April 11, 2012

When I say the words “the situation” what comes to your mind? Do you think of that dude, Michael Sorrentino, from the MTV reality show “Jersey Shore?” Or do you think of something adoption related? Maybe you think of both? Neither? Something all together different?

Today when I heard the words “the situation” I first thought of adoption, felt a bit sick and then thought of Mr. Sorrentino, who is sometimes, call The Sitch. While the colorful reality star has nothing to do with my work place, I will share why I thought of him. I will explain to you my situation (pun intended).

Not quite a year ago, I hired a supremely talented woman to join my web team (I manage a team of web editors).  I liked her immediately not only for her education and experience but her style, her personality. She is someone I would have had as a friend had we met under different circumstances. She is friendly, creative (has these great chunks of red color on her dark asymmetrical bob), fashionable, an English major, web junkie, mother of two young sons and around my age. We have lots in common. During the year or so she has worked for me she has completed an amazing amount of work including helping us push our way into the mobile application space by writing content for our soon to come mobile app while simultaneously managing the editorial efforts of our member portal. Like I said, cool, amazing, talented, someone I really like.  As such, I was a bit nervous when she approached me and asked if we could “talk”. I said “sure” and invited her to sit down on my cushioned file cabinet/seat.  She then asked if we could find a room and talk in private. It was at this point my internal manager alarm went off and I said “uh-oh” quietly to myself.  This type of request usually means, in my experience, someone is resigning or has some other major problem.   We found a room.

“So, I don’t want you to be nervous or anything. It is nothing bad” says editor extraordinaire.

“Okay. So what’s up?” I ask.

She appears nervous and a bit jumpy. This is not her usual style.  If she is not resigning, it’s nothing bad, what is making my usually calm, cool, collected editor so skittish?

“Well, my husband and I are adopting a baby. We just got called a day or so ago. It was a complete shock. We had registered with an adoption agency several years ago. We were able to get pregnant via IVF and have our sons and it was long and hard and expensive but we did it. We totally forgot to take our profile off the active registry with the agency and they called us. They have a baby girl for us…Utah…end of May…leave of absence…situation…four kids…mom 26…dad in his 40… “she says.

She is speaking a bit rapidly (which is normal for her, another thing I like about her as I do it as well) but rambling. Or maybe it’s me?  Normally I could follow her but the adoption word has unnerved me and done something strange to my cochlea.  I am hearing her yet simultaneously reeling inside and trying my best to keep my professional shit together.


I notice my breathing is a bit rapid and shallow.  I let her ramble on while I get my internal feces collected so I can be the professional manager type and not the teenager girl traumatized at the loss of her child that the adult mother found and was told by that child to please go away, I don’t think of you or adoption, like ever.

By listening and doing that internal feces collection, I learn:

  • Baby girl due end of May.
  • Will be induced (kid cannot even pick her own birthday!)
  • Parents are not married. Mother is 26. Father is in his 40s. They have one child, six years old that they are parenting. They have surrendered four (FOUR?) children already. Due to their “situation” they are placing this one as well.
  • She has been invited to be in the delivery room. Squeee! She feels so honored!
  • Oh, I should see the picture of the six year old. The agency sent her a picture and the six year old is all malnourished, unwashed and clearly abused. (Why is the agency sharing a picture of an allegedly abused child and NOT reporting that to authorities?)
  • Mother and father are in Utah.
  • Staff member and her husband are OH! SO. HAPPY.  They are going to proceed ahead with the adoption for clearly this was meant to be.
  • She would like to know if she can take a few months off for adoption leave and come back.

As she finishes and she sits in front of me, waiting for my response, the first words I can muster are:

“Do you know my background?” I ask.

She is clearly utterly confused. What does MY background have to do with what she just told me?

“Huh? What? Uh, no” she responds.

So I tell her.  I share I have a daughter, surrendered to adoption when I was 18 after a five month stay in a maternity home located one thousand miles away from my family and support system. I tell her my agency was a baby broker that coerced mothers, lied to them, made promises and then sold the children to families who had money. I tell her I am an activist in the adoption field and that I support adoption only as a last resort and even then I believe all ties to the family of origin, medical history, etc. should be maintained. I tell her my husband and I are in the process of forming a not for profit foundation that will provide education scholarships to single moms struggling to parent and finish their education.

