Listen.

People often ask me how I function being both adoptee and a mother of loss. The truth is, life was easier before. I could never connect the dots. Missing my daughter made sense but missing my mother was an elusive ghost. I didn’t have a name for it. How could I miss someone I never knew? Why would I long for her if I already had a wonderful family?   But, I did.

I was the master of distraction, constantly running, especially when I felt my momentum start to betray me. I surrounded myself with people and movement and noise. Sometimes I would work out twice a day. Keep moving. If I didn’t have an activity, I had a project to keep me occupied. Keep going. If I kept the volume of life loud enough then I couldn’t hear the persistent sound of despair.

I spent my 30’s searching for a diagnosis as an explanation but no doctor would give me one. My older brother worked for Mayo and one year at Christmas he thought it would be nice to give me the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. This book is HUGE, bigger than the Bible. It contains every physical ailment and mental illness known to man- with photos. Upon receiving this nightmare of a gift I started diagnosing myself with new disorders/illnesses and on several different occasions, drove myself to the emergency room. I was never given more than a couple bags of saline and a prescription for Xanax (which I never filled but probably should’ve). I knew they were missing something. But really, how do ER doctors diagnose adoption trauma? I had ALL the symptoms, I just didn’t know it had a name.

I had no idea there were thousands of other adoptees and mothers that felt this way. An army of grief: they had lost their mothers or their children. I had lost both. It wasn’t until I found community, support, and my mother that I finally began to mend. And that didn’t happen until I was 45 years old. If I’d had the information back then that I have now everything would’ve made sense, not just for me, but also for the family that raised me.

Today my overwhelming concern is for young adoptees and their parents. Teenage adoptees attempt suicide four times greater than non adoptees (Academy of Pediatrics). Adopted and foster teens /adults are the highest minority of people to be over represented in mental health facilities and prisons. Every time I hear of another adoptee suicide it sends panic through me. It’s avoidable! The trauma occurs at separation. If we support family preservation and view adoption as a last resort then we will lower these alarming numbers. Adoptive parents need to understand this prior to adopting a child. They need to be educated about adoption related issues in order to help their children survive.

 
This week we learned that we lost sweet Jane. She was a beautiful, 14 year old Korean adoptee. She could no longer numb her pain so she took her life. It sent a ripple throughout our community even though none of us were surprised. We shake our heads in solidarity and think, ‘What did they really expect?‘ We must listen, for the children.

(photo by Anne Heffron)

Spring

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I just hung up the phone with my New York mom. She’s such a gift, so well adjusted and comfortable in her own skin. She pours her energy into me and I devour it with an insatiable hunger. This is the nourishment I’ve been deprived of my entire life and she willingly provides it. My jeans finally fit again. They’ve always been my emotional barometer; the scale is too cruel and insensitive. I breathe in her health, her biology, her love. Our cells remember our mothers. We’re pulled to one another from across countries, time and space. We need our family.

During my search, along with my new understanding of adoption trauma and unethical adoption practices, I was thrown into an abyss. I’ve leaned hard into my tribe. We all look the same, covered in wounds only visible to us. I’ve found women that relentlessly climb towards healing through advocacy and education. They refuse to get stuck in their loss, turning their sights towards something bigger than their own pain. This is where I intend to hang out, holding their hands. It’s a sisterhood (with a few brothers thrown in) of tattered, limping soldiers determined to see change. The more important these new friendships have become the more I’ve seen relationships with childhood friends and a few family members change, becoming fluid, morphing into different shapes. Some are no longer recognizable and that’s okay. It’s necessary. I can hardly sit with some of them anymore because being asked to explain is futile and frustrating, not being asked at all is maddening. I’ve voluntarily let them go.

In Arizona we don’t experience the new shoots that come up in the Spring. It’s too hot and the ground is too hard and dry. One of the things I miss most about living in the Midwest is the new growth pushing its way through the dirt, all the rain bringing bright, colorful flowers to the landscape. This is like that. Beauty from ashes. New life.

I’m so excited to see what the next season brings.

Mother.

I found my family one year ago and during that time I’ve watched the sharp edges of my life turn into something softer and forgiving. How do we function in a truly healthy way if we don’t know who we are or where we came from? I lived the first 46 years wildly careening through it, not realizing the mistakes along the way until they were 100 yards behind me. I was fire, with an undercurrent of raging fear; fear of rejection, fear of security, fear of intimacy, fear of abandonment. I tested love and commitment, not believing anyone would stay. My marriage felt it, my children felt it, and the family that raised me felt it. Finding my family was like seeing my children for the first time after their birth, taking in every cell, memorizing them, yet already completely knowing them. It was deeply rooted familiarity. It was peace. Knowing my mother is seeing my reflection for the very first time.

