Showing posts with label Adult Adoptees. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adult Adoptees. 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 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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Day 17: Listening to Adult Adoptees, Part I

Tara's Family
There is only one group of people who can tell us, from experience, what it's like to grow up adopted. We must develop the habit of listening to the stories of adult adoptees.

Please don't think that just because you've known one adult adoptee in your life that you've got the whole picture. Each story is unique. We need to develop the habit of lowering our defenses and listening because only adult adoptees can help us see adoption through an adopted person's eyes.

Today, I interview Tara Bradford about growing up as an international adoptee. Tara has a unique perspective as she is a transracial adoptee, a mom by both birth and adoption, and an orphan care advocate. 

Welcome, Tara, to Death by Great Wall. Tell us a little about your story.

We know that all stories of adoption begin with loss, and mine began with my relinquishment by my Korean birth family, resulting in my adoption by a Caucasian family in the US. The family I came into had a son two years older than me. 

Unfortunately, the loss did not end there.

Within a year of my adoption, the couple separated. There was much pain in my childhood from experiencing the effects of what divorce can do in a family, especially as an unattached adoptee. I was close to my mother and grandparents, but did not have a good relationship with my adoptive father. Years of emotional pain culminated in him telling me he had not wanted to adopt me, but did it only to save his marriage. As a result, at the age of 21, I legally dissolved my relationship with him and had my mom’s third husband named as my legal father. 

The challenge of being a transracial adoptee in a small town --population 800 -- with no other minorities but myself, coupled with what I was experiencing through the divorce created a lot of insecurity, identity confusion, and fear of being rejected. I’ve since reached out to my mom’s first husband and told him I forgive him and have been on a healing journey from my circumstances for the last 13 years.

Was being adopted a positive thing or a negative thing in your life?

It is both. I realize that because of the unknown circumstances of my relinquishment, I could have ended up in conditions that might have taken my life down a very different and negative path had I stayed in Korea. The positive part of being adopted is that despite the circumstances of my adoption, it brought me here to the US where I met my husband and have a very blessed life.

The negative part of adoption is also the unknown circumstances of my relinquishment. It caused me to grow up without my birth family. I experienced further abandonment with the divorce of my adoptive parents and the eventual dissolution of my relationship with my adoptive father. The effects of others' choices on my life dug deeply into my heart and soul, and the road to healing has been long.

What was it like growing up in a family with people who didn't look like you? Did you have any Asian friends or role models?

It was very difficult growing up as a transracial adoptee. My racial background was not something we discussed intentionally. My childhood was challenging because I knew I was different, and I was trying to understand where I fit in since everyone at school was white, and everyone else in my family was as well. I began to think that in order to fit in, I had to look and act white. I remember dreaming about getting my eyelids fixed so I would have folds in them and could look more like the white people around me.

I didn’t know any other Asians and only came into contact with them when we would visit a Chinese restaurant at which point I would feel terribly uncomfortable and embarrassed. I really wish my parents had been more intentional about teaching me the history of my racial background and helping me understand how to feel comfortable with my racial identity within a white culture.

What was your parents' attitude toward your birth family and birth culture? How did that affect you?

We never talked about it. I would like to believe that they respected my birth culture, and I guess I honestly can’t say how they felt about my birth family as again, it wasn’t a topic of conversation that we engaged in.

In looking back at my childhood, I can see how that was very disempowering to me as a transracial adoptee. Not understanding my birth culture or how one exists within the American culture as a transracial adoptee created a huge chasm in my life. The lack of knowledge of my birth family coupled with my ignorance of my birth culture caused me to experience a deep identity problem.

Have you ever gone back to your birth country?

I have never gone back to Korea. I hope to do so soon and have been talking with my husband about when that will be.

If you could meet your birth mother today, what would you like to ask her?

If I met my birth mother, I would want to know the circumstances of my relinquishment. There is a constant gnawing inside of me that beckons the question, “Why?” It’s as if I have a chapter of my story that has been torn from the book leaving blanks that can’t be filled in. Even though I’m at peace with not knowing, there is a sense of wonderment about my birth family.

Friends, Tara's honest, vulnerable answers brought tears to my eyes. She's given us a lot to think about. If you have a question you'd like to ask Tara, please leave a comment, and I'm sure Tara will be glad to respond. You can also hear more from Tara on her blog, Smore Stories.

