It’s funny how sometimes the universe speaks to you in mysterious ways. Yesterday, I had two unexpected experiences where I feel like I really learned something about the value of openness and vulnerability.
For the first incident, it was the end of my day and I was chatting on the phone with a work colleague who I know fairly well and consider a friendly acquaintance. I hadn’t seen her in quite a while and we were catching up, mostly about work related things, with a bit of professional gossip thrown in. We were checking in a bit on how we were doing work-wise and personally, but I hadn’t intended to tell her about my adoption plans. My adoption journey is something that I haven’t shared with many people in my professional life. I’ve kept this part of my life private, sharing it selectively. It’s not at all about shame or fear or worry about potential repercussions for my career, but more just because I am naturally a very private person. Key people at work are in the know about my adoption plans and they are very supportive, but I try hard to keep my private life separate from my professional. It’s a level of balance that works for me. So back to the conversation with this work friend, from catching up about professional stuff and changes in her work life, we drifted into the realm of more personal and then there came a moment where it just seemed right to open up about my adoption plans. She herself adopted her son and is a single Mom, so I think that had something to do with it. I’ve also been recently feeling more and more stressed and anxious about being in this “waiting limbo” and somehow, I think I just needed to unload with someone who would understand, where I could be vulnerable and open up. We ended up talking for ages. The office cleared out, lights went dark and there we were still talking and soon I was crying on the phone—and somehow this was a much needed catharsis for the stress that I had been carrying around. It was a really good conversation, uplifting and reassuring when I needed it.We talked about adoption and being a single Mom, about the parts that are hard and the parts that open your heart. And remarkably this letting go, opening up and being vulnerable when I didn’t expect it or plan it, managed to put me more at ease than I’ve felt in a long while.
The second experience happened right after, on my way home. I was waiting for my train and was scrolling through Facebook and my eye caught on a post from a friend that mentioned adoption. I’m not sure why this friend posted about adoption. I don’t know whether there’s a personal connection but she’s a pretty prolific poster about all sorts of things. The post was titled “Shame is sticky“and was from a blog written by a woman named Marci Glass. In it Marci tells her her adoption story–having been placed for adoption as child 48 years ago, finding and trying to reconnect with her birthmother but being rebuffed, and now trying to come to terms with the situation that her birthmother does not want to reconnect.
I found myself just so struck and moved by Marci’s blog post, this random post that popped up on Facebook page on a night I was feeling vulnerable and open. She writes so honestly about her longing and sadness, and hers is a moving and heart-breaking story. She makes very clear that the heartbreak she feels is not because of the adoption which she respects and expresses gratitude for, but rather the heartbreak comes from the loss and shame that she feels in her mother’s decision not to be open to meeting her. She writes:
I completely support her decision in 1968 to place me for adoption. I am, quite literally, the woman I am today because of that decision, and I am so grateful she gave me life and gave me up…I am quite certain that shame is at the root of why she won’t meet me now…for my birthmother, shame appears to have silenced her and is keeping her from speaking to me and speaking to her family about me. As I am navigating the discovery of my own story, I’m learning how “sticky” shame is in my life. I do not feel shame about being adopted. It’s been a gift in my life. I do not feel shame for having been born. Yet as I navigate the places her shame requests my silence, I feel her shame trying to cloud over my life too, making me feel that I can’t claim my story, trying to keep me from asking questions, meeting my family, etc.
In what she writes, you could really feel the hurt child, even now, so many decades on. And It really reinforced for me what it feels like not only for the child who is adopted but for the adult that child becomes. It made me think again about what I would want for my own child, what I would want them to be able to know about where they came from and how I would want them to feel good about themselves and their story, the history I would want them to have access to and the family they are always going to be part of in some way. Her story became even more poignant when I learned, scrolling through her blog to an earlier post (a post about her conflicted views on Mothers Day) that not only was she adopted, but she also placed a son for adoption when she was a college student. She talks about her relationship with her first born son (whom she placed in an open adoption and has remained in contact with) and writes about him with such obvious pride and love. She tells us that she later married and had two more sons, who also have been able to get to know first born son. She talks about how placing her first son for adoption — a decision she does not regret— has made her a better, more devoted mother to her other sons. And so, she really lives both sides—as a child who was adopted and a mother who placed her child for adoption.
After reading Marci’s story and her experiences, from both sides, it made me even more committed to wanting to insure that my child will have the opportunity and the gift of knowing his/her family history and birthparents. I know you can’t always control what happens but it made me even more committed to doing my part to approach our mutual adoption story with openness. Reading Marci’s story and feeling vicariously, through her, her birthmother’s shame also made me even more sympathetic to how hard all this is for the mothers who give birth and place their children for adoption. I’m really grateful to have stumbled on her blog (thanks, Universe and Facebook!) and Marci’s story. I hope you too have a chance to read her blog. Her openness and her willingness to be so honest, vulnerable and open in putting this all out there has been a real gift of insight for me—here from a stranger who whose post randomly wound up in my Facebook feed.