Category Archives: adoption identity

An Adoptee’s Search for the Missing Face

Finding the MIssing FAce

An adoptee searches for a face in a crowd that resembles her own.

If we could only see the face of the lost birth mother/father, the hurt would magically disappear. The grief would be resolved and the life-long repercussions of traumatic adoption loss would be mitigated.

Oops…adoptee fantasy.

True, those who have found the missing face through reunion have experienced much healing. Seeing that missing face brings validation and healing.

But, there is more.

There is still that deep searching within the adoptee heart.

Ask any who have found the missing face if the healing is complete.

Does an adoptee automatically feel “unadopted?”

No, the adoptee is just red-faced when asked.

Though we may search, reunite, and even enjoy one another, there is still an ache within for another missing face.

Ecclesiastes 3: 11 says, “He has put eternity into mans’s heart.”

It is the face of the One in whose image we were created. The face of the One who loved us so much that He died for us. It is the face of Jesus Christ.

The moment we see Him face to face in heaven, every need will be satisfied, every tear wiped away.

Perhaps, David was referring to this when he penned the words of Psalm 17:15?

“And I–in righteousness will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”

Exodus 33:11 says there was only one person in the course of history who didn’t have to wait until heaven to see God face to face.

How interesting that the person was Moses, an adoptee.

 

How To Get Past Kid Defenses When “Talking Adoption”

Dear Parents,
Sometimes your best-laid plans for talking adoption with your kids get sabotaged! Right? You’ve thought deeply about what to share/ask, determined the best time, and perhaps even rehearsed possible scenarios and outcomes.
The pre-planned time arrives and you ask, “How about talking about adoption for a few minutes?”
Many parents hear responses like these:
• “Nope.” Child then walks away or stares into space.
• “WHY do you keep asking me about adoption?” Adoptee exits room in a huff.
• “Adoption is NO BIG DEAL, mom!” Teen adoptee throws up hands.
• “I am happy that I was adopted. That’s all I need to know.” Adult or teen adoptee looks puzzled at your desire to talk more, like you’re a bit crazy?

This article is a letter from Sherrie to adoptive parents...from the NEW Forever Fingerprints

This article is a letter from Sherrie to adoptive parents…from the NEW Forever Fingerprints


Later, you may have a car full of kids and you’re making a left turn into the busiest intersection in the city. Above the chattering, you hear, “Why did my birth mother give me up for adoption?”
You take a deep breath as your heart races. If I could read your mind, you might be asking, “WHAT can I do?”
Allow me to give you some of the inside scoop about we adoptees. Many of us, myself included, can be downright tricky at times. We find it difficult to trust you or anybody, except ourselves. Basically, we are control freaks and just as traditional talk therapy with a clinician doesn’t reach us, neither do pre-planned adoption talks with parents.
So, what’s the answer for reaching defensive adoptees?
• Throw out pre-planned agendas for talking adoption.
• Learn to “think outside the box” about the timing. Be flexible!
• Identify real-life situations that can become springboards into deeper conversations with your child.
• Be patient with yourself. Developing this new set of skills takes time.
• Remember that your adopted child does want and need to talk but is scared.
Lucie, the main character of this book, along with her adoption -savvy parents, will show you how to talk adoption in a winsome way that will be welcomed by your child.
All best to you!
SherrieEldridge.com

