Friday, December 3, 2010

I'm Missing You, Betty Jean Lifton.

From the New York Times Obits.
She was an amazing person who helped so many of us to understand and accept ourselves.
Blessings, Betty Jean!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"The Quirk of the Smile..."

Last night I met a woman who was a friend of next-door-neighbor. The two of them were chatting in the hallway of a venue of an event we were all attending, and I introduced myself; I said, "Hi, I'm Andrea." She said, "Hi, I'm Marissa. I work at the preschool. You have a child who used to attend the preschool, don't you?" I said "Yes," and asked how she knew that.
Here's the clincher:
She said, "I have seen pictures of him at the school, and I recognize him in the features of your face."

She couldn't have said anything more profoundly gratifying to me. No one could have.
Adoptees want to look like their family. And we don't get to until/unless we have our own children.
I'm so grateful I have my son.

In the words of the venerable Nancy Verrier:
Growing up in a family where they are not reflected back is a tremendously difficult experience [for adoptees]. A great deal of an adopted child's energy is used in trying to figure out how to be in the adoptive family. It is important to an adoptee to have the opportunity of experiencing that reflection: the tilt of the head, the quirk of the smile, the pace of the gait, not to mention the more obvious aspects of physical similarities or of talents, aptitudes, and interests.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"'I was adopted because I have _____________'"

How many times have we adoptees filled in the blank about why, oh why, oh why we were given up?

Finally, some good news:

I just read this little article at the Adoptive Families Magazine website in which a social worker explains that it's important that adopted children get to make their own "lifebook" or scrapbook so they can express their feelings and ideas about being adopted and so that their adoptive parents can witness those feelings and ideas.

Let me just say: we have come a long way, baby. Doing something like this was so far off anyone's radar screen when I was a little adopted kid. I wish I had been guided as a child to express some of the fear, confusion, and guilt I felt as an adoptee. Instead those feelings had nowhere to go and so instead they got stuffed away somewhere and have been seeping out for decades in everything I've written and all over every relationship I've been in.

So, kudos to you, social workers who encourage adoptive parents help their their adopted children do this emotional work, kudos to the parents who have the guts to do it, and most of all, blessings on the forthcoming generations of adoptees who may grow up with the ability to name, expose, and dissipate the shame, guilt, and fear associated with being adopted.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Terrible Twos?

Today, The Sought-After turns two years old, so I've come out of cyber-hibernation to post!
Yes, it's been two-and-a-half months.

Frankly, I was having too much fun to think about being adopted; I went on a beach vacation to the Outer Banks, backpacking in the high sierra with good friends, visiting family and friends in California, and camping in the sand dunes in southern Oregon with my son and husband. It was a really, really good vacation. And then we came back to crazy busy September, during which all three of us went "back to school." So I'm just now lifting my head out above water to take a breath and say hello to you.

Thank you for your continued interest in my blog, dear reader! Knowing you're out there helps me collect and articulate my ideas in a way I might not otherwise do. Please keep reading!

And now, for a moment of joy:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Film Review:Mother and Child

I finally saw the movie Mother and Child.
And I have a few thoughts about it.

Annette Bening plays a 51-year-old single woman who gave up a baby girl for adoption when she was 14, and she has never recovered from that loss. She frequently writes letters, never sending them, to her daughter. She is bitter and isolated and doesn't want to let anyone into her life. Not even Jimmy Smits.

I would love to hear from you birth moms out there about how this character resonates with you and your experience. To me, Bening's character seems caricatured. She's our imaginary version of a birth mother: a woman who pines after her lost child, unable to think of much else, and who, when said child re-enters her life, suddenly lives in technicolor and becomes happy and satisfied with her life and all is right with the world.

Real reunions, of course, are much more nuanced than this.

Now, on to the adult adoptee character: Naomi Watts plays a beautiful, 37-year-old lawyer who is cold, manipulative, and creepily detached from any kind of emotional intimacy with other people. She seduces inappropriate men (married ones with pregnant wives, ones who are her boss), and casts them off indiscriminately. She has no friends, and has divorced herself from her adoptive family.

Ok, now, is this how the general public thinks of adult adoptees?

Overall, the portrayal of these two members of the adoption constellation seems ham-handed. I assume the director is trying to show us that adoption can cause a lot of grief, and that the secrecy and shame surrounding closed adoptions can compound that grief and wreak havoc on peoples' lives.

