When Does an Adoptee Voice Stop Being Elevated Above All Others

“I’m not traumatized by my adoption.”

“Not all adoptees feel that way.”

“You say adoptee voices matter most but I guess that’s only if they have a bad adoption story.”

A year ago I would presume to stick my nose into a debate between adopted people. Today I am very cautious and calculating about doing this because the adoptee voice SHOULD ALWAYS be the loudest voice in the adoption community. They are the ones who had absolutely zero choice at all. They are the ones who grew up separated from their biological origins. Not me. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by genetic mirrors. I know the names of the people who created me. I can sympathize but I can never fully empathize because to do so would mean I would have to have had similar life experiences in order to relate their experiences to mine. 

Nevertheless, when an adoptee asks me to be a voice for them, I will oblige and hope I can do my best to represent their voice. Such is the reason for this writing. 

In adoption communities online a war rages. In simplistic terms, and from the point of view of many adoptees who are content with having been adopted, this could be viewed as “happy adoptee” vs. “angry adoptee.” 

Let’s first go into more detail as to why the adoptee voice should be elevated above all others. The single most important reason to elevate their voices is to prevent heartache and obstacles for those adoptees who are still children. At least, this is my understanding from hearing their voices over the course of several months. Correct me if I’m wrong. Secondarily, we elevate their voices because no one else did. See: was given no choice in being adopted. It’s only fair they are heard now. 

“Well I wasn’t given a choice about who my biological parents would be.”

No, you weren’t. But that doesn’t matter. Because neither were they. This argument becomes invalid if you recognize the unique challenges or issues that arise for someone who is adopted. Even those who are perfectly content with having been adopted. At some point in their life at least one time a challenge arose directly correlated to their adoption. Whether that was a classmate once pointing out that their parents didn’t want them or a lifetime of emotional conflict over having been relinquished. At one time or another, every adoptee has had to face one or more issues or challenges surrounding their status of being adopted. So you don’t get to use the “I didn’t pick my parents either” card. 

“I’m not traumatized by my adoption.”

I’m glad you weren’t. I’m glad you are whole and content. I truly am. And not every adoptee feels as if adoption was a bad thing in their life. And that’s okay. Not every adoptee who rallies for adoptee rights and family preservation had a bad experience, in general, being adopted. Many love their adoptive families and grew up in warm and loving homes. You did not have to have a bad adoption experience to be a champion of equal rights, family preservation, and ethics. 

I see it often assumed that those who speak of the ethical issues in adoption MUST have had a bad experience with their adoption. Then I see them counter an adoptee’s point of view with, “I’m not traumatized by my adoption.” Because, you know, #notall adoptees feel this way. And almost every time I see this, it is to use their status as an adoptee (and the elevated voice the rest of the community is finally giving them) to further elevate their voice over the other adoptee. To “cancel out” their thoughts or life experiences. When someone points this tactic out they will hear, “You say adoptee voices matter most but I guess that’s only if they have a bad adoption story.”

Here’s the thing. If we look to the reasons we elevate an adoptees voice (see above) and your using your elevated voice to dismiss another adoptee who is trying to help prevent psychological damage, you are, in essence, cancelling out the reasons your voice is elevated in the first place. 

-You say you are content and never had any issues with being adopted. Then why do you take issue with others speaking about why they aren’t content to educate other adoptive or birth parents?

-You have a counter story for every story another adoptee has. These adoptees want to remind people why it’s best to err on the side of caution for certain topics. Essentially you’re telling an adoptive parent “Don’t listen to her. I was perfectly fine with not being told I was adopted until I was 8.” Or insert whatever other subject you’d like in those quotations. 

An adoptee’s voice stops being elevated when they use that voice to silence other adoptees who have experienced trauma. Who advocate for equal rights and equal access. Who advocate for ethical practices and ethical reform within the institution of adoption. Why? Because it is counterintuitive to the reason why your voice is elevated in the first place (again: see above). 

You are free to share how content you are. You are free to share how happy you are to be adopted. You are free to share why that is. But you are not free to spread misinformation. You are not free to use your voice to silence others. That is where other adoptees are free to stop elevating your voice above all others. And personally, I will interject, as a first mom, when I see misinformation being spread. This is because misinformation is dangerous. It is my duty to ensure the correct facts are presented. 

