Showing posts with label Adoption Ethics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adoption Ethics. Show all posts

Monday, September 23, 2013

He Called Her "Real Mom"

I'd love to know your opinion on this one.

The other day Wenxin and I were talking, and I'm not even sure how it came up. I think I was telling him that I bet his foster mother would be so proud of him.

And then he asked.

"What about the other one?"

"The other what?" I replied.

"The other mom. You know . . . my REAL mom." (emphasis mine)

"Oh, I see. I bet your first mom would be so proud of you, too."

We talked for another minute or two, and as he ran out the door to go play, I said with a wink, "Hey Wenxin, don't forget. I'm REAL, too."

Big grin, and he was off.

So here's the question. He's 10 years old and adopted for three years now. Is it important for me to teach him what most people consider to be appropriate adoption language? Should he call her his first mom or his birth mom instead of his real mom? Does it really matter?

My gut tells me he should be able to call all the mothers in his life whatever seems appropriate to him -- because it's his story. My gut says I should follow his lead on this one. But he is only ten and is still making sense of his own history. On this issue, does he need guidance from me? Specifically, does he need me to choose his words?

I'm not concerned about my place in his life. I know this kid loves me. I also know I'm his third mom. I'm OK with this. And I think I can live with him calling her his real mom.

But since it's not what's normally done in the adoption world, I'm wondering if I'm missing something here?

I also have a real fear that some adoptive parent will correct him. It could happen, you know, cause calling the birth mom the real mom. . . those are fightin' words in a lot of places.

I'm also pretty sure he'll call her whatever I ask him to call her. He's sweet and obedient. And he believes what I say about things. If I say he should call her his first mom or his birth mom, then I'm pretty sure that's what he'll do -- for now, anyway. But do I want to make that decision for him?

So what do you think? What would you do in my place?

Waiting for all of your words of wisdom.

If you are an adult adoptee, please let your voice be heard on this one.

Sharing today over at Emily's place.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 25: The Post I Wish I Didn't Have to Write

Courtesy of Bangert and Dahlquist

Adoption ethics matter. I wish I didn't even have to say that.

Here are some things I've written on adoption ethics in the past. The last one is a guest post by an adopted adult who is also an adoption reform advocate.

Orphan Statistics Explained

National Adoption Month: What I've Come to Believe

Orphan Fever: Are Christians Naive?

Orphan Fever: Deception and Misunderstanding

There Can Never Be Too Much Love

There is a fine line between ethical adoption practices and unethical adoption practices, and as adoptive parents, we have a responsibility to be informed.

One day in the future our kids may ask us tough questions about the ethics of their own adoptions. We owe it to them to start thinking deeply about these issues today.

Wenxin and Nathan are in the orange car near the top!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Day 18: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part II

Tara's Kids Goofing Around!

Tell me about your family today. How many children do you have? At what ages did you adopt your adopted children?

I’ve been married to my husband for 20 years. We have two sons by birth who are now 19 and 15. We also have two adopted daughters, ages 17 and 10 and one adopted son, age 13. Our children were adopted at the ages of 15, 11, and 8.

How does being an international adoptee yourself influence how you parent your internationally adopted children today?

It can be a good influence in some ways, and quite honestly, it can be a bad influence in others.

On the good side, I’m very intentional in teaching our children the culture and history of their birth country. We also honor and talk about their birth mother. I'm able to connect to them by sharing my own childhood struggles. My background as an adoptee helps me support and guide them in their own healing journeys.

However, I have my own abandonment and rejection issues. Sometimes, I find myself contending with feelings and frustrations that don’t bring out the best in my parenting as I work to deal with the effects of abandonment and trauma in my kids' behavior. It’s hard work, and I’m still learning. For me, being an adoptive parent means working through my own issues -- issues that are magnified by their behavior..

Briefly, what encourages you and what concerns you about how adoption is being practiced today?

I’m encouraged by the opportunities available to parents to understand and become skilled at parenting children through adoption. There are conferences, books, webinars, workshops, retreats, and blogs that help adoptive parents help their children heal. These forms of support and education simply didn’t exist when I was adopted, and I think it could have changed the landscape of how I was parented as a child.

I’m most concerned about the ethics of adoption. We have to be willing to continually improve adoption, making it more ethical. Everyone involved suffers at the hands of unethical practices, and it’s vital for all involved that we do our best to protect families through this process.

Finish this sentence. One thing I'd like adoptive parents to know is. . .

