Category Archives: Adoption

Filling My Backpack - Empty backpack on grey background

Filling My Backpack

Filling My Backpack - Empty backpack on grey backgroundMore than once in my life I have been asked if I ever wanted to find my biological parents, and if so, why? People have said “You have a family, aren’t they enough? Why do you need to find these other people? Just be happy that you had a good life.” And I get where people are coming from. From the outside, looking in I can see how it may appear that I was searching for some sort of replacement. It may look like I didn’t think my family was  enough. Honestly, that’s not the case AT ALL (and I don’t speak for all adoptees, but I don’t think that’s the case for almost all of us) My family has always, and will always be enough. These are the people who raised me, cared for me, gave me everything I ever wanted, supported me through every dream, and every heartache I ever had. They are my family and always will be. I love them unconditionally.

Now here’s the “but” This is something hard to describe to anyone who is not adopted, but … There has always been a missing piece. A part of my history – my identity -that I had no access to. Vital information that nobody could provide. It’s not a “hole” exactly. I, as a person, wasn’t empty. I had everything I needed to fill up my soul.  But…I guess, you could look at it like a backpack. Everyone has this backpack, and inside it are files, and photos, and information. My backpack was pretty much empty.

For example, in school when  they’d talk about heritage and family trees, everyone would open up their “backpack” and pull out the files about where their family came from, what nationality they were. I could guess that I was Irish because of my fair skin, but that never felt right because I didn’t really know. I could use my family’s history and say I was Italian and Norwegian because my dad is, or German, French, English, and Irish because my mom is, but that didn’t feel right either because I wasn’t those things. Their DNA wasn’t my DNA, and I felt like a fraud claiming their heritage. Everyone else in class just knew. Everyone else in class had a backpack full of information.

Mine was empty.

Every doctor’s appointment I ever went to they’d ask me to give a family history. But I’d open my backpack and there’d be nothing to tell them. “I’m adopted…so…I don’t know…” Everyone else has those files in their backpack, they can pull them right up and say “Yes, my mom had cancer, my dad had heart disease, my grandmother had a thyroid condition, my uncle had a genetic condition.” I had “Biological mother allergic to strawberries and tomatoes.” That never got me very far. Doctors tend to roll their eyes at patients with empty backpacks. Doctors like to have a place to start when diagnosing medical conditions.

All I could give them was an empty backpack, and my apologies for making their jobs harder.

My backpack didn’t have the photos showing who I looked like, where I got my blue eyes or my dimples, or strawberry-blonde hair. My backpack had no photos, while everyone else had full albums.

And everyone else was always adding to their backpacks, while mine stayed empty.

What my backpack DID have were little scraps of paper with words like “unwanted” and “unlovable,” “given up” and “abandoned” Little reminders of that first trauma that would fall out every time I opened that backpack

My empty backpack has affected every relationship I have ever had. Friends, family, boyfriends, coworkers, every single relationship. Even my own child. Avery was my first blood relative. The first person I could look at and see myself looking back.  Having Avery was profoundly healing in ways I never imagined, but it also picked at that primal wound. Having a child added some items to my backpack, but it also reminded me of the things that were missing.

In searching for my biological family, I have just wanted to fill my backpack, to have access to the same information that everyone else has access to.

But in finding them, I have gotten so much more. While those little scraps of paper are still there, and will likely always be there, they are smaller, and don’t fall out quite as often. Because now, when I open my backpack, they aren’t the only things inside. Now those scraps are at the bottom of my backpack, under the photos, and the medical history folder, and the family tree.

My search was never about replacing anyone. It was never about finding something NEW or BETTER. It was always about finding MORE. It was always a search for MORE information. But, through this search I have found even more than that. I have found MORE people who love me. MORE people who want me.

And MORE of my story to fill my backpack.

Teach Our Children Well

teach-our-children-well

Teachers have the power to change lives. Really.  They have the power to guide, to inspire,to nurture. Teachers have an impact on their students not just in the 180ish days they have them in class, but forever. That impact can be, and often is a positive one, but it can also be negative and damaging. This is especially true, and especially important (I feel) for elementary educators to realize.  As Voltaire (and Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility!”

