It’s the Memories (or Lack Thereof)

A few days ago, I posted about the holidays still being a struggle for me. At that time, I had no answers, but I did have a few friends offer some perspective that was helpful. I’d like to say that I put aside my search for answers over the last few days, but that would be untrue. It all still churned in the background.

I did, however, try to focus on the moments I’ve had with my (adopted) family so I could make memories that would last. And that’s when it all hit me. It’s the memories. Or, for me, the lack thereof with my (natural) family.

While I have been in reunion with my (natural) family for seven years, I have yet to spend an actual Christmas Day with any of them. I have spent other important days with my (natural) mom and family (e.g., birthday, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day), and while those days used to be very challenging for me, they are easier now. And I think it’s because I have memories stored from the moments we have been together. Even when we can’t be together on those days, I have a memory bank that allows me to reminisce on times we have been together and those give me great joy.

It works with my (adopted) family too. We don’t see each other on our birthdays, but I have fond memories of birthdays that we have been together. Same with Thanksgiving, Easter, New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc. So, I recall those memories on those days and it’s like being with them, and I feel happy.

Looks like I need to find a way to spend some time with my (natural) family on Christmas Day to make the memories that will sustain me when we can’t be together. Sounds like a good project for 2020.

Hope you are making memories with your loved ones and friends this holiday season!

Why Are the Holidays Still a Struggle?

A little over a year has lapsed since I last posted on this blog. I find myself writing only when something about my adoption/reunion experience catches me off guard, which is why it’s been awhile. On most days, I’m a pro at this entire experience, even the mixed thoughts/feelings that sometimes surface.

So, why am I writing today? Because seven years into this process, I still struggle during the holidays.

After I reunited with my (natural) family, I anticipated my holiday struggle would be gone, but that first Christmas brought many of the same thoughts/feelings I had in prior years. There was still a hole…an emptiness…a sense of loss. At the time, I passed it off as the inevitable carry-over from years gone past. Almost like muscle memory. Mental/emotional muscle memory if you will.

But seven years later, I still think/feel some of the same things. And it’s bugging me because I can’t figure it out. So, yeah, that’s all I know to write for the moment.

Love Through My Eyes

I was recently asked to serve as a guest blogger for Michelle Madrid-Branch, a life coach, author, speaker and global advocate for women and children. I had been mulling over a post about love for quite some time, and decided to use it for my guest blog appearance. For those who normally read my posts, you can find the lastest one here:

http://michellemadridbranch.com/love-through-the-eyes-of-an-adoptee/

Best Adoptee Blogs for 2016

Healthline.com recently released their Best Adoptee Blogs for 2016, and I’m honored this blog was included on the list along with several adoptee bloggers that I follow. Thank you, Healthline for the mention. 

If you want to read Healthline’s preview of my blog, follow the link below and scroll down to the 4th blog mentioned. 

http://www.healthline.com/health/best-adoptee-blogs#1

Celebrating (Navigating) a 5th Reunion Anniversary

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the first time I spoke with my natural mom. I’ve known this 5th Momiversary (aptly named by my friend Sarah) was approaching, but I really failed to connect with its significance until a recent vacation. 

For those who are struck by my insensitivity, let me say in my defense, it’s because I just get used to my circumstances fairly quickly. Life is what life is. So, the longer my family reunion has gone, the more it’s just normal to me. And I’m this way about everything; not that it justifies it, but it’s true. And I think it’s because when I found out I was adopted, there was little room for playing out some big scene about it. I was adopted, I still had a family, and I probably would never meet my first one. So, that’s that. Stuff happens, you adjust. And that’s even true when the stuff that happens is you reunite with your natural family. 

But, I digress, because my point is that while on vacation I re-visited all of the texts, emails, and Facebook messages my mom (and other family members) and dad and I exchanged in those first few months of getting to know each other. And, it turns out, this is kinda a big deal. So, today, I celebrate, and I think about how I’ve navigated this whole experience, and why it’s gone so well by most standards. And I want to share those thoughts with you. 

First, I made a commitment to myself that I would enter the reunion process prepared to submit to whatever level of relationship my family members wanted. Mostly I was thinking about my mom and dad, but my commitment has played out with all of my natural family. This commitment means I have some closer relationships than I ever anticipated, and some that are more laid back, and others that are very limited or non-existent. And all of that is okay. For a relationship to work, it has to be on mutually agreeable terms. That means I couldn’t go into this dictating those terms, and I’ve been blessed by maintaining that commitment to let my family members lead the way. 

Second, I think communication has been key. I recently read a blog post that suggested adoptees carry too much responsibility for their adopted parents’ happiness (e.g. “you completed our family” or “you are God’s gift to us”), so in a reunion it’s important for a natural family (especially a mom) NOT to provide too much detail about how difficult life was without the adoptee because that adds too much responsibility for another parent’s happiness. I intellectually understand the author’s point, but I’m glad my family (especially my mom and dad) and I didn’t/don’t avoid the difficult topics. My mom’s choice was agonizing for her and carried significant consequences for her life, and I needed to hear that to understand her. And my dad was basically advised to step back from the whole process because he wasn’t ready to be a dad and a husband, and to let me and my mom go, and I needed to hear that too. And, my mom and dad have heard both the good and the bad of my life after adoption (the good tied to my adoptive family experience, the bad tied to the mental/emotional side effects), and they needed to hear that to know me. For every piece of information that we’ve shared that has been painful, I like to think that communication has also been healing, and has allowed us to get to a 5th Momiversary and an upcoming 5th Popiversary in April.