Adoption is hard on everyone. The triad of adoption (child, birth parents, adoptive parents) is very precious, and we must hold it gently, respecting each member of the triad. To remove one of these people is to completely change the story of adoption. 

We must never minimize or gloss over the fact that adoption begins with the loss of one family and the gain of another. The adopted child is caught in the middle of this dynamic and yet is the one who seems most powerless of their life circumstances. 

If you choose to embark on the adoption journey, please do so with your eyes wide open and your pride checked at the door. You are key to how your adopted child will move through their healing process, and it’s vital for you to have the skills to help them know how to heal. Please do everything within your power to get the proper training to parent an adopted child, work on any wounds you may have individually, work on strengthening your marriage, and never lose sight of the great responsibility you have been given in caring for a child who comes with a background of pain, trauma and loss.

Tara Bradford is a transracial adoptee, mom by both birth and adoption, and orphan care advocate. Tara blogs at Smore Stories.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day 11: Unexpected Challenges

Today's guest blogger is Kim, pictured here with her husband and sons on their first day as a family.

One minute you're two happily married people who do whatever you want, whenever you want. Maybe you want to go to see Mumford and Sons. Done. Maybe you want to drive up to Minneapolis for some sushi and shopping. Done.

Then suddenly you're bent over the toilet at the Ethiopian guesthouse losing your breakfast because you found out that you're becoming real-life parents three days earlier than planned. "I can't do this," you beg.  "Please God. I don't know what we were thinking. I've changed my mind. Please."

One minute you think you've adopted two healthy boys with big appetites and energy to play soccer for hours.

Then suddenly your husband is spending four hours in a clinic in Addis Abeba with your oldest son who had a seizure your last night in country. Your son gets a shaved head, has an EEG that shows some kind of abnormality, and in a rush you pack at the guesthouse in order to make your flight back home.

One minute you think you have faith. You believe in Jesus. You trust in His plan for your life.

Then suddenly you're clinging on with white knuckles, begging that He doesn't leave you, crying out for the strength to get through each day. 

Maybe you're finally figuring out what faith really is.

So, in a nutshell, that describes our first months of parenting. Like the crazy folks we are, my husband and I went from being the parents of zero children to being the parents of two older sons adopted from Ethiopia. We really did everything we could to prepare. We read the books, watched the videos, had the conversations. But still there were many unexpected challenges that came as a side order with the main dish of older child adoption.


For our first several months of parenting, our oldest son suffered from seizures, sometimes several a day. We had no prior knowledge of a seizure disorder. It wasn’t until the night before we were supposed to fly home from Ethiopia that he had his first tonic clonic seizure. It feels like a dream to remember this time. After we came home, sweet Getu had seizures sometimes several times a day until last September when we finally got his medications under control.

Getu’s seizures didn’t make us love him any less; they made us love him move. I’m not sure I really understood what it meant to be a mother until I cradled my then 8-year-old son’s limp body on our kitchen floor after he had had another seizure. We survived traumatic blood draws, CT scans, MRIs, and multiple doctor’s visits. We became a family.

Other challenging unknowns have manifested themselves in the narrative we’ve been told about our sons.  This part is personal; it’s not my story to tell. I will just say that some of the stories we’ve been told from our agency and from the boys and from another third party are conflicting. Not kind of conflicting. Mind-blown-not-sure-how-to-proceed conflicting. And we used a reputable agency. Stories like ours aren’t unique either.  So health unknowns, behavior unknowns, and narrative unknowns should not come as a surprise.

Big Feelings

I would like to say that I wore my new role as an adoptive mother like a well-worn parka, comfortable and warm. The reality is that I did more crying and yelling in those first months than I really want to admit.  (Except I just did.) And I wasn’t the only one in our family experiencing Big Feelings.

Yes, the first several months were accompanied by a myriad of what my husband and I have deemed Big Feelings. Big Feelings manifest themselves in tantrums, inexplicable crying, difficulty getting to sleep, physical violence, and ugly talk. Bryan Post breaks down our emotions into two categories:  fear and love. Those first months home will carry with them a lot of fear for your children and for you. We were somewhat prepared for this, but the extent of the Big Feelings was definitely an unexpected challenge for us.

I would like to tell you that now, over a year later, we have all conquered our Big Feelings and are carrying on in our world of butterflies and unicorns and neuro-typical children. However, that would be a Big Fat Lie.  The boys (and the parents!) do a much better job of recognizing and handling the Big Feelings, but there are still moments where it feels like we live in a town with BF as mayor. That is certainly a daily challenge that comes with older child adoption.

