Children of Adoptees

Exposing Adoption

I’m not sure if I can write this article. It may or may not stay up. I am trying to be empathetic and see adoption through the eyes of a biological child, born and raised by their parent who is an adoptee. This article though may need to be written by such a person. All I can say is I will try my best here, and mean no harm.

Society overlooks a lot of things in adoption. There are next to no studies on first fathers, first fathers are always seen as never around, no psychological programs out there tailored to helping siblings who learn they have an adopted out brother or sister, and no support group, psychological tailored program, self-help book (you get the picture) for children of adoptees. The voice of a child-be they still a child or an adult- of that of an adoptee is completely mute…

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15 Things You Should Never Say to an Adoptee

Pushing on a Rope

If you’re adopted, you’ve likely heard many of the comments below. (I even heard three of ones on this list from members of my biological family early in my reunion with them.)

SHH Credit: Chiara Vitellozzi Fotografie | NuageDeNuit/Flickr

And if you’re not adopted, you may have uttered some of these chestnuts thinking you were being thoughtful and empathetic.

Trust me, you’re weren’t.

And on behalf of all adoptees, many of whom are working to #FliptheScript for National Adoption Awareness Month, I beg you to stop.

  1. You don’t look adopted.
  2. Who are your real parents?
  3. How much did you cost?
  4. What a gift you are to your adoptive parents.
  5. It was probably for the best. Who knows what kind of life you might have had otherwise?
  6. Why would you want to find your birth mother? She didn’t want you. 
  7. I have a friend who is perfectly fine with being adopted. 
  8. You must…

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Yes, I’m adopted. Please spare me the L word

Adoption Awareness…

Pushing on a Rope

On Wednesday, it’ll be National Adoption Month — the time when I and other adoptees work even harder then usual to dispel all the myths misconceptions around what it’s like to be adopted.

Luck Luck, by 8ShroomFairy8/Flickr

For reasons I’ll never understand, non-adopted people seem to feel they have license to weigh in on the adoptee experience. In my 51 years, I’ve heard any number of ridiculous comments about how I should feel to have been adopted. “Grateful” ranks up there (that pronouncement is often chased with a solemn comment about how glad I must be to have not been aborted. I’ve started to respond to that one with, “I’ll bet you’re grateful you weren’t aborted, too.”).

But my all-time favorite is how “lucky” I am to have been adopted — the idea being I needed a leg up in the world.

Yes, how lucky I am to have been relinquished…

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Ethiopia Moves to Officially End International Adoption

Light of Day Stories

Several Ethiopian news sources have reported that the Ethiopian Parliament is considering a new draft bill amending current law to end the adoption of Ethiopian children by foreigners. What are the reasons? No doubt there are many. Ezega news reported that the “inability by biological parents to trace their children and adoptees being denied the chance to communicate with their biological parents have been major issues that have been echoed in parliament.”

Those two reasons—Ethiopian parents being unable to learn anything about their children post-adoption, and adoptees being unable (due to adoptive parents’ refusal?) to contact their Ethiopian parents—exemplify deceitful practices by adoption facilitators who promised Ethiopian parents they would have contact with their children after adoption, though there was no guarantee of that since adoption permanently severs ties legally. The reasons also represent lost opportunities for adopted children (who grow up, and who I hope will learn their truths)…

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Talking Hearing Loss With Front House Staff at Lincoln Center

Good insights…

Living With Hearing Loss

I recently had the opportunity to speak as part of a training module on accessibility to the front of house staff at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall and Alice Tully Hall. It is wonderful when influential cultural institutions take a leadership role in promoting the importance of accessibility to their employees. I was pleased to be a part of the presentation, and to highlight hearing loss as an accessibility issue for the ushers.  

I share the text of my remarks below.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

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Social Acceptance

I was a bed wetter.  I wet the bed until I was in high school.  Of all the experiences I have talked about in my life, this is one of the most embarrassing ones for me to admit.  Even at the age of Fifty-four years old, it is still uncomfortable to confess publicly.

There are many reasons for my embarrassment.  First, of the five kids in our household, I was the only bed wetter.  Even my two younger brothers, who were nine and twelve years younger than me, stopped wetting the bed before I did.  Yeah, I never heard the last of that.  My parents and older siblings reminded me often.

This made me very different in my family and socially unacceptable.

My bed wetting disorder automatically put me in a lower, child-like status within my family and directly impacted my self-confidence.