You have no issues with the current practices of adoption? Fine. But this is where we split ways. This is where I no longer value your voice. Because anyone who thinks it’s okay for birth records to be falsified and the original, accurate ones to be sealed away forever (or until birth parents give permission for those records to be released) doesn’t deserve an elevated voice. Anyone who thinks it’s okay for the way adoption works today to continue as it is wont get an elevated voice with me. Or any others like me, adopted or not. You are part of the problem. And your willful refusal to see the very real problems in adoption makes you an active participant in the trauma that so many adoptees DO experience. You fuel the flames, perpetuate the cycle. If ten adoptees say, “Please don’t do this. It was done to me and it hurt me deeply” all it takes is one adoptee voice to say “That happened to me and I turned out fine.” An adoptive parent or birth parent reads that and says “see, it’s not that bad. She turned out fine.” 

And then they do it to their adopted children – whatever it may be. And maybe they turn out fine too. Or maybe they don’t. But the butterfly effect is strong. Your one irresponsible statement, (most times to appease an adoptive parent who IS in fact doing it wrong, or maybe sometimes for your own appeasement that life wasn’t all that bad, right?) could be the catalyst in a child’s life. Your one statement could be the thing that finds you, in twenty years, in an adoption support group on Facebook…

The child of that adoptive parent from twenty years ago; the one you said “That happened to me and I turned out fine.”

And then that adoptive mother thinks to herself, “See, it’s not that bad. She turned out fine.”

And then she takes your advice and applies it to parenting her adopted child…

You might find yourself telling that child, “But I wasn’t traumatized by my adoption. Why are you so bitter? #Notall of us feel that way.”

Because it comes down to this. 

In every instance that I can think of where adoptees have a disagreement? The one arguing to err on the side of caution is never arguing for something that would ever have the potential to harm a child, emotionally or otherwise. 

But the other adoptees seem to always argue “But I’m okay.” And what they should be saying is “But I’m okay IN SPITE OF…

Why would you chance:

-Not telling your child they are adopted until they are older?

-Not allowing your child to be in contact with their otherwise safe birth family?

-Not being aware of the signs of trauma in an adopted child?

-Unethically obtaining your child and having to answer to that child one day?

The list could go on and on. 

Adoptee voices are the most important. When they are wearing their adoptee hat and advocating for ethical and fair treatment. Sometimes adoptees wear a birth parent hat. And sometimes they wear an adoptive parent hat. Even if they aren’t either. Their fierce need to protect the institution of adoption drives this. I cannot begin to understand why and I’d love to find out but they aren’t giving up their secrets thus far. 

I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I don’t fully support adoptees sharing their lived experiences, whatever they may be. What I don’t support is using those lived experiences to silence those who have experienced inequality or hurt from adoption. I don’t support that at all. 

Let’s look at this without the emotion. 

It’d be like if someone was seriously injured skateboarding without a helmet. They’d be all over the place saying “WEAR A HELMET!! This could happen to you!” Will it happen? Maybe. Maybe not. But I know for me I like people to have all the info – the helmet if you must. Since there’s already a million people talking about how great skateboarding is I may as well be the one screaming to wear a helmet. And when someone posts a story about how awesome their last skateboarding outting was and didn’t mention that helmet I’d be commenting “but don’t forget your helmet! I didn’t wear one once and it hurt me!” 

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I Can See the Horizon 

Sleep found me easily and peacefully. I usually suffer from insomnia and will lay awake for hours praying that slumber will come upon me. A peace I’d never known before washed over me as all of my children were under my roof in the same place at the same time. The people I value and love the most in this world. The ONLY people whose opinions about me I care about. I felt complete and whole.

But sad. Sad for what could have been. Sad for the upcoming goodbye. Sad from what my choice had taken from all of my kids without their permission. There had always been a feeling that someone was missing and while she was here that feeling was gone. But it would soon be back. Nevertheless I tried to revel in how lucky I was to even have this moment, this time, at all.

I have three daughters and two sons. Of all of my children, she is the most like me in every way. It’s almost scary how similar we are. Many times people would comment “its like looking at you when you were her age!” Or “She’s JUST like you at that age!”