Cultural Identity Crisis

This is something that I am internally wrestling with on a daily basis, and I just couldn’t have predicted what a giant deal this would be. We are a transracial family, so this is mostly a complication of that, not just older child adoption. I do think, though, that we’re dealing with these issues and conversations in much different ways than if we had adopted younger children. Yes, those younger children would still have memories and experiences from birth culture, but not in the same way that an 8- and 9-year-old child would.

From day #1 we tried to incorporate Ethiopian culture in our house. I cooked the foods, played the music, showed the videos. And despite every effort, the boys now reject nearly everything but the food. They lost their first language, their birth words, the lexicon of their first family. And with that loss came more helpings of grief and confusion and hard, hard questions about belonging and identity and names. No matter how I spin it, my boys are being raised white with black skin, and when I think of their future, I can’t sleep.

I’m reading books (like this and this) and being part of online forums and Facebook groups with adult adoptees who sometimes speak loudly in angry and unsettling voices because I need to know and prepare and seek to understand.

So those are some of the unexpected challenges that come with older child adoption, and really maybe any adoption. This is by no means an exhaustive list; it’s just a few of our stories, our challenges.

I have to leave you with this, though:  Given all of these struggles would be still adopt our Getu and Endale again? Without a second thought!

Our Family Today
Check back tomorrow as Kim shares about the unexpected blessings of older child adoption.

To read this whole series, start here with Day 1: 31 Days of Preparing to Parent. . . when you're adopting an older child.

Kim is a full-time teacher, wife, mother, and Christ-follower. Her family doubled in size last April with the addition of Getu (9) and Endale (8).  Kim blogs at Like the Love

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Older Child Adoption from the Child's Point of View

"Wenxin, suppose you had a chance to talk with a Chinese boy who was about to be adopted. Suppose you had a translator to help you. What would you tell that boy about adoption? What would you want him to know?"

Quiet. . . He's thinking. . . carefully choosing his words.

Finally, the answer comes -- in a voice from the backseat that sounds innocent and small.

"I would tell him that the new parents might be mean, or they might be nice. There's really no way to know."

And that was that.

It's not exactly what I thought he would say.

Is it just me, or does this blow anyone else away?

Shared at Wild & Precious and at  Emily's blog.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Respectful Conversation about Adoption

Courtesy of Bangert & Dahlquist

Adoption assumptions and adoption myths can kill respectful conversation, and often, they're just plain hurtful.

Don't assume. Ask sincerely. Have respect. 

That's pretty good advice for discussing just about anything, but it's especially true for a topic as emotionally loaded as adoption.

Have you ever felt misunderstood or hurt by someone's assumptions about your adoption? Would love to hear from adopted adults, first moms, and adoptive parents on this one.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hot, Tired, Happy . . . Blogaholics Anonymous

It's been a hot one today - A day for sunscreen and a cooler full of Gatorade! Both Katherine and Wenxin played in soccer finals, and both teams brought home second place trophies. We are hot, tired, and happy.

Remember, I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs -- anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow. Here are a few posts I've enjoyed lately.

Examining Adoption Ethics: Part One - Jen Hatmaker isn't one to dodge hard topics. Here, speaking as an adoptive parent, she tackles the issue of corruption in international adoption. A must read.

12 Things Your Daughter Needs You to Say - If you are raising daughters in a Christian home, you want to listen to what Emily Freeman has to say. She's becoming one of my go-to authors for insight on parenting my preteen girls.

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part One of a Series - If you've been around here long, you know that I value listening to adult adoptees. Here, a group of adult adoptees discusses the Christian adoption / orphan care movement. What makes this discussion especially lively is that one of the adult adoptees is a Christian pastor.

The Lost Daughters Discuss The Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce - Part Two of a Series -  Here, the same group discusses domestic adoption ethics.

We've Got Spirit! Check out my blue nails!

Ni Hao Yall

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blogaholics Anonymous

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs -- anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow.  This blog addiction serves me well as I learn to parent my child from the hard places. Most weeks I share my favorites with you here at Death by Great Wall, although this time, I think it's been a while. 

The Heart of Boston - A Christian perspective on the immigrants among us in light of Boston.

Significant Loss and Trauma Related to Adoption: Interview with Bonnie Martin, MEd, CACS, LCPC - a therapist discusses adoption related issues.

The disappearance of childhood and what we can do to get it back - I love this one! A great reminder to give a children the gift of childhood.

