Friday, March 28, 2008

Da Count-They Did It Right

This is going to be a bit of a trip before I get to the good stuff I am counting. Please bear with me as I spew out some ugliness that feels like it is poisoning me before I get to what is worthy of counting. If you've read me any amount of time you know I try to keep it positive but there has been something just gnawing at me.

I read a book this week that has sat in my "to read" pile for a long time. After churning through it in a single night I wish I had never read it. It infuriated me. Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge would seem by its title to speak for any adoptee but let me assure you it does not. After the first chapter I wanted to fling the book in the fireplace but I decided that was not giving the author her full say and to be fair I had to finish the book. My opinion of her views did not improve one iota over the course of the book.

Ms. Eldridge asserts that every adoptee, from the moment of relinquishment by birthparents, even as newborns, is a profoundly brokenhearted individual in need of very careful handling as if we are the most fragile of souls. If we act out in defiant or destructive ways over the course of our lives it is because we have suffered such deep psychic trauma over the loss of our birthparents. If we are well-behaved and productive members of society it is because we are overcompensating and masking all this heart-searing pain hoping the world will stop rejecting us. Basically, every adoptee should be in lifelong therapy because there is no other way we could possibly be healthy individuals. If our adoptive parents have any smarts at all they will make sure that every time we misbehave they ask us if it is because we are missing our birthmothers and if we are behaving is it so she will come back. (Can I scream now at the absurdity of her sweeping generalization?)

To be fair, I accept that Ms. Eldridge is 20 years older than I am and in her day adoption was cloaked in much more secrecy. Families were advised to pretend there was no such thing as adoption, not to answer questions. I will say that any time it is handled with secrecy and carries a sense of shame that I believe a child picks up on that and yes problems can and often do arise. I know other adoptees who found out late in life about the "big secret." It understandably caused a tremendous amount of anger and confusion and damage. I truly grieve for those who have endured such deception. Just don't assume because your experience was negative and scarring that mine was too. I resent that very deeply. Don't pretend to speak for me. I think what angers me most is that all my life I've dealt with people who aren't adopted assuming that being adopted means I have this great trauma in my life so to have a fellow adoptee insist that I am damaged goods just makes me want to knock my head against the wall. The only credit I will give Ms. Eldridge is that she does encourage open communication between parents and children. I do believe that is critically important.

The truth is, not every adoptive family tries to hide the truth. Many of us have parents who very lovingly and gently gave us answers as we asked questions. As a very young child I can remember being scared that "growing in another lady's belly" meant someone else had some claim on me somehow and might be able to come take me away. When I was older I wanted to know why my birthmother didn't raise me herself. Of course there were other things we discussed over the course of a life time too. My mother always gave me gentle and honest answers that were respectful of my feelings and compassionate toward my birthmother. I always knew it was safe to ask any question. It was safe enough that my mother once told me about how when she was punished as a child she dreamed she must be adopted because no one would be so mean to their child. We laughed together when I told her since I knew I was adopted I used to imagine my birthmother was a princess in a castle ready to rescue me from this terribly mean woman who expected me to clean my own room. Boy, I sound irrevocably damaged don't I? Anyone have the number of a good therapist?

So if you've stuck with me this long, thanks. I am counting my birthmother who knew she could not provide what I needed as a child and made a very difficult decision in my best interest. And I am counting my mother who received me and was ready and able to provide all the love I needed, as well as the honesty in a naturally unfolding manner.


Polt said...

Maybe you're so well adjusted because of your mother's purple obsession! Purple is good for the soul! :)

I kid, I kid.


James Goodman-Horror Writer said...

Ah, don't you just hate it when people try to make assumptions as self imposed experts and they really don't know jack sh###?

Good on you for proving the moron wrong. :D

KFarmer said...

Well spoken! I've know several adopted folks and none fit the bill that "lady" wrote about. Good count! :)

NYD said...

I have read a few books by so called authorities that make sweeping claims and absurd generalisations.
I have always believed that you just can't pidgeonhole the human experience between a couple of hundred pages in a book. It's tough enough to try and do it for a solitary individual, but foolhardy to try and encompass an entire group with a single lariat of logic or theory.

Sheri said...