Tomorrow, I'll ask Tara about how her own adoption affects the way she parents her adopted children. See you then!

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

Friday, June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

It starts Monday. 31 Days of Preparing to Parent. . . when you're adopting an older child. 

I'm so excited. The guest posts throughout the month are going to be great. Adult Adoptees. Therapists. Adoptive Parents. I hope you'll check in every day. And I hope you'll help me spread the word.

I've been thinking of doing this series for a long time. But posting ever day -- for 31 days? I was intimidated and a little afraid to fail.

Then, I saw this on Nester's blog. And I was inspired to go for it.
Lara Casey

Since this blog is going to be unreservedly devoted to all things older child adoption for the month of July, the next six quick takes will be totally random!

For years I've been basically using my fancy DSLR camera as a point and shoot, but today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I'm learning to shoot in manual. Yes, I am. I'm taking a class called Manual 'n More from Nancy over at Ordinary Miracles and the Crazy Nine. Today's assignment: Grab your favorite model and take a photo to upload to the class website. I picked Julia. The above photo represents the starting place for my work. I hope to take Nancy's Lightroom 101 editing class when I graduate from Manual 'n More. Get ready. Gorgeous photos coming your way soon.

This time last year I was begging someone to put me into a medically induced coma for a few days while Nathan went away to camp for the first time. I poured out my heart in a post called Missing Someone, Sniff. . . Sniff. Well, it's here again. Summer camp. This weekend. Help!

Guess what's arriving at my house next Friday? Stitch Fix #4. I was completely happy to take a break from Stitch Fix for a while, but then you guys went crazy ordering Stitch Fix fun for yourselves through my referral link. So now I have a pile of Stitch Fix credit burning a hole in my pocket. What's a girl to do? Oh my, I'm deliriously happy anticipating what my stylist will choose for me this time. You'll have to wait until August to see the photos. Because me modeling trendy, pricey clothes really has nothing at all to do with preparing parents to adopt older kids. In the meantime, you can read about my previous Fixes here.

Here's the post that made me laugh the hardest last week: Kristen Howerton's the time the kids and I drank beer at Target.
Here's the post that made me think the most last week: Scooping it Up's Two Cents on why it's OK to be Disgusted by Ms. Deen.

Lastly, here's a post that I didn't expect to love as much as I did: Glennon Doyle's I Love Gay People and I Love Christians. I Choose All.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to drop by Monday morning!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gotcha Day - Yea or Nay?

Our First Family Portrait on Wenxin's Original Gotcha Day Back in 2010

"Hey Mom, do you know about Gotcha Day?" 

Thank you very much, Netflix. Somewhere, in Wenxin's daily consumption of Disney sitcoms, he happened on an adoption-themed show. And one of the characters let the cat out of the bag about Gotcha Day.

"It's for adopted kids. It's a day to celebrate the day you adopted me -- kind of like a birthday."

Gotcha Day. Sounds good to Wenxin, but you might want to know that not everyone's a fan.

At first glance, Gotcha Day seems like a great idea. A day to celebrate becoming a family. What could be wrong with that? 

Well, for one, some people seem to object to the cutesy name.  The word, gotcha, conjures up images of childless parents snatching or acquiring children. You know, "Gotcha!" For folks who cringe at the term, Gotcha Day, many simply change the name to Family Day or Adoption Day. Problem solved.

But for others the issue is deeper. Here are some comments from adult adoptees I found by doing a quick search of adoption message boards.

I was adopted as an infant but back in my day (lol) the term "Gotcha Day" hadn't yet evolved (thank God). I do think that "Adoption Day" would be a more respectful term. 

I personally felt an added pressure to "perform" because I was a "chosen child". It felt a little bit like I was acquired to fill the space in my family that needed to be filled. I was loved and cherished, but it did not erase that fact. Celebrating "Gotcha Day" would have probably made that feeling even worse. Adoptive parents (even on this forum) seem so eager and desperate to find a child (being honest here) to love. And yes, I can understand that. But coming from the other end of that love, I'd just say be extra careful. Celebrate that child's full heritage, and let him/her acknowledge the truths and reality that they are separated from their biological identity, family, and heritage. Adoption involves loss, and when we enforce a "celebration" around it, I personally believe it tells that child it's not safe or right to feel any feelings other than positive. Then when the child grows up they have to revisit their entire reality. Just my opinion.

