Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Sound of Hope Book Tour

I don't think I thought much about the role birth parents when we began our adoption journey.

We had always planned to be honest about adoption with our child, but I had not thought much about birth parents playing an ongoing role in our lives before we walked into the adoption agency.

As I came to learn about open adoption, I began to accept the idea that our child's birth parents might play some ongoing role in our lives. And, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was not initially happy about that.

I don't want to share my child, I remember thinking. It seemed one more injustice after the disappointment of infertility.

I accepted that contact with birth parents would be good and important, but I felt the way I imagine many divorced parents feel at the idea of having to maintain contact with an ex spouse and the ex's family -- a necessity, but not something I would enjoy.

But during the months of contact before my daughter was born, I came to realize that I really liked her birth mom. This won't be so bad, I thought. And over time, my feelings about the involvement of my children's birth family has evolved -- in fact, I would welcome more contact than their birth mother has chosen to have, and I'm sometimes disappointed at the limited contact we have.

I thought a lot about the evolution of my feelings in reading The Sound of Hope by Anne Bauer. The book is a memoir of growing up adopted -- in a less than perfect family -- and Anne's search and reunification with her birth family.

Anne was adopted long before open adoptions became common. Although her parents were open about her adoption, they were not thrilled at her decision to search for her birth family. But Anne's memoir makes it clear how important and vital was the connection to her biological roots.

I read The Sound of Hope as part of a book tour sponsored by Lori at The book tour is sort of an online book club where participants pose questions for others on the book tour to discuss. 

Question 1: Enduring Birth Family Bonds
In her adoption memoir Anne Bauer speaks of her connection to her birth mother and father, "The bond between us couldn't be completely severed as everyone, as everyone wanted it to be. Another part of me existed somewhere in the world, a part I was once attached to and depended on for life. To me, the umbilical cord served a function that was much more than physical. It was my essence, my origin, my connection to my biological ancestors. As far as I was concerned, the cord was still attached. Who were these people who were the cause of my existence? Did they wonder about me in the same way I often wondered about them?" What are your thoughts about this passage from your lens (adopted person, birth parent, adoptive parent)?

When I read this passage, I thought about my daughter and how deeply connected she is to her birth parents -- even though her direct contact is minimal with her birth mother and nonexistent with her birth father.

From the time I began to tell Ashley her adoption story, she was fascinated. Even as a toddler, she was keenly interested and frequently would ask me to tell her "my 'doption story" or ask about "Ashley's story." And once she understood what adoption really meant, it was clear that she felt a deep connection with her birth family.

We send letters and pictures a few times a year to my children's birth mom. And while I've invited contact from her several times over the years, she's chosen to have only minimal contact -- typically a quick email to acknowledge a card or letter or package that we've sent to her.

We know almost nothing about Ashley's birth father and have no idea how to contact him -- something that is deeply troubling to her.

Interestingly, that connection is not something my son shares as of yet. He's never been particularly interested in hearing his adoption story. And the connection to his birth family is still very tenuous. I'm not sure whether that will change as he gets older. (He's just a few months away from being 6.)

Question 2: The Importance of Appearance
When Anne has children, she says that everyone around her, especially her mother, would not admit to her children looking like her.  Why do you think that is, especially given that her parents were open about her adoption status (although not open to discussing it)?

Because our genetics determine our appearance, who we look like is deeply connected to our biological roots. And that can touch deeply on our comfort -- or discomfort -- about the realities of adoption. (And for adoptive parents, it can be a reminder of the pain of infertility -- and the loss of having the baby who "looks just like you.")

When my daughter was younger, I was often told how much she looked like me. I always found that amusing because my daughter looks just like her birth mother -- and almost nothing like me except for the fact that we have the same eye color.

When my son was younger, people would occasionally remark how much he looked like my husband. My children (who are biological half siblings) look very much like one another -- but, again, almost nothing like me or my husband.

Sometimes the comments about how much they looked like us would come from people who knew they were adopted. I think they were trying to "assure" us in some ways that we were a real family -- as if the strength of our family connections depended on being able to pretend that we were a biological family.

Question 3: Shattering Secrets
When Anne learns that she has another mother, she concludes that no secret can be kept forever. When her adoptive father attempts to persuade her not to meet with her birth mother, she stands up to him and declares that keeping secrets only causes more problems down the road. What do you think makes Anne resist her adoptive family's efforts at secret keeping?

The need to know and understand who we are is a strong one. For Anne, as for many adoptees, knowing and understanding her birth family is key to knowing who she is.

I sometimes think that one of the greatest losses for my children is the loss of extended family and the stories that come with having a rich knowledge of extended family.

The stories that I know about my extended family -- including some I've never met -- form a tapestry that weaves my life with those I'm connected to biologically. Part of the sense of who I am is based on the history of my family. I sometimes wonder how my children will navigate that aspect of themselves and how they will assemble their own tapestries.

Be sure to check out the responses of other participants on The Sound of Hope book tour. To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Bunny Confessions

"Mom, I still want to pretend," Ashley said to me Wednesday night.

I didn't have to ask what she meant. You see, we recently had the Easter Bunny/Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy talk.

It all started with a tooth. For some reason, her father -- on a night when he was assigned the role of Tooth Fairy -- decided to keep her tooth.

I have silly, sentimental attachments to many things -- but not to teeth. I have promptly disposed of all of them when I was on Tooth Fairy duty. But her father kept it, and put it in my jewelry box.

