Navigating Race and Transracial Adoption

Last October, I attended Navigating the Intersections of Transracial Adoption, with Torrey E. Carroll, MA, LPC & Nikki M. Carroll, MA, LPC, as the keynote speakers at the AKA Virtual Conference.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this dynamic duo couple who were engaging, educated, and provided great material with first-hand experience, this event was more difficult for me to process.

First off, everyone was using the chat feature to comment. I commented and said, “…my mixed race sons…” Someone quickly chatted back with a critique and said “her friend” hates it when someone asks if her son is “mixed”. She said her friend prefers bi-racial. Someone quickly came to my defense and said that people should be able to self-identify how they wish. I appreciated the support.

First, I wondered if her friend was a biological mother or a transracial adoptive mother. There is a difference.

The female, who obviously was not personally involved in an interracial or a transracial family, was attempting to tell me how I should identify MY family. An online stranger was attempting to tell another online mother who knows nothing about her family or their racial identity how that mother should refer to her kids based on a friend’s preference. That is truly disturbing. It is egotistical!

Sadly, this happens often in the adoption community. Everyone is an expert, even those who have no personal connection to or experience with adoption.

Over the last couple decades, we have had white transracial adoptive parents wanting to lead the racial dialogue because now that they have adopted a black or brown child, they feel entitled to speak and educate. They share their daily encounters of their struggle with race, as the white adoptive parents of a transracial adoptee who is navigating his or her way in white spaces, while at the same time, often denying and starving their black and brown children from their ethnic birthright, culture, and images of people who reflect their identity.

Blog followers and news media platforms love these white transracial adoptive parents and will empathetically broadcast their story nationwide and give them space to talk about race because hearing it from a white man and a white woman who adopted transracially is way more validating than hearing it from black or brown men and women themselves or an interracial couple with kids.

These stories also fluff the White American image. That’s white privilege.

Black families don’t just worry about one child within their family but worry about each member in their family, from parents, to children to extended members like uncles, aunts, cousins and so on. #BlackLivesMatter

When I gave birth to my first born son, I mostly heard the term “mixed” from Black/African American women. They’d walk over to me when my son was an infant or a toddler sitting in the grocery cart and ask, “Is he mixed?” I knew what they meant. I certainly am not going to disrespect the women from my son’s culture. They had been living Black in America much longer than my son. They were not being mean or insulting. They were being friendly and I appreciated their social acceptance and kindness shown to me, rather than a bigoted look or indifference.

I prefer mixed a whole hell of a lot better than mulatto which sounded like another word from slavery. In addition, let us not forget that White people have been labeling Black people for years with their racial words, stripping them of power and rights and even disqualifying them as fully human.  

The truth is I had used the term bi-racial until I did my son’s DNA. I now know that my sons are not just African and European (black/white) American. Biracial “bi” denotes two. My sons also have a small amount of Asian and Native American Indian. They truly are of mixed-race ancestry.

 “Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.” Jerry Belson

When I was writing this, I asked my two sons how they self-identify. My 22 year old son that was parented by me identifies as a Black American or a Black man and prefers that over African American. My 21 year old son that was adopted out transracially by a white family identifies as African American. At the same time, they don’t tell me how I need to racially identify them as my sons.

As the speakers continued their conversation, I tried to focus more on them then the conversation side bar. The topics of discussion appeared to be geared towards those fostering, hoping to adopt, transracial adoptive parents, adoptees, and adoption professionals who are key factors in this industry. To be fair, I only attended day two of this keynote event.

This topic is important to me because my biological birth son was placed in a transracial adoptive family. I have been listening to, learning from, and advocating for adoptees for many years. But I am acutely interested in hearing the stories by transracial adoptees and adoptive parents.

Since I have my own years of lived experiences, in a mixed/interracial family, being the biological white mother of two sons with brown skin, one while parenting who was connected to both sides of his family, one while participating in open adoption through letters, emails, pictures, phone calls/txt, social media, overnight visits and shared family vacations over the years, I have unique awareness and insight within this topic. One that is often overlooked.

My son’s, whom was placed as an infant twenty one years ago into a white adoptive family that I chose for him, experience is very important to me. My choice gave him that experience. I not only live with my consequences that have impacted me, but also how my choice has impacted both of my sons; one son, as a transracial adoptee, and the other son, as a sibling living without his brother by his side. 

The Carroll’s shared their experiences as both a Black/African American couple living in America and as transracial adoptive parents. They shed light and brought awareness to those who may not have seen or experienced racial prejudices while navigating in American society. They were helping to expose our own biases and our naivety, to better prepare and guide those who have or who are seeking to foster or adopt transracially, and educate the professionals, who have a great amount of power handling these cases, make better choices.

It was truly refreshing to hear a Black/African American couple speaking on transracial adoption.

They also talked about their path to adoption through foster care. In these scenarios’, birth parents have little or no rights, so their voice has most often been silenced. However, I believe it is truly important when having these conferences and conversations, that we equally give voice to birth parents in some way.

Birthparents who have chosen transracial adoption for their child have every right to participate in these spaces. I attended two other conference events the same weekend, both female presenters, one of which was by an adoptive mother and a social worker, and they both paid tribute to birth parents/families. I felt valued. They showed empathy and importance to every role and voice in this complicated topic.

