A few years ago I stumbled across a call for submissions for a special issue for Demeter Press for essays about mothering and adoption. I was quickly disappointed, however, because in typical fashion the editors were only looking at how adoption impacts the birth/first mother and the adoptive mother. Nowhere in the call for submissions was there any acknowledgement that adoptees themselves may be mothers and that adoption deeply impacts adoptee's mothering. This is frustrating because Demeter Press is a feminist publisher that specializes in motherhood and alternative paradigms of motherhood. If Demeter Press doesn't even have the insight into how adoptees mother (and we haven't even discussed fathers yet) then it highlights that adoptees are further marginalized and considered perpetual children who never grow up. The finished issue of Adoption and Mothering is here.
At the time I had several conversations with adoptees that were also mothers and we often talked about how much being adopted impacted our parenting. This became more salient in the past five years because so many of my adoptee friends have become parents recently. My children are now in high school and college, so my new-parent friends were asking me questions such as "is it normal to burst into tears for weeks after my baby turned 6 months old, because that was the age I was when I was adopted? Or, "I was so worried I wouldn't be able to attach to my baby." Or, "I am so hypervigilant that I am constantly scared that something is going to happen to my baby." Or, "Is it normal to feel upset because my baby looks more like my partner than me? I have waited my whole life to have someone in my life who looked like me and I thought for sure my child would."
I talked to a few of my adoptee writer friends and I said, "why aren't we writing our own book?"
Well, apparently I wasn't the only one who had that idea. As with many of my intended projects that fell to the wayside when I began graduate school in 2008, I never got around to it. Fortunately, Kevin Vollmers and Adam Chau did - and they even asked me to be a part of it. The result is Parenting As Adoptees, a lovely book with 14 essays about being an adoptee and being a parent. With a beautiful cover by adoptee Kelly Brownlee, this book delves into the difficult terrain that can affect how one's adoption impacts one's parenting.
My chapter focuses on the challenges of raising my children to have a strong racial and ethnic identity, to embrace the diversity of the human condition and to be social justice focused when I had no role models in my own life for how to parent in this way. Other chapters discuss loss, grief, attachment, the meaning of biological connections, adopting as an adoptee (several authors have also adopted), seeing yourself mirrored in your children and much more.
This book was written to provide a meaningful resource for adoptees - both mothers and fathers - who find themselves thinking about how their own adoption may impact how they think, feel and perform parenting. But I truly hope that this book has a larger audience than just the adult adoptee population.
I hope that adoptive parents, social workers, therapists and counselors and partners of adoptees also read this book. There is a lot to learn from the experiences of adoptees.
From the book description:
Through fourteen chapters, the authors of Parenting As Adoptees give readers a glimpse into a pivotal phase in life that touches the experiences of many domestic and international adoptees – that of parenting. The authors, who are all adoptees from various walks of life, intertwine their personal narratives and professional experiences, and the results of their efforts are insightful, emotive, and powerful. As Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW, LCPAA, PLLC, notes: “Rarely has the experience of parenting as an adopted person been laid to bare so candidly and vividly. The authors provide a provocative, touching and, at times visceral and unyielding, invitation into their lives as they unearth and piece together the magnitude of parenting when it is interwoven with their adoption narrative. It is a prolific piece that encapsulates the rawness that adoption can bring from unknown histories, abandonment, grief, and identity reconciliation which ultimately reveals the power of resiliency and self-determination as a universal hallmark in parenting.” Moreover, despite its topical focus, the book will interest individuals within and outside of the adoption community who are not parents. “Parenting As Adoptees,” writes Dr. Indigo Willing, “contributes and sits strongly alongside books by non-adoptees that look at issues to do with ‘the family’, race, ethnicity and migration. As such, this book should appeal to a broad audience interested in these various fields of inquiry.” Authors in the anthology include: Bert Ballard, Susan Branco Alvarado, Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Lorial Crowder, Shannon Gibney, Astrid Dabbeni, Mark Hagland, Hei Kyong Kim, JaeRan Kim, Jennifer Lauck, Mary Mason, Robert O’Connor, John Raible, and Sandy White Hawk. Edited By Adam Chau and Kevin Ost-Vollmers
You can read more reviews on the Parenting As Adoptees blog.
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