Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Sound of Hope Book Tour

Even thought I haven't really had the time to post, I signed up for this book tour hosted by Lori. I'm relieved to read that other participants had time constraints as well, but I'm glad I signed on for this. Turns out I have lots of opinions and feelings about the subject. The book, The Sound of Hope: A True Story of an Adoptee's Quest for her Origins by Ann Bauer, is her account of growing up during the closed adoption era, and her search for her first parents. I am not part of an adoption triad. I am not an adoptee, a first mother, or an adoptive parent, but I have read quite a bit from those with firsthand experience with adoption. I am the mother of a child through an open embryo donation. Even though the situation is very different, there are lessons to be learned. Of course, I have also read and listened to what donor conceived people feel about their origins and secrecy, but adoption has a longer history and is much more widespread, so the adoption community where I often look for inspiration to help my daughter navigate her feelings about her origins.

Now for my answers to questions posed by other bloggers. (Admission: I just didn't have time to come up with any questions to add to the mix, but I love the thoughtful questions everyone came up with.)

1. There are many instances in which the people around Anne do not acknowledge her feelings about her adoption status. These instances range from her parents, especially her mother, her fiancee, her fiancee's parents, and even her birth mother.  Do you think these instances occurred because of the general outlook on adoption at the time, and do you think that this outlook has improved over time?

I do think it had to do with the outlook at the time. I think it's changed somewhat, but there's still a ways to go. I think this also relates to a question in the other set of questions about the way adoptions were matched based on physical similarity. This is very common with egg donation today. It's not even questioned. In my opinion, this opens the door to the possibility of secrecy. And secrecy is never in the best interests of the child. Secrecy is never about the child's feelings.

I had a hard time with the sections of the book where the people around Anne discounted or minimized her feelings. I grew up with a mother who felt she knew how I should feel about things, and would tell me I was wrong, and I should not feel the way I did. It hurt. It still hurts. (She still does it now and then.) Anne, I'm sorry you had to deal with that. I applaud you for standing up to them all and demanding that your feelings be respected. Because of my experiences, and maybe just because I'm a different kind of person, respecting and honoring Sunshine's feelings has always been a high priority.

2. A variety of words are used to describe family in this book: mother, father, adoptive mother, adoptive father, biological relative, original family, first mother, birth mother, and even bionic mother (her Dad's word). Did you notice this word choice, and if so, what impact did it have on your reading?

Yes, I noticed the word choice. I tend to notice word choice regarding family in general. I thought "bionic mother" reflected her father's mixed feelings about her search. I've chosen to refer to Sunshine's donor siblings as simply her brother and sister, as this seems to be the preferred language among donor siblings. A few months ago I was talking with one of my neighborhood mom friends. We were talking about Sunshine's origins, and about another mom and the son their family adopted. Then the discussion moved on to red hair, and how since it is recessive it needs to be on both sides genetically. She mentioned a friend who has a reheaded child even though neither parent has red hair. She then said, "And I know they're the real parents." I took a deep breath and said that I know she didn't mean it that way, but it would be more appropriate to have said, "I know they're the genetic parents." I reminded her that I am Sunshine's REAL mother and that our friend who is an adoptive parent is her son's REAL mother. She was horribly embarrassed, but I told her it was better that she made the error with me, and I was sure she wouldn't make that mistake again. Words matter. A lot. 

3. In the Afterword, Anne says "If children are to be told they're adopted, then society needs to embrace the full consequences of the truth." Does this statement subtly give "society" a pass, suggesting that perhaps children should not be told? What do you make of her assertion that "when children are kept in the dark regarding their origins, nobody wins."? What about her brothers, who never searched for their own origins? Is this "uncuriosity" normal? Acceptable? Preferable?

"Does this statement subtly give "society" a pass, suggesting that perhaps children should not be told?" I hope not. I'm curious to hear Anne's response to that, since she's the only one who can say what she meant when she wrote that.

"What do you make of her assertion that "when children are kept in the dark regarding their origins, nobody wins."?" I agree. Secrets keep us apart. Love and honesty bind us together. 

"What about her brothers, who never searched for their own origins? Is this "uncuriosity" normal? Acceptable? Preferrable?" It does seem, anecdotally, that boys/men seem less compelled to search. Normal? What's normal? Acceptable? Of course. if one is to respect curiosity, one needs to also respect "uncuriosity". Preferable? My gut response is no. Just looking at Anne's family, her brothers' "uncuriosity" appears steeped in guilt, anger, and resentment. No, that's not preferable.

