Saturday, December 10, 2011

Open letter from an adoptee

An adult adoptee friend of mine wrote an open letter to APs and PAPs that I think is very powerful. Another friend who blogs published it on her blog. I am linking to it here. I believe that it's very much worth a read, as it stresses how important it is to think of things from the adoptee's point of view. It's not so much that APs and PAPs aren't important, or that adoption is necessarily bad. Again, I know that my adoption had to happen, and at this point, the only things that I find really egregious are my lack of primary caretaker for those first 10 weeks and the terrible lies that were told to both C and my aparents. That didn't have to happen. My loss was my loss, and I have to work through it. I am doing the best I can, and I appreciate it when people around me try to understand.

I think that much of my frustration over the past months has been what I perceive as a staunch unwillingness to see things from an adoptee's point of view. I get that there are other ways of looking at adoption. I am an adult. Truly, I get it. But there is also no need to ignore that there is a child involved, a child with feelings who also needs to have his or her say. Try not to speak for this child. I am not saying that *I* speak for your adoptee, either. Just listen and remember, and don't say that *my* child isn't like you. *Ask* your child rather than speaking for her. And don't ask leading questions, such as, "You're happy, aren't you?"

Monday, December 05, 2011


I have been thinking about mistakes rather frequently of late, of my own and of others.

In terms of my own, I have been recounting some of my life to C, the good, bad, and the ugly. She has been so warm and kind about all the warts, and tells me to forgive myself. I told her about my broken engagement back from my early 20's, something I am not at all proud of. It was a time when I very badly hurt someone I loved, and in retrospect, I might have done things extremely differently. She agreed, and in my telling of the beginning of the whole sordid story, her first response was so funny, and so like my own, that I wanted to go through the phone and hug her. "But you weren't really related, so what was the big deal?"I loved that she understood, without the parental raising of eyebrows and the judgment. Sigh.

And then I had an adoptee moment a few weeks back when I lost it for a moment and thought that someone I loved was pushing me away and letting me down. I jumped into survival mode, attack mode, "you don't love me," and away we went. On the one hand, I had to say something. On the other hand, it's hard for me to disentangle my emotions from the rationality when I feel that my core is being threatened, especially by someone I so desperately love. If it's someone I don't care about, pffft. I can walk, or be snarky, or find some outlet that doesn't eat away at me or the person involved--usually. But those closest to me know what it's like to be subject to the eruption of my anger. It's fast and cruel. It burns up quickly, however, and usually I am over it in an hour or two, a day or two max, and then I am back to my sunny self. Thankfully, we worked through it and are moving forward. I am glad 1. that I was able to speak out, because it *is* hard for me, even when I do it not quite in the way I wish and 2. that he stuck with me, even though I know it drove him around the bend and he hates conflict. In retrospect I *know* I was testing him. I want to be important and loved, and sometimes I fear that I am not loved in the way I want to be loved. I just have to have faith. As Mark says, it takes time to get to know me and my foibles (I know I can be intimidating/irritating), and if a person is willing to stick around, that means a great deal. Actions mean so much more to me than words. Show me you love me; I always try to back up my words with actions! We will see what happens now.

I don't harbor grudges, really, but, to quote the good Jane Austen, speaking through Mr. Darcy, "My good opinion once lost, is lost forever." By that I mean I don't give people free passes to treat me like shit, and in adoptoland, there's been more than enough anonymous adoptee baiting. I also cannot sit back and smile and be excited by people who pat themselves on the back felicitously about having made brilliant decisions for themselves, involving placing their children, while they tacitly expect their children to react with the same felicitousness about their decision.

Why do people not understand that adoptees, as children, are acted UPON? We have no say in what goes on in the adult world around us. As grownups, we may look back and think that everything that happened might have been for the good of the adults involved, for certain, but still think that it had long-lasting ill effects for *us*. I am tired, so very tired, of adults writing about themselves and not being able to step, for a moment, out of their shoes and their experiences to think what it might be like for a child to live a life governed by what they did. That their choices made a rift in history immensely profound for that child. And yes, some children really, really, really may think, "Wow! I am so happy that I was placed on this path! Wow! I cannot imagine having been raised by my first parents AT ALL. Wow! This is the only possible path for me." I have met people like that. I won't argue with you. But so many of these adults writing seem so cocksure about what is *right* that I have lost faith in humanity for once and for all. Perhaps it is the subset of people writing where I read. Perhaps it is simply my cold, hard heart. But I weep for the children who have to deal with this lack of compassion, this lack of ability to admit that mistakes are possible, that other people's feelings come into play.

People argue that adoptees don't understand that adoption involves both positive and negative aspects. Duh!?! Whose life is completely black and white? Ever hear of grey?

People who say, "But *I* didn't want to parent!" and know they didn't want to parent. Fine. Good thing you didn't. Still doesn't mean that your child won't wonder what it would have been like to have been raised by you, or struggle to reconcile placement with rejection. You can tell your child it wasn't rejection until the cows come home, but it may still *feel* like abandonment. "Why *wasn't* I good enough to keep?"

Being rejected by a parent in childhood is a shitty thing, pretty much one of the shittiest things a person can live with in his or her life. As children, we don't have the emotional tools to understand the hows and whys, and it takes a very long time, sometimes forever, to get over it.

I suppose I try to understand the bravado and the ambivalence and the coping mechanisms of the first parents in all this; giving up/placing/surrendering a child must be a horrific thing. I can't speak to the emotional impact on them because I didn't do that deed. I couldn't even begin to think of it, and thankfully never had to.

But as an adoptee, the offhand comments, the iciness, the lack of compassion, the snarkiness and brutality of some people, APs and first parents both, seem so ridiculous. Aren't they adults? Aren't they parents? And yet the feelings of the children, when brought up, are brushed off, even laughed at, especially when adult adoptees suggest that there is an issue. I become so tired.

I read on a blog today, in the comments somewhere, that it's a terrible shame that some parents suck so badly that they yell at their kids in Target, when there are so many infertile people who deserve kids so much MORE. I sometimes yell at my kids in Target, so I guess that makes me an unfit mother. I suppose I had better report myself as an unfit mother and put my kids on a list for adoption for more worthy parents, but my boys would probably immediately be diagnosed with RAD and drugged because they'd want me back. Which would be so WRONG. Because they can't be attached to me; there's no emotional or biological connection, even after all these years. Anyone who can pay for it deserves it MORE. It doesn't matter that I am married; have my degrees and my job; it's the craving that trumps it all? Really? Yes, I am being snarky, but I am fed up with entitlement.

My children are treasures, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. I love that they look like me and have inherited looks and intelligence and sports skills and gestures and facility for languages from me, and that I can see myself in them. I love that I am learning more all the time about how much I am like my fmom and brother. I love how I am like my amom and adad. I am a complicated mix of influences, and I am grateful to have the respect of all the people in my life who understand how difficult this is for me to unravel (as I try to understand how it is for them).

Rather than becoming rigid and posturing when mistakes or contradictions are pointed out, could more parents perhaps admit those mistakes? Just maybe?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


In the spirit of feeling sick to my stomach, my friend Linda was friended on FB by someone who was going around friending adoptees. It turns out this woman had adopted a girl and then disrupted the adoption because the girl was "too difficult" and putting her other family members at risk. While I understand that people have problems and not everyone is easy to get along with (Nancy Verrier wrote poignantly about this in The Primal Wound: the adoptees who act out versus the adoptees who hurt themselves), I believe firmly that if you make a commitment to a child, you stick with that child FOREVER. You cannot "return" a biological child simply because they are difficult. So WTF with giving up on an adoptee?


This month is HORRIFIC.

Linda wrote a post about this woman, and her exchanges with her. Curiously, this woman claimed that Linda, an adoptee, doesn't understand adoption. Huh?

Oh, and yeah. This woman blogs and is turning her experiences with this poor child into a book. So the child will be commodified and made public and shamed even further. How positively lovely for this poor child! How DARE this mother make a dollar off the tortured experience of this child. When, oh WHEN, will this child's feelings come FIRST? When will she have been punished enough and shown that she means nothing to these people?

Shoot me now. Again, we are not human to so many people. WHEN WILL PEOPLE WAKE THE HELL UP? It's shameful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Courage and Gratitude

I love the Italian word for courage/bravery, coraggio, because it sounds so much stronger and full of fortitude than our English word. Put an exclamation point after it, and it's just hot. Coraggio!

Friends tell me all the time that they value me for my courage. I don't think that I am so much courageous as dogged. I don't like to give up. I know what I want, or my heart knows what it wants (especially if I think it's right) and I just cannot let go. Sometimes not giving up can take me places that other people have told me, conversely, that they think are just plain dumb. (And, in truth, sometimes those places are dumb. I am human, not infallible.)

C called me this morning to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving and to thank me for not giving up, even in light of all the obstacles, and to say that she's thankful to have me in her life. I really never thought I would receive such a phone call, and all the pain is worth it for words like that.

