Author: rhegankim82

On Adoption: Parenting as an Adoptee

mom-48958_640

There was never a doubt in my mind that someday I wanted to be a mom. I have always loved children and spent many years babysitting and working with children at church and summer camp. At 21, I married my husband and a few years later we knew we were ready to begin our family. It was when I was pregnant with my first daughter that I fully realized the gravity of what my mother experienced through her pregnancy and relinquishment of me. When I held my newborn daughter, it was the first time I had ever seen a person who was related to me by blood. People-especially in the adoption community-emphasize the importance of love over blood in creating a family. While certainly love is important, blood matters too and this moment was significant to me. As she grew she began to look like me, and I could see so much of myself in her little personality.

Now I have two children and another one on the way. I love my children with every part of my being. But it wasn’t until after I reunited with my mother that I realized I was missing an important piece-an understanding of the bond of mother and child. My children are very much bonded and attached to me…to the point where it often felt needy and overwhelming. I could not grasp it all-I had never felt this way about my adopted mother and so I didn’t understand the need my children had………until I met my birth mother. Suddenly, I understood this powerful bond, this need to communicate and be near her- much like my children acted towards me. I realized that I must not take this for granted in my children. So I snuggle them a little longer, listen carefully to the things they want to tell me, answer all their questions because I finally get it. And I don’t want to miss a thing. I know how quickly they will be grown and gone and I will never retrieve those moments again. Just like I can never retrieve the moments I missed with my mother.

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On Adoption: My Narrow and Limited Fate

38ce1c058a1c8e67e3499c12533f61abAs an adoptee the world has generally left me with two fates: abortion or adoption. Dead or “unwanted.”

My self-worth does not benefit from either of these choices.

Turns out they weren’t the only choices. Because they are not opposites. They are not either or.

My other fate: being raised by my mother. Not too many want to give me that option.

Not too many want to give young single women or women in poverty that option.

Not too many want to understand the pain and loss in adoption.

I just want the world to see there are more choices.

I just want the world to stop thinking separating mother and child has no consequences.

I just want the world to stop telling adoptees be glad you aren’t dead.

I just want the world to know that abortion was never my fate. ever. so stop asking me to be grateful I’m alive.

I already am-but not because I was adopted instead of aborted.

I’m grateful because-shouldn’t we all be?

abortion_and_adoption_by_plzpraymore

anyone who thinks adoption is “easy” clearly has no experience

On Adoption: The Lies They Told Me 


Since reuniting with my birthmom I’ve discovered several things about my story that were lies. Things the adoption agency got wrong. A few things like the time of my birth and the wrong ethnicities were put down on paper. They may seem like minor mistakes, but they matter.

Then there were two pretty substantial lies that altered me and my journey in significant ways. One damaged me to my core- the other led me straight to my mother.

The first lie was not in any official document but was told to me and written down in notes my adopted mother took when they received the call about me. She was told that my birth mom never held me nor wanted to see me. This was a very painful piece of my story. It seemed to fit with the unwanted child narrative adoptees become used to- but it still hurt. And even though my papers said my birth mom would like  contact when I became of age- I believe this lie made me quite frightened of being rejected- again. When I found my mother and she spoke of holding me, that she had a picture of us…..I couldn’t stop crying. What a relief it was to know that it was a lie- and how angry I became to know that others purposely made this part of my story.

The second lie I am actually grateful for because it made a huge difference in the search for my mother. Growing up I had one sheet of paper front and back that stated some basic information about my birth parents. Height, weight, eye color, ethnicity, hobbies etc. according to these papers- my only connection to them- it stated my birthmother was pursuing a career in the veterinary field and that she was involved in an animal science club at her college. When I began my search this was one of the better clues we pursued and I was able to acquire a picture with first and last names of all the people who were in that club the year I was born from the college of the town I was born in. With the combination of some other clues I quickly found out which women in the picture was my birthmother. Only she wasn’t. We soon discovered she was my aunt. My mother was never ever in that club- but because her sister was-it led me to her. Without that false information, that lie, my search would’ve taken much longer.

