Lost and Found: The Adoptee’s Voice

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6597419135_1d428aef25_zTo be found implies you have been lost. Many adoptees express that they feel or have felt lost, due to loss.

Adult adoptees’ insights and experiences should not be ignored or disregarded; however they often are. Adult adoptees’ stories, sometimes painful or joyful or mixed, are valid. They should be invited to the “table” and encouraged to share, instead forgotten or often silenced. Adoptive parents need to listen to their voices.

I agreed to participate in a blog tour created around Jennifer Lauck’s memoir, Found. The blog tour, which goes on through January 17th, was created by the Open Adoption Examiner. Thirty bloggers have written posts, answering a series of proposed questions about adoption and Found.

Lauck, adopted twice before her teens, first shared her story in the national best seller Blackbird. Her sequel, Found, expands on Lauck’s fallout from having been adopted and suffering a traumatic childhood. Recounting her story, Lauck refers to the “primal wound.” It would be helpful if readers and adoptive parents were familiar with that premise (whether they subscribe to it or not).

Below I share my perspectives to several questions put forth from other participants after reading Found. I invite you to share your perspectives here, as well. Please (and thank you) be respectful when commenting; adoption is a complex and emotional topic.

Question: Jennifer Lauck wrote (page 34) “I felt dirty and bad,” when she was told she was adopted. Why? Was it because her brother mentioned the trash? Or there was more?

In my opinion it was both. There was so much secrecy and illness within and around Lauck and her family. From her account, she and her brother didn’t get along well, and he had his own issues. Many adoptees have shared that they feel they must have been “bad” to have been relinquished by their birth mother.

Question: My question is about Jennifer’s early adoption narrative as “God’s gift,” because I see my adopted son as a gift from God. Jennifer turns this metaphor on its ear when after hearing her brother’s declaration, “You’re adopted and gypsy trash.” She seems to suggest that that early narrative was misleading and, ultimately, the cause of her feelings of inadequacy and failure because she was unable to save her mother’s life.  How do you talk your children about their adoption story, particularly when they are very young and unable to grasp all of life’s complexities?

Truthfully, with empathy and respect. The narrative needs to begin immediately, growing into a conversation, in age-appropriate language.  A child should know all of their story, including the difficult truths, before adolescence (somewhere between ages six and eight). Parents need to encourage their children to talk and give them the words for the emotions they feel and express what they feel.

Question: What did you believe was the take-away message of this memoir?  Did that idea change for you when you read the afterward?

From reading Blackbird earlier, I expected that Found would likely go deeper exploring Lauck’s past, hopefully healing further.  I appreciated that she included the afterward and I happen to agree with her when she stated, “…we face a myriad of complex challenges and opportunities that must be faced, discussed, and resolved. Adoptive parents must be better informed. Birth mothers must be better informed. Adoptees must be better informed.”

Much can be learned from listening to and dialoging with older adoptees. I believe that parents can gain a deeper understanding and empathy, for what their child may be feeling or grow to feel as they come to understand what having been adopted means and how it has and will continue impact them and future generations.

Be part of the dialogue. Please take time to be a tourist; explore and share your perspectives about adoption. You may discover other kernels of truth. To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at the Open Adoption Examiner.

~ Photo by Woven in My Heart

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn Davenport January 20, 2012 at 8:55 am

The comments on the Book Tour review of memoir “Found” have become pretty heated. I think the following blog might add to the discussion: “A Dialog Between an Adoptive Parent & an Adult Adoptee” http://bit.ly/yjsx42

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Judy January 20, 2012 at 9:00 am

Thank you for sharing this link, Dawn.

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Jeanette Yoffe January 19, 2012 at 12:12 pm

After having read the blogs related to Jennifer Laucks book “Found”, I am responding in support of the Adoptees point of view as well as an advocate for Adoption Reform, and also as an Adoption Psychotherapist in Los Angeles treating Adoptive Families where I also host a monthly Triad Support Group called Adopt Salon.

