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?