A friend shared an article about a 1st grader who had her shoes thrown in the trash by her teacher.  Yeah, you read that right. HER TEACHER threw her shoes in the trash can, made her walk around barefoot all day, and at the end of the day allowed her to get her shoes out of the trash. Why?  because she was fidgeting. The little girl, who is 6 years old, said the strap on her shoes was bothering her, and that’s why she was messing with them.  You can read the full story HERE (There is more to this story that I am going to delve into…specifically the racism aspect.  I mention it because it is an important issue, and absolutely plays a role in this story, and is something we all need to think about, and learn about, and change)

Reading about this little girl made me think back to my own elementary school experience. I was blessed to have a great kindergarten teacher, an INCREDIBLE first grade teacher who started me on my journey and nurtured my love of learning.  Second grade was…eh…my teacher was friends with my grandmother, and liked me (or at least seemed to) however I saw then that teachers didn’t always like all their students and some of them didn’t try to hide it.  A friend of mine was a little bit immature for her age. By that I mean, she struggled a bit more with being away from her mom all day. She would cry if she got an answer wrong or someone accidentally knocked down her tower of blocks. She was very shy, very quiet. But she was also one of the sweetest most kind girls I knew. It was just one of those “all kids are different” things.  I remember on may occasions, our teacher would become annoyed with this student, and she would snap at her to “stop crying” or tell her to “stop acting like a baby” It always made me uncomfortable, and sad for my friend. It didn’t seem right, but we were very young, so we obviously weren’t going to question our teacher.

In third grade things changed for me.

At some point at the beginning of the year, we were assigned to reading groups. There were two groups. I sat in my group and listened to the other students struggle with reading. It was not something I had expected. I guess I was a pretty advanced reader. I’m not bragging, we all learn at a different pace, but reading and reading comprehension just came very easy to me. I had already read Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain and was ready to start Congo (My parents left books in the bathroom and I’d read in there—don’t act like you all didn’t have bathroom books!!) I just loved reading. (Math was a different story–like I said, we all have our own pace and at 34 I’m still trying to catch up to most 5th graders in the math skills department!)

I went home and told my mom about the reading groups, and how some of my friends in my group couldn’t read. Confused, and curious about why I was in that group, she did what she thought was right and called my teacher.  My teacher told her something about how I needed extra help or wasn’t up to the level I should be (despite scoring a perfect score on the CAT Test for reading)

I guess my mother overstepped her bounds…I guess this teacher thought she knew it all, and was not going to be called out by a concerned parent (who also happened to be a teacher)

The next day, that teacher and her bruised ego decided to make me pay.

She called me up, and told the class that I thought I was smarter than everyone, a better reader, and had my mom call to move me into the other reading group.  (she would do something similar when I struggled with my timed division sheets–and made me sit at a desk alone–away from the rest of the class– and do them over and over and over, while she made sure everyone knew “For some reason, Sarah just doesn’t get it!”)

I was humiliated. She took a girl who LOVED school, LOVED learning, and made me dread waking into her classroom.

And it changed me even more than I realized, until I started thinking about it today, 25 years later.

The way she humiliated me, and continued to treat me that school year didn’t just change how I viewed her. It changed how I viewed myself.

I was never a child who’s self worth came from being popular or pretty. Those things didn’t matter to me much. Being smart, artistic, a good friend, brave…those were the things that mattered to me. But this teacher made me feel worthless in spite of my good qualities.

And because of that, I wanted to make sure that no teacher ever thought that I was worthless again.

I became almost desperate to be the teachers pet. I needed my teachers to like me the most so that they’d never humiliate me in front of the class.  I thought that my third grade teacher must have hated me, because why else would you try to tear someone down—BULLY someone—the way she did. I clearly wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t likeable. Something was wrong with me.

This need to be the favorite followed me through elementary school to middle school, to high school and college.

I’d offer to clean tables, stay after school to help make copies, teacher having surgery?  I’ll be the one collecting money to send flowers. I baked cookies and cupcakes. I brought gifts for every holiday, every event. Because I needed to be liked.  And I know I probably never needed to do ANY of that, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

Elementary school, middle school, high school and college…

And it even follows me now, through Avery. I want her teachers, coaches, doctors, friend’s parents, everyone to love her because I never want anyone to humiliate her the way I was humiliated.