At this point, I realize I am rambling and vacillating between the 18 year traumatized pissed off mother and my present day self.  My voice is either shaky and on the verge of tears in one breath or firm and resolute in the next.  My cochlea must have fixed itself for now I hear not only her, but my own voice and it sounds, well, a bit scary.

Manager Professional Suz enters the room.

I try to bring it back to her request. I tell her we value her (we/I do) and that I will consider her request and share it with my boss as well. She is very appreciative and continues to go on a bit more about “the situation”.  I share a bit more including telling her to question everything the agency tells her, Utah is a major red flag, and that she should get all the medical history possible, names, etc.

She responds by stating the agency is very ethical, this mothers situation is not like mine was (she said this with a bit of a defensive tone to her voice), it’s legit, necessary, the right thing, etc.  At this point, I note that sweet sugary smell of Kool-Aid dust that wafts up into your nose when you are making, or exposed to the making, of Kool-Aid.   The suggestion that my situation is not like this one and that somehow I am unique or different or whatever has angered me (and invalidated me, thank you very much).  I realize it is time to wrap up the conversation. I let her know I will get back to her, reiterate my sincere belief and liking of her as a person and a professional and we leave.

She returns to her desk and I go to the ladies room and cry.

Adoption at work is not something I have prepared myself for.

Knowing that in a few weeks another baby girl will lose her mama and suffer a primal wound makes me sad.

Knowing that my friend, a woman I respect and admire, has sipped the Kool-Aid and may be in the process of being duped by a Utah adoption agency makes me angry.

The pressure to be the professional non traumatized “birth-mother” overwhelms me. If I could leave the office I would but it is not an option.  I return to my desk and immediately turn to my Facebook (thank goodness I work in ebusiness and we have access from work) and I vent to my private adoption list on my Facebook (you guys know who you are, thank you for being there).


I spoke briefly to my staff member today. Let her know my boss and I support her request and that we will look for a temporary staff member during her leave. I will also look at our current resource plan and see if I can adjust things amongst the other team members. She is appreciative.

I said nothing else about adoption.  I want to but I am still formulating my thoughts. I don’t want to come across as this AntiAdoptoNazi. I do respect and want to retain this person on my team. But how do I help her, help me, help that baby girl?  What do I share? How do I do it effectively and gently?

A few of my friends on Facebook recommended a few books for me to share with her. I ask you now, dear readers, what would you recommend I share with a PAP (or not)? If you were in my shoes, what would you do?

Please note it is highly probable she has, or soon will, google me and find this blog, so, feel free to write your response not necessarily to me, but to her.

Artwork Credit: Julie Rist

23 Thoughts.

  1. ‘situations’ always reminds me of that dreadful baby broker who never refers to babies for placement but only to ‘situations’. So cold, so businesslike.
    I’d say you need to salvage your professional cool, keep it businesslike and down to arrangements only and accept that your relationship with her will never be the same again.

    • I also wanted to add that every situation I am in that is adoption triggering related is always partly about me. I work hard to separate my adoption crap from the situation (as noted) but it s often very difficult. There are times, I must admit, when I am speaking out and helping not just the person in front of me, but my own self. When I am advising a PAP to challenge an agency, I am sort of telling myself, reminding myself, how I should have done the same. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke). I am trying to do what I can so the evil sides of adoption no longer prevail. I have to do something. I cannot clam up and walk away – not for me, her, the child in question, future children. We need to talk about this stuff and tell the full truth. I dont know how we can change things if we dont.

  2. Von. You may be right. However I want to view this as an oppotunity to educate a pap on the reality of adoption not just the version an agency offers. As noted in my other posts I am unable to go deaf and dumb even when the situation might allow for it. I cannot change my trauma but I want to believe I can lessen someone else’s.

  3. Oh wowie, you sound like you are handling it very well. Kudos to you for the non-profit. If I can help in any way let me know, because I did that, raised a kid when I was in a young/vulnerable situation and have very practical knowledge of what helped/what did not. I actually think young motherhood gets a bad rap.