And she is.

She’s tenacious, she has no filter, she looks like me, she sounds like me, she has the same mannerisms as me. Admittedly she does have my husband’s nose.

Driving to Taco Bell one day we said the exact same thing at the exact same time with the exact same inflection. That happens within families all the time. Families that you share DNA with. “That’s never happened to me before,” she said with surprise. And it kept happening. My sisters and I are always speaking in stereo. It made me think how sad it would be to go through life without ever hearing someone who sounded like you.

And she’s just like her sisters. When a neighbor started up his motorcycle too closely they all screamed, shook, and started crying. All three of them. All at the same time. DNA is some powerful stuff.

But she’s herself too. It was lovely to hear her talk about the things she loves, the places she’s seen, the people in her life she cares about and how they’ve impacted her.

And still there was this thing hanging in the air. All the shared memories we had that she didn’t. My family is big on talking about “Remember when this happened…” and then proceeding to tell a funny or shocking story. So while she was like us in every way, and fit in perfectly, there was always the elephant in the room that reminded us that she had been gone.

So many mixed emotions. So much to untangle.

My husband was smitten. He reminded me of a new father doting over his infant daughter. Except we had already doted on her when she was born. I can read this man better than anyone and the looks on his face said, “I’m in love with this beautiful creature.” As he should be. She’s pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

And here is where I decided that this blog has served its purpose. For now, anyway.

When I was hurting it was here. When I needed to vent it was here. When I was scared, anxious, worried, happy, hopeful, suffering, it was here. You were here. Some of you lifted me with your thoughts and others pissed me off. And that’s okay. Because sometimes I just needed a good fight and you engaged me.

I know this journey is ever evolving and I’m not completely abandoning this space. There may be a time in the future where I need it regularly again. But this journey is no longer just my own. Now that our lives have come together again, and she is again a part of mine, our stories are intertwined and it’s not up to me what to share.

I have let adoption consume my life. That’s not an entirely bad thing. I’ve found sisterhood and courage in this community. I’ve found courage to stand up, stand out, and help make changes. I will always be an activist. Always. But I’m also a mother and wife. I can’t spread myself too thin so I’ve decided to focus my energy on certain endeavors that will allow me to balance things more equally. I lost my grandfather, who helped raise me, and a beloved pet who was my emotional support animal, this year. The wheels of time don’t stop turning for me to sit behind a computer.

So while I’ve already bowed out of this blogging thing pretty much, I thought I’d leave you all with a happy update. I’ll pop in once in a while. But it’s time to take back my life and focus on where I can really make a change, enjoy my family, and still remain a functional member of society.

 

Behind the Curtain: Jessalynn Bills Speight

There’s an article going around from the Huffington Post. It’s entitled, “How Do Women Feel After Placing Their Baby For Adoption?”  The article was written by  who is the co-founder and CEO of an organization called Binti which claims it “uses technology to improve the adoption process and encourage empathy and understanding among members of the adoption triad.”

In this article, Curcuru interviews two first moms who have written a book called, “Birthparent’s Guide to Grief: A 12-Step Process.”  This book was written by Jessalynn Bills Speight and Alysia Foote. I’ve seen the article circulating in some adoption communities and support groups. Each time it pops up I cringe.

I’ve read the article. In my opinion, 90% of it is absolute garbage and is not applicable to the majority of first moms more than 5 years into an adoption. There was a lot the article left out, as far as a background on Jessalynn, a background that many don’t know about but that I’ve heard from friends who have had personal run-ins with this woman. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Jessalynn starts the article by sharing her story. This isn’t the first time Jessalynn has made her way into major media outlets touting her “birthmother rainbows.” In March of 2014 she was featured in an article in Cosmopolitan. For the subject of this post, we’ll focus on the HuffPost article.