Adoptees deserve the truth about who they are and who and where they come from. Unfortunately, my story isn’t unique. Many adoptees discover false information, even wrong birth dates. I can’t understand how this information can be taken so lightly. These details matter. These details were all I had of my past-I memorized them-and they weren’t all true. It’s heart breaking and wrong.

Sometimes the truth hurts and sometimes the truth sets you free. Either way it’s truth-and that is all I want.

On Adoption: The Elephant in the Room

Today’s prompt from Lost Daughters asks the question of speaking up about my adoption experience in a room (or online space) where what I have to say may not be welcome. 

Not too many years ago I had no problem adding my adoptee narrative to a conversation because I had the attitude most people want to see from from an adopted person. I was grateful to be alive, happy to have parents who love me, thankful to my birthmom for the life she gave me, and for the most part oblivious to how being adopted has effected me. These responses bring questions but no pushback-there are no guards put up.

The way I feel about my adoption has changed in the last two years because I’ve finally let myself feel. The above things still fit to a point but now I’ve embraced the pain and difficulties as well. I’ve found an adoptee community who have felt similar things and suddenly I’m not alone. Now I tend to be fairly bold on social media about my journey. I am still very cautious about where I speak up. I’m sure my family and friends were quite surprised by some of the things they learned but no one said much. There are still things I won’t say to many and I don’t bother (unless a huge line has been crossed) to approach people in an adoption friendly place where my voice will quickly get crushed and invalidated.

In person I have stopped bringing up my adoptee status. Now I’d rather pretend I’m not adopted. Unless someone directly asks my opinion I’m probably keeping my mouth shut because most people are not ready for what I have to say-  And I’m often not ready to hear what they may say. I hope to become braver in this area but it is all to fresh for me still.

 
The last moment I had where I opened up to strangers that I am adopted was so triggering it won’t be happening again anytime soon. With a small group of ladies discussing adoption and the wait and the cost I told them about myself. They went on to say as I stood there in shock, “I’m just so glad there are people out there who are willing to take in all those unwanted children.”  I stood there realizing that without knowing it they had reduced my value. They didn’t know my whole story and they didn’t mean to harm- but they did. In reality I have never been unwanted- but plenty of times it has felt that way. These are the comments that keep us quiet-that flow into our subconscious as we grow-that shape our self-worth. 

So for now I will let the adoption elephant stand in the corner of the room. I will pretend I have nothing to say. I will speak out when I am able. I will value myself. 

On Adoption: Why I #FliptheScript

Every month and every day seems to have some sort of meaning these days. Some to bring awareness and others just for fun. From National Ice Cream Day to Breast Cancer Awareness these days and months can become bothersome to us or provide a great opportunity for action. November happens to be National Adoption Awareness Month with an honorary statement by the President himself.  This month has historcially been filled with Adopted Parents and Agencies voices, so using the Lost Daughters Prompts for the month of November I hope to get some tweets and some writing in. I have been pretty silent lately, and as much as it scares me to dig in some more, I’m hoping I can find some more healing through it. 

So below are some of the reasons I #flipthescript:

I #flipthescript to connect with a community of fellow adoptees who get it.

I #flipthescript because saying out loud how  I feel about being adopted has its own healing effect.

I #flipthescript because for 31 years I was mostly silent about what was going inside and it deserves to be said.

I #flipthescript because I’ve been asked if the adoption community put negative thoughts about my adoption into my head. No, I have not been brainwashed, but I have been validated. 

I #flipthescript because a friend was able to let her adopted friend really share the hard stuff because of what she had learned from me. 

I #flipthescript because a professional counselor sent me a message asking for resources so she could better understand her adopted clients. 

I #flipthescript because when I speak out, others can gain courage to do the same. 

I #flipthescript because I want adoptive parents to understand that they must not be afraid of their child’s thoughts and feelings about their adoption. 

I #flipthescript because I want birth parents to understand that no matter the motives behind their decisons to not parent or their inability to make that choice, it hurts. 

I #flipthescript to help others understand the lack of rights adoptees face as they desire to know who they are. 

I #flipthescript to make change. 

I #flipthescript to make adoption better. 

I #flipthescript for me. 