Yes. True.

But must we stereotype birth mothers and adult adopted women as unsympathetic, unsavory, super-yucky people? Who is this movie serving?

Your thoughts?

Friday, July 9, 2010


My self-imposed writing retreat has gone well so far. It has been helpful that the weather here has been atrociously hot and humid, so going outside to play has not been much of a temptation. For the whole first week, I took advantage of my overly air conditioned college office, even wearing a sweater for most of the day as I huddled over my computer.

This week I have been less disciplined, but I got enough done to give a draft to a lovely writer friend who stopped by for a visit on her way to England. I'm planning to get back in the saddle next week.

Sometimes I feel ridiculous writing a book while the publishing industry as we know it is imploding, but I have lots of friends who are publishing books as we speak, and I do think that what I have to say about adoption and identity is important. There is still so much resistance to accepting that the adopted person's psyche is different than the non-adopted person's. And I want to bust that resistance.

I started this blog to try to generate a conversation about the issues relevant to adult adoptees, but it's been difficult; adoptees who read it say "Yep, I'm with you," and non-adoptees either disagree or are silent. Mostly.

Anyone want to chime in?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Turning the Corner

A little update on SuperBob:
he's doing much better! My brother has been feeding him nonstop, and with the appetite inducing magic of prednisone, the Super One has gained 15 pounds back! And he has energy! And he even talks on the phone now!

With regard to my writing midwife/pitocin:
I don' t want to jinx it, but I am going to try a writing experiment for the next two weeks: My son and I will ride the train downtown in the morning, where I'll take him to science camp, then I'll write all day in cafes, libraries, what have you, until 4pm, when I'll pick up my little scientist and take him home on the train. A sort of forced writing retreat. Wish me luck and perseverence.

And with regard to feeling wild and free
(see picture of me in grand canyon with crazy hair a few posts ago):
I'm planning not one but two backpacking trips with friends this summer, and one or two camping trips with my little family.

The universe is on our side. The universe is on our side. The universe is on our side...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

a little more about the universe

Superbob is still hitting some bumps in the road. Last weekend, while strolling through Target with my mom, he fainted and whacked his head on the floor when he landed. An ambulance ride to the ER ensued, where, after 6 hours, the final diagnosis was that he was severely dehydrated. He has also lost 30 pounds. So my brothers and I are gearing up to take turns going out to California again to help out and to give my mom some much-needed respite from Cancer World. In fact, one of my brothers is headed out there today, thank goodness. I'll probably go in two weeks.

I don't think any of us knew how hard this was going to be. I, for one, have been in quite a funk since Superbob went into the hospital back in March. I have been so sad that it has been difficult to say "yes" to things. Instead, my psyche has shut down and I say "no, no, no," not wanting to let any more bad into my life.

But by way of explaining the poem I posted a while ago, I have lately been trying to re-convince myself that the universe is on my side. That saying "yes" to possibility, to friends, to help, is in fact a way to say "no" to the bad stuff.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


As an adoptee, I found it extremely difficult to imagine giving birth to a child.

During my pregnancy, I repeatedly tried to visualize giving birth, I read lots of birth books, looked at lots of birth pictures, and attended birthing classes and even hypnobirthing classes.

But I had a really hard time picturing all this happening to me, and week before my due date I had a crisis of confidence. I sat in my living room, huge and gravid and undeniably pregnant, and I still couldn't figure out how the baby in my belly was going to join us on the planet.

Intellectually, I knew that every person who has ever lived has gotten here essentially the same way, but since I had no connection to my own birth, I could not imagine that birth could actually happen to me.

I called the hypnotherapist, who talked me through a visualization of it, and reassured me in as many ways as she could. I felt a little better for a while, but when the rubber hit the road and I finally went into labor, my troubles returned.

I was as physically prepared as a woman could be for birth: I had all the right equipment: yoga ball, gatorade, candles, a detailed birth plan, a supportive partner, and an awesome doula.

But my labor kept stalling out and stalling out, no matter what natural route we tried: walking, cohosh root, showers, baths, you name it.

At one point, after about 24 hours, my doula asked me, "Is there something that's holding you back, something that's keeping you from doing this?" Wild-eyed from sleep deprivation and painful contractions, I answered "I don't think so," feeling as if I were being accused of purposely holding back (although I'm sure that's not how my doula meant it.)