This teacher had such a major impact on me, and she doesn’t even know it. I wonder how many other kids she damaged in her many years of teaching. Fortunately she didn’t destroy my love of learning, I still love to learn new things every day. But, I imagine other children, treated this way, may shut down, and start to hate school.

It also didn’t help that as an adopted kid, I already had some serious abandonment issues. As a kid who already had a deep need to be liked, loved, and wanted by the adults around her the actions of this teacher cut even deeper.

And that’s the thing, teachers, you don’t always know everything about your students. You don’t always know what is going on at home, or what is going on in that child’s heart and head. But you should know how to treat people. You should know that it is wrong to single out a student. It is wrong to humiliate a child.  And if you think it is ok, you shouldn’t be in the profession. You shouldn’t work with people at all, really.

As a teacher, you are in a position of power, but remember that you also have a great responsibility to the children you teach. Teach them love. Teach them that they are worthy. Teach them that they are smart. Teach them that they can do anything. Teach them well.

 

 

 

Celebrate The Hell Out Of It

20032_252719096451_3066110_nYesterday was my birthday.  If you know me in “real life” you know how much I LOVE my birthday. I’m like a kid. I look forward to it, and as soon as the calendar flips to March, I pretty much go crazy. BIRTHDAY MONTH!!!!  I celebrate Birthday Week, meaning that the whole week is MINE haha We go out to dinner, we go to the movies, we celebrate!

I love my birthday.

I also understand how blessed I am to be celebrating another year.  In March of 2010, I worried I may not see another birthday. Diagnosed with a spinal lesion that could have been any number of truly terrible things, including cancer, I thought that birthday could be my last. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

So many people do not get to celebrate another year. Think of those who would do anything, ANY THING, for one more year (or even one more DAY) with a loved one who has passed. What a kick in the gut it is to them when you say “UGH!  I hate my birthday! One year closer to death!”

A birthday is not one year closer to death, a birthday is one more year of LIFE.  Celebrate the hell out of it!

So, I LOVE my birthday.

But, my Birthday is not just the day of my birth. It’s the day of a trauma. A day of loss. My deepest wound. The day I was given up for adoption. Abandoned.

While I have never felt bitter, or angry about my adoption, there is absolutely no denying that it has had an impact on me in the deepest way possible. A primal wound.  A wound that cannot be seen, it cannot be treated.

For adopted kids and adults, birthdays can bring up such mixed emotions. For me, I never even thought of my birthday as being the day I was “given up” until I was an adult, and had a child of my own.  It wasn’t until I became a mother that the deeper emotions surrounding my adoption started making their way to the surface. The boiling point.

My birthday is the day I was born. It is also the day I was taken from my biological mother, into the arms of a social worker, and then put into the arms of a foster mother.  It was a day that my life changed course in a dramatic way, before it had even really started.

It is the day I lost the first and only person I knew. My source of life. The person who, for 9 months, carried me, protected me, and I have to believe, loved me.

Now, as I’ve written before, I know my birth mother didn’t throw me out like trash. I know she didn’t abandon me. I know she made a good choice. A hard choice. The best choice. For both of us. But, despite knowing that, the wound is still there. There are still feelings of abandonment. So many feelings.

Since I do not know her, I have never been able to ask her Why?  To hear, from her, why she did this.

Without hearing it from her, it is very hard to reconcile the feelings I have.  Though, I suppose, even hearing it from her, even knowing, the wound may be too deep to heal. Perhaps knowing why would just be a band aid or worse, it could open the wound even more. I’ll probably never know.

On my birthday I celebrate, but I cannot help but think about that wound. That loss.

On March 8th, 1982 I was born, and suffered a great loss. On April 19th, 1982 I was reborn into the most amazing family, filled with love every day of my life. A family that taught me to celebrate life, a family that loved my birthday, and loved to celebrate me. And because of them, I love me, I love my birthday, and I will always celebrate the hell out of it!!