On Adoption: In the Bible

I was asked to share some insight for “Project Priscilla” on how being adopted has shaped my view of spiritual adoption and adoption in the Bible. The results may not be what you are expecting!!

Check it out here! 

Rhegan and her mother reuinted

Rhegan and her mother reuinted

Time to relearn, what history already taught us…

Fascinating research. Let’s not repeat history.

The adopted ones blog

By TAO

I’d like to talk about the feelings evoked when the topic Baby Boxes are brought up, a hot topic right now in the adoption community due to the movie “The Drop Box” which is being called a stunning pro-life documentary.  The problem with talking about my feelings is hard because the reaction I have to any mention of them, or the way Safe Havens are set up, causes my stomach to churn and my words to slip away.  The feelings start with the assumptions made about what the new mothers want, but without any research about what they actually want, the assumptions of wanting confidentiality, not wanting their child, and so many others are without merit, without the voices of the mothers.

View original post 1,071 more words

On Adoption:  The Unnecessary Barriers to Search & Reunion

I grew up knowing I was adopted. I grew up knowing that when I turned 18 I could search for my birth parents. What I didn’t know, is that adoption laws and agency practice in my state would leave me feeling like a second class citizen. Living in the dark, I literally thought I would call the agency that handled my adoption and they would turn over information that rightly belonged to me; especially since the agency had documented that both of my parents said that they would like contact from me when I reached adulthood.   I was completely wrong.

  1. Seeking out information can be Intimidating

Before I turned 18, I always talked about searching as soon as I could. By the time I was 20, I finally mustered up enough courage to call the adoption agency and get my information. They made the mistake of putting me on hold and I quickly hung up; it would be another 12 years before I called them again. When I did, I had someone coaching me on what questions to ask. I had to have deliberate questions because they were not just giving out the information they knew I was looking for. They immediately asked me if I was an adoptee, birth parent, or adopted parent: I wondered if this changed the way they interacted with me.  There were forms to fill out, and fees to be collected. I never even knew that I could’ve had my name on file all these years so that if my mother tried to search for me they could give her my contact info. No one told me anything.  

Now adoption is mostly open, but for children in closed adoptions, I believe when the child turns 18 they should receive a packet in the mail with their non-identifying information and steps explaining the search process. This is precisely what the UK does and I think the country is still standing. They should also offer suggestions for material to prepare for reunion and counseling if desired, but not required like some states. The adopted person could then choose to search or not, but at least it’s in their hands, literally!

  1. Search is costly with no guarantee

Not only is the act of searching intimidating, it is costly. I get that people need to be paid for their work, but I never chose this for myself. Put a search fee in the initial adoption expenses; what’s an extra $400 in the scheme of $30,000 (hey they might even make more money from people who choose to never search). I seriously cannot come to terms with the fact that I have to pay for information about myself. With the internet there is no way I should be charged for someone else to search. I have Google too. (Really, Just give me a name). With help from my search angel, we found my mother in probably 10 hours of searching the internet without a name. With a name it would have taken less than 1. That’s $400/hr. Maybe I should switch careers.

SEARCH FEES

Catholic Charities 

Identifying Information – $400.00

Non-identifying Information – $75.00

 

Christian Family Life Services

Identifying Information – $400.00

Non-identifying Information – $75.00

 

Lutheran Social Services

Identifying Information – $460.00

Non-identifying Information – $110.00

 

The Village Family Service Center

Identifying Information – $460.00

Non-identifying Information – $110.00

 

And here is the real kicker: This stranger can open my file, read the names of my parents, contact them somehow;  Oh, but since paternity wasn’t legally determined they can’t even contact my father-even though he was involved in the adoption-even though he said yes he would like to be contacted.  They now must get my mother’s permission to release her information.  If she says no, I’m done. The end. Sorry you are out $400 AND your birth family, your questions, your missing piece. This is not acceptable. I can’t accept it.  I won’t accept it. Which brings me to the next point.

*some states don’t even have the option of forking out money to the agency who holds their file. They instead have to enter their information into a state mutual registry (which may cost and require counseling). I’m not sure how often people actually find each other through these registries; one misinformation (which happens often in adoption paperwork) can send you down the wrong path and I’m guessing could cause people to miss each other, forever. You can also hire a private investigator, can you see the continual trend: adoptees continually forced to spend money on a choice that was made for them. Totally unfair.

