October 21, 2014

Safe People

Expressing the many mixed emotions brought on by the adopted life is not always easy. You have to know who is safe when it comes to sharing.
I find there are two types of sharing.

The first is sharing to unload emotions.
The second is sharing to educate.

Both are necessary but  have potential to trigger anxiety or depression (or other things that are not-so-fun) if not managed well.

When I share with somebody an aspect of life adopted, I have to be so careful that I’m sharing with the right person at the right time. Otherwise, it may take quite a bit of resolve or the healing touch of God to rebound from just one single conversation.

Can one conversation put a person back in recovery?

Yes, I believe it can. Okay, truth be told: been there, bought the t-shirt AND the mug.

Even among adoptees, people hold vastly different viewpoints which make sharing tricky.  Perhaps nothing can throw you into an emotional tailspin than having someone who does walk in your shoes telling you you’ve got it all wrong.

A conversation boundary of sorts has entered my world. It’s there to maintain emotional health, not to mention a certain level of concentration needed for my job. I can’t take the chance of a conversation leaving me emotionally limping. And one intense conversation filled with utter disregard for all I know to be personally true regarding my own experience can send me to a place I really don’t want to be in.

I believe as with anything, in the adopted life you get to know who the safe people are, and when and where you can talk without reserve. 

Those sacred spaces are few and far between. 
But they are there.  

October 15, 2014

The Adoptoland Echo Chamber - Part 2
A Conversation with Laura Dennis

Today I'm collaborating once again with Laura Dennis, and we're discussing what it takes to get out of the adoptoland echo chamber. (Did you know that exists? Yup.) If you've arrived here first, hop over to Laura's to read part one and then come back. 

Deanna: I so agree with you, Laura. I still get mad too, but I believe unless we deal with or at least manage our madness we’ll never get out of the echo chamber.  Inside the echo chamber we go around in circles because of a plethora of things…as you mentioned, we can’t agree on language (birthmother vs. firstmother), we think “our group” is most important (domestic adoptees vs. international adoptees) or we veer off into a plethora of other social justice issues –muddying the waters rending the adoption reform message unclear. I’ve landed on some adoptee sites I used to frequent and wondered if I landed at the wrong site! They have picked up so many causes it’s unclear what they are even fighting for anymore.  I for one believe we need an undeniable clear and focused message to get out of the echo chamber.

In addition to a clear message that remains entirely adoption reform/rights related, we’ve got to be able to have conversations with others who don’t believe or think like we do – without flinching or reacting. We’ve got to respond thoughtfully, not react immaturely.  If we can’t manage to do this, we will stay in the chamber. It’s that simple. 

Laura: Ability to respond thoughtfully goes to the issue of responsibility. Until the wider population no longer sees us as stubbornly unwilling to accept responsibility, the echo chamber endures. The shifting of blame goes round-and-round, as you said.

What do I mean by “responsibility”?
Do I mean victim-blaming? No.
Absolutely not.
We do not blame the victim for what happened to him or her.
However, this does not mean that this person is off-the-hook.

Those who have experienced trauma—including first moms who were mistreated and forced to relinquish, including adoptees who feel grief and loss at losing their first families, including adoptive parents who are devastated by infertility and loss—are STILL responsible for their actions going forward.
We are all responsible for finding healing for our own pain.

It is NOT OKAY for those who remain unhealed to take out their hurt on others.

This is why the echo chamber endures; if we are unhealed, we feel justified in our ranting, and it is simply exasperating.

Deanna: Couldn’t agree with you more, Laura. We are responsible to heal. Nobody else can do that for us.  I also believe we have to be prepared to thoughtfully dialogue with people who don’t believe the way we do. How else are we going to break out of the chamber?  

There’s a place for ranting.  I do mine while laying on my hammock on my patio, talking to you. I don’t do it when I’m trying to get a message across to people who oppose all that we stand for on this issue. 

It’s interesting that as you and I are collaborating on this post, a letter hit my inbox from a blogger in the adoption community, asking to interview me on her blog. This is someone who is not well respected in our circle of adoptee friends. In fact many people revile this person and consider her an enemy to everything we stand for. But my thought is this…if we don’t say yes to conversations with those who believe differently than us, how will we ever see change come?  My next thought is this – it’s not selling out to appear on someone’s site that you don’t agree with, as long as you maintain your integrity in all you say.