Parents: A Word about Instagram - Wisdom about social media and preteens.

what I want you to know about being a birthmom and backing out of the adoption plan - When a birthmom changes her mind, we usually hear about it from the perspective of the heartbroken would-be adoptive parents. This courageous mom shares her side of the story. If you have time, read the comments.

And finally, did you see my last two posts on Orphan Fever? If you missed them, be sure to check out Orphan Fever: Are Christians Naive? and Orphan Fever: Deception and Misunderstanding. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Orphan Fever: Deception and Misunderstanding

Wenxin's Arrival in America Back in 2010

Christians, orphans and international adoption. My post over the weekend about the evangelical orphan care movement generated some good discussion in the comments section.

Kathryn Joyce, author of the Mother Jones article, Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession, recently did a radio interview for NPR. The radio interview is actually much kinder to evangelical Christians than the article in Mother Jones.

Ms. Joyce uses examples from Guatemala and Ethiopia to illustrate the deception and misunderstanding that can occur in international adoption, although these are not, by any means, the only countries where problems have been reported.

Most parents who want to give an orphaned child a home would be horrified to discover that their newly adopted child was not abandoned or orphaned, as they'd been told, but had actually been recruited by a child finder. 

Most parents would be shocked to find that their adopted 10-year-old was, in reality, a 14-year-old whose date of birth had been altered to make her more adoptable.

And after sacrificing and spending tens of thousands of dollars to give a child a forever family, who wouldn't be heart-broken to realize that their new child had living relatives in their home country and viewed this not as a permanent arrangement, but as a great opportunity to get an education in America?

Deception and misunderstanding. Although it's not talked about very often, it happens. Well meaning adoptive parents and needy children sometimes fall victim to greed, corruption, and the law of supply and demand in the adoption industry. Cultural misunderstandings abound. Many adoptive parents find out after the fact that the information in their referral paperwork isn't 100% accurate.

By way of contrast, Ms. Jones highlights the country of Rwanda as an example of adoption and orphan care done right. She even gives a shout out to Saddleback Church for their initiatives in Rwanda noting that for Saddleback, orphan care is broader than just international adoption. You can read the entire transcript of the interview here.

I'd love to know what you think. What can prospective adoptive parents do to guard against being deceived in an international adoption? What concerns do you have about international adoption as it stands today?

I have a few thoughts on this issue myself, but I think I'll stop for now and give you a chance to say what's on your mind.

Ni Hao Yall

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Orphan Fever: Are Christians Naive?

Have you read the Mother Jones article? Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession by Kathryn Joyce paints a pretty unflattering picture of both evangelical Christians and the international adoption business.

Since I'm an evangelical Christian and an adoptive parent, I decided to read it, and I encourage you to take a deep breath, and read it too. Resist the urge to be defensive. Listen and learn and ask yourself, "How can we, as Christians, work to better serve orphans and widows and needy families worldwide?"

I read articles like this with the idea in mind that in most criticism, there is a kernel of truth. So I set out in search of it, knowing that when we rush to defend ourselves too quickly, we may miss the very thing that God is trying to teach us. Instead, why not give our critics a respectful hearing? Why not see if there's anything to be learned?

To illustrate what she perceives as the failings of the evangelical orphan care movement, Joyce tells the story of Sam and Serena Allison, biological parents of four, and their adoption of six orphans from Liberia. She describes their adoption as just one of many troubled Liberian adoptions that occurred as evangelicals rushed to adopt children following Liberia's 14-year civil war.

Sam and Serena adopt four kids on one trip, and it seems they are quickly overwhelmed. Unprepared to parent kids with backgrounds of trauma, they use an authoritarian, first-time obedience, corporal punishment parenting style. Perhaps their understanding of Biblical parenting led them to believe it was the only godly way.

As homeschoolers, they continue to homeschool even when it doesn't work for their adoptive kids. I couldn't help wondering if homeschooling was essential to the parents' cultural worldview. It seems that sending the adopted kids to school might have provided a much-needed respite for everyone involved.

As for the children, they come carrying baggage from the trauma of war. Hoping for a fairy-tale existence in America -- where they'd heard that money grows on trees -- they end up in rural Tennessee. Attachment doesn't go so well. There are cultural misunderstandings. Finally, one of the older adopted boys is even accused of inappropriate sexual behavior within the family.

As things continue to spiral downward, it's difficult to read. Joyce outlines serious allegations of child abuse against the Allisons and other adoptive parents. Eventually, the Allisons even send one son back to Africa where he finds his former orphanage has been closed.

I'd love for you to head on over to Mother Jones and read the whole article. 