I want to first commend Jennifer for writing and sharing “her scientific truth” (that considered, she being a paraprofessional and/or expert in her own life). I have such great respect and empathy for her having endured so much pain and despair due to not having that significant, nurturing “caregiver” to help her make sense of her story through her growing years. I feel for her. Having said that, my experience, working with 100+ Adult Adoptees, is there IS a common “thread of pain, that is psychologically and emotionally connected to that early separation from the birthmothers which, in my experience, if not acknowledged and understood, either in childhood or in adult life will be the core issue that needs to be addressed or else this core self will act itself out in all other relationships.” And you can quote me on this that this “thread of our pain will never be fully resolved… ever! Because it is impossible to fully work through the entire psyche. Science cannot measure the unconscious mind because Science is based on calculations and the emotional mind is immeasurable.” Thus, Jennifer, as well as many adoptees I have encountered, did not get these early opportunities to work through their early losses, because they were babies and could not speak their truths but only cry for their please for their birth mothers to return. In order for Adoptees to heal, in clinical practice, it is important that they connect a “logical language narrative” for their early cries for their birthmothers or their “Primal Wound” will fester and act itself out in destructive ways. There is a common painful joke among adoptees, “we are not ADOPTees, we are ADAPTees.” We are forced to adapt, deny, or “let it go.” Adapting to our losses is not a journey we ultimately choose, “we can’t just get over it, it’s too painful!” And Jennifer had to grow up quickly, in order to survive, by adapting to her experiences of rage, despair and helplessness, which in turn became utter hopelessness, and formed her belief of the world: “The world is not safe” not only for herself but for her brother who could bear it and felt alone in it.

I understand what Jennifer is referencing when she quotes “Within 45 minutes, studies show a baby will go into shock and lose consciousness.” In the book, “Magical Child and Evolution’s End,” Joseph Chilton Pearce reminds us of the same concept “that it takes 45 minutes for an infant separated from his mother to go into shock.” I think this is what Jennifer is referring too when she talks about the experience of early separation and how trauma occurs, develops and lingers in our consciousness. Does this experience stay with an adoptee their whole life and is this early memory a part of their psyche? YES, it cannot be surgically removed and is impossible to eradicate. Believe me if it could be, there would be a yearly event named “Adoptees Black Friday!” Are ALL adoptive kids feelings related to this initial memory, no, BUT, does this early memory affect/influence/inform how they interact, trust, and identify with the world….absolutely YES.” Being adopted, is their initial introduction to the human race…that first experience governs all unless deemed otherwise… by YES, conscious parents, who can help make sense & join with their child’s grief/loss and make sense of it so it is not so unbearable….

Speaking from my own experience, I am not ashamed to say “I have been in years of therapy, making sense of and understanding my own early experiences of the multiple caregivers whom I attached to and were separated from, by no fault of my own, similar to Jennifer’s and I am still grieving All of these losses.” I can’t just get over it, as I hear parents telling their kids all the time….getting over it, just continues to deny that which existed in me and if you deny that part of me, I might as well not exist.” Which is another core issue for adoptees, “not feeling like they exist” or were meant to be here. The early separation from a birth mother that an Adoptee experiences, in my opinion as an Adoptee & ParaProfessional, DOES affect who they are, and DOES inform that core, beginning of their lives as overwhelming and the experience does stay with them the rest of their lives as a “part” of their psyche. I believe, an Adoptees ultimate journey is learning how to manage “the separation of the past from the present and discovering who they want to be in their stories NOW versus identifying with their circumstances then” which, I believe, is what Jennifer is doing by writing her journey and sharing it with the world. Because she does matter and her experience does exist and she is meant to be here.”

In closing, I commend any adoptee who speaks their truth and puts it out there to be reviewed, be seen and be heard. It takes a lot of courage! And if adoptees continue to hide from their early experiences and deny them, they will not know the full strength of their existence.

I share Jennifer’s hope that all members of the Triad be able to heal and find themselves and be free…and I will add “together in our understanding, we can make each other whole if we just listen because we all share the same grief.” -Jeanette Yoffe

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Jennifer Lauck January 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Rather than continue commenting on the various blogs that are a part of this tour, I’ve decided to post this comment on Judy’s site. I feel safe here and know my words will be safe too. Thank you Judy, for your generosity. I hope your work reaches many.

The information provided in Found, on the impact of separating mother and child, is readily available to anyone with the most rudimentary research skills. Someone with more refined research ability will discover even more evidence of the unbreakable bond between the original mother and her child. And in the future, there will be that much more that will be discovered that will reveal our ignorance around this institution we now call “adoption.” Overtime, I have faith that we, as a species, will course correct just as we did when women were given the right to vote and black people were freed from slavery.

Found, like all of my books, Blackbird, Still Waters & Show Me the Way, was a creation of my heart. I wrote of my experience in the language of the senses.

Those who have responded from their own hearts are the ones who have written so well about spontaneous tears, sleepless nights and haunted walks under winter skies. These are the people who “get” the deep stirrings of the heart.

Those who read Found as a prosecuting attorney, eyes squinted and mind a whirl with counter arguments, do not “get” it. And that is fine. I am likely not the right messenger or this is not the right time.

