Wednesday, September 10, 2014

3 Ways My Life Has Changed Post Adoption Reunion

By Jessenia Arias

 My life has changed vastly as an adoptee after I reunited with my birth family. I always thought that meeting my family was what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, it was exactly what I wanted, however, I never knew I would have faced the obstacles I had to face post reunion. People warn you of the possibilities of rejection, death, failures, and the unexpected when you begin your search for your birth family, but honestly what adoptee wants to think that things are going to wrong? The only thing on an adoptees mind is getting answers and most of all that they will be received with open arms and love from their birth family.

One thing is true though; change is for the better or for the worse. I have encountered both post reunion. It is very normal in case you are having the same or similar thoughts, or have spent time questioning what you have gotten yourself into. We should expect that our lives would change in some way post reunion. As adoptees, we are finding ourselves through this process and picking up the pieces of our lives in hopes that everything will one day make sense, and we will be okay with it.  Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing; it is all in how you see it.

How my life changed:

I had to learn how to have relationships with siblings that were once strangers

Imagine being adopted into a family with one sibling whom you don’t really have a close relationship with for the exception that you love each other because you are sisters, to reuniting with your family finding yourself blessed with not one or two siblings, but six! They all wanted to be a part of my life badly, however, I had no idea how to love them or how to be a sister to them because I never had a close relationship with my sister. Growing up, I yearned for a close relationship with my sister; however, the dynamics of our family was very dysfunctional at the time. I was fearful of forming a bond with my biological siblings knowing that I have a sister I grew up with that I wanted so badly to have a bond with. I do not ever want her to feel like I love my biological siblings more than her. My biological siblings wanted to hug me, talk on the phone, have sleepovers and pillow fights, go on vacation, have a girl’s night, and so much more. All of this was foreign to me. I was afraid to let them get close to me. Immediately I put my guard up, closed the gates, and cut off all communication. Constantly I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Isn’t this what you always wanted?  A family?” Oh, the mind games I played with myself over this. I got angry with myself because they all had each other growing up. I was the only child placed for adoption. I was angry because I wasn’t sure if I would fit in. I hate feeling awkward. I had enough of that just being an adoptee growing up. I found it impossible to make up for lost time, therefore, I ran from the thought of even trying to be a family.

It took me a couple of years to bring myself to a place where I would ask them for forgiveness. They did nothing but try to love me and be there for me.  I am not perfect though. None of us are. I am human and I make mistakes, but what is important is that people are able to recognize the loss we suffer as adoptees.  It is hard to put the pieces together and to welcome people into your life even if they are your blood relatives. As much pain as I felt, I can only imagine how they felt growing up never knowing they had a sister, and all they wanted to do was be there for me and make up for lost time.  

I had to learn how to have and balance two families

I have often heard from adoptees in reunion that they feel like they are caught in the middle of their adoptive family and biological family, and feel forced to choose between the two oftentimes. I have also heard from adoptees that say they are afraid that their adoptive family will shame them, be angry with them, or disown them if they were to choose to spend the holidays with their biological family or if they were to spend too much time with them. The pressure is really on as an adoptee, and I do not believe that adoptive parents and birth parents understand what goes on in the mind of an adoptee in this position. It is hard enough growing up knowing you are adopted and having the usual family trials, but to have two do deal with? That can sometimes feel like double the trouble, double the pain, and double the heartache.

I still struggle with the thought of having two families. As an adoptee, you cannot help but want them to merge into one in some way to eliminate any and all awkwardness. The awkwardness no birth parent or adoptive parent will ever understand unless they are adoptees themselves. Although I do not spend the holidays with either family because I live in another country, if I did, I would want everyone under the same roof and not be forced to choose. But sometimes, that can be too much to ask for from our adoptive parents and even birth parents. And trust me, I completely get it; I know that it isn't the easiest thing to do, but families should at least attempt it. What adoptees want and need is to be thought of first. Think about how we feel as we are the ones going through it harder than any mother or father that has either placed or adopted. Just think about it. 

