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Posts Tagged ‘birth parents’

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Guest Blogger:  Adrienne Carwheel

Typically when a REALLY good TV show is on, social media tells the tale. Random running commentary complete with people screaming at the screen (via text) accompanies some of the best shows out there. 

I join in the revelry, identifying with characters, criticizing their decisions, relationships, and posting my frustration with fellow watchers-except when watching the bane of my existence, yet absolute private addiction:

This.Is.Us

I have to prepare myself and not just because it is really emotional screen time, but because as someone who identifies as an adult adoptee, I need a minute to process all of what I see and hear…alone.

Randall, oh sweet Randall. You move me. The way you have to face race, identity and adoption is just beautiful. The mark of a really good show is when you can picture yourself living through the characters, what they think, and how they feel. 

Randall, like me, as an adult adoptee, made a conscious decision to research his origin. Meeting William, his birth father, was an integral part of his journey, and the precious time they spent before his death was a gift that both of them were able to hide in their hearts.

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I reunited with my one section of my birth family in 1997 and the other in 2015. It was a painstaking, yet fulfilling quest of fact-finding. I saw my same nose, my same chin, my same mannerisms and idiosyncratic behaviors that no adoption could ever sever.

I believe that there are some lessons from Randall that we can learn in the area of adoptee “self-care” as it were. It was obvious that he dealt with extreme anxiety and although successful, and in a loving family, the weight of the world, at times, proved to be too much. 

1. Watch the show and process with people who get you.

If your people don’t understand why a TV show could have you weeping in a corner, those are not your people. Whether you are an adoptee reunited, in a closed adoption, or even a parent of an adoptee, being presented with complicated issues where art imitates life, takes some self care. 

I don’t envy my husband since he is married to an adoptee. Some of us see the world through such a different lens, holding on, thinking and feeling–longing. My husband represents what Beth is to Randall in the show.

2. Don’t be ashamed of your story

Television sometimes can portray the perfect nuclear family, however, shows that portray the messiness of life are the best. In life, our stories don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. Adoption begins with loss, but even if reunion doesn’t occur, you still have a path and all is not lost.

3. It is part of who you are, but not all of who you are

I struggled for a long time with the loyalty that comes with longing for birth family, yet being implanted in a loving adoptive family. My birth family gave my life, but my adoptive family taught me how to live it.

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Adrienne Carwheel was adopted at birth is now an adoptive mom of two young girls. Adrienne and her husband are currently in open adoptions with the birth families of their children. She has also served in the following roles:

Connect a Kid Mentor

Guest speaker for Miriam’s Heart

Administrator for transracial adoption group
Book Club Leader for African American Adoptive Mothers
Adrienne is also a good friend, someone I have had the pleasure of working with in the past a few times.  She always brings a peacefulness and calm to everything we do together.    Adrienne, Dawn(the  birth mother from the last post),  and I share the stage together in what we call The TRIAD TALKS.  We are 3 adoptees that represent each branch of the triad.  It is a powerful 90 minutes of each of us sharing and helping others, as well as each other,  understand the different roles involved in adoption.  It is a healing 90 minutes.
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Recently I was contacted through my blog by Bryan Tucker.  Bryan is the director of the documentary film, Closure.  He simply asked if I would be willing to view the doc and do a review.  I had heard about the movie and have been meaning to check it out but just hadn’t had the opportunity.  I agreed to do so and below is more my response to the film than it is a review.  For those that don’t know, Closure is the documentary about a transracial adoptee, Angela Burt-Tucker, who searches for her birth family. For information on how to purchase a copy just click on the link closuredocumentary.com 

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I cried more for Angela’s searching and reunion experience than I did my own.  I sat in my quiet office with the door closed, tears racing down my cheeks, my nose running as if it was late for a train, and I wept.  The connection that I never got with my search was there for hers.  While watching her search I realized that often when you are the searcher, so much energy is expended in the chase.  The focus becomes on the process instead of the product.  I saw that focus in Angela.  She was stoic and strong for most of the movie putting process before product and I saw myself in her.   All throughout the movie I wondered if Angela heard and understood the weight of what her adoptive parents said or if she caught what Bryan, her husband, the director captured in a shot. I realized my need to pause the film for Angela was really my need to pause the film for myself, to understand and realize so much about this adoption journey.  My concern became so much about what Angela was missing because it was what I missed during my process.

Interestingly, the movie called Closure brought me healing and closure.  It gave me the opportunity to mourn the fact that my mother and I never met.  It gave me permission to grieve the loss of a connection I never made.  It allowed me the time to fantasize about meeting my biological father and his family and I needed that.  This was my adoptee response and I enjoyed it and appreciated Angela’s courage in sharing her search.