Missing Pieces

Growing up, I always knew I was adopted. There was never any real pain, or strong emotion connected to my status as an adoptee. I mean, of course, there were the underlying abandonment issues, but I didnt really understand those feelings, or where they came from until I was older. In high school, I worried my best friends would find new best friends, so I’d push and push and push to see how much they could take. In college and beyond, I worried my boyfriends would leave me, so I left them before they had the chance. But that’s really a topic worthy of it’s own blog post.

I had so much love at home, and my family was amazing, but I always felt like I was missing something.  From the outside, it is hard for anyone to understand why it would matter, but I missed having a blood relative.  I had my family, but I was still alone.  I looked enough like the rest of my family to “pass” and nobody would ever even guess I was adopted, but I always yearned to have a biological connection. I couldn’t wait until I had a child of my own to finally have someone who was a part of me. Someone I shared DNA with.

Then, I got pregnant.

I knew I was pregnant, right away. I also knew, with 100% certainty, that I was having a girl. It was the most incredible  feeling, knowing I’d have finally have that blood connection.

I’d wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember. It was really the only thing I was ever completely sure of in my life. I wanted to be a mom. And I embraced my pregnancy, and while I didn’t love being pregnant, I LOVED the idea of being a mother.

I wondered every day about my biological mother. What was pregnancy like for her?  I could only imagine how difficult it must have been for her, knowing she wouldn’t leave the hospital with me. Even if it was the best decision for her, even if she was confident in her choice, even if she did not want to be a mom, after carrying a baby for 9 months, letting them go has got to be impossibly difficult.

I felt sad that she had missed out on my entire life. I wondered if she ever had any other children. If she ever WANTED children at all. I also felt so blessed that I would have a child. A daughter. And I swore that I’d never miss out on any part of her life.

When I went into labor I felt nothing but excitement and joy.  I don’t remember even feeling nervous, I just couldn’t wait to meet my daughter. MY DAUGHTER. My Blood.

Once in the hospital though, things changed. From the very beginning, our plans went off the rails when the triage doctor felt that my blood pressure was “Too high” and they’d need to induce me, without discussing my options with me.

As a first timer, I trusted the doctors. What did I know?  They were the experts. I didn’t think my blood pressure was high, I didn’t want to be induced, but they were the experts.

Things continued to go wrong. My epidural didn’t work. Nobody believed me. My pain level was intolerable. Nobody listened to me. I screamed. I cried. I begged for it all to just stop. Just make it stop. Please.

I dug deep, I summoned every ounce of strength I had in me, and I pushed that baby out. Four pushes. I tore my body apart to get that baby out of me. Just get it out.

That Baby.

It.

Not my daughter. Not my precious girl. Not Avery. Just a baby. Just it.

They put that baby on my chest, a moment I expected to be the most beautiful perfect moment. A moment I had played over in my head a thousand times. The moment I met my daughter. My Blood.

I looked at that baby and in that moment, the only  thing I could think was “Thank God this is over. The pain is over”

The trauma of her birth destroyed me. It destroyed what should have been the greatest moment of my life. The trauma stole the bonding experience from me and set in motion years of depression and anxiety.

When I’ve shared my story, the response is often “But you had a healthy baby, that’s all that matters”  And yes, she was healthy, perfectly healthy. But that is not all that matters. A healthy baby does not always mean a healthy mom. Because of my birth experience, I was not a healthy mom. Far from it. And my healthy baby deserved a healthy mom.

I needed things to go right. I needed to have that amazing, miraculous bonding experience with my daughter…my blood. I didn’t get that. And it crushed me.

I know there is so much more to my story, and why I suffered from postpartum depression, anxiety and PTSD, but I know that my being adopted played a very significant role, just as it has played a significant role in ALL of my relationships.

Of course, I did love her. I love her so deeply. And I did everything I could to be the perfect mother for her. From torturing myself physically and emotionally in trying to breastfeed. Something that I now know, was never an option for me. I lost sleep with worry about her safety. I was on fire with the thought of her being sick, or being hurt, or something terrible happening to her, all day, every day. And again I felt alone.