La Historia de Moises

DSCN0016La madre de Moisés, Jochebed, siente sus primeros dolores de parto una tarde. Al llegar el atardecer nació un hermoso niño.
Era una experiencia dulce y amarga al mismo tiempo para ella, porque la muerte estaba asediando en su puerta.
El Faraón, el malvado rey de Egipto, desesperado para no dejar a los israelitas florecer y al final quitarle su trono, emitió un edicto. Ordeno a las parteras israelitas matar a todos los niños varones israelitas recién nacidos.
Sin embargo, las parteras por respeto y amor a Dios, hicieron lo contrario. Ellas dieron la bienvenida al mundo a los niños y los pusieron tiernamente en los pechos de sus madres.
Cuando el Faraón supo que las parteras estaban dejando vivir a los niños israelitas, se enfureció y ordeno que todos los bebes varones deberían ser ahogados en el Rió Nilo.
En el momento en que Jochebed empezó a amamantar al bebé su corazón empezó a latir fuertemente, porque ella escucho a los soldados egipcios pasar frente de su casa. ¿Qué debía hacer para que el bebe no llorara? Si los soldados lo escuchaban romperían la puerta y matarían al bebé inmediatamente.
Si solamente Amran estuviera en casa. El sabría que hacer. Pero él fue sometido a la esclavitud en el palacio de El Faraón trabajando como albañil. Que tristeza para él no estar presente en el nacimiento de su hijo.
Sabiendo que los soldados acechando afuera podían robar su bebe en cualquier momento, Jachebed rezó: Dios, por favor enséñame como voy a salvar la vida de mi bebe.” 1
Mientras que rezo, la idea vino a su mente de ponerlo adentro de una cesta protegido. “!SI!” ella dijo a Dios con sus brazos extendidos. “Esto es que voy hacer cuando llegue el momento.”
“Cuando ya no pudo seguir ocultándolo, preparó una cesta de papiro, sellándola con brea y alquitrán, colocó adentro al niño y fue a dejar la cesta entre los juncos que había a la orilla del Nilo” (3-4).
La hermana de Moisés, Miriam, quedó a cierta distancia para ver qué pasaría con él.
Al mismo tiempo, la hija de El Faraón, Hatshepsut fue al Rió Nilo para bañase y escuchó el llanto frenético de un bebe. “De pronto la hija del faraón vio la cesta entre los juncos, y ordenó a una de sus esclavas que fuera por ella. Cuando la hija del faraón abrió la cesta y vio allí adentro un niño que lloraba, le tuvo compasión” (v. 3-4).
1. La raíz de la palabra “llorar” (v. 6) es verter lágrimas, hacer duelo o sentimiento por alguna cosa, lamentar mucho y amargamente. ¿Porque piensas que Moisés estaba llorando?
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2. ¿Piensas que un bebe tan chico puede recordar algo? ¿Porque si o porque no?
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3. ¿Como piensas que Moisés se sintió dentro de la canasta?
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4. ¿Porqué piensas qué la hija de El Faraón sintió compasión por Moisés? ¿Crees que por eso lo adopto?
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5. ¿Cómo piensas que Jochebed se sintió cuando puso a su amado bebe en el Río Nilo infestado de cocodrilos?
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What Others Are Saying About Forever Fingerprints Book

Fingerprinting with newborn at Parker Hospital

Fingerprinting with newborn at Parker Hospital

How fun, as we anticipate the shiny new books coming from the printer, to receive endorsements from wonderful people. Since I’m doing radio with Rebecca Swan Vahle today on Family to Family, I thought you might enjoy what she says about Forever Fingerprints:

Mom holds newborn as they print her fingerprints in the book

Forever Fingerprints is my all-time favorite adoption book! It not only gives adoptive families a concrete way to talk to their kids about adoption, it also helps the child acknowledge and understand their forever connection to their birth parents. As an Adoption Liaison in the Parker Hospital BirthPlace, every adoption placement is honored with the use of the Forever Fingerprints book. Fingerprints in the front cover from both Mother and Child – and sometimes from Dad, mark the precious connection between these people that should be embraced and honored.

Pre-Order Now!

Pre-Order Now!

Rebecca Vahle, Founder and Adoption Liaison
Family to Family Adoption Support Program
Parker Adventist Hospital
Parker, CO

Pre-Order Here: goo.gl/CddHXQ

This Savvy Adoptive Mama Isn’t Shakin’ In Her Boots!

See this little chickie?

Isn’t she the cutest thing ever?

She’s happy as can be because her mama knows what kinds of feelings and thoughts are floating around in that precious little mind. Her mama is savvy because she’s read every adoption book she can get her hands on.

She knows the right time and place for conversations and looks for real-life situations to teach her daughter adoption truths about her sweet little self.

Mama comes back, she always comes back, she never will forget me.

Mama comes back, she always comes back, she never will forget me.

You Can Be Comfortable “Talking Adoption” With Your Children

Many adoptive parents gulp when thinking about how to tell their children about their birth and adoption. It doesn’t matter if your adoption is domestic, infant, foster/adopt, international, bi-racial, bi-cultural, all parents get butterflies about some aspects of the child’s history.

Lucie’s parents will pave the way for you in talking adoption with your children.


When and how do we tell?
Should I share the painful parts?
What are some tips to help me share?

The First Thing to Remember

Start talking adoption on day one! No matter what the age of your child, “We are so lucky to get to adopt you. We will never leave you and love you, love you forever.”