What do you think? Were the Allisons and the other families in the article bad people, or were they just naive people? Did they seriously underestimate, or perhaps even ignore, the challenges of adopting multiple older kids from a war-torn African nation?

And what about the evangelical orphan care movement? What are we doing right? Is there anything that concerns you? How can we be better?

This is really important, and I look forward to hearing your voice in the conversation. Leave a comment below.

*If the Mother Jones article left you a little deflated, read this rebuttal by a Christian adoptive dad:  Is the Left Launching an Attack on Evangelical Adoption?

Ni Hao Yall

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blogaholics Anonymous

I got a little off my normal schedule this weekend. Saturday afternoon I posted The Art of Parenting My Preteen Daughter. If you didn't get a chance to read it, be sure and catch up today. Then on Sunday, I snapped  the adorable photo above of said preteen daughter being silly and sweet with Mike.

This Blogaholics Anonymous is coming a couple of days late, but the links are so good, I didn't want to wait until next weekend to post them.

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs -- anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow.  This blog addiction serves me well as I learn to parent my child from the hard places. Every week I share my favorites with you here at Death by Great Wall. 

You must jump OUT of the Trauma Tornado - when parenting trauma background kids, the parents have to be the first to change. This is a simple, easy-to-understand explanation of why we have to parent trauma kids differently.

a letter to my 4 year old on her birthday - Birthdays are perfect times to remember birth parents, even when your child is only 4 years old.

This is not a gray area. What do you do when you fly overseas to pick up your new child, only to find out that she has living family members -- a mother even -- and they haven't relinquished her. How do you pray about your adoption? How do you ask others to pray?

How Magic Johnson Became My New Favorite Basketball Player - This Dad is with his family in China, right now, adopting twins. The fact that both his new children are HIV positive no longer frightens him.

Ni Hao Yall

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Do You Say, "No," to Adopting One More?

"We already had a large family when we felt God's call to adopt. We adopted one child after another, several children in the space of a few years. Now I could spin this story in a way that makes it look sacrificial and super-spiritual. But in reality, it was just plain reckless." (paraphrase of an adoptive father speaking at Empowered to Connect)

One thing that struck me at Empowered to Connect was the honesty and humility of the speakers. No one tried to whip us into a frenzy to run out and save all the world's orphans. It seemed deliberately low key.

What was emphasized was the cost of adoption. Not the monetary cost. The day I spent at Empowered to Connect, that was hardly mentioned. The cost I'm talking about is the cost of investment parenting. The kind of parenting that takes a lot of time and possibly a lot of re-learning on the part of the adoptive parents.

It was even suggested that, if possible, we bring home one child at a time. I don't think anyone was saying that's a hard and fast rule. Especially when fostering, there are sibling groups that need to stay together. So please don't think I'm criticizing you if you are in the process of adopting two or more kids at once. But prospective adoptive parents need to be aware of how much emotional energy it will take to parent a child from the hard places.

It sounds spiritual to say, "there's always room at my table for one more," especially with the staggering number of children needing homes. But in reality, when we adopt more children than we can actually parent, we run the risk of creating a home that is more like a small orphanage than a family.

I admit I still sit up late at night scrolling through photos of waiting children, both here in U.S. foster care and overseas in orphanages. I find myself wondering if we'll ever adopt one more.

The Empowered to Connect Conference actually encouraged me to take the time to invest deeply in the four children God has given me today. Maybe when these kids are grown we will foster or adopt teenagers. Many of the waiting kids in my state are teens.

But for today, I think our parenting plate is full.

What about you? I know many of you have large families. When do you say, "No," to adopting one more? 

BabyLinkUp500pxMissional Women
Little by Little

Monday, February 4, 2013


I was 32 and at a business conference in Colorado. Someone at the reception desk handed me a message that Nancy returned my call. I picked up the receiver of the payphone nearby and tried calling her again.


“Hello, Nancy? This is Jill.”

“Oh, yes, Jill. I’ve found your file and will be happy to send it to you if you give me a number where I can FAX it. Remember, all the identifying information will be marked out. Only the non-identifying information will be readable. But you can get an idea of your story.

“Um. There is something else I should tell you,” said Nancy.

My heart was beating in my ears. What did she need to say?

“There is a fairly recent note. You have two sisters, and they tried to contact you through the agency about a year ago. They wanted you to know that your birthmother has passed away.”

I just stood there at the pay phone and really wanted to sit down. The life-long pang of loss took on another dimension.

