Sharing Stories of Our Relations

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Sharing Stories of Our Relations "Sharing Stories of Our Relations"
Speakers' Remarks,
Interfaith Healing Adoption Service
Grace Cathedral, San Francisco
April 24, 1999

These statements may be reproduced and circulated as long as credit is given to the individual authors and to PACER.

Donna Bergstrom Oman, birthparent
Lakewood, Washington

It is quite an honor to be asked to speak today on behalf of birthparents. This is a somewhat daunting, but important task, especially to do in three minutes or less, but I will try. I want to start by talking about what I think adoption is, and is not, and then tell you briefly about an experience of mine.

First and foremost, I believe, adoption is about caring. Birthparents care. No matter what birthparents' circumstances or difficulties have been, we care. Not only do we care, but adoption is grounded in the belief that others, particularly adoptive parents, care as well.

Adoption is also about love. As difficult as the decision may be, it is about loving a child enough to let that child have the opportunity to become the best possible person he or she can be.

Adoption is about trust. It is about trust in the goodness of human beings. Trust in the adoptive parents of our children, and trust that by this adoption our children will be able to live life to its fullest.

In the past, many times adoption was about distance --- distance and separation between the parties involved. But it is incorrect to think that we can separate a person into parts, and today we are here to honor the connections, not the separations, of adoption. Adoption should not be about abandonment. The connections of a child to every part of him- or herself are real, and do not go away just because the child is adopted.

In my situation, re-establishing those connections has taken a long time. By the time we were ready, my son's adoptive mother had passed away. I had been looking forward to meeting her tremendously and felt deep sorrow that I never would. I decided to visit her gravesite.

As I tidied her gravesite, I reflected on the needless secrecy that had kept us apart and caused so much pain. When my son was adopted in 1965, adoption was thought of as an easy answer to an unplanned pregnancy: the birthparents would forget, the adoptive parents would take the child as if their own, and life would begin anew.

Little did we realize that adoption is far more complex and has far more facets than a simple new beginning. Today we are faced with the results of our arrogance and our ignorance about life.

It was forgotten that we would all grow old together. It was forgotten that I would love and remember my son for a lifetime, as would his adoptive parents. It was forgotten that my son would remember me. We are all connected forever.

I brought flowers to decorate the grave as a symbol of the love I feel for my son's mother. The inscription on her tombstone reads "Beloved wife, loving mother and caring friend." I was pleased, because I thought it included me, as well as "our" son, his father and his brother. His mother would have been my caring friend. Her happiness would have brought me smiles.

I realize that whether we like it or not, my son and I are connected, but so am I connected to his parents - and they to me. I am part of their lives, and they are part of mine. To think otherwise is shallowness. To never speak, to never know each other is painful, a needless loss of never knowing these kinfolk to whom you are related. There is a place for all of us. There has to be.

We can pretend we are not connected, but in fact, when parents adopt a child they are also connected to the birthparents. When birthparents place a child for adoption, they are connected to the adoptive parents as well. This is what is real.

I was told I would forget; they were told to continue as if born unto. I don't want to disappear. I want to claim my place and be recognized for it. It is an important place in our son's life. I've considered giving it up and decided I will not - I cannot - do it. I don't want more than my place. I am not his parent, I am his birthparent. It was a fallacy to think we knew all the answers about adoption so many years ago, and today it is important for our children that we recognize - we are connected and will be forever.

Presented in honor of my son, his parents and family and all our families.

Desmond Tuck, adoptive parent
San Mateo, California

Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made us adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents.

Let us find joy and comfort in our lives and those of our loved ones, and in the directions we have chosen to form our families, but let us also be aware of the sadness that adoptees and birthparents have felt by the separation from one another, and adoptees from their siblings.

Help us overcome the hurt and pain some of us have known in our adoption experiences, even in the people who have inflicted it don't know they have wronged us and have shielded themselves from remorse. Show us a way through this adversity to rejoice in our lifestyles, and experience success in our pursuits.

Let us acknowledge and soothe the rage of those adoptees who are denied access to the records of their birth, and are prevented from finding out more about who they really are. Let us support them in their efforts for legislative change which will bring awareness and justice into the system which regulated their separation from their families of origin.

Remind us to cherish those adoption workers who have been pure and chaste in their recognition of the lives of the children that we and the world have been blessed with, and to avoid the bitterness we might foster about how we might have been belittled by others in an office or a hospital ward, or even in our own homes and families.

Help us express our elation and gratitude at becoming parents, to the professionals who understand our anguish because they are intuitive, or have experienced it too and want to spare us what they went through when it was their turn to search and find, and protect us from those who would make a business out of our pain.

Fortify us against individuals and groups who engage in social engineering, who believe they are doing right, but who shame us in ways they do not see or feel or even understand. Open their eyes to their own weaknesses so that they may face their own humanity without fear of diverting from policy. And cherish those among them who show compassion, even if it requires them to bend the rules.

Teach us to recognize the sincere among those who make a living by supporting our searches for those precious and adored children, for they are like jewels in the mist, but are obscured from our view by our own fear and anger. Protect us from exploitation by others who say they "help" us but in truth, tap into our yearning for the dream of parenthood as a stepping stone to their own wealth, renown and happiness.

Give us the strength and the wisdom to value all of our children who are not our children, for all children belong to no one but themselves and to God.