That said, I am feeling rather fragile (in French, as my ex used to describe me) and have been for a few days. I think it's been the dark pall of Adoptember; the nastiness of APs arguing that their racist comments are all sunshine and light (really?); the throwaway comments people make about adoptees; the ongoing assumptions that if adoptees disagree with you, it's because our parents are terrible people who beat us and locked us in basements. See Von's post about these weevils. An AP wrote, "By all appearances its adult adoptees that are still mad about being adopted. Most of these adoptees were born American and adopted at birth and they take issue with how their parents handled things." Which makes me furious, of course, because my parents are possibly the most wonderful, ethical, kindest, generous, courageous people out there. They will bend over backwards to help you, and they taught me that keeping your word is the most important thing you can ever do. So these horrid people climbing out from under rocks? You might be APs, but you cannot aspire to be ANYTHING like my parents. Who would tell me not to give you the time of day. I would go farther and call you a waste of space on this planet, in my current evil-soaked mood. But that's not my parents' fault. It's because YOU claim to be Christian and lead the most un-Christian sounding lives, and say the most un-Christian sounding things I've heard in quite some time. There's just no escaping these people, or their stain on adoption, or what they do to their kids, taken from abroad. And it makes me sick. Oh, and the waffling about searching for natural families in China because it is "too hard"? More sadness.

There are moments when none of us can keep our word, to be sure, but these people, in adopting, should have chosen to put their children and their children's needs first. I am not sure they did. Every time I cross paths with people who don't keep their word, I feel a little bit of contempt. If I have nothing more to do with you; fine. But if you choose to sell me down river, I will remember.

I was crying last night and trying to get all this pressure off my chest, this awful pressure and pain, and my younger son came over. He said, "Mommy, who did this to you? I will find them and make them pay." He is six! With a few notable exceptions, this is the first time in my life that someone has been 100% on my side. Some adoptees can only find family if they make their own! Again, sad. I guess this is what it means to put "family" first, and fuck everyone else--remember, I am not an alien, and didn't fall from the sky. I love my son's loyalty and coraggio, but he can save it for now. I am a big girl. It warmed my heart that he didn't prevaricate, and he won't go back and tell me that someone else is more important, and shut me out and be silent. Not my son. I hope he *will* tell me, though, when he thinks I am doing the wrong thing. Because that's *also* what family does.

I am grateful for friends and my good brain and what there is left of me. Off to work to deliver some little people. Maybe they can cheer me up.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Losing My Shit

It's been a while since I've posted twice in a day, but I read something a little while ago that stuck in my craw and it's bothering me so much that I cannot let it go. I went to my adoptee refuge and discussed it and decided to write about it here.

A first mom wrote to another first mom in blogland today. The firstmom is wanting a baby, her firstborn, back. Or a replacement baby. Or something like that. But what really hurt was what the mom wrote:

"when you do have your second firstborn..."

Umm, how the fuck does that work?

I guess you erase having your first child in your head, and pretend s/he never happened, and raise that new one as your firstborn. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

I know that's what C did. She told me. And that's why it's so triggering for me. She told me once that she considered herself as only having one child. I know that's changed now, and each situation is different, but it's a horrible throwaway thing to hear a mother say to another mother about a child that is supposedly "loved." Hmm. We adoptees have excellent skills in smelling bullshit.

Knowing that the first mother who wrote the statement above WANTS a relationship with her FIRST firstborn, I personally wouldn't be writing shit like that in cyberspace because if her FIRST firstborn reads that, he probably (I can't guarantee it, but probably) will have the same gut-wrenching visceral, painful reaction that I am having that is going to involve some pharmaceuticals in a very short order.

Why, oh why, can these women not THINK about what they say about their children. Oh yeah, see posts below about how we are not human and we have no feelings. We cannot be erased. I know we are all trying to cope with less than optimal experiences, but this is tripe.



I have been mulling over the nicknames that APs and first parents give their kids in blogland as a screen for their identities. I fully understand that it's not okay to blog using their real names. But some of the nicknames make me truly queasy. I have discussed this over time with different adoptee friends of mine, and the other day someone wrote a comment over on Linda's blog about how that Five of My Own woman uses insect nicknames for her adopted daughters. I finally decided to write about the nickname issue to see if people would be willing to discuss it.

I have written before about how I feel that many adoptees (myself included) are treated in society at large as less than human. [N.B.: I do not include my aparents as offenders, many friends of mine, and certain members of my natural family who are trying very, very hard to throw off received wisdom.] Adoptees are so often treated as aliens who are expected not to have feelings, and when we express feelings, we are told that those feelings are invalid, we are laughed at, we are lectured on how we don't understand "science," or we are presented with predictable litanies about our ungratefulness. I don't think I need to list those things here. You can get a great summation from Von, right here.

I have nothing against cute nicknames or sweet epithets for children. My own father calls me "Pumpkin" quite frequently, if not "KJ," my initials. I call my sons "weasels," with love. They are squirmy and active. The thing is, however, none of these nicknames are carved, statically, into the public domain. They are fluid.

I would HATE it if my parents had blogged about me and created a public persona, out of my control, in which I was known as "The Pumpkin." I always struggled with self-image, and the thought of people knowing, or thinking, of me as a large orange vegetable, whether they intended it with love, would have been fucking horrifying. It is a private name, now public because I have told you, but still. My aparents didn't use it to create a one-dimensional version of me, insinuating that there was this gooey love, when I would suspect quite the opposite: especially when my life was being plastered all over the place, with lists of MD visits, my trials and tribulations, pictures of zits and braces. "The Pumpkin" this, "The Pumpkin" that. Whether it was my amom or C, writing about "The Pumpkin," wailing about "The Pumpkin" and how she made them feel: how much control would I, "The Pumpkin," have had over this? And would I have wanted to be "The Pumpkin"? No. Fucking. Thank. You.

My amom would never have done that, even if she were parenting me actively now. My other mother would not do so, either; privacy is everything to her.

So I wonder about these adopted children with their nicknames, taken from heavily sugared pastries and insects and furry animals and people of diminutive stature. Is it about creating identities for them that allow parents to show the public on the Interwebs that they're awesome parents? So loving and intimate? Because some of these parents don't ever fucking see or touch their kids. What intimacy? Puhleeze.

From where I stand, cutesy-ass foodstuffs/objects/animals seem so one-dimensional as identities, and doesn't allow these kids to be fully human. I predict that these young adoptees will struggle under the burden of the non-human THING (pastry, insect, movie-figure, what-have-you) and won't get to be who they are in this rarified atmosphere. Perhaps that's the point, though.

I don't know what the better option is; perhaps a pseudonym, an initial? I like that M calls her daughter "Ms. Feverfew."

Remember, we are HUMAN. Please DO NOT dehumanize us. It isn't "cute." It's sweet to use diminutives and nicknames in the privacy of a home, to express endearment. On the Interwebs, it's a little like making out in public to make a point about possessing a partner: gratuitous.

Many thanks to those of you who are parents and who already blog about your placed/adopted children as human beings.

I am curious to hear what other people think. I know, that because I am an adoptee, my opinions will be flamed!

Thursday, November 03, 2011


I feel as though I cannot escape the hubris of so many pathetic people at the moment. It is horrible and haunting. At the best of times, you can stand back and just await the sure hand of Nemesis, but she is slow moving these days, and I feel claustrophobic looking all around me at the idiocy. 

I am sure that many of you know all about hubris, but some of you don't, so bear with me while I explain. Those wonderful ancient Greeks had fabulous concepts for bad behavior. Hubris, defined by my trusty old Attic Greek-English lexicon, describes it loosely as being violently overbearing, or stepping above one's station to the detriment of another (violating them). Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, describes it as "doing and saying things that cause shame to the victim...simply for the pleasure of it." Sound familiar, readers? 

Lots of this in adopto-land, especially leveled at adoptees. I wish in my life recently it had been confined to adopto-land, but that's another story.

First, with the death of Steve Jobs, there has been much discussion about how his being adopted influenced his life and career. Most people can accept that his being adopted had something to do with the formation of his personality. Even he mentioned how being adopted informed his choices in his Stanford speech in 2005, whether we take that as myth-making or not. Certainly, he searched for his family and had ongoing relationships with his mother and sister. Yes, he was a prickly character and was well known for being hard to get along with. Many CEOs share that quality. But there are some people, namely the "scientists" with the blinders on, who have written that being adopted and losing his family can have had NOTHING to do with his personality because he was simply a product of his time, and all those other assholes are assholes, and look at Donald Trump, who isn't adopted. Well, "scientists," trying to erase Steve Jobs' own life and story and narrative is hubristic. He said that his natural family mattered, and if his intimate partner said that his personality was like shattered glass because of his being adopted, I take her account over all those NCFA-sponsored "studies" that show adoptees are all right because they find homes before six months of age. I love that Steve Jobs was an asshole because I am sure he didn't waste his time worrying about people like the cabal, and as I wrote elsewhere, I invoke the Steve Jobs asshole option from here on out. As C said, as well, "Stop being so 'nice.' It's bad for your health." She is soooo right. And I am making progress. I say "NO!" much more often, and more loudly. 

