“Renewal rather than loss” – a guest post about an adoptive family’s story

First posted during National Adoption Awareness Month 2014: guest blogger Marian Ward tells her family’s story.

I never remember a time when I found out we had been adopted. It was something we simply always knew. My older brother and I were a toddler and an infant respectively at the time of our adoption. My parents were so overjoyed with their new family that I doubt they could have kept our adoption secret, but they went beyond that to actually recite to us a bedtime story that explained how we became that family.

We were adopted together in what I understand was the first dual-state, simultaneous, sibling adoption in the United States at that time. It still amazes me that our adoption ever happened.

My parents had been living in Dallas, Texas. Sometime in 1979, a church in Oregon requested my dad to come and be their pastor. There just happened to be an attorney at their new church who had worked on family cases before, so shortly after moving to Oregon, my parents were able to start the process of adoption. Their praying, waiting and hoping for their children intensified. Because they had been married ten years and had been unable to have a child, they specifically requested siblings in their adoption application process.

Finally, the call came. The case worker told them about my brother, and through some miracle knew he had a sister in the Idaho foster system. The case worker asked my parents if they would like that baby, too. Both my mom and dad say they knew right away that these were “their” children. On their tenth wedding anniversary in 1982, we became an “Instant Family” as the headline read in the local paper. Of course, as is common in adoptive families, my parents were surprised with a biological son three years later.

My parents literally told us the story of our family in our bedtime stories. One of them was a book called The Chosen Baby that had been given to us by another adoptive family. More importantly, we were told The Story of Timmy and Marian. There used to be a typewritten manuscript, but my mom now recites it from memory.

Our adoption was evidently discussed often and in many nuanced ways and was demonstrated in my behavior in early elementary school. I used to explain to other students that I had been adopted by telling them that my parents got to pick me out while theirs were stuck with whatever kid they got. Being an adoptee was so intertwined in my core as even a small person that I felt as though my situation was better than those around me.

I recommend that biological, adoptive, and mixed families purposefully create and mindfully tell their own family stories. It has absolutely affected and strengthened all the layers of our family and respective individual identities through telling and retelling. Families would do well to actually write down some of the stories of older generations so we can preserve a larger body of narrative history. Be deliberate in creating new stories. Families and individuals can find healing through constructing narratives of renewal rather than loss.

Source: Ward, M. (2013). The Story of Timmy and Marian: the Ward Family Adoption Narrative and the Communication Theory of Identity. Course: Intercultural Communication, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“Tell your story”: adoption in a family’s tapestry

For National Adoption Month, I asked readers to share their own accounts of adoption. This is from Marian Ward, an Arkansas reader (and I send her my Granite State greetings), adapted from a formal presentation she made last year. 

photo: courtesy of Marian Ward
The “instant family.” Photo: courtesy of Marian Ward

I never remember a time when I found out we had been adopted. It was something we simply always knew. My older brother and I were a toddler and an infant respectively at the time of our adoption. My parents were so overjoyed with their new family that I doubt they could have kept our adoption secret, but they went beyond that to actually recite to us a bedtime story that explained how we became that family.

We were adopted together in what I understand was the first dual-state, simultaneous, sibling adoption in the United States at that time. It still amazes me that our adoption ever happened.

My parents had been living in Dallas, Texas. Sometime in 1979, a church in Oregon requested my dad to come and be their pastor. There just happened to be an attorney at their new church who had worked on family cases before, so shortly after moving to Oregon, my parents were able to start the process of adoption. Their praying, waiting and hoping for their children intensified. Because they had been married ten years and had been unable to have a child, they specifically requested siblings in their adoption application process.

Finally, the call came. The case worker told them about my brother, and through some miracle knew he had a sister in the Idaho foster system. The case worker asked my parents if they would like that baby, too. Both my mom and dad say they knew right away that these were “their” children. On their tenth wedding anniversary in 1982, we became an “Instant Family” as the headline read in the local paper. Of course, as is common in adoptive families, my parents were surprised with a biological son three years later.

My parents literally told us the story of our family in our bedtime stories. One of them was a book called The Chosen Baby that had been given to us by another adoptive family. More importantly, we were told The Story of Timmy and Marian. There used to be a typewritten manuscript, but my mom now recites it from memory.

Our adoption was evidently discussed often and in many nuanced ways and was demonstrated in my behavior in early elementary school. I used to explain to other students that I had been adopted by telling them that my parents got to pick me out while theirs were stuck with whatever kid they got. Being an adoptee was so intertwined in my core as even a small person that I felt as though my situation was better than those around me.