The biggest red flag was when Jessalynn was asked about the father of the child she relinquished. She states that he and his family were against the adoption and there is no other mention of him after this. No, “He eventually came around and realized it was what was best.” No, “He was a very bad man and his rights were involuntarily terminated.” The fact remains that the LDS church has a long history of ignoring the rights of fathers when it comes to adoption. They will conceal, deceive, and lie, if needed, to facilitate an adoption. Utah, the state that has the highest population of LDS believers, even has the most horrible laws for adoption, especially for fathers. Women who are planning an adoption, where the father opposes, are often times sent to live in Utah, paid for by the adoption agency, to supersede the rights of the father as he would be problematic if the mother remained in her home state and the adoption would be threatened. So, when Jessalynn made no other mention of the father of her child, other than how he opposed the adoption, many questions came to mind. I do not know her story and it may be that everything was done ethically when it comes to the father. However, it does seem odd that no other information is given. One can’t help but wonder how that all went down.

The second thing I took issue with is this statement: “My birthdaughter calls me Jessa. She knows I’m not her Mom.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Adoption does not erase the fact that you are someone’s mother. You may not be their active parent, but you are still their mother. DNA doesn’t lie.

There is another quote that makes me, literally, ill. “I see so many birthparents who struggle to move forward because they are still thinking ‘I’m the parent’ and then they see the adoptive parent is using a certain brand of diapers and that bothers them. They can get hung up on different decisions adoptive parents make. They may still call themselves ‘Mom’ to the child.” I am the mom to my child. I wonder why Jessalynn spends so much time making sure that moms who relinquished understand they aren’t a mom anymore.

And again: “You are no longer the Mom. You are the birth mom.”

Thou doth protest too much.

The scariest statement in that article? “Jessa is also a Binti Birthmother Advisor, where she is a mentor to expectant women considering placing their child for adoption and other birthmothers.” You may wonder why. It’s terrifying to think of Jessalynn advising or counseling anyone considering adoption.

When I began to get involved in the adoption community, I slowly became aware that there was a “queen bee” in the LDS adoption world. Her name was Jessalynn and those who would cross her would pay dearly. Her power was contained, mostly, to moms who had relinquished in the LDS community. She had formed strong alliances with powerful adoptive parents and made sure to fully invest herself into the lives of these first moms. Under the guise of “helping” she would obtain contact information about their children’s adoptive parents and often be a “go-between” for the parties to come to a mutual understanding to facilitate openness. All of this sounds good, right? Well, for one, Jessalynn’s way of facilitating, as its been told to me, was to put the first mom in her place. She renders her powerless and totally at the will of the adoptive parents, no matter what promises had been made. Then there is the more pervasive side to Jessalynn.

I’ve had three first moms share their stories of Jessalynn. The variation in each mother’s story is minor. For the most part, it is pretty much the same story. Often times first moms need to vent their frustrations, their struggles, their insecurities. Sometimes this involves being mad at adoptive parents and sometimes with good cause. Not because they “don’t like the brand of diapers they’re using” as Jessalynn claims. Sometimes the need to vent is because contact is being withheld because the adoptive parents don’t like that the birthmom has come out of the closet as lesbian/transgender/transexual. Sometimes the venting is because a certain level of openness was promised and the adoptive parents are not keeping up their end of the deal. So, yes, justified anger. So, we have these women venting in these private groups sometimes. We have Jessalynn, with contact information of adoptive parents. Then we have open adoptions slamming shut in first mom’s faces because Jessalynn feels the need to run back and share screen shots from these private groups with these adoptive mothers. Yes, you read that right. As it’s been told to me, Jessalynn’s favorite pastime is finding negative comments by first moms and then finding out who their child’s adoptive parents are so she can send it to them and damage the relationship. I even caught her, under an assumed and fake name, in a group I admin, a while back, doing this same thing. Of course she denied it wholeheartedly.

I wonder if she feels it’s her duty to put every first mom in her place. I wonder where this passive-aggressive deceitful behavior comes from. Then I remember that all the rainbows and glitter she keeps showering on herself has not allowed for the truth to be present in her life. Maybe that’s why. I know of at least 3 first moms who have had their openness with their children greatly diminished or cut off altogether as a direct result of Jessalynn’s meddling. It’s truly vile.

