This post originally appeared on the Long Island Support Group Blog
As an adoptive parent, I know what it is like to feel challenged by the unique and complicated demands of life as an adoptive family. As an adoption coach, I know how other families struggle to locate resources that understand adoption and are attuned to the needs of child and parents--both adoptive and birth parents. Living as an adoptive family has often felt like a trek up the steep slopes of Mt. Everest. I suspect other adoptive families experience similar moments of overwhelm and confusion.
Imagine finding and talking with a knowledgeable guide who’s also walked that path and survived. Imagine feeling heard, understood and supported, with empathy not judgment. Imagine being able to know what will best serve your child, yourself, your partner, and, your child’s birthparents. How might that kind of unified resource help your family? Imagine no more.
On Nov. 10-12, 2015 and Nov. 17, 2015 a collaboration of adult adoptees, birth parents, adoptive parents and adoption professional join together to present “The Adoption Summit Experience.” This free, on-line summit is unique as the three individual perspectives join forces to become one voice—a voice that speaks with respect and compassion for all individuals involved in an option.
Summit presenters will address adoption from all “sides” and will share the insights and learnings that we have acquired along the way. We want to take our hard-won wisdom and infuse it with purpose to create a more collaborative and mutually supportive understanding of adoption. All presenters are directly living adoption either as first parents, adoptees or adoptive parents.
As listeners hear the “other” viewpoints, we hope to awaken empathy and understanding of how we are inextricably and permanently interconnected. Instead of compartmentalizing adoption into adoptee issues, birth parent issues and adoptive parent issues, we accept this interconnectivity as the reality of adoption. By understanding the needs of each part of the adoption triad, we can work together to make adoption better for all involved.
Are you in an open adoption, trying to determine how to make it work? Do you wish you knew how to enjoy and balance your happiness against a backdrop of the grief and loss of your child’s birth parents? Do you wonder how to handle your own triggers? Do you ever wish you could chat with several birth mothers to ask them questions to help you relate better with “your” birth mother/s? Then this summit is for you!
Are you struggling to handle the challenges of adoption and yearn to speak with parents who have “survived” similar events and whose family remained firmly attached and thrived? Do you wish you knew alternative parenting strategies—ones tested by other adoptive families? Then this summit is for you!
Are you looking for guidance on good resources? How do you evaluate which therapists, coaches, social workers, etc. understand adoption and are properly prepared to guide you? Do you know which books truly serve your family and which perpetuate outdated social myths? Then this summit is for you!
Imagine learning from adult adoptees what worked, didn’t work or what they wished their parents had done for them. How might that knowledge help you be a better parent to your child?
Have you ever wished you could talk honestly about your family struggles with no fear of judgment? Imagine confiding in peers who understand the joy, frustration, fear and commitment that adoptees face? Then this summit is for you
Watch this welcome video from Adoption Summit sponsor and adult adoptee, LeAnne Parsons as she invites you to “Come Climb with Us” at the free, on-line adoption summit. All who are interested in adoption are welcome and urged to participate. Register today: http://www.adoptionsummitexperience.com/register
Gayle’s presentation at the summit will focus on books as an ideal resource for introducing and sustaining healthy adoption conversations both within and beyond the family. It will include three bibliographies: one for children, one for parents and one of books written by adult adoptees.
My children are now adults –twenty-eight and thirty years old. (Of course, in my heart, they will always be my babies.) Each is steadily pursuing relationships and careers guided by an inner compass that evolved from a combination of factors: nurture, DNA, personal choices, values and beliefs. I’m relieved to leave the turbulent teens far behind us. Yes, the instructional phase of parenting has ended. (Imagine a huge sigh of relief.) We’ve navigated storm-tossed seas, reached the safety of the shore and celebrate the journey. Those years tested us sorely. But we trusted that our kids would weather the school of hard knocks and utilize the knowledge which they struggled so hard to acquire. We have all been shaped by the challenges we faced as a family. Growth came through painful, exhausting and scary lessons. These made us who we are now and delivered us to this beautiful present moment.
Thank goodness, hubby and I have graduated from being seen as the opposition/authority/captains of the family ship. Our children now relate to us as confidantes, friends, counselors and champions. I’m thrilled to say that in mere weeks, we will enter the world of grand parenting! We await the arrival of our first precious grandchild, amazed at the miracle of conception and birth. Never having been pregnant, I have followed A’s pregnancy with wonder, curiosity and joy.
So close on the heels of Mother’s Day, thoughts of motherhood continue to swirl in my mind. I recall being a fifteen-year-old girl with ovarian cancer who quite willingly traded my fertility for the chance to live. Part of me could not conceive—literally and metaphorically—of never being a mother. Hysterectomy saved my life but robbed me of an integral part of myself. In an act of utter faith, I chose to believe, motherhood would be a part of my life. How or when remained unknown. I simply trusted that it would happen.
As it turned out, adoption opened the door to motherhood and allowed me to fulfill that essential part of myself. It didn’t happen in a vacuum. My greatest joy—my children’s adoptions—simultaneously was the greatest loss of their birth parents and a primal loss for my children. Conflicting realities coexist. Each is authentic and true. Our grafted family tree is watered with tears of joy (ours) and loss (our birth mothers’). Adoption permanently transformed all our lives. Without doubt, I received the better part of the deal.
I remain confounded about how to express my feelings to my children’s birth moms. I am humbled by their choosing me to parent their children, honored by the vote of confidence and the magnitude of the trust placed on my shoulders. While I am filled with gratitude, “Thank you,” feels inadequate to the measure of the sacrifice they made, the price they paid. The arrangement is too sacred, the anguish too huge for platitudes.
