Hearing My Own Voice

I have come full circle.

When I started this blog, I embarked on an introspective journey into adoption. I knew when I began writing that there was much in adoption to question, much that needed reform. But I didn't expect to find the level of pain and sorrow and anger that I discovered almost immediately. It took me by surprise, and it was stunning.

It was important to me to try to understand the depth of that pain, and doing that brought me into contact with adoptees and first mothers whose experiences had taken them through loss and pain and sorrow that, contrary to conventional wisdom, doesn't end when a child is placed in an adoptive family. It goes on, forever, sometimes debilitating, sometimes numbing, but always present.

I found so many things that caused me to question adoption as I understood it until then. Policies and agencies and even my own motives for adopting began to tarnish as I looked at them through the eyes of the mothers and fathers and children who lost one another when adoption entered their lives. I came to realize that by adopting the children I cherish, I wasn't really making it possible for a woman to forget the past and move on with her life, I was just resolving an immediate need that was then replaced with never-ending grief.

And for several months now, I've been quite simply unable to find adoption terra firma. These past few months, thinking about adoption has been like standing on sand, always shifting, throwing me off balance.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend some time with a number of adopted friends who were in Washington for the first International Adoptee Congress. The IAC is a new organization founded and directed by internationally adopted persons who have come together to empower and give voice to their community.

I had a lovely dinner on Thursday evening with a dear friend who was in town to attend the Congress. Over barbecue at Red Hot and Blue, we talked and talked and talked - about my kids, his daughter, about our mutual friends, about adoption, about politics, about race, about everything. And then we attended the Congress kickoff event, a presentation of adoptee art held at George Washington University. What an amazing opportunity! We saw film works by Jennifer Arndt-Johns (Crossing Chasms), kate hers (missing), and Maria Quiroga (Las Hijas); we heard Jared Rehberg of In Third Space sing two of his songs; and we met and spoke with the artists.

On Friday evening I met a lovely young Korean adoptee from Minnesota whom I had met on a Korean adoption forum on which she had experienced no small amount of disrespect from adoptive parents. When she realized I lived in DC, she asked if I could meet with her at some point during the Congress; we made plans to meet between the last Congress session on Friday and the group's dinner in downtown DC.

But stopping by the hotel gave me more than an opportunity to meet this lovely young woman. As the group began to congregate in the lobby, I saw others I knew or had met at other conferences in the past, some I hadn't seen in years. I was warmly welcomed into their conversations, and when everyone had finally assembled and I began my good-byes to head home, I was invited to join the group, which included spouses and partners and friends of the attendees.

Even more friends, including my Korean lesson pal, were at the restaurant. The group was animated and warm. I had a lovely meal, and even lovelier conversation, all of it focusing on the same thing: that the time was right for intercountry adoptees to take ownership of this experience from the parents and professionals who have spoken for them for so long, and that this group of adopted people was committed to making it happen.

When the evening was over, I metroed back to the hotel with a young woman from California attending UC Berkeley. She was from Taiwan, her adoptive mother had been Chinese, but sadly had passed away from cancer a few years ago. Her father, who was white, didn't seem to understand her need to connect with other Asians, and so she had embarked on her own journey, one that has brought her as a volunteer to Europe to work with Chinese adoptees in Spain and Ireland, and which also brought her to Washington for the Congress.

I heard such enthusiasm in this young woman's voice, and saw such feelings of confidence that the adoptees coming together with the IAC could make a real difference in the lives of others. She literally glowed with the possibilities, and I have no doubt that she and the others will make them happen.

As I drove home I began to hear another voice, too - my own. I realize now that I will always live with the sadness that the adoptions of my children have caused pain to my children's families and to them, too, and with the sobering acknowledgment that I honestly once believed a mother could forget her child and move on with her life.

But on Friday, I was reminded that I although I must accept the reality of adoption, of my adoptions, and of the pain and sorrow and loss, I can still speak to reform and openness, still reach out to mothers of loss and to adoptees in pain, still alert the world to the injustices and unethical behavior. And I can share my story.

That's my voice. It's good to hear it again.


Kahlan said…
Wow! I am so jealous of your weekend! I have wanted to meet R. since she posted on the forum. I was horrified by how she was treated.

I, too, have questioned my own motives to adopt. I have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other; from wanting a completely closed adoption with my OWN child (and nobody else's) to thinking all adoptions were unethical and must be stopped. I am now in a place where I think some adoptions are necessary and can be ethical. However, I still think that much reform is needed.

Hurray for the IAC! I only wish I could have attended and met some of these wonderful people.
Cara said…
I'm glad to hear you.

All of us can only live our own lives using the knowledge we have. Your willingness to learn, examine and be "wrong" show how eager you are to do the right thing, always.

A lot of people don't even want to give it any thought. Other people's pain (and the notion they might have inadvertently contributed to it) is too hard to deal with, so they block it out.
MomEtc. said…
I'm totally with you on not being able to find that adoption terra firma. I don't know that I'll ever find it.
joy said…

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