Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bastard Meet-Up

For the first time ever, I got to meet some of my adoptee friends from the online community. We got together at a restaurant in town, with a number of adoptees (and a couple of first moms) driving in. We camped out for over six hours, drinking and eating and laughing hard enough to scare other patrons into asking to be moved.

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(The pictures sort of small. But it's the only way to get it to fit on this page. You can click on it to see a larger size. And more pictures.)

It's a bit nerve-wrecking to meet people you've known for years, but never met in person. My fellow bastards were different (voice, mannerisms) than I might have expected, but they were exactly like I knew them to be, if that makes any sense.

Having this group of people online has been such a life-saver over the last few years. And meeting them in person was an amazing experience. It's how I wish my (in person) support group was. That's a good group, and it is helpful, but it feels restrictive with the presence of a social worker. Meeting my fellow bastards meant being able to be myself (as much as I can be in the presence of other people).

Such a validating experience. I didn't want it to end. Saying goodbye was hard. Even though they are only a mouse-click away, I miss them. We're such different people with different lives, but adoption binds us together. The next time someone asks me if there is anything good about adoption, I just have to remember my fellow bastards. I wouldn't wish this on any of us. But I'm glad, if any of us have to go through this, we at least get to go through it together.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Though I'm not Christian, and haven't been for decades, I always want to be with family at this time of the year.

And I feel lucky to have so many families: my biological family, my adoptive family, my family by marriage, my friends from college, my online adoptee friends... I won't pretend there is never any angst because of having so many families, nor that there is no drama within those families.

Yet, at this time of the year, I try to focus on all the good that comes from having so many wonderful people in my life. Even when they disappoint, I still love them and want to be with them.

I hope, whatever you believe, whatever your traditions, you get to be with people you love this time of the year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Early Christmas

Tonight my first mom and I opened the gifts we sent each other while we spoke on the phone. She sent us a lot of neat things, and she really liked the dragon I sent her. It was good talking to her.

And it made me wish I could be with her and my brothers on Christmas.

I mentioned this, and she said she would like that, but she also knew I had other people who wanted to see me, and she didn't want my family to be disappointed. I understood what she meant.

And yet...

I've been playing the "don't let anyone down" game for so long that I'm not even sure what I want. If someone were to ask me where I wanted to spend the holidays, I'm not even sure what the answer is. Home? Missouri? Ohio? New York? I don't know. I just want everyone to be happy.

But that's not possible. And it's not compatible with me being happy. I don't know what I want. But I know trying to make everyone else happy is probably the best way to ensure I won't be.

I know it's important to consider other people's feelings. But I also know that it's important to take care of myself, too. I just don't know how to balance those different things.

So when it comes to spending time with people over the holidays, I don't know what I want. I just want everyone to be happy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Finding a Voice

For years, I did not know I could feel the way I do about adoption. I didn't know it was okay to be ambivalent. (This is perhaps evident in the fact that I still seem constantly to apologize for how I feel.)

Not knowing anything about the experiences of other adoptees, I thought I was weird for feeling so ambivalent about my adoption. Now I know that it is common, if not universal, to feel this way. For myself, it is incredibly validating to find out that I'm not alone.

Expressing my frustration and ambivalence about adoption has led to some pretty annoying reactions from others: why are you so angry? don't you realize other people have problems? why can't you get over it?.

I'm reminded of the different descriptions I've heard of typical male and female conversational styles. Men often (not always) try to "fix" problems. Women often (not always) are looking for empathy for their problems, not solutions. While I bristle at such stereotyping, I can't deny that it ever is true.

I'm not looking for a "solution" to my "problem" of being adopted. That ship has long sailed. Finding others who would listen to me, who could understand and empathize, was terrifically useful in giving me a measure of peace about adoption. Just having someone acknowledge my ambivalence and even anger is helpful.

It's not about fixing anything. It's not about lashing out. It's not about hurting others. It's not about getting over it.

It's about knowing I'm not alone. It's about having my feelings validated. It's about having someone empathize with me.

Not pity. Not sympathy. Empathy.

