Full show notes: https://www.adopteeson.com/listen/e107
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye
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Haley - You’re listening to Adoptees On. The podcast where adoptees discuss the adoption experience. This is episode 107, Dear Adoption. I’m your host Haley Radke. Today we are doing something a little special and different, and I’m not gonna spoil it. So let’s listen in.
Haley - I’m so pleased to welcome back to Adoptees On, Reshma McClintock! Welcome, Reshma.
Reshma - Hi Haley! Thanks for having me again.
Haley - So we’re doing something new and fun today, I’m so pumped.
Reshma - I am too.
Haley - And you are here as Dear Adoption, right?
Reshma - I am here as Dear Adoption!
Haley - So Reshma is the creator of Dear Adoption and we’ve talked so many times on the podcast about just how amazing Dear Adoption is. And you brought a letter today that I’m gonna read for us. And then we’re gonna talk a little bit about it and kind of explore adoption on another level, just adoptee to adoptee. How about that?
Reshma - I love it.
Haley - Okay. Alright, I’m ready. I’m gonna read it. So first this piece was submitted anonymously by a domestic adoptee compiling a book of poetry focused on adoption. “Dear Adoption, you are the wave. Powerful and roaring, dangerous and deep, the wave rushes in with high energy, full of thrill, full of delight. There’s a baby coming, type of thrill. The wave sends chills down spines, there is joy found in its tumultuous rise. I was never above or outside the wave to enjoy the thrill. I never felt the anticipated rise. I was beneath the wave, pummeled, tossed, gasping for breath, toked, terrified, lost, confused. But I’m told about the beauty, adoption. I’m told about the beauty of the wave. How majestic it is, how it could only be a wave God ordained himself. In thinking about you, about the wave, I recall screaming and dying. Perhaps I died at the command of the wave and was given another life, a different life. Death is losing, yet the wave which killed me is highly praised. While I violently swirled in the depths of the wave, I was polished and shined. I was forced out with no visible signs of trauma, no rough edges, no flaws, a smooth round stone, weighty and indestructible. The wave, the one that produced me, petered out and more waves came and went. The wave is still praised. I appear to be solid, stable, beautiful, but I was beaten by the wave. I was tortured. When I gasped for air, the wave was praised. When I screamed, the wave was praised. When I was traumatized repeatedly, the wave was praised. I was the perfect stone and the wave produced exactly what it promised, fear of waves live within me. The wave is not faultless in its striking rise. The wave destroyed the very thing which supported it, the surface, the foundation. The waves cannot touch me now. With my smooth shiny, impenetrable exterior, I stand steady footed and clear of the waves. I’m wisely cautious to avoid their grandeur because I know something fragile, beneath the surface is dying because of the wave. You are the wave, adoption. I am who died in order for you to rise.”
Reshma - Oh, that is, the first time I’ve listened to someone read it. And it’s hard to hear. I read all the pieces that are submitted, obviously, but I’ve never had them read to me. And so hearing your voice, you know, say those words is really, impacting.
Haley - What about having a voice to it makes it more impactful?
Reshma - I think that, well to be totally honest, and this may not be as interesting as an answer, when adoptees submit their pieces to Dear Adoption, there are some checks that we have to go through. And there’s a submission form and the guidelines, essentially. And one of the things I look for obviously, are any errors. I don’t do any editing, freely without the inclusion of the writer. But I do read the pieces thoroughly, I mean, you know, 10, 20 times before it’s posted. But I’m looking at it kind of from a more editorial aspect. Just to make sure that nothing was missed that needed to be there. So sometimes I’ll go back and say oh, it looks like, did you mean to say this or that, is a word correct, or is there a typo, something, even just silly and minor. And you know, a lot of times people say nope, that’s exactly how I wanted it. Or sometimes they’ll say, oh but I want this part in italics and those kind of things. So I'm just thinking about how the process of taking their words and presenting them so that there aren’t any distractions, so to speak. I have a really hard time managing Dear Adoption, to tell you the truth. And I’m not trying to make this about me, let me just get through this part really quick. But because of that, I do sit with the words and honor the words, but I have to stop myself at a certain point. Because I hear so many adoptee experiences and it can be really overwhelming. So to sit and have this piece read to me and to really just let the words, pun intended I suppose, wash over me. You know, it’s different, it’s a different experience. And I think as you are reading, I thought, this is brilliant. You and I talked about having some pieces read on Adoptees On a couple of years ago, and I liked the idea then, and then you know, we’re both doing 8 million things and trying to raise our children and be good wives. And we have all these going so it’s just kind of taken us this long to get to this point. But when you were reading I thought, yes, this is good. This is really important to hear. And not just have to take the time to read.