I felt that nobody could possibly understand the way I was feeling. My husband couldn’t, He’d obviously never had a child before. My mom couldn’t, her experience as an adoptive mom was so different from mine. My friends couldn’t, even the ones who had kids wouldn’t understand my experience as an adoptee.  Again, I was alone.

With time, I let people in. I got beyond my fears, the anxiety started to let go, and eventually the happy days outnumbered the very very hard ones.

I often feel guilty that Avery’s life started off with trauma. I know that my start at life wounded me on a very deep and primal level, and I am sad to think of her feeling the impact of that. But I also know that neither of  those wounds, those traumas, are my fault. And I know that my love for Avery, and the bond we have can heal any wound.

‘Tis the Season for Family! Adoption – Adopt US Kids

AdoptUSKids

AdoptUSKids

The holidays are here! This time of year we focus so much on spending time with our families, and loved ones! This year, our little family will spend Christmas morning at home, and then head out to New York the next day to visit our extended family. There will be gifts, and music, food and games. But, most importantly, there will be the love that we share, and the wonderful feeling of being together as a family.Sadly, there are many kids who won’t experience that family togetherness and love this Christmas.There are currently 402,000 children in the foster care system in the United States and nearly 102,000 children waiting for adoption. Those numbers are staggering!

As an adoptee, myself, this cause touches my heart. I only spent 6 weeks in foster care, as an infant. The experience is very different for so many.  It is not rare for children to spend years in foster care, moving from one foster home to the next.

Many of these children have siblings who are also waiting.  In fact, 23% of children and youth actively photolisted on the AdoptUSKids website and waiting for placement in adoptive homes were registered with one or more siblings.  These sibling relationships are so, very important, especially for kids who are moving around in the foster care system. Their siblings are the only family they have, and the best gift is for them to be adopted together.

 While you are celebrating this season with your loved ones, opening presents, please think of the hundreds of thousands of beautiful children who only want one thing for Christmas.  A family.
You can help make these Christmas wishes come true through adoption.  You can also help by sharing these PSAs with your friends and family https://www.youtube.com/user/adoptuskids!
If you would like to learn more about adoption, or about becoming an adoptive parent to a child from foster care, please visit www.AdoptUSKids.org or visit the campaign’s communities on Facebook and Twitter.

For children in foster care available for adoption, and for whom no adoptive family has been identified, the AdoptUSKids national photolisting website serves as a tool for connecting their caseworkers with prospective adoptive families. Over the last decade, 20,000 children previously photolisted on AdoptUSKids have been placed with adoptive families. AdoptUSKids is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Administration for Children and Families. See the full-size infographic

Infographic for AdoptUSKids Celebrating 20,000 Children Placed With Adoptive Families

 

If You’re Reading This…

I’ve been searching for you…if you’re reading this, you probably already know that, and that’s probably why you’re here.

In case you don’t, or can’t read anything further, just know this; I am not mad at you. I hold no anger or resentment in my heart for you, or for what you did. Whatever the reason, whatever your feelings, I’m grateful. Maybe you wanted to keep me but just couldn’t or  maybe you just didn’t want to be a mother. Either way, you made the right decision.

You gave me life, and the life I had was wonderful. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I hope that you have thought about me, wondered how my life turned out.  Wondered who I was, who I am.

I hope.

As a mother now myself, I can’t imagine that you don’t want to know, even if knowing is the most difficult thing that could ever happen…

If you’re reading this, I want you to know.

I had a really great life.  My mom and dad are amazing. My mom is incredibly caring, compassionate and creative. My dad is hilarious and brilliant. They are both hard workers, and wonderful people. Being their daughter has been a blessing.

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You obviously had no way of knowing where I’d end up or with whom, but you knew my life would be better with someone else.  Maybe you felt that your life would be better too, and I hope it has been. I hope you’ve had just as wonderful a life as I’ve had.

I’ve known since day one that I was adopted.  I don’t think there was ever a time that my parents told me, it was just always something I knew. I knew and I loved it.  I loved having that one little thing that made me different. I bragged about it. I told anyone who would listen. I always thought it was so cool, and I still do.

