My essay about reunion has been published in “The Beacon,” the newsletter of the American Adoption Congress. Reunion, as we know, is a really big deal. Probably everyone involved in adopted has some fear about it. And of course after you reunite with your son or daughter, you might also meet their adoptive parents. The meetings and introductions might go on and on. Aunts, uncles, grandparents siblings. It’s a tsunami of emotion. I was super nervous about all of it. The title of the essay is “How the World Didn’t End and Nobody Died.” Here’s the link.
The target audience for the AAC is mostly adoptees, I think. And some birthparents too.
But I wrote this essay about reunion with adoptive parents in mind. I would especially like adoptive parents to know that reunion can go well. And that their pre-conceived notions of what birthmothers are like might not be true. So if you know some adoptive parents, maybe pass it on.
This past month I’ve been to Albuquerque and to Santa Barbara for T’ai Chi Chih retreats, and I’ve done some traveling with friends in Hawaii. Whenever I meet new people and strike up a conversation, more often than not, I find out that the person I’m talking to is either an adoptee or a birthmother. Or someone very close to them is. Adoptees and birthmothers are everywhere.
On the plane to Albuquerque, it was obvious the guy next to me wanted to talk. Business cards were exchanged. He stared at my card (the front image is the cover of my book) and out spooled a stream of questions. It turned out that his best friend is an adoptee. This friend had recently seen a lot of ups and downs with reunion. On Maui, one of the people in our group was an adoptee. Also in Santa Barbara. Adoption is everywhere.
When people in a group setting are party to these encounters and hear that I surrendered a child for adoption, there’s a very common comment. “Oh, what a wonderful generous thing you did,” they say. A few years ago I would have mumbled some sort of sheepish reply and changed the subject. But these days I’m much more comfortable telling people that it wasn’t like that at all. “That’s not how adoption works,” I say. So I tell them that I didn’t give up my son to be kind or generous. I tell them I had to in order to survive. And I tell them what it was like living in a town of 3000 Catholics in 1970, and how my family would have been ruined. More often than not people seem to get it.
Drinking the Kool-aid
It’s not just birthmothers who drank the Kool-aid, brainwashed into believing we were doing what was best. The adoption industry has been really thorough at handing out samples of that beverage to everyone. It always feels good to tell the truth about it.
I attended a Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) meeting on Saturday. I went to share the good news of getting my memoir published. And I went to do what one does at support group meetings–get and give support. I was pleased to see that a CUB meeting is much like it was some years ago. A CUB meeting is not just for birthparents, but for adoptees, and for adoptive parents too.
My experience with CUB in the 90s
In 1990 when I was attending regularly, the group was huge. Thirty folding chairs in a circle with a couple of boxes of Kleenex making the rounds. Even back then birthmothers were joined by a few birth fathers, adoptees, and a couple of adoptive parents. Many attendees were involved in searching for their lost family members, but some were there to celebrate reunion. Others were there for support because it didn’t seem that a reunion would ever be possible. Still others were looking for guidance on their new relationships with mothers, fathers, or adult children. Every story was unique.
In our information age where it’s possible to find your birth family in 36 hours, (oh–if only it were always so easy!) the ranks of CUB seem to have thinned a bit. But the meeting I went to on Saturday was every bit as diverse as the ones I remember from more than two decades ago.
There was an adoptee about to introduce her siblings to each other (one from her adoptive family, the other from her birth family). There was a birthmother who’d attended CUB for years, searched found nothing, then years later came back and thereafter was reunited with her son who is now getting to know her other adult children. An adoptee read the letter she hopes to send to her recently located birthmother. A birthmother, back from the wedding of her son– the first milestone in his life she hadn’t missed. An adoptive mother sharing her story of her children’s inabilities to heal after their lives of abuse prior to their adoption. An adoptee with her toddler daughter describing what it was like to give birth and realize she’d just met her first blood relative. A birthmother announcing that the first meeting between her and her daughter is now on the calendar.
Each story told of an opened a door. Between birthmother and adoptee. Or adoptee and adoptive parent. Or between adoptive parent and birthmother.
Why go to a CUB meeting?
The meetings well-moderated meetings are a safe place where people listen. The Internet has made searching easier. But there are still plenty of reasons to go to a CUB meeting. If you’re a birthparent, an adoptee, or an adoptive parent, and you are looking for support or information, or a group where you can share your story and hear others, a CUB meeting is a fantastic idea. Check the website for the meeting schedule in your area.