When I see these articles featuring the “great birthmom” Jessalynn, I can’t help but puke a little in my mouth knowing the damage she has done in so many people’s lives. Advising expectant mothers? She says in the article. “Every woman has the right to choose. I am pro-informed choice. I believe every woman needs to be fully informed on all her choices: abortion, adoption, single parenting, and married parenting. Our job as citizens of the world is not to decide for them. You can say, ‘I know about this topic, here was my experience,’ but don’t force a decision or judgement on us. I know lots of birthmothers who had people from their communities try to influence their decisions.” Oh how I laughed. Jessalynn is a master of coercion. Reportedly she is a master at finding babies for prospective adoptive parents and actively farms them for people. Choice? Informed choice? Seriously?

The adoption community has remained silent about this woman for too long. Jessalynn Bills Speight is dangerous. She will be sunshine and rainbows to your face until you threaten the adoption machine that she is running. The machine now includes royalties for interviews, money from her organization, Tied at the Heart, and now a book. The book should be entitled, “12 Steps to Stay in Your Place So I Don’t Show Your Child’s Adoptive Parents That You’re Not Being a Good Little BeeMommy.”  Jessalynn is now profiting off adoption. Behind the scenes who knows what is going on. We do know, supposedly, as its been told to me, for some twisted reason, she destroys open adoptions, and helps find babies for people who are looking. We know she’s written a book. We know she does interviews for fancy magazines and newspapers. We can assume some things given that.

I fully expect to receive backlash from Jessalynn and her cronies after publishing this. Jessalynn isn’t the sparkling, squeaky clean, beemommy she portrays herself to be. Her hands are dirty. Don’t let her fool you. She is cunning, deceitful, and full of it. And she certainly doesn’t speak for me or the majority of first moms out there.

PRESS RELEASE: Concerned United Birthparents Partners with Saving Our Sisters

sos banner 2

The vision of Saving Our Sisters, founded by Lynn Johansenn, that has garnered overwhelming support from the adoption community, is coming to fruition with the help of Concerned United Birthparents (otherwise known as “CUB”). I am happy to say that, as of today, Saving Our Sisters (otherwise known as “SOS”) is officially partnering with CUB. I am so excited about this new partnership and know that good things are in the future of the adoption community. I’m sure there will be many questions and this post is to help answer them.

How does this partnership change CUB’s vision?

It doesn’t. It enhances it.

CUB’s official mission statement:

“Concerned United Birthparents, Inc. provides support for all family members separated by adoption; resources to help prevent unnecessary family separations; education about the life-long impact on all who are affected by adoption; and advocates for fair and ethical adoption laws, policies, and practices.”

As you can see, SOS will help to enhance this mission. CUB has been, and will continue to do, wonderful work in the adoption community. SOS will provide concrete tools in the prevention of unnecessary family separations via adoption.

What changes are coming to SOS because of this partnership?

There are many things that will be changing, but so much is staying the same. SOS will now have the ability to keep organized in all facets such as accounting and the ability to easily collect tax-deductible donations via the web. Additionally, SOS will gain heavy exposure benefiting from the many relationships that CUB has been able to create, maintain, and evolve over the last nearly 40 years. Part of this exposure includes SOS being launched on the CUB website, whereas, in the past, SOS has had a limited Internet presence relying on Facebook and blog posts to keep members up to date. Because of CUB’s gracious partnership, SOS will be able to continue the great work we do, focusing on moms and families, without worrying about the technicalities of website maintenance, accounting, and other things. All of these things enable SOS to focus on preserving families.

NEW THINGS

There is now an official SOS membership. If you visit the CUB website and wish to join CUB as a member you will now see “Saving Our Sisters/CUB Membership” as an option. This will give you all of the same benefits and perks of an official CUB membership. The annual membership fee is $40 and, as CUB states, “By becoming a member, you add your voice to the chorus, which seeks to educate the public about the life-long effects of adoption on everyone in the triad. We welcome adopted individuals and their family members, adoptive parents and professionals. Your membership helps us host an annual retreat for learning, healing and drawing strength from one another, and produce our quarterly newsletter, the Communicator.”  We can now add, “Helping families stay together” as one of the perks of a CUB/SOS membership.