I'm glad I read the book and pushed myself to find the time to put my thoughts together. This post is one I'd be happy to have my daughter read someday and discuss together. I'm going to try to find the time to comment on the other thoughtful posts.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at LavenderLuz.com.

11 comments:

Anne Bauer said...

I made that comment in my Afterword with the intent of being a bit sarcastic. I find it ridiculous that my parents were urged to tell us about our adoption status but nothing more. You cannot tell a child something so big and important as this and then expect the child to easily dismiss the subject and never bring it up again. I remember my mother stating that the social workers told them it was a good idea to tell the children about being adopted because if someday we found out by mistake (some relative accidentally spilling the beans maybe)then they would risk us being angry with them. So was the reason for telling us to protect the adoptive parents? It's hard to say what their intentions truly were at the time but is is silly to tell a child they were born from someone else but you are not allowed to know them or even see what they look like. So my statement was in no way giving society a "pass" to choose not to tell adopted children about their adoption status. It was stressing the "If" you do this scenario, then how can you not "do that".

Lori Lavender Luz said...

Like you, I was full of admiration for Anne for living from her core, despite what those around her thought she should feel and do.

I've seen you in action with Sunshine and I can tell you are a very in tune kind of mama, giving her the space to feel her feelings, whatever they are.

Bravo to you for helping people understand that words do matter.

So glad you made the time to share the tour with me, Dora!

Anne Jo said...

"Words Matter"

Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment on my blog. It's nice meeting you Dora :)!

"I grew up with a mother who felt she knew how I should feel about things, and would tell me I was wrong, and should not feel that way."

I could so relate to your feelings. I also grew up with mother who treated me the same way. Adding adoption made the equation even more difficult because I am still struggling to know how I felt and she was supposed to have all the answers?

JoAnne

Kellie C said...

You have a very interesting perspective. Dora. Thank you for sharing.
I agree that Anne's brothers not searching seemed to be grounded in their guilt or fear of hurting their parents, but I hate to pass judgement on them. It's equal, in my opinion, to saying someone shouldn't search because they might hurt their parents. (I know you weren't suggesting that. I'm just making an observation)

Tonya said...

Anne's response here along with your comment about how secrets keep us apart made me think how much the concept of openness has changed the world of adoption. One thing I've found is that the more I talk with my children about their birth families, the more comfortable I am with the conversations. At this point, talking about their birth family is like talking about my mom or my sisters and their families -- it's simply a part of our extended family -- and just as their love for their grandmother doesn't minimize or threaten their love for me, neither does their love for their birth mom. But, I'm not sure I'd feel that way if we weren't so open matter of fact about their adoption and their other family.

Geochick said...

I felt like I had hardly any time too and had to make it like a homework assignment! :)

I forgot about the afterword until I read your post. That statement, I thought was a little sarcastic and totally spot-on. I wish people would just view adoption with open eyes already. Yes, it's a way to build a family. No, I am not a "savior". Yes, it's important to cultivate relationships with first-families. No, it's not "weird" to have visits with first-families...etc, etc.

Kathy said...

I am another one who was crazy busy and somehow managed to get this book read and post written. But as always, it was worth it to have this experience connecting with you and others to discuss Anne's book. I am struck by the variety of backgrounds and life experiences that many of us bring to this Sound of Hope table.

I am also fascinated by your point of view as the mother of a child conceived through embryo adoption. As someone who went through IVF and had leftover frozen embryos that we ended up donating for research, I appreciate hearing about your experience. I should tell you that we always intended to use them/try again, but after our first FET cycle grew into our second child, a baby girl with rare, severe and fatal congenital heart defects, we didn't feel we could take the chance that any of our other frozen embryos might have had similar issues.

We did not come to our decision lightly and I admire those who know they don't want to have more children and yet have unused embryos, allowing them to be given to families such as yours.

Okay, that was a bit of a tangent, but getting back to the book, I so agree that words matter and they matter a lot. They have the powerful to lift us up and make us feel so good and loved. They also can be so hurtful, especially when motivated by fear and misunderstanding.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on The Sound of Hope and your kind words in your comment on my blog about Anne's book and the tour questions.

LauraD said...

Dora,

This is my first time at your blog, and I just want to say first ... thank you. Thank you for being willing to look to the adoption community for guidance as to similar emotions your daughter may feel as a part of an open embroyo donation.

Even within the "directly connected" adoption community, it's sometimes difficult to get others to be willing to listen to the viewpoint of adult adoptees from the closed adoption era--we've grown up with the "not knowing," the secrecy and the lies. And I commend you for your openness.

Warmly,
Laura

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