The heart moves in mysterious ways.

After a good deal of quiet and thought, I agree with what Judy has written here. Adoptees are the ones to listen to.

On “Insert Bad Movie Title Here,” Lori Lavedar Lutz wrote: “I think it’s important for adoptive parents to listen to adult adoptees, if only to understand more fully the range of interpretations that can be reported by those who have been-there-experienced-that.”

There is a universe in those two words, “if only.” Awakened adoptees who read this “of only,” will understand the qualifier.

Listen does not mean, “if only.”

Listen means to stop thinking, don’t formulate a response, open your heart to hear what is impossible for you to conceive and “be with” the truth of another.

Listen: If you have not experienced being taken from your mother, or surrendered by your mother, or being abandoned by your mother, you cannot know what it is to be adopted.

You can live with an adoptee but you are living with a person with a wide space between you and their true heart.

Adoptive parents are very easily deceived because so many of you only see what you want to see, hear what you want to hear and believe what you want to believe.

You cannot know what it is to be inside an adoptive persons skin anymore than a person who has never made love will know what it is to savor a lovers kiss.

You cannot know what you have not lived and it is not enough to live with a person to truly understand them. The sadness, the total and utter sadness of our predicament is the fact that too many adoptees—I would venture to say the majority of them—deceive themselves as well because they were raised by people who taught them deception from the day they were born by denying there was any impact in the fact of adoption.

One day, I will be gone but Found will live on. One day, this world will change and mothers and children will be first—not last. One day, infertility will be understood and properly grieved and “the fix” won’t be another human being who can be bought. One day we will all understand that happiness cannot come from outside ourselves at all. And one day, those who have been adopted will have the space and the place to sit down and read a book that will speak to their heart and they will begin the difficult but necessary journey toward their true selves.

I wrote Found, first for me and second for all the adoptees. My great hope is that we are able to heal and find ourselves and be free.

That is all I have to say.

Good luck.

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Rhonda Rae Baker January 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

Thank you Jennifer for writing such a profound memoir. I’ve been listening to it again on my phone and every chapter has something that speaks to me. We have been through so many similar circumstances and yet have our own story. No two paths are alike. You are a warrior in my eyes, and have insight that will teach many. I’m hoping that you will be able to answer the questions sent for your response to the readers. Your opinion matters and I would really like to hear more from you. HUGS to you!

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Jennifer Lauck January 14, 2012 at 1:18 am

Dear Judy:

When I wrote Found, I expected rotten tomatoes. I expected anger, doubt, cynicism and rebuttal. I expected people to say, “prove it! Where are your sources. You don’t know what you are talking about. You situation is unique, no one else feels that way.” I expected to be condemned and written off. And I expected my detractors to be 1st: adoptive parents, 2nd: adoptees blindly loyal to adoptive parents.

I never expected this: “Adult adoptees’ insights and experiences should not be ignored or disregarded; however they often are. Adult adoptees’ stories, sometimes painful or joyful or mixed, are valid. They should be invited to the ‘table’ and encouraged to share, instead forgotten or often silenced. Adoptive parents need to listen to their voices.”

These are such foreign concepts, I find I am at a loss to even imagine such a time that an adopted person would be welcomed, heard and considered an expert.

Thank you for posing the possibility, Jennifer

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Judy January 14, 2012 at 9:37 am

Hi Jennifer,

I feel it took great courage to write your memoir. Found is a recommended read for the parents I work with. You are one of our children, just a grown up one. ☺ (I hope you are not offended by this, because it is meant in a warm, inclusive way.)

I appreciate you sharing your expectations, and I understand why you feel so. There was a time when that was true, however I believe the tide is turning. I am one parent (and educator, support specialist and speaker) who advocates for listening to all involved in this complex constellation of adoption. I say, “It’s about the children,” to all the parents I work with, repeatedly. Children are or should be at the center of this “discussion.” Their psycho-social and physical well-being should be the focus.

Parenting children who have been adopted means supporting them—with great empathy and understanding. In order to do this parents must be educated, informed about adoptee and birth parent experiences. They must be open to listening. This is some of the work I do.

Thank you for writing Found, for your candor, and for being part of the conversation.

Judy

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Thriving Despite Us January 13, 2012 at 5:02 pm

You put is so well when you wrote, “Much can be learned from listening to and dialoging with older adoptees. I believe that parents can gain a deeper understanding and empathy, for what their child may be feeling or grow to feel as they come to understand what having been adopted means and how it has and will continue impact them and future generations.” It is because of this exact sentiment that I was able to learn so much from Lauck’s book even though I found it a difficult albeit compelling, read.