I always found it funny when people would comment about how much I looked like my nana (I did–we had the same little pug nose) We’d be out in public and someone would say “Oh Lois, she’s definitely your granddaughter! She looks just like you!” and we’d give each other a little look, and thank them. She always told me it was best to let them think that, rather than to embarrass them with the truth.  Though, sometimes, it was fun to embarrass people.

There were a few occasions where people did not believe that I was adopted.  In fact, a fight nearly broke out between two of my friend’s moms at a school spaghetti dinner. Another time my teacher called my mom to tell her I was telling kids I was adopted (we’d talked about it during a social studies lesson)

Like I said, I was always happy to be adopted. As an adult I’ve been told about what your reasons may have been, but as a child, I always made them up. I had this romanticized idea of the situation. You were famous…he was famous…maybe it was a Romeo and Juliet thing. Two lovers who just couldn’t be together, their families wouldn’t allow it. I searched for years for all the celebrities I could find who gave children up for adoption. I thought that, most likely, you were Joni Mitchell. I felt that you’d written Little Green for me. Ignoring the fact that the song was written more than 10 years prior to my birth. At one point I had my youngest cousin convinced that I was some kind of extraterrestrial being, that you were the Moon and my father, the Sun. I had a pretty big imagination.

If you’re reading this…

My life was great. There were trips to the cape and Disney World. Many visits to the zoo and the museum. I rode my bike, I swam, I tried gymnastics once, I had so many friends. My life was fun.

I was a really good kid. I never got in trouble, I got good grades, I was a teachers pet, I went to church, I volunteered, I was a girl scout.

I have always loved learning. No specific topics, just everything I could read about or research. I read my parents medical books cover to cover, multiple times. As an adult, Google is my favorite hobby. I love finding things out, and storing that info for a later date. I think I’d do really well on Jeopardy.

I went to college, and I went back to college, and then I went back again.  I love being in school. Some people have called me a degree collector. I wish I could study everything. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, I went to school and became a licensed massage therapist, I went back to school to work in the adventure travel industry. One of my biggest regrets is that I waited too long to consider Medical School.

I’ve worked. I worked in advertising, I’ve worked in marketing. In high school I cleaned rooms at a B&B. I’ve even worked at a florist shop, and thought I’d like to do that forever.  I’ve had many jobs, some wonderful and some terrible but the one I wanted most was to be a mom. All the other jobs were just ways to kill time before motherhood took over. Now I work from home ( and love what I do) in between my daughter’s activities.

Avery is 2 and a half and full of moxie and joy. The girl is cute, funny, exhausting, and smart. Dear lord is she smart! And I love every cell of her being and I know being her mom is exactly what I was meant to be.

My husband is also amazing. He’s a great man, incredible father,  hard worker and a blessing to me and our entire family.

Copyright Heather Chick Photography 2014

Copyright Heather Chick Photography 2014

I have all these dreams of the life I want for our family. I’ve always wanted to live on a farm. Not a real, working farm, mind you. Just a hobby farm.  I mean, I want the hundreds of acres, and tractors and big white farm house, but I don’t want to be up at 2 in the morning milking cows. I prefer to sleep til 10 or later. I just want a big, wrap around porch, a rocking chair, a glass of sweet tea, and my daughter playing in the yard with our dog. And maybe some chickens. Or a goat. Maybe. Definitely a horse.  And a restored, blue Ford pick up truck from the 40s,  that I can drive in to town.

I’m a country girl. The city isn’t for me (except Toronto, I love Toronto) I need green grass, and trees, rolling hills and mountains, creeks and lakes.

I hate cream cheese, and sour cream, and mayo. Maybe you do too.

I’m passionate. I love passionately and I hate passionately. There is rarely a “grey area” for me. I either love something or hate something. I’m creative, and funny. I’m generous to a fault (my bank account is not big enough to keep up with what my heart wants to give) I genuinely care about people. I also hate saying those things about myself. I feel like I’m bragging or something, so I guess maybe I’m modest, but I don’t think that’s the best way to describe me. I worry about things, a lot. I care about what other people think of me even though I always say I don’t. I want everyone to like me, and when someone doesn’t I lose sleep over it. I’m sensitive, but I can push it down, and be the rock for my family and friends. I’m great in an emergency. I have road rage. I can be argumentative, but I always try to fight fair. I have a love/hate relationship with politics.