These and many other questions are answered in story form in Forever Fingerprints…An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children (release date October 21, 2014).

You can pre-order here at a discounted price! http://goo.gl/QrL5vK

Here is a DVD that may help you also: Talking Adoption With Your Kidshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWqJGiLKQbY

SherrieEldridge.com

Tips for Adoptee Birthdays

Here is a You Tube video on adoptee birthdays!

http://youtu.be/8aI8fBpuJ8A?list=PL84B166A70E2E7C8F

Adoptees Explain Boo-Hoo Birthdays

I am waiting for my birth mother to show up at my party.

I am waiting for my birth mother to show up at my party.

Let’s think about the concept of birthdays for adoptees. First, what does a birthday represent for the non-adopted person? For most, it’s a happy time, built on the foundation of being welcomed into the world. A time for birthday cakes, parties, and balloons.

Now consider an adoptee’s birthday. What does a birthday represent for him? It represents the day of his greatest loss, the day he lost his birth mother and all that was familiar. It was not only his birthday, but his loss-day.

For the child who was adopted later in childhood, it reminds him of the wrenching-apart day–the day that the past, as he knew it, was to be no longer. For the baby adopted as an infant, the loss happened before he had words to describe it, but it was real, nonetheless. The present-day birthday serves as a trigger, reminding him of past loss.

Nancy Verrier says in The Primal Wound of the child adopted at birth, “There seems to be an anniversary reaction (also felt by the birth mother), which sends many adoptees into despair around their birthdays… is it any wonder that many adoptees sabotage their birthday parties? Why would one want to celebrate the day they were separated from their birth mothers? The adoptees, of course, have probably never really understood, themselves, why they do this.”

With the best of intentions, those who love the adoptee celebrate the day as if she were a non-adopted person. However, in the midst of the parties, in the midst of the celebration, many adoptees feel churned up inside. They know they are supposed to be happy, but a nagging thought plagues them: “I wonder if she (the birth mother) is thinking about me today. If she does on any day of the year, certainly it would be today.”

Weighing heavily upon the adoptee as well are society’s romanticized views of adoption. Be happy. Be grateful you have a family. Don’t disappoint your parents.

The adoptee’s response to all of the above? More often than not, he slips into the role of the “good adoptee,” following through with what others expect. Shoved aside is his true self, sometimes wanting only to cry and be comforted. Or he does what I did by acting out my chaotic feelings and sabotaging everyone’s effort to show me love.

I don’t know about this, you may be thinking. I have never witnessed these behaviors in my child. Maybe not, but before you reach any conclusions, listen to the experts–adoptees themselves–and hear what they have to say.

What Adoptees Say About Birthdays

Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher describe a scene between a three-year-old and her adoptive mother in Talking with Young Children About Adoption:

“Is she coming? Is my lady coming?” the child asks.
“Which lady?” the mother asks.
“You know,” child replies, “the lady I grew inside. It’s my birthday, isn’t it?”

“I purposely go out of town on my birthday because I don’t want any attention,” sid a thirty-year-old male adoptee. “So I was born. Big deal. I don’t want any attention.”

“I hate my birthday,” Trisha confessed to her support group.

Reflectiang on his teen years, Bob said, “Birthdays made me feel awkward when I was an adolescent.”

Dan said that birthdays were always bittersweet for him. As a child, he said he felt like he was living in a gap, or a changing room. Birthdays were a time when he remembered his birth mother and felt like the two of them were kindred spirits. Whenever he communicated these thoughts to his adoptive family, they had difficulty relating to what he was trying to say. He confessed, “On birthdays, I wished I could have been a better child for my adoptive parents.”

When Sarah turned eighteen, she felt very melancholy as she thought about her birth mother. All day Sarah ruminated: “I wonder what she is thinking.”

“My birthday is the blackest day of my year,” Melinda said. “My husband would always know because I would either lay in bed at night and cry or soak in the tub and sob. I wondered if my birth mother knew what today was.”

Beth says, “As I look back at my childhood, I think I felt the uninvited guest at my own party. I was there but disassociated. I was in the midst of some kind of script and moved through it, but without any heart, without any sense of connection or aliveness. I’m not sure why I cringe when I hear about the celebrations of Adoption Day. For me, the joining with a new family carries with it the separation from another family. This is a gigantic double bind: celebrating joining and simultaneously grieve leaving. I think this is impossible.