As a keynote speaker (a person who delivers a speech that sets out the central theme of a conference), this is probably the most important event where all guests attending feel included. When we don’t give a voice to certain roles in this conversation, we make them less human. We devalue them.

We must remember that without a birth parent, adoption does not exist. There is no singular story within adoption nor with one birth mother or father because most often, there was not one single event that triggered or caused a child to be forcibly removed, relinquished or even stolen from his or her family.

We have learned the great biases and systemic racism exist in our foster care system towards minority and/or poor families. Adoption should not be a solution for poverty. We need to find better ways to help care for families who are experiencing poverty rather than removing their children, intentionally forcing trauma, giving them to strangers, and then paying their new care providers a monthly subsidy.

As Americans, we all become financially responsible for foster kids for the rest of their childhood through our tax dollars. And possibly for the rest of their lifetime, depending on how badly the trauma impacted them. We pay child support every time a child goes into foster care. I would much rather my tax dollars help support a poor family of origin care for their children than to give child support to a foster family who could possibly have a higher income than me. I have seen it happen.

Obviously, we don’t want Americans abusing our system. Our economy works best when everyone is participating and contributing. There is a difference between giving a hand-up versus giving a handout. There are programs that help mentor parents become more educated and better equipped to manage their parenting role and financial stability. But we need more programs! When we participate in our own recovery and achievements, this brings pride and confidence. It makes us better equipped to handle those events if they occur again in the future.

On the other hand, we do not want any child to remain in an abusive home. No child should have to endure a childhood of abuse; physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or neglect. I watched the Gabriel Fernandez story on Netflix. I was in shock and disbelief. It seemed like everyone failed him! However, I also know that foster and adoptive children (Hart Family) have experienced some of the same horrors and fatal fate that Gabriel experienced. The hope that Gabriel could have been protected by foster or adoption care is one that I hold onto with optimism. Without hope, we have nothing. But even hope cannot provide any guarantees and sadly, neither does foster or adoption care.

Adoption itself is complicated. But transracial adoption has greater accountability. As a mother, I don’t want my sons to ever feel tokenized.

National Adoption Month 2020

November is nationally dedicated to Adoption. Throughout this month, we will hear conversations around varying degrees of experiences, some focused only on the forever family, others focused on the ones left in the shadow, some who wish to crush the “awareness” campaigns, others who want grow into awareness, some that appear polar opposites, others who hold onto rigid beliefs, and some whom become allies and advocates.

First, we must recognize there are two adoption themes in November. One that has “Awareness” in the title and one that does not. And even the ones that have Awareness in their title are not always advocating for true awareness.

These two adoption themes vary in their campaign goal; the original campaign was focused solely on the act of adopting. It was created to find permanent homes for children in orphanages or foster care. The original week-long adoption campaign in November, started in 1976 by a politician, Michael Dukakis, which was ironically just two short years after the first federal law passing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act in 1974.

This campaign was never about infant adoption. Parents seeking to adopt freshly delivered newborn babies greatly outnumbered infants available. Especially after the unwed mother homes went away. There is and has been a great demand on newborns. Sadly, adoption agencies also use the November campaign to help promote their agenda.

The other adoption month focuses on awareness and the impact, the history, the gender oppression, the ethics, the corruption, the race valuing, the needs of those who have no voice, the systemic racism, the greed, the power, the iniquity, the inequity, the inequality, the support and needs of an unplanned pregnancy (as one politician said, “the village”), the adoptees experiences, and the many changes that need to occur in the adoption industry.

Over the last couple decades, many adoption roles have joined forces to bring awareness.

I recently attended a conference. After the conference was over, I commented on an event page that I attended virtually and asked the presenter, Sharon, how her view of adoption evolved. Since Sharon worked as a social worker and oversaw adoptions in the 1960’s and 70’s and spoke about her advocacy and ethics and systemic racism in the social welfare system, I was curious to learn when and how she came to her new understanding.

I explained how my view has changed since the early days after my relinquishment and that I no longer believed in the “selfless-gift promo” that I shared in my memoir.

To be honest, I started writing my book within two years after my relinquishment which was originally published in 2002. I was still raw and numb. I was still weak and vulnerable. I was incredibly sad and grieving. I was in the process of healing and writing helped me in that process. I was still protecting those who had groomed me prior to giving birth and gaslighted me after.

I needed to believe in the God’s plan. I needed to believe I did the right thing, made the right choice. I needed to believe my son was a gift to be given. What appeared to be the right choice was in fact a façade.

Truth is, I realize now that I never truly wanted to choose adoption. It was my safety net in hopes that I would NOT need it. I knew that I did not want to be indebted to the adoption agency in any way. I was never 💯. Otherwise, I would have never brought home my son from the hospital. When loved ones began to show and express their disapproval and disappointment in my choice to bring home my infant and parent my children, it became unbearable and I wanted to fix it. I greatly needed to feel their support and love and approval again. I had almost lost them when I gave birth to Jaren. Our relationship was hanging on by a thread. With no commitment from my sons’ father nor his family, I had me and me alone to rely on.

