June 29, 2009

First-hand joy, second-hand pain

I added a comment on the subject of the following post to the incredible discussion over here, but I think it warrants its own post, too, because it's a little complicated. But before I go there, I have to say that that discussion did my soul a lot - I mean, A LOT - of good. Amazing. Thank you.

If you haven't read the post and comments, you'll need to for context. One commenter asked a really good question about my analogy and the logic I used to get there:
But I do wonder, from the side of a first/natural parent - when a aparents do understand and grasp the "other" feelings of adoption that exist for adoptees and first/natrual moms, can they ever truly really turn off that light with no reminder of the other truths that exist.
The commenter is absolutely right that I can never really escape the reality of adoption pain. The fact that I'm still here talking about adoption after all the ups and downs I've experienced in adoption-blogland kind of proves it. But for me, anyway, there is a switch, so let me explain in a little more detail how it works in my life.

I live adoption two ways. I live it through my own adoption journey: the story of how my husband and I decided to adopt, how we chose to adopt from Korea, our homestudy, the legal process we followed, the waiting, the arrivals, and parenting. That journey is one that is marked by sadness and joy, sometimes for reasons that really have nothing to do with adoption itself, like infertility. But given the outcome - my two incredible kids - adoption has been and is a joyful experience for me, one that has completed me, rather than causing division and separation.

As a parent always feels what their children feel, I also live adoption through my children's experiences. When adoption brings them pain, there's no question that I feel it. I try to understand the pain adoption has brought my children's parents, too. But in both cases, I feel this pain second-hand, maybe even third-hand in the case of my children's parents, because I have no access to them and can't even hear them tell their own stories. No matter the degree, the point is that I can talk about what I think they are feeling, write about it, and even experience it - but never the same way they do, never in the context of a personal experience.

For example, I can go to the doctor and fill out a medical form without a thought. If I don't know the answer to a specific question, it's only because someone in the family doesn't know, not because law and practice have blocked it from me. I can therefore choose whether or not to acknowledge my children's pain at having to write Unknown down the page, or I can tell myself it's really no big deal. I can make a conscious decision to flip that switch one way or another.

Same thing about my children's parents' experiences. When someone asks me how many kids I have, the question doesn't cause me pain and I don't think twice to answer. I can choose to remember how hard it must be for someone to have to weigh that answer, or I can downplay that pain. Again, I can choose whether to flip the switch or not.

Like I said before, I can escape. Which is why I shouldn't.

Hope this clarifies rather than making it all murkier. It is, after all, Monday morning and I'm only on my first cup of coffee.

June 28, 2009

Breakfast with Skito

I just enjoyed one of the nicest mornings I've had in a long time. I had breakfast with Susan Ito and her husband John!

I've respected Susan for a long time for her work in the adoption community. She devotes a considerable amount of time to PACT Camp, is co-editor of A Ghost at Heart's Edge: Stories and Poems of Adoption, and is a strong voice for ethical adoption. But Susan is a really neat person on many other fronts, too - you may also know her from her column Life in the Sandwich at Literary Mama and her other writing.

I got to know Susan from her blog and from my (really pathetic) participation in one of her online writing classes, which I enjoyed immensely in spite of the fact that I was a terrible student. Susan was extremely patient with my feeble attempts, as well as encouraging. She's a wonderful teacher.

Being now able to say I've met her in real life, I can also say she's just plain fun, as is John. Over coffee and egg sandwiches at a little Alexandria cafe, we talked about family and life, and shared our thoughts on society today. I like the way Susan and John think, probably because we clearly shared the same opinions on pretty much everything we talked about.

Susan, John, thanks for touching base and taking time out of your weekend to get together. I enjoyed it immensely and can't wait for the next time! Safe travels home!!

June 27, 2009

Make a statement and support ARD

Wardrobe must-haves that support an important cause:

Denied OBC t-shirts in many styles and colors. I like the green, which ARD asks supporters to wear on July 21, the day of the Adoptee Rights Demonstration in Philadelphia.

All kinds of
ARD products. I LOVE the bib, and you bet my kids would each have one if they still wore bibs.

Which in spite of their ages, they sometimes should.

Now go shopping!!

June 23, 2009

Light switch

And I hope I don’t tangle myself up any more than I already am in the process of trying to explain my thoughts on one the comments on that last post.

I didn’t mean to dismiss or diminish the experiences of any of the adoptive parents by suggesting that APs can walk away from adoption more easily than adopted people or first parents. But I think it’s fair to say a couple of things that differentiate our journeys from those of adopted people and first parents, which make it possible for us to catch our breath from time to time.

At the top of the list are the facts that a) unless we happen to have been adopted ourselves, we aren’t blocked by law from our own identities (people, this is huge!!!) and b) we chose adoption. I mean REALLY chose it. No adoptive parent wakes up one morning to discover they’re in the middle of a homestudy. We research, we weigh options, and we decide. The way I see it, with any conscious decision comes responsibility. When, years after our decision has brought a child into our family , adoption becomes a presence in our lives (even if we don’t want it to be,) so be it. It was our choice.

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, Well, what’s different about first parents? They made the decision to put themselves at risk for pregnancy, so they should have to bear the same responsibility.

In the mainstream, adoptive parents can be pretty sure they’ll be praised for their actions. You’ve done such a wonderful thing! Your children are so lucky! The message for most young unmarried men and women is often quite different: Do the right thing for your baby, let him grow up with two parents. How can you possibly support a child at your age? Adoption becomes a temporary path of least resistance, rather than a conscious, enlightened choice. And there's seldom a mention of the grief that's sure to follow.

