Deanna Shrodes is revealing herself over at Adoptee Restoration. Come to think of it, she’s been revealing herself for some time. Only now it’s so personal I almost feel guilty for looking.
If you’ve never heard of Deanna she is a mother, pastor, adoptee, blogger, contributor to the Lost Daughters collective, musician, and much more.
Last week Deanna posted the first installment detailing her search, discovery, and reconnection with her first mother and family. Each day she posted the next piece of her story. And each day Deanna ended her post with a cliffhanger. (When the series is complete I expect newcomers will find themselves binge reading the series). After lurking for several months I decided to leave a comment. The end product was much shorter and less comprehensive than what I intended to say. I couldn’t encapsulate my thoughts about a particular paragraph in her post so I finally gave up and said “Thank you for sharing.”
This is the paragraph I wanted to comment on (but didn’t or couldn’t):
The first time my adoptive mom heard me call Judy “Mom” was a lihhhhtle bit of a problem. It was worse than Watergate. It just came out naturally, at a birthday party for one of my kids, and I recall her saying it was “like a knife to her heart,” and we had a little okay, a big scene. That was one of the first times I can remember standing up for myself. I shared how I was feeling in the moment, rather than just shoving it down.
This isn’t the only example I’ve heard, just one of the best illustrated. Penelope’s own godfather, also an adoptee, has had similar situations with family. I don’t think I would have felt different from Deanna’s adoptive mother a year ago. Before we held Penelope in our arms her birth family was an afterthought. How our daughter would think about these unknown people who gave her life were question marks. Shortly after we returned from China I had stirrings. When I saw video footage of Penelope only months old I got upset. Irrationally so. I should have been thankful just to have a peek at our daughter’s earliest days. All I could think was “we should have been there” and “it should have been us shooting this footage.” Totally, completely, ridiculously irrational.
I knew something was wrong with me. Tiny thoughts were percolating. Obvious stuff. Like “There’s a woman out there, and hopefully a man, that gave up this beautiful girl. The chances that they didn’t care about her are slim” and “There’s a woman out there wondering if her daughter survived, and if so, where is she right now?” That was my first shift in perspective.
Soon I was reading every adoptee blog I could find, spending hours at a clip laying on the couch with the laptop, clicking links and scouring blogs. The common themes throughout so many adoptee blogs were impossible not to notice. Much of the writings detailed struggles with confidence, identity, and societies perpetual image of adoptees as children, fear of transparency, and the view of “adoption as salvation” held by strangers and, unfortunately, some adoptive parents. Far from an exhaustive list but illustrative.
My perspective shifted. I started seeing my relationship with my daughter as complex and nuanced. The idea of supplanting Penelope’s birth parents disappeared. I couldn’t look at my daughter without thinking about her birth parents. I started to feel like a caretaker for the most important person on the planet.
That’s what I couldn’t fit into a comment on Deanna’s blog post. Or how I could relate to Deanna’s adoptive mother’s feelings when she heard the word “Mom”. Knowing the way I feel now, I still haven’t a clue how I’ll react when Penelope says “father” and means her biological father. If I’ve learned nothing else from my brief time as an adoptive parent it’s that emotions and reasoning aren’t always synchronized. Sometimes, I’ve discovered, I have to step back. Take some deep breaths. And pull myself together. And most importantly, not say anything until after I’ve pulled myself together.