From another adult adoptee:

I'm going to be a bit more blunt. I think the idea of celebrating a "Gotcha" day or "Adoption day" is one of the more ridiculous ideas I've yet heard. I don't intend to offend anyone, but as an adoptee, I would have dreaded such a day every year. My thoughts would have been along the lines of -
"You want me to celebrate the fact that someone gave me away?"

Another individual suggests that the age of the adopted child makes a big difference:

When I was really young, I was "proud" to have been adopted and think I really would have enjoyed the formal celebration. I'm certain, however, that I would have wanted no part of it by the time I reached about 11 or 12. 

Hmmm. . .That's a lot to think about.  Adoption always looks a little different from the eyes of the adopted child.

But while I'd love to say that our lack of celebration surrounding Wenxin's Gotcha Day has been the result of careful thought given to the pros and cons and long-term effects of such celebrations, that would be a tad untrue. While I have definitely been influenced by listening to adult adoptees, the honest truth is that I have four children, and I'm just not sure I can add one more celebration to my already overflowing plate.

I've noticed that, as a mom, there's a rhythm to my year. And every year, from September to the beginning of March, I run a gauntlet. It starts with Julia's birthday and continues on to the Chinese Moon Festival, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Nathan's Birthday, Christmas, Wenxin's Birthday, New Years, Chinese New Year,  Valentines, and finally, Katherine's Birthday. The thought of inserting one more holiday to this list is exhausting. Enough special food. Enough presents. Enough gift bags. Enough!

And then, because I have three biological kids and one adopted child, I definitely don't want to make it kind of like another birthday, as Wenxin inferred from the Disney show. I'm pretty happy with each child, bio or adopted, getting celebrated on their one special day each year.

I promise I'm not a lazy mom. I am, however, a fairly tired one.

Recently, Wenxin and I revisited the topic of Gotcha Day. I explained to him why the term, gotcha, made me a little uncomfortable.

"Oh, I see," he said. And then he thought for a moment. "I know what we can call it."

"What?" I asked.

"We could call it GOT YOU Day."

Yeah. . . I'm pretty sure he's just in it for the presents.

So what do you do in your family? Gotcha Day. Yea or Nay? Shared at We Are That Family.

Coming July 1

Ni Hao Yall

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. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An-Ya and Her Diary: A Book Review

Dear Diary,
I have a new mother and a father. I call my father Daddy. I call my mother Wanna. I call her that in secret because she Wanna be my mommy. She can't. They mean nothing to me. I know their names, I know how many papers they signed to make me their daughter, but those papers mean nothing. I don't have anything else to say about them right now. 

These words from the opening pages of An-Ya and Her Diary, a young adult novel by Diane Rene Christian, stopped me cold. An-Ya, an eleven-year-old girl, recently adopted from China, calls her new mother Wanna? At the time, it was more than my adoptive mama heart could bear so I turned off my Kindle and didn't return to An-Ya's story for about three months. 

Recently, however, something prompted me to revisit An-Ya, and I'm glad I did.

Eleven-year-old An-Ya is one of China's abandoned babies. She was found in a box along with a blank book.  Printed on the first page of the book was her name, An-Ya. For years, An-Ya fantasizes about the day her birth parents will return to the orphanage for her and her diary, now her most precious possession. She keeps the diary blank, waiting for the day she can fill it with her story's happy ending.

But An-Ya's birth parents never come.

Instead, eleven-year-old An-Ya is adopted by American parents. She is their second child. Her younger sister, three-year-old Ellie, was adopted from China as a baby. The presence of Ellie in An-Ya's story provides a great contrast, showing how older child adoption is, indeed, very different from infant adoption.

Once in America, An-Ya begins to record her journey in her diary, and the words she writes paint a real life picture of international older child adoption. We watch An-Ya's family struggle. We cheer them on. And the unique value for adoptive parents like me, is that the story is told from An-Ya's perspective

An-Ya and Her Diary is a real jewel, and in my opinion, a must-read for any parent considering an older child adoption. Because adoption looks very different when viewed through the eyes of the adopted child.

