Friday, January 13, 2012

Sharing Truths - Found: A Memior, part of the AdoptLit Book Tour

Whoa. I didn't mean to write a novella. I really didn't. But I've been sitting on this for a while. This morning, it all came out.

Let me back up and tell you what I'm talking about: this morning, I'm taking part on the AdoptLit Book Tour hosted by the ever-lovely Lori. The selection is: Found: A Memoir

And my bit is below.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner. I am really looking forward to hearing the varied perspectives here.


Time and time again as I was reading passages in Jennifer Lauck’s latest book Found: A Memoir, I had to put the book down, step away, breathe. At times because I felt so diametrically opposed to what the narrator was saying. Angry. Hurt. At times because the familiarity was too much to bear. On too many levels.

It is so hard to assess or critique a memoir. Harder than any piece of fiction or third party account. This is someone’s truth. How do you separate someone’s truth from the story being told and how the narration flows? How do you deduct style points from words so connected to someone’s life and essence? Can you?

In this particular instance, I can’t. So, what you’ll find here is me attempting to make sense of the myriad of emotions and reactions I felt (as a fellow adult adoptee from a closed adoption, mother of two dead children, and someone actively pursuing a family through surrogacy and donor eggs) reading and reflecting on Found: A Memoir.

Luckily, I have some questions to guide me. And I’ll get to those in just a bit.

The first 70 pages of Found were a struggle for me. I felt detached from the narrator, purposefully pushed away. And I was annoyed. Until I recognized the tactic.

The passive voice, the absence of emotion, speaking almost nonchalantly about life-changing events…this was my m.o. after we lost our daughters. It’s how I functioned when I was forced to function. “Life had been brutal to me and I’d go ahead and be brutal in return.” (28) It is that gray area between going for shock value and simply attempting to cope.

I found myself being pulled further into the story as Jenny reads through the non-identifying information of her birth parents for the first time (77). The dizziness, the room spinning, your reality completely altered but not really. Assurances, suspicions confirmed, new information revealed. Oh yes. I get that. In fact, I wrote about it here.

But just as I would develop a connection with the narrator, I would be pushed away again.

As someone who does not have living children, I felt a little dissed by the author's assertions that being a mother brings clarity that is otherwise impossible to have. Did others read this the same way? Do you agree? Disagree?

(I wonder if it’s cheating to answer your own question? I’m so eager to read how others respond to this.)

For me, the author’s voice shifts dramatically any time she is near her own children. And she states more than once that it wasn’t until she became a mother herself that she realized the loss of her own mother and need to reconnect. It’s true, my own search began after the birth of our daughters. My rationale was different:
Why are you choosing to search? I know what it is like to lose a daughter and to live with that loss every day. I would like to bring some peace and some closure to my birth parents, if I am able.
In my mind, I wasn’t the one who lost out.

The author holds motherhood, specifically to one’s own genetically linked children, as sacred. I wonder for someone who has experienced so much loss and deprivation if she realizes what a place of privilege she is speaking from? At these points in the book I read the tone as condescending (if I were a mother, I’d understand…) and felt my loss and inability to be a mother acutely. It stung. And made me resentful. These were the times I had to remind myself over and over again: this is not MY story. This is not my truth. It is hers.

And this is where discussing a memoir is so damn tough. Because just as I decide, “that’s it. I’m done,” I read a passage like the one on page 105 when Jenny’s adopted friend simply can’t understand why she wouldn’t want to search for her birth mom too:
“I bet your mother is waiting for you too.”
“What if she’s not?”
Yes, what if she’s not?

If a first mother is not willing to have contact with her child or adoptive family, is it prudent to attempt to compel the first mother into an open relationship?

It’s hard to read Jenny’s birth mom here – her intentions, her emotions. All we can see is what Jenny wants her to be. How the narrator perceives these things. It’s the only filter we have. Did Catherine really want a reunion or was she coerced into it? Guilted into it? Or is she far more complex than outward appearances? We can only wonder, just as the narrator does.

My truth is that my birth mother would rather not see me. She knows I’m looking. She’s spoken with the agency social worker and said, yeah, um, no thanks. Her rationale? I was told she’s a counselor and knows “reunions are never what either party wants them to be. They can never meet expectations. I would rather know she’s ok and leave it at that.” That’s what I was told.