“Oh,” I said. “Thank you for telling me. I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of half-sisters. And, she died? I am kind of prepared for that. When I was searching for her, I had a mysterious impression that I didn’t have a lot of time to find her.”

I gave Nancy the FAX number of a nearby Kinko’s where about 20 pages of the most personal of personal information was going to be printed out for the wandering eyes of the Kinko’s employees. My best friend and I rushed over to the Kinko’s to retrieve the FAX.

We then drove up into some nearby Colorado hills, parked the car, got out and sat on some rocks overlooking the valley where a town was nestled.  After five years of on-and-off searching for my birthmother, I slowly read aloud the story of how my life began and the sacrificial choice my birthmother made.

            Like a tide rising, there was a gradual filling in of the numerous blanks in my life. My records were sealed by the state, and even my wonderful parents had scant details to tell me about myself.

There I sat, reading for the first time that my birthmother was a nurse and had served in the Air Force for two years where she met my birth father, a fighter pilot. When she became pregnant with me, she struggled not knowing what to do. The social worker wrote a detailed account of what transpired just before I was born.

Interestingly, nothing was mentioned about my parents. I suppose that’s in another dusty file box at the agency. Mom and Dad got me when I was 16 days old. Sixteen months later, my brother, their biological child, was born. What can I say? Mom and Dad were the best parents I could’ve gotten. They aren’t perfect, but they are perfect for me. I'm so thankful for how my parents were able to rescue me from what could have been. Their encouragement, strength and security in themselves helped me embark on the search to find the missing pieces of my beginnings.

Growing up, the pang in my soul from all the unknowns in my story caused a continual ache. The ache didn’t keep me from making friends, playing an instrument, doing well in school or traveling the world. The ache was something I lived with. The pang was an emotional chronic pain similar to what physical chronic pain can be. It’s always there, but one keeps moving and doesn’t know what life would be like if the chronic pain was gone.

Sometimes  the pang was in the forefront of my thoughts. During holidays, when our whole family was together – Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts and uncles, second cousins – I felt the pang more intensely. Physically, I blended into my immediate family quite well. But when the line of the family circle was drawn larger to include aunts, uncles and cousins, I felt a disconnect in a way that was unexplainable during my first 27 years. My extended family were so accepting and warm toward me that they would forget my biological heritage was not the same as theirs. I have two heritages — one is biological and the other is the family culture that raised me. Both heritages have formed who I am… and I'm so grateful for what each contributes.

During my twenties, I learned that the pang in my soul was tied to a great loss and that my fear of being left was connected to the first minutes of my life when my birth mother, Lois, would not even hold me for fear she could not relinquish me to a better situation. I also learned that I believed a lie from the darkest of places. This was the lie -- My existence deserved rejection. If I hadn’t been born, I would not have been rejected.

Because of God’s undeserved love toward me, I also learned He had chosen me before anything existed. That He is always near me and would never leave or forget me. A passage in the Bible brought me comfort, “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible,
 I would not forget you!”

Wherever I went, I met adoptees and we shared our unique stories and feelings. Their perspectives about their birthparents and how the loss played out in their lives helped me realize I wasn’t crazy. The loneliness began to diminish.

When my search came to an end that day on the hill in Colorado, I was driven to find and meet my half sisters and other family members. Within a few days, the non-identifying information brought me into contact with Beth, Kristin, my cousins, aunts and uncles. They were patient with my questions and each helped me to understand Lois a little better. That is a story for another blog post.

Probably because Lois had passed away, I felt a need to find my birthfather. With help from my half sister, Beth, I tracked him down. He was quite put out that I found him. Eventually, we met. Let’s say that I would be okay if that was the last time I saw him.
            For me, I can say that the pang in my soul has healed into a scar and is no longer an open wound. The dam in my heart that held the loss, fear, anger, grief, loneliness and want of answers is broken. At first, the flood waters were so overwhelming that I dealt with a lot of anxiety. Moving through those waters was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and I could not have done it alone. My community of family, friends and God Himself brought me through. I became able to accept the love my parents had given me.

One thing I’d like adoptive parents to know is that there are many things I’d love for them to know! There is a book entitled, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge. I highly recommend this book. Every adoptee is different in how each responds to being adopted. This is a wonderful introductory guide to begin to put words to what an adoptee is experiencing whether or not he or she shows it.

 Adoption is a glorious and wonderful event, but intermingled with the good is profound sadness due to the loss of being abandoned. Those feelings are often overwhelming and confusing. Adoptive parents need to be prepared, equipped, loving and strong to provide a safe place for their child to unfold – in their time – the loss so they can receive and appreciate their parents’ love.