I had to learn to find strength within myself, and trust God for healing and answers

It is evident that no matter how successful your adoption reunion is, there will be trials and tribulations as you work through the whys, apologies, forgiveness, and relationships. You never know how strong you are until you have been pushed down to the ground and up against the wall to the point where you feel like you cannot breathe. There will be adoptees that will never reunite with their birth family because they cannot locate them or they passed away, and they have to cope with that pain forever. There will be adoptees that will face rejection for the second time.  There will be adoptees that are reunited with their birth family that will never hear the truth or receive answers. There will be adoptees in reunion with their birth family that still find themselves alone with no connection to either family.

I have endured great losses in such short time post reunion. The day I met my birth family was in the ICU of a hospital because my little brother was in an accident and not expected to survive. Not long after, my other little brother was murdered. My birth mother hasn’t been the same since. I cannot bring myself to ask her questions or why I was placed for adoption after all that she has been through with my siblings. I was left numb for months in search for answers and peace. It all began to overwhelm me to the point that it brought me to the lowest I have ever been in my life. It was then that I found a new relationship with God. I found a new peace and comfort I never knew existed. I found a new strength in me I never knew I had.  I learned that we don’t have to go through everything alone, and that God is always with us. My life has changed for the better know that I have found peace. 

Overall, my adoption journey changed my life and has made me the woman I am today. Would I trade it for another life as hard as it has been? Never. It made me. It gave me the strength to persevere. It gave me the compassion the world needs. Ultimately, it birthed my purpose in helping counsel adoptees and the youth. No matter what happens in your life post reunion – positive or negative, you must always remain strong for yourself, and always remember that life is about changes. They make us who we are. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t run from them. Find the beauty in them.

How has your life changed post reunion?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Secrets, Lies, and Shame: Why Do Birth Mothers Hide?

“Our Wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” David  Richo

 A huge part of me wished she would have been dead.  After all, death would be the only acceptable explanation I could give her for not searching for me.  Yet after nearly 8 years, my prayers had been answered.  Years of daydreaming of who I was had finally been revealed.  I felt like I was in a dream.  I was Dorothy Gail being whisked away by a tornado into a fictious land of childhood fantasy.  Was this all a dream?  I was afraid to go to sleep.  So many nights I had dreamt of unlocking the truth.  The key to Pandora’s Box had been out of my reach for so long.  I feared shutting my eyes only to wake and find the box locked once more.  It just couldn’t be real, but it was.

I don’t remember being nervous during that first phone call.  I guess I was still in shock and unaware of what to expect.  Did she remember me?  Did she think about me after all these years?  I thought I might remember the sounds of her voice that first time I heard it again.  Though the voice I heard was not the voice of what I had anticipated to be of a mother.  It was that of a woman who sounded cold and uninviting.  I silently prayed I had the wrong number.  Surely, this could not be the woman who gave birth to me.  I then realized the fantasy was over.  This was real.  Like many other adoptees, I too had spent most of my childhood fantasizing about the mother I had lost.  Is she famous?  Is she royalty?  Is she even alive?  I guess what many of us don’t consider is that this woman too is an ordinary human being.  She doesn’t possess any superhuman powers extraordinary abilities.  No one is perfect.  I often feel like all birthmothers are put on some pedestal, because they did some heroic gesture by giving us a “better” life.  Other times, I feel like they want us to feel sorry for them as if they had no control over their actions.  While this may be the case for many of them, I don’t feel they all were forced down this path.  I believe some chose it.  Perhaps, there are those that just don’t want to be our mothers or a mother at all.  The voice I heard was indeed not one I had expected.  She did not appear happy to speak to me nor did she ask me anything about my life.  I was hurt and extremely disappointed, but I refused to let myself cry.  I spent a lifetime of birthdays crying.  I listened to her tell me she never thought about me.  Meanwhile the hole in my heart got bigger. 

