January 17, 2012
Adoption Book Tour: "Found" by Jennifer Lauck
Today I am participating in an adoption book tour of Found by Jennifer Lauck, organized by Lori at The Open Adoption Examiner. Found is a companion to Ms Lauck's earlier memoirs (the acclaimed Blackbird, Still Waters, and Show Me the Way), re-telling some of the same events then continuing on through her reunion with her first mother and, more broadly, her search for wholeness, peace, and identity. It's a raw and powerful story about her memory of loss (loss piled on loss, in this case: losing her family of origin due to closed adoption, losing her adoptive family to death, losing trust and safety when she is betrayed and abused by those who are supposed to take care of her) and the many ways (Tibetian Buddhism, motherhood, reunion) she found restoration.
As part of the tour, I was sent a few questions to answer. To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.
As someone who does not have living children, I felt a little dissed by the author's assertions that being a mother brings clarity that is otherwise impossible to have. Did others read this the same way? Do you agree? Disagree?
I read it as Ms. Lauck speaking to the clarity that becoming a mother brought to her but there was such strength of conviction and language that I absolutely see how the reader who posed this question read it as a universal statement--and why that would sting.
I can only speak from my own experience. Becoming a parent was (obviously) a major event for me, one that affected nearly every part of my life in some way. Taking on "mother" as this new aspect of my identity brought about--or forced, really--all sorts of self-reflection and new insights into myself and my worldview. Those insights are unique to mothering, for me, simply because that is the catalyst that happened to bring them to me. But I don't think motherhood is the only path I could have taken to them, had my life gone a different direction. And no two people will experience parenthood in the same way, so the insights which having a child might bring to them will be different than mine.
It's akin in some ways to how adoption intersects with motherhood for me. I'm a different parent than I would have been if I'd birthed my children, I believe. Grappling with and ultimately embracing that fact that I am not my children's only mother, that there are things only their families of origin can provide for them, was a humbling and ultimately empowering experience. (And one which is definitely ongoing!) It's led me to be more attuned in my parenting and really let go of any assumptions I might have had about what our parent/child relationship would be like, instead letting us create that relationship together. I would never think to claim that I have a clarity no non-adoptive mother could have, yet for me there is a direct line between adoption and the sort of parent I'm becoming. It's always hard to tease these sorts of things apart. I think we just need to be careful to leave room for other's experiences when we talk about our own.
Assuming the loss of a first mother is extremely painful for an adoptive child, is there a way to empower or help an adoptive child heal if an open relationship with their first mother is not an option?
Speaking from an adoptive parent's perspective, I think when an actual relationship isn't possible, we still keep to the same principle of maintaining openness. In fact, even when first parents are present in a child's life, we still need to be deliberately practicing openness. Openness to listening to and talking honestly with our children about adoption. Openness to the full breadth of our children's identities, which includes respecting and affirming their origins. Openness to the many possible different paths to relationship, whether it be with extended first family, or former foster family, or simply always holding open the possibility of contact in the future. Maintaining open adoption relationships is simply another part of that continuum and, at its best, has that same spirit of openness behind it.
No matter what degree of contact we may have, I think we have to realize that ultimately our children's empowerment or healing (or whatever words they decide best fit them) is a task they will finish independent of us. Parenting means watching for times and ways our children needs us to comfort or guide, giving them language and tools to work with their emotions. But it's also giving them the room to define their adoption experience and needs for themselves as they grow up. I don't assume Eddie and Mari are unaffected by adoption, but neither do I approach them as permanently damaged. Neither would be fair to the complex, amazing people they are and are becoming. I get very mama bear protective when people are deterministic about my children, whether it's to say, "Oh, they'll be fine because they were adopted as infants/in open adoptions/are so loved/etc." or to say they are irreparably broken. I'm trying to be open to a whole range of possibilities and learn from as many different adopted adults' perspectives as I can, so I am able to engage with them as they process and integrate their adoptions in their own unique ways.
Lauck argues that "the primal wound" affects all adopted children and reunions with first parents should be encouraged in most if not all cases. How do you think Lauck's reunion with her mother helped heal her own "primal wound"?
The image that comes to mind thinking of the impact of their reunion in the book is of an unfinished circle finally being completed. As if a section of the circle had broken away and was scattered in little chunks which were put back in order and made whole again. And it wasn't just the reunion, but all of that interior work she had done through her meditation practice and reflection on motherhood prior to that point.
There was a sense of grounded-ness at the close of the book that contrasted with the rootlessness of her childhood and early adulthood. It made me think of the grounding I witness when Eddie is with his birth dad, the indescribable rightness there is when they are together. (A father-child connection the primal wound conversation too often doesn't make room for, unfortunately.) That's part of my motivation for open adoption: to enable the kids to keep those connections with their birth parents, to give them that additional resource to use as they develop their self-identities and incorporate their adoptions into their identities. Hopefully they never have to wait for a reunion to put those pieces together.
Disclosure: My copy of the book was sent to me for free by the publisher, independently this tour, with no obligations attached. Thank you to Seal Press for the opportunity!