I give money to homeless people, I give more if they have a pet.

I love animals. All animals. I even love bugs. With the exception of most spiders.

I love Disney World, and cupcakes, and the Boston Red Sox.

Most importantly, and above all else, I love my family and my friends.

And I love you for what you did. For giving me life. For making the right choice.

So, if you’re reading this, Thank you.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

 

If you are reading this, please reach out to me. Even if it’s just to say “I’ve read this” please give me that.  Please share some medical history information with me. I only know what you wrote on my adoption paper work; “Mother: strawberry & tomato allergy” (my daughter also has those allergies!) and “Paternal grandfather: Cancer” (I wish you’d said what kind,. Cancer scares me, so I’m hoping it was prostate or something I don’t have to worry about!)

I understand that you have a right to privacy, and I apologize if I’ve harmed that, however I have a right to know. To know where I came from, to know my medical history, to know who you were and who you are.  You made a choice, a good and wonderful choice, but I did not.  I didn’t have a say in how this all turned out. Nobody asked me what I wanted, and now I want to know. I want to have a say in this now, to choose what happens next. I want to know. I think I deserve that, I think my daughter deserves it, and I think you deserve it as well.

So, please, please contact me…

…if you’re reading this…

Questions About Adoption

I am often asked questions about adoption by people who are pursuing or considering adoption as a way to grow their family. The questions are usually the same over and over, and the the answers sometimes come as a surprise to the parents.  I thought I’d take a moment to answer the most common questions here, in case others are out there, searching the web looking for answers.

 

adoption poem not flesh of my flesh
“Should we do an open or closed adoption?”

-This is a decision that you need to think long an hard about. I can see pros and cons in both.  My adoption, like all through New York State Child and Family Services, was completely closed. For me, that was always fine and I never wished it had been any other way. That said, as an adult, I do wish that it were easier to access my family history and to contact my biological family.

I recommend talking to families in both situations. You need to be certain of what you are comfortable with. If you choose an open adoption, you will need to come to an agreement with the birth parents about what is/is not appropriate. Will they speak to your child only on the phone, or will you invite them to Birthday parties or over for dinner?  How much access are you willing to give them.  Also know that this may change as your child gets older. They may want more or less contact with their birth parents.

 

“Should we adopt a baby or an older child?”

-This is another personal decision.  There are so many different issues that come from each type of adoption.  You may have to wait a very long time for an infant (especially if you are pursuing a domestic adoption through social services) With an infant you start with a “clean slate” so to speak.  They are yours from “day one” (I was 6 weeks old)  An older child may have more emotional issues (I say MAY because not all do, I have to be very clear on this. EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT) but unfortunately, the system can be harsh and have a serious impact on the children who are in it. That said,  there are hundreds of thousands of older children in the US who need families and adopting an older child can be an incredible blessing for your family.  Either way you are giving a very deserving child a loving home, so there is no wrong or right here.

 

“How much does it cost?”

-That depends.  Most state agencies do not charge anything.  My adoption, through Child and Family Services, for example, was *Free* however there are attorney’s fees and court costs involved.  If you adopt through a private agency, or internationally there will most likely be fees, however those vary by agency.

 

“Should we adopt Domestically or Internationally?”

-This is a very personal decision.  There can be pros and cons for both, but you need to decide what will be best for your family.  There are different costs involved with each, as mentioned above. With International adoption you must factor in the travel (sometimes multiple trips) as well as fees for Visas/Passports and agency fees. If adopting privately in the US you may have to pay for health care for the biological mother, or other living expenses. However, as was the case with me, you may pay nothing but attorney and court fees.

Then there are the wait times.  Internationally this can vary by country. In the US it may vary by agency. You may have to wait for a biological mother to “choose” you, or you may just have to wait for a child to become available. It can take years (in either case) or it could take days (as was the case in my adoption.)

Another consideration is medical history. With domestic adoption there tends to be more access to those histories.