I don't want to read that book thank you very much. Before we adopted, we had to take weekly 2 hours classes for 12 weeks that covered all this stuff. To be honest, I was really petrified of the unkonown... questions that my future child might ask. Fast forward 12 years and here I am with 9 yr old daughter who once in a while, asks a question about her birthparents. The questions come at the oddest times and we tell her the truth and she usually shrugs and goes on with her day. I agree that 20 years difference in the way adoption is handled has made a huge difference. My daughter has friends/school mates who have half siblings, step siblings, gay parents, single parents, deceased parents, divorced parents etc....In today's world, there are so many ways that families are formed that being adopted isn't out of the norm at all.

furiousBall said...

kids being with good parents that want them is so valuable in this world.

lime said...

polt, LOL i do believe i credited her purple obsession earlier in the week ;) hugs back

james, it makes me crazy!

kfarmer, thank you very much1!

nyd, i could not agree more

sheri, you definitely don't want to read this book. it would put unecessary fears into your heart and make you question the job you are doing as a mother. from reading your blog i believe you and your husband will handle your daughter's questions just fine.

furiousball, it is indeed

Kathryn said...

I'm so glad you got that off of your chest. I don't like generalizations. Especially since, like you said, adoption has changed in societies eyes recently.
My sis-in-law just adopted a baby and that book would be enough to scare the hell out of anyone considering adoption. It almost sounds like the author wants adoption banned, the way she writes. But isn't adoption the most loving act? A couple who has dreamed of a child to love finally given such a gift. And an amazingly selfless and loving mother does the most painful thing imaginable for the betterment of her child? It sounds straight from heaven.
I'm so glad your adoption story is so wonderful. It gives hope to others out there.
Thank you for sharing with us.

barman said...

This is so wonderful Lime.

One of my best friends I have was adopted. Both her and her Sister. They always were loving toward their children. They also we very truthful with them about being adopted. In the end, my friend is still there threw the thick and the thin for her Mom. The other Sister left and never keeps in touch with anyone except this one Aunt on occasion. Speeking for everyone is not an easy thing to do. In this case they were raised the same but you can see one was probably tramatized, the other is fine.

Perfect count Lime.

Akelamalu said...

Experts generalise everything and most they're wrong! :(

lecram said...

Great count! Perhaps the book was a marketing tool (infomercial) for the pop-pysche profession?

Not to make light of it but I have known adoptees who knew and who didn't know (until later) and they (most of them) have been some of the most balanced individuals I have ever come across. Sure, some have fallen through the cracks but that could apply to the general populous.

I agree... honest and loving communication is key.

Jeni said...

I'm a bit confused here -I know, what else is new. But, did this woman write this book as her opinion -only -or did she do research involving surveying, talking to other adoptees to see what it was THEY wanted?
I bought a book last fall -can't remember the title offhand right now -but it was about children who are raised with no father -actually, I think the author focused on girls and primarily those affected by divorce wherein they lost contact with the father. While the author of that book does make a few generalizations, it wasn't filled with them. Growing up and never having the opportunity to know my Dad, as he passed before I was a month old, yes, I could see many correlations between the author's experiences and those of people she interviewed and that was good. But had she written this strictly from her own experience, then I most likely wouldn't have been able to read/compare/understand her theories. And, I think that aspect crosses across to your issues with this particular book too. It sure doesn't sound to me like one I take away good vibes if I were an adoptive or prospective adoptive parent, for sure.

Mona said...

What a stupid theory! I have known adoptees who really enjoy their foster parents and when asked whether they would go to their real parents if they came for them, they always answered in negative.

Casdok said...

Great post.
Daft book!

S said...

Good for you. You ought to write her a letter telling how you feel. She is obviously a therapist looking for appointments.

You seem pretty normal to me.


Anonymous said...

My hat is off to you, first and foremost, for giving the author her full chance to speak. Even though a book is one-sided in that way, I admire you for listening (wholly) to the another side.

I am always suspect of anyone who rights a book with an "answer" -- be it a diet, how to get rich, how to publish, revealing a secret of how people think. I think we should concentrate more on the questions.

Well done, Ms Lime.

Suldog said...