The bladder skill is the one thing that moves a child from the toddler to a big boy or girl status.  It’s a big accomplishment.  My lack thereof made me subject to punitive words, punishment, jokes, and ridicule.  For about 15 years, I dealt with this on a weekly, almost daily basis.  Not to mention my own embarrassment of waking up another morning in a wet bed.

My bed wetting really set off my step-father and siblings at times.

My sister and I shared a room.  She was probably my worst tormentor.  We were very close.  But she also knew how to hurt me.  She laughed at me, called me names, told me she wanted her own room because I made the room stink from my pee-filled bed.  Her words would seep into my mind and remind me often that I was faulty.

My step-father, who gave me the nick-name, Squirt, also hated this uncontrollable trait about me.  I think at first he thought it was a passing phase.  I was five years old when he and my mother began to date.

I remember him telling me that he would call me, Squirt, until I stopped wetting the bed.  Of course, he never did stop calling me this.  And after he realized my bed wetting days were here to stay, he began to hate it.  So much so that my mother would try and hide my wet sheets from him so another bed wetting night would not set him off.

My step dad wouldn’t beat me.  But it was his eyes, his facial expression of disappointment, and at times disgust that seemed to prevent him from even looking at my face.  And then, there were his words that cut me deeper than any whooping.  This feeling would haunt me daily and for years to come.  Sometimes he blamed my mother for babying me too much as the reason for my bed wetting.  Other times, he blamed me.  In his mind, someone had to be the blame!  And it certainly wasn’t him.  It surely could not have been a medical condition.  In his mind (and others as well), it was psychological.

I was just acting out.  Too spoiled.  Too lazy to wake up.  Too scared to go to the bathroom.  Too immature.  None of which were true, by the way.

The truth is I was a very sound sleeper.  Mostly because of being mildly deaf in one ear and moderately deaf in my other ear.  I never felt the peeing sensation or my wet clothes or bed sheets until I woke up in the morning.  I woke up cold and wet.

My family believed that I could willfully choose to wet or not wet my bed.  They held onto this mistaken belief, making me feel as if I was doing this on purpose, like an attention getter.  Oh, ‘feel sorry for Karen,’ something they felt and cynically said without hesitation.  Trust me, the last thing a child wants to get is attention or ridicule for wetting their bed.  That’s common sense, 101!

While my bed wetting kept me from going over to a friend’s house once in awhile, when I was allowed, it was not without anxiety.  It was a gamble.  And most bets would have been against me.  We didn’t have pull-ups or adult diapers back then.  And while using those can be embarrassing too, waking up over a friend’s house in wet sheets or sleeping bag is far greater of an embarrassment.  Trust me.  I know!

When I did go for an overnight, whether it was at a friend’s or a relatives, I got the same talk, “Don’t wet the bed!”  Sometimes it was a pleading, “PLEASE, don’t wet the bed!”  Sometimes it was a threat, “You BETTER not wet the bed or you will NOT be allowed to go again!”  Or I was reminded that I may not be invited back because of my bed wetting.  The first question when I got in the car or got home was, “Did you wet the bed?”  All of which caused additional stress and anxiety.

I had wished many times it was that easy.  My childhood would have been much simpler without that one burden.  Think about it, what child in their right mind would want to wake up at a friend’s house or a slumber party among elementary, middle, or high school peers in wet sheets?  Anybody?  I didn’t think so.  But that was a reality for me.  I had “accidents” at all those places.

This is something that my parents or my family just did not get.  They thought by belittling me, embarrassing me, or making fun of me, that I would get tired of their daily antics and stop wetting the bed.  They just wanted me to stop wetting the bed!  What they didn’t realize is that I too wanted to stop wetting the bed but just didn’t know how.

Can you imagine waking up at slumber party with all your girlfriends and you realize your pajamas are wet.  The sheer fear sets in.  You start to scheme on how you can hide your wet bed from your friends.  You hope that you can go home without anyone noticing.  You quickly gather your bedding and take it to their parents in hopes they will keep your secret.  Then your mind quickly tries to create a reasonable story or excuse you can tell.  You explain why this happened as if this was an unusual circumstance.  It must have been all the sodas and snacks and lack of sleep that caused this accident and HOPE that they buy it.  Otherwise, Monday morning at school is going to be hell.  You will now be labeled as the girl who wets the bed.  And then your secret is out so not only your family can make fun of you but now you may become a joke at school too.  Then, paranoia sets in.  Isn’t that every pre-teenage girls dream?