Over the past few months, the same old factions have realigned. There are wonderful APs, but their first concerns are making things palatable for other APs. They don't want to get too dirty with us for fear of scaring off potentially "nice" other APs. Fair enough, I get it. We hew to our own. 

There are some fmoms who really will go the distance with us, and I am so happy to have them in our corner. But I am also tired of being hung out to dry by the fmoms who can only hear their own pain. When I began talking to my own fmom I would walk on eggshells and worry that she would hang up on me when I would mention my APs because the most vociferous ones in blogland would always mention that talk of APs was like a stab to their hearts, etc. I would backpedal and sweat and worry that I had offended her, and prostrate myself. She, by contrast, is a person who seems to have dealt with her shit, or at least isn't laying it on me like a ton of bricks. At one point during all my freakout worry when I mentioned the drama, she basically said, "What were you supposed to do, raise yourself?" And it was done. She recognizes that the past is the past, I am who I am because I combine what she gave me and what my APs gave me, and that's just how it is. So there's no drama. It's such a relief. She reminds me so much of my dear Lori C! No more holding hostage or shaming me for using the "wrong" words. As an fmom you may have had no choice, you may have had a gun to your head, it may have been the worst day of your life, but I wasn't there, I am not your kid, I love both my moms, and I am okay with that. I know you have your own pain, and it's your pain, not my pain. I can't absolve you, I won't play the pain game. I am sorry that you're sad, I can support you, but please don't displace your anger onto me. 

But really, who will stand up for adoptees, as when an unbelievable AP woman (I cannot bring myself to call her "mother") posted a picture of her beautiful daughter, adopted from Asia, pulling at her eyes and asking, "Mommy, do I look Chinese?" What. The. Fuck? (Read Joy's response to it. I don't want to link to this woman's blog and give her traffic. Yuck.) And when called out on her racism, she told reasonable people, including a Taiwanese international adoptee, to "take a chill pill"? Where do these people come from, and how do they pass home studies? Oh yeah, the money part. HUBRIS. She has lots of it. She kept telling us she wouldn't listen because Von and Mei-Ling weren't being polite (they were) but exactly how polite, for how long, can you be to a racist person who is degrading you? In my mind, you shouldn't be polite at all. That's an unreasonable request, and one meant to further degrade you and silence you, US. And in the end, who was arguing? It was only adoptees. No APs, no first parents. Just adoptees. And the racist woman's Greek chorus of racist friends. Horrific. There was no point in arguing, because there was no listening, just accusations and defensiveness. Dialogue is impossible with such people. It breaks my heart, but my heart is always broken at such times. This poor little beautiful girl will grow up and know her mother degraded her on the Internet. What a horrible thing to bear, and what's worse is that her mother is blind to it. Willfully so. 

The upshot is that I have triple the resolve to take care of my own tribe. We adoptees are all we have. I see, more than ever, that we are still the commodity, still the silenced part of the "constellation," still the plaything out there that people seem to want to shame like a toy, a non-human. Well, fuck that. I *am * a human, a smart human, and a human with a voice who very much refuses to be a doormat. I might not have the balls of Steve Jobs, but I will pretend that I have his training balls. 

And those of you who are acting hubristically: there is punishment. Beware your lack of insight and compassion. There is always Nemesis, who brings about divine retribution if your infractions displease the gods. Maybe you will overstep that boundary. Maybe you are Christian, and don't believe in all this. If so, do you believe that shaming people for pleasure is something that Jesus would think was appropriate? 

Thank you, Joy, for stirring me to write again. 


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


When I was eight and living in England, I discovered a wonderful series of children's books written by Lucy M. Boston about children of a family living in an expansive old castle called Green Knowe, originally built at the time of the Conquest. I devoured these books, but remained enchanted above all by the very first one, The Children of Green Knowe. It chronicles one Christmas holiday, when a little boy of seven is shuffled off to his unknown Great-grandmother Oldknow, who lives in the castle. The boy, Tolly, is an only child, his mother dead; he has been living at boarding school, abandoned for all intents and purposes by his father, who has remarried and lives somewhere off in the Empire with the stepmother. Tolly knows little about his mother's family, and it is this lineage he discovers when he goes to visit Green Knowe.

I cannot tell you how many times I have read The Children of Green Knowe. But not once in the past 11 years, and not once since I faced all of my own adoption demons or really contemplated my losses. Wow. I have absolutely no idea how I read the book so many times as a child without sobbing uncontrollably. I have no memories at all of my own feelings as I read this book 100+ times. Which is very strange. I was talking to my husband about this, and his answer: "I am sure that you numbed yourself up. You were young. You had no hope then of finding your family. It was all a fantasy for you, so maybe you lived through Tolly?" Maybe.

'Come along in,' said Mr Boggis. 'I'll show you in. I'd like to see Mrs Oldknow's face when she sees you.'....
'So you've come back! she said, smiling, as he came forward, and he found himself leaning against her shoulder as if he knew her quite well.
'Why do you say "come back"?' he asked, not at all shy.
'I wondered whose face it would be of all the faces I knew, she said. 'They always come back. You are like another Toseland, your grandfather. What a good thing you have the right name, because I should always be calling you Tolly anyway. I used to call him Tolly.' 

Did I fantasize about going back, being recognized? I wish I could remember, but it's all blocked out.

I do remember walking through stately home after stately home with my parents, looking at portraits and the collections of likenesses and seeing how important bloodlines were, and feeling that I was a changeling. I could have been anyone, anything. Were these my people? Maybe. Maybe not. There was no way to know. I did lots of fantastic thinking, lots of pretending, lots of searching for likenesses, lots of dreaming about the heroics of Van Dyck's Cavaliers. Perhaps that's when I developed my interest in portraiture that's endured to this day. Interesting thought.

As a footnote: I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself related through C, albeit distantly, to another one of my favorite English children's authors, Edith Nesbit. It was an incredibly wonderful gift to find I share her bloodline. She is the inspiration for one of the chapters of my dissertation. ;-)

Now off to work to help some new individuals enter into the world and start their own journeys.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I have been standing up for myself, which is new for me, but long overdue.

As I mentioned last month, I had a repeat of the radio-frequency ablation of my celiac plexus that went badly, and the fellow hadn't done his homework before the procedure. I went to see the attending, and coached by my brother and my friend Katie, I asked to speak to the attending alone, I explained why I thought it was bad form, and unsafe, that the fellow hadn't read my chart. Of course, the attending had all kinds of rebuttals, but I stood firm, and used my RN skills and experience to rebut right back. As a patient I just didn't feel safe having an MD not know my story, my risks, my reasons for the procedure. How could he answer questions that I posed if he was unprepared? If he needed to prep, he could do so outside the room, before entered to consent me. It was shoddy. End of story. I know I was a thorn in the side of the attending. I don't care. It's not my job to be easy. I am living with a giant medical mistake, and it sucks. Fuck them.

Then at work, I had a difficult assignment one night, including a patient with twins in preterm labor. She was in pain and had terrible edema (swelling) from the waist down. Her covering MD was the perinatologist, whom I like very much, but he was scrubbing into a case in the OR when I had time to call him to ask him to assess her and see if I could get an order for pain meds. He asked me to call the second MD on call, who was, horrors, the MD who had delivered Tobey and left amniotic sac inside me and who is rude and likes to torture RNs. I sighed, took vitals, lined everything up and braced myself. I called him on our intercom devices and asked if we could talk. He responded snidely, as usual, and asked me to call him on the triage phone. I decided that I would walk to triage, rather than risk him hanging up on me. So I walked to triage and stood there, while he talked to other RNs, and he ignored, ignored, ignored, ignored, ignored me. Five minuted later, I begged for an audience, and he said, "I told you to call me." I went on to talk about my patient, he asked for vitals, which I responded were normal, and he berated me about hypertension/hypotension, as if I don't know the difference, and I walked out. I couldn't stand the treatment anymore. I walked to my Charge RN, and told her that the MD was not engaging with me and had basically told me to fuck off. He came after me and told her that I (!) was acting inappropriately and that she should assign a new RN. At that point, I lost it. No more "nice" Kara. It was liberating! I know it probably wasn't the place or time, but at some point, people need to know that they cannot just stomp on people because they are tired or angry or have low blood sugar. If he was busy, all he had to say was, "Kara, I will come to the room in 10/20/30 minutes. Call me sooner if her condition deteriorates." Fine. That would have been GREAT. But no, the passive-aggressive shit was out of control, and I WAS NOT TAKING IT. And at some point, I WILL have it out with him, privately, about how he needs to come down off his holier-than-thou doctor perch because he made one hell of a huge mistake with ME as the patient. I showed him compassion by not suing his ass. So fucking show ME some compassion on the floor.