Again, just like Jenny’s mom, who knows what else lurks beneath the surface. Shame? A desire to forget? Regret? Simply not wanting a life to be disrupted? I don’t, I can’t know.

My birth father, who was overjoyed to meet me, can’t understand why I’m not furious. I can’t explain it. I get it. In fact, I kind of like her more? Because it feels like something I would do. God, what an asshole.

In fact, the more stories I hear about her, the photos I see, the things I pick up from her once lover, my birth father, convince me that we are probably 100% alike.

And would probably annoy the shit out of each other. Because we’re like that. (I think)

Back to the question: I don’t think anyone should be compelled into a relationship they don’t want. What is the value? Beginning with a tone of obligation? Compliance? These are emotions I hate most in any family dynamic. I would never want to be the source of them. Here’s what I think is non-negotiable: non-identifying information, health records, a name – your name, the one you had when you were born.

As to reunions, man they are hard. No matter how you slice them. There is the initial honeymoon, that moment you have been looking for your entire life , almost immediately followed by a shitload of questions and existential angst, and then, alas, the dénouement aka, the let down.

While my birth mom said no thanks, my birth father said oh yes please and let’s be best friends and you can come over, right? It was all a little much. There was no time spent “building bridges of trust” (202) no caution taken. (did I mention the time he pointed out the park he and my BM used to have some fun, heh heh heh? Cringe.) But we’re getting past that now.

The centerpiece of a reunion isn’t necessarily the people whose loins you’ve passed through. For me, it was getting to know my birth aunt. For Jenny, it seems as if that connection was made with her sister. There is a knowing. “This is the way my people are” (212) that just might make it worth it.

The detachment, anger and loss I read in the author's voice at times made me question my own pursuit of a child that will not be genetically linked to me. For others who have or may be pursuing parenthood through adoption or third party reproduction, did anything in the book give you pause? Make you question how your family has come together?

Again, disclaimer, I’m answering my own question. For me, the answer is hell yes. I grew really tired of hearing about the Primal Loss and irreparable damage. As my non-adopted husband constantly reminds me, “we’re all damaged, babe.”

Issues around identity, origin, connectedness – I think about this shit nonstop, as I am sure many, many people who have built families through nontraditional means do. I believe there is a balance between recognizing and honoring origins and finding a space of love and acceptance in a family that is not genetically yours. These things can co-exist. I believe this. I HAVE to believe this.

A passage that gave me chills was when Jenny and Catherine are looking at one of Jenny’s baby photo – one where she’s “stiff-arming” her adopted mom. (195) Holy shit. This is something I do even now. Try to hug me when I’m not down with it, you’ll feel my entire body go rigid. My jaws clench. Uninvited physical contact = shudder. Step off homey, you don’t know me like that. But wait, are you saying this is because I’m adopted? That I’ve been trained to do this from day one? I’m a little incredulous at that assumption. I think I just don’t like other people touching on me.

But still, the stiff arm. It is a monumental fear. Hell, I’ve even dreamt about it.

It’s the constant wonder – what if I don’t pass the test?

If there were any doubts left about how the author really feels about adoption, she lays it out in the Endnote. Is this a full on condemnation of adoption? Is there no scenario in which an adopted child grows up totally normal? Are you telling me I was screwed the moment the docs plucked me? Are my non-genetically linked future maybe children destined to the same fate?

I can’t, I won’t, believe it.

Found: A Memoir is Jenny Lauck’s truth. I can honor her story and her expression of it. I can also share with you a little bit of mine.

Thank you, Jenny, for being open to this conversation.


sostinkinhappy said...

Thank you for your insightful and articulate responses to this book. I loved your comments, "How do you deduct style points from words so connected to someone’s life and essence? Can you?"

Since you are pursuing parenthood through gamete donation, I am wondering if you have done any reading of experiences written by adults who were conceived via gamete donation. There is a small, but emerging, dialogue regarding their feelings about not knowing their genetic parents and how this (lack of) of knowledge is affecting their lives. I have only started reading in that area and was curious if you have sought out the voices of those who were created via gamete donation.

Thanks again for sharing your thought on the book. God bless you on your journey - M.

m said...