I had to remember that she did agree to speak to me.  I had to do so on her own terms, which I agreed.  She told me I was not allowed to speak to her about her family.  Wait a minute!  I thought it was my family too.  What about my brother or my birth father?  I had so many questions, but she refused to answer them.  She immediately began to state she has no favorite food, color, holiday, or season.  She went on to tell me she was a simple person and did not want me involved in her business.  The conversation didn’t last very long.  All her answers were very quick and short.  She treated me as if I were some telemarketer calling to sell her the latest line of household cleaning supplies.  Are you kidding?  My search led me to this?  I was almost too much.  This was a second rejection.  Maybe I had expected too much.  After all, what good can come from years of secrecy, lies, and shame?

Since that first phone conversation, I have spoken to my birthmother a number of other times.  None of them were extremely pleasant.  Once I got a frantic phone call at work from her demanding to know what I wanted.  She criticized my parents, for telling me the truth about my adoption.  Clearly, I was intended to be her dirty, little secret until the day she died.  At times, she would call because she had discovered another member of the family had been in contact with me.  Why couldn’t she just leave it alone?  Why couldn’t she just tell me about my sibling or about the man who fathered me?  She lied to me by telling me she has no other children.   Paperwork I received from the adoption agency specifies she had a 2 year old son at the time she was pregnant with me, yet she refuses to acknowledge it.  Other members of my birthfamily have attested they know nothing about her other child.  Is that true or are they lying to keep my birthmother’s secret?  Maybe she even has more children than they realize.  After living a life of lies, you never know who you can and cannot trust.  I will not stop looking for my brother.  I only pray the end of my journey, doesn’t lead me to a grave.  Whether or not he is a good man or a horrible human being, is irrelevant.  As an adult, I deserve the chance to decide that for myself.     

I haven’t spoken to my birthmother in over a year, and I have no intention of contacting her again soon.  The very last thing I remember was wishing her a happy birthday.  I send her a card for Thanksgiving, hoping my kindness would encourage her to treat me with the slightest amount of affection.  I even wished her a happy birthday.  I had hoped in doing so, she would call me a month later during mine.  I guess I was wrong.   I got another hysterical phone call.  She had discovered a family member send me a photo though Facebook.  She had only called to tell me to stay out of her business.  I made a decision that same day.  I could not continue to allow myself to keep getting hurt over and over again.  I had to end it.  At that moment I knew that this would be the last time I spoke with her. 

  When people ask me about her, I simply shake my head.  Maybe it will take another 30 years before I allow myself to become that susceptible to the pain all over again.  Lots of people might say to give her time.  She is hurting.  Why does it feel like everything is about her?  Her secrecy still controls my right to know the truth.  If adoption is supposed to be about the best interest of the child, why isn’t it?  Of all parties involved, adoptees are the only ones who get no choice in our adoptions.  What most non-adoptees and family members do not understand is that every day is a struggle.  Although a few other family members have accepted me, I don’t know if I will ever feel like a true member of their family.  The only thing worse than not having a family is having 2 families and feeling like a stranger in both of them.  I will someday find my brother and my birthfather.  I love it when people somewhat affectionately tell you not to search, because they don’t want you to get hurt.  I think what most people don’t understand is that we’re already hurt.  I do not regret my decision to search.  It was one of the best decisions I have made.  While most people I know discover who they are in high school or college, I have just begun to do so.  None of this has been easy and I am sure more challenges will come, but I will continue to stay strong.  No matter how much people try to understand you, they never will come close to knowing the lifelong trauma of being forced to grow up as someone you were not born to be. 

V. Marie I am a reunited adoptee from Louisiana.  I earned my B.A. in sociology from The University of New Orleans in 2005. My experience through adoption lead me to earn my M.A. in Community Counseling from Webster University in 2013.