I have also been thinking a great deal about losses, sadness, and respect. My life has changed radically for the better having my first mother back in my life. The more we talk, the more I find that we have in common: we lived very similar lives into our twenties. The more I share with her, the more I find that I am able to let go of my past, the things I have been holding onto so tightly. When I tell her about things I thought I wanted so much, she says, "Why?" and all of a sudden, it's true: I have permission to open my hands and let the cares fly away. How is it that she can understand me so well without knowing me? If I have no bond with her? If, as my husband likes to describe the empiricists' worldview, the uterus is made of inert metal and the fetus develops independently of its mother, unaffected by anything? It's fucking absurd. Thanks, I needed a good laugh this morning.

Ah, yes, and the feeding. Yes, feeding is important. How we feed and nurture babies is extremely important. But the first nine months that the fetus develops within the uterus is also important (hence my previous comment about the uterus not being made of inert metal, and the influence of hormones, etc.). Yes, I am certain that the future of science with reveal all kinds of things about the effects of the intrauterine environment on fetal brain development. We don't know those effects  now, but to say they don't exist is ridiculous. I speak about skin-to-skin and protocols and the importance of mother and newborn bonding because that's my job at work. There is science behind such protocols, and the peanut gallery loves to pelt with peanuts because they say I don't know my science. In the postpartum units at work, and in most hospitals, RNs work closely with mothers and babies on feeding, and hold classes, to make sure that feeding is working well. Eye-to-eye contact is important for that formation of attachment between caregivers and babies. Propping up bottles and lack of body contact isn't good for forming attachment. No. Agreed. We need to continue to work with parents on that. My husband was terrible with that and I had to take him to task over and over. He has his own issues with his family, being German, and not knowing how to be intimate with children or anyone for that matter. We were talking about that this morning, and he said that he's horribly sad for missing out on that with our children, because he will never get that time back.

Then I think about my own case. My mother was very stressed out during her pregnancy. I was born. My mother left. I was in the NICU. I had no primary caretaker for 10 weeks. I was probably propped up with a bottle, or an RN fed me, attentively or distractedly--who knows? I was given phenobarbitol to shut me up to stop me from crying sometimes. I was in foster care. When my aparents came to meet me at the agency, I was brought in with a bottle that had a hole that was huge, and that I had to gulp from or drown on the formula. My amom said it made her want to cry. From the beginning, she said I didn't want to cuddle, unless I was exhausted. I was always pushing away, "wanting to explore the world." Was it that, or did I already react against close touch? Who knows? I did bond to my parents, and I love them unreservedly, but I am also hugely anxious and worry about people leaving me all the time. To this day. I think I am invisible. To this day. Some of my anxiety is probably genetic, but some of it is undoubtedly shaped by my early experiences of loss and not having a primary caregiver.  Because I have probably some of the best aparents anyone could have, and I got them at 10 weeks old, if anything is "fixable"--because a child who is adopted before six months should be "fixable"--why wasn't I "fixed"? As in "issue free," just fine, no problems? I was told I was adopted from the beginning, so everything was fine according to the empirical plan. I didn't find out about the Primal Wound until I was 40. It's not like Nancy Verrier screwed me up all my life, I bowed to a cult of authority, and I am blind to reality. This is what I have LIVED. It's my truth.

No. I feel that reuniting with my mother and my brother put me on a path that has led me out of a dark valley, and now I stand on a ridge, looking down. I knew I was lost and anxious and depressed and sad, but I had no idea I was in that valley, and how blind and depressed I was for all of those years. How much sadness I had repressed, or how much anger and how much self-hatred I had. I asked for help, but no one knew how to help me because no one believed it had anything to do with my adoption. Just like the empiricists STILL want to say it doesn't. It has meant the world to me to have C acknowledge me as a person. I think that has a great deal to do with my ability to stand up for myself in a way I have not been able to do so before.

Being adopted before six months didn't "fix" me. Finding my family didn't "fix" me. There is no "fixing" me. What's broken is broken, but I can move ahead with the help of people who care about me.

If some people are unaffected by adoption, that is their gift. More power to them.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I spent several hours yesterday trying to tidy up the house. At the best of times, this can be a rather slow process, as I easily become waylaid by interesting articles in the stacks of journals, periodicals, and book reviews lying around my room. I brewed a pot of coffee and gave myself permission to do a little intellectual arcade strolling for a while.

I deplored how sticky my mind feels as I read, like it's dragging through treacle, and remembered what my psychiatrist friend had asked me the weekend before. After talking about the Topamax, he'd said, "And do you feel that your thinking is..." "Stupid?" I blurted, finishing his sentence for him. "Slow was what I was thinking," he replied with a smile. Argh. I hate this drug, but I promised I would stick with it a little longer. I feel that I lose some of my mental acuity on it, but on the other hand, it dulls my anger and sadness and I haven't felt half as annoyed about half the people things that used to bother me, so that's a plus. Maybe taking the blue pill and never knowing the Matrix exists isn't such a bad thing.

So I wandered happily through reviews of exhibitions the Royal Academy and other venues in London and thought about documentary photography for the first time in years; decided that my new television obsession will have to be "The Hour" on BBC America, which apparently gives "Mad Men" a true run for its money; and delighted in Toni Bentley's delicious description of Violet Trefusis' mental state, imagined by today's standards, but wait for the punchline: "Today Violet would be on a Lexapro cocktail with an Abilify chaser, Ritalin with some Ativan on the side for particularly fiery outbursts, while attending daily meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous after a few weeks of inpatient therapy with Dr. Drew at Almost-a-Celebrity Rehab. But instead of all this to rein in her emotional anarchy, she had the old-fashioned cure, a formidable mother." I was excited to see Sir Michael Holroyd's new biography of Vita Sackville-West and Violet Keppel, A Book of Secrets: Illegitimate Daughters, Absent Fathers, on several counts; Holroyd is a brilliant writer and biographer; his research is encyclopedic. His wit and compassion for his subjects, combined with the thorny issue of illegitimate daughters, only adds to his allure. Although Bloomsbury is well trammeled territory, I am confident in the hands of Sir Michael, and from the new point of view of the paternity and illegitimacy, there might be new things to learn. Curious.

From Bloomsbury to Bosch. I read a rich essay by Terry Castle on Outsider Art in The London Review of Books. In one segment, she wrote about her childhood fascination with Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights: "The weird punishments visited on the sinners in Hell were riveting enough, but even  freakier, possibly, were the pleasures to be found in Bosch's world--the surreal salamander bliss depicted in the eponymous Garden and beyond. Strangest of all: the fact that outlandish things were happening--all over the painting--but that nobody, even in hell, looked to be particularly tormented. Indeed, some of the little naked human figures seemed to display a near comical sangfroid, even as they were pecked by giant birds, hatched out of egg, had huge flowers inserted in their bottoms, or, in the case of one of my favourites, sported a monstrous blueberry instead of a head. What sort of person could have dreamed this up?"

My answer? Tongue in cheek, of course, but the same kind of person who insists that adoptees aren't allowed to define their own narratives. They paste smiles on our faces because that's the way they want to see us. If we say we feel otherwise, well, there's no "science" to prove that we can feel that way. Aren't there lots of happy adoptees who have blueberries for heads? And why do these experts/concerned individuals/Bigfoot hunters/alien debunkers feel free to tell us this is normal? Because, once again, they feel we aren't quite human. Mockery is such fun sport.

And yet we are human. We are individuals, each with our own stories, our own paths and journeys, we were all separated from our mothers. That is our truth. We aren't imaginary creatures, figments of an artist's wonderful, crazy thoughts, or members of a cult. We have lived what we lived, and we remember it. It's in our minds and bodies.

It had never occurred to me before, but Bosch's painting, with all of its serene smiling in the face of suffering, really is like one big adoptee nightmare. Well done, Bosch. Dogma is dogma is dogma.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Last week I put on my Danskos and went back to work. As ever, it kicked my ass. There is so much to manage, and I was humbled. I was fortunate to have the support and mentoring of my beloved senior friend M for two days as I got my feet wet again.

It was fantastic to have M behind me, reminding me to draw up cord blood (the second time before it congealed), and to help me balance monitoring, to bounce off my clinical skills, and to help me get things done within a resonable amount of time. Even when working on my own with all my skills and faculties about me, I liken my job to riding a unicycle and juggling torches and balancing a chainsaw on a toothpick held in my teeth. Having M with me made returning to work much less of an anxiety fest because she'd see when the chainsaw was about to tip or one of the torches was about to catch the curtains on fire. She is an angel. 

I had two great patients and two wonderful deliveries. The first day my patient was teenager--with the father of the baby, their parents, and a great-grandmother--and it was heartwarming to see a baby so wanted and loved. Managing her emotions and needs was a little harder, as she was still a child herself, but it was a challenge I was up to. The second day I had a straightforward young couple with no complications. 