Even though your adoptee may not verbalize similar thoughts and feelings, she may feel like the adoptees just cited. Of all the adoptees I have met, there is only a small minority that couldn’t identify with some of the above statements.

Why isn’t this written about in adoption literature? you may be wondering. Good question! I believe that for the most part it is uncharted territory. Perhaps that’s because adoptees rarely, if ever, talk about it, and parents or caring therapists might not have a clue that it is a problem.

What Parents Can Do

Recognize Distress Signals

Even though most adoptees don’t talk about it, I believe there are clues parents can look for in assessing whether their child is struggling with birthdays. Some of the symptoms you can look for in your child are:
• feeling sad and angry at the same time
• feeling like they can’t enjoy themselves
• trying extra-hard to please you
• wanting to run away and hide
• criticizing those who give gifts
• criticizing the gifts themselves
• feeling victimized by expressions of love–none of them are enough
• daydreaming (possibly wondering about birth mother)
• being disgusted with themselves for acting angry or critical
• feeling an unusual level of anxiety
• minimizing the importance of their birthday–“It’s is no big deal”
• sabotaging birthday celebrations
• depression
• withdrawal
• self-condemnation.

If your child demonstrates any of these symptoms of distress, respond in some of the validating and comforting ways you’ve learned in other chapters. But don’t look for problems where there are none. Not all adoptees have a difficult time on their birthday. Many aren’t phased at all.

One female adoptee said, “Mom always made everything so wonderful. One year she let me invite my whole fourth grade class to my birthday party.”

Twenty-seven year old Bill said that his parents celebrated both adoption and birthdays. “I felt like I had two birthdays. It was great.”

Establish Special Birthday Rituals

Bill said his mother established certain rituals that brought a sense of continuity and belonging for him. Special dinners with all the family members present. Celebrating adoption day as “miracle day”–the day they brought him home to be their own.
Another thing you may want to consider to help your child deal with the mixture of feelings is to pull the grief box off the shelf at birthday time and add another item–perhaps a birthday candle. Go through all the emotions described in an earlier chapter to help the child get in touch with her feelings. Then put the grief box up on the shelf until it is needed again. If using the grief box doesn’t seem appropriate, perhaps you could pull your child’s life book out and go through it from day one, reading the welcoming letter you wrote to your child.

Ask Questions

Ask questions of your child preceding and on his special day. “What would you like to do on your birthday?” “How are you feeling about your birthday approaching? Some adoptees feel sad or even angry on that day. Do you ever feel that way? If you do, it’s okay to talk about it with us. We will do our best to understand and help you work through the mixture of feelings.”

Give Your Child Extra Attention

Think about some of the things that soothe your child. If he likes back rubs, give him one. Children need to calm their bodies, which are keyed up with tension.
Beefing up bedtime rituals can also be soothing: an extra story, a massage, a night light, thinking together of some good dreams to have, or a tape recorder to play some favorite music.
There is no sure-fire way to predict how your child will handle birthdays, but at least now you will be sensitive to the possibility that he may have unspoken needs.

SherrieEldridge.com

One Adoptee’s 69th Birthday Reflections

Surprise blessings come when from the Gift-Giver Himself.

Surprise blessings come when least expected.

“Look!” the people around the campfire called out, pointing to the cypress trees that lined the famous Monterrey, California grill.

Suddenly, a bagpiper came out of the woods, playing a melancholy tune.
She wore authentic bagpiper regalia, walking through the field toward us.

It was a special touch to an evening that we didn’t think could be any better.

That’s the way I look at my life touched by adoption, today on my 69th birthday. I am grateful that God has given me these years and been with me every step of the way, comforting, guiding, teaching, nurturing.

Like many who thank their birth mothers for life, I thank her for the gift of birth. However, the One responsible for creating and sustaining my life is Father God himself.

Just when I think life couldn’t be any better, he surprises me with things like:

-a real, forgiving attitude toward my birth mother
-showing me the flip side of the profound wound
-dismantling misplaced anger and learning the innate beauty of anger
-a life that is chocked full of passion and purpose

Seeing the bagpiper at Monterrey Bay was fabulous. I will never forget it, as I will never forget the God who constantly reminds me in surprising ways that I am his idea.