Jill, a married mom of a three-year-old, has a degree in PR-Journalism from Auburn University and a M.A. in Christian Thought from Reformed Theological Seminary. She works for a mission organization and enjoys writing when time allows. Jill and her husband are also considering adoption to complete their family.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blogaholics Anonymous

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs -- anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow.

You may have noticed that I tend to like edgy posts -- things that force my thinking out of my comfort zone. If you've noticed that, you are correct.

I think it's especially important for us as parents to continue to learn and grow and have our thinking challenged. I'm convinced that listening to others, often  people I don't totally see eye to eye with, has made me a better person and a better parent.

So here are seven selections from this week. You don't want to miss a single one.

The Changing Face of China's Orphans - Why has the adoption of healthy Chinese baby girls slowed down? Part 1 of a series by Amy Eldridge of Love Without Boundaries.

Changing Attitudes - What a difference 10 years makes. Why Chinese now are more open to daughters. Part 2 of a series.

The Adoption of Boys - Today 50% of children entering China's orphanages are boys. Part 3 of a series.

Domestic Adoption on the Rise - Adoption is catching on in China today - meaning many Chinese orphans can now find a forever family in their own country. Part 4 of a series.

Dear Christian Who is Praying for an Infant to Adopt - A Christian leader who is an adult adoptee asks Christians to think about what they are really saying when they pray for an infant to adopt. You don't have to agree, but I dare you to read it, and think about it.

How I try to make a small difference - A mom considering an adoption plan for her baby chooses instead, to parent. I love how her friend (who happens to also be a birthmom) is providing the support that helps keep mom and baby together.

The open adoption spectrum? Or something better. - Openess in adoption is defined by more than just contact with the birth family. This new model presents adoption as more nuanced than simply open or closed.

Calling Guest Bloggers

Did you see the first post in my series, On Being Adopted? Susan did a great job sharing her story as she reminded us that there can never be too much love. Susan's beautifully written prose brought tears to my eyes.

I still have a few spots open for February. I’m looking for guest posts which:

· Tell a personal story that illustrates some aspect of your experience as an adoptee. I know that your adoption experience is many-faceted and complex, but please choose one aspect to focus on in your post.

· Are 500 – 900 words in length

· End with the statement: One thing I’d like adoptive parents to know is . . .

· Pieces previously published on your personal blog may be submitted as long as they are tweaked to fit the above guidelines.
As far as topics go, the list of possibilities are endless, but here are some questions that I, as an adoptive parent, would love to see addressed:

· How did being adopted affect you at different stages of development? Especially, how did your experience of being adopted change as you entered your teen years?

· What challenges has being adopted present for you in your adult years?

· If you are in reunion, could you tell a story that illustrates some aspect of that experience?

· If you were adopted internationally, have you visited your birth country? Could your share a story that illustrates some aspect of that experience?
I believe there will be great interest in this series. I hope I will receive a variety of submissions that taken together will help paint a picture of the adoptee experience, promoting understanding and perhaps, dispelling some myths.

Please send submissions to You may simply type your submission in the body of the email or attach it as a Word document.

Please edit for grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I will not be able to use submissions that require extensive editing. I do reserve the right to make minor grammar/punctuation/spelling edits. I will not, however, edit your content in any way.

Submitting a post, does not guarantee that it will be published at Death by Great Wall. I will, however, respond to all submissions within two weeks.

Monday, January 14, 2013

There Can Never Be Too Much Love

Today I welcome Susan Perry to Death by Great Wall. Susan is the first blogger in a series of Monday posts by adult adoptees that I'm calling On Being Adopted. I hope you'll read Susan's story. If it speaks to you, please share it on Facebook and Twitter. 

I was a 52-year-old adult at the time, but as an adoptee, my hands were shaking and my heart was pounding as I picked up the phone to return a call from the woman who had given birth to me. Several weeks before, I had sent her a compassionate and carefully-worded letter by certified mail, expressing my openness to exchanging information with her, and accompanied by a brief, easy-to-understand medical questionnaire that my daughter, a physician, had prepared.

My original mother had already returned the questionnaire along with a brief, rather terse note -- "Please do not try to contact me again. I've thought about you often and in my heart I love you, but I have no desire to meet." I already knew from my agency's "non-identifying" information that my original mother had another daughter -- five years old -- when I was relinquished. Her note to me also added, "My daughter does not know about you. Please don't cause problems."

