Release Your Truth . . . Find Your Strength

If you follow my blog (or any other adoption-centric blog or group), you already know it’s National Adoption Awareness Month (#NAAM). And you probably know that adoptees are making a concerted effort to switch the focus of the awareness to the people involved in adoption that matter the most: THE ADOPTEE.

It’s complicated. Most adoptees, at one point or another, deal with one or more of the following confounding issues:

  • loss of family (even if he or she gained a “good one” through adoption)
  • unknown or confused heritage
  • unknown health history
  • sealed records
  • family secrets
  • lies (sometimes)

And these issues often lead to anxiety, identity confusion, depression, low self-esteem, and more.

It helps to know and talk with other adoptees experiencing the same issues. It helps to bring your fears out into the open and deal with them. Release your truth and you will find your strength.

Last March, I attended the Indiana Adoptee Network‘s Annual Conference . What an eye-opener. It was fantastic to be with such a large group of people who just “get it.” While I was there, I was lucky enough to meet a woman who truly understands the power of opening up. She wrote a book about it. And guess what? She’s not an adoptee. She’s a birth mother (or “first mother,” if you prefer). I love what she’s done–for birth mothers and adoptees. And for anyone else holding in the pain of a traumatic event.

Shoebox Cover

In her book, The Shoebox Effect, Marcie Keithley tells the heart-wrenching story of relinquishing a child for adoption and how it affected her life and the lives of her family. As an adoptee, Marcie’s story helped me to understand the heart of a young mother suffering through her quiet desperation during a difficult time.

But, Marcie goes beyond just story-telling in her book. Marcie wants us all to open our hearts—and our shoeboxes—to let out the secrets and explore the truths within. There is healing in sharing. There is freedom and peace in understanding why we pack away and hide what hurts us. Marcie’s book offers a guide of sorts at the end of each chapter, to help us coax out our own secrets and unpack the shame, guilt, and unresolved grief. I wish my own birth mother would read this book . . .

Too often, we go through life as intimate strangers with the people we love. We avoid certain topics in fear they might open up a Pandora’s Box, so we take an opposing approach. Many of us stuff reminders of those topics inside shoeboxes or other containers, in hopes we can hide the situation away. But this is a mistake. –Marcie Keithley, The Shoebox Effect

This book is not just for birth mothers and adoptees. It’s for anyone who is hiding away bits and pieces (or big ol’ chunks) of his or her life in the hopes of avoiding difficult feelings. I highly recommend actively reading this book!

Marcie’s book, The Shoebox Effect, Transforming Pain Into Fortitude and Purpose, will be released November 12. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.

Click on the links here if you’re interested in learning more about the Indiana Adoptee Network and the Indiana Adoptee Network 4th Annual Conference.

Be Aware: Read an Adoptee Story

It’s National Adoption Awareness Month (#NAAM). Traditionally, this month is promoted by states, communities, public and private organizations, businesses, families, and individuals by celebrating adoption as a positive way to build families. Celebrations include activities and observances across the nation, public awareness and recruitment campaigns, and special events to promote the false narrative of the fairy tale of adoption.

I understand that there are orphans and foster kids out there with complicated or troubled families of origin that need permanent homes. I know that adoption has a place in our society. It’s just that it needs to be taken out of the spotlight as a fairy tale solution for the childless. In addition, by celebrating the fairy tale of adoption and ignoring its complexities, we continue to drive a billion-dollar, for-profit adoption industry. This is an industry that exploits the desires of childless couples or other people that have an “itch” to raise or “save” a child. This is an industry that also exploits pregnant, confused young women.

The unavoidable truth and the crux of adoption complexity is that it necessitates the undoing of one family so that another one can come into being or add to its brood. The singular most important fact about adoption is that it causes trauma, loss, and grief for both the biological mother (and often for others in the original family) and the adoptee. And most importantly, the fairy tale narrative of adoption denies adoptees the acknowledgement and support necessary to process their experiences across a lifetime. Because being adopted is a journey that lasts a lifetime.

I have a friend who adopted a toddler from a Russian orphanage (before the 2013 ban by Russia of the country’s children by U.S. families). He’s now a teenager. She’s a fabulous mom and her son is a smart, socially well-adjusted kid. We were talking and the subject of adoption came up (I was probably updating her on my crazy adoption journey). I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I used the word “adopted” to describe her son. She corrected me. She said, “He was adopted.” She emphasized the past tense and went on to explain that she didn’t use that word to describe her son. He’s simply “her son.” I get that. And I certainly didn’t mean to offend her. But the words “adopted” and “adoptee” aren’t bad words. At least they shouldn’t be. I felt the need to gently explain to my friend that her son is adopted and will always be an adoptee. He certainly doesn’t need to wear it as a badge of honor, but the fact that he is adopted and there is another family out there that he belongs to just as he belongs to her family, needs to be acknowledged. He may have feelings and emotions about it that he wants to talk about. He may have questions about his heritage and ethnicity. She should acknowledge that it is and will always be a part of his identity.

I cannot begin to describe all of the complexities of being adopted. It is a complex journey and different for every adoptee. Depending on the adoptee, it may involve searching for biological family. It may involve reunion. It may not. It may involve sadness, loneliness and depression. I hope not, but statistics do indicate that adoptees far outnumber non-adopted youth in all types of psychiatric treatment facilities. Some adoptees may feel like they have, in fact, lived a fairy tale life with their adopters. That’s great, too, but I hope there is some support out there for every adoptee when and if it is needed.

In the end, we all need to realize that at the center of every adoption is the adoptee. And I’m all about adoptee stories. I want to hear them all. I’ve read many of the adoptee memoirs out there (and still reading!). Take some time to read an adoptee story. Take some time to understand the heart of an adoptee. Celebrate National Adoption Awareness this way.

3d mock1