SherrieEldridge.com

SherrieEldridge.com

What Reuniting Adoptees Need to Hear from Birth Relatives

Experts say that when birth mothers and their children reunite, it is like one thousand emotions all at once. Supposedly, both return to the place of separation.

Yikes, talk about vulnerability!

Everyone is afraid of saying the wrong thing, for we all know that words can hurt or heal. We tiptoe around “on eggshells.”

Thus, it is helpful for all if to craft “first words” before meeting one another. It might even be a good idea to role play before the actual reunion.

Looking back, I’m sharing some of the words and phrases my birth family members said to me that built me up.

Edifying Words

DSCN0017

1. Rejection is not in my vocabulary.
2. I don’t do “half” anything–“You’re my sis and that’s it.”
3. You can try to get rid of us, but we won’t go away.
4. You’re a (last name of birth family) now and we’ll never disown you.
5. Your voice sounds just like your mother’s.
6. Sis, you are so beautiful.
7. Giving every bit of genealogy possible.
8. Your grandparents would have been so proud of you. They would have loved you so much.

Which statement do you like the best?
Is there one that doesn’t set right with you? Tell us why.
Add some of your faves.

SherrieEldridge.com

SherrieEldridge.com

Amazing Research News For Birth Mothers and Adoptees

This research about birth mother and child connection will blow your mind! It did mine, anyway.

This research will blow your mind! It did mine, anyway.

Thanks to science, we now have a deeper glimpse into our Creator’s heart that cherish’s birth mothers and their sacrificial gift in adoption….and for the child that is adopted.

We all know from Dr. Thomas Verny in The Secret Life of the Unborn Child that:
~the birth mother’s heartbeat and warmth of her body makes the baby feel safe
~the birth mother’s emotional tone sets the child’s emotional landscape while in utero
~the unborn child knows whether he is wanted by the birth mother
~the unborn baby has her first conversation with her birth mother during the last trimester of pregnancy

Yes, the above facts are amazing…but now, listen to this:

V.K. Gadi, associate professor at the University of Washington says that, “Doctors have known for years that mothers and babies exchange blood during pregnancy and childbirth.”
Birth mothers don’t totally lose their children. They actually carry them close.

Researchers are also finding that birth mothers carry some of their children’s cells for years or decades after pregnancy. Emerging research suggests that the cells left behind oftentimes act like stem cells, repairing current or future wounds in the mother.

How encouraging to this me to know that part of me helped heal part of my birth mother, Elizabeth. What a perfect example of our forever connection, made by God himself.

Please share your response to this marvelous news!

Sherrie_Signature.2

Source: (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/12/fetal-cells-repair-strokes/5412383/)

Forgiveness A Command, Reconciliation An Option?

The longer I walk this journey called adoption, the stronger my belief is that the key–the whole key–to being healthy and thriving, to having a cup brimming over with joy, is to learn to forgive.

We all need to learn what true forgiveness means. You will be surprised.

We all need to learn what true forgiveness means. You will be surprised.


How I wish I would have known some of the things I’ve learned lately about forgiveness and reconciliation. In Dr. Henry Townsend’s book Forgiving the Unforgivable, he clarifies the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation.

Forgiveness is an act of obedience for Christians. Reconciliation, however, is not the same as forgiveness. Reconciliation is an option for those like myself who met a cruel birth mother. We don’t need to keep trying to reconcile. I came to the conclusion with my mother that I was banging my head against a brick wall. We don’t have to do that, fellow adoptees!

We can shake the dust off our feet and go on with an overflowing cup….as in “my cup runneth over.”

Dr. Townsend gives about a ten-question quiz about forgiveness. It’s true/false. I’ll be sharing some of that next week!

In the meantime, stay well and safe!

To leave a reply, scroll down below verbiage to the black box.

SherrieEldridge.com

SherrieEldridge.com

What If Your Adoption Glass Is Half Empty?

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If our adoption glass is half empty, we’ll be growing something in our hearts that is downright malicious. Something unseen and destructive. Something that keeps us from growing and moving toward maturity. Something that keeps us looking at life in a distorted way.

We will fight for our rights to be heard and even become somewhat militaristic. We will make loss our focus and all the while, we will be growing a deep root of bitterness inside, resulting in anger, rage, depression, guilt, and self-loathing. Not a pretty picture or healthy life.

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I propose becoming “fair and balanced.” Of course there is loss involved in adoption, but for every loss, there is a gain. The deepest losses should produce the highest gains.

