27 [Special] [S2 E7] Live Recordings from the Indiana Adoptee Network Conference - Building Bridges

An in-depth discussion with a first mother and daughter (Maret Headley and Erica Curry VanEe) that is one of the most touching and intimate views I’ve ever had of a reunion. They were extraordinarily candid with me about what’s been lost because of adoption. Three adoptees (Ruth Rawlin Tacoma, Lisa Floyd, and Michelle Madden) tell me, “what do you really think about adoption?”, “what would you say to your family of origin if you had the chance?”, and “what do non-adopted people need to know about adoptees?”. And, as per usual, I cry while describing a moment at the conference I will never forget.

Show Notes

Topics We Discussed

  • Ruth Rawlin Tacoma
    • “I don’t know how I really feel about adoption at all”
    • “If you’d asked me a year ago [what I thought of adoption], I would have thought it was an awesome thing” (2:50)
    • At the beginning of her search
    • Has a million questions for her family of origin
    • Having a hard time distinguishing between having a relationship with someone and just finding information, not sure what she wants from the end of the search
    • What do you wish non-adopted people knew about being adopted? “I have no record of who I am, and how big of a deal that is. I wish they knew that the things they take for granted, I don’t have. And even though my life is good, and I’m not complaining in any way, I just wished they understood what it is to not have your first chapter. I wished they cared, I wish they were aware enough to care.”
  • Lisa Floyd
    • Wished she could have known her birth father (deceased before she found him)
    • Wished her birth mother would have accepted Lisa before she died
    • Hope for a relationship with her siblings
    • Anything you wish non-adopted people knew about being an adoptee? “It’s traumatic and hard. That there would be more validation for our pain and suffering.”
    • In training to become a therapist to help adoptees but her classmates don’t “get it”
    • Anything you wish was different about adoption? Take out the money! There’s still a need for adoption when there’s abuse. “Adoption needs to be for the protection of the child.”
    • “Children should be with their families if at all possible.”
  • Michelle Madden
    • What are your thoughts about adoption?
    • “I think that more measures should definitely be taken to keep the mother and child together” Next would be kinship adoptions. For example if a parent is serving a life sentence or there’s a drug addiction that doesn’t resolve. Michelle is very conservative as to when adoption is acceptable.
    • What do you wish non-adopted people knew about adoption or the adoptee life? “I wish they knew that they don’t know.”
  • Erica Curry VanEe and Maret Headley
    • Erica searched for 27 years - petitioned the courts, hired private investigators. Ohio records opened in 2015 and Erica got her original birth certificate! She opened her paperwork on Easter Sunday, right at the time of her birth. Found Maret on Facebook within one hour.
    • Maret’s first words to Erica: “You must have a million questions and I’ll gladly answer every one”
    • They emailed for several weeks before they talked. They were both amazed by each other’s voices when they first spoke on the phone.
    • Maret and Erica were able to visit Germany (Maret’s homeland) together
    • The trip to the conference was to continue their healing journey; a wonderful way to spend time just the two of them together (without husbands!).
    • They’re two years into the reunion - still feel like it’s the honeymoon stage, and yet it’s more than that.
    • “When I first met Maret I felt a connection…I felt I recognized myself in her “ - Erica
    • “We’re the same people” - Maret
    • Hearing stories of failed reunions, surmising that it’s because healing hasn’t been completed.
    • “How do we have the harder conversations about how we individually coped with the trauma of separation? And how do we make sure that we don’t act destructively to each other on this journey?”
    • Another similarity - peacekeepers, creating harmony
    • Coming to an event like this is one way to grow together
    • Maret says to adoptees who were rejected by first parents, “Reasons for rejection are not all about you. They were about protection of themselves, maybe peer pressure or spousal pressure.”
    • Exploring the first mother experience of reunion: resurrecting all the old feelings of shame, fear, embarrassment, terror.
    • Maret’s husband actually knew about the relinquishment, and they didn’t have any other children together. Being sensitive to their relationship was really important to Erica.
    • They both feel they’ve done enough internal work to be ready, “it came at the perfect time” - Maret
    • Erica feels grateful for the parents that raised her, and acknowledges their significant influence. She has concerns about transracial and international adoption. “We should make every effort to keep families together, mothers and children together.” Second best is kinship, minimum in the home country. The business of adoption has done more harm than good. Infertility + money = adoption. That paradigm has to change.
    • “I’ve been in a closet for 50 years” - Maret on relinquishment secrecy
    • “I, as a birth mother, feel vilified” - Maret
    • Two messages first mothers receive: “you’re so selfless for giving up your baby” vs “how could you give up your baby?”
    • Lies that Maret was told - that Erica would be adopted immediately
    • “If only I had had the support” - Maret
    • Erica had expectations of her adoptive parents that they could have never given her (her roots, her medical history, her family resemblance, her anchor of identity), and she only realized this once she met her biological family.
    • “There’s nothing unnatural about wanting to know your nature and understanding how it fits with your nurture” - Erica
    • See Erica and Maret meet for the first time! Answers - Adoption Network Cleveland - YouTube
    • Erica is often here posting about adoption reform! https://www.facebook.com/thelegitimacymovement/
    • I get to see Erica’s original birth certificate
    • Thank you to Pam Kroskie, Marcie Keithley & Jennifer Fahlsing for your amazing work putting on the Building Bridges Conference!

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