As with any other group of people, it all depends upon the individuals who make up the group. Every time someone tries to say that anyone from a group of people is exactly like everyone else from that group, they can easily be proven to be off their nut.

lime said...

kathryn, i don't believe the author wants adoption banned but she certainly wants adoptees to be treated with kid gloves their entire lives. we have certain things we need to process but her sweeping generalizations were irksome.

barman, true, every situation is different and admittedly if a child is old enough to remember birth parents and perhaps a background of abuse prior to adoption that could really do a number on them.

lecram, exactly my point. thank you!

jeni, the author admitted having no real clinical training but she wrote this book not only from the standpoint of her personal experience but in the voice of a clinician with a sprinkling of statistical information thrown in when it seemed to suit. she also used a lot of anecdotal references which were all skewed toward the damaged side. the handful of healthy examples she mentioned were dismissed as being far from normative.

mona, i have curiosities but it doesn't mean i am unhealthy or that i don't know who my true family is.

casdok, daft is the kindest term i can think of

s, i have considered writing the author to tell her what a disservice i believe she has done. apparently she has some whole ministry to damaged adoptees and prospective adoptive parents and such. gag!

lime said...

witnessing, i do believe strongly in allowing dissenting views to be heard so i had to finish. i originally bought the book because i do think there are a lot of misconceptions about adoption in our society and i was hoping this book might address them intelligently. sadly, i felt it only contributed to them.

suldog, you got that right!

Anonymous said...

I really liked that book. I don't particularly like the direction the author has gone with over the past few years, but personally I found the book very validating.

lime said...

anonymous, i am glad you found something in the book helpful. i do realize not everyone has a positive experience and i can see where it might be helpful to those who are struggling. i just was tremendously disturbed by the notion that none of us are healthy at the outset and all of us are damaged.

Anonymous said...

Lime, this is a wonderful count. There a lot of meaning in your count for me on a personal level... you see, when I was 20 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. His mother was in the room with me. He is adopted and it's open and I see him occationally, but I am very careful not to interfere. I hope one day, when he's old enough to understand who I am and what I did, that he would come to the conclusions you have. I did not give him up because I didn't love him. I gave him up because I loved him more than words and I knew that I couldn't provide him the life he's living now. He's thriving! Almost 7 years old, reading at a 4th grade reading level and the top athlete on his T-ball and Football teams... he's my little angel and he saved my life... without him and the experience I went through my life wouldn't have turned around.

Thank you for sharing!

lime said...

mssolitaire, thank you thank you thank you so much for sharing your story. you have touched me very deeply.

Anonymous said...

Your description of this woman's approach reminds me of the all the politically/psychologically correct parents I see who think "talking" is the correct approach to every issue at any age. I love the moms/dads who try to deal with a three year old having a tantrum in the mall by discussing his behavior. Yeah. That'll work. Grrrrrrrr.

snowelf said...

Let me get you the number of a therapist--So you can pass it on to HER!

Happy Friday, my incredibly non-damaged (save any past or future incidents in the area of ziplining) friend, Lime!


G-Man said...

You didn't like the book?

You turned out to be an incredible human being Michelle. I can certainly understand why you think this is all BS!
Great Post..xox

EmBee said...

From someone(me),who spent her life wishing she was adopted... You are very fortunate indeed to have been surrounded by so much love.

A lovely post my dear, a lovely post!

EmBee said...

btw: Have you had the opportunity to see the movie Juno? I found it delightful and think you might too.

SignGurl said...

You are the perfect example of why adoption is so right.

I applaud your birth mother for knowing that you would be well taken care of in a time when she could not do so.

Your mother is commendable for the way in which she raised such a well rounded intelligent woman.

Like I've said before, you amaze me more each day with your beauty.

Jocelyn said...

Sweetsmartwoman, you should send this off to a magazine. It should be published widely.

lime said...

coopernicus, wait, let me ask that threee year old if the tantrum is a result of some deep psychological pain.

snowelf, bwahahahahaha!

gman, i LOATHED the book

embee, thank you. i'll be honest. i tend to avoid adoption movies because i am so afraid i will wind up hating them.

signgurl, thank you for your kind words. my mom amazes me in so many ways.

jocelyn, i am humbled

Cosima said...

I think that some of these pseudo-science and self-help books are potentially very dangerous, also on other topics. Much better to read experiences and accounts of people on the internet, such as yours, and then form one's own opinion.

Bunny said...

That's just nuts. Most adoptees I know are very well adjusted,happy people. It's very presumptuous of Eldridge to generalize what is apparently her own experience to all adoptees. Bah.

Brian said...


As you know, my sister was adopted as are both of my children.

The experience affects each one of them differently. My sister had a great deal of angst about her adopted status that led to some self destructive behaviors. She never really did find all the answers she sought.