Original Birth Certificate

Original Birth Certificate

  1. Access to original birth certificate by court order only

I could take it to court, but add another $1,000 to pay my lawyer and good luck finding a judge who will say yes to obtaining  my original birth certificate: the legal piece of paper documenting my birth. I have no access to it. My birth mother has no access to it nor was she allowed to keep a copy (good thing since she gave them the information and might do what with it???). My adopted parents have no access to it. Instead, my birth certificate was changed to say that my adopted parents gave birth to me, and my original has been sealed for all time.

I love my adopted parents, but they don’t belong on my birth certificate. They raised me, but they did not conceive, carry or give birth to me. They were not at the hospital. They did not even know I was born until days later. This practice began in the 1930s when being born out of wedlock labeled you illegitimate. They actually stamped it on your birth certificate.  In the 1950’s, birth certificates were available to be seen by anyone.  To avoid stigma, and to keep birth parents away, the states started to seal birth certificates; even keeping them from the adopted persons themselves. These days of stigma and shame are long gone, yet Adult Adoptees still are not given access to their very own information.

When persons seek to change these archaic laws, suddenly the big concern is the privacy of the birth parents. While there may be a few out there who wish to remain a secret, it is quite laughable to me.  Being found can be hard for many, but in states where birth certificate access has been granted to adult adoptees and states have made provision for birth parents to redact their information or ask for no contact only about 1% have done so. We are protecting the 1% while 100% of adoptees (I realize not all adoptees are interested, but there is potential at some point in their life they would)  and 99% of birth parents are searching for answers. If you go online you will find hundreds of websites and registries with families trying to find each other. Some for 30 years, some ready to give up. It’s a true shame.

Many adoptees struggle with identity and value- they do not know their beginning; have never caught glimpse of a face that looks like them;  and often wonder if they were ever loved by their birth mother.  Even if a mother(father) does not want to be found, you cannot convince me the mother’s privacy is more important than the needs of that child she made a choice for. In her new book “Worthy to Be Found” Deanna Shrodes says, “I believe every human being has a right to look into the eyes of the two people they originate from, at least once…..I believe that if you birth a child, it’s the humane thing, the kind thing-yes, the right thing”  even just once.

Beyond that adoption has a ripple effect. It made an impact on the rest of the birth parents’ family: grandparents lost grandchildren, aunts and uncles lost nieces and nephews, cousins lost cousins, siblings lost to each other. Even if a birth mother doesn’t want contact, someone else in her family might.  It will also have an impact on the generations to come from that adopted child. They will never have their true genealogy. It could affect their health and their children’s health. Adopted persons should have access to the identifying information of their birth parents. Then like grown-ups they can navigate contact or relationship or lack thereof.  At the very least they deserve a chance without anyone in the middle.

When my mother was in her 30’s she chose to be adopted by her step-father, and do you know what happened? The state issued a NEW birth certificate and sealed away her original. DID I MENTION SHE WAS IN HER 30’s?!?!?   There is no reason for this! Adoption should not change the information on a birth certificate. Either lines need to be added to include adoption, or adoption certificates need to be issued that have just as much legal value as a birth certificate. This only makes common sense and I can’t figure out why we aren’t doing this already!!!!! Birth certificates are available to people as they study ancestry and genealogy. Amended birth certificates created through adoption have NO indication that this child was adopted and will forever twist the true genealogy of our nation.

When adopted persons turn 18, they should be able to request their original birth certificate just like any other citizen. It really comes down to civil rights. We are being treated differently than the rest of America’s citizens. Slowly, state by state, laws are changing, and the world isn’t ending. Even without changed laws people are reuniting every day thanks to the internet, search angels  and DNA. Reunion is beautiful. Reunion is challenging. It brings up a lot of buried memories and emotions; but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. It doesn’t mean that the government or adoption agencies get to be the middle man. Let adults be adults.

So many times reunion is denied because a stranger is standing in the middle. And all the stranger can say is I’m sorry, it’s the end.

