Tuesday, April 12, 2016

If I Knew Then...

More thoughts from the American Adoption Congress Conference:

After I had agreed with Suz to participate in her "Mitigating and Managing Collateral Damage: Impact of Adoption on the 1st Family" presentation, I thought of many examples of the collateral damage in my life.  When it came to the "managing and mitigating" part, the only thing I could come up with was to not lose a child to adoption in the first place.  I know that it's not a perfect world though, so adoption is going to be a choice made by some moms.  I was still at a loss for answers though and counted on Suz and Kathy to have some for that part of the talk.

The night before our presentation, I was asked if I would have made the "choice" for adoption if I had known then what I know now.

That one kind of threw me.

Because, to be totally honest, that answer would probably be yes.

Given the exact same circumstances, that answer would be yes.

I was adamant that my child would not grow up in the life I was living.  I grew up in a house of anger and hate.  Oh, there were some good times, yes.  Holidays were usually wonderful, spent with grandma and grandpa and aunts and uncles and cousins who made life fun.  The day to day mess of life though?  Not so pretty...

Even if I had been told of the life-long  and deep reaching effects that adoption could bring to my life, I'm sure I would have still signed those papers.  For it wasn't my life I was choosing adoption for, it was my unborn child's life I felt I was saving.

I, of course, at that time had no idea of the possible effects of adoption on my son.  Even though there were plenty of studies and papers written about the effects of adoption on the adoptee, that was not information shared with the general public, much less mothers considering adoption for their unborn children!

That was a hard question to think about.  If I had known then all the effects adoption could possibly have on my child, would I have still "chosen" it?

I hate to say it, but given the exact same circumstances, that answer would probably have still been yes.

Because I was SO sure that I was saving my son from myself, from my life in a house of hate.

Add those fears for my son to the strong societal views of the times towards single, young moms and I most certainly would still have believed him better off without me.

15 year old me, with no honest counseling, no parental guidance, going through this experience basically on her own, would have had no way of believing anything different.  I would probably have believed that the "price" he might possibly pay for being adopted would have been far less than the price he would have had to pay with me being his mom.

I probably would have just prayed all the harder for him.  In addition to praying that he got great parents, praying that he was healthy and happy, I would have prayed for him to have none of the issues that adoption could bring to him.

So yes.  My answer to "If I Knew Then..." would have been yes.

That insight gave me some of the answers that had been illusive to me regarding mitigating the collateral damage.

I should have been told that I wouldn't simply go on as before.

I should not have been made to feel as though I wasn't really a mother.  Because I was.  I was a mother without her child.  How could that NOT effect every aspect of your life going forward??

I should have been told that it was NORMAL for a mother to grieve the loss of her child to adoption.

I should have been told that when if I was lucky enough to have more children, to be aware that the loss of my firstborn child would have effects on my future motherhood.  I should have been counseled in the things to look for, beliefs to avoid, and ways to navigate through.

I should have been counseled to be aware that in the future each of the "reasons" I was choosing adoption for could possibly become issues to deal with without even realizing it ~ financial (too poor), sexuality (shame of it), unworthiness, etc.

I believed that there was something wrong with me because I kept thinking about my child lost to adoption.  I failed at forgetting.  Could I do nothing right?!?

I believed that I was pathetic ~ using an innocent baby to "make" myself cry.  Me to myself: "Really? You are making yourself think of Christopher just to have a reason to cry?"  Yes.  I really did think that.  I know.  I weep...

I lived for more than three decades in shame of my sexuality and in the shame of giving my child away.

I lived for more than three decades trying to prove my worthiness, feeling that the "real me" (a 15 year old who got pregnant and gave her child away) wasn't worthy of the wonderful life I went on to have, wasn't worthy of the wonderful husband and in-laws who I loved so deeply.  What a waste.  I cheated not only myself, but also my husband and everyone else in my life that I loved and who loved me.
I will be forever thankful for the first voices I found online after reunion who helped me see that the grief was normal, that there was nothing wrong with me after all.  I really believe that those first brave moms I found speaking out ~ Suz, Cassi, and Cheerio ~ along with all of the rest of the moms and adoptees I found in the following years, saved me from insanity and going back into that damn closet. 
Thank you Suz for asking me to be a part of your presentation ~ while it was fear that I first felt with your question, in the end it brought such healing.  To be able for the first time to talk about the experience out loud, knowing I had you, Kathy, and Rich there to support me if needed, to be met by so many others in the audience who "get it"...  It was an experience that I'm thankful for!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

American Adoption Congress Conference 2016

After attending AAC 2016, I have too much to write about to fit it all in one post.  Here is a summary of the experience, more to come in the following days:

The Week of Firsts

  • I attended my first ever "real life" adoption event ~ the AAC 2016 Conference.  
  • I traveled alone for the first time, which I surprisingly actually enjoyed.
  • I was a presenter on a workshop panel ~ the first time I've ever spoken out loud to a group regarding adoption loss in my life.  Another thing that I very surprisingly enjoyed! 

The Stories
The biggest take-away from the conference for me were the stories.

So very many different stories.  

Different stories, but all rooted in loss and covered in confusion.

Adoptees, mothers, and adoptive mothers ~ even a raised son of one of the mothers presenting on Saturday morning spoke a little.  

Not only stories of the keynote speakers and the various workshops I attended, but also many people attending.  The questions and discussions from the audience after the keynotes and workshops were also insightful.

I am a people watcher, and couldn't help but watch and eavesdrop listen to the many stories being told all around me at various times throughout the conference.

The People
I thought that my favorite thing about attending was going to be meeting some of my adoptionland friends in real life.  It was awesome meeting Suz & Amanda, as well as seeing and meeting others that I "knew" through various blogs and forums.

The thing that most effected me about the conference though was the experience of just being with so many people who "got it".

The son, who was about the same age as Christopher, and his natural mom.
The daughter, also about the same age as my son, and her adoptive mom.

The moms.  Oh, the moms.  There were some amazing, strong, beautiful women of many ages, a few years to decades of loss, in or not in various stages of reunion with their (now adult) children.  All so supportive and caring.

The adoptees, who were so open to sharing their own reactions in reunion.
Who spoke of the times they pulled away from their original mothers and couldn't even explain why. Who were so open with helpful advice or caring, supportive words.

People who didn't look at you with pity, or reply with "what a wonderful thing you did" or...