As for adoptees: They have absolutely no choice of ANY kind in the matter of adoption and are then relegated to second-class citizen by our legal system. It's second nature to me to know my ethnic background and family history; every time I talk to my Mom on the phone, we end up talking about Grandma or Aunt So-and-So, or what happened to the family when they came from the Old Country. I think of that every time one of the kids brings me a medical form that needs to be filled out. I cringe when I see the long list of questions asking them for details about people they don't and may never know. It makes my heart ache to imagine them having to say to a doctor I don’t know, I was adopted. Yes, there are other circumstances in which people lose their family history, but that's no justification for inflicting the same on adopted people. It's just wrong.

The net of it is that adoption becomes a very different presence in the lives of adoptive parents, first parents and adopted people. And this is why I think we APs can take a break from adoption more easily than adopted people and first parents. It's kind of like turning a light switch on and off. When the light is on, it can be blinding, painful even. But then you flick the switch and get a bit of respite. But for many adoptees and first parents, the switch is gone. No matter what you do, the light is there in your eyes, pervading your life. Even if it's painful, there's no escaping it.

I can escape. And that's why I shouldn't.

You are correct

As several of you have pointed out via email, I haven't run clean away. There is actually a reason.

My anger over the comment that made me so mad has subsided; I do tend to blow up and then get over it fast, it's a really bad habit. In the process of chewing on all of this, I remembered something that I've preached here more than once: Only adoptive parents have the luxury of running away from adoption issues. Mothers who grieve for the children they lost and adopted people who yearn to know their origins get no respite from adoption. Yes, only adoptive parents, like me, can say we're sick of the nastiness and walk away.

*hangs head in shame*

I honestly don't have much to say right now because we've been locked in the throes of The Girl's graduation (which I've talked about at the other blog). But I'll leave this blog up and maybe one day will feel like writing something again here. And I'll pass on information as it comes to me.

June 17, 2009

Stand strong against hate

There was a piece on hate crimes on WAMU this morning that explained very clearly why we're seeing a rise in such crimes at the moment. I can't find it online yet, but you can check.

Someone (didn't catch the name) was quoted as saying we're in a "perfect storm" of reasons for this: the election of our first African American president, the economic crisis, broken immigration laws, and the availability of internet communication. It makes perfect sense to me, and also gives a reason for us to be more vigilant than ever against the groups and individuals who believe this way. The murder at the Holocaust Museum is proof positive.

After that tragic event, I decided I needed to educate myself better about hate groups and crimes, and turned to the internet to do so. In the process, I found a hate group map on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. There are 26 hate groups documented for my state alone. Twenty-six. I’m sure there are even more, as I suspect there are many smaller and less organized ones. It makes my blood run cold.

In digging around the SPLC website I also found good anti-hate resources: tons of information, a blog, and a site where you can Stand Strong Against Hate. I added myself to the map, and encourage you to do the same. I also encourage you to add the button to your websites, with a link back to Stand Strong Against Hate - mine's over there on the right.

It will take a lot more than this to stop hate groups, but publicly voicing your opinion is a good start. Learning who the hate groups are in your area is another. Speaking out against them when you have the opportunity is another, too.

Let's just do it. Because the time for these groups to fade into the sunset is now.

June 12, 2009


A few important announcements:

Adoptee Rights Demonstration Philly

The Adoptee Rights Demonstration will take place in Philadelphia, PA on July 21st, just a little over a month from today. If you plan on attending and haven't registered, online registration is here. If you can't attend but would like to support this important initiative, you can donate online via Paypal. Visit the demonstration website for all the details.

KAAN Denver

Early and therefore reduced registration for the 2009 KAAN Conference in Denver, CO will be available through June 30th. The conference will take place from July 31st through August 2nd at the Sheraton Denver Hotel. Register online here, and get the whole scoop here. Check out the KAAN website for info, including photos and reflections on past conferences.

Voice your support for Euna Lee and Laura Lee

Sign the petition to free Euna and Laura.

June 4, 2009

Boycott the movie "Orphan"

Edited to add: The reaction of the adoption community appears to be pretty mixed on this one. Reactions like Anon's here (never mind that it judges my point of view incorrectly,) appear to be pretty common, along with a general ho-hum attitude. What's an idiot AP to do? Well, I can only speak for myself, and the net of it is that I have to be able to tell my kids that I spoke out.

What could Warner Brothers have possibly been thinking with this one?

Oh, wait - they weren't. Or worse yet, they were, and were banking on the negative reaction to spread the word about the film and help fill their coffers.

Please voice your outrage about Orphan to Warner Brothers and the other companies involved in the production. But while you're writing those letters, remember that the negative image of adoption is the result of decades of stigma that continues today in archaic laws that deny adopted people the right to their identities. So write letters to your legislative representatives (thank you again Theresa for working on this list together - I think we're due for an update) at the same time to castigate the film and remind them that it is their duty to restore this right.

Evan B. Donaldson's statement is here; more reactions here on Facebook; there are many more out there. Film contact info follows - slightly-outdated list of legislators can be found here.

Contact information for you:

Warner Bros.
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522

Silver Pictures
4000 Warner Blvd. 90
Burbank, CA 91522-0001

Time Warner Inc.
One Time Warner Center
New York, NY 10019-8016