I remember one time waking up from an overnight stay.  My friend’s mother realized I wet the bed.  She was calm while speaking with me.  She ask me if I wet the bed.  I told her I did.  She said that she had wished I would have told her about my bed wetting condition the previous night so she could have prepared.  What she didn’t understand is that bed wetting is a deep dark secret that families try to keep hidden from the general public.  There is shame associated with bed wetters and not just for the bed wetter themselves.  Parents and siblings don’t want relatives and friends to know they have a bed wetter in the family.

This mother was trying to be as compassionate as possible.  I could tell she was treading her words gingerly so as not to offend or hurt me deliberately.  I told her that I was hoping I wouldn’t wet the bed and that sometimes I don’t.  Then she said, “You’re mother should have told me.”  I think my mother was as embarrassed about it as I was.  Maybe even ashamed.

I have to say I have had some wonderful friends who knew about my bed wetting condition and still sincerely loved me.  And some of their parents were equally supportive.  I sometimes wished I could have switch parents back then.

My bed wetting would create arguments among my parents.  So literally, I was the reason my parents fought.  Not just my bed wetting but so many other things that were unique to me, unlike my siblings, caused my parents to erupt.  I will say my mother was the least to make fun of me.  Though, she did join in the laughter from time to time when my siblings made fun of my bed wetting.  I would look at her with hurtful eyes.  She would scoff it off.

My mother also took a lot of heat from my step dad, which my siblings and I felt bad about.  We were loyal to our mother.  Back then, I am sure my siblings may have even blamed me on some level, unconsciously or consciously, for the discord in our household.  But I no longer feel sorry for my mother.  She was an adult.  I was a child.  She had a choice and the power to be in a relationship.  I had no choice or power to stay or leave.  She was my parent.  I was her daughter.  She had a responsibility to protect me.  She could have stopped the torment but she chose not to do so.

Yes, of course!  I wet my bed for all this wonderful attention from my family and my friends.  Who wouldn’t?

The truth is, I wanted to be normal.  Or at the very least, treated like I was normal with support and understanding.  I couldn’t help that I was a bed wetter.

Maybe I had a week bladder.

Maybe I had primary nocturnal enuresis.

Maybe I experienced some trauma as an infant or as a child.  Soldiers have been known to come home from war and start wetting their bed, due to PTSD, who had no previous history of bed wetting.

There was a medical reason for my bed wetting but I may never know what it was.

Maybe that’s why I get it when others make fun of people or ridicule them or belittle or punish or judge or exclude them or kill them for standing up for something that has happened, beyond their control.

Maybe they are considered socially unacceptable.

Maybe their beliefs are considered different.

Maybe their clothes or skin color or disability make them different.

Maybe their neighborhood or economic status or both are tattered.

Maybe their story, their historical lineage comes with tainted fabric.

Maybe they were abandoned by their family, their people, or their country, or maybe all three.

Maybe they’re reminded daily of the troubled past and injustices and hate.

Maybe they’re blamed for something that was out of their control.

Maybe no one protected them.

Maybe no one helped them.

Maybe no one understood.

Maybe they never received credit for all they accomplished.

Maybe others believed in the lies instead of the truth.

Maybe all they ever wanted was a chance.

Maybe…just maybe…there is more to the story…

Karen 1977

 

America, You Have An Adoption Problem.

velvet bocephus

Dear America,

I spent the first 16 years of my adoption experience as a “birth” mother in complete isolation. It was preceded by the nearly 10 months of family-conducted isolation during my pregnancy. Such is the life of a shamed pregnant teenager. I had personally never known either an adopted person or a natural mother. I thought my mother and the adoption agent, with whom she colluded, sounded like they were full of shite, but how was I to know any different? By the time I delivered my precious girl, my efforts to keep her via parenting classes at a local pregnancy center and accumulation of baby necessities (all returned by my mother) only proved my selfishness. I would be selfish having only love to offer a child. Ultimately, it was the threat of homelessness by my parents that definitively made my adoption “choice”. My greatest fear at the time was my daughter being placed in foster care due…

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Dear Adoption, You Made Me The Great Pretender

IMG_4227.JPGDear Adoption, You Made Me The Great Pretender

Oh yes, I’m the great pretender
Pretending I’m doing well
My need is such
I pretend too much
I’m lonely but no one can tell
Oh yes, I’m the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
I play the game but to my real shame
You’ve left me to dream all alone
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal…

Ram, Buck (1955). The Great Pretender [Recorded by The Platters].
     [Record]. Chicago: Mercury Record Corporation.

Why do I say that you made me The Great Pretender? Well, let’s start at the beginning. At about a week old, I went to go live with the people who became my parents. I became their only child, “as if” born to them. The paperwork with your name, “Order of Adoption”, said so. Yet…

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The Implications of Forgiveness

(Please note: the original version appears to have been lost.  The title was still here but the rest of the blog post was blank.  I’m not sure how or why it happened.  My apologies to anyone who visited this site or this blog post.)