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” Robert Fritz

Even after I republished my memoir in 2012, I did not change the previous chapters. I added a couple new chapters because the most common feedback I got from readers was they wanted to learn more about me, my story, and my childhood. They wanted to understand me better. I also added a chapter at the end because in ten years, there had been some updates to the story that I wanted to include.

Looking back, I had no reference, no counseling, no birthmother support groups to validate my feelings. And I worried about offending or jeopardize my relationship with my son and his parents. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful. Birthparents in open adoptions and adoptees in open or closed adoptions are both told they should feel grateful or be thankful or that they are lucky. I heard this so many times over the years from family, friends, and coworkers. People have no idea how this comment makes us feel.

Sharon, the virtual conference presenter responded to my post and question so poignantly:

“Great question! I believe changes occurred as I got to know and really listen to adult adoptees and birth/first parents and hang out with them as well as watching my own children who joined the family by adoption and foster care as toddlers and teens grow through their various stages into adulthood. I also went through a period of heavy grief as I came to understand what was happening. I needed to forgive myself and others! A real eye opening journey I took during the seventies!”

I truly appreciated Sharon’s honesty and transparency.

I recently had a conversation with Jaren after watching this season’s new two hour “This Is Us” episode. I told him I wondered if the Concerned United Birthparents’ retreat had an impact on their producer, KJ Steinberg, who was a guest speaker at the retreat one year ago.

KJ Steinberg sat before a room full of mostly birthparents and adoptees and some adoptive parents. Real people! Real experiences! Real stories! I have to give KJ credit because she graciously and empathetically absorbed our heartbreaking stories.

As the hands went up and the microphone got passed around the audience, I had the opportunity to ask her a question. I told her about my sons and my role, and how both sons identify as Black or African American. And that one son was transracially adopted. I told her that I love the show and that my son and I watch it faithfully and that William is one of my favorite characters.

“This Is Us” told this beautiful story about William that America fell in love with despite his flaws. Why had they not told a story or developed a character of a birthmother? Like Randall’s therapist notated last season, the birthmothers “were cliff notes” to the storylines.

I pointed out, as I looked around the room, that even among our group at the retreat, there were very few birthfathers present. I asked KJ if we might hear more background stories about the birthmothers.

I told Jaren it seemed like George Floyd’s death (which they included in some scenes) and the #BLM movement also had an impact on how they were now telling Randall’s story and how they wanted to represent Black people and Black mothers. I wondered how much #CUB and #BLM impacted the new season.

It seemed like previously, the writers were telling two different stories about Black people. One where Black people in Black communities were poor, struggling, drug addicts, neglectful, and not sexually responsible. And then the story of Randall, a black infant, abandoned by Black parents, raised by white parents, as successful, educated, beautiful suburban home, married, a family man, good husband and father, as if those traits can only be learned and passed down by white parents. It is a grossly oppressive stereotype.

Jaren’s response was precise. He said “Does it matter?”

I was silent for a moment. I had to contemplate it. “Does it matter? Hmmm?”

I replied, “You are absolutely right, Jaren.” I said the most important thing is that when we become aware (whether we had our own awakening or came upon it with the help of others), of an issue, a negative thought or pattern, that we are able to change our perception, our thoughts, and our advocacy.

Whether we are talking about an adoption day, a week, a month, or even throughout the year, how will we support and advocate for those impacted by adoption? How will their stories get told and shared?

My hope is that we support advocacy and share awareness.

Texas Adult Adoptee’s propose HB2725

To all my Texas peep,

We would like to ask for your support, either by calling your representative, or emailing them. You do not need to be a birth parent, adoptee, or an adoptive parent to support HB2725 (which gives adult adoptees the option to access their original birth certificate). But if HB2725 aligns with your beliefs, please reach out.

This is what I wrote to my Representative:

I am a constituent of yours and I want to thank you for your support of the adoptee HB2725. It has been a long fight for those who have been working on this year after year with great passion and some heartache.

Adoptees just want fair and equal rights like all other Americans.

I am a birth mother. I had the great honor of giving birth to two sons. One I parented. And one was adopted out. I was lucky to have an open adoption relationship.

My sons are now 19 and 20 years old and I am very proud of the men they are becoming. However, they both do not have equal access rights to their original birth certificate. I see my sons as equals, as adults, as Americans, but it is discouraging that the state does not see them both as equals because of MY decision. It feels like one of my sons is being punished because of MY choice. No one ever promised me anonymity when I signed relinquishment papers nor should they.

Growing up adopted comes with its unique life experiences. And it impacts each adoptee in many different ways. HB2725 has the power to restore dignity, bring awareness and knowledge, and mend broken pieces. Most importantly, it allows adult adoptees to own what is rightfully theirs by birth.

Thank you so much for your support and consideration,

Karen
Constituent

National Adoption Awareness Month 2018

Adoption has become a political hot topic in the last few years.  What better time to discuss these issues then during National Adoption Awareness Month.

Evolving from a controversial “closed” secretive past filled with shame where women went into hiding, to a postmodern “open” adoption era where women are posing as social media “poster” birth moms, we have seen a shift in adoption.  However, when it comes to OBCs, adoption remains stagnant and secretive.  Adoptees are trying to change that.