Great question.

Back when we first began contemplating donor eggs, I was desperate to see/hear these voices. I had to know what we were getting ourselves in for. Unfortunately, what I found first was a LOT of anger and aggression - enough to make me reconsider. But for us, it was donor eggs or nothing - this here basket is empty.

And then I remembered that my own thoughts on adoption and not knowing (and then knowing) my genetic origins constantly shift and evolve. After decades of embracing the creation myth I created for myself, I suddenly decided I needed more, and then I thought, oh hmm, maybe I liked my made-up story better....I think the key to gamete donation (or adoption or ANY relationship, really) is open and honest communication. Even when it stings a little.

I found this site to be enormously helpful: and I am so embarrassed to see that I haven't had it in my list of resources here. Crap!

I am adding it right now.

Thanks so much for your comment. I am eager to read everyone else's responses!

jennifer said...

I'm reading through all these blog posts today and by the fifth blog, find I am crying so hard, I can't possibly type.

I try to tell myself, "okay, be detached. You're 'the author' and it's not about you." I guess I am saying that I'm trying to be "cool, detached, author-like," but that's nonsense. I'm not an author. I am a person who uses limited language to express unlimited experience and a concentrated pain that feels as vast as the universe. Life. I'm trying to get life down by combining 26 letters into various word combinations.

Impossible and yet, I tried it and in the attempt, stimulate a kind of chain reaction of emotions in others. It's all very perplexing.

To this writer on The Maybe Baby, I want to say how very sorry I am for the loss of your children. Such loss I cannot fathom and to imagine it is to border madness. I have been a resident in that place so I know it is my connection to my children that keeps me from full residency yet again. What is read as a kind of superiority about being a mother of one's own is actually my utter and total attachment to my own children. Here, before me, finally--two human beings connected to me and bonded to me and mine. Mine!!! I am not sure about motherhood for others, I can only speak to my own experience of mothering these insane, wonderful, perfect and delightful humans. They have changed me. They have partially unchained me from my own demons. They have bought me time to learn something about faith again.

I had no intention of writing with a subtext that states: "you without children of your own...poor'll never get it." This would be too cruel a statement to make and more, it's just not true.

And my own projections on my children are not true either. Yes, their presence in my life has bought me time and given me a reason to stay in this life (I would never leave my own motherless after what I have endured)...but to place such a burden on their shoulders is to dent and twist them from their own intended paths. They are not objects of my life, they are subjects of their own lives. I must--MUST--learn the hardest lesson of all: I am enough with myself. I am enough. I am enough.

I will spend the rest of my life trying to get this lesson down, I will meditate, I will get therapy, I will write.

And, I will learn how to free my children of my intense grip. I will.

But that is another book.

m said...

Jennifer, so many thoughts.

First, I am honored to have your here in this space. Thank you for writing. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for opening yourself to to emotions I can only imagine you are feeling as you read through how others have reacted to your words. This takes such courage.

I think what I failed to convey in my own limited ability with 26 letters is that I struggled so much when I felt our views diverged because I felt so, so invested and connected the rest of the time. The disconnect was jarring because the points of connect were so strong in other places. Particularly as you struggled to find this new identity as someone who now knows where they come from, after a lifetime of not.

Thank you so much for your sympathies, and I can appreciate this clarification:

"What is read as a kind of superiority about being a mother of one's own is actually my utter and total attachment to my own children."

And I get that and amazingly enough, I struggle with my own projections on my children even though they are not here. In my mind, I envision them as I think they would be. So many characteristics and quirks. And I know that's not fair - not even to their memory - because they are their own souls. Not mine.

I think the emotion that I grappled with the most (and I am not proud to admit this) was envy. Simply envious of the peace you found at hearing your daughter's laugh in your mother's, because I know that connection will never be mine. While finding my own birth family (at least of piece of it) closed some wounds for me, it dug the ones left raw from infertility even deeper. I honestly never mourned for the genetic daughter I will never have until I saw the photo of my birth mother that could have easily been me. Even my (adopted) mom audibly gasped at the likeness.

I don't think its a bad thing that your words have stimulated emotions because I think in doing so, they have stimulated dialog. And as I mentioned in my responses communication is so, so key, especially when sometimes it takes a while to get those 26 letters together in the right combination.