A couple of months ago, Ashley was looking for something in my jewelry box and found her tooth.

"Mom," she said, in a somewhat accusatory tone, "what is my tooth doing in your jewelry box?"

Good question, I thought. But instead, I said, "Hmm, I don't know, what do you think?" (Those years of therapy with children have not gone to waste!)

"I think it means you're the tooth fairy."

 Busted. "Yep, I am."

She stood there a second and then with an odd mixture of indignation and incredulity, she said, "You lied to me."

"Well, I think of it more as pretending."

"But why did you lie to me?"

"Because I thought it was fun to pretend."

She was not convinced. "You shouldn't lie to me."

 Oh, dear, I thought, do I spill the beans about Santa and the Easter Bunny? I opted to tread carefully. "Wasn't it fun to pretend there was a tooth fairy?"

"Yea, I guess."

I decided we didn't need to discuss Santa or the bunny, and instead gave her the obligatory lecture about not telling her brother or her friends or anyone else.

But, of course, it was only a matter of time.

A few weeks later, we were talking about Easter. She stopped mid-sentence and looked at me. "I need to talk to you in private,"  she said.

We were barely alone before she began, "So you're the Tooth Fairy."


"And the Easter Bunny?"

I nodded.

"And Santa Claus?"


She thought for a couple of minutes. "Anything else?'

"Nope, just those three."

"What about Daddy?"

"He helps me." I waited for the inevitable reprimand for lying to her again.

She was quiet for a minute and then said, "So you guys buy me all that stuff?"

I nodded.

"Wow, that's a lot of stuff," she said.

I shrugged. "It's fun to pretend."

She gave me a hug. "Thanks for getting me all that stuff. And I won't tell anyone."

She turned to leave, but then stopped. "Do I? . . . Will the?"

"Will Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny still bring you stuff?"

"Yea." She seemed relieved that I understood what she was asking.

"For as long as you want to pretend," I said.

So, I knew that her remark on Wednesday was about the Easter Bunny's impending visit. I assured her that she wouldn't be left out and sent her off to bed.

This morning, after an Easter egg hunt and going through her Easter basket, she came up to me. "Hey, Mom," she whispered, "thanks. I liked what the Easter Bunny brought."

"You're welcome," I whispered back, surprised at how easily we moved into this new phase.

It's still fun to pretend -- even when there is one more person in on the "secret."

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Living with the Danger

In many ways this was a typical Monday morning.

Both kids got distracted several times while getting ready, and had to be reminded multiple times to get their backpacks, their snacks, their mittens and hats. (I'd like to pretend that all my reminders were calm and kind -- but truth be told, I did yell a couple of times.)

On most school mornings getting out the door can seem like a marathon -- often a frustrating one.

When I dropped the kids off at school, I couldn't help but think about 20 parents in Newtown, Connecticut who would have given anything to have had our morning -- crazy and frustrating as it might have been.

Many of them probably had similar mornings on Friday. They probably said goodbyes similar to the ones I said to my kids this morning -- my 8-year-old daughter barely waving goodbye, no kiss because she doesn't do that anymore; my 5-year-old son tolerating a quick kiss before heading into his classroom, more interested in catching up with his friends than in saying goodbye to me.

And even though I want to hold them tight and give them big hugs and kisses -- just in case -- I can't ask them to give up their burgeoning Independence just because some madman shot up a school. And, so I let them go.

I suspect that before Friday Newtown, Connecticut felt much like the small New England town where we live -- small, safe, immune from the evils of the world, the kind of place where you want to raise children. How quickly that illusion can be shattered.

Like many, I hugged my kids a little tighter this weekend and I said prayers for the parents and children in Newtown struggling to come to terms with how evil the world can be.

And while hugs and prayers are important, they don't do much to make our kids safer.

The sad irony of parenting is that while we would give anything to ensure our children's safety every moment of their lives, we can never guarantee their safety. Accidents happen. Bad people hurt others. There is evil in the world, and sometimes we're powerless against it.

But, we can do things to make the world safer.

It's time that the NRA stop bullying politicians who want to consider common sense gun laws. I'm not talking about taking away anyone's right to hunt or to own a handgun if they feel they need it for protection. But it's time we stop pretending that the second amendment is an unfettered right that warrants no checks and balances.

It's time we acknowledge that the only people who need automatic weapons are military personnel in war zones or police swat teams. It's time we acknowledge that the only people who need enough ammunition to wipe out an entire school or magazine clips that can hold 30 bullets are the military and law enforcement. It's time we make getting access to a gun at least as hard as getting a driver's license (and just like with a driver's license, you should have to renew a gun permit at regular intervals).

It's also time we make it as easy to get mental health treatment as it is to get a gun. It's time we stop making mental health services one of the first things states cut when they have budget problems and look at the value of investing in mental health, substance abuse, and other prevention services over the long term.

It's time that we find ways to help parents who know they're losing their child to the demons of mental illness access affordable treatment services in their local communities. And it's time we look closely at ways to make it easier for parents, mental health professionals and others who know someone is a danger to take action to ensure hospitalization or other appropriate treatment services.

We can't eliminate every danger in the world, but we shouldn't let that stop us from finding ways to minimize the risk.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Good Election Advice

from one of my favorite blogs Rage Against the Mini Van -- and the post this comes from is pretty good, to.

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