But I knew even at that moment that my lack of connection with my own birth and my birth mother was somehow stalling out my labor, but I couldn't think of what I could do about it--I had already tried everything I could think of to prepare for this birth.

I labored for 35 hours, without much progress. (But not without pain!)

Finally, I allowed the midwife to give me pitocin, and things started moving along. As the pitocin was administered, I noticed that the contractions felt very different. I remember thinking that they were foreign contractions, not my own.

Those foreign contractions did the trick, and a few hours later, I was dilated enough to push.

Finally, I was able to take action, rather than enduring the contractions while hoping I was dilating. At that point a doctor was preparing a operating room for an emergency C-section for me because my baby was now in distress. But I was determined to do it myself--something had changed for me, and I knew I could do it myself now. Once I was allowed to push, my son was born within an hour, safe and healthy, and naturally. The way everyone else got here.

Having a child of my own has helped heal some of the scars of being adopted; it has helped me feel more connected to other people, it has helped me feel more grounded, and it has helped me appreciate my adoptive parents more.

But without the pitocin, I would definitely have ended up with a C-section, and I wouldn't have gotten to experience birth the way I wanted to. Even though I really, really wanted to go through labor and birth without drugs, I really needed that pitocin to get where I needed to go.

Sometimes when we are stuck and we can't unstick ourselves, we need an intervention, an unanticipated shot in the arm of something foreign to jumpstart our progress.

Right now, I'm stuck in the process of writing my book about adoption, and I have been laboring with it for a long time. I know I have to write it, but I don't know how to get to the next step with it.

It's very scary to write because I'm afraid it will make people in my families angry (that old fear of abandonment rears its ugly head again), I'm afraid people will discount what I say ("Everyone feels lonely and alienated sometimes"), and I'm afraid it won't be good enough.

I am very tired of being in this place and letting this loop play in my brain.

I hereby open myself up to an intervention. But what will it be?

Saturday, May 29, 2010


When I was 23, my boyfriend and I planned a climbing trip to Ecuador for the winter. We were going to put our stuff into storage, get on a plane, and scale volcanoes for three months. We had plane tickets and everything. Expensive ones.

Then, in early December, I got a phone call from someone at Grand Canyon National Park asking me to go out and be a ranger there starting in less than a month. For some reason, I accepted the offer even though I had those other big plans. And my boyfriend said he would go with me.

I only spent one season working at the Canyon because I didn't like working for the park service, but I fell deeply in love with the landscape there, and it became a touchstone for me. I have gone back countless times, I have led backpacking trips through the canyon, and I even rafted the canyon for my honeymoon.

My season at the canyon also catalyzed my search for my biological parents in an interesting way that I am working to recount in a book about wilderness and adoption search and reunion. It has become immensely important to my identity and well-being.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Between May 20th, the day I was born, and June 12th, the day I was adopted, I was in "foster care." I don't know how many families I lived with during those three weeks, or who they were, or how they "parented" me, or why they would take a tiny newborn baby into their home(s) for a few weeks and then gave her away.

It is so weird to think about that three week period, and I'm really thinking about it right now. I hate it. What a stupid, stupid idea, to needlessly shuffle a newborn around from home to home, from caregiver to caregiver three--or more--times in her first three weeks of life.

the end of May and beginning of June is always hard for me. I feel so at sea.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What if the Universe is on Our Side?

S u p p o s i t i o n

Suppose the molecular changes taking place
In the mind during the act of praise
Resulted in an emanation rising into space.
Suppose that emanation went forth
In the configuration of its occasion:
For instance, the design of rain pocks
On the lake’s surface or the blue depths
Of the canyon with its horizontal cedars stunted.

Suppose praise had physical properties
And actually endured? What if the pattern
Of its disturbances rose beyond the atmosphere,
Becoming a permanent outline implanted in the cosmos—
The sound of the celebratory banjo or horn
Lodging near the third star of Orion’s belt;
Or to the east of the Pleiades, an atomic
Disarrangement of the words,
“How particular, the pod-eyed hermit crab
And his prickly orange legs”?

Suppose benevolent praise,
Coming into being by our will,
Had a separate existence, its purple or azure light
Gathering in the upper reaches, affecting
The aura of morning haze over autumn fields,
Or causing a perturbation in the mode of an asteroid.
What if praise and its emanation
Were necessary catalysts to the harmonious
Expansion of the void? Suppose, for the prosperous
Welfare of the universe, there were an element
Of need involved.
—Pattiann Rogers (from Firekeeper: New & Selected Poems)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Back from the Land of Superbob

It was like living in a little nest with my parents.