Finally, I think it’s been helpful to acknowledge that blood (genetics) does matter. As an adoptee, my entire life has been flooded with messages that are adoption-centric (e.g. family is who you choose). I have been blessed to live out those messages with an adoptive family that loved me. And I believe those messages are designed to help adoptees feel legitimate in their families, so I’m cool with them. But, those messages ever so subtly suggest to adoptees that blood (genetics) doesn’t matter. I’ve done enough research to know that’s not true, so I entered the reunion process ready to embrace my natural family as legitimate too. And, as odd as it sounds, the first weekend I spent with my natural mom’s family felt right because I was with people with whom I shared blood and genetic stamping. And I felt like that when I met my natural dad for the first time too. So, knowing that it was okay for both of my families to be legitimate has made the process easier. 

I don’t suggest any other adoptee in reunion or anticipating reunion should embrace these concepts because all of our experiences will be different. But, these things helped me, and if they sound good to you, I hope they help. 

Happy Momiversary to me, my mom, and all of the Payne family!

Becky

Vulnerable, Disappointed, Exposed

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So, it’s been several months since I’ve written. I would like to say it’s because most days being adopted has no impact on my life whatsoever, and I don’t even think about it. But, that would not be true. I mean, yeah, some days being adopted means nothing more than I have lots of parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc. But that’s not why I haven’t written. I haven’t written because…

It all started in mid summer. My (adoptive) dad had a heart attack and needed to have stents placed in a couple of arteries. That was…weird. My dad has been really healthy for my entire life, so it was odd to see him in a hospital bed with wires and machines and all. But I didn’t realize how vulnerable it made me feel until I contacted my (natural) dad to give him an update and he said that he’d been really sick too. My (natural) dad has Type 1 Diabetes, so not feeling well is part of the daily routine most of the time, but this was different, and I knew it. Both dads are…mortal. Not good. Not good. After a few weeks of feeling out of sorts over the whole thing, both dads began recovering and I felt less vulnerable. But then this happened…

Over the course of a few weeks of mindless television watching, I heard the following phrase (or an equivalent) at least three times – “I would be okay with adopting kids, but I want the first one to be from us….” And there it is! The disappointing reminder that the “chosen” narrative isn’t quite as nice and neat as we all want to think in the world of adoption. I have thought (and thought) about the right way to explain this, and all I can conjure is a grade school narrative. At times, adoption feels to me like being chosen last on the playground only to end up on the winning team. I mean, it’s cool I get to be on the winning team, but it still stinks not to be picked first. And while I was blessed with a wonderful family in my adoption experience, I still wasn’t picked first – by either of my families, in fact – so it still sucks when I’m reminded. Don’t get me wrong, I’m cool with the fact that an individual knows he/she wants to have biological children before adopting. I am even more cool with the fact that they will acknowledge it and not try to act like having biological children doesn’t matter to them. And it’s my fault I over-think everything about my experience. But it still stinks. And I was going to write about it  a couple of months ago, until…

I often read old posts before I begin a new one. Helps me see if I’m covering new ground or re-hashing old material. So, when I began to write about being “chosen,” I read a bit and began feeling exposed, I guess. I’m sure that those of you who read this blog, but don’t know me, have no idea how hard it is for me to write anything about thoughts/feelings of a personal nature. It’s like torture. I guard ME with fierce intensity. So, coming off of feeling vulnerable and disappointed, exposed was just too much. So, I’ve been quiet. Hiding behind the wall I’ve built over time. And not just on here. I’ve withdrawn in other aspects of my life because that’s what I do when I feel exposed.

But I began this blog for a reason. And that reason was to share my thoughts as an adoptee in hopes that others can see things in a new way. And I can’t do that if I refuse to write. So, here I am…having felt vulnerable, disappointed, and exposed. And now you know. And it pains me to have told you, but I hope someone can read this and say, “Yeah, I’ve felt that too” and maybe that commonality will make them feel better.

 

 

What’s all the Fuss about Medical History? 

If you have read anything about adoption, you know that adoptee access to medical history is a hot topic. I think most people understand that it’s better for adoptees to have access to their family medical history for the obvious reason – to be aware of potential health issues that run through their genetic lines. I agree this is an excellent reason to ensure adoptees have access to that history without having to jump through any hoops, but I believe there are more reasons to do it and I want to share one by way of a story. 

A few weeks ago, I visited a medical provider for an annual exam. I checked in at the front window, and the staff person verified some information, handed me a packet, and explained that it was time to update my medical history. She said my old form was in the packet, along with a brand new form, and that I could transfer my answers and update any that are necessary. 

When I reached my chair in the waiting room and looked at my old form, I saw my traditional single line drawn down the entire “unknown” column, and noted that someone else had written in script across the entire page “ADOPTED.” Ah, yes, there it was – the medical version of the reminder that I am different from other people. 

But, then, I looked at the fresh, clean page, and read it – for the very first time in my life – because I actually know my family medical history now. I was so excited to fill out that form; a form that other people don’t give a second thought. After I completed my careful review and started to return the form, I realized I had some explaining to do to the front desk staff person, so I smiled and said, “I am adopted and reunited with my natural families, so I know my medical history now.” She looked sort of confused at first, then her eyes softened, and she smiled and said, “That’s great.” 

I don’t know if she was declaring my knowledge or my reunion as great, but in that moment, the great part for me was the empowerment I felt in completing that form.