On Adoption: A Seat at the Table

November was National Adoption Month and this year I participated in a very successful campaign to get adoptee voices out into the public:  called “Flip the Script.”  Timehop graciously reminded me that three years ago I was singing the praises of National Adoption Month and expressing my gratitude, this year I was sharing the complexities of being adopted. Something I’ve only let myself think about in the past year.

natl adoption month

Being adopted is complicated. You cannot separate adoptees into happy and mad and assume those that are “mad” can be dismissed because they must have had an unusually bad experience. Adoption is a life long process.  It can be confusing when an adoptee who has seemed happy all their life suddenly is sharing all of these negative feelings. I’m sure I took many of my family and friends by surprise. There is a theory that helps explain this process: Adoption Reconstruction Phase Theory.  It’s not as simple as saying some adoptees are happy and some are mad; many adoptees go through these phases over the course of their life; and many don’t.  The Declassified Adoptee conducted an interview with the creators of the Adoption Reconstruction Phase Theory: check it out here.

Adoption Reconstruction Graphic

Adoption support and practice has changed drastically since I was adopted. Now parents are entering into open adoptions, keeping connections open with birth families and taught how to help their child grieve their loss.  For me and many before me, our parents were given a newborn, told we were blank slates and to treat us as if we had been born to them. They even changed our birth certificates to make it look as though that is what happened. The problem is, we were not blank slates. We experienced a painful separation with no way to communicate or remember this loss. We needed the space to explore this loss. Our parents loved us, but were never given the right tools to help us grieve; didn’t even know we needed to.

So unfortunately, many adopted children grew up unable to talk about how it felt to be adopted, the questions they had, the hurt. We were shushed (and are still) with mixed messages from all around us and quickly learned adoption wasn’t something we could talk about- unless it was the happy stuff. The feelings of loss and sadness are suppressed and we become grateful for the life we now have; after all it’s our only choice. Like so many have said and I said about myself: at least I wasn’t aborted. Take a minute and think about how this attitude could be painful. My choice is unwanted or dead. Yuck. The reality is most birth mothers are choosing between parenting and adoption NOT abortion and adoption.  Adoptees are often told they are special and chosen, but deep down many of us question our worth; question love. After all, love has been defined for us as leaving; “your birth mother loved you so much she wanted a better life for you.” This concept can be true and make sense for an adult; to a child it’s confusing. When I told my 7 year old daughter my birthmother did not feel as though she could take care of me her response was “of course she could, all mommies can.” And that simple childlike thinking causes many adoptees to believe that certainly there is something wrong, something unlovable about themselves. These feelings are nearly impossible to erase.

The general public, and many (not all) adopted and birth parents do not want to hear us. They do not want to acknowledge the pain and hurt many of us feel. They want to view adoption as the best thing ever. After all adoption equals love. Don’t get me wrong, adoption has its place and can be a huge blessing, but it’s not an easy road.  Honestly, I would love for people to say, “wow I get it; it really must be hard to be adopted”- but I know that will not come easily. Those conversations will mostly stay within the confines of adoptee networks because we get it; we lived it.

What I want more than anything, and what I hope anyone can agree upon,  is for us to at least be seen as adults who have rights. The fact that I cannot have a copy of my own original birth certificate and laws demand that I be babysat while I search out my biological family members makes me angry.  An anger that will cause me to fight for justice.

Really we just want a seat at the table. We want lawmakers and adoption agencies and adopted parents to understand what this means to us. How not having access to our own information is taking a piece of our identity from us; possibly our life if we don’t have crucial medical information.   How many of us will never feel complete until we understand all of who we are: it doesn’t matter if what we find is good or bad- we need our truth.

THIS is why we flip the script.

But a few adopted parents have come out this week with reminders that we belong at the kids table. We ought to just be grateful, proving our love and loyalty and not ruin the good name of adoption.

Listen up people: if adoption is about the kids then I suggest you start listening to the kids who have lived it and are now grown adults. Don’t you think we could help influence best practices in a way that truly benefits who adoption is supposedly for??

Or maybe you’d like to admit that adoption (infant and international: not from foster care) has become a billion dollar industry benefiting adoption agencies and parents who need children??