How to explain this?

They are currently living in a small apartment across the street from the Stanford Medical Center.

So living there with them for a week without my husband or my child or my job, and caring for my dad and helping out my mom felt sort of like being an infant again (I had my parents all to myself! Plus they let me sleep a lot.) and sort of like being a mother bird. I had nothing to do but to help my dad and my mom feel better.

It was very peaceful having few real world distractions and performing tangible tasks--so very unlike my usual life in which everything feels scattered and difficult to quantify.

By the end of the week, my dad was definitely doing better than he was when I arrived. He was walking a little faster, feeling less nauseous, and smiling a little more. It was a quantifiable improvement, even though he's still very sick.

And I felt sad to climb out of that little nest in which the most important thing--really the only thing--to do was to care for one another.

But I had to fly home.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Return of Superbob

Superbob is out of the hospital!

Thanks to everyone who has been keeping him in their thoughts.

I am with him now, helping my mom with his 'round the clock care, and I'm so happy to be here.

He still has to go to the hospital every day, but the fact that he no longer resides in the hospital means he is getting better.

Tonight I sat at his feet and clipped his toenails for him, then massaged lotion into his dry and swollen feet and ankles.

I felt grace in the room.

Superbob has rescued me so many times from so many bad decisions and bad situations, and he's not the kind of guy who ever really lets anyone do anything for him, so to be able to help him a little felt very rare and wonderful.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I stopped blogging when my dad--I call Superbob--was admitted into the hospital. He's been there for five weeks now, getting a stem cell transplant for lymphoma. It appears that all my blogging energy has been siphoned off to the silent, private vigil I'm holding for him inside my mind. I have lit a candle there, and it takes a lot to keep it burning; I find myself withdrawing from most of the aspects of my life that are not utterly necessary--social engagements, planning my family's summer activities, because I just want to spend time thinking about my dad, who lies in a hospital bed three thousand miles away, vomiting and trying to generate a new immune system. Maybe I'm trying to generate one for him.

Or maybe I'm just perpetuating the poison of closed adoption: to hide your wounds and scars and march forward.

When I tell people my dad is sick, they ask, "Which Dad?" Since I'm adopted, I have two dads. This question always throws me, because my instinct is to answer, "My real dad: the one who raised me."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Open Adoption Interview!

In the "Open Adoption Interview Project," I was paired up with Jenni, author of In His Easy Yoke. Jenni relinquished her first daughter fifteen years ago to what was supposed to be an open adoptive situation. Since then, the adoptive family has cut off all contact with Jenni, and she's trying to resume contact so that she can know her daughter.
Jenni writes passionately and convincingly about the dark underbelly of the adoption process from the perspective of the expectant mother considering adoption. Check her out!

Here's a link to all the adoption bloggers who participated in this interview project.

My interview of her follows; you can find her interview of me at her blog.

The Sought-After: If you had a magic wand that would allow you to change three things about adoption practices in the United States right now, what would they be?

In His Easy Yoke: Well, I’m not sure we could change adoption in the way it needs to be changed unless we addressed what causes it to be so broken. Otherwise, the “fixes” are just band-aids. I believe the driving force behind the broken system is the fact that adoption is considered to be the panacea for infertility. That right there, unfortunately, gives birth to a gigantic snowball of issues that just rolls on and on and grows larger and larger. Infertility is a grievous thing, and so naturally it draws all sorts of sympathy and compassion, as well it should. What it should not do, however, is merit greater sympathy and importance than other losses. Within adoption, that is exactly what has happened.

I would say that the falsehoods that have been born from this hierarchy of loss have led to too many injustices to count. But if I had to pick a top three, they might be:

1) Sealed original birth certificates which are replaced with falsified BCs. Speaks for itself, right?

2) Openness agreements are not legally enforceable, and are only made as “good faith” agreements. Again, the problems with this are pretty self-explanatory. I’m hoping to post about the myth of openness sometime in the near future. Many women are “sold” on adoption because of how openness is presented today. It is presented as something that provides more of a choice for an expectant mom, but in reality, she has no choice or power in the situation at all. Conversely, adoptive parents are often very ill-informed and therefore ill-prepared for what open adoption actually is. I find that many parents agree to it out of duty once they get beyond their initial fears, but do not equip themselves to follow through when they discover it can be hard work. Agencies often don’t provide much information on the front end of things regarding what adoption looks like further out from relinquishing or adopting a child.