I was adopted at 6 weeks old. My adoptive parents love me very much, but they weren't ready to deal with the challenges that came with an adopted child. They supported me my entire life, but they could not heal my pain. As I grew up, I began to see even more diffrences between my adoptive family and myself. I longed to know where I fit belonged. Around the year 2005, I began actively searching. I had doors slammed in my face and others who told me to give up and be grateful for what I had. I found my birthmother around 2012, and it was hardly the heartfelt reunion I had hoped for. However, I will not let that stop me from seeking the truth and searching for my birthfather and my brother. I have to be strong and keep going. The truth is that I was an unwanted baby. My birthmother made a conscience decision not to be a mother to her children. My birthfamily will never understand what I have gone though emotionally as an adopted person. I am still treated like an outsider by many of them. I have been fortunate to be welcomed by a handful of cousins. And although they have good intentions, they will never understand my loss and the pain I feel when I'm around them. I believe that adoption can a wonderful thing, but we have to remember that it doesn't without loss. What I yearn for most is to have a family of my own.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Adoptees is Niagara Falls-Buffalo | Why Adoptees Need Each Others Support

I had the pleasure of meeting Joan Wheeler, adoptee, author, and adoptee right activist at the I Am Adopted Meet and Greet I hosted in Niagara Falls, New York this past weekend. Niagara Falls and Buffalo, NY kicked off the first meet and greet for the summer of 2014.

Just when I thought I would be canceling the meet and greet in Niagara Falls and Buffalo area due to attendance, I tweeted a photo that I was in Niagara Falls, and I received a tweet from Joan Wheeler. Eagerly we arranged our schedules, and we linked up the next day after church at Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I could see Joan’s smiling face through the glass window as I ran in my heels through the rain to give her a big squeeze. I was praying she was a hugger, and she was!

Beautiful flowers from Joan
There is nothing like meeting another adoptee over coffee; they can empathize with everything you are going through whether it is about adoption, relationships, or future planning. That morning I woke up grieving the loss of my biological brother that was murdered a year ago. I went to church for the first time since being back in the U.S praying that God would give me the peace I needed, however, I would not let Him in. I was too hurt. I wanted to so badly ‘give it to God’ as I seen others do that day with their sufferings. I couldn’t. My boy friend continued to ask me what was wrong. Everyone was singing, dancing, and praising. There I sat, lifeless, fighting back tears, and figuring out how I was going to run out of church without having to answer to anyone afterwards. I did not want anyone to know I was hurting from the loss of my little brother. They wouldn’t understand. No one understands. But there was Joan. How ironic; the day I am missing my brother the most, feeling like there is no one in the world that would understand me, I was blessed in that very moment to sit in front of Joan Wheeler. She knows what it feels like to endure loss and having to grieve. She listened and asked all the right questions that only adoptees would ask because only we know these things and experience them. It brought me peace being able to talk about my birth family and the loss of my birth brother. I was reminded how good God is to unite me with someone that understands in that moment. 

When Joan tweeted me, I had no idea I read about her before in newspapers. She has a very interesting and compelling adoption story. I hear stories often from adoptees, however, none like Joan Wheeler’s. I would have never thought I would be sitting in front of her. She was someone I felt I could relate to in many ways when I read about her in the newspaper. Wheeler is the author of, Forbidden Family: My Life as an Adoptee Duped by Adoption, and she is an adoptee’ rights activist. She is courageous most of all, and that is what inspired me about her. She was born a fighter and will never give up until her truth on adoption is told.

Thank you Joan

Visit Joan Wheeler’s website: Forbidden Family

Tweet Joan Wheeler: Forbidden Family

I would like to meet you (adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents). What city and state are you in? Post below in the comment section.  

Find out what city my next meet and greet will be in by visiting me on Facebook. I cannot wait to meet you! 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Imaginary Mothers Film | Adoption Corruption in Latin America

Imagine being a young mother, pregnant, indigent, with no voice living in Latin America. Imagine your baby being stripped away from you and not knowing where he went, who took him, or if he will ever return.

Imagine giving birth to a beautiful baby girl with big beautiful brown eyes that remind you how great God is endure such a beautiful blessing.