My third day back was more challenging, as I worked with a young couple suffering from the unexpected intrauterine demise of their first child. I sat with them, admitted them, cried with them, and started the woman's induction of labor. Then, and more painfully, I had to ask the parents to sign papers related to the disposition of their child's remains. Who thinks they will go in to Labor and Delivery to sign a Death Certificate? It's horrifically brutal, and probably the worst part of my job. I explained to them how I, or another nurse, would bathe their baby, take pictures, take footprints, and create a box of memories for them, as well, and how spending time with them is an honor for me. 

A few days later I was speaking to C about being back at work, and I told her that my charge RN had entrusted me with the couple with the fetal demise. I said that the charge RN had probably given me that assignment because I was newly returned and slow. She said no, the charge RN had given me that assignment because I am a kind person who is able to take care of a couple who needed special care. I felt so warm and validated; I think C really gets me. She's right. I am very good at the psycho-social stuff at work. 

So while work has been positive, health issues have not been great. I had a repeat of the radio-frequency ablation of the celiac plexus that resulted in more pain. I ended up in the ED at UCSF on Thursday night with intractable pain following the procedure, and at least the MDs could rule out an internal bleed. It seems that the resident nicked the wrong nerve and caused swelling elsewhere, so now I have pain in two places rather than just one. As two friends of mine put it, "It's you, Kara, so it couldn't be easy. You should have asked for the atypical side effects." I was also incredibly pissed off that the resident didn't seem to have read my chart before the procedure, because when he was asking questions of me, and when I asked questions of him, he was clueless about some very big facts 10 minutes before the procedure. I made an appointment with the attending later this week, and this shortcoming will be discussed. For. Certain. There is NEVER an excuse not to read a chart. I am curiously still Zen about it all; maybe the Topamax is keeping me on even keel, although I am irritated about the pain and wonder what the long-term plan is going to be. For now, I keep putting one foot in front of the other and avoiding known stressors. 

The kids are both enjoying school, and Tobey has taken to Kindergarten in a way I had never dreamed he would. His teacher had sent home a poem for him to memorize and recite in front of the class next week, and we'd half-heartedly begun to go over it. Callum had always been my poetry man, although Tobey had begun showing interest. He came home today waving a sticker, excitedly announcing that he'd already recited the poem and that he wants to sit and read more poetry with me. I had no idea that he'd learned it (he perfected it listening to the other children recite!). That Tobey is a dark horse, and an exciting dark horse he is. Clever one. 

Callum has his first crush and is coping with the knowledge that the girl is moving away at the end of this year; her family is military. We spent the weekend camping together with her family, and then last night, after we came home, he was bereft. He is busy coming up with elaborate plans to show this girl, for the next 10 months, how much she means to him. He told me that I will be busy taking the both of them to the Academy of Sciences, the DeYoung Museum, the Legion of Honor, and other dates. Could be fun for all of us. ;-)

Sunday, September 04, 2011


I have been living too much of my life by proxy this past year, wanting to build relationships with people I don't know and who don't really know me or have time for me, spending time on the Internet in fights that aren't worth my time, debating people whose arguments aren't worth the dirt on my shoe. I'm finished with that. It's been positive over this past month to step back and ground myself. To let people go, and see who comes back to me. It's been quite illuminating; I hold people to high standards, it's true, but that's okay. It's time to put myself first.

I was thinking about a post that Amanda made on her blog about coming to peace with oneself on one's adoption journey, and perhaps I'm closer to that place than I had thought.

I have been able just to be.

I spent a great long weekend with my aparents in Southern California the week before last, nerding out, swimming, playing with the kids, watching movies, and enjoying my father's birthday present. I gave him a lecture series on the Vikings. Yes, we are seriously that nerdy of a family. It made me realize how wonderful it is that I belong to my aparents; I wouldn't trade them for the world. They understand me like no one else, and it is what it is. They are my home, my support, my most constant source of unconditional love. And as much as adoption has left me with loss, they are its gain for me.

While I was visiting my aparents, I also spent a part of a day with my brother and his family, and for the first time, we could actually just be as well. I think we were all relieved and happy about that. It was also the first time we were together that I didn't cry. Maybe it was the drugs. Maybe it was having Callum with me. I don't know, I don't care. It made me wish that we could work on getting to know each other as people. Perhaps we can try.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Finding Meaning in Chaos

The past few days have been rough, but I always forget the hands of the gods, or angels, or of serendipity. Whatever you want to call it, things do change. I am blessed by a circle of amazing people who never stop giving me something to do, or love, or hope for. Well, sometimes just doing isn't enough. It's that I want to love. I feel that my capacity to love is dead, or that I am too alone, or that I will never have my love reciprocated. And then, just as I feel there is no hope, something changes. It's truly uncanny.

When I was in New York, Nalini was telling me how horribly sad she was that my nmother and brother have such incredible power to make me feel the worst possible despair. I agree that it seems wrong, counterintuitive, and terrible that two people can pull me down when hundreds more love me and pull me in an opposite direction. I was pondering this, and thought maybe this was because I am not in another relationship in which I feel anchored and safe in the same way, or perhaps in which I feel I know about the core of me, that part of me that I try so hard to take care of on my own but cannot support all by myself. I wish I could, but it's the kind of love you need in order to feel tied to humanity. You can't hold yourself in that way, you just can't. Well, maybe some people can, but I can't. Or maybe I could if I had this other connection. It's hard to put into words, precisely because it's preverbal, maybe beyond words.

Anyway, I'd been fighting upstream against this despair for over a week, even with the help of my aparents, when C called me. We had an amazing talk, and she supported me in such a way that I was all of a sudden back on my feet. It was unbelievable. I can't explain it, but she was able to offer a hand to help me stand up, dust off, and get on with things that no one else could. I spent the rest of the day wondering, again, why she could do this when no one else could. Again, I think it's because the lost child inside me WANTS her so very badly. She validated my pain and gladly listened. It meant everything, everything, everything to me. Certainly, I would love to get to the place where I could do this to myself; that is, help myself stand up. But my wounds and problems suffuse more parts of my life than I can count. For now, I will take the little victories and welcome my mother's helping hand.

Monday afternoon, I went on to see my artist friend, who is moving to Philadelphia. He cut and colored my hair one last time before his big move; as usual, he offered sage advice on everything in my life, and more excitingly, he invited me to participate in his next project wearing my art historian hat. I will write an "article" about a period room he is creating, and then situate that room, and him, within the history of art and masculinity. It's a creative essay more than an article, as his period room is going to be a creative critique; so I get to think about all of my fave Arts and Crafts homosocial circles, pull my books off my shelf, and write for fun! I love that my friend has given me a job and an outlet to take my mind off all the Sturm und Drang in my life, and I don't have to be orthodox art historical, either, which I would abhor. It's about being arch and witty and making connections and doing what I love. Now that I can do. I love you, emmett!

And on another front, my friend Greensunflower has been helping me, as well, getting me out of the house, feeding me, showing me solidarity in the cold, hard light of the crazy. I love being in the company of the best and brightest. So we're a little off our rockers? It means we're also great empaths.

One of these days, I will get there. One step at a time, I will find my way there. It's a group project. Don't cash in your bets quite yet. I have decided not to give up. The universe is pulling for me. I can feel it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Walking the line

I have been mulling over the seeming impossibility of really talking about what it is to be adopted, and the feelings related to being adopted, with some people who are invested in the system to such a degree that they simply refuse to listen. Those who have read my blog over the past year are aware of "debates" about the primal wound, or ways in which adoptees are demeaned in "conversation" through various epithets I've mentioned: "bitter," "angry," "angsty," "ruined by a bad childhood." And of course, the parting shot: "MY adoptee won't grow up to be like YOU." The same tired arguments are rehearsed, over and over, in which adults (namely adult adoptees) are robbed of our agency by those who speak for adoptees they claim they know, or for their rights to be parents at all costs, or for "science."

I have been engaging in discussion with Daniel Ibn Zayd, an activist adoptee living in Beirut, about the difficulties and frustrations in trying to work within the existing framework of the hellagon and dominant culture, and he has agreed to let me post some of our conversations on my blog as food for thought. I would love to hear what other adoptees have experienced in terms of trying to be heard; what works, and what doesn't. How do we change things? How radical do we need to be?

For more information about Daniel, his projects, passions, and thoughts, visit his blog. Join the dialogue!

"This is because the native intellectual has thrown himself greedily upon Western culture. Like adopted children who only stop investigating the new family framework at the moment when a minimum nucleus of security crystallizes in their psyche, the native intellectual will try to make European culture his own." Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Kara: I have been thinking much about the quote from Fanon that you shared, and I think it resonates deeply with the problems that we encounter in online discussions with APs, first parents, other "advocates," and even with other adoptees. 

