Monday, September 23, 2013

The loss she must feel.

My words fail me. Her loss is great.

She will no longer hear the voice that has nurtured her for almost two years, the voice of a man who loved her but lost her at first.

Loss and grieving. Many of my adoptee friends express this loss, but none can imagine the torment she must feel now … at the ripe old age of four.

She was found but is now lost again.

If only I could ease her pain. If only I could hug her to hide the haunting of a new surrounding. But that should be the job of the person she trusts the most … her father, Dusten Brown.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

“We can’t change people by fighting them.”

With the recent media coverage, the adoption agency from which I was adopted, Holt International Children’s Services, has spoken out. The guest columnist, Susan Soonkeum Cox, is vice president for policy and external affairs for Holt International and a Korean adoptee.


Upon reading this column, I was happy to see the agency speak out. What sparked hope in me was these words from Ms. Cox:

“Education, training and matching take time and resources. But it is time and resources well spent when it results in adoptions that work -- for the child. 
This is why Holt and other credible adoption agencies support the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which has been ratified by the United States and 90 other countries. The convention provides global standards that ensure birth families, adoptive families and adopted children have the security of processes and systems designed to protect them. 
The Universal Accreditation Act, which takes effect July 2014, requires every international adoption service provider to be Hague accredited and compliant. This will narrow the gap between unethical practitioners and competent, professional service providers. The act also includes prosecution for unethical practitioners.”

But then, I read the comments. I knew what they might contain because I had been alerted to the column through my connections to Transracial Eyes blog.

Upon reading the remainder of this blogpost, many adoption activists might call me a “KoolAid Drinker.”

That said, I need this dialogue, and the message Ms. Cox has written. I need to believe that the laws and regulations will change to advocate for children. I need to believe that there will be more adoption research, more adoption accountability, more adoption discussion.

I understand the hurt and pain felt by the commenters, Paper Orphan and Daniel Ibn Zayd. Their pain has prompted their activism. Their pain is raw, and and the wound is angry.

But I am fearful that the hurtful words only discredit their message that adoptee welfare needs to be the primary concern in adoptions.

The experiences of Paper Orphan and Daniel Ibn Zayd should not be ignored; their voices need to be understood. However, in a forum of comments, if there is anger, those who need to hear the message to unite for change will only stop listening.

Rather than fighting amongst ourselves, I would prefer to see us united and focused on the future of other adoptees … those young children like Baby Veronica and those children who have been re-homed or swapped. The voice of a large adoption agency pushes the issue to the forefront, and with our smaller voices, all will be a force for change.

Words are powerful. Words are the tools of change, but they can also incite war and loathing.

Change is sweeping the country for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and questioning individuals. Change is coming for the feminists. It’s time to see change in the adoption community. All this change comes as we work together.

What Patrick once said to me bears repeating, “We can’t change people by fighting them.” 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Children are not commodities.

This week has worn me down. Recent revelations in the media on adoptee re-homing, underground swapping and billboard advertisements filled my inbox.



My initial response was shock and horror, then raw anger. Once again, children are seen as commodities. They are advertised, bought and sold.

What keeps reoccurring is this underlying assumption that children are objects. They are selected, placed, advertised, re-homed, swapped and trafficked. They are the subject of lawsuits where a winner-take-all attitude reigns. And all of this takes money. Those with the funds can do as they please. Forget the young life that is being molded and shaped by these disruptive experiences.

I’m a birth mother. Some may argue that as a birth mother it is easier to love, but I think that if a person wants to be a parent, she can do so regardless of how her parenthood evolved. My adoptive parents are the perfect examples, and I learned so much from them.

For me, motherhood is about loving my children despite what they might say or what they might act out. My mother heard my teen voice angrily say, “I wish you had never adopted me!” I knew it would hurt her, and at that age, that was my goal. When I expressed my regret at having said this, my husband revealed his simultaneous “I wish I had never been born!”

For me, motherhood is respecting my children as they become their own individuals … even if it is counter to my individuality. Motherhood is also about supporting them until they are adults and eventually letting them go.

I will leave you with this lovely New Yorker story of a couple who loved their son unconditionally. More simply put, they felt what their son felt. These parents understood to the point of setting their own desires aside. They loved enough to support (both emotionally and financially) their son’s desire to return to his birth country and his original father.

The Baby Veronica case, re-homing and underground swapping are flooding the media. I am hopeful that this media attention will open up more constructive dialogue and lead to more substantive change.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

Remember that line from Tennessee Williams’ play, A Streetcar Named Desire? Blanche DuBois, spiraling out of control, reaches out to the doctor who is taking her away, saying, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”


I have said this to myself often. Initially as a teenager, I made the connection with Blanche because of her accent. It seemed the southernly way for the women in Tennessee. We quoted her and spoke in our thickest accents.

Later, I realized the tragedy of Blanche’s life. As a feminist, I understood hers was a life to be avoided. And yet, in my early college days, I played out many of Blanche’s foibles. Some of my anxieties were rooted in my feelings of racial inadequacy. Unlike the Asian attraction on the West Coast, most in Tennessee were more repulsed by me than attracted.

Unlike Blanche, I did find love from a young Liverpudlian. What attracted him to me was his lack of American male “Stanley” qualities. He respected me as an equal. (I always hated when men would open the door for me. Frankly, they were obstructing the doorway.)

Like my relationship with my adoptive family, I have noticed that I seek deep, family-like friendships. Since beginning my writing for the Lost Daughters, I see similar things happening among them. They are like sisters. Is it that we, as adoptees, have so readily accepted strangers as family, that it makes our friendships more complex?

Over the years, I have adopted additional family members … Kayla, LaDawn, Patrick, Alberto, Jules, Jenny,  Marlene, Kathy, Katherine, Adrienne and now Amy. They are my sisters and brothers. They have accepted my Blanche-like ways. Those who haven’t? Well, my adoptive papers show the darker side of my psyche:



Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Hands Define Us

In the summer of 1987, a few months after my grandmother died, my mother stood, shoulders slumped and shaking. The scent of biscuits had pulled me into the kitchen.

She was silently sobbing. I hugged her and asked what was troubling her.

“Oh, I just remembered something as I was making biscuits,” she said. I looked at her in that knowing way … asking her to continue without using words.

“Shortly after your grandmother died, I went to the kitchen to clean out things. When I opened the Crisco, I saw where she had used her fingers to take the Crisco out to make biscuits.”

I imagined the tracks made by my grandmother’s hands. She cooked without measuring, and most everything was homemade. I remember her hands.

As a teen, I would often sit down with my grandmother … clip, file and clean her nails. She had the sweetest hands, tired from years of working the land and feeding her family. I can remember them, but I regret never learning to draw well enough to reproduce them.  Ironically, I began my coursework in photography that following fall after her death.

It is those we love who define us. The best I can do now, is document the hands that define me. I began late, so I have no images of my mother’s hands either. They are imprinted in my mind as well.

So, I present one of my most intimate series of photographs.


The series began with this image I made of my daughter and my husband’s mother’s hands. My mother-in-law is the only grandmother my daughter has left.



This summer I traveled to Tennessee to capture the hands of my father as his wrapped around my daughter’s.


Then, I found the woman who served as a surrogate mother to me in my early years as a young professional.


Here are my daughter’s hands.


This has inspired my son to also document my hands. Here are mine wrapped around my daughter’s as we sat in a restaurant talking with friends.


But this is my favorite hands photograph, taken by my husband. This was the decisive moment where the love of my kids presents the definitive definition of me.