In this year’s Adoption Interview Project, I was paired with Megan of Earthstains and I really enjoyed reading her blog and getting to know her and her story. Although our experiences with adoption are fairly different, I was thankful for the chance to delve into her posts. It was a fun coincidence that we share the same first name and a few other tidbits like that her husband works as a professional counselor and so do I…and also that her first mother lives in the same city where I reside. Megan was kind enough to wade through my long questions and write thoughtful, insightful answers. Read on to see for yourself!
Will you introduce new readers to the members of your families? (As little or as much detail as you wish).
My husband of 25 years is Jim. He works as a professional counselor. We have four children together ranging in age from 14 to 24. Rachael, Chelsea and Ben attend college and live away from home. Aaron just started high school. Jim has a large extended family I am part of as well.
The family I grew up with consisted of my adoptive mom and dad, an older sister and two older brothers. Dad was a physician who transitioned to alternative medicine during my teen years. Mom stayed at home with us kids. Sarah is their only biological child. She is a professional lobbyist. My two brothers are adopted like me. Sam is a part-time painter and Dale has held executive leadership positions in a handful of tech companies. There are aunts, uncles and cousins as well.
My family of origin consists of my birth parents and all of their kin. I have three half-sisters by my birth mother, and one half-sister by my birth father.
In an abstract way, I view the whole world as my family. You too, Momo.
Where do you see your relationship with Jane going in the next few years? Are you in any kind of contact now? It reads like she is in touch with your children. Is that current?
Jane and I are in contact. This summer we met for the first time in 4 or 5 years and had a pleasant dinner together with our husbands. Up until a few months ago I was making an effort to phone her regularly just to talk about random things. She is in contact with my adult daughters. They have visited her in Portland several times. She is very good to them.
In terms of where our relationship is going over the next few years, I think there will be less personal contact by me. Here’s what I said in a letter I sent to Jane about a month ago: “We cannot have a personal relationship whilst you are publishing stories about me and my family. I want to avoid giving you new material for your writings, whether they appear on the internet, in a magazine or in a book. There can be no close relationship under these conditions.” I have had to step back, evaluate my emotional needs, and devise a strategy. Sad, I know.
What words of wisdom would you share with someone about entering into reunion?
If you choose to initiate contact, you don’t know what you are going to find. The other person might want to meet you, but maybe not. You might have a lot in common, but maybe not. You might get some answers, but you might not. Once you establish contact you can’t go back to the way things were before. Your life is changed forever. Whatever you knew about your adoption story will be altered. Expectations will evolve the further into the reunion you go.
“What I really wanted was for her to quit expecting me to embrace her opinions on issues.” Does this seem possible in your relationship with Jane?
I think she has given up on some of her expectations, as have I.
Your blog strikes a balance between apologizing about possible offense to readers and asserting your right to own your own process. With such contention and difficulty for you with Jane’s blog, how do you maintain this balance in your own corner of the blogosphere?
Occasionally, Jane has let me know that she disagrees with my version of events or that she’s uncomfortable with something I posted on my blog. I have always removed or revised the offensive post. I wrote a particularly reactive post a few months ago, which generated a lot of comments and activity to my blog, but I took it down after two days because I knew it was unfair to Jane. It was a compelling piece, but unnecessary. I would not blog about Jane at all, except that she has shared with me that she thinks it is important to tell our stories so that others may learn from them.
From Nov 2011 to June 2012, I was assigning myself monthly themes – appreciation, fitness, women’s history, Mother’s Day, etc. That was to help keep my posts non-toxic and give my readers something useful. Facts are useful, stories are useful, new perspectives are useful; blaming, attacking and whining are not useful. I want to recommit myself to having topics planned out ahead of time. It’s more work to blog that way, because I often have to do research. Occasionally I try to write on a pre-planned topic but end up writing about something else.
I’ve also started giving myself at least a day in between writing a post and publishing it. Often I come back to a draft later, and find somebody was needlessly criticized or the main point of my writing is unclear. I think I will always need to watch what I blog. It’s sort of my nature to fault find. I have a few drafts I spent hours writing but have never published. The process of attempting to write about a topic sometimes teaches me that I don’t have much insightful to say about it. So, I’ve got to either broaden my perspective or abandon the post.