Because CUB has taken a huge leap of faith by partnering with SOS, we have to do our best to ensure, when at all possible, that those we come in contact with are aware that all of our members are volunteers and that we are experienced in dealing with the sensitive situations we encounter. Paid SOS members will soon have the choice to go through training and become official Sisters on the Ground or “SOG’s.” These are our “boots on the ground” people who vet new moms, face to face, and stay in contact with them as long as the mother requests while she is making strides to improving her own situation. . The most pertinent part of becoming an SOG is the implication of a “code of conduct” so that you and all members of CUB/SOS can rest assured that we are conducting ourselves ethically and respectfully while representing the CUB/SOS name and reputation. By agreeing to go through CUB/SOS training the risk becomes minimal for our organization which will allow us to keep our non-profit status and continue to help families for years to come.

Just as before, you are not required to become a paid member to donate money or items, refer moms to SOS or participate in other ways. We are all one big community and it is that sentiment that we want to hold onto. Without our donors we would not exist. Without our eyes and ears, that are all of you, we would not know where to find our moms. You are important. The membership is not to exclude anyone.

Online donations of monetary value will now go through the CUB website and you may be able to deduct your donations on your federal taxes. Be sure to indicate, while donating, that you will need a receipt. You should contact your tax adviser for clarification. SOS can also accept monetary donations, by USPS mail, straight to CUB. Just indicate it is a donation for SOS.

How to Donate Online Online

Visit the CUB website and click on the “DONATE” tab.  You will have the option to click on Saving Our Sisters to have 100% of your donation allocated to SOS.

In Summary

I know this all seems so technical. By organizing, dotting our “i’s” and crossing our “t’s” we assure that we can help as many families as possible and that no mistakes are made that would risk the organization altogether.

These last few years have given SOS valuable lessons on how to best help mothers and the varying situations they may be in. We have learned so much. We have made mistakes, we have trusted when we shouldn’t have. Everything that is happening today is a direct result from those very important lessons. We want to protect our community, our donors, our organization, and, of course, the families we are helping.

This is an exciting time for Saving Our Sisters and Concerned United Birthparents. Together we are a force to be reckoned with. Together we can change our culture, our society, and work to fulfill our mission statement, together. Please join us in this exciting endeavor!

If you wish to become an official SOS member, and have a possibility of becoming a Sister On the Ground, please click on this link: Cubirthparents Sign Up

If you wish to donate to SOS please click on this link: Donate to SOS

If you wish to be part of the discussion and/or offer support in other ways, please visit: SOS Facebook page

http://www.cubirthparents.org

http://facebook.com/adoptionSOS

**If you are reading this post on Musings of the Lame, it is a syndicated post. To visit the links please scroll to the top of the page and click on “Beemom” to see the original post with hyperlinks included.**

If….

Life has been busy. I started working full time, in addition to going to school full time. I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and I really wish I had more time to write.

There are so many good things in the works right now, as far as family preservation efforts are concerned. I can’t wait until the day I can share it with you all.

One day I was driving and my youngest daughter was in the car with me. She said, “If you wouldn’t have given IKL up for adoption then you wouldn’t be helping so many people with like searches and stuff or to help other people keep their babies.” I had to think for a few minutes before I responded. I hate the “God-ordained meant to be” adoption stories. This was bordering close to it. I told her that she was right. Had I not went through what I went through then I wouldn’t exist in this adoption world. I told her that sometimes when something bad happens to us we use it to do good things so it won’t happen to anyone else. I also emphasized that, if given the choice to go back in time, I would not be helping anyone and would instead be parenting my daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I love to help people and it is very rewarding. But would I trade my daughter for it? Sorry, but no. Not in a million years.

I’ve been in a semi-reunion with IKL for a few weeks now. I could never understand moms who turned their “found” children away. I think I do now. Under no circumstances would I ever turn her away, ever, but I understood where the fear comes from. I spent years fantasizing about the day we were reunited. When it was upon me the first thought I had was, “Please don’t reject me. I don’t know if I could take it.  I would probably die.” Part of me wanted to just close that door and not open it again to avoid the possibility of the pain of relinquishment all over again. For some, I imagine, it is easier to never let their children in than to have to say goodbye again. It’s terrifying. To me, however, it’s worth it and it’s the very least I can do for my daughter.

So, I’m still here, just busy with life and trying to keep my fear at bay.