3) I believe it is a very large conflict of interest to allow agencies that profit from adoption to represent both the adoptive families and the expectant parents. If it is illegal in many states for a real estate agent to dually represent sellers and buyers, how can we not see the seriousness of this within adoption? It is a simple concept, but so hard for people to see. They don’t like to view adoption as a business like real estate. Of course not. That is vulgar, right? But although children are not commodities to be bought, that is what it boils down to. The agency or attorney is weighted toward the side of the deal that has the most to offer. Throw in the element of religion and faith-based organizations that are prejudiced against single mothers and it becomes so heavily weighted to one side that it’s a wonder it doesn’t fall right over. LOL Mothers and their babies need to be represented with as much care and concern as those who long to be parents. Anything less is inhumane.

TSA: Since we don't have a magic wand, how do you think these changes can be brought about?

IHEY: So many efforts are underway to open birth records. There is a big beast standing in front of the door, and many, many people who are not familiar with adoption law don’t even know it is an issue. I believe that we just need to keep spreading the word and bombarding our legislators with fact and real life experiences. I know from working inside politics and among senators day in and day out that hounding your legislators DOES work if you are persistent enough. J But we need to be articulate, informed and compelling in our persistence if we want to be heard and respected and effect change.

2) With regard to openness, I find that just like in the case of sealed records, when I explain to someone how openness agreements work, they are usually shocked. It seems to be another one of those issues where the problem is not a lack of compassion, but rather, just a lack of knowledge. Adoption is still a relatively taboo subject. We need folks with real life adoption experiences to share them and talk about what life inside open adoption is really like – the good and the bad. People run from what they fear. If we rely on the Lifetime Movie Network to be the basis of what we know about adoption, we will only know fear and not reality. LOL As more people speak up and speak out about healthy adoption relationships, I believe there will be more support for legally enforcing openness agreements. Just as with open records, we need to be hounding our lawmakers on the state level about this issue. Above all, we need to be asking those affected the most by the contact agreements, the adoptees, what their experiences have been and listen to what they want us to hear.

3) I am honestly at a loss for how dual representation can be addressed. It already seems like such a no-brainer, for lack of a better term. But I guess that is what happens when you have a multi-billion dollar industry that is unregulated. Things like this just go unchecked. The marketing paints such a beautiful, emotional, bitter-sweet picture, that it is hard for anyone to see past it. There are some things that give me hope, though. I am so glad to know many adoptive parents who understand the problems within the industry. I don’t believe all of the burden should fall on them, but I do believe they wield a lot of power. Many of them adopt more than once. This is an excellent opportunity to speak with their agency about the concerns they have regarding policies and practices. If more people would walk away from unethical agencies, the agencies would either have to change their practices or lose clients, therefore, losing business. Women who relinquish can’t remain silent, either. Ethical agencies need to be commended, and unethical ones need to be spoken against. We can’t bury our experiences, wash our hands and walk away. We owe it to others who will come behind us to speak out about damaging counseling methods and to offer resources and working solutions to problems within the process.

TSA: If you could have the kind of contact you want with your firstborn daughter, what do you think your relationship with her would be like?

IHEY: If I could have things exactly how I wanted them, I would never have relinquished my daughter. I know there are reasons that others feel were legitimate (mostly due to my age) but in all honesty, I believe that I should have fought harder against all of that. I wish that she was upstairs sleeping right now as I write this… a daily part of my life. Obviously, that’s not how things ended up. I have a semi-open agreement on paper. In reality, it is closed. We have no contact. I would be overjoyed to be able to correspond with her directly. I would like to have a relationship rather than be strangers. In all fairness to her, I believe I would probably want more from the relationship than she would want to give. (Don’t all parents of teens? J) I’d love to see her and talk with her about her life… what is important to her. I’d love to answer my phone and have it be her on the other end… to have a conversation that was natural and easy. But I don’t know if that is possible. I have hope for the future, though. My heart tells me that I want to soak up everything about her and demonstrate how much I love her and care about her life – flaws and all. I love her with a mother’s heart. But my head tells me that it is selfish of me to desire that from her, and that I don’t deserve anything of the sort. I gave her away to strangers, and I just don’t know how a relationship recovers from that. I can give her all of the reasons and circumstances behind it, but at the end of the day, I believe I failed her, and it seems like that resigns me to be to her whatever she will allow. I’ll take what I can get.