Most states implemented sealed records during a time when women had few rights or choices and were oftentimes railroaded towards relinquishment.   One could argue that these laws were enacted to punish un-wed mothers, an estimated 1.5 million women, who were sent away to hide their pregnancy and the birthing of their child.  There was deep shame associated with an unplanned pregnancy.  Families did everything they could to sweep these babies under the rug and hide their very existence.  Erasing the child that was born out of wedlock was supposed to save the mother and child from societal disgrace.  In turn, it would also save the family from scandal.

While laws to protect secrets may have been intended for one purpose, it resulted in a far greater impact that violated adult adoptee’s rights.

One strong debate for OBC access is regarding medical history for adoptees.   Adoption should not come at the expense of vital information.

Humans have an innate yearning to know where they came from. Adoptees should not be judged for wanting to know their DNA history, no matter how a blended-family was formed.

Adoptee Rights Groups are fighting hard with some success nationwide.  Seven states have enacted less restrictive laws in the last three years.  Currently, nine states have unrestricted access to OBCs. Eleven have access with restrictions, and nine have partial access or partial access with restrictions.  The remaining states, including Texas, are sealed.

This political cause is relevant, sensible, and in need of fresh eyes and modern laws enacted.  Adoptees do not remain children forever.  They grow up.  They become adults with rights like every other American.  Access to our own birth records should not be determined based on our biological, step, foster, or adoptive family status.

Family is Family.  Rights are Rights.

To learn more, please read my Op-Ed in the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung

Modern adoption laws are needed

Families Belong Together

I have noticed a rise in adoption related media stories.  However, it is the same scenario, redundant, each showing the adopting side.  I can’t help but ask myself why.  Why are bio parents left out of the adoption story.  Should we assume that no one truly cares about bio/birth parents when it comes to adoption?  Do we believe that average folks may not be able to comprehend the grief of relinquishment?  Can compassion be felt more towards adopting parents than relinquishing parents? Media doesn’t mind showing the hardships of cancer patients, hungry children, abused animals, kids/adults with disabilities, but showing the suffering of a bereaved parent after adoption is non existent.  Why?

I was reading an article that had some adoption fluff.  It was about a couple who after fostering a baby boy for over a year, went to court to adopt him.  Their request was granted.

In the article, the following statement was positioned in the third paragraph, to help set the tone for the remainder of the article.

“Adoptive parents sometimes get to the hospital in anticipation of bringing their little one home, only to find out that the biological parents have decided to keep the baby after all.”

The part that gets me is the wording…notice how the statement has already given a title to people who should be correctly referred to as the PROPOSED adoptive parents.  The statement has also already erroneously assigned ownership, saying “their little one,” when no relinquishment, no adoption or legal guardianship has taken place.  From this statement, one may assume that the couple has not even held this newborn in their hands.

On the other hand, the article references the biological parent’s as “to keep the baby” instead of keep their baby, which was born to them.  This is how pro-adoption folks use their words in newborn infant adoptions.  They use this tactic on vulnerable expecting mothers and parents.  They will allow a stranger to claim what has not even been born or freely given yet.

This statement is degrading to the infant as well.  It ambiguously implies that if the newborn is adopted, he/she is fondly someone’s (their) little one.  He has belonging.  But if the new baby is no longer available for adoption, then the infant is reduced to “the baby” as a commodity; the dog, the couch, the table, the store, etc.  He is no longer a precious little one. You see?

The article leaves out the details of how or why the infant was placed in foster care at a week old.  It provides no details about the parents.  What happened?  I am wary of stories like this.  More so now, with the migrant families being separated.

I am all for protecting children and placing them in safe homes. I know wonderful foster and adoptive parents who love their kids and have provided a good and safe home.  But I am against forced adoptions, forced separations, government forced separations, coerced adoptions, migrant families separations, and any unnecessary adoptions based on ignorance and conspiracy.

When we have one-sided media stories about complex issues with incomplete information, as readers, we cannot make a fair judgement about either parent since we have only been given a partial story.  Too many of these articles make it appear that the birth parents are villainous while the foster to adoptive parents are saints.  That is very narcissistic.  Classic, really.  The adoption industry has operated on narcissistic attitudes for generations.  They play on our emotions to feel sorry for the mom and dad who cannot conceive or give birth while giving the birth parents a blank slate, as if they aren’t human, they have no story, no rights, no validity.  It’s good media advertising.

The adoption industry needs to have people feel sorry or root for one-side.  How do they do that?  Well, they take out the birth parents story or give worst-case scenarios which leaves room for average Americans to generalize birth parents and erroneously portray them as unreliable, addicts, poor, dirty, promiscuous, and possibly abusive and neglectful.  Or as illegal migrants with no rights.

Birth parents can’t all or always be bad or villainous and foster/adoptive parents can’t all or always be saints. This tactic is all too common in the pro-adoption social arena.

Right now, with all the migrant separations, Americans as well as the world around us are appalled and are highly concerned about keeping families together and reuniting migrant families.  Chances are all this media coverage with well-educated commentators speaking out about the impact and trauma of separation will inevitably impact how folks see family separation and how important it is for families to remain intact.  Furthermore, all this information may help those faced with an unplanned pregnancy to see their role differently and help them make a more informed, educated choice. Vital information, by the way, that adoption agencies and fake crisis pregnancy centers conveniently leave out of the adoption plan talk, while giving specific details on abortion, not all based on facts, or the possible pitfalls of parenting, which is based on fear.

