Adoption's Side Affects and Me at 40

This is exactly what happened to me. 

There were some people in my world who whispered about insanity. Even before my natural mom died and I melted down. I was already in a downward emotional spiral because a few years earlier I had come out of the fog.  One person who whispered about my insanity was a close friend. Unfortunately I had written proof staring me right in the face where she said to another close friend that I had "gone off the deep end." Game over. With friends like that, who needs an enemy? At least my temporary insanity  helped me figure out who my real friends were.

When I fully came out of the fog, as it’s called in adoptee-world, I was in my forties. I had never known a grief so deep. By many people’s standards, I had the world by the tail and was successful at most everything I did. At the same time, there I was on my side curled up into a ball blubbering to God with snot running down my face, begging him to take me out of this world. I would go back and forth between praying for him to take me to repenting for asking him to and thinking of how painful that would be for my kids and saying, "I'm sorry God, I'm sorry I ever said that. Please just take this pain away." To add insult to injury, when you do come out of the fog and you go public about it (out of the closet, so to speak) it gets worse for a while. 

Right now, like the rest of the world,  I’m enamored with the show This is Us. There is no doubt who my favorite character is. It’s Randall. Like many adoptees, I totally get Randall. The only aspect I don’t share with him is that of being a transracial adoptee. But all the rest concerning his adoption, I get. And the episode where he melted down in the corner? It was like watching my life back when I was emerging from the fog. 

Success in life is no guarantee that an adoptee will be unscathed when it comes to post-adoption issues. Millions of adoptees are wildly successful, and deeply in pain at the same time. They are honor students, valedictorians, doctors, lawyers, pastors, teachers, moms and dads. And they are running hard to escape the pain. The first time I was in counseling, my therapist said, "What are you running so hard from, Deanna?" At the time I didn't realize why I was running. I just knew I needed to. It would be a while before I understood my need to run.

What’s so horrible about coming all the way out of the fog and fully feeling for the first time is that you have no frame of reference to know that things will get any better. So it feels utterly hopeless at the time. You know that time can never turn back. You will always be relinquished and adopted. There’s no going back to fix what hurts.  Even if you believe in miracles. Even if you know Jesus. 

I would have crazy thoughts like, “If someone cut my head off right now, Jesus wouldn’t just pop it back on."  (Even though he did put Malchus' ear back on in the Bible, he’s probably not going to do it for me.) And so I would think about the fact that Jesus allowed my first mom to give me up. He allowed a couple to adopt me whose marriage would break down in dysfunction and divorce. He allowed my first mom to take my father's name to her grave. He wasn't going to fix the mother and father wound in my soul by taking it all away. He was obviously requiring me to bear it. The decision was final. And I would have to figure out a way through the intense feelings of grief.

I didn’t want to bear it at all and was just mad that I had to, so for a while I just laid on my side and hugged a pillow while hot tears ran down my face and I cried so hard I shook the bed.  The sheets were soaked as the rage drained out. It felt like hell and a bit of relief all at the same time.
As I read this quote by Anne Heffron the thing that I think most is of all the parents who think they are okay because their child or teen is so well adjusted and successful. 

I was that person.

And I went through pain so great that it is only by the grace of God that I am still here. 

I am glad some people who knew what they were doing held me through that. There was no one in my world prior to the time I came out of the fog who would have known what to do or how to help me. Most of the people who surrounded me would have probably just given me a chat about being grateful. And honestly, one of them probably would have found me somewhere, and read the note I left behind to say goodbye to everyone. And maybe one of the saddest parts of all is that no one would have really known why. They would have just whispered about "the enemy getting in" and "Satan taking me out" which would have been true, BUT not the whole truth.  Christians are reaaaaaaaaaaaally reluctant to blame anything on adoption.

My hope is that every adoptee finds a safe space to process things when they come out of the fog. Finding trustworthy people to talk to is essential. People who will do no assuming and hours of listening. People who, if they are not adopted, will refrain from telling you anything about how you should feel.  Or giving you a speech about thankfulness.

If you are an adoptive parent reading this, please lose every speck of smugness that your child will never face any of this. Please resist spiritual bypass at all costs. Please listen more than you talk. Please remember, it's not about you.

To the person who is reading this and is just coming out of the fog…you are not alone, and you’re not crazy. I’m saving space for you. 

If you find yourself in that painful place of intense waves of grief so high you don't think you can go on...please, know there is help. There is life on the other side of this. 

You Can Run, But You Can't Hide!