“Personally, adoption gives me a serene sense of beyondness. There is no destiny except what I choose.” “I had long thought of myself as wonderfully unique and was not ready to have someone pointing out my non-unique traits. I had spent my life capitalizing on the fact that I wasn’t like anyone.” Would you say that your parents, first and adoptive, contributed to this sense of beyondness or challenged it in your life?
My adoptive parents contributed to my feeling unique. I have a different temperament than the other members of my adoptive family. My physical characteristics are strikingly different as well, though all of us are Caucasian. My parents frequently pointed out these differences, usually in a positive light. In the area of personal belief, my parents challenged uniqueness though. According to their views, there are certain core values that all of us should have in common.
Since the beginning of our reunion Jane has tried to identify traits that I have in common with her and her family. I would say she challenged my “sense of beyondness,” and has very much desired that I feel connected.
I am now sure that Jane and I made the correct decision some twenty one years ago. [excerpt from letter from your birth father]. Do you agree with him? How did this opinion of his affect you? How did it change upon hearing that Jane disagreed? In a later post you comment about your adoptive dad, “He was the right dad to raise me.” How does this belief fit in with whether the decision your birth parents made was the right one?
If I say that I agree with my birth father –that adoption was the right choice, and that I am glad I was adopted — it really hurts my first mother, so I don’t make blanket statements about the joys of being adopted. Instead, when I write about how I feel about my adoption, I try to make nuanced statements, such as the quote above about being unique or my adoptive dad being the right dad for me.
My birth father’s opinion that “adoption was the correct decision” was the same view most everyone I knew shared. Prior to writing him a letter the first time, I was prepared for the possibility that he would not want to meet me or have a relationship with me. When this turned out to be the case, I was not surprised not hurt. I just really appreciated that he took the time to give me information.
Learning that Jane believed the adoption was a big mistake was more troubling to me than Mike’s response. I was left with questions like, “If she believed adoption was the wrong choice, then why did she go through with it?” I don’t like the fact that my adoption is the source of so much of her pain. The further along we go into our reunion, the less happy she seems about me. It drives me a little nuts. A thinking error I sometimes have is to believe that if I had turned out differently, Jane would not regret the adoption.
My adoptive dad was a kind and gentle man. I am proud to have been his daughter. I learned a lot of good things from him and my a-mom, things I would not have gotten from my families of origin. I am glad to have learned my values from them.
Since hearing Jane’s story, I no longer say that adoption was the “right decision.” Now I just say that adoption was all right for me.
You use several different titles to refer to members of your families; i.e.: bio father, birth father, natural father, natural mother, first mother, adoptive mother and father. How did you decide how to refer to all your parents on the blog?
I most often refer to Jane as First Mother, because I believe that is what she prefers. I mix it up sort of arbitrarily with Birth and Natural, just to give some variety to my language. Jane does not like to be referred to as my Biological Mother, so I try not to do that unless I am writing about DNA and I want to make the point of our shared biology. Mike prefers that I call him my Biological Father, so I often use that when referring to him. But, I’ll mix it up with the other terms like Birth and Natural, just for variety.
I use the designations Adoptive Mother and Adoptive Father (or a-mom and a-dad for short) for clarity. I generally think of them as Mom and Dad, but it would get confusing to readers if I didn’t specify which mother and father they were.
“What Else am I?” – You refer to this question in your blog. How do you answer this question today?
In addition to being my adoptive parents’ lovely daughter, I am the daughter of two other great people. I get my affinity for quietness and space from my first father. I get my strong will and drive from my first mother. I get my dark eyebrows and double-jointed fingers from my mother. I get my blue eyes and slight build from my father. I am German, English, Welsh and Scotch-Irish. I have missionary ancestors, pioneer ancestors and war hero ancestors.
“We are reunited, but we are not united.” This powerful statement really stays with me. What would it look and feel like to be united in this reunion with you first mom?
The adversarial stuff would just melt away. We could hang out and talk about movies we’ve seen, art, current events. We’d exchange recipes and send thoughtful e-mails. Criticism would end. There would be respect for our philosophical differences. Our deeply-held beliefs would not be mocked by each other. We’d be like two close friends. We could feel relaxed while having a conversation, and not have to work to avoid certain topics. We would keep each other’s confidences.
I am happy to have added Earthstains to my feed reader so I can stay up to date. Thanks, Megan, for be a great interview partner!
Now, please go check out the other interviews in this year’s interview project!