To combat this new mass social awareness about family separation, the pro-adoption industry feels like they are under attack.  What has been kept hidden for decades to average folks has now been exposed and revealed on news channels, major newspapers, video clips, and social media memes.

Socialized and sensationalized adoption stories are being created and shared to bring folks back in.  The Adoption industry needs to gain the trust and favoritism of average Americans again.  Social media is their one source for getting that information out to the general masses, using people as protagonist or antagonist to help send their message of the adoption story.  It is a well written script but one that can have lasting trauma and emotional impact for those involved.

Think You Want To Be A Birth Mother? Think Again.

I met Maureen at work.  A growing bank chain had begun to acquire another nationwide bank.  Maureen, who was from Long Island, was offered a position Texas.  She had worked for her bank 15 or more years when she relocated to Texas.  Maureen had experience, expertise and vast knowledge.  She was well respected, attractive, and witty.  She was an asset and the new purchasing bank wanted her on their team.

Maureen knew about both of my sons.  I had pictures of them on my desk.  And I had even brought up Noah and his family to the office one time.  Jaren had been up there many, many times.  I had talked about both of my sons in the office.  So I wanted my coworkers to meet Noah and I wanted Noah to meet them.  It was a proud moment for me to have both Jaren and Noah at the office.

I always wondered who was judging me.  It was a mind game, whether real or imaginary and I am certain it was a little of both.  I felt like my diverse family made others feel awkward.  My family was not neat and tidy.  There were complicated pieces.  This contributed heavily to my emotions and imbalance at times.  It’s why I understood that sometimes it’s easier to just move on as best you can and put the birth and the adoption behind you.  And when I say, “behind you,” I mean to not speak of it.  Birth mothers can never totally forget or put giving birth nor their child behind them.  They keep it reserved in a portion of their mind and their heart, hiding it carefully as if they are protecting a small child from a scoundrel.

After Maureen began to reconnect with her lost daughter, I learned she was a birth mother too.  She and I had other things in common.  We were both from the upper east coast, both raised Catholic, both with Irish roots.  So finding out that she too was a birth mother made me feel closer to her.  Besides that, her New York accent reminded me of my grandmother, especially when she said my name.

Previously, she was private about her adoption experience.  Maureen was regal and conservative.  She was not at all open about her choice to relinquish her daughter.  I say choice but I doubt she had many options or choices.  She was young, Catholic and not married; the perfect recipe for the adoption industry.  But when she reunited with her daughter, things changed.  I don’t think she confessed to everyone about finding her daughter.  But she felt safe with me and another birth mother who also worked in our department.

Maureen, who never had any more children, was so happy to meet her daughter.  I could see the love she had for her daughter. She was so proud to show off her pictures.  Her daughter looked so much like Maureen and just as beautiful.  They began to connect on Facebook.  Then, they arranged to meet; secretly at first.  Her daughter didn’t want her adoptive parents to know.  She didn’t know how they would take it.  Maureen flew back to the east coast.  Her daughter was recently engaged.  So Maureen got to meet her daughter’s fiancé as well.

After their first meeting, they stayed connected.  It was not always easy.  Her daughter was having a difficult time with the reunion too.  Maureen felt her daughter would retreat from the relationship sometimes.

Maureen would talk to me about her feelings.  I would try to share as best as I could.  Although she had been a birth mother much longer than me, I seemed to have more experience because of  my open adoption relationship with my son and his family.  Maureen was unprepared for the emotional toll this new birth/adoption/reunion was about to take on her.  While my situation was a little different than hers, we were both still women who gave birth to a child and relinquished our parental rights.  We have a similar experience.  That, in itself, is enough.  I had gone through with the reconnecting and disconnecting a couple times.  That’s what it felt like whenever Jaren and I got together with Noah’s family.  I had to say good-bye over and over again.  It’s a very strange feeling because you don’t know who you are to your own child.  Or who they want you to be.  You don’t want to be too aloof and give the impression that you don’t care.  But you also don’t want to overly show love or affection or appear “too clingy” and give the impression you are trying to take over.  You have this natural instinct and need to mother and to protect.  It can feel as if your every move is being judged and nothing will come off as appropriate, as if you are on trial without a character witness for a choice you made and nothing will erase what happened and there is a consequence that every person amidst you will consciously or unconsciously bestow on you.  It’s an emotional tight-rope.  And you feel as if one wrong move could end drastically and possibly severe the relationship for good.

For the first time, Maureen’s emotions began to show.  This very cool, collective, admired soul began to show insecurities and self-doubt.  The beautiful woman, who walked with her head high, began to take a second-class position.

Maureen got invited to her daughter’s wedding.  Maureen took her mother, the birth grandmother, to the wedding.  And they even stayed with her daughter’s adoptive parents.  Maureen shared some of her feelings about that experience.  I understood.  We shared our stories and our feelings.  I wanted her to know that what she was feeling and experiencing was very normal.  Birth mothers don’t always know that unless they talk with other birth mothers.  We can feel as if we are weird or strange for feeling a certain way.  And if we are not careful, we can have family or friends convince us of the same.  It never seizes to amaze me how many people will try to counsel another person without having a similar experience, no education or degree in the field, no work experience, nor any research done on the subject matter.  And yet, they will speak as if they are the expert.  If we are not careful, we can lead a person down a deadly path.

