AAC 2016 Prelim Thoughts

12376622_1681086562143092_8236663069099891707_nArrived home from American Adoption Congress late yesterday. Left Denver hotel at 3:00 am local time (yawn) and arrived in CT at 4:00 PM. Long day of travel but it gave me a good amount of time to ponder the conference and my various take aways. I am going to write about each of these this week. Below is a high level list outlining just a few of them.

The AAC “Drama”
Joyce Maguire Pavao ended her keynote on Wednesday with references to the infighting that is happening now within the ranks of the American Adoption Congress. I admit I cringed when she did. It felt like opening a can of worms and I questioned if the timing was correct. I later spoke to Joyce about this. She had stated that all of us in adoption come from a place of pain and trauma (true) and that impacts our ability to volunteer with organizations such as AAC. I agree and have said same myself years ago when Origins USA went through similar challenges. More about this conversation with Joyce in the days to come.

On Being Loud and Proud
There was a first mom in attendance that was heard repeatedly stating how “proud” she was of her decision to give her child to adoption. Many of us in the sessions with her cringed deeply every time she said this. We could not relate. Moreover, we found ourselves wondering how her child (she is not in reunion and is in a closed adoption) might feel to know their mother is so “proud” she gave them away. This person generated lots of discussion and debate amongst other attendees. I have never, not for one day, been proud that I abandoned my child to strangers.

Mitigating and Managing Collateral Damage
The session I faciliated along with my friends, Kathy, Susie and Rich was well attended. Based on feedback after the session I am under the impression it was well received. This pleases me. If only 1 of the 30 or so people in attendance think differently, we have accomplished our goal. The first mother voice was present and heard. That, in a sea of adoptee or adoptive parent focused sessions, was my ultimate objective. Let us not forget before an adopted child is stripped of their family and their OBC, a mother is stripped of a piece of her soul. Do better by expectant mothers and you do better for the children they give birth to.

Support Groups
I attended first mom support group meetings two days in a row. I strangely enjoyed them. I say strangely as historically I despises such things. Sitting in a room with others like me, listening to people cry about their experience, has never been helpful to me. Rather, it depressed me. I have this problem with empathy and I take on others pain. It overwhelms me. As such, I tended to avoid them. This week, I did not feel overwhelmed yet I did feel empathetic and wanted to hug a few moms in the room. I took this fact as a sign of growth on my part, that I have learned how to set some boundaries and not take on the pain of others while still remaining present with them. I was reminded of a phrase from Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem The Invitation:

“I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.”

More to come here.

Post Trauma Growth
I spoke briefly with Amanda and Kat during a hospitality session. I mentioned to them a fact I have shared on my blog many times. That is, my ovewhelming desire to make myself better, smarter, prettier, more successful, more educated. I am never “good enough”. It is as if there is a wind up toy inside me that will not stop moving forward. I find this tiring and want to stop but do not know how. For years, I have suspected this was rooted in a desire to make myself presentable to my daughter should she ever want to meet me. I need to be “meetable”. I need to prove that I made something good out of our separation. It has been 30 years of this nonsense. It has been 10 years since I found her and she told me to go away and never contact her again. My daughter may never want to meet me. When will I get off this sick ride? Amanda said something to me that threw me back a bit. I am paraphrasing but essentially she said “If you do not accept yourself, why should your daughter?”. Ooph. Point taken.

I discussed this same topic in my session the following day. Kat spoke up and shared the concept of post traumatic growth with me. I found myself intrigued. Clearly I have some reading to do.

On the flight home my husband stated that I was good enough, more than good enough. While I appreciated his sentiment, that is not really the point. To be told you are good enough is not the same as believing you are.

Let’s Talk Management of Collateral Damage

We have talked about collateral damage and how to mitigate it pre surrender. Now let us move to management of collateral damage. Consider this scenario, one that is all too real for many of us:

Mother was sent away to give birth alone. She received little or no options counseling. Her only info on adoption was provided by the agency that stood to profit from the sale of her child.  Informed consent was limited to an explanation of the final and irrevocable surrender to adoption. She was told she would “get over it”, have other children and move on with her life.  Post surrender she experiences something vastly different.  Immediately she suffers from nightmares, anxiety and depression. She finds it hard to be around children or see images of children.   Relationships are difficult for her to maintain.  She finds herself drawn to men that abuse her and is unable to keep a regular job due to her anxiety and depression.  Her relationships with family and friends at home are strained.  All refuse to discuss her child.  Her own mother gets angry at her when she brings up the subject. All she wants is her child back.

Where does she go for help and support?  What would you tell her to do?  What has worked for you in attempting to “heal” from the loss of your child to adoption?  Please be specific.    For example, instead of “get therapy” please share what type of therapy you recommend (or not).


Let’s Talk Mitigation : Extended First Family

I am a wee bit behind schedule on this weeks topics. I am going to scrap Pot Luck for Friday and use today for Mitigation and Thursday and Friday for Management.

Again, as mentioned in previous post, mitigation is the “act of mitigating, or lessening the force or intensity of something unpleasant, as wrath, pain, grief, or extreme circumstances”.

Mitigating Collateral Damage to the First Family

We had some limited chatter on how to mitigate damage to mothers prior to surrender. How about we extend this to the first family? What might we do to educate first grand parents? Spouses or partners of the expectant mother (particularly if they are part of her decision process)? Or should we?

I will offer that my mother was part of my decision process – a huge part. She arranged for my dispatch to the agency and the maternity home and when my daughter was born she was present. The agency capitalized on her ignorance and conservative beliefs. She was wildly ignorant to the realities of adoption and what it might do to her daughter or her grandchild.  She was given no explanation of the process, no information, no counseling on what would happen to me or her first born grand child. So I ask again, should she have been? This is a bit of an emotional minefield, I realize, but I am curious what others might think.  Should first family members present and involved with the surrender be provided information on the possible impact of said surrender?