There are also legal issues unique to each type of adoption, I am not knowledgeable enough about the legal system to truly address these issues, but if you are considering adoption, you should absolutely seek the advice of an attorney who specializes in International or Domestic adoption.

I am a proponent of Domestic adoption, because of my personal experience, and knowing how many children we have in the foster care system in the US (In the U.S. 400,540 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system.  115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 19)  However, I also fully respect and support a family’s decision to pursue International adoption. There is no “right” answer to this question, it is all about what you feel in your heart.

 

“Will our child have abandonment issues?”

-The short answer? (and my strong personal opinion)  Yes.  Yes they will.  I have spoken to parents of adopted children who have told me “oh no, not my child he/she is very well adjusted and doesn’t have any feelings of abandonment”  I usually just say “oh that’s great!”  The truth is either they aren’t telling their parents, or they haven’t realized it yet.  Those feelings can come up at any time, and they will.  I hate saying it, but, I can almost completely guarantee it. If you are not adopted you can’t understand it (Most parents of adopted children do not understand it either) These feelings are incredibly deep rooted, and can manifest in different ways for each child (or adult)

I am a “very well adjusted” woman. My parents always showed me pure, unconditional love, however there has always been that “something” a feeling of loss, a feeling of losing again. For me it manifested itself in my relationships both with close friends and with boyfriends. I pushed people to their limits to see if they would abandon me. If they did I’d think “I knew it, I knew they wouldn’t stick around” and if they didn’t, I’d push harder until they did. It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20s that I realized what I was doing, and was able to work through it.

 

“Should we tell our child he/she is adopted?”

-100% absolutely, yes. Adoption isn’t something you should lie about or hide or cover up. It will only end up hurting your child in the end. The truth will come out, it always does. And you risk losing the trust of your child completely.

 

“What should we tell our child about their biological parents?”

-Again this decision is personal. Odds are pretty good that your child will ask.  I believe in being honest and telling them what you know (if you know anything)

 

“Will they try and find their biological parents?”

-They may, they may not. I know many adoptees who have no desire to search for their birth parents.   I also know many who have searched, and found their birth parents.

It is also important to let your child (I say child, but I know most adoptees who start the search are older)  know that it is ‘ok’ if they want to pursue a search. Many children (and adults) may avoid a search for fear of hurting their parents. Let your children know that you understand that this is important to them, and that you know they aren’t looking to replace you.

Also, give them your support. A search can be extremely emotional. They may find that their biological parents have died, or that they do not want to meet them. They will need your support.

 

“Will our child feel like they are different from the rest of our family?”

-This is a difficult, but important question. They may. It will depend on many factors.  Your child may be of a different race, and they will be aware of that. It is your job to teach them the beauty in their differences.  Even if your child is of the same race, they will have differences. For me, I was the pale little Irish girl who got a sunburn by looking at a picture of the sun. My Father is of Italian and Norwegian decent and my mother is a mix of French, German, Native American, English and more. Both of them have dark hair, both of them get incredibly tan in the summer (especially my mom!) It was clear that I was “different” that said, my family never made me feel like an outsider.  I was never “the adopted one” I took pride in being adopted, but I also took pride in being a part of my family. I will say, I do look like my cousins on my mother’s side, and everyone always commented on how much I looked like my nana (I have her nose haha)

It is your role as a parent to ensure that your child knows they are 100% part of the family. That they are 100% loved and that they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are.

 

“Is it biological mother? Birth mother? Natural mother? Which is it?”

-Go with whatever works for you.  I prefer biological mother, but will sometimes use birth mother.  I personally dislike “Natural Mother” because to me, it implies that there is something unnatural about adoption, and while I understand that giving birth is the natural way to motherhood the term just doesn’t sit well with me.

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I hope this answers a few of the questions you may be asking.  If you are a parent considering adoption and have other questions or would like to discuss anything further, please contact me.  I would love to talk with you!

 

Here are a few books that I have read and think all adoptive parents should read:

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed..Discover the Unique Need of Your Adopted Child and Become the Best Parent You Can by Sherrie Eldridge

Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self by David M. Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schecter, Robin Marantz Henig

 

 

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