After the wedding, Maureen and I got a little closer.  She gave me a Willow Tree Angel, called Friendship.  I treasured it.  We went out for happy hour a couple times with some co-workers.

In the spring of 2012, we made plans to go see October Baby.

Hi Karen
The 2:45 show will be fine, we can meet at Cheddars at 1PM, please call me after
Church to confirm. Enjoy your morning and will see you later.

October Baby

Maureen, who now had almost twenty-five years of service, seemed to be changing more.  I had worked with Maureen for nearly five years so I knew her work ethics fairly well.  She had begun to appear intoxicated at work.  I never knew for certain.  It was a feeling.  I thought maybe she was taken some medication.  Her eyes and her speech were sluggish.  I wanted to help her but I didn’t know what to do or say.  I mean, what DO you say?  “Hey, Maureen, are you drunk?  Is everything okay?”  I didn’t want to make false assumptions or offend her; especially during this difficult time in her life.  But I also didn’t want her to feel alone.  At the time, I didn’t know of any birth mother support groups.  I didn’t find one myself until 13 years after my son was adopted out.  That’s a long time to go without any counseling or support. Even though the adoption agency was required to offer me counseling after the birth and relinquishment of my infant, they did not. Even when I was at my lowest point a couple weeks after the birth and called them in despair for some counseling, the woman who had been so available to me none stop during my pregnancy and even made special arrangements to meet me on Christmas Eve day so I could sign relinquishment papers for the agency, now seemed unconcerned for my mental well-being and said, “Do you think you really need counseling?” So I had to figure it out on my own, as did so many other birth mothers.

I resigned from the bank in 2012 and had lost contact with mostly everyone.  I did keep in contact with Maureen via email and sent her a link to my blog in hopes it would help her.

Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 8:03 AM
Subject: New blog
Hello Maureen,
I started a new blog.  Here is a recent one I posted.
TO MY BIRTH MOTHERS

Sent: Tue, Apr 16, 2013 8:33 am
Subject: Re: New blog
hey Karen, sorry I haven’t been in touch, love you , miss you. nice story…….just going thru some rough times, will be okay tho

Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 10:16 AM
Subject: Re: New blog

I understand Maureen! I really do. And that’s why I want to be there for you. I think of you often. And I thought about you (also) while writing this piece. I thought about all of us birth mothers!!!
Please try to come to our next birth mothers support group. We can go together.  Just try it once.  Some of the girls/women don’t even say anything. So you don’t have to vent. You can just listen and see how we birth mothers experience all the same emotions.
Miss you chick!  🙂
Keep in touch.
Karen

Sent: Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013 10:43 AM
Subject: Re: New blog
thanks Karen, I appreciate you and your thoughts, will be in touch, maybe meet for lunch some time soon.
That was the last time we talked.
I tried reaching out a few more times but got no response. Two years came and went, and I decided to check on her again. When I got no response, I wondered if maybe she changed her number.  So I sent a text to another mutual coworker that I also kept in touch with about once a year.  I thought maybe she knew how Maureen was doing or had her current contact information.  
She said, “Sorry to be the one to tell you, Maureen passed away from Liver disease.”
I was shocked. And deeply sadden. Maureen passed in 2015.  She was only 49 years old.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

Angel

(Guest Post) Noah’s Mom Shares Her Adoption Story

It’s that time of year again.  As each week gets closer to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I find myself feeling a little bit mistier and mistier.  It’s been 17 years since we grew our family through adoption.  Our younger son came into our lives toward the end of December of 1999.  How does a family living in Central Wisconsin connect with an adoption agency and family from Texas?  The story itself is a long one, but the short version is, it’s a “God thing.”

We were a family of three.  My husband, Paul, and I had been married close to seven years before we had our oldest son, Alex, in 1991.  He was our first little miracle.  I had wanted to adopt children since I had been in high school.  After a few more years of trying to have a second child, we continued to have no luck.  It was then, that my husband and I decided to look into adoption instead of continuing down the road of having another biological child.  We prayed about the decision.  Paul and I were getting older and we did not know if adding to our family was God’s plan, but we felt drawn to go through with the application and the home study.  We felt if we didn’t take this step, God couldn’t answer one way or the other.

Shortly after deciding to go forward, our family met with a local agency that specialized in foster care and adoption.  The actual process was quite complex.  Each of us needed to complete large amounts of paperwork as well as be interviewed.  A long series of events took place and time went by, but finally, in June of 1999 we completed our home study.  We were so excited and filled with anticipation.

One day during that summer, I was taking a walk with a very good neighbor friend of mine.  We walked and talked and chatted about everything under the sun.  Somewhere in the conversation, the topic of completing the adoption paperwork and the home study came up.  My neighbor was surprised since she didn’t know our family was looking into adoption.  She mentioned that she had several sisters living in Texas and one of her sisters had a close friend who had adopted several special needs children through an agency in the Dallas, Texas area.  My friend wondered if she could give my name to her sister and have her give me a call sometime.  We hadn’t heard much from the local agency that we were working with, so I said sure.  I didn’t expect that it would necessarily lead to the adoption of a child from Texas, but I was always on the look out for more insights and information about adoption in general.  I thought it would be great to talk with someone who had been through this process.