All the best to you.

Jjiraffe said...

Wow. This is an incredible post. You come from both a background of being adopted and suffering through infertility and loss, AND are dealing with the prospect of building your family through non-genetic means, so your perspective is very unique and crucial. You raise some great questions here.

Thank you for sharing your take on this book. Your words really moved me.

Lori Lavender Luz said...

m, I knew I was looking forward to reading your thoughts, but I had no idea how rich and deep this would end up being.

I was impressed with how you noticed changes in the author's voice, from active to passive, from engaged to detached.

And I adore that you felt this: "In my mind, I wasn’t the one who lost out."

But in reading the comments, I am in tears because of what has happened here between you and Jennifer, and within yourselves. I am broken open as I suppose you are.

Got a tissue?

Esperanza said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

I really loved your post, your responses, your insight. I agreed with you on so many of your feelings towards the author but you said it all so much more eloquently than I did, than I ever could. All the parts that upset you upset me, all the parts that made you walk away made me walk away. But you were brave enough to dig deep into yourself and figure out why. I simply declared I didn't like the book and left it at that. I realize now that I should have looked deeper but honestly, I didn't have it in me at the time. Maybe I still don't.

I also wonder if the end note is a "a full on condemnation of adoption?" I was disappointed the author did not respond to those questions (though admired her willingness to clarify the other pieces that bothered you, as the mother of children who are not alive). I would have answered that question, if I had gotten it, by the way. I thought it was great.

Thanks again for this.

jennifer said...

Oh my goodness...there seems to be a great deal to talk about and I haven't had a really good chance to think as deeply as I like about so much of what I've read today...but it feels important to say that I do have many thoughts--many responses--and the first I wanted to clear up right away (in relationship to this site) was how truly sorry I was for the death of your twins. Side bar: I am not sure if you have read the book An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination but it takes on this hard, horrible, mind boggling loss in a way that may give insight. I love the book and teach from it all the time.

Aside from that, I am not avoiding the issue of my position on adoption question. I am still thinking. But Esperanza does bring up the point so let me take a crack.

If we were pals and hanging together over a glass of wine, I would tell you that I would not adopt a child. Even if I could not have had a child on my own, I would not adopt a child. But that is me. All me. It's just not a path I would pick for myself.

Now, should adoption be banished or is it "BAD" with a capital B. As the Dalai Lama says, "more research."

My core message is that I hope we think better about adoption and we think more about it from the view of the child. This is not happening often enough in society. There is a reference to the adoptive parents and the birth parents but not to the helpless member of the equation--the adoptee. Adoptees are too often dismissed or required to defend themselves and this is really tiresome. Instead of doing either--we just adapt. Some faster than others. Some for the entirety of a life. It's just too much work to do otherwise. Many of us, broken of our own desire for selfhood prior to development of language and intellect, just accept in a blind kind of way. We accept our lot. We don't even accept, we just are this "blank" type of slate. Do to us what you will. All has been lost anyway.

A passage in my book addresses this. When Richard threatens to hit me, after I have left the little driftwood Catherine at the side of the creek. I want to tell him to hit me because hitting me would be better than feeling the way I felt having lost that little boat.

That is the truth. The abuses I've endured are tiny compared to the loss of my mother.

Many will not like this...but here goes. I equate being adopted to being a slave. We have been taken from our homeland and forced to perform for the emotional needs of our keepers. We are not "ourselves" but rather are lost to that original self. No matter the hugeness of the heart of the person who takes an adopted person matter how much love there is...or money or opportunity...there is still the disquieting and consuming lost-ness for the adoptee. We are terrified, in a per-verbal sense, of another big loss and so we have and ongoing panic that has us work overtime to preserve what we do have even if that thing is bad for us. We cling, desperately but with a cool reserve. We pretend we don't care but deep down are watching the environment with great care in order to be exactly what we need to be to hold position. We are chameleons. We won't let you close to us but we are desperate to have you stay. How do I know this? Well, this is my life. And, I sit in the chat rooms with adopted people, I attend the support groups, I know adopted people personally and only together do we admit these deepest truths.

Oh how I wish you could be a fly on the wall. The number of adoptees I know who tell me these stories...mind boggling.

jennifer said...