 

Yesterday was her birthday. She had me one week before turning 20. I had my daughter and relinquished at nearly the exact the same age. This synchronicity is fascinating, how history repeats itself, often in the most tragic ways. I believe our shared experience, as unfortunate as it is, has helped us understand each other and give so much grace. She can hardly speak of that season, yet I keep asking her questions. I’ll hug her and tell her that I understand, because I DO. I see her gradually unfold, climbing out of herself, the place she’s most comfortable. I think she’s SO brave for going back to that painful time, not because she wants to, but because she loves me. She’ll talk herself through it, saying, “I can do this. I can do this. What do you want to know?” And she tells me the stories I’ve waited to hear. The story about my father. The story about when she carried me and how she felt during that time. The story about my birth, and that she never saw me. That she never held me. And, I listen. I can handle it, all of it, because we have each other. And with this gift comes the freedom to love and heal. Together.

“Adoption—A thousand reasons to be angry”

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

“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. Separation of a child from its mother increases the risk of various deep-rooted forms of psychopathology based on attachment theory; problems that may continue to manifest themselves in adolescence and continue through to adulthood.” 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…

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Honoring My Friend

Thanksgiving Day. So many unexpected blessings this year. As I prepared for our day of gluttony and joy, the excitement for my family’s favorite holiday came to a stand still as the calls started pouring in. Everything went quiet, the unthinkable. We lost another one, but this time it was my friend.

We grew up together, attending the same schools, moving in different circles. I wish we had known each other then, before our lives intersected just over two years ago. She found me during one of those moments. To understand the ‘moments’, one would have to walk in her shoes. She knew I had lived a life quite parallel to hers, and she was grieving, the kind of grieving that can only be understood by mothers that have lost their children to adoption. The haunting that never disappears, even though our agency promised us it would. The kind of grieving that can only be understood by someone else that lost their mothers at birth. There are many adoptee’s on this earth, and there are many mothers that have lost children, but there aren’t many that are unfortunate enough to be both. Finding one another was a gift because no one else understands what it means.

She wanted to find her son. So, I found him. I had a photo of his home, his address, and helped her compose the letter. But, the fear of his possible rejection paralyzed her. God bless her, she just couldn’t do it. She missed him every day. The world sees these experiences as beautiful, brave, and selfless. But, it’s killing us. I’ve watched members of Our Tribe dropping out of the race, giving up from the exhaustion. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/09/04/peds.2012-3251 

Until the lens everyone insists on using, shifts to the trauma left in the wake of adoption, we will continue to lose our own to the claws that keep pulling us under. To lose our first family uproots and disconnects us. Untethered, we are no longer part of something primal. We don’t belong. So, we make our way, fighting through the lies we are forced to live. The lie that family is interchangeable. The lie that biology doesn’t matter. The lie that we are resilient enough. The lie that we should be grateful for something we never asked for; no one asked our permission, but I’m 100% certain that every infant would choose to stay with their mother. No one asked Tracy if she wanted to spend several years in the foster system, and no one ever asked Tracy if she wanted to be separated from her biological siblings and family at such a young age. Right then, at that very moment, something broke in her. From that point forward, everything was a major accomplishment, and I’m so proud of her.
I see a pattern when we lose someone we love in such a confusing, senseless manner. I see words being used to help us understand the loss; how and why this happened. What could we have done differently? What did we miss? Strewn across the screen- ‘depression’, ‘mental illness’, ‘selfish’, ‘demons’..etc. But, for Tracy, it was none of them, sometimes it was some of them, but mostly, it was avoidable. Of course she had those battles to fight! It’s so unfair and I’m angry. I’m angry that I’m not shocked, and I’m angry that her precious children have to add this chapter to their story. I’m so sad that her grandson, the joy of her life, won’t feel her warm hugs. She was a wonderful mother. She loved her husband. She was such an encouraging, loyal friend. Her pain gave her great empathy for others. She was so loved and she will be terribly missed. I love you, Tracy. Thank you for finding me. I’m so sorry.

Dear Adoption, I’m Trying to Unravel the Mess You Made

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Dear Adoption, I’m Trying to Unravel the Mess You Made

I don’t have a bad adoption story. The family that adopted me were wonderful, loving, Christ-centered people. They gave me unconditional love, a childhood filled with traditions and memories, in a nurturing environment. But, it was hard, really hard, because I always missed my mother. My parents were very respectful when they spoke of her and they prayed for the day I would find her, never threatened by my search.

I relinquished my daughter at age 19, the exact same age my mother was when she relinquished me, to a couple that I truly love. From the very beginning they wanted me in her life. They never stood in our way and not only considered me family, but referred to me as her mother. Our adoption is the most “open” I have ever known. It was never hard until…

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Why Newborn Adoption isn’t Biblical

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Adoption has been a millstone placed around mine and my daughter’s necks for 17 years.

For years, I have heard “Christians” speak of the “blessings” of adoption. I have been confused as to what was wrong with me? Why could I not accept this endless pain as a blessing? Why could I not “get over” the loss of my firstborn?

I have realized that it’s because there is absolutely NOTHING Christian about adoption.

There is no biblical basis for newborn adoption.

We are told in regards to ORPHANS:

1)      To visit them (James 1:27)

2)      Not to mistreat them (Exodus 22:22)

3)      To bring them justice (Psalm 10:180, Psalm 82:3)

4)      Donate for their care (Deut 14:28-29)

Perhaps, an argument can be made that in circumstances of true orphans, adoption is the best way to visit them, bring them justice, and treat them well.

In regards to children who have…

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