Two things are turning the adoption industry upside down and taking away the grip of control they once had on adoptees:

1) Social Media
2) DNA Testing

I for one could not be more grateful for both of these tools. Back when I started my maternal search, neither of these options were available. Now, they are both key to a search.  As time goes on, DNA testing is making archaic laws with sealed records obsolete. In time, a person will be able to find whatever they want, without ever having to get their records unsealed.   

Even with these two great tools, the resolution of my paternal search may happen too late to meet my natural father. He will probably be dead and may already be so. BUT, I firmly believe the information about my paternal family will be known in my lifetime. I hold on to hope that I will be able to connect with paternal relatives.

I have hope not only because I believe in God, but because the number of people who are DNA testing is exploding. The numbers are vastly beyond what anyone expected. Ancestry DNA alone doubled within a year and the same results are expected again. A friend of mine who is a DNA expert tells me that within the next few years they are predicting that everyone who tests will be guaranteed to have at least second cousin results right away, due to the number of people testing and the expected number of people in the DNA bank. That is a great improvement from when I tested for the first time in 2013.

I have tested at Ancestry DNA, 23 and Me, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage, and GedMatch. Since I took my first test, I have had amazing results. I have had close matches and secrets revealed that would never have been, had I not tested. Unfortunately those secrets revealed were just more on the maternal family side, although I always welcome a relative on either side. Nevertheless, it was information revealed that never would have been had DNA testing not been available. I was able to help a relative I never knew I had and give her the information she has always longed for.
DNA tests give adoptees their power back. I encourage every person I know, not just adoptees, to DNA test. I explain to them that not only will they find out more of their history, but they will help so many more people as they do.

My husband just tested with Ancestry and before he got his results I told him that no matter what came back, he needed to be prepared to help people who may be seeking the truth about their origins. I explained that no matter how difficult the information may be to digest that presents itself, he needed to do the right thing and give people their information. With what secrets I do know about in his family, I expected there were probably more that we didn't know about.  As I expected, a match came that was a result of a family secret. He was able to help someone figure out who their father is. And he has a new cousin he didn’t know about before he DNA tested.  It is so rewarding to help people and put to rest the restlessness in their soul that is present when they don't know who and where they come from. 
Christmas is approaching and now is a great time to give your friends and family DNA tests as a gift.  All of the companies usually have sales at this time. People will be more inclined to test if it’s provided for them. My prayer is that more people than ever get DNA tests for Christmas and that about eight weeks after Christmas, millions of people will get the gift of truth as they start the new year. 

Note: Whenever I write a post on DNA, people ask me a lot of questions I'm not prepared to answer. (I'm not an expert.) I highly recommend Richard Hill and his work. Check out the DNA Testing Advisor website and Facebook page, and read Richard's books. He is a wealth of information about DNA testing and has helped me personally. Also, once you DNA test, be sure to join the group DNA Detectives on facebook. 

With the help of DNA testing, friends and advisors, anything is possible!

Another year

Today’s my birthday.  

Over half a century has gone by. 

Yes, it's really been that long. 

I am still searching. 

And I wonder how many more birthdays will go by before I know, and if you are even still having birthdays.

9 Things I Learned in Search of the Perfect Life

I figure a lot of things out as I go along. I believe everyone does, and if they tell you otherwise they are just fooling themselves.  And furthermore, they aren't growing as a person. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, before we knew. 

Today I want to share something I have been trying to coming to terms with. 

I asked God why He allowed me to have anything less than a perfect life after relinquishment and adoption. To me, that was enough pain for a lifetime. I had the attitude, “Hey God, I did my time.” I really believed in my heart that this loss and living as "the different one" my whole life was enough for anybody to face, and that God should have understood that. And He should have acted accordingly. It never works well to tell God what He should have done.

I was mad about this for a long time. I was confused about the losses that just kept right on coming.  (The dysfunction and eventual breakup of my adoptive home, etc., the loss of our first baby after we got married, the pain of things not going the way I dreamed of in the first church we pastored, etc.)

One time I was being prayed for during an altar service. To my recollection I was 17 or 18 years old. I was still in bible college when this happened because I remember talking to my best friend Joanne Greer about this. And the pastor who prayed for me, having heard a bit of my situation made the statement that he was surprised I hadn’t committed suicide by that point in my life. He was saying he sympathized with what I had gone through in life and was surprised I hadn’t given up. Then he prayed for me to be healed of what I was feeling inside. It wasn’t a bad experience at the altar, in fact it was kind of healing in itself to just have someone validate what I was feeling when for so much of my life nobody affirmed any of these feelings.