As much as we don’t want to “go there” we have to dialogue with what many in our community refer to as “adoptoraptors.”

Laura: I agree. Recently I was so pleased to have several large adoption information sites request an advance review copy of Adoption Therapy, Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues (which I edited and to which you contributed the Afterword). … If I were to remain in the echo chamber, I would say “no,” to them, as these sites seek to help people adopt. [As in, how dare I engage with those who think adoption is okay?]

While I believe we should do everything we can from a policy and personal standpoint to encourage family preservation, if such organizations are willing to read an anthology whose basic premises are: 

1. An adoptee’s first losses—including mother loss, heritage loss, ethnicity loss, language loss, and more—absolutely must not be discounted.

2. Whatever training or approach is used, the client’s individual experiences must be validated through empathetic care. 

… Why wouldn’t I engage with them? The book is meant to get help, not only for our generation, but for the next generation of adoptive parents, first families and adoptees. This is vital information that needs to be absorbed—and sometimes what needs to be heard is difficult to listen to. If people are willing to engage, to learn from those who have walked this path … it’s my responsibility to educate. 

Deanna: Yes!! I fully believe if they are willing to engage – we need to.  Even if they don’t respond favorably right away, at the least it’s given them something to think about.  It takes a serious amount of time for most people to come out of the fog so anything you can do to get them one step in the right direction is progress.    

October 9, 2014

For Baby Scoop Era Adoptees: Everything is Still NOT Okay!
Tag-Team Post With Laura Dennis, Part I

Why do I team up with Laura Dennis so much in writing blog posts? Because she's just that amazing. Read part one of our post here on my blog and then finish reading over at Laura's.  Here we go...

Laura: I like to consider myself “in the know,” perhaps even trendy … as much as is possible living in Serbia, where Southern European popular culture and style are vastly different compared with Western Europe and the United States.

When it comes to AdoptoLand, however, I’m able to stay up-to-date via the Internet. But I’ve realized that my identity as a U.S. domestic adoptee from the latter part of the Baby Scoop Era (BSE) is … how do I put this? … no longer trendy. I’m passé, as in: decidedly NOT hip.

People, both inside and out of the adoption community think that because the BSE Era is over that we are no longer relevant.

Deanna: You are exactly right. And, so many people believe what we BSE adoptees desperately NEED is obsolete because of the trend of open adoption. This was perfectly described in Karen Caffrey’s post, Who’s Waiting for Adoptees to Die?  Her post shares about the statement from the National Council for Adoption that says:

“Given that a great and increasing majority of domestic adoptions today are open to some degree, and that best practice now requires birthparents to share, at minimum, medical and social background information with the adoptive family and adopted individual, the debate over birth records and information sharing has and will continue to subside.” 

Of this Caffrey says: “In other words, adoptees like me will eventually age and die out.  Our pesky little demands for access to our true, original birth certificates, to our birth heritage, to equal treatment under the law, will subside because we will die out!!  (And pity the poor 5% who will continue on, shackled by the bonds of secrecy.  Presumably they will lack sufficient political clout to disturb any of these “agreements” to which they were supposedly party.)” 

I am grieved that so many believe it is okay to leave us BSE adoptees behind when it comes to equal rights. Everything is NOT okay! And as long as birth certificates are still be amended and sealed, things are really not okay for those coming behind us either. Even in open adoption. Because there are no guarantees.

We need full disclosure of our personal history. It’s our birthright. It’s that simple. The fact that there is a trend towards open adoption has nothing to do with the fact that I still have a birth certificate filled with lies and am completely in the dark about 50% of my personal history. These facts belong to me. If it’s not important, why does the doctor ask for it every time I have an appointment? And if it’s not important, why is the government holding onto it so tightly? 

Laura: I agree. It’s worth repeating, because I see adoptive parents who consider open adoption the new panacea, letting them off the hook.

In open adoptions, an adoptee’s records can still be sealed.
In open adoptions, there are NO guarantees of openness or contact.
In open adoptions, there is no recourse for any party should an adoption close—especially not for the adoptee and his or her wishes.

Instead of “adoptees,” try thinking of it this way...