My friend’s sister called a couple of weeks later.  She asked if it would be ok to have the family friend who had adopted these children give me a call.  A few days after that, I spoke with this “friend of a friend” who had adopted special needs children.  This entire string of events eventually led to contact with the adoption agency in the Dallas area.  One of the first things that went through my mind, and that of my husband, was to make sure this agency was valid.  We contacted our local agency and filled them in.  They made some contacts and assured us that all was good.  Our next steps included making a book about our family and completing more paperwork.

It wasn’t long, after all of these events occurred, that the adoption agency in Texas contacted us with a potential expectant mother and wondered if we would be interested.  We said that yes, we were interested.  Our anticipation began to grow.

A series of conversations and events took place over the next several months.  At times, things were “on again, off again” with the expectant mother, Karen and her baby.  As December grew closer, Paul and I spoke with our respective places of work “just in case” we would need to be gone.  Since this would be an inter-state adoption, it required staying in the baby’s home state for a specific number of days.  The caseworker also let us know that since this could be taking place during the holiday time, there might be some extra delays.

One December day, while at work, I received a phone call from the adoption agency in Texas that this baby boy had been born.  My husband, Paul, and I were elated!  We shared a little bit with our son, Alex, but didn’t want to say too much since we knew how quickly things could change. The caseworker said it was ok to go ahead and make plans to come to Texas.  Much excitement and planning took place very quickly as the three of us (Paul, Alex, and I) worked to make flight arrangements and ensure everything was still in place with our paperwork and home study.  Two days later, my husband and I received another phone call from our caseworker.  She called to say that Karen decided to take her baby home and to cancel our plans to come to Texas.  Our hearts broke; my heart shattered into a million pieces.  For all of us, our emotions were all over the place.

On Christmas Eve morning, the caseworker called again. I called my husband in from the garage where he was unloading 2 x 4’s to build storage shelving in the basement.  I handed him the phone because my heart just couldn’t take more news right then.  The caseworker spoke with my husband and said that Karen was going to come in to sign the paper work that day.  She asked us if we were still interested and if so, would we be willing to speak with both of them, the caseworker and the birth mother, on the phone later that afternoon after all of the paperwork was completed?  We said, “Yes, we would,” and made only a couple of phone calls related to the new possibility of traveling to Texas.

It was the longest few hours of my life.

Finally the phone rang; Paul and I each got on different extensions so we could all be included in the conversation.  We spoke with Karen, along with the caseworker for a couple of hours.  When we finally hung up, we were so very excited!  As was our family tradition, we ate our Christmas Eve meal and then went on to church for the Christmas Eve service.  One of the hymns that was sung near the beginning of the service was “For Unto Us a Child is Born, Unto Us a Son is Given.”  My husband and I nudged each other with tears in our eyes as the congregation sang this song. At this point, we were the only ones who knew we would be on our way to Texas in another day to grow our family through adoption.

A couple of days later, we were in Dallas.  We met the caseworker and Karen, along with her mom.  We were also introduced to our new baby boy’s 20-month-old biological brother, Jaren.  After all of the waiting and excitement, my eyes met with the face of this tiny baby. My heart jumped and skipped as I held our new little boy, Noah, in my arms.  We all stood around the room, feeling a bit unsure of things, visiting and getting to know each other.  Karen and I made our way over to the couch and took turns holding this precious little one.   Karen shared with all three of us a photo book that she put together with pictures of our little ones first days, some poems, and a letter to her son.  My husband and I were beyond excited that we were adding to our family, yet it was hard.  When we left, I felt both joy and sadness. My husband and I wanted to be happy; we were happy.  It was a joyful time for our little family of three that was now growing to four.  But there was also an underlying sadness that took place.   We knew that our joy was Karen’s heartache and sorrow.

We stayed in Dallas for several days before returning to Wisconsin.  Since it was an inter-state adoption, we had been told earlier that it would take awhile for the proper paper work to be completed by each state.  A few days later, before we left, the caseworker made arrangements for us to meet with Karen and her son, Jaren, again.  We met at a restaurant and had a good visit, all six of us together.

Shortly after that, we returned home, back to Wisconsin.

We kept in touch with Karen, Jaren, and their family through cards, pictures, email, and phone calls.  We try to get together once a year.  Over the years, the relationship has grown into more than a great friendship.  It is now more like one big family.

God brought our two families together even though we lived half a country apart.  Through every step, God’s hand has been in this relationship.  God knew more than anything we could ever see ourselves.  He not only grew our family through adoption, He brought two families together to offer support and friendship to each other and to raise this child.  My love and gratitude is never-ending for this relationship, friendship, and family.

 

(footnote)

My story, One Woman’s Choice, is a true story.

While the agency led Paul and Rebecca to believe that I was “on again/off again” about my intention or choice, I was never sure and never made any empty promises.  