TSA: You mention that there are lots of "triggers" in your adoption life with no healthy way to work through the resulting issues--what do you think would be healthy ways to work through them?

IHEY: Up until recently, I really had no one in real life with whom to discuss adoption and my grief. Recently, my sister and I have begun talking about it, and just a couple of weeks ago my mother found my blog. That has prompted some good discussions and has opened the door for more healthy communication about what happened so long ago. We have only mentioned it a handful of times in the last 15 years. So I am hopeful that the newfound openness will allow me a place to go when I need to discuss something adoption-related that is weighing me down. Honestly, the best thing I believe I can do for myself is to focus on what I CAN change instead of letting what I can’t change cripple me. I do have to revisit the past in order to sort some of that out, but blogging has been cathartic and does provide some clarity. Writing is a good thing. I can work through my thoughts and emotions, and if I do it online, I can benefit from connecting with others who understand. I believe that it is extremely important to read views that differ from our own in order to stretch and grow and give us greater understanding of the complexities of adoption. But at the end of the day, when I am heartsick about how broken and twisted adoption can be at times, it is good for me to talk with people who share my same convictions and can help encourage me to focus on what is right and true, rather than let emotions get the best of me.

TSA: If you were in a room with ten pregnant women who were considering adoption, what would you tell them?

IHEY: I LOVE the CUB pamphlet written by Heather Lowe. It is entitled “What You Should KNOW If You Are Considering Adoption for Your Baby”. If anyone reading here is unfamiliar with it, I STRONGLY recommend you check it out, no matter how adoption has affected your life. You can find it at

I first read it years after I relinquished, but my jaw just hit the floor. Many of the things it addressed were feelings I had at the time I relinquished that went against what I was being told by my agency and my parents. It is a very common sense approach that is most definitely NOT offered through the counseling a woman gets from an agency or attorney. I started to go into specific points that the brochure addresses, but I just couldn’t say anything better than what it already explains. I think bringing up these facts to a woman who is considering relinquishment is one of the kindest things I could offer her. When you make a decision based on facts and truth, you are more likely able to own that decision. Oftentimes, during the process of making that decision, the focus is placed solely on what the mother cannot or should not do. I have never spoken to a woman who relinquished who said that anything long-term was discussed – especially with regard to how her relinquished child would feel. Being a “birth mom” has affected every area of my life. With each new phase or milestone, the wound is reopened in some way and I have to process things all over again. I think it would be foolish to assume that my daughter has just gone on to live a perfectly happy life without being affected by being relinquished. It would have changed things drastically for me had I realized that my decision did not guarantee happiness for her. I find that many women who have recently relinquished often have some sort of sad resignation to “getting pregnant so that the adoptive couple could have the gift of being parents… It was God’s plan.” Sigh. This is probably my number one thing that I want to shout from the rooftops to others considering adoption… Your purpose in life is not to fulfill the desires of people who want to be parents! Don’t let anyone guilt you into believing it! LOL There are other people to be considered who are rarely entered into the equation – the adopted person and the mothers who give birth to them. Their desires, happiness and well-being are just as important and God loves them just as much as He loves people who want to be parents! Babies don’t stay babies, but rather, grown into people with feelings and opinions that MATTER. And women who lose those babies have a lot of years of living ahead where they will struggle with how their loss affects them within each new phase of life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Love fest: Kudos to "Adopt This!"

My new favorite blog: Adopt This!: confessions of an ambivalent adoptee. Check it out. I love it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Missing? Me?

Here's how I feel:

when I go to places like this:

My spring break is at a different time than my son's and my husband's, so I took off by myself and went to the desert.

It felt like a century since I had been outside (Stupid Philadelphia Winter. GRR.), so hiking for 4 days helped restore me mentally, even though it took some long plane rides, some long car trips, and a lot of dollars to do it.

I need the desert. It's my touchstone.

It's where I learned I wanted to search for my birth parents. It's a place where I can set my sights on a butte or canyon ten miles away, point my feet in that direction, and walk until I get there. Being in the desert made searching seem possible for me all those years ago. And it was possible.