I’ve been thinking about the word “forgiveness” and the act thereof.  We hear it, see it and feel someone’s desire to implore forgiveness over others quite frequently it seems.  Friends, family, coworkers, our church or place of worship, teachers, and the media are all filled with conversations about forgiveness.

Personally, I think some of us try to simplify the act of forgiveness.  There are so many layers of forgiveness, so many various acts and consequences.  It seems we get the whole forgiveness premise mixed-up.   It can be quite complicated.

I used to work with someone whose mother died when she was five years old.  Her name is Micah.  Micah said the one thing that bothered her over the years is how people would tell her they ‘were sorry’ after she told them her mother died when she was five.  She said she got tired of hearing it and would often avoid telling others.  Micah said she couldn’t understand why people were sorry.

It does seem strange how we can so easily tell someone that we’re sorry for something that was no fought of our own.  We say we are sorry to show or convey our compassion for someone.  For Micah, I think since she was so young when her mother died, hearing the same response repeatedly over the years probably seemed more like an automatic response rather than a sincere condolence.  For her, someone saying I am sorry was the same as someone apologizing for a wrongful act.

When Jaren was around five years old, we were having dinner at an Outback Steakhouse near Austin, Texas.  We had been traveling all day, from Dallas, and were on our way back home when we stopped there for dinner.  Towards the end of our meal, Jaren began to vomit.  Then he began to projectile vomit.  With a packed house of customers, I quickly gathered Jaren and scurried to the bathroom.  One of the staff members came in the bathroom to ask me if everything was okay.  I told her my son was sick and apologized for the disruption.  She could see that Jaren’s clothes were wet.  She showed great compassion to me and my son.  She said they would clean up our table.

Jaren was overcome with emotion.  Although I had remained calm with deep concern for my son and never scolded him, he began saying, “I’m sorry, Momma.  I’m sorry, Momma.”  He was almost in tears.  I repeatedly told him that it was not his fault.  I told him he could not help it that he was sick.

I was concerned about Jaren not having spare clothes to wear home.  A few minutes later, the staff member returns with an Outback Steakhouse T-shirt for Jaren and an Outback bag for Jaren’s wet clothes.  She apologizes to me because she says they only have a large.  I graciously thank her and Outback for their kindness.  I put the t-shirt on Jaren, which covers him completely.  Then we gingerly walk to our table looking around wearily.  I am prepared for an evil eye or a remark from someone.  I pay the check and gather our belongings.  As we walked out, trying to make as little eye contact as possible, I sense compassion from patrons.

To this day, I still wonder why Jaren felt he needed to apologize.   I think he felt compassion for the others eating and he felt bad about what happened.  At that moment, I felt like it was a pivotal moment in his childhood.  One that could have an impact on his emotional well-being.  I needed to convey to  him so that he understood that he had no control over what happened and that it was in no way his fought.

 

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In Christianity, we have several stories that are used to provide an example of forgiveness.  One parable has a traumatic story.  The other appears to be an average familial story.  Both stories involve jealousy, greed, and ego.

Let’s take a look at the Prodigal Son story.

We have one son who lavishly wastes his father’s inheritance.  When he has nothing left, he returns home.  Ashamed of himself and his actions, he asks his father if he can return to the family as a servant.  To his surprise, his father welcomes him back home, not as a servant but as his son.  He even celebrates his son’s return.  The older son is upset with his father for welcoming back his younger brother and celebrating his return.  The father explains to his older son that he will in fact inherit everything almost as if he needs to insure his older son that the return of the younger brother will not financially impact his inheritance.

In this parable, we have three parts to forgiveness.

First, we must realize that neither the father nor the older brother searched for the younger brother who left home with his inheritance.  Forgiveness is not seeking out and searching for someone so you can forgive them, especially someone who does not want nor seek someone’s forgiveness.

Second, when the younger son returns, he is not cocky or proud.  He does not shout or complain to the family that they should forget about what happened, get over it, or move on.  No, he is actually the exact opposite.  He has been humbled by his experience.  He comes home submissively.  He knows his choices have consequences.  And he has prepared himself for those consequences.

Third, we have a father willing to forgive because he sees his son’s heart has been humbled.  His father believes his son is truly sorry and has learned from his experience.  And… he is his son.  It is easy for a parent to forgive their child.  But the older brother on the other hand doesn’t really care that his younger brother is truly sorry or humbled.  His jealousy prevents him from forgiving his younger brother initially.