At the time of our adoptions, we are stripped of our histories, our identities, everything. In your case, also of your culture, your language, and your religion. So (most of) us cling to the structure/language we're given to make sense of our experiences. This is the ideology of the dominant society, controlled by the industry, and in which our APs and first families function (or are encouraged to function). This is the world of Positive Adoption Language, the "good" adoptee, etc. It is the place in which we will be secure if we do as we are told. We can make this our own, and use it, but if we challenge it, we lose our paternalistic "protection" and our Otherness is immediately called into question. We are labeled as being "out of line," "different," and "aberrant." The "Not Us." If we have our own needs and and wants, or if we assert our own rights as adopted individuals, these are seen as non-existent, precisely because we are defined as Other. At most we are granted the "right" to our OBCs, but even that is suspect to many.

For example, I recently engaged in a feminist discussion about adoption and the rights of our (supposedly closeted) mothers were again and again seen as trumping the rights of adult adoptee WOMEN. How could this be, unless we were Other, and thus outside the circumscribed limits of the society in question? 

Those adoptees who are feted and rewarded are precisely those who adapt and praise and use the language and social customs and terms and social codes provided by the dominant culture. In order not to be rejected by the "family of man," so to speak, they agree to play within the given rules. While I concede that some adoptees may certainly feel happy to live within the existing paradigm, the existence of these happy adoptees isn't a reason to sanctify the existence of a failed structure that actively harms other adoptees by pathologizing their experiences.

You have, elsewhere, suggested that it is impossible for us to engage in true, productive dialogue because with an offhand remark, those in power, those unwilling to admit the power they have, are able to denigrate our position. There is no level playing field. Such is the ploy of labeling adoptees in discussions. The end message is that we are outliers, and that "normal, decent" adoptees don't grow up to be like us. It isn't in their interest to talk to us as equals, and so they don't. There isn't room for it in the model we have.

There is no listening. It is intensely frustrating. What are your thoughts? Are we too bound up as commodities to have voices?

Daniel: You've summed up our condition to a T. This is endlessly upsetting to me. I see it even beyond our condition, for example, in the thesis papers my students are forced to write they must conform their way of thinking to the dominant norm. This is a game of controlling output. I see it like constantly being patted back into position, as if we were wind-up toys. As long as we head in the right direction, then all is well. But the more we persist in trying to get away from the norm, and here what you are saying is really astute, ***knowing all the time that our very movements (our words) do not have a potential for freedom*** because we are still "controlled", the more we are knocked back into place. With time, that reaction just becomes increasingly violent.

I think what I resent most is the fact that I was removed from one group and placed with another, and by virtue of being raised with them, cannot communicate with anyone but the latter group. As I assimilate more (assimilate is not the right word; integrate perhaps) I am more and more loath to engage with the latter group, but this is where my job is, this is where my family and friends are, this is the language of the Internet and all of my communication is stuck there. I don't want to live one more bourgeois moment of my existence, and this is killing me. Because to truly step down from my position would mean completely severing myself from the world I have known my whole life.

For Ramadan I am reading this really great book on the Imam Ali (pbuh), called Justice and Remembrance. I'm more and more into liberation theologies, these places where radical ideas intersect with reality on the street. When I first got here, I used to use Marxist terms with the guys in my neighborhood, and the were immediately tagged onto political parties--"only such and such a group talks like that". When I match these terms with relevant terms from the Qur'an, then something interesting starts to happen, and a discussion is opened.

I guess what I am saying is that if we spend all our time trying to "walk out of line" like a little wind-up toy, we are going to go crazy. We need to seek out those who are outside of our circumstance and this structure if you will, and engage in order to get ***their*** voice heard. In doing so, our voice will be lifted as well.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


I have slid back into the pit. It's sad how this happens. Unexpected, slippery, mean. I forget sometimes how near I live to the precipice until I fall in, and then the battle starts over again. Depression is not a party game. I liken it to poison that spreads through my body and makes it difficult for me to breathe.

I went to New York last week with my friend Nalini, who was excited to share an adventure with me and to encourage me to take care of myself. What's not to enjoy? But somehow, I ended up sad to the last fiber of my body, tears pouring down my face, wanting to die, sitting in the center of Times Square just before midnight. It's amazing how being in the middle of people can make me feel like such a non-human.

I was reading Von's post over at Lost Daughters today, and was immediately struck by this sentence:
"Adoptees too may not always understand the triggers and as most of you can state from your own experience, they arrive unbidden, unexpectedly and unsurprisingly when we sometimes least expect it or are prepared for it."

I couldn't have said it better myself. I should have been enjoying myself, with a dear friend, and yet I was a complete mess. [I did manage to love The Book of Mormon, which cheered me up no end. Thanks, Trey and Matt. Now if only I could learn to do the following.]

What is going on with me? Rationally, I look at my life and I have done very well for myself--on the surface. But there is still that massive black hole called depression: yes, it has a genetic component, and yes, adoption is hellaciously involved in its exacerbations. Then another friend tells me that it's because I've educated myself within an inch of my life and carry those scars with me, too. You don't survive graduate school at Berkeley with its beatings and not have damage. Moreover, no one wants to hear me babble on about literature and art. Well, pretty much nobody. I could tease out a thousand reasons why things suck. And still it just hurts. Maybe it's the Topamax talking. It does cause suicidal thoughts in 1 in 500 people. That would be my luck.

So I have been curled up in the fetal position for about four days, wondering why I was ever born, wishing I hadn't been, and thinking it's all been a huge fucking cosmic mistake. The world would have been a better place without me: my mother would have been happier, I would have been happier not to bear the burden of eternal rejection, etc. Of course, my friends and family feel insulted when I speak this way, but there is no rationality in madness. It just is. I can fake things for a while, and then it all becomes too much of an act. It's hard work to pretend to be happy. And no, I don't want my cross in life to be bearing the burden of rejection. It fucking sucks. It doesn't make me a better person to "rise above" it. I am tired. Wake me up when there's a pill that helps make you impervious to rejection.

One more thing before I resume the fetal position: over at FMF, someone wrote in the comments that "on a [rejection] scale of one to ten I rate the experience of being given up for adoption a fifteen." I wholeheartedly concur.  

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


I have been marveling at the way I am healing, but also feeling more than a little frustration. Here is what my wrist looks like at six weeks out.

It's definitely still swollen. I cannot flex it worth a damn. I am fighting against the metal plate that's in there, but I am giving it all I have. The scar doesn't look bad. It just needs time. Both my primary care doctor and a friend who's a psychiatrist said to me, "Wow, it looks like you tried to kill yourself." All I could say was,"Not this time."

It's too neat a job for that, anyway. I think my surgeon would be offended to think his work was compared to a slice and dice. I don't think I'll tell him what they said. I don't want to hurt his feelings

So I got to thinking about scars and wounds and healing. And how you get over things, and how it takes time. How scars mean that you've been through something and emerged on the other side. They're a visual marker of past trauma on the body.

My friend just returned from Cambodia, and my scar made me think of him and his writing project on trauma, the legacy of the Vietnam War, and visual culture in Southeast Asia and its diaspora. We had a great heart-to-heart yesterday, and he told me about some amazing moments he had at a conference in which people were horrifically out of line. He now has the status and power to put them in their place. When a white woman declared that she IS the authority on Khmer masculinity, although she isn't fluent in Khmer, and hasn't done a lot of fieldwork, my friend stood up and said, "White woman, go home!" I hope she was well shamed. White people need to understand that political and cultural colonialism is over. Check your ego at the door, and think about your power. Yes, you have it. My friend and I had some very interesting talks about power and agendas and narratives, and he sympathized with what's been going on in adoptoland and the narrative controlling. Race is always, always, always the elephant in the room.

Then he and I were reminiscing about our younger years, and he said, "Remember when I said that I was eccentric? I was lying. I was crazy. You and I are both crazy. And you know why we're crazy? It's not our fault. It's THEM. The rest of the world makes us this way. With all their incessant bullshit and ignorance. Don't worry, darling. You're fine." It's true. All of his friends are batshit crazy. Never a dull moment. I am honored to be in such exalted company.

Back to painful tendon stretching and True Blood. And craziness. And maybe some Dumas, for some ideas on retribution. Just kidding. Sort of.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I am excited about the upcoming Adoptee Rights protest in San Antonio, even though I am not going. I am sad that I will miss the excitement of being "normal" among my friends; not having to explain anything as we sit and talk over coffee and drinks and meals. As we cry and tell our stories and nod and know that we are not alone. My experience in Louisville last summer, especially as it was tied to my visit to my family's graves in Indiana, was both exquisitely painful and cathartic. I remember sitting in a bar and nursing drinks while tears ran silently down my face, wondering "Why, why, why?" I still don't know why. I will never know why, but I have slowly come to peace with some of the worst parts of it, and of course, I am on speaking terms with my mother and brother, which takes some of the sting out of it. At least I am a PERSON, not a ghost.

There is still so much to be done in terms of advocacy and activism. So many states, so little openness.