I recommend that biological, adoptive, and mixed families purposefully create and mindfully tell their own family stories. It has absolutely affected and strengthened all the layers of our family and respective individual identities through telling and retelling. Families would do well to actually write down some of the stories of older generations so we can preserve a larger body of narrative history. Be deliberate in creating new stories. Families and individuals can find healing through constructing narratives of renewal rather than loss.

Source: Ward, M. (2013). The Story of Timmy and Marian: the Ward Family Adoption Narrative and the Communication Theory of Identity. Course: Intercultural Communication, University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

 

 

Do you have an adoption story to share?

logo hi resNovember is Adoption Awareness Month, and of course we ought to be mindful of adoption every month. I’d like to hear from my readers about your own adoption stories. If you are an adopted child, an adoptive parent, or a birthparent who chose adoption for her child, and if you’d like to share your story, I’d love to hear from you. We all have things to learn from each other. Email me at ellen@leavenfortheloaf.com and we can have a conversation, or if you’d prefer, just send your adoption story – happy, sad, in-progress, whatever – and I’ll share it with gratitude and awe. Many thanks.

If you missed this wonderful post a year ago from Catherine Adair about her own family’s journey in adoption, treat yourself to it now. She kindly gave me permission to re-blog the story that she originally posted at her blog The Harvest is Abundant.

Feminists for Life has an ad that’s particularly apt this month. Check this link, and imagine this in your local college’s newspaper.

http://feministsforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/AdoptionEmpowering.pdf

“This Adoption is Irrevocable”: a post from The Harvest is Abundant by Catherine Adair

Reblogged from The Harvest is Abundantpro-life veteran Catherine Adair writes about the recently-finalized adoption of her daughter, Ava. Catherine is also the author of “Dear Clinic Escort,” which was reblogged in Leaven for the Loaf last May.

Catherine Adair
Catherine Adair

“This adoption is irrevocable.” With those words the judge pounded his desk and declared to the world that we were now the legal parents of a girl we had taken into our hearts and home almost two years prior. Nothing could have prepared us for the joy that we felt at that moment, as we became parents for the fifth time, this time by way of adoption.

I am the last person I ever thought would adopt a child. I didn’t even want children after my abortion over 20 years ago. I felt unworthy of being a mother. After working in an abortion clinic, where I participated in thousands of first and second trimester abortions, I was determined not to have children. But here I was, married with children, being asked to help a young mother and her baby, and I knew God wanted us to say “yes” to this child.

We became involved in Ava’s life simply to help her parents, who were struggling to care for her. She was only seven weeks old. An acquaintance’s daughter was going to be entering drug treatment and we were asked to take the baby for 90 days. DCF was already involved as the baby had been born early and drug-addicted. We had no idea we would be adopting her almost two years later.

I cried the first time I saw Ava. She had been neglected and was so tiny, she still looked like a newborn. She cried a lot and was difficult to comfort. My usual ways of calming babies didn’t seem to comfort her. She screamed hideously and thrashed in her crib. She was more easily startled than any baby I had cared for. This went on for months. Her intense screaming during the night left us frazzled and stressed out, wondering why she couldn’t settle.

Visits from social workers became part of our regular schedule, while visits with her Mom and Dad were sporadic. We hoped that her mother would take advantage of the help being offered to her, but the difficulties in her life seemed to make it impossible. She loved her daughter, but deep down inside I think she knew she couldn’t parent her.

After about 18 months, the courts decided that they would terminate the parental rights of Ava’s birth parents. The plan then shifted from reunification to adoption, and the choice to adopt Ava was an easy one. By then she was calling us Mama and Dada, we thought of her as our daughter, and our four other children and extended family were besotted with her. We couldn’t imagine life without her. It took another six months, but just after her second birthday, on National Adoption Day a few weeks ago, we were officially a family of seven.

I know that we would not have adopted our daughter if we were not prolife. Being prolife has shown us that we are to do everything God asks of us, even taking in the children of others. Since joining the prolife movement about four years ago, I have been astonished by the lengths people go to in order to hep mothers and children. Adoption, fostering, and helping mothers in need is much more prevalent amongst my prolife friends than in my former prochoice world. When I worked at Planned Parenthood, there was no empathy for the child and no kindness toward a mother wanting to give birth to her child. Abortion was seen as the responsible choice for poor women, drug addicted women and victims of abuse.

Forced birthers, fetus fetishers, women haters – all prolifers have had these words slung at them at some point. “You don’t care about babies after they are born,” the claim, “you only want to control women and force them to have babies.” This rhetoric from proabortionists is a common refrain. I believed all of it when I worked for Planned Parenthood. I believed the lie of “every child a wanted child.” I thought abortion was a responsible choice. I didn’t understand that a child’s worth wasn’t determined by a mother’s choice. I now understand that every life, every child in the womb, has inherent worth and dignity that comes from God. I am grateful and humbled that He chose our family as Ava’s forever family.