    I don’t share my adopto-crap at work, because I don’t want to have to grit my teeth when people invalidate me. So if someone told me that, I would be all, “Why not help the family stay together?’ in wide-eyed wonderment. Which people allow you to say if they don’t know you are related to the triage.

    I probably would not encourage her to read adoptee-blogs because she sounds like she would be in the oh they just had a bad experience, mal-adjusted, adoption is different now phase. I would encourage her to read the adoptive moms that I like, Sue G. is not on this list but it is a pretty awesome list.

    It sounds like you handled the situation with maturity and compassion. Unfortunately, it left you vulnerable and having to deal with your most traumatic experience in an environment that by definition is rife with difficulties, lol that is why they call it “work”. I am not saying yours personally,but in the general sense.

    FWIW, I hear the word “situation” as a euphemism for cluster-f*ck. I don’t know who the celebrities you mention are, so maybe the same thing. Good luck to all of you.

  4. Oh Suz! My head is spinning just imagining being you, sitting there, trying to be professional with all the adoption trauma zooming around the room…
    I can’t even come up with the title of a book right now because of the spinning! The one I’m thinking of is an adoption reunion book ~ it tells about the emotions and trauma that is/could be a part of the adoption and reunion for all sides of the so-called triad. People who only know the rainbows and sunshine need to learn from both sides of adoption loss, as well as the reality of raising an adopted child. Oh, I think it’s Adoption Reunion ~ Agony or Ecstasy.

  5. oh p.s. I would tell her that she should get every last scrap of info.that she can about the other kids placed, every aspect of the almost new baby’s identity, and ask questions. Even if she thinks they are rude. It may mean a lot to this almost new young girl.

    I would say, “keep them talking” when people start to ramble they often reveal themselves. I would advise her to listen intently, and ask, and ask, and ask.

  6. Suz,
    What a difficult situation for you to be in. Maybe gently suggesting some questions for her to ask the agency. Do they know where the other siblings are? Are they in contact with each other? Has social services been called on the family regarding the six year old? Has your co-worker considered the importance of maintaining relationships with the birth family, at least with all the siblings? Maybe point her to some books that stress the importance of those connections. Maybe send her to Rebecca Hawkes blog? I really respect the relationship she has created with her daughter’s birth family. Might be a good person for her to talk to so she can see a different, but seemingly successful and healthy adoption relationship.

    That’s all that comes to mind for now. Sending you strength to get through this.


  7. I understand the impact of this and know first hand how the repercussions of reliqishment last a lifetime, not one isolated event.

    Yet I find myself wanting to gently tell you to “leave it alone”; over & again professionals are asked to maintain a veneer, a separation of mores, personal values against a myriad of corporate climates. I’m sure there are members of your team who feel just as passionately about critical life issues (i.e. abortion, assisted suicide, etc.) and honestly those have no place in the work arena, unless your job specifically entails said issue. Or as discussed among friends away from work.

    I understand you feel passionately about this ( as do I ) but honestly its not your place to “educate” this coworker or prevent this possible placement from taking place. *sigh* I know your advocacy; its a part of who you are. But not at work. If she comes to you and seeks your input, then by all means give her the thoughtful suggestions listed above, but much like you wouldn’t suggest “readings & books” to a young collegue considering an abortion or a rash marriage or any other numerous personal decisions, this too should be off limits. She sought you out to ask about leave benefits, not family planning. As hard as it is, I would say to leave well enough alone and I mean that with all due respect.

    • Welcome to my blog Jillian and thank you for your comment. I agree with you and want to clarify that I am not going after her, forcing myself on her, but as you say, if she asks me again, reads this blog, etc. I am most definitely going to share with her. My personal hope is that she will, as a result of our earlier conversation, do some research, think a bit about what I said, and if she feels comfortable talk to me again.

    • I would also add I suffer no grand delusions that I could prevent this placement. If I had such super power I would use it to save more than one child from an unnecessary adoption. My goal has been and remains to educate this PAP to be a better more aware PAP — should she approach me now that she knows my history.

    • Hi Jillian:

      I get what you are saying, I really do, because man do I hold my hand close to my chest with all but my inner-circle. With more topics than just adoption, all I want most people that I work for or with to know about me is I will deliver on time.