So it came as a shock to me when I returned home from doing errands to hear her voice on the answering machine: "This is Mrs. xxxxx. Please call me back. I would really like to talk with you."

What did she want? Was she calling to yell at me for sending my letter and disturbing her peace? In many ways, as a product of the closed adoption system, I had been conditioned to accept that my own history was none of my business, and my agency had told me that my original mother was "an angry woman, tough to reach." Would she be willing to tell me more about my own beginnings? It didn't seem likely.

Before picking up the phone, I jotted down some questions, knowing that this might well be the only opportunity I would ever have to connect with her.

Our conversation was brief and tentative, but it lifted a great weight from my shoulders. Her tone was soft and conciliatory. We both agreed that "adoption is very hard." I assured her that my adoptive parents had been loving people who had provided me with a warm and stable home. She told me once again that "she loved me in her heart." But she had health problems, she said, and she didn't feel comfortable enough to meet, or to plan any further contact.

I was disappointed in one way, because I would have liked to have had the opportunity to get to know her better. Yet the conversation was so helpful and liberating for me, all the same. My original mother, the woman who nobody ever mentioned or talked about, was not a ghost -- she was real, a human being just trying to forge her way through life the best she can. She wasn't a monster; she wasn't a saint, just another human being on the journey of life. What in the world was the point in keeping her identity a secret from me for all these years? As a child, I was left to wonder whether there was something terribly wrong with her, or me, since no one ever mentioned her existence, much less her name.

As a young adult, I thought about her in more tangible terms, of course, especially when I had my own children. But I didn't feel comfortable enough in my own skin then to circumvent all the societal barriers and attempt contact. And I was so afraid of hurting the feelings of my now-deceased adoptive parents, whom I loved deeply. Sadly, I never did talk with them openly about how adoption has affected me, and yet in just about every other area, I shared a close and meaningful relationship with them.

I used to think that because I loved my parents so much, I had to love adoption too, or at least keep my conflicted feelings to myself. Now I can say confidently that an adoptee's feelings for her original family in no way diminish her love for her adoptive family.Too many adoptive parents, I feel, are still conditioned to believe that if they love the child enough, the identity of the original parents well never be relevant or important.

What I would like adoptive parents to know is that the adopted person has two families, recognized or not, and battles about which is more important are non-productive and can be corrosive to the adoptee's soul. As a grown adoptee, my message is simple: love is and should be expansive, and there can never be too much.

Susan Perry is a happily married mother of two and grandmother of six.  She is also an adult adoptee who is passionate about adoption reform. You can find her blogging at Family Ties.

Shared at Growing Slower's Tuesday Baby Link-up.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Visit With (Birth Mother,) First Mother Forum

This spring I wrote a post called My Daughter's Death / His Other Moms.  It's all about grief and loss -- my loss of my second child and Wenxin's loss of his first two moms.  Every adoption begins with a loss.

Today I want to invite you to visit this loss from another perspective -- the perspective of a birth mom / first mom.  I've gained so much by spending some time at (Birth Mother,) First Mother Forum.  This blog is co-authored by Lorraine Dusky and Jane Edwards, both moms who relinquished children for adoption back in the sixties.

With their permission, here is an excerpt from their article, What We Think About Adoption, where they answer the question, "Are you against all adoptions?"

Are we against all adoptions? No.

Some are absolutely necessary, and good. There will always be children who, for one sad reason or another, need to find a home and parents, and in many cases, they will not be family members.
We are against unnecessary adoptions whether domestic or international.
In many cases, adoptions  occur because mothers are not told about resources that would allow them to keep their children, nor are they cautioned about the lifelong impact adoption will have not only on themselves, but also on the children.
Women are sometimes coerced into surrender by the adoption industry, prospective adoptive parents, or family members; they are pressured to sign consents within days of birth--in Alabama, Hawaii, and Washington they may sign consents prior to giving birth--well before they can recover from the effects of childbirth, and appreciate their loss; mothers are also sometimes falsely promised that they will be able to maintain contact with their children, and thus agree to an "open" adoption when they would not agree to a closed one. 

We are against adoptions where fathers who are eager and able to care for their child are denied this right.

I've emailed back and forth with Lorraine for the past couple of days and she is a lovely lady.  I appreciate her taking the time to interact with me on this post.

So much to think about.  We owe it to our adopted kids to think through these issues and to listen to perspectives that differ from our own.

You can read the rest of Lorraine and Jane's thoughts on adoption at (Birth Mother,) First Mother Forum.