Part II: Some people who read Found say, "oh well, it's because she lost her adoptive parents," and/or, "it's because she was sexually assaulted and homeless etc etc...that is why she feels the way she feels. If things were different for her, better from the beginning of her adoption experience she would feel differently."

I disagree with this conclusion. Why? Because I have lived my life and while it is true there have been many losses and great suffering, none of them hold a flame to the ongoing insult of my adoption. My mother was restrained and had her baby shredded from her body with foreceps, she was shamed and isolated from all the people who were supposed to love and protect her, she was lied to by those in power who told her she had no legal right to her own child and promised I would have a better life than what she could provide. These were my formative moments in the womb and my first moments of life. I was born under house arrest.

With no say and no control, I was then cast to the winds as nothing more than an object to fulfill the desire for another child in a stranger's home. And then I was told to be grateful, denied any knowledge of my mother other than the negative interpretation of how she was "a girl in trouble."

We learn compassion by being treated with compassion. What does a child of such a situation learn from the beginning? For me, the first lesson was "you are utterly and completely alone. Good luck." And this lesson was reinforced daily--by my own attitudes of acceptance and collusion--for 43 years, until the day I had the courage (and the swift kick in the rear) to find out the truth of who I was. My life began when I found my birth family...not because I reunited successfully...but because I finally knew the truth of the woman who gave me life, I learned about grandmothers and aunts and sisters and brothers. I listened to their stories and the voices that were my voice. I found ground where there had been no ground. No, this reunion has not been ideal or easy, yes, I have suffered in reunion, but miraculously--something else has happened--I have discovered my long buried and lost self. I have found the original Jennifer (Tara) and now I grow this new person, this new identity and to tell the truth of it...all that I have lost, all that I have suffered, all that I have endured was nothing compared to the loss of that original self.

Do I think there should be adoption? I don't know. More research.

I do know that Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote that a culture that makes a mother pick between her child and belonging in a culture is a sick one indeed. We live in a sick culture at this time. We are in trouble. Our women are in trouble. Our children are in trouble. This is what I know. do we solve the problem?

Slavery was with us for 400 years. even now, we suffer the ill effects of what we have done--for profit--on the backs of fellow humans. Adoption will take a long time to change. It exists. These conversations are a beginning. I can only thank you for the chance to speak my piece. And...if I missed something...patience. I will respond.

jjiraffe said...

This is a question/comment for Jennifer Lauck: I really appreciate your engagement with the readers and have followed your exchanges on Esperanza's site as well.

I wanted to apologize if it seemed like anyone invalidated your experience with adoption. Your experience is, as you said, your experience, and as someone surrounded by people who constantly invalidate my experiences (common for those who have undergone infertility and loss) I certainly understand any frustration you have there.

The Adoption/Infertility/Loss community is a pretty tight-knit crew. We all stick together because society has, at various times, rejected and hurt us. I think your book personally got my back up because the bloggers I know who have written about adoption are proponents of Open Adoption who spend much thought and care on the issues you discuss: worrying about their children having abandonment issues, and trying to keep close ties with their birth parents. I can't speak for anyone but no one that I know thinks they are a saint, instead I read a lot of bloggers who talk about how they feel lucky they are, that they have been
entrusted as a caretaker, and want to make sure they soberly and carefully do right by that child. Lori's blog would be a prime example of this.

Do you think that this type of open adoption parenting can work?

Thank you.

Esperanza said...

Dear Ms. Lauck,

I really appreciate the dialogue you are sustaining, both here and on my blog. I have to admit that much of it is hard to hear, and I'm sure is much harder for adoptive parents, but it is also important to consider. As you said, you've heard this story so many times, talked so many people. I don't doubt for one second that you have heard countless other adoptees express feelings similar to your own.

I'm also assuming that these are adult adoptees who were placed in situations similar to yours, situations in which first mothers did not feel empowered to make any kind of decision, in which babies were take from them, possibly against their will. These sound like horrible situations, situations much like the one my mother suffered, and I can't imagine the trauma they have caused all involved.