      I have been fortunate enough though to work on a lot of creative team projects, which adoption revolution is. One thing that has struck me is that a good team has a variety of types devoted to the mission, not the ego. People who are after just getting personal recognition muck up the works every single time. I am at the point in my professional life, where I refuse to work with that type at all.

      I am not saying you are like,that,my guess is you are more like me, separate your professional/personal life. BUT,what I have noticed is that all kinds of people are needed, the nice ones, the mean girls, the sensitive ones,the willing to put themselves in the line-of-fire even though it may be really tough ones. While people like you and me, are not ready to do that yet, I hope to be there when I am fifty, I am so weird with number goals like that,but that is who Suz is. That is who she needs to be to be herself. Yes, it is risky, but risk-taking is game-changing. This game needs some change-up like 50 years ago.

      I really can’t see why someone thumbed-down your comment because I think it came from a compassionate place, but it is also a powerful position to come from your own honesty. I have faith in Suz to handle this professionally, with compassion, and openness, because that is her nature. You might try that too, I think this is how she can best be supported in this trying situation.

      But then again, I am a mean girl.



  8. Good grief, the adoption cloud sure is pouring rain down on you lately. My head is spinning reading this. I can tell you if I were in your situation (agree with Joy I read word that as a clusterfuck), I’d be avoiding said co-worker like she has the swine flu.

    If co-worker happens to read this here is my message to her: Don’t adopt. Isn’t two children enough? Someone else will surely adopt the child, no need for *you* to be a part of a corrupt system that is built on lies, pain, shame, fraud, and myths.

    • Good grief, the adoption cloud sure is pouring rain down on you lately.

      Heh. You noticed that too, huh, Elizabeth? Agreed. I have yet to blog about movies I watched (with no knowledge of an adoption theme) and the books I read on vacation (also, adoption them). Not sure if it is the universe way of telling me I cannot avoid it or my hyperawareness to it since my daughters birthday is approaching.

      • Would be good of you to post about the movies so I can avoid them, lol. I recently joined Netflix and so far I have not been unpleasantly surprised.

  9. Hello, all–I found this blog because I was googling “Never Let Me Go” + “Adoption” to see if anyone on the planet had written about it from the point of view of the Adoptee. Quick ID: I’m a middle-aged NJ-born adoptee, in Reunion a little over a year with my family of origin. It’s only been about 3 years since came out of the lifelong coma of the compliant adoptee, never questioning my identity, never engaging my own curiosity about who and where I came from, etc. I’m so thrilled to have found this blog–what a comfort to find a place where things make sense.

    My best friend recently adopted a baby (“open”, and she too was in the room when the kid was born). It’s challenged our friendship in every possible way, and we had been like sisters. Sisters and colleagues, because we work together as well. Worked. Closely. Like, knee-to-knee (we were co-authors). And until there comes a day when she can pick up a copy of the Primal Wound without rolling her eyes and saying “uh, REALLY?”, I don’t know how we can start the healing. Anyway, that’s my story.

    OH! One little thing more! Elizabeth said: “…no need for *you* to be a part of a corrupt system that is built on lies, pain, shame, fraud, and myths.” and I just wanted to add one item to that list: PROFIT.

    Okay, that’s all for now–I look forward to exploring this blog! THANK YOU!

    • Welcome welcome Sarasue! I made a massive connection to adoption in Never Let Me Go. Have a draft post on it. Maybe you will push me forward to finally publish it. It feels (in its current iteration) to be whiny and negative and obvious…I was working on making it less so! But now that you are here and can comment, I would love to hear what you have to say!

      • Can you believe that in all the time since I responded you you (via email), I thought our correspondence was public? As in, posted right here? (I think I got my dumb streak from my natural father)….should I post that think we talked about?

        Also, I insist that you read the book. I mean, come on.

        • Thing, not think. (no post-posting edit function–I better spell everything right before I click send!)

        • Confused. Which email? Book? Need to look up my email. Feel free to post whatever you wish here. : )

        • duh. i just made the connections. you were saying you thought our private emails were here? yes, feel free to post them here. they are very good.

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