment threads and the Facebook page of this. Many of you have read them.


Please do not misunderstand – I am not crediting all of these changes to me or to Adoptee Restoration. I’m certainly not the only adoptee blogger out there, by far. And furthermore, tons of folks were speaking out on this and doing a fine job of it before I ever got here. And they're still doing it! There are so many amazing people -- adoptees and first moms, making a huge impact.  I’m just honored to count myself among them now, as part of the team. I’m part of this amazing group of people making a difference.

The Price Adoptee & First Mom Bloggers Pay

There is a huge price to going public. Adoptees who put our truth out there with our names on it pay a cost every day.   

Anonymous blogs are good – they serve a purpose. But I have noticed that people seem to pay more attention to those who have put their necks on the chopping block by giving their names and standing up to be counted publicly. 

It’s hard to get traction for many of the laws that need to be changed, for equal rights for adoptees, because so many adoptees won't open up because of fear.
I don't say this to condemn...I understand. They stand to lose a lot by coming out with their feelings, and don't know yet what they might gain. 

Surprise gains...

One family member who hadn’t spoken to me for a years read My Story when someone else told them about it. They read each and every day and contacted me on day 14 when the story concluded. Through tears they asked for my forgiveness.  “Can we start over?”  they asked.

Prior to reading my story, they said they had no idea what it was like to be me. “I’m so sorry, Deanna! I never realized!!!” they said.

I have also come closer to my adoptive father. He found my blog and began to read my posts although I had not asked him to. Rather than critically question, criticize, condemn or defend, he chose to read, truly seek to understand, and respond. His attitude was, "My daughter needs understanding. Much of this, I never realized. How can I help?" He has reached out and been nothing but a support. And, he fully recognizes and affirms my first family and their place in my life.

So, the fact is -- I’ve lost some family. I’ve also gained some.
I’ve lost some friends yet gained so many more.      
And many have come closer to me than they were before.

What I'm Realizing About Attacks
The more criticism I receive, the more fired up I get that I must really be making a difference or no one would care. If there was nothing to what I'm saying, or it wasn't affecting anything, they would just ignore me. 
The stronger someone attacks what I say, the more I realize, they're afraid I'm not going to go away.  And that I'm going to influence more people.

And you know what, they have reason to fear if that's what they think...because they're right.

I've grown to appreciate criticism because it means there's movement.  
Something's shifting!  
And, I get to be a part of the great team that is causing that shift.  

Martin Luther once said, "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen." If he were living today I believe he might say, "If you want to change the world, blog!" 

You Rock!

I want those who read here to know how much encouragement means. Although I have faced  some losses in coming out of the adoption closet, I have gained so much more. In addition to the amazing adoptee and first mother community, I have the support of those who read here.

It’s so interesting how God's timing works. On days where I was frustrated by criticism, I would receive a letter from one of you that made all the difference. These came from adoptees, first mothers, and adoptive parents! 

Jamie and Donna - Christian adoptive parents who read here, have been such an encouragement. They were once AP's with a closed adoption but through reading this blog and The Declassified Adoptee, they decided to open their adoption! On many days where I was in the line of fire, I would get a letter from them saying, “Just wanted to give you a word of encouragement to press on. Don’t quit! People like us are listening and being changed.” 

Never for a moment did I regret coming out of the adoption closet or being an adoptee blogger. 

Never once did I consider quitting.  

I don't take outrage as reason to retreat. It's usually an indication to me that I've hit a very important point and need to zero in and nail it even stronger!

Is it worth it? You bet it’s worth it. And there is no turning back, no many how many letters or worship music videos people send me to try to "open my eyes."

Here’s to another year of adoption blogging!