I have to admit though, that the stories of adoption that I read on the blogs of my friends are not like that, they are nothing like that. They take place in rooms where first mothers and adopted mothers share in the experience of a very loved child being born, where that child stays with it's birth mother for hours or days so as to avoid trauma and provide important nutrients, where relationships are formed and maintained between birth mothers and their children. Are the results still the same? Are the adoptive children still, in your eyes, equal to emotional slaves? Is that really the only outcome, even when adoptive children are give the chance to speak freely about their feelings, to mourn their lose, to be outraged and upset, and yet still be loved fiercely by their adoptive parents. Maybe you have met countless people in these situations and maybe their feelings as you described them. If that is true, I am deeply, deeply saddened. For them, for you, for the people who have given so much of themselves in the hopes of creating a happy family. If it true what you say about adoption, if there really is no way for it to be a positive path to family building, then that is a tragedy I suppose I am not yet ready to accept. The reality of it is too grim.

I find it interesting that you so cherish being a mother, that you describe it as being so completely transformative and yet you are so quick to assume that you would never pursue adoption to ensure that transformation. Again, I believe you speak from a place of great fortune and you cannot possible know what is like to contemplate a life that might be void of the one thing you always expected would give it meaning. Of course, not all people who can't have biological children don't choose adoption, many live child free or choose other paths, but they have done so having considered loss and pain and tragedy in ways that are unfathomable for those of us who have not had to walk in their shoes. I know that adoption should not be defended just because it is one way to bring hope, love and parenthood to people who would otherwise suffer even more unimaginable loss, but it does feel important to include them in thd discussion.

When I used the word noble (and I thought long and hard about using that word) I was worried it would be taken in the wrong context. When I say adoption might be the noble path, I don't speak of the nobility of adoptive parents in saving some poor child who would otherwise have nothing, shaming the birth mother in the process. When I call adoption noble, I speak of what I can consider to be the noble venture of bringing two families together, first and forever families, to create a loving unit that's is first and foremost intended to nurture the child that is the nucleus of the unit. I think that is an incredibly noble act, for all involved. I know that not all adoptions happen that way, but I also know that more and more are. There are people out there who recognize the trauma and loss of adoptees and who are trying so hard to honor that and create a situation that is nurturing despite the difficulties and imperfections.

Again, thank you for being open to this discussion.

Tonya said...

Wow, what a thought provoking post and equally thought provoking comments. I know for us that my children's birth mother had already decided to place our daughter for adoption. And as I've read in several posts and comments tonight, she would have been placed regardless of whether we had been there or not. And our children's birth mother contact us when she became pregnant with our son to ask if we would consider adopting him because she didn't feel able to parent, and wanted her two children together. I know some of the reasons she chose adoption, but clearly not all of them. She continues to tell us she believes it was the right choice, even if it was hard. I have no reason to doubt that she feels that way.... And yet, as I read this book, and when I read blogs from adoptees and birth moms, I am reminded of the tremendous loss that my children and their birth mom have experienced. And while I have my own losses (from infertility), I often feel that I'm the lucky one in the adoption triad. At the end of the day I ended up with children that I am as intimately connected to and as awed by as Jennifer describes for her own children.

Thanks for such a thoughtful post.

jennifer said...

Thanks everyone for all your thoughts and insights. This is clearly a subject that has of us all thinking. I am collectively responding to M, her post, to Esperanza and to jjiraffe but please, forgive me if I am not answering your questions as fully as you want. I'll do my best.

jjiraffe: I want to say I don't feel dis-validated in any way but thank you for speaking to this possibility. I think this is a very healthy conversation.

On the open adoption question, I believe that if a child is able to have physical contact with his or her birth mother then that is the optimal start and likely the most compassionate adoption option.

I have met adoptees who have bonded with their mothers, and were later placed for adoption and they are very different people than those who were put in foster care and then placed. These adoptees seem more calm and centered. They have a sense of themselves that is more "intact." Alternatively, adoptees who have had no contact with the mother and then go through multiple placements via foster care, seem to be more reactive, jumpy and have issues with eye motion, learning challenges, mood shifts and and so on.

So, if these kinds of adoptions are happening, where the baby is with the birth mother and there is an open sharing between adoptive parents and birth parents, well, that is quite enlightened. And obviously, since the baby has the sensory validation from being in contact with the birth mother, the situation is not the same...the outcomes will not be the same either.

