This is my second time participating in the Open Adoption Interview project sponsored by Production, Not Reproduction. Bloggers who have an interest in open adoption are paired up and interview each other about adoption or other topics. This year I was matched with Linda Hoye, who writes about adoption, being a grandparent, and gardening at A Slice of Life Writing. She is also the author of “Two Hearts,” a book about her own experience as an adoptee. Keep reading to learn more about Linda, and visit her blog to read her interview with me.
1. In one of your posts, you shared that your son and daughter were the first people you had ever met who were biologically related to you. As a child, how aware were you that your family didn’t share your genes? How did you feel when you finally met two people who did (your son and daughter)? What would you tell adoptive parents about the importance of biological relations?
I was always very aware that I had a heritage that was different from that of my adoptive family. Adoption was different when I was growing up–it was closed and very secretive. I knew intuitively that it was not okay to ask questions about my first family and, in fact, (and perhaps unconsciously) was encouraged to pretend that I was biologically related to my adoptive parents. When we studied genetics in school, due to the careful matching of baby and parent done by the adoption experts of the day, everything made sense; people remarked about how much I looked like my adoptive mom and the fact that I was adopted wasn’t mentioned. The problem with this, is that asking a child to pretend to be someone they’re not instills a sense of shame for the person they are at the core.
It was huge for me to have children and to finally have DNA-related people in my life. A curious thing is that my children look very much like me, and we’ve been told that since they were born, yet I was never able to see the resemblance for myself until recently.
I love how most adoptive parents today realize the importance of honoring their child’s heritage and celebrating the tribe they came from. It’s very important for a child to know that they don’t have to pretend to be someone they aren’t and that who they are is okay.
2. One of your posts on “Adoption Voices,” called “No Angry Adoptee Here,” generated a lot of comments. In that post, you explained that you experience anger over being adopted, but that you found your way to the other side. Can you explain more about that experience? Would you ever say that your anger was justified? Why or why not?
Oh my yes, it sure did! For much of my life I suppressed the anger I had about adoption–anger directed mainly toward my birth mom. If you had asked me if being adopted impacted me I’d deny it. Yet, if I read a book about adoption or saw a movie, all those feelings still came bubbling to the surface. I would probably still be in that place of carrying repressed anger if I hadn’t written Two Hearts. The process of writing the book forced me to go into the abyss where all that anger and grief had been hidden for so many years. It wasn’t until I acknowledged it was there that I was able to begin the process of understanding, forgiving, and healing.
I wouldn’t say that the anger I felt at one time was either justified or not–it just was. Adoption isn’t perfect. I believe that, for the most part, the experts of the day who touted that closed adoption was best for the child did the best they could with the information they had at the time. Do I still experience anger regarding adoption? Yes. But I choose not to live in that place; I choose to speak out constructively and respectfully and celebrate the changes in the adoption climate. I still believe in the blessing of adoption.
3. You’ve written about your visit to your first mother’s grave site and your feelings about the fact that she has no tombstone. You’ve even considered buying one for her. Why have you considered doing this?
Yes, I’m still thinking about doing that. Regardless of the circumstances, she was still my birth mother and her life deserves to be honored in some way.
4. In your post on Steve Jobs, you wrote that Steve felt that “Our ‘real’ parents are the ones who raised us; the ones who cared for us when we were sick; the ones who made sacrifices so we could (fill in the blank). I couldn’t agree more with Steve on this one.” Can you elaborate more on why you feel this way? Can’t children simply have two sets of parents – does one have to be more real than the other?
My adoptive parents were my parents. They were the ones who cared for me, worried about me, loved me and, like Steve said, sacrificed so my sister and I could have a good life. The term ‘real’ seems to be less relevant in terms of open adoption than it once was in my world of closed adoption. Yes, children can be blessed to have more than one set of parents in their life and I think that’s one of the good things about open adoption.
5. You are the author of “Two Hearts,” a book about your life as adoptee and how you turned grief into gratitude. The summary of “Two Hearts” explains that you were desperately seeking “family.” How do you define “family?” How did you find it? And, what would you say to others who are also seeking a family?
I spent many years looking for family–a tribe–because I grew up feeling like I was a square peg who didn’t fit anywhere. Those individuals I considered family early in my life either died or left my life for one reason or another. I felt very alone for many years and made poor choices as a result. Today my family–my husband, our children and grandchildren, and extended family are the greatest blessing in my life. Many of those I consider family today came unexpectedly and wonderfully into my life. I guess the message I would have is to find a way to protect your heart and keep it open at the same time. You have to know what you are willing to allow into your life and make deliberate choices to maintain those boundaries. Once you’re able to do that, stay open to “possibility”, be thankful, and keep your eyes open for the blessings that come into your life.