Finding a voice can be a scary thing. And it's the most important thing I can think of.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Language and Reality

Less than a month ago, I posted about Positive Adoption Language. I hate to revisit the issue so soon, but it reached up and smacked me yesterday, so it's on my mind.

Listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday, I heard them discussing family reunions. Families separated by various events finding one another again after years. The story that kicked off this segment of the show was two children finding their father who had left years ago. They found him because of a newspaper story about the homeless. It was an interesting story.

Then one of the callers told his story about he and his wife relinquishing a daughter for adoption before they were married. In telling his story, he emphasized that they did NOT give her up, they made a thoughtful, considered decision to place her for adoption. He was insistent on this point, it was as though he had argued with others about the proper language and was familiar with the arguments.

I cringed as I always do. But I also stopped to think about it.

He clearly needed to think that he had done the right thing. (Everything he said about the decision to put the child up for adoption was aimed at explaining how they had done the right thing.) That was his reality. They did what they could. They did what they had thought best. They had not abandoned their child; they gave it to a loving home. He needed people to understand his reality.

And even while I cringed, I could empathize. I understood why he was adamant with his description of his actions, even while I was curious how his wife would describe the event.

While I did understand his need for the language to reflect his reality, I couldn't help but wonder about the adoptee. The fact of the matter is that for many adoptees (please note I didn't say "all"), it does feel as though we've been given up. Often, the biological parents weren't around to explain their reality. And the reality for adoptees is that we have been given up and abandoned.

I get that biological parents often can explain the adoption. They made conscious decisions or they were coerced. I believe that many (most?) did not simply walk away as though it were nothing. The "given up" language seems to paint them in a negative light and ignores the details of the situation that led to adoption.

I do not use the phrase "given up" to accuse my biological mother of anything. I don't do it to invalidate her reality.

I talk about being "given up" for adoption to explain my reality, my experiences. This is what being an adoptee has felt like. I felt given away. I felt abandoned. I don't want to pretty up the language to spare someone else's feelings, not because I want to hurt them, but because it hurts me. It does violence to my feelings, my reality. Changing the language might more accurately reflect the experiences of the relinquishing parents, but it invalidates my own feelings and experiences.

I do not mean to hurt any parent when I talk about being "given up." But please don't ask me to stuff my own feelings in order to spare someone else's. If you would ask me to empathize with the adults in my adoption situation, surely you can understand my own desire to have those adults empathize with the adoptee.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Opening Old Wounds

I am an awful person.

I know this. I have no illusions about it. I do feel badly about it, but it doesn't change the initial reaction.

Yesterday, I got a Christmas card. Any other year, I'd just be mildly annoyed that I got a CHRISTMAS card from anyone. I know they mean well, and I try to ignore the really blatant religious themes. (I'm not talking about cards that say "Merry Christmas." I'm talking about cards that quote Bible verses at you.)

But this card was from my aunt. The aunt who last year was dying. The aunt whose last Christmas on Earth was last year. The aunt that was so sick, my mother had to drop everything, including her promise to me to be home for the holidays, to spend this last Christmas with her sister. The card was from that aunt. Who will apparently be around this Christmas.

Included in the card is the annual Christmas letter. The first two paragraphs of the letter extol the virtues of my mother for caring for my aunt.

All I could think was that my mother was a rotten mother for abandoning her children, AGAIN, to care for her sister during her final days... And they weren't even her final days!

I am an awful, rotten, horrible person. I know this. I wish I weren't. I wish I could just forgive, forget, and move on. And I have. Mostly. But not fully, apparently.

I should just be happy she's still alive. I should be glad that she appreciates that my mother gave up so much to help.

Instead, I read her letter as a personal attempt to convince me that my mother is a wonderful person. I know it's a form letter. I know it's the Christmas equivalent of spam, not directed at me in any way, shape or form (probably).

It just showed me how much I really still feel annoyed at my mother's decision.

And I know I should be over it.

That's how I know I'm an awful person.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I generally do not enjoy reading my local paper's editorial page. There is a lot of tripe printed on the page. I won't bore you with all the details, but it's not just because I disagree with much of it. It's bad reasoning and ignorance. I like listening to intelligent people I disagree with. I learn from them. But what my local paper chooses to print... Well, there's not much learning there to be had.