I think it's a mistake to take what I have experienced and what I write about adoption and apply it to all adoptions or to make the assumption that I am saying "all adoptions are bad." I am not saying this. I am saying that adoption is complex. I am saying a lot of grave damage has been done and is currently being done. Not all situations are as enlightened as what is being described by Esperanza's comment.

jennifer said...

Pt. 2

And I am saying that adopted people who do not know and may never know their original mothers/families suffer at some level.

Do I expect everyone to agree with this last point? No. In fact, there are adopted people who become nearly violent when it is suggested they are suffering in any way and that their adoption situation isn’t ideal. I find this reaction very telling. The anger doesn’t make sense. Why be angry at something you know, in your heart, is untrue? But it is there. Anger. Any strong reaction like anger is patterned behavior based on something that is unresolved or unknown from the past. Anger is usually the result of a person—at some level—believing they are totally alone. The anger is a cover for sadness.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I say or what anyone else says. What matters is how a person feels and how well they know themselves.

And, in the case of being adopted, many, many adoptees do not know themselves yet.

I think it’s really important to make one more point and that is on the issue of wholeness, adoptees and reunion. Am I saying, "you will never be whole if you do not reunite with your birth mother?" No. Of course not.

From a philosophical view, wholeness is not actually conditioned on external factors. According to Buddhist philosophy, each of us has the human inheritance of pristine awareness but it has been covered over by layers habituated conditioning. Buddhism isn’t a religion, it is a series of practices pointed toward becoming more aware. Nowhere in Buddhist teaching is there a conversation about reuniting with a birth mother. So, no, I am not saying wholeness is impossible for adopteed people and is certainly not possible for adoptees who don't reunite. That is simply not true.

I will say that the loss of original identity and the lack of awareness about this loss--no work done on the issue that is being suppressed--will make life complicated for the unaware adoptee. In my own case, meditation was impossible due to the trauma in my brain, due to the fact that I had no "core" sense of self to stand on and due to my own denial there was any core loss. I was a fragmented self--all over the place. I simply could not settle down and practice. My mind was a mess, my life was a mess, my practice was thus a mess. The goal of meditation—as I understand it—is to become more aware and to lift the veils of patterns long habituated. Basically, Buddhism is life long therapy where you look at yourself and your habits and bring attention to them--over and over again until they shift and are dissolved.

So, my discoveries about adoption have actually been part of my own Buddhist practice of awakening to my true nature. My adoption and the ramifications of the experience were parts of myself I had long denied and now that problem has been tackled.

I hope all of these responses are helpful.

I am grateful to be part of this conversation.

Heather said...

Lots of words here, so I'm going to keep it short (which I would have done anyways).

I 'stiff arm' my mom all the time. My biological, I look just like her, we have so many similar traits it drives me crazy, mom. This is because she thinks she knows me without really trying to know me. Again, lots there, but keeping it short.

I've been thinking about this whole adoption thing a lot lately. I have friends very actively pursuing adoption, and I grew up with a number of people who were adopted. I think both adoptive and biological families have an equal liklihood of being fucked up, and the level of fucked upedness very much depends on how open and honest everyone is with each other. And even with complete open-ness and honesty, some people, even kids, can just be assholes and there isn't anything you can do to stop it. But, even with all that, I wouldn't let any of these thoughts stop you from becoming a mom. It is one of those life experiences that if you want it, you should have it. And I know you would be a fabulous mom.

Silver said...

I can't really answer these questions because of my position, but I did want to say that you ARE a mother and I don't feel that it matters that you are not the mother of a living child - you know what it is to love your child and that is what brings the clarity, for me. That's all.

Dawn said...

I LOVED this post. We had such a similar reaction to the book. I especially liked your comment about reviewing a memoir: "It is so hard to assess or critique a memoir. Harder than any piece of fiction or third party account. This is someone’s truth. How do you separate someone’s truth from the story being told and how the narration flows? How do you deduct style points from words so connected to someone’s life and essence? Can you?" I almost dropped out of the Book Tour because I felt so uncomfortable writing about someone else's personal truth.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm blown away by this!