So fast forward a few decades and even more loss, and with it a few friends gently spoke into my life, sharing with me that many people – adopted or not adopted, face hurts and losses. That pain is not unique to adoption. At first I got upset that they said it.  I felt dismissed. (And maybe I was.) I tried to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. I wanted avoid more pain as well as preserve the relationships of people who I had this conversation with.  But I still thought about it all the time even though I didn't talk about it. Some things are hard to hear but we still need to unpack them, nevertheless.

This was something I needed to come to terms with, inside myself. Because with each loss that would come my confusion grew. Did God not understand that I now deserved something different? Maybe not more in life but something different than what I was getting?  

I'm careful to use the word deserve, because when it comes to work and outcomes, we typically get what we deserve. "You get what you put into it," we hear. I've found that true. The harder I hustle, the more the return. Success only comes before work in the dictionary. But on these random things like losses and pain and grief, I can't work my way out of them or control them. And I felt like I had already fulfilled the trauma quotient by birth. But God didn't feel the same. After about four years of thinking A LOT about this, for probably thousands of hours -- here’s what I have arrived at.

People face multiple traumas in their lives. No one is immune. I have many friends whose spouses have cheated, abandoned them, and then they have cancer. I have one friend who has been abandoned by her husband and has now faced cancer not once but twice. And the heck of a lot more. And she is NOT adopted. Is my loss worse than hers?   Truth be told in most of my friends who are not adopted I can name multiple traumatic circumstances in their lives -- children dying, cancer, abandonment of spouse, etc.

So how am I any different as an adoptee? This is what I’ve wrestled with.

Many of my non-adopted counterparts outnumber me in traumas. Nobody gets a guarantee of having only one trauma in life, even adoptees. And sometimes our non-adopted friends will outnumber us in the amount of things faced. I have come to understand that my loss feels worse because I have faced it longer than most of them will face theirs. 

My loss started before I was even born. 

Who else on earth can say that but an adoptee? Who literally felt their loss before they breathed their first breath? 

My mother knew she was giving me up even though she vacillated at times, and didn’t sign the papers for 47 days after I was born. She was at the maternity home four or five months after she got pregnant – because she had no where to go. She was homeless...having been kicked out of the house once her pregnancy was revealed. So from April of 1966 to August of that same year, she was living in a maternity home – moving toward relinquishment. Scientific studies show that stress that an expectant mother is under affects a child in the womb.

I was affected by all of that trauma before I exited my mother's body. Then, I continued to be impacted by it once I was born. I was a baby and couldn't control any of that. It was what it was. My mother and I never had contact while I was in the hospital. I was never laid on her chest – there was no warm contact of human being – no skin-to-skin nurture, for a long time. From as long as I can remember, I rub my feet on the sheets to soothe myself to go to sleep, even as a married fifty year old woman with a husband who is affectionate with me, and gives me all the skin to skin contact I could possibly want. 

I’ve arrived at a place of understanding that my loss feels so much more profound than my friends although it may not really be more profound, because I’ve experienced it for even longer than day one of my born life. I use the word feels because I’ve come to understand it’s a feeling, not necessarily reality though it is my reality it may not be reality for the rest of the world.  This trauma I have faced feels like the absolute worse thing anyone in the world can face. But is it? I've been grappling...

Perhaps my friend facing multiple cancers does have it worse. But then we are getting into comparing pain. Which never leads to anything productive. I’ve come to see that pain is pain and the person who faces it just feels that theirs is the worst because it’s their day-to-day reality. And here’s my point – this loss has been my reality and most any adoptee's reality for longer than we've been alive. And as soon as I came to be able to realize what happened I felt like enough was enough and I didn’t deserve any more loss in life. And, it’s not the way things work. Life isn’t fair. The fair is where you get cotton candy. 

What hurts the most at times isn’t that I believe my loss  is more profound than anyone else’s but that it is dismissed as nothing and unacknowledged and worst of all mocked or even praised by some. Yes, the praising kills you. That is what is so painful at times.   

After letting all this percolate in my mind for so long one thought I have is that I don’t want to be someone who mocks a loss, especially one I haven’t endured. I pray I can be the healing hands of Jesus, not someone people avoid so as to not endure even more than they have already faced.  

A lot of things happen to all of us that we don't expect or deserve. Life is amazing AND life is hard.  