And then a few nights ago I nearly lost my mind when I read the results of the legislative session in Missouri that pretty much change nothing and get me no closer to my OBC. The people on the ground there encourage us to take the long view. It takes time to chip away at convention, they say. But it appears they are not vehement opponents of the CI system, as I believe they should be. NO ONE needs a third-party to conduct private business between adults. Moreover, adoptees are being used to fundraise pay for the changes. We have to fork out extraordinary amounts of money, $500 and up, to get our identifying information, provided that our "biological" families approve, or that we can prove that they are deceased. Oh, and if my brother had found out about me, and wanted to get identifying information about me, he couldn't under the law. It's only the parents and adoptees than can. It's so Byzantine and patriarchal and disgusting.

As far as the OBCs go, I would still need to petition the court with good reason, and have the permission of my mother. I don't think I'd need my father's permission, as he is not named on my OBC. It pisses me off that I need ANYONE's permission to get an official document as an adult. My children won't need my permission when they are adults. Sigh. As Joy said, if I had just been born a bastard, I could have my OBC. It was the ACT of my legitimization that made me a second-class citizen. I had more rights as a bastard than I do now.

The only good thing to come out of this law, as far as I can tell, is that adoptees don't have to get the notarized permission of their APs for non-identifying information or identifying information anymore.

So on the one hand, I feel like a total bitch, because what did I do? I didn't draft the law. I didn't do anything in terms of grassroots work except write to legislators back in the spring and complain about the law because I found it grossly unfair and Byzantine and patronizing.

Are "baby steps" towards good legislation better than nothing? Or have we now enshrined more bad precedents? I am curious to hear what you all think, if you have opinions.

Here is a link to the Missouri Adoptee Rights Movement Web site.

Please don't take my bitter words for anything, and if you can find a silver lining in all this muck, I would be all too happy to hear about it. I know it will supposedly be "better" for adoptees born after 2010, but seriously? How much better, and why give us older adoptees such a big middle finger?

My APs and I are a good match, and that had to happen in St. Louis. Other than that, I am horrified that I was born in Missouri. The conservative values enshrined in adoption laws there are so opposed to my own ideas of equality.

Monday, July 25, 2011


As I was driving back from Santa Cruz yesterday, I listened to Kirsty MacColl and fell in love with her all over, as I do when I haven't listened to her for a little while. Her voice is seductive, but above all, her lyrics are arch and make me laugh. I mourn her untimely death and the loss of a lifetime of songs like "Innocence."

I got home and watched her video for this again, and just had to post it. So '80's, so funny. So dedicated to trolls, horrible ex-boyfriends, rock collections, dumbass art historians, and all people lacking brains who think they have brains.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

True Blue

Sometimes I fight seeing things. I get tunnel vision and get caught in my battles. It's capricious, to be certain, but I forget that I am surrounded by people who love me, who have loved me for years. People who do have histories with me, who want to be my family, who choose to be my family, even though they don't share my blood.

I have mentioned before that I have a very, very dear friend with whom I suffered graduate school. We met in 1993 and bonded as we found ourselves slung to the edges of our department. We had no money, no support, no anything really, except each other. He is worldly and brilliant. He saw things in me that I didn't. He picked me up when I hated myself and kept shaking off the dust that the scornful people kept heaping on me. He saw me through lots of horrible boyfriends. He improved my fashion sense a thousand fold. We went on adventures together in India and England. I nursed him through many illnesses before I was a nurse. We were inseparable, and in the department we were called "the twins."

He was my maid of honor at my wedding. He looked better in his silk suit that I did in my wedding dress, and that's the honest truth.

While "writing" our dissertations, we would skive off and see movies, go shopping, eat--do anything except what we were supposed to. I watched him climb the academic ladder, and he commiserated with me as I didn't move ahead. And he astutely told me why I didn't move ahead: it was because I didn't want to. I could have committed to it and pushed ahead and made my contacts and fought the good fight against my evil adviser. I just never liked the nasty circus that it was. I hated the bullshit and the teaching of eejits. He was right.

And in the fall of 2003, he moved away to take up his first big teaching post. I was pregnant with my first son, and I knew I would miss him like mad. How was I going to do this parenting thing without him? He had predicted way in advance--before the wedding, even--that my marriage was going to be rough, and he is nothing if not perceptive.

Time went by, we spoke on the phone frequently, but life gets in the way, and I missed him like hell. How could all those the years have gone by?

I know that he loves me, but somehow as an adoptee, I feel that when I am absent from someone's life, or when I don't talk to them, I disappear from their minds. Not that they disappear from mine--this is a one-way equation. It has to do with my perception of that initial loss of my mother, I think.

Anyway, my friend is now a powerful, successful, wonderful, sought-after professor at Santa Cruz. Brilliant and fantastic, and I knew he always would be. He is writing a book and has been away in Cambodia doing research. I was at his apartment, watering his plants and chilling out, as he offered it as a place for respite and repose. And walking around his place, I cried. I could see how much our lives have been entwined, and how much I matter to him. There's the Iznik tile I brought back from Istanbul for him; the Arts and Crafts tile I brought back from London. The matching scarves we bought years ago; the gorgeous photograph of him at my wedding! The postcards. The photos of my children next to those of his family. The incense burned in front of his Buddha that I know was burned to ask for my recovery after my surgery. I matter. I am not absent, I am not problematic, I am loved. Here is a person who knows me inside out, and who has loved me for going on 20 years.

I truly feel that sometimes I am living a ghost life, that I am touching no one. Moments such as those I had at my friend's, when I see proof of a bond, mean more to me than I can say.

My friend suffered greatly during the genocide, as I mentioned before, and he says that he chooses now to make his family out of his friends. He is loyal beyond loyal. He will never leave me, and if I need him, I know he will not fail me. He is fiercely protective. He hasn't liked to watch what I've been going through. To be honest, most of my friends haven't.

I think that if I had been born and raised knowing who I was, it would be easier to walk away from painful situations. It's the not knowing, and the hunger to know people like me, and then the loving of people who are like me that is so hard to turn away from.

What I can say, then, is that I am grateful--and not in an annoying, rainbow-farting way--to have my true-blue friends in my corner. Even when they shake their heads and roll their eyes and say, "I cannot for the life of me figure out why you do this," I know they love me and will stick with me and let me go back into the darkness that is my attempt to figure out who I am and how I fit into the world.

Thanks to all of my friends who are reading this, especially those who are not adoptees, who support me (or other adoptees) and allow me to pull away and test you. Thank you for not abandoning me; thank you for listening to my litanies of frustration; thank you for showing me in ways, large and small, that I matter to you.

I know I pull away. I know I am not always the easiest to get along with. But I am also loyal as hell, and I appreciate how loyal and loving you are, too. Sorry if I forget sometimes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


I don't post as often about my afamily as I do about my nfamily, but that's because my relationship with my afamily is stable, good, run-of-the mill. Not too much drama, not that much excitement. My parents are great, and always have been. The spin of fortune's wheel was gentle to me on that count.

I am not saying that they're perfect, or that I was perfect. I know I was a pain in the ass and that there were bad times along with the good. But overall, we were an excellent fit. I have many adoptee friends who fit much less well with their afamilies in terms of interests, goals, personalities, and looks, and were ridiculed, marginalized, and treated badly--or worse. Some were abused, ostracized, or raped. Adoption is sold as a "win-win" situation, but it certainly isn't when the adopted child isn't welcomed, loved, and put first, just as any child should be in any family.

My extended afamily is equally warm and kind. I am not fabulously close with many of my relatives, but I love and appreciate my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I was never treated differently than any of the cousins who belong by blood; I am also not the only adoptee on either side. That said, adoption was not a subject that was ever really broached. There were times when it came up, but I never actually sat down with my other adopted cousins and asked them how they felt about it. Some of them are much older than I am; all of them lived very far away from me. My extended family is scattered across the Midwest and West, although usually we would gather in groups at least once a summer.

One particular segment of my dad's family settled in California long ago, and I have been getting to know them better over the past 20 or so years, since I moved out here. I really, really like them. When I was at my parents' last week, my cousin and his wife had us over for dinner, and I met up with my cousin's son and his wife, who are fantastic people. They played with my son, we had really interesting conversations about life and family, and when the topic turned to genealogy and family trees, I sat back, enjoyed the night sky, and took some deep breaths. Once again, it's my family, but it's not my family tree.

Then the unexpected happened. For the FIRST time EVER in a family situation, someone turned and asked me, quietly, how it was for me to sit and listen to topics like this. I almost cried with relief. After so many years of living this life, what I can do? It just is my life to be talked over. To have someone ask me how I felt in that situation? Surreal. And welcome.

It is amazing to have someone in my family now who is aware that adoption is not "as if born to." It can't be. It hurts me when people pretend that I am not different, although I also don't want to be told that I don't belong. While I love my family dearly, there are things about me that they just can't know about; things they can't tell me; things that will forever be a mystery. That sucks. Ambivalence sucks. Adoption is a complex, constantly changing, organic experience.