This is what I wrote, 

“Even though I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go through with the adoption, I had to at least try. I contacted the agency and made arrangements to meet with one of their caseworkers named Kristen.”

#FliptheScript

Through my eyes

I don’t blog. I’m not really good at writing. I’m not good with words. I always hated English and was never good at it. I went back and forth on whether or not to write some blogs about my adoption journey. It’s a very personal subject. Things I mention are things I have never shared with anyone. But with this month being National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM), I felt challenged to add my voice to the conversation. A voice that for years has remained silent out of fear of upsetting others, ruffling feathers, making others uncomfortable, and bringing judgement upon myself. I have realized that for far too long the voice of the adoptee has remained silent. My voice has remained silent.

I began asking myself why I was allowing others to speak for me. Adoption agencies cannot speak for me, yet they do. Birth mothers cannot speak for me, yet…

View original post 608 more words

“Adoption—A thousand reasons to be angry”

An author and an adoptee sharing her thoughts…

Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child

“Empathy is heartbreaking for the virtuous adoptive parent who has given all the love and care and hugs they can to a child that continues to struggle with anger management issues.” Judith Land

Anger | Adoption Detective | Judith Land “Our self-image sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment and determines what we become. A belief in a positive self-image is the cornerstone of all the positive changes that take place in a person. Anger clouds our judgment and causes us to respond wildly based on our emotions. Anger is a negative emotion that is toxic to the body that interferes with its harmonious functioning and balances by negatively affecting our heart, immune system, digestion and hormone production. If you’re an adoptee who has experienced physical and psychological responses to anger that is disruptive to the natural flow of energy in your body, learn the principles of anger management to change the image of self to create a positive…

View original post 588 more words

Can I Call Her Mom?

The first time my eldest son, Jaren and I went to visit my youngest son, Noah, six years after his birth, there were unanswered questions.  One was about my role and title.

Noah always knew he was adopted.  He knew that I gave birth to him and that I am his biological mother.  But he was wrestling about how all that tied into our relationship and the titles we should give to each other.  Who was I to him?  And who was he to me?

Prior to our visit, I was “Karen” to Noah when we talked on the phone and his parents referred to me as, “your birthmom, Karen”.

At five years old, Noah walked over, stood in front of me and said, “What should I call you?”

That’s a powerful question that deserved a thoughtful response; especially to an impressionable five year old.

Noah had already talked to his parents about his quandary.

I told Noah he could call me whatever he liked.  I didn’t want to seem presumptuous.  I also didn’t want to dictate or control his choice.  And I surely didn’t want to disrespect his mother.  I wanted Noah to find the right title for me.  So after a short pause, he decided to call me Birthmom.  Over the next few days, he was so cute in his greetings.  He would walk up to me, flash a big smile and say, “Hi Birthmom!”

The “mom thing” is one of the hardest parts in open adoption.  I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged my role the way that Noah needed.  But it is a balance.  I didn’t want to hurt Noah, or his mom, or his dad by my title.  I would wonder how to appropriately write my closing salutation on greeting cards; Karen, your birthmom, your other mom, your Texas mom?  This is something that could impact Noah’s emotional growth positively or negatively.

Then a couple years later, Noah’s family came to Texas for Thanksgiving.  We were still getting to know each other.  Although we talked on the phone throughout the year and exchanged emails, we didn’t get to spend time with each other face to face.

This time, Noah wanted to call me Mom.  Many different thoughts and emotions began to flash forward.  I was surprised, not even certain if he was referring to me or his mom.  Then I felt somewhat undeserving of this title.  I think his mother sensed this so she quickly whispered over to me, “He asked me if he could you Mom.”  She wanted to reassure me that she was okay with this.

I was so deeply touched not just by Noah for his willingness to include me in this worthy title but I was astonished by the grace by which his mother was willing to share that title with me.  Not only that, but that Noah was confident enough and comfortable enough to go to his mom and ask her a question like this.  And then his mom, understanding her son’s needs to do this.

The last few years, I have been mostly Karen.  And I am good with that as long as Noah is good with that.

A couple years ago, when Jaren and I visited Noah and his family, I was greatly honored by his mother once again.  As we were walking out of the church service to greet the minister, Noah’s mom introduced me as “Noah’s mom”.  I was deeply touched.  I am sure the minister was a little confused.  As we made our way to the café area, she introduced me a couple more times as “Noah’s mom”.  Uneasy about my title, I smiled and said, “Noah’s other mom.”  I don’t know why I felt the need to say that.  It was out of sheer humbleness.  I knew deep within that all these people knew who Noah’s everyday Mom was.  I just wanted them to know that I knew that also.

I’ve read many stories about adoption.  I’ve read derogatory comments about what a birthmom is or isn’t.  The general American society can be very harsh in their uneducated perception.  I had no idea what my journey would be when I said good-bye to Noah and his new family, or if I would ever see my son again in our lifetime.

I’ve learned that adoption is not about replacing someone.  Noah loves his mother.  A biological parent can never be erased.  My mother lives on in me, I live on in my two sons (parent to one, birth mother to the other). In the end, love has no boundaries.

So today, I honor Noah’s mom for her love and generosity.

Happy Mother’s Day, Noah’s Mom!  I love you dearly.

1 Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.