In the other story, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, jealousy again appears to be a factor between the brothers.  The brothers decide to take drastic matters.  First, they planned to kill Joseph.  Then, they put him in a well but had planned to rescue him later.  Then they decided to sell him.

Joseph goes from being a slave to second in command and a ruler over the land of Egypt.

Twenty some years later, Joseph’s ten older brothers come to buy food in his land.  They don’t recognize Joseph, who is now dressed as a prince and seated on a throne.  Joseph recognizes them.  However, Joseph is not ready to make amends just yet and decides to not disclose who he is to his brothers.

The story then tells us that Joseph wished to be sharp and stern with them to test them.  He wanted to see if they were still selfish and cruel.  The story unfolds much slower than the Prodigal Son story.  Joseph is not easy to forgive.  And who can blame him.  His story is much more traumatic than that of the prodigal son.    Still, Joseph has a desire to forgive his brothers.  So he continues to test them until he realizes that his brothers are truly sorry and no longer cruel and selfish.

Again, as in the Prodigal Son story, Joseph never search for his family who wronged him.  Surely he could have.  He was pretty powerful and had lots of resources.  He could have gone home and told his brothers that he forgave them without them offering an apology to him.  He could have gloated about his position and his wealth.  He could have used his power and demanded they show remorse.  Or he could have punished them.  But he didn’t.  Joseph didn’t allow what his brothers did to him make him hard, resentful, hateful and cruel.  Joseph remained humble and true to his heart and to his God.  He continued moving forward with his life.  Joseph knew his worth as a human being.  Not as a powerful ruler over Egypt but as a messenger of God.  It seemed that God was working through Joseph and had big plans for him.

Another thing to point out is that Joseph didn’t forgive his brothers at the first sight of them.  Before Joseph could forgive his brothers, he needed to be sure they were truly sorry and not the same as before.  Forgiveness did not come forth as easily for Joseph’s brothers as it did for the prodigal son.  Only after Joseph was sure his brothers were not selfish and cruel was he able to forgive them.  His brothers were sincere in their humility.  They were submissive in his presence and sincerely remorseful for their actions.

For me, when I hear Jesus speak about forgiveness, these are the elements I think about.

I believe that if someone is truly repentant of their actions that caused us harm and apologizes, then we have an obligation to forgive them.  Truly forgive.  However, if it becomes a repetitive cycle, as in abuse, that’s a very different story.  When a person is truly sorry and remorseful for their actions, they don’t retreat back to cruel or selfish acts over and over again.

On the other hand, we may or may not ever hear an apology or an admission of guilt or remorse from a person who directly or indirectly harmed us.  However, we cannot allow what happen to freeze or burden us with anger and hatred.  Whether or not we ever get an apology or are given an opportunity to forgive, we cannot allow the actions of someone else who meant us harm to keep us from our good.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

 

 

Halves and Whole

 “And you know I ain’t never wanted no half nothing in my family.” ~Fences quote

Best line and scene in this movie and one that brought tears for me.

I am also a family of halves with no full biological sibling while my other siblings (three sets) that I grew up with each had one of theirs.  And yes, we said your dad and my dad and your mom and my mom.  Even our halves had halves.  Our family is convoluted.  And I didn’t want that for my kids or my family.

Growing up, my siblings often reassured me that they didn’t think of me as a half sibling but the facts were there.  We didn’t always do things together as whole.

The family pics were split.  Some with just the whole siblings and some by ourself/myself and some together with the halves.  As a little girl, I didn’t always understand.  I didn’t know why I had to get out of the picture.  Our mom would tell us, this was for their dad or their grandparents, but at the time, I was 4 or 5 and I was the only one being excluded.  I didn’t always understand why “they” (whoever they were), didn’t want me in their picture.  I remember once, our mother letting me and my half sister take a picture together.  It was clear it was to appease me and my insecurities.

Some of the moms, dads, or grandparents were actively involved and some were not.  That’s hard to explain to children and a hard pill for them to swallow.

When my brother died and made his will, I was the only one left out, while his full blooded sister and our shared father were both included.  It did hurt.  I didn’t care about the money.  He could have left me $20.00 or a family heirloom.  But it was the fact that there was no mention of me at all.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped for my boys.  I still grapple with the intent of my family to sever my ties with my youngest son.  But at least my sons have a full-blooded sibling.  They have the same biological mother and father.  And they have each other.

I know if anything happened to me, that Noah’s parents would adopt Jaren into their family as well.