Remind us constantly that all human beings are brothers and sisters, even if we look and feel and sound different. And let us not fail to rise above the petty religious bigotry of those who tell us they know that their way is correct and preordained, and who use this fiction to deprive others among us who do not accept their dogma, of the right to raise a child because they say we do not know what they do.

Above all, help us to educate ourselves to strive to lead by example and moral imperative, rather than by force of will, because memories are enduring and instructive if they help us feel loved, make us smile, and bring us atonement and delight.

Copyright, Desmond B. Tuck, Esq., 1999

Glenn Tafani, adoptee
Chico, California

I am told that, as a child, my favorite book was Dr. Seuss' "Are You My Mother?" The funny thing is I remember hating that book. It scared me to death! But I would ask my mother to read it over and over again. Why? I believe it is because it asks the question of every adoptee's heart - it put into words what I could not say at two years old. On page 14, the little bird sits up in his nest, notices his mother is not there, and determines what he will do: "I will go and find her," he said. "And away he went."

In the same way, we also began our search. Before we were able to verbalize it, we felt the hunger - some of us threw tantrums at birthday parties, others of us suffered medically, mostly from stomach aches. Still others of us withdrew into a fantasy world where we didn't have to feel the haunting.

Our search continued as we entered adolescence and many of us became even more confused about where we really belonged. In our anxiety, we performed - scholastically and educationally. We ran with the wrong crowds and did time in juvenile halls. We looked for love in all the wrong places and bore the consequences that come with using sex to fulfill our longing for real intimacy.

Moving into adulthood, our search continued as we attempted to do grown-up things like careers and marriage. We watched with great confusion as we, at the same time, embraced and pushed away the people who tried to love us - not realizing that the fear of separation can be even more powerful than the desire for real intimacy. We wondered why two, three, or even four degrees weren't enough for us to feel good about ourselves in the professional world. And we wondered why we were so hesitant to decorate our new homes and why we felt so uncomfortable in them.

At this point, many of us began to question the restlessness inside. For some of us, that questioning led to a literal search where many found a sort of healing in seeing themselves in the eyes of another. On the other hand, some of us found what we experienced as a second rejection, only adding to the restlessness. But whether reunited or not, our questions, with the guidance of sensitive, educated counselors, led to an awareness of a deep wound that nothing but starting over and staying in her arms would take away. So our search has changed.

And now we are searching for healing - a practical acceptance of the reality of adoption in our lives. We are searching for maturity - a growing up of those younger places inside of us. And our anxiety is turning to passion - a passion to embrace without fear… a passion to choose with confidence … a passion to call somewhere home and rest in it … a passion to educate ourselves about the effects of adoption on all members of the triad … and a passion to bless our children and speak to them of their belonging and their belovedness.

Today, we celebrate our search for healing.

Claiming and Healing Our Relations
Susan McClurkan Love, adoptee, adoptive parent, birth grandmother

As almost always, I'm thinking of a little boy - he's still just three in the last picture in my mind. Thank you, Stevie, now Stefan, for your gift of my finally feeling the tsunami of grief of all my separations when I lost you. The wall of denial literally disappeared, into my personal abyss, disassembling my being and making a mockery of whatever it was I had called "reality." This separation from each other and my pathway to wholeness have been really hard for both of us, and I'm deeply sad about that.

For me, being here today is about my love for this nine-year-old grandson … and his birthmom, my daughter Ani … and his adoptive parents, Mary Lou and Magnus … and Ani's birthfamily, whom I'm dying to know … and Ani isn't.

It's about my appreciation for my own birthfamily, the McClurkans, whom I know, on the one side and the Wilders, whom I don't, on the other. It's for my other daughter, Catherine, and her birthfather, Benjamin, and her relationship-to-be with him and his family. I'm here to honor the memories of my birthmother, Margaret, and my adoptive parents St. Jane and Gordon.

I'm here for my gentle brother and the birthfamily he doesn't know, and my cousins who were raised as twins even though they weren't. Finally, I'm here for the tiny girl-child who was born to one cousin 32 years ago when she was in college, who was relinquished, and for the family she joined.

I've been an adopted person almost all my life. I am an adoptive mother, a biological mother and a birth grandmother. Two of these connections are blood relationships. The others are the result of broken, then newly made connections.

I think about this family tree … and … I see the forest.

The theme of our story, yours and mine, is the separation of parents and children … grafting these children with new parents … relinquishment and adoption (can't have one without the other). Opening, closing and opening again. It's about how the adoption of a child from one family into another creates a vast matrix of ALL the relations.

I am remembering the aching-to-be-parents, myself included, babies longed for and not conceived or lost along the way to birth, and I'm thinking about the terrible decisions about separation, about the vulnerable mothers, too young or too unsupported, who may have had decisions made for them by well-meaning others, about all the newborns - shocked into chronic trauma by the disappearance of the only known being - themselves in symbiosis as one with their mother.

I think about these, and I feel compassion.

May all of your parents and your children and families, all of my own entities and my children's, my four parents, their families, RECEIVE THIS HEALING LOVE filling this sacred space here today. Especially if they're not here today … even if they don't know you or each other.

I hope that those who are not with us now will be in the years to come, will heed our call to the gathering - to acknowledge one another, our losses, our finds, to feel the warmth of recognition, that others are sharing this experience, and can be with us in our grief and our mending.

Today, in our collective heart opening, we are remembering … and honoring … and lovingly claiming all our relations.

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