Just for fun, trying reversing the loss issues in your life and see if you can make a list of gains.

You may be pleasantly surprised when you’re done!

And, how I would love it if you shared some gains here (black box way down after verbiage).

SherrieEldridge.com

SherrieEldridge.com

I Need to Know the Truth About My Conception, Birth, and Family History, No Matter How Painful the Details May Be

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The late Betty Jean Lifton, author of Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience, describes the adoptee’s growing awareness of his desire to know more about his biological family as an awakening: “The act of adoption puts us under a spell that numbs our consciousness. When we awaken it startles us to realize we might have slept our lives away, floating and uprooted…The adoptee awakens when he or she realizes that not to know (who gave them birth) would be to live life without meaning. The curiosity has always been there, waiting to be released.”

Awakenings happen at various times for adoptees, sometimes and to some degree during childhood, often to a greater degree as the adoptee grows older. My greatest awakening was at mid-life, when I enrolled in a college writing class and was assigned to take a few facts, weave them together with historical data, and create a story. Since I only knew a few details about my birth family, I chose that as my topic.

This blog piece is drawn from Chapter 10 of Twenty Things Adopted Kids WIsh Their Adoptive Parents Knew

This blog piece is drawn from Chapter 10 of Twenty Things Adopted Kids WIsh Their Adoptive Parents Knew

I remember sitting for hours in the library, my head buried in the study cubicle, pouring over tattered, musty books describing maternity homes in the 1940’s. I learned of the awful stigma and shame society laid upon women experiencing untimely pregnancies. I learned about the vulnerability of married women whose husbands were off at war. Dark thoughts and emotions stirred in me and my heart began to weep for the birth mother I never knew.

For many adoptees, the need to find the birth family becomes all-consuming and an actual search begins. I grew relentless in my search for more information. I interviewed elderly nurses and found out what procedures were used during births. “What was my birth like for my mother…and for me?” “Was anyone there for my birth mother?” “Did she ever get to see me or hold me?”

I thought for the first time of the excruciating pain of having to give up a child, leave the hospital with empty arms, and go on with life as if nothing had happened. I longed to tell my birth mother that she had done the right thing. I wanted to let her know that I was all right.

Little by little, my birth family was coming to life in my psyche. Finally I realized what I had been searching for all my life: a connection to my “real” life–the real me–before I was adopted, and the whole truth about my past that would enable me to live my present more honestly and fully.

Going Through Home Again

As a parent you may be wondering, Why is it so important that our adopted child know the truth about her origins? What good will that do? Why put her through all that?

Author Carlye Marney, in Achieving Family Togetherness, once suggested that there are at least 80,000 generations behind each one of us, and that we are incapable of blessing ourselves or giving blessing to others until we are first able to bless our origins. Marney terms this process of blessing one’s origins “going through home again.”

Going through home again is no easy process for an adoptee, for her origins are often shrouded in secrecy. Secrecy about her conception, secrecy about her birth, and secrecy about her family history. How can she bless her origins if she doesn’t know what they are?

Webster’s says to bless means:
• to bestow good of any kind
• to honor, to beautify
• to be in favor of
• to endorse
• to smile upon
• to pardon.

Think about these words in regard to your child. I know you would agree on every point that this is what you want for her. You want her to be able to smile upon herself…to be in favor of herself…and ultimately to pardon others who may have given her a painful beginning. In other words, you want to implant in her a healthy self-esteem, regardless of her past history.

The saying, “When you know the truth, the truth will set you free,” is applicable here. I am reminded of a poster with the above verse and picture of a rag doll being pushed through an old-fashioned wringer. A good reminder that the truth is often painful.For example, when Cathy found out that she had been conceived in rape, her heart sunk at the sound of the words. She was one who therapist Dr. Randolph Severson, in To Bless Him Unaware, described as a “child whose life leapt into being through a degrading, terrifying act of sexual violation.” Cathy never imagined in her darkest fantasies that this could be a possibility. Yet it was her truth, and it led her to a greater truth: that something good came out of that terrible violation of her birth mother. That good thing was her. It also helped her learn about her birth mother and all that she had been through in order to give her life.

There may be many truths that will be difficult to tell your adopted child. Perhaps the birth mother was a crack addict. Perhaps there is a history of mental illness, neglect, or sexual abuse in the family.