My kids both know as much as I can tell them. I've been open with them since an early age. I've emphasized to them that their birth mother gave them up out of love and sacrifice, knowing she was trying to do the right thing. I'm sure that there will be issues and questions that arise in the next few years and we will do what we need to do to resolve them.

Anytime the word "all" pops up you have to be skeptical of the conclusions, especially when you are talking about human emotions and reactions.

TorAa said...

I do know you are openminded. That's a + when I do consider peoples CV's.

I'm, father of 4.
Anna did adopt the 2 youngest.
My x is still living and we act as brothers and sisters.
Several of our friends have (even a cousin) adopted kids locally and from Asia and South America.

Dear you, I did forget to read the rest of the post---- it's for me also very emotional

Dave Coulter said...

Adoption profoundly improved my family's life. I'm a big fan. :)

Anonymous said...

My mother had to give up a child before she was married - it was the best decision she was able to make at the time. I found that sister 30 yars later, and she counts both her adoptive family and her biological family as "family". I figure, you can't have too many people who love you.

lime said...

cosima, i'd really hate for anyone to take this author as authoritative on the subject.

bunny, yep, the gross generalizations just gets me.

brian, that's the thing, we are all individuals. i know you well enough to know you handle your children's questions and issues with tenderness and love.

toraa, i'm gathering it's been a very good thing for you all?

dave, thanks for weighing in. glad to hear another voice for the side of health and happiness.

citizen, very well said! thank you so much for sharing.

Mona said...

LIME! (((HUGS)))

Bobby said...

Probing those unexplainable dark corners of the human psyche is a tricky business. When there are no concrete, direct links or provable facts, the theories that the experts come up with can vary crazily and can cause hardcore debate and insult and can be just plain crazy.

Palm Springs Savant said...

interesting...I admire you for giving her this platform and all. Lime you never cease to impress me.

Charles said...

Love is a wonderful thing, even though we can't measure it. You've been blessed, and are blessing your own.

Gawpo said...

So what you're saying is you liked the book. And you are recommending it highly.

(why yes, i AM a man. why do you ask?)

BBC said...

I could care less who my birth parents were, and they just happened to be crap anyway. I'm a member of mankind, a member of a fucked up mankind.

Mona said...

Lime, Please come & wish my friend ART a happy Birthday!

lime said...

mona, hugs back and happy birthday to art :)

bobby,true, very true

savant, thank you for such kind words

charles, i am indeed blessed and grateful for it

gawpo, you are SUCH a perceptive fellow ;) love ya!

bbc, how do you really feel?

Desmond Jones said...

Hi, Lime; 1st-time visitor here (Bunny sent me). . .

I'm an adoptee meself; 52 yrs old. I don't ever remember not knowing I was adopted - my parents told me early on that I was adopted, and it just became an interesting fact about my life, on the order of 'I have a mole on my left shoulder'. They told me I had a birth-mother (altho, that term hadn't yet been coined in the late '50s) who, for whatever reason, couldn't raise me herself, so she gave me to a family who could take care of me. So, my notions of both adoption and my birth-mother have always been positive (or neutral, at the very worst).

In my 30s, I searched for and met both of my birth-parents. In the process, I read a lot of adoption and search/reunion books, and I was just dumbstruck at the way so many of them, even the ones that were otherwise pretty helpful, portrayed the adoptee as some kind of emotional cripple. That was so far from my own experience, I just didn't know what to make of it.

Meeting my birth-parents has been a very positive thing for me - something like what Simone Weil called 'a sense of being rooted to this earth'. But (and my parents understand this) it has nothing whatsoever to do with any sense of unhappiness or dissatisfaction with my adoptive family - it simply involves connections and information that my parents didn't have to give me.

And, in the fulness of time, I've been able to convey my gratitude to the parents who raised me, and to the woman who gave me birth, and, what is maybe even more satisfying to me personally, they've met each other, and been able to thank each other. My parents could thank my birth-mother for giving me into their family, and my birth-mother could thank my parents for receiving me. Win-win-win.

Which is not to say that my adopted life has been perfect and peachy in every way. But, it has seemed to me that a lot of the 'issues' that the 'adoption' books highlight are not so specific to adoptees as they are simply human, and adoption provides a convenient bogeyman. . .

San said...

Simpleton pop psych books that insist that one size fits all can do a lot of damage.

I love your count. Cheers to your grip on reality, your wise understanding of your mothers.