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Judy January 14, 2012 at 9:06 am

I feel that adoptive parents should read Lauck’s memoir, and other adoptees’ (and birth parents) accounts of their experiences. Very rarely is adoption devoid of pain. Adoptive parents should use this information and shared stories (adoptees and birth parents voices) as tools to parent. Being fearful of or ignoring issues in adoption can negatively impact their relationship with their children, because they are anaware and unable to support their children. Most importantly, their inability or unwillingness can negatively affect their children and injure them further.

And I agree with you; Found was emotionally difficult to read, and compelling. I have been encouraging my clients to read it. I also urge them to be advocates for birth parents and other adoptees, besides their children.

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Kelsey Stewart January 13, 2012 at 11:36 am

I was moved beyond words with FOUND. I had no idea that it would take a hold of me and force me to ask some very tough questions of myself. From the birth mother perspective, Ms Lauck’s words resonated deep in my soul. She brought about thoughts that I had never visited before and after reading this book I was not only grateful for Jennifer’s honesty, but I was truly touched.

I like that you quoted the book in your third answer. That passage also grabbed me and I have to agree with Ms Lauck that there needs to be as much information as possible for all sides of the triad.

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Judy January 14, 2012 at 9:07 am

Hi Kelsey! (And Happy 2012 to you ☺)

I am so happy that you are part of this dialogue. I would love it if you would share more about what thoughts Found stirred up. Would have reading Lauck’s memoir before hand impacted how you wrote The Best For You?

Jennifer’s candor is what touched me. I have reflected on passages and moments she shared often, especially when working with clients and their families.

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Kelsey Stewart January 26, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Hello Judy and thank you for asking me this question (sorry it has taken me so long to get back here to answer). If I would have read this memoir 3 years ago, I do not believe that it would have changed what I wrote in my book, The Best For You. Just as Jennifer speaks her truths as she knows them in Found, that is exactly what I did in my book … only writing from my truths. It took me over 15 years to get the words right in my head before I put them on paper to share with others, and I had to be quite attuned to explaining a birth mothers thoughts, feelings, heartaches and sometimes peace about a decision that not only effected me, but my children as well. I think anytime someone is brave enough to share their inner most thoughts with others it is a gamble as to what kind of reactions you will receive. Don’t get me wrong, I did not write my book thinking how to please other people. Rather I anguished over how to get my message across in a compassionate way so that even those not involved with adoption would understand a little better what the road is like for someone who chooses to relinquish a child.

Found was quite a difficult read for me personally. As much as I wanted to just put the book down sometimes, I did not. I could not. I was beyond curious to find out what the next thought was, what the next emotion was that Jennifer would share with the reader. It was heart wrenching to delve deep into Jennifer’s story knowing that I was on the other side. I was a mother who said goodbye to her dear little ones and could only hope that they would someday understand why I chose to not raise them. But not all was lost while reading, in fact much was gained from reading this book.

Ms Lauck’s honesty and self discovery was what kept this book in my hands. I will admit that there were tears, there was shock, and from time to time smiles throughout the journey that she took us, the readers, on. Knowing my side of my story, I was not only grateful for her powerful words, but to an extent relieved to read what she had to say about everything that was on her mind. We birth mothers often wonder too often what our children think about what we decided for them. I know that Ms Lauck’s birth mother had very different circumstances than I had, but there are always thoughts and emotions in adoptees that I find fascinating to read. I learn from them, and hopefully many others will learn from Jennifer through her brilliant writing.

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Lori Lavender Luz January 13, 2012 at 11:12 am

Oh, Judy, you are such a wise and kind and gentle mom. I really enjoyed reading your answers and the links to your previous posts about being “bad” and encouraging our children to talk.

Great advice on talking with our kids about their stories. And also about listening.

Thank you so much for sharing your viewpoint on this tour!

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Judy January 14, 2012 at 9:08 am

Thanks, Lori. Thank you for organizing this tour. ☺

It was unfortunate that Jennifer did not know her story, had little to no emotional support growing up, and experienced abuse. Found is a “loud” reminder of how adoption evolves for those who have been adopted as they become older and live out life milestones (example: Jennifer giving birth), What adoption means can take on profound implications, which can mushroom into much more and take a heavy toll on the adoptees and those close to them. A child should know the facts of their unique story, even the painful truths, before they reach adolescence. The conversation should continue from there, hopefully with great support and empathy. In the end, it’s all about the child.

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