So I suppose it's no surprise that I didn't like opening today's paper. But what really bothered me wasn't a letter from one of my fellow citizens; it was an editorial cartoon from a nationally syndicated cartoonist.

I get it. I do. I dislike the Afghanistan war. I dislike Obama's decision for the troop buildup. I get that the war is a legacy from the previous administration.

But for crying out loud, why does he have to say that the war is an adopted child?

I mean, I wouldn't be surprised to see the NCFA running a strip like this, with the shirt reading adult adoptee (given how they seem to feel about adoptees who grow up). But do we really need more imagery making adoptees seem to be the unwanted, unasked for, wild and evil children?

If it kept people from adopting, I would almost put up with it. Instead, it just perpetuates imagery that adoptees struggle with enough as it is. We get it, we aren't wanted. Could we please stop now?

Friday, December 4, 2009

It Really Does Follow Me Around

We were watching the series finale of Monk tonight. By the end, my wife turned to me and said, "Adoption really seems to follow you everywhere." It's true. Even on a show that has not brought up adoption before (at least while I've been watching), it comes up when you least expect it.

So I'm sitting there, watching a fictional adoptee, talk to the man who married her mother. And I'm getting teary from listening to him tell her about the mother she will never get to know.

I mean really... this isn't even a real adoptee. But I know people this has happened to.

It wasn't the point of the show. It wasn't even a main element of the scene that it was in. But it struck so many chords, hit so many triggers...

And I sat there wondering how anyone could think this wasn't important. That knowing where we come from doesn't matter.

I can't imagine that thought process. I just can't.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Getting Caught

I often talk about my mothers. Actually, I talk quite a bit about my family. I use them as all sorts of examples in class. I try not to give away any crucial information, but as with most families, mine is the source of endless amusing stories and useful anecdotes.

And so I sometimes make comments about my mom. But I also make comments about my mom. (Confusing, isn't it?) Well, last night in class, I finally got caught out. One of my students finally realized I had referred to my mother both as a fundamentalist Christian and as an English professor. (I didn't say both at the same time, but he remembered I had mentioned one earlier.)

While these are necessarily mutually exclusive, he found it odd that she was both. Of course, my mother isn't both. One of them is the fundamentalist Christian, and one is the professor.

But I didn't want to explain it. So I simply said it was complicated. But he didn't drop it right away. He asked, "do you have two mothers?" I think he thought he was joking. I said "yes," and quickly changed the subject.

I don't really care if my students know, but I didn't want the conversation to turn into a discussion about me being adopted.

Oddly enough, I had gotten caught earlier in the day, too. At a meeting, we wound up discussing a movement to outlaw divorce in California (funny story, that), I mentioned that annulment would still be allowed. Which others in the room thought was odd, pretending the marriage never really happened. I pointed out that it's especially odd when the parents have children, such as what happened in my (adoptive) parents' case. So someone asked me if that left my status in doubt. I pointed out that I was adopted, so their annulment didn't affect my status. (That was screwed up years before when the government created falsified documents regarding my identity. But I didn't mention that.)

I can't believe I was outed twice yesterday (Tuesday). Very odd. Maybe I'm getting more comfortable 'fessing up to my own status as an adoptee. Or maybe I just made the best of uncomfortable situations that my own inability to shut up landed me in.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The End of the Month

National Blog Posting Month ended yesterday. I can't believe I made it the whole month on both blogs again. There were days I wasn't sure I would be able to pull it off.

I think it's harder to do this on Finding Jane Doe. This is a raw place for me. Every time I talk about adoption, I feel raw. It isn't easy to open up about this. I worry that people will think poorly of me for what I feel about this stuff. Or that... I don't know. Talking honestly about adoption feels pretty unnerving. For so long, I had to keep my feelings to myself.

So to spend an entire month talking on a blog that, while no family members read here (as far as I know), it still feels... unsafe.

Still, I think it's good for me to talk about it somewhere. So once again, I'm going to try to keep up posting regularly here.

We'll see how long it lasts.