Jeanine Jones, MSW, CCSW, and adoptive mother of seven said in an article appearing in Jewel Among Jewels Adoption News: “No, it is not a joyous time when your child wants to see all his information and you’re concerned that what he reads will hurt him. This is a time for honesty, compassion, and relationship building.”

Your child, at the appropriate age, can actually benefit from hearing painful information about his past because he will know that finally you are telling him the honest, gut-level truth. Kids are geniuses at detecting untruths. This giving of information doesn’t have so much to do with the truth about his past as it does with his relationship with you and with himself. He is learning to trust you at a deeper level and he is also developing self-esteem. He is possibly having some of the ugliest and most painful information about his past revealed by you, yet at the same time you are demonstrating that you love him just as he is.

As this relationship of trust and love deepens, he can decide what he wants to do about the option of searching for more facts or for birth family members. Whether or not he goes ahead with an actual search, the relationship between you and him will have grown tremendously.

How to Know When Your Child Is Searching

Now I am beginning to see the necessity of the adoptee going through home again, as well as the challenge, you may be thinking. Are there any behaviors I can look for in my child to know if he is wanting to go through home again?

Yes, there will be behaviors that will help you know if your child is inwardly heading in that direction. Learn to listen, as you have been, with your heart. Keep in mind the wise words of Drs. Brodzinsky and Schecter from their book Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self. These doctors have thirty years combined experience in dealing with adopted children. When asked what percent of adoptees search for their birth parents, their answer was one hundred percent. “In our experience,” they said, “all adoptees engage in a search process. It may not be a literal search, but it is a meaningful search nonetheless.”
Sometimes the adoptee’s desire to go through home again is subtle or masked. Following are some ways adoptees may express their unspoken need.

For children:

• The search begins in their imagination, through the telling of fairy tales and stories.
• Can show up as early as three years old through play. (Look particularly for themes of loss and rescue–lost animals, lost children, etc.)
• After you tell her about her adoption, she asks, “Why did it happen?”
• She may wonder where her birth parents are now. “Where are they?” “Will she come and see me someday?”

For adults:

• “You can take a dog to a vet and find out what kind he is, but I can’t even find out what my heritage is.”
• “I wish I could tell her (birth mother) how much I love her for bringing me into the world.”
• “Meeting my birth father was validating for who I am.”
• “Now that I have met her (birth mother), I know how to be.”
• “Knowing your birth family gives you a point of reference.”
The truth can and probably will be painful for the adoptee, but most of us want it all. We want truth on every level–physical, emotional, and spiritual.

What Parents Can Do

At the earliest age possible, introduce information about the birth family. The words “birth mother” and “birth family” shouldn’t be some strange term imposed on the child later in life. Instead, the child’s history should be presented in terms which even the pre-schooler can understand. I am so glad your birth mommy gave you to us to love. Maybe it was your birth mommy who gave you that beautiful curly hair!
Vicky remembers her mother’s anxiety about the subject of her birth mother. On the night before she was married, her mother nervously revealed her birth mother’s name and the few facts she knew about the birth family’s history. “Not only did it seem awkward and out of place, but it felt like a betrayal,” Vicky said. “Why didn’t she tell me earlier? Why did she withhold something so vital to my well-being? It also created feelings of shame. Was there something awful about my past or me that made her so nervous?”

It wasn’t until many years later that Vicky learned that her birth mother had been raped. She was confident am sure her adoptive mother was aware of this because her grandmother was the social worker who handled her private adoption.
“If my mother had shared that information with me earlier in life, I am sure I could have handled it,” Vicky said. “Yes, it would have been painful. Yes, it probably would have created more questions about my history, but it would have empowered me to be able to trust and love my adoptive mother more.”

Vicky realizes the toll it took on her. “Because I was not given the painful details of my conception until I was forty-three years old, it took me a lot of time and energy to be able to separate the circumstances of my conception from who I am as a person. For years after finding out the circumstances, I said that ‘I was conceived in rape.’ Whenever I said those words, my soul flooded with shame and sadness. One day I realized that I was carrying the pain and shame of my birthmother. After that I learned to simply say ‘my mother was raped.’ That removed the incessant shame from me and enabled me to love my birth mother more.”