Adoptive parents (myself included.)often talk about our children as gifts Sometimes I feel uncomfortable with this word choice because identifying my children as a gift feels like it reduces them to a commodity—a most highly treasured collectible one could ever dream about holding. (And dream of them I did!) I still remember being consumed by baby hunger. But it worries me that seeing my children as gifts exchanged between birth mother and adoptive parent leeches out the emotional toll and reduces it to a transaction. This trivializes the losses to both birth parent and child. That is never my intention.
I hope that these brave women can recognize that we honor their choice and show our appreciation by parenting our children with boundless love, deep commitment and permanent connection. Adoption blessed my life and I am grateful. For me, it has been a gift.
Oh, yes indeedy, learn I did. And that's because, as one reviewer put it, "this is the adoption book the Internet wrote." For starters, I learned a lot by asking others in the adoption constellation about their experience with adoption.
All that was great wisdom, but it was second-hand experience. Synchronistically, with my daughter's birth mom Crystal (who contributed a great deal to the book), I also got to learn first-hand how to work through conflict. While writing Chapter 4 about establishing boundaries, a situation arose that Crystal and I had to work through.
Crystal and I had had mostly smooth sailing over the years, and with our cruise control on I had gotten complacent. The situation that arose (details remain private) required me to go off auto-pilot and figure out what was really bothering me by going deep within: breathe, be mindful, dig, gain clarity. Then zoom back out with clear communication with Crystal and a commitment to our relationship -- and to Tessa the daughter we both claim.
It's clear, in hindsight, that this uncomfortable episode was actually an amazing gift.
Another reader asked,
The additions from Crystal are a lovely and informative piece of the book. I'm curious how this collaboration took shape. Did you develop the framework of the book together? Did you have an idea of where you thought Crystal's voice would be most helpful and just ask her for that specific input? Or did you work to find or create spaces for things she wanted to add to the conversation?
Crystal and I had talked for years about how we might help others develop the kind of relationship we stumbled into with each other. First we had to take a look at what we did and didn't do and what has made our efforts a openness successful. For years we taught classes in Denver to share not only that such a relationship doesn't have to be contentious, but that it can also be enjoyable. More than anything we say in these sessions, people seem to get a lot just out of seeing a template for how an open adoption can look.
The framework of the book was mine. Crystal and I had extensive interviews about her thoughts and emotions at various points of our journey, as well as her own deconstruction of how we got to where we are. For a book that is largely about how adoptive parents and birth parents can be on the same "side," rather than the traditional concept of competition between the two sides, it seemed important for us to work together on this book.
As for which came first, her words or a space for her words, I believe it was mostly the former. We had a few jam sessions in which we put as much on the table as we had in us. I took notes and the book began to take shape. Sometimes the book fit around her words and sometimes her words fit into the book.
I suppose in that sense, the way the book took its form is much the same way Crystal and I have taken our form.
Lori Holden blogs from Denver at LavenderLuz.com.
Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, written with her daughter's birth mom, is available in hardcover and e-book through Amazon or your favorite online bookseller.
Growing Intentional Families Together is honored to continue our conversation with Sherrie Eldridge, an adult adoptee and tireless advocate for adoptees. She answered our questions about the upcoming re-release of her book, 20 Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make.
This is the second edition of the book. When was the first edition published and by whom? It was published by NavPress on April 4, 2003.
Who is the new publisher? Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2 edition (March 21, 2015)
Who is the main audience for this book? Adoptees. Interviewed more than 70
Can others in the triad benefit from it? Entire triad
Are there new concepts in the book? What are they? Rite of passage, Hope, How to get unstuck from anger, Where we are to live…our focus, life purpose
What is the main take-away for you as an adoptee from doing the 2nd publication of this book? I literally relish my adoption. I cherish it as something profound and life changing…for the best.
You say you feel like a lucky girl doing this book project. Tell me more? Retirement (haha)
When is the release date? March 21, 2015 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers
20 Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make is available for preorder. Jessica Kingsley Publishers officially launches this new issue on March. 21, 2015. It will be available in both paperback and Kindle formats.
In last week's GIFT blog, Sherrie had this to say about her book read more
Mention November and most folks think of Thanksgiving. For us here at GIFT—Growing Intentional Families Together—November brings thoughts of National Adoption Month and our gratitude for the blessing of family. Here are some ways to celebrate adoption.
“National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. This annual, one-day event has made the dreams of thousands of children come true by working with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions and create and celebrate adoptive families.
In total, National Adoption Day helped nearly 50,000 children move from foster care to a forever family. Communities across the county celebrate the This year the National Adoption Day Coalition expects 4,500 children in foster care to be adopted on National Adoption Day, on November 22, 2014.” They are sponsoring various events
FIRST EVER WORLDWIDE CELEBRATION OF ADOPTION
On Nov.9, 2014 post a photo of yourself, your family and your friends with the hands up smiley face with the hashtag:
It is appropriate that we celebrate National Adoption Month during this season of Thanksgiving. As parents, we have been entrusted with the privilege to raise children born to other women. We love and nurture them with an awareness that our greatest joy: their presence in our families--began in significant loss for them. This year while giving thanks for your many blessings, remember the birth parents who made such a commitment of faith in us. Continue your education as high AQ--Adoption-attuned--families. Deepen your understanding of the unique needs that adoption creates in a family. Live and love with an eye to the joy of the present moment and a heart filled with empathy, kindness and respect. Books offer a great resource to adoptive families for strategies, a sense of community or a great read for the children. These authors write about the journey that is adoption and as a National Adoption Month Special, the kindle versions will be available for $.99. We invite you to explore these books. (Excerpts from Amazon)
Finalist, 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Parenting/Family