Diane Rene Christian, an adoptive mother herself, resists the urge to neatly tie up all the loose ends in An-Ya's story, and the book closes with An-Ya and her family very much still in process. But they've all come a long way, and as I turn the last electronic page, I am convinced that An-Ya is going to be OK. I'm pretty sure she's even warming up to Wanna.

At this time, Amazon Prime members may borrow An-Ya and Her Diary free on Kindle. And in the future, I hope to review An-Ya and Her Diary: Reader and Parent Guide, a collaborative work by a group of professional adult adoptees. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Love is Thicker Than Blood

“Blood is thicker than water.” We've all heard it. This German proverb is meant to explain that the bonds of family are stronger than those you make with others. But what if you’re not blood related to those you’re supposed to be most closely connected to? Does that mean you don’t apply? That you don’t get it? That the strength of your feelings just isn’t strong enough?

I have been struggling for the past few weeks to write this post. I have so much to talk about when it comes to adoption that I have a hard time narrowing it down to one subject. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been incredibly distracted. My grandmother passed away on January 26, and I spent a lot of time in my hometown before and after her death. Returning to my life here with my husband and friends and picking up where I left off has proven quite difficult.
My grandmother, Louise, was 92 years old. She saw the Great Depression, World War II (and every war since), and watched women and African Americans fight for and gain equal rights. She had a wonderful husband and two children, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. “I’ve had a really great life,” she always told us, and she had.

I spent most of the day in the hospital with my grandma and mom the day after she was admitted. Her congestive heart failure was reaching a point that we knew she wouldn’t be with us much longer. When my uncle showed up to stay with her for the night, I drove Mom home to sleep a bit before coming back. She told me stories the entire drive.

“When Daddy (my grandfather) was at this hospital recovering from heart surgery, Momma (my grandmother) went down to the cafeteria to get something to eat and ran into this little lady who was knitting and surrounded by all of these little baby clothes. Momma was so curious that she asked, 'Who are you making all of these clothes for?' The lady said, 'Oh, I’m making them for the babies who are adopted from the Godparent Home!' This just set her on fire! We were still trying unsuccessfully, and as soon as she told us about the Godparent Home, we put in an application. She was just so excited about all of those baby clothes and knew we wanted a baby so bad.”

This was only the first time my or my brother’s adoption was mentioned that week. Sadly, the way it was brought up to my brother wasn't in such a sweet, commemorative way. A person who came through the receiving line at the funeral home on family night introduced herself to my brother by asking, “Are you one of the adopted ones?” (Seriously!? How insensitive and rude! Some people…)

People bring up adoption in the most random ways. Our family usually only brings it up to highlight special memories, such as the little knitting lady unknowingly leading my parents to the place from which they'd adopt. Some people bring it up because of curiosity, like the woman who so rudely “introduced” herself to my brother during such a difficult occasion. The third time adoption was brought up that week was to me again; this time by the type of person who doesn’t know they’re even touching upon the subject. This is the most common way that adoption pops up in daily life.

After the graveside service I rose to walk from beneath the tent and was immediately surrounded by relatives, friends, and members of our church’s congregation. Hugs came from all directions, followed by supportive and loving comments to me about my grandmother. One lady from church held on and wouldn't let go.

“She was such a sweet woman. You will have so many wonderful memories! 92 years is a long, long life of good memories,” she said consoling me. She then tried to lighten the conversation by joking, “Well, you have good genes then! I hope you can look forward to 90+ years with hardly any health problems. Good genes!”

I smiled and nodded; this wasn't my first rodeo. In the few seconds of a conversation like this, it’s amazing how quickly your mind can run through so many thoughts before you even need to respond: "She doesn't know. How long has she known me? Just be nice and play along. Great genes; agree with her that you have great genes." 

“Yes, great genes! I keep teasing Mom that now I’ll have to put up with her until she’s 90!” She laughed, hugged me, and left me to greet others.

I may not have Louise’s genes, but she showered me with love from day one. She and my grandfather, my other grandmother, my Mom and Dad, my brother, uncles, aunts, cousins… they all have loved and do love me so much. There has never been a day that I have not been a part of that family. The one thing I want adoptive parents to know is that blood may be thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood.

Emily is a 26-year-old adoptee, wife, graphic designer, and blogger. She has started a fairly new blog to write about her life as an adoptee, Finding Tristen Kay, and blogs personally at Em Busy Living.

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.