The more people we have to support us, listen to us, love us, share with us, and be aware of how things might affect us? The better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dreams, feelings, and memories

I saw my orthopedic surgeon yesterday for another post-surgical checkup. I am almost five weeks after surgery now, and he says I am doing great. I love this doc. He has amazing bedside manner; he is both smart and gentle, and he takes time to check in about my broken bone and the bigger picture (clotting, going back to work, etc.). I would crush on my doctor a little if it didn't feel weird.

He must be about my brother's age, and even looks a little like him. Same build, blond, blue eyes, charming. I can imagine that A, if he were in a specialty that dealt with patients face-to-face, would be as kind, warm, and solicitous.

Anyway, back to topic. I remember reading something in my non-identifying information back in 1997 that threw me for a loop.

As long as I've remembered, I have had this attraction to boys/men who are really tall (over 6'1 preferably), with dark hair and green eyes (although blue is also acceptable ;-). I always attributed this to a boy I knew from childhood and loved for most of my life. (I actually dreamed about him last night--we were saving the world together in an exciting, fantastic action sequence. The dream must have been inspired by seeing the new Harry Potter film last week.) He was the first in a pretty long series of men I sought out in real life who fit this "look." [Note to self: You might have had better luck if you went with men with good hearts rather than those who looked good. Luckily, Mark is both.]

It's a type: Clive Owen/Matthew Macfadyen/John Cusack, you get the picture. Oh yes, and Irish/English. And now Michael Fassbender isn't all that bad, either.

Mark finds me endearingly ridiculous, but on my desk I have an autographed photograph of Matthew Macfadyen that Nalini procured for me one birthday. She is the best. Try not to laugh at me. ;-)

It was just my thing.

So when I wrote off in 1997 for my non-identifying information and got my twelve pages of summary, imagine my surprise when I read that my grandfather was "about 6'2, black hair, green eyes." Argh. Had I subconsciously been looking for a man that matched some genetic imprint I had in my head? Was I a weirdo? And then when I found out that my grandfather indeed came from English/Irish/Scottish stock, what did that mean?

I remember seeing the first picture of my grandfather, taken when he was about 33. I was knocked for six, because he looked so much like a male version of me, except that I am very glad that I didn't get his nose and ears.

Maybe if I'd grown up around my grandfather, uncle, etc., I would still have chased after all the tall, dark-haired, green-eyed Irish boys in town. Maybe not. Was my "type" connected to my pull to try to find my way back to the family I was born into? Was it based on some unconscious memory of my tribe? Or are tall, dark Irish guys just what I like? Because growing up around Scandinavians sure didn't make me want Alexander Skarsgard. You can have him. And yes, this is a rhetorical question.

Which brings me circuitously to Verrier. I was visiting my parents this past week and picked up my copy of The Primal Wound to reread after two years. While I concede that the lack of footnotes and scant primary research on Verrier's part are definitely, definitely problematic, I don't see her hypotheses (based on what we truly *do* know about obstetrics) as being the catastrophic adoptee-prisons that the naysayers do. Then again, they haven't even read the book!

This is what the naysayers often argue, as Verrier knew they would:

"Adoption as Concept

The other trend in trying to understand and eliminate the problems connected with adoption is to view them as conceptual. According to this school of thought, the problems stem from the child being told about adoption, the idea of having two mothers, the reason for having been relinquished, and the feeling this brings up for him. In other words, it is the intellectual knowledge that he is adopted which confuses and disturbs the child. One gets the feeling that adoption is only a theory, and that if we don't say too much about it, it won't have too much effect."

Her counterargument to this makes me cry, because it is the same one that Joy, and Lulubelle, and Von, and Linda, and theadoptedones, and Amanda, and many others reiterate ad nauseam:

"All of this rhetoric ignores one simple but critical fact: The adoptee was there. The child actually experienced being left alone by the biological mother and being handed over to strangers. That he may have been only a few days or a few minutes old makes no difference. He shared a 40-week experience with a person with whom he probably bonded in utero, a person to whom he is biologically, genetically, historically, and perhaps even more importantly, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually connected, and some people would like to believe that it is the telling of the experience that makes him feel so bad!"

If you don't like Verrier, fine. If you don't feel affected by adoption, fine. More power to you. But HOW DARE YOU sit there and tell those of us who are LIVING this that this is a fucking intellectual theory. It is PART of us. It is not something we made up, it is not a planted memory. It cannot be carved out of our souls like a corrupt thought. It is not a bad joke.

I am strong enough to believe in my own memories, my own soul, my own strength. I know what I feel, and I know who I am. It may be a "fun" argument for you, but it's my life. Thank goodness for my wonderful community of fellow adoptees, friends, and family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Needs, Rights, and My OBC

I have been following some interesting debate over on FMF about whether people have a universal "need" to know who they are. My sense is that all people will eventually ask about the birds and the bees, but many won't care about their family trees, or whose blood runs in their veins. I care deeply. My aparents love genealogy. I was dragged to many cemeteries in my youth. Doing rubbings of headstones was an interesting diversion, even when it wasn't my ancestors.

Anyway, back at FMF I found myself agreeing with someone who said that people should have "a universal right to find out family history if one wants to." Seems reasonable to me. It's a "right" then, not a "need."

A "right" is something that is agreed upon by society a large, or the majority, or elected officials in a democracy representing that majority. A "need" is a personal want that might become a "right" but is not necessarily a "right," unless it is so agreed upon by the aforementioned majority.

I noticed in the discussions at FMF that "equality" was of course important, and certainly I would like to be considered equal under the law and don't feel so as I do not have access to my original birth certificate (OBC), as non-adopted individuals do. In some states in this fine country, some adoptees can access their OBCs if they are of a certain age, or if they are born between certain dates, etc. Adoption is a matter of states' rights, not federal jurisdiction, so there is great difference between states in how things are handled. Not that I think we'd have a great chance of getting our OBCs released to us if we could be heard in front of the current Supreme Court, but then again, I am a Poor Innocent Dismissed Diseased cynic with little faith in the conservative patriarchal system in place. I wouldn't bet much on the chances of trying to persuade Justices Alito or Scalia, who would have the Catholic Church and the adoption industry lobbyists yipping in their ears to preserve the "rights" of the poor closeted mothers being tormented by us uncouth adoptees with our separate-but-equal amended birth certificates. We'd be told that our place at the back of the bus is quite good enough, what is to be gained by all of this nonsense? Go home, children!

Separate is NOT equal. Did we not learn that? We CANNOT separate the emotional content from the rational part of of the argument, however much we dream we can, because we are human. The people men making decisions about this, about us, are human, too. They are prejudiced by THEIR emotions, however much they claim they are not. It's a farce. Humans do best by ourselves by being honest about our motivations and prejudices. And these people, by and large, are APs, or PAPs, or have friends who are APs or PAPs. Where does the power lie? With the APs and the industry. Not with us, and usually not with our natural families.


I have been thinking a great deal also about what Daniel Ibn Zayd has said about the impossibility of true discourse in adoption related to inequality of power. When adoptees are told to "play nice," and treat first parents or APs or PAPs respectfully so that we can all "get along," we are immediately hamstrung. There is no free give and take. When we make comments and are immediately labeled as "angry" or "angsty" or "poor innocent dismissed" or some other tasteless, demeaning pet name du jour, it's hardly the sign of well meaning, let's-get-on-with-it, reform-minded camaraderie. Because it's not about working together. It's a fucking war zone with Bigfoot and alien sightings and grenade launchings and petty dictatorships at every corner.

People cannot see past their noses; they rarely look at the big picture; they revel in offending others for sport; PAPs and APs speak of natural families and adoptees as if they're paper towels. Some natural mothers are downright rude to adoptees. It's disgusting. Why be polite? These people aren't polite. They're aggressive, self-centered people of the worst sort.

On the one hand, it reminds me of that great quote of Gandhi's, who when asked what he thought about Western civilization, replied, "I think it would be a good idea." On the other hand, it drives me to read Frantz Fanon and feel less like Gandhi. I am sick of being treated like an object, spoken for, infantilized; I am sick of watching children being taken from countries abroad and stripped of their cultures and worse. I don't want to be told to be grateful anymore. Why do people think they know what I feel? Why do they think it's their prerogative to *say* what they think I should feel?

Oh yes, the power thing.

And the cycle starts over, because there is no constellation or mosaic or triad or whatever silly thing it is called on Tuesdays. We're not even in it. Because it's not about us, the commodity.

And because we're nonentities, forever children, if we even can be considered children, we cannot have our OBCs. Our mother's rights come first, because she must be protected at all cost, even to that poor last woman in the closet.

Except that we *are* people, and we should have our OBCs, and my favorite people are organizing a protest to convince state legislators that we are people with both needs *and* rights. Please support the Adoptee Rights Coalition (donate!) and contact your state representatives. If you know and love an adoptee, please, please do this! We deserve our OBCs! Just like the real people we are.

Love to you all.