I've written a long response, but it just set off a maelstrom of thoughts in my mind and I've decided instead to blog about it sometime.

m, I would love to hear more about how you feel about your own adoption, it's something I've wondered about often. How someone who is now faced with her own issues in terms of becoming a parent views the decisions her birth mother made. And the decisions her adoptive parents made. That's if you want to speak about it! Are there things you maybe don't want to bring up within this community?

As frightening as this discussion is for me (we are seriously considering adoption), I think it's really important.

Judy said...

To The Maybe baby: I’m deeply sorry for your loss. I also want to say that, like you, I felt a myriad of emotions. I agreed with some of what Jennifer wrote, and not with others. Was drawn in a pushed out. I also didn’t feel it was my place to critique her memoir, since Found is part of her journey, her story. Adoption can be terribly complex.

I’m with Heather’s thoughts as too when she share, “I think both adoptive and biological families have an equal likelihood of being fucked up, and the level of fucked-upedness very much depends on how open and honest everyone is with each other. And even with complete open-ness and honesty, some people, even kids, can just be assholes and there isn't anything you can do to stop it.” Gosh…so true.

luna said...

wow, M. such a powerful post, full of your own raw truth, and equally powerful comments. interesting how this has provoked such responses!

I especially love how you've written about your own reunion issues, and even the similarities you share with your BM. I'm so glad you shared your perspective here.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

All I can say is how have I not found you before this tour? What a fantastic post you gathered ... your thoughts, your questions, your take on the book. WOW. just WOW.

Thank you all for a very thought provoking conversation about this book, adopted life and all that goes along with this. Research and education is what adoption needs. Let's only hope that more of this kind of honesty can trigger more people to seek the truths that they need to know.

Jenn said...

What an amazing conversation! I'm just letting it all sink in. There are some great points that were made here, and I for one certainly have a lot to think about.

m, I'm so sorry for your loss ((hugs))

LA Mama said...

I don't know if it will make you feel better or worse, but as a result of the way I was parented plus my personality (because I see it in one of our children, and they have not been parented the way I was), I am not a touchy-feely person with my parents much. I never was, and when I was upset about something and my mom tried hugging me, I generally resisted, unable to make that connection. I am not saying that means your issue is not connected to adoption, but it may not necessarily be connected... and the fact that your birthmother has some similar misgivings about contact with YOU as your feelings towards your APs makes me wonder if it isn't part of your shared personality traits, as you indicated earlier in the post.

Kate said...

I read these comments a while ago, and just keep coming back to adoption as's been keeping me up nights. I'm an adoptive parent of a toddler (open adoption; she sees her birthmum every couple of weeks, has since she was born) and this comparison is troubling me. When I first read it, I thought "well that's shocking, but it's her experience". But clearly it stuck. In a later comment, I see Ms. Lauck responded to an open adoption situation by saying that if these kinds of adoptions (open with contact) are happening, they're enlightened. I would say that I don't personally know a single adoption situation that is not open with contact - it is the norm in my adoption community. As someone who is very publically discussing adoption (and being read by people outside of the adoption world), do you have any thoughts about how your comparison to slavery may colour people's beliefs about current-day adoptions, which include, in large numbers, open adoptions? You see, this view (which again, is your own experience, and I do respect that), casts me as a slave owner, my daughter as a slave, and her birth mother, who made a very difficult, but informed adoption decision, as complicit in selling her child into slavery. Lose-lose for all of us.

m said...

Dear Kate, if that question was for me (m.) I NEED to know that you know that those comments were not mine. In fact, I wholeheartedly disagree with them.


If the question is for Ms. Lauck, she has left additional comments on other blogs that were a part of the book tour to elaborate on this concept, and her own experiences. I can't begin, nor do I want to, try to explain words or thoughts that aren't mine.

But the words stuck with me too. Long after the reading and the writing and the discussion. I agree it is lose-lose for everyone to cast adoption in this light.

Here are my thoughts on the matter:

"It is quite an enlightened parent that has no emotional need for their child, that doesn't rely on them to fill or complete something within them. As much as you want your child to be his or her own person, you also want them to want you, to love you, to need you on some levels. This is not slavery. This defines just about every human relationship that I know. We all have needs and we all strive to be the ones that fill those needs for others."

Kate, please feel free to email me privately if you want to talk more. And thank you for sharing your truths here too.