Imagine only moments later being bombarded by strangers next to your hospital bed as you cradle your baby girl while a woman adamantly explains to you that your mother said it was okay for them to be there. They explain that your mother said to give them your baby because that woman cannot bear a child, and she would be a better mother than you. You lay there clenching your baby with pain in your heart and your stomach with no one to be a voice for you and to protect you from those that prey on single, indigent, and powerless women.


Imagine if you were one of these women from Costa Rica whose wish is that they at least had a tombstone to visit to lay flowers for their child in hopes to have some connection to them and knowing where they are.

Imagine crying everyday hoping that by a miracle your child will come running through your front door.

Imagine staring into the faces of children in the street everyday hoping to see a pair of eyes that look back at you with familiarity.

Every year thousands of mothers across the world are preyed upon and coerced into placing their child for adoption. These women are told that their children will return after earning an education. These women are degraded and told that they are not good enough to be mothers because some seemingly picture perfect wealthy family is on the other side of the door, infertile, and praying that a mother will stop fighting and give up her own child. How selfish of a nation we have become to allow this to continue. We must put a end to the injustices of international adoption and bring back the children of the Imaginary Mothers of Costa Rica.

We need your help right now. Not a second later. No woman deserves to have her child stripped away from her, lied to, or taken advantage of her. We can put a stop to this by raising awareness of the injustices on adoption in Latin America. Please stand with me and donate now to help these women tell their story in hopes to protect other woman around the world from being a victim of adoption injustices.

Stand with me and donate today -  here

Thank you for your brave and courageous heart in putting together this film, Jacqueline Arias. Because of you these women have hope that their child may one day return home, and one less mother will be a victim of adoption corruption. 

Prayers & peace to the mothers that have lost their children to adoption corruption in Latin America 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jamie Foxx Moves His Birth Mother Into His Home in Hopes to Reconcile

Have you ever thought about moving your birth mother into your home? Famed singer-songwriter-actor, Jamie Foxx did. 

"We're trying to learn [about] each other," the actor told Britain's The Sunday Times. "The one thing I think is great is she's in the same house, because you realize certain things that you missed when you were growing up, like, 'Oh, I do that because of that,' or 'Oh, I do this because of this."

First let me say, where was I to not know that Jamie Foxx was adopted? Now that I have had coffee and my eyes are open, I am quite inspired by his decision to move his birth mother into his home. I would be lying if I said I never secretly thought about having my adoptive family and birth family all under one roof. I have fantasized about it countless times especially after my reunion with my birth family. It makes everything easier; it makes perfect sense. How else can one really make up for lost time and build a genuine mother and child relationship other than seeing each other every morning and night? It makes sense, right? 

My birth mother lives in Puerto Rico and I live in Japan, there is no way possible we can even build a relationship if we wanted to. Skype and FaceTime is marketed as a way to stay close and connected with loved ones, however, it still does not do justice in being able to hug your birth mother or get a taste of her cooking. I spent about three days with my birth mom when we reunited and that was it; it has been about two years since I have seen her. And as many of you know, those three days were spent in the ICU with my little brother. I never had the chance to ask the questions every adoptee wants to ask their birth mom or even spend time getting to know her. One thing I did see my birth mom and I had in common was our mannerisms. We almost mirror each other in everything we do. Seeing that made me want to see more about her. I was intrigued every since. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I would catch myself in the mirror fantasizing what my birth mother was like. As Foxx said, being an adoptee and raised by other folks, you want to find out why you do the little things you do and where they come from. As crazy as Foxx's decision to move in his birth mother sounds when I first heard of it in the news, I think I would like to try that some day even if it were for a summer. I want to know who she is, and I want to spend time with her. Deep in my heart, I want to feel if there is such a thing as a mother-daughter bond. My only fear is that too much time has passed to build such a bond. 

My question to all of you is, is it really possible to build or rebuild a relationship with your birth mother or biological child after being apart most if not all your life without living under the same roof? 

Would you ever move in your birth mother or move in with your birth mother? 

Check us out on Facebook for adoption inspiration -  here

Connect with me personally on Facebook - Jessenia Arias

Tweet Me Tweet Me - @iamadopted.