And I keep returning and returning to the desert in search of other wisdoms.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 5, 2010

From the other Side of the Uterus

Ok, so who's heard of the birth mother memoir Without a Map, by Meredith Hall?

It was published in 2007, so I'm a little late to the party, but geez, this one is a must-read. Hall's writing is exquisite, so if for no other reason, read the book for the beautiful prose.

Of course, there's more to it than that. She describes being shunned by her family and community as a result of becoming pregnant at age 16 in 1965, and her portrayal of her isolation mirrors my (and many other adoptees') experiences of loneliness and loss of sense of belonging. I have recently been thinking about how the birthmother's experience is very like the adoptees experience, and she affirms it here:

"It feels like a murder, and is baffling because there is no grave; no hymns were sung to ease my going or to beg for God's blessing on my soul."

The book chronicles her pregnancy, and much later, her reunion with the son she placed for adoption. Although it's incredibly painful to read about how she was treated and how she dealt with that treatment, I'm finding it very instructive and comforting to get inside the mind of a birth mother who is the same age as my birth mother, and was therefore subjected to the same kind of social stigma as she was. Because my birth mother is silent about all this.

Have you read this book? If so, what do you think?
Please, let us know!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Found a new adult adoptee blog that I really like: check it out!
Tell me what you think!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adoption Reading, Anyone?

Well, here's an idea: a virtual adoption book club! Check out Eva's idea over at Egg Drop Post and consider joining up!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lovely Lucille is Gone

I just heard today that Lucille Clifton, poet and national treasure died on Saturday, February 6 at age 73. She was wonderful. I had the tremendous good fortune to take three poetry workshops with her when I was an undergraduate. Sitting in a room with her was like being in the presence of a prophet.
I'm very sad that she's gone.

Here's one of her most famous poems:

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

Lucille Clifton

We'll miss you, Lucille!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How About a Fan Page for "I Love Blinking My Eyes"?

Facebook has a lot of inane fan pages, and this one is no exception: "I Love Adoption."

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Did you read the article in the New York Times Magazine on 1/31/10 about "Solastalgia," a term for " the pain experienced where there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault... a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at 'home.'"?

It's a really interesting article,--read it if you have time--and it made me think about the potential analogue between the psyches of people whose home has been taken away or degraded and the psyches of adoptees and birthparents.

As a person to whom home landscape matters immensely, and as an adoptee, it makes a lot of sense to me.

But what about you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Grief = Searching

I've been reading this article about grief in The New Yorker. The author Meghan O'Rourke chronicles popular thinking about grief, and mentions that:

"In the nineteen-seventies, Colin Murray Parkes, a British psychiatrist and a pioneer in bereavement research, argued that the dominant element of grief was a restless “searching.” The heightened physical arousal, anger, and sadness of grief resemble the anxiety that children suffer when they’re separated from their mothers. Parkes, drawing on work by John Bowlby, an early theorist of how human beings form attachments, noted that in both cases—acute grief and children’s separation anxiety—we feel alarm because we no longer have a support system we relied on. Parkes speculated that we continue to “search” illogically (and in great distress) for a loved one after a death. After failing again and again to find the lost person, we slowly create a new “assumptive world,” in the therapist’s jargon, the old one having been invalidated by death. Searching, or yearning, crops up in nearly all the contemporary investigations of grief. A 2007 study by Paul Maciejewski found that the feeling that predominated in the bereaved subjects was not depression or disbelief or anger but yearning. Nor does belief in heavenly reunion protect you from grief. As Bonanno says, 'We want to know what has become of our loved ones.'"
(emphasis added)

I wanted to post this to propose the connection between some adoptees' need to search and what is commonly understood about how all humans deal with loss of loved ones. That is all.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Are You a Writer? Do You Want to See your Work Performed?

I recently found this posting over at the forums for adult adoptees:

"I am a recently reunited adoptee. I am currently a theatre arts major in New England and composing a senior project that reflects my experiences with adoption. But I would like to give it a wider scope and represent more than my own opinions and emotions. I would like to create a collage of different experiences in order to paint a unified portrait of the truth behind adoption.

I am looking for submissions from all those involved in adoption (adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents, foster parents etc.) to include in my piece. These can be anything from memoirs, letters, poems, songs, art etc.

You will be credited if I use any of the material in the production (unless you wish to remain anonymous). There will be no monetary compensation as this is a non-profit, educational production. By submitting your work you acknowledge your approval for their use in an original script and any resulting performances.