What a gift you would be giving to your child by sharing all of his history with him as the time arises. You would be able to help him work through the complex task of separating the painful circumstances from his who he is as a person.
I am not advocating that you sit down with your four-year-old child and share the negative aspects of his conception and birth, but I am advocating answering his questions honestly whenever the opportunity arises.
Let the child lead. You will know when the time is right because he will begin to ask questions. Expect questions about his birth mother as early as age three. Adoption may seem like a wonderful thing to your pre-school child, but when he reaches school age, he will begin to realize that to be chosen means that he was first rejected by someone. Why didn’t my birthmother want me? Where is my birthmother now? Did you ever meet her? Do you think that she would like me if she knew me now?

I cringe when saying the word “rejection” because it sheds an unfavorable light on the birthmother and her decision to relinquish. This is not my intent. However, it is important to realize that relinquishment translates to the adoptee as rejection no matter how much the birth mother loved him. This is the adoptee’s emotional reality and probably the point at which his questioning will occur.

Think through possible scenarios of how you will answer your child’s questions before he becomes curious. When the time comes, your confidence and serenity will let him know that it is okay to ask questions and express his true feelings.

You probably will not have all the answers to his questions, especially if you adopted internationally. Nevertheless, he can learn to have a settled peace about his origins knowing that in this life there will always be unanswered questions.
Learn to listen to your child’s spoken and unspoken messages. This will clue you in to what part of the information upsets him. “You’ve got to be kidding?” “Oh, no way.” “That is horrible.” “I don’t want to hear any more.” These are indications that he has digested all the information he can at this particular time. What are the non-verbals? Remember that this is your first avenue of communication before words. Does he throw up his hands in utter disbelief? Does he get a far-away look in his eyes or drift off into a catatonic stare? Does he swallow hard? Does his body stiffen? If so, pay close attention. If he stares, he is likely frozen in fear. If he is swallowing hard, he may be overwhelmed. If his body stiffens, he may be communicating that he just can’t tolerate any more.

Remember that adoption is a life-long journey. Questions about his birth and birth family will surface at each developmental stage of life. Times of change–going to high school, leaving home for college, getting married and having children of his own, mid-life, old age–will often be the precursor to history issues resurfacing. However, the information you have already given him will not be a millstone around his neck; rather, it will provide him with a context to learn deeper lessons about what it means to be adopted. Ultimately, growth will occur.

You probably would agree that “going through home again” by learning birth history is not an easy task for most adoptees. Some adoptees have no desire to learn anything beyond the adoption story. However, when your child expresses his need to go through home and learn what he can about his past, no matter how painful the details, trust his instincts. The end result may well be that he will finally be able to look back on his past with pardon and upon himself with favor.

Copyright 1999, Sherrie Eldridge, Random House Publishing. No reprinting without permission of author.

An INCREDIBLE Find Unearthed in Israel By One Adoptee

White Jade is emblematic of the Tribe of Dan. This stone would have been on the High Priest's breastplate as he entered the Holy of Holies.

White Jade is emblematic of the Tribe of Dan. This stone would have been on the High Priest’s breastplate as he entered the Holy of Holies.

I am one blessed woman! More has been uncovered about my family’s history than I ever dreamed possible. But, isn’t that like God to prove he can and does give beyond our wildest imaginations?

Tribe of Dan

Before Bob and I left on a trip for Israel, my dear birth cousin, Sharon, (an incredible genealogist) told me that our family originated with the Tribe of Dan. Surely, she told me this before but it didn’t register. It wasn’t time for me to awaken to new adoption discoveries.

So, while in Israel, guess what my focus was?

You guessed it–my family’s birth history.

Through an incredible series of events that would take a book, God made it clear to me that I have Jewish roots, coming from my grandmother’s side.

Putting the Pieces Together

I’ll just tell you one thing, okay? On the day our group was to enter Jerusalem, the streets and highways were so crowded that our tour guide, Tito, decided to take us to the grave site of President Ben Hurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. While listening to him describe different Jewish names, he said that “green” is a common prefix. Because of all the history my cousin had given me, I knew that my grandmother’s maiden name was “Greenless.”

Like a child, I got so excited when putting these pieces of the puzzle together. Tito confirmed that it has to come from the grandmother’s side to be authentic.

So, I am Jewish! What a wonderful discovery for this adoptee’s human identity. This is only one of the many things God has shown me in the last couple of years.

I believe it SO exciting to be an adopted person!

SherrieEldridge.com

SherrieEldridge.com

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