My thoughts today probably seem like one bit fat nonsensical rambling. Maybe people who read this will think I’ve seriously gone mad. But here’s what my takeaways are from today’s blog post…

  1. Everybody faces pain. 
  2. It does no good to compare pain. 
  3.  Relinquishment and adoption are some of the most complicated losses to  try to explain.
  4. Adoption loss feels the worst because we experienced the loss and were affected by it before we even got here.
  5. It will be hard for anyone else on the planet to understand the day-to-day reality of those who have known this particular loss that affected us even before birth. We can't expect those who haven't endured it to understand it. It's rather incomprehensible for those outside of it and all the more reason we need each other.
  6.  Our reality can feel like it’s the worst simply because we’ve faced it for so long and don’t know what it’s like to live any other way. 
  7.  To have your loss go unacknowledged or mocked may even be worse than the initial pain itself.
  8.  Life’s not fair. You can go through what you feel is the worst pain of all yet it may be far from the last loss you will ever face.
  9. Nobody has a perfect life. Yet, we can all strive to build a great one despite whatever losses we have faced.    

    All photos by me 

The Story of My Life: Waiting on Another DNA Test Result

I’m waiting on a DNA test! Again!

I’ve been doing a lot of advertising in the area of Highland Springs - Richmond, Virginia, where I come from.  I have reached out to former classmates of my mother's, and anyone in the neighborhood who may have known her. I have even had a phone call with a 91 year old man in the community who reached out to me to help! He was a delight. In sharing the details of my story in the neighborhood – I have gotten literally HUNDREDS of responses and leads as to who my father may be. 

I saw advertising - putting everything out there in the community with names, dates, locations that I do know - to be a last ditch effort. But maybe this should be the first thing we do in a search? Perhaps we hold back because of fear. It's fear of what people will think. But that shouldn't be a factor in simply trying to discover truth. Truth that belongs to you and me. And the fear is unfounded. It’s amazing the people who have written, emailed and called me who lived in the neighborhood at the time (or still do) and actually knew my mother and want to help me.

It was interesting certain last names that kept coming up again and again. One woman who is related to my maternal family saw one of the advertisements and reached out to me to try to help. We have never met before. I sensed right away that I could trust her. I mentioned to her about one of the last names that kept coming up repeatedly among the leads. She was so excited and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s my husband’s family!!!” I asked if she thought someone in the family would DNA test and she said, “absolutely!!!”  So, I paid for the test and had it sent and now we are just waiting. I am hoping for a cousin match.

There are multiple men in this particular family who could be my father, some dead – and some alive! If a first cousin match comes back on this test, then I would need to start going through the cousins and having them test to see which one might be a half-sibling match. The person who tested believes if it comes to that point, everyone in the family will cooperate. We will see!

The two cousins I have spoken to are very excited about this and think others will be too. Of course you never know when you get right up on the moment, but I have faith. There are caring people out there. I find this out in searching, all the time. As many roadblocks as you face, you also meet so many kind souls that are willing to do anything to help another person. Sadly, many of them will immediately reach out to do more than your own family!

So here's a word for those of you who are running into obstacles. We are all familiar with these challenges if we've been searching for very long. Obstacles are generally "secret keepers" who feel it is their mission to protect what should never be protected. (They protect/conceal truth of who you are and where you come from.) People who even go as far to try to protect the dead in some fashion. Have you ever heard of anything so bizarre? Well here's the thing -- for as many of those secret keepers that are out there, there are even more kind souls with open hearts who will do anything to help. Find them! Keep going. Whatever you do - do not quit!

I’ve been through this so many times before, so I am trying to guard my own heart and keep it from breaking again if it's not a DNA match. And yet it's hard to not be excited about the possibility. So I consider what I will do in the event that it's not a match...

What will I do? PRESS ON. I will never give up and will advertise even more.  A few months ago I was so discouraged and said I didn’t know if I could do this again. My heart was shattered in pieces when the last DNA test came back not a match. There was a family in Virginia who sent me pictures at Christmas and said the only thing missing was me. They were already planning our vacation together in Gatlinburg. (No, I am not kidding.) They cried as hard as I did when the test came back not a match. In my lowest moment of bawling over this non-match, my husband looked at me and said, “You don't mean this that you are quitting. I know you. You will keep on. That’s who you are." He was right.

And I say this to any of you who are waiting for breakthrough in your own search and discouraged – I understand. But don’t give up. Press on. People are finding their truth all the time. And DNA is yielding more results every single day. Millions more are testing and every day holds the possibility of a match! And by the way, if you haven't already tested or uploaded your raw DNA to, do it today! I did and have many new matches I am working through. So far I don't have any close ones, but nevertheless I have some new ones.

Everybody pray hard! I may just have a reunion coming up, after 50 (count ‘em 50) years!!! In a few months I could be taking a train to meet family. 

I will never lose hope. 
Don't you lose hope, either. 
We got this.