I promise to approach all material with the utmost respect. Adoption is often overlooked or stereotyped, it is time to represent the truth. Your involvement would mean the world to me. Please help me tell your story!

You can reply here with your material, message me, or e-mail me at

Thank you for your time,
Brianna Marie"
Here's the link for her project's website.

Brianna told me she'd love it if I posted her call for submissions on this blog.

Have at it! And let me know if you think you might send her something!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"What is Lost Can Be Recovered," (but Watch Out for the Tornado)

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Betty Jean Lifton, the great mother of the adoption rights movement? I have read everything she's written, and have been immensely comforted and educated by her words. Here's a little excerpt from her website, describing the counseling work she does with adult adoptees:

"I see adopted people who are in a life crisis of one kind or another, due to the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job, an adoptive parent's death. Many come when they are in the throes of search and reunion. They are struggling to deal with the tumultuous emotions that are surfacing, as well as with the complexity of forming a relationship with the birth mother, birthfather, or siblings. Their task is to reclaim those split off feelings and emotions and integrate them into the adult self.

For both the adoptee and birthmother, there is the bittersweet realization that what is lost can be recovered, but never in the form in which it was lost. The birth mother cannot have back the baby she gave up; the adoptee cannot have back the original mother that he lost. Their reunion will be influenced by the way the adoptee and birth mother have coped with their trauma and dissociation over the years. It is not easy. Going through reunion is like experiencing a tornado that swirls you around and then sets you down in a foreign land from which you have to slowly and painfully make your way back to a place that you can call your own."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adopted People who Adopt Other People

Ok, I'm back to grinding away at this issue. I blogged about my uneasiness with being an adopted person and thinking about adopting a child awhile ago in this post. But now I'm trying to get over myself, and I really, really, want to hear from adult adoptees who have adopted children and how they feel about the experience. As I mentioned in my the old post (see above), I have long feared that adopting a child would undo me--that I would vicariously live all the pain of loss, separation, shame, and not understanding all over again through my adopted child. But sometimes those things we fear most are the things that can open a completely new door for us, and, dare I say, heal us, or at least help us to become the person we want to be.

So I want to know how people do it--if you are an adult adoptee who has adopted a child, please weigh in. What is it like for you? How did you come to it? How do you think your status as an adopted person has affected your child?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fickle Weather and Loyal Children

It's snowing and I'm snuggled up in one of my favorite cafes with my laptop after a good workout at the gym across the street, and I'm enjoying having some free time: my son is back in school and I don't start teaching for another 10 days. The holidays are over, the Christmas tree is going to be recycled into mulch this weekend, and our house is relatively clean. I have fed my need to do house projects--some sanding, painting, refinishing, etc., and now I finally have some time to think. And write. And surf around the net.

Over at the awesome open adoption blog "This Woman's Work," I found an excellent post about the author's dealings with her adopted daughter's loyalty issues. The weather outside, contrasted with my recent visit to California, where I'm "FROM," reminds me of this adoptee issue of divided loyalties, feelings of betrayal, wondering where you belong; as I look at the snow speeding by outside, I discredit it, thinking "this isn't where I really live, so I don't really care that it's snowing. I'm from California." But I have lived here in Philadelphia going on five years, and no big move back to the west is on the horizon, the economy being what it is, so really, I DO live here. But I have loyalty confusion. I'm always thinking about how much better California is, how I understand the people, the culture, the weather better there. but, like I said, I really do live here. And there are things I like about Philadelphia.

At Christmas, when my brother was finishing his visit with our family to go visit his wife's family, I told him that my son and I were flying to San Diego to visit my sister. My half-sister, that is; my birth mother's other daughter, whom I met about nine years ago. It felt really awkward telling my brother I was going to visit her. It felt like a betrayal, even though intellectually, I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong. I saw what I interpreted as a slight hesitation in his response to my announcement. What was he thinking? That it was totally weird for me to be leaving our parents' house to go visit this stranger, this woman he's never met, whom I call my sister? Maybe he was just wondering what it's like to be me, wondering why I do all this work trying to keep up with all these people in my various families. Who knows, but I always worry about the people in my family getting upset when they hear of or see evidence of my contact with my birth family. Probably, this is all in my head. Is it an adoptee's issue and no one else's?

Anyone out there in the adoption constellation want to weigh in on this?