The adoption trainer in me wanted to also keep pausing the film.  I wanted to point out to the adoptive families how important the search can be to an adoptee. I thought Bryan did an amazing job of verbalizing his journey and growing understanding of the search as he watched his wife walk this path.  I was struck by Bryan’s understanding and his humility to admit at times he didn’t know certain things yet he showed his desire to understand more. I wanted to highlight and underline when Angela’s mother shared that initially she was reluctant about the search but then confessed, “I realized that it wasn’t going to change my status of being her mom if she found her birth mother.” WOW!  I wanted her to say that over and over so the adoptive parents could hear it clearly.  IT DOESN’T CHANGE YOUR STATUS!  As a trainer I would love to create a workshop around this film.  This is a movie ALL adoptive parents and professionals should see to help address the many issues that come with adoption and searching.

I appreciated the humans that showed up behind the scary names of “birth mother and father.”  So much concentration is often directed towards the past sins and mistakes of birth parents that we forget there are people behind those terms.   I appreciated that the portrayal of Angela’s black relatives was real and common and calm and enlightening.  As a person of color, I am sensitive to that and I found them to be engaging, wise, caring, and welcoming.  I was thankful for that.

The transracial adoptee in me had to keep telling myself initially this is not a documentary on transracial adoption.  I think it is important to understand that going in.  This is a documentary on an adoptee’s journey to find her birth family.  Oh and by the way she happens to be a transracial adoptee.    Although race is a big part of life as a transracial adoptee we have other powerful stories that can be told and this is one worth hearing.

Towards the end of the movie…it happened.  I saw Angela crying and I was relieved.  Finally, the product was trumping the process and that made me smile.

The wonderful thing is that through our experiences others learn and grow and identify.  So often I am the one sharing experiences so others can grow.  Closure allowed me an hour and 16 minutes to grow and learn and identify. The movie showed the pain, the fear, the ups, the downs, the expected and the unexpected and it showed everything that searching is. It was through Angela’s story that I understood my own story, my adoptive parent’s story, and my birth parent’s story on a deeper level which created some closure for me.

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Inside my plastic mailbox in front of my house, with the little red flag sticking up, is my application for a Confidential Intermediary.  Since I was born in Michigan, and my birth mother never signed a form to allow me access to my information, it is assumed she didn’t want me to be able to look into my own file.  It is important to point out that she never signed anything period but the courts have decided that the absence of any form translates into no access.  This ruling has already denied me the right to meet my birth mother.  When I located her, on my own, I was 6 years too late.  She died before I could find her.

She also died without ever telling who my father was so my only option at this point is to play by the rules of the Michigan court system.

The rules are simple.  I first must request a confidential intermediary via the application that sits in my mailbox waiting to be picked up.  The filing fee is $20.00.  Once  the Wayne County clerk gets my application they will then assign my case to a confidential intermediary(CI).  The CI will then contact me and this person has been authorized by the courts to charge me $250.00 plus expenses.  Once I send the CI my check, the CI will then go in to my file, get the name of my birth father and their search begins.  The CI will locate and contact my birth father.   If my birth father says he isn’t interested the process is over.  I lose my $250.00 and I get nothing in return.  The identity of my father remains a secret and the right that every other US Citizens has; to know their birth parents, is denied.

The frustration that fuels that last sentence is indescribable.  The fact that I have been denied what so many take for granted makes me want to march up to Lansing Michigan and sit on the capital steps and scream until I am heard.  The futility of doing that stops my march before it begins.

If my birth father is interested in meeting me then he gets my contact information and I get his.  In this process, I have to be willing to go all-in.  I have to push my poker chips to the center of the table and surrender to the process.  There is no option to just get the information on my birth father.   This is a decision I struggle with off and on.  There are days when I want to meet, and there are days when I don’t.  But there is never a day I don’t want to know his name and  know something about him.  Taking the leap to know him is terrifying.

The last scenario I am faced with is that my birth father may be deceased.  If this is the case, then I am awarded his name and from that I can order  his death certificate which can lead me to an obituary where I can find additional information  regarding other  relatives.  The freedom in doing that at my own pace is attractive.  The fact that I gain from such a great loss is unjust.

As each adoptee searches, there is the chance that we could be rejected again and the thought of that compresses my mind in my skull.  I have weighed this process and the many outcomes over and over and I am sick of being held captive by it.  My hope is that any answer will bring some relief.  Playing the what-if-game has gotten to be torturous.

It is time to go all-in.

Photo credit

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Don’t for get about the Webinar on April 28, 2011–THE TRANSCULTURAL TEN.  See link at the top of the column on the right.

*Feel free to reprint this post on your own blog. I’ll be happy to e-mail you the HTML, so all you have to do is copy & paste, and the formatting will remain intact. If you reprint it, please include the following byline:

Kevin D. Hofmann, author of  Growing Up Black In White, Consultant in Adoption, and creator of  MY MIND ON PAPER;  a blog written to adoptive parents from an adoptee’s point of view.

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