Haley - Well I, when I was reading it, I realize too, these words are so powerful and impactful, just as you said. And there’s just something about hearing it and slowing down, right? You’re not just kind of skimming it and oh, okay, I wanna read the latest piece or whatever.
Reshma - Right.
Haley - And before we started recording, I asked you, okay, what are some things that we really wanna highlight about this piece? And one of the things you said was, the fact that it was submitted anonymously. And I want you to talk a little bit about that. And it’s so interesting to me and I think to you too but, that we can identify so much with this. Can we not?
Reshma - Yes. So much. And you know, so one of the options that Dear Adoption is always to be anonymous. And I, I really love that option. I will tell you I have been very surprised how many people, well, let me back that up. Initially I was very surprised at how many people wanted to be anonymous. Now that I'm further into this, I really do understand. And I’ll tell you really quick, the top couple of reasons that I hear from adopted people, why they wanna be anonymous is because they don’t want their families to know how they feel about adoption because A, they have already received pushback or B, they’re too afraid to even begin the conversation about their true feelings surrounding being an adoptee. Or a lot of times people just don’t want to have their face with the piece because they don’t want to be totally identified by being an adoptee. It’s just one aspect of who they are. And they don’t wanna be, their face there with adoptee stamped on their forehead. And then the other reason is because when there is the pushback on the pieces, on, you know, people can comment on Dear Adoption’s website, on each individual piece or on Facebook or Instagram or whatever. It feels like maybe there’s a little bit more protection there, an added layer of protection because when people are criticizing, which they do so frequently, it still surprises me. And I don’t know why, it shouldn’t at this point. But I just think it is the absolute rudest thing to have an opinion on somebody else’s experience. I mean, you can have an opinion, but to put it out there so boldly, it just blows my mind. But anyway, so yeah, so I, some of the most powerful pieces at Dear Adoption are anonymous. I think they’re all powerful in their own right. I love every piece at Dear Adoption, truly. There’s just nothing like this format of writing a letter to adoption. I just think it’s just so good and that’s not to pat myself on the back at all. That’s to say there’s something, we’ve talked about this before. That we really can let go when we’re writing a letter, and people do, and I’m so happy they do. So I love the anonymous pieces because I think they don’t care. They’re gonna say everything that they wanna say. I still write about adoption personally and I still feel like I have to edit myself. And I have to, you know, I have to be so cautious about what I’m saying in case someone misunderstands what I’m saying, or in case somebody, God forbid, thinks I don’t love my adoptive family. Or that I’m not grateful, right, we have to give all these explanations. And when the pieces are anonymous, it just kind of flows. So I’m just gonna jump in and let you know one of the things that really struck me and that I find so relatable, closer to the end it says, “The wave is praised. I appear to be solid, stable, and beautiful, but I was beaten by the wave. I was tortured. When I gasped for air, the wave was praised. When I screamed, the wave was praised. When I was traumatized repeatedly, the wave was praised.” And what I find, the thing about this being anonymous is, I don’t know this person’s whole story. I don’t know if they’re talking about physical abuse, or emotional abuse or what they’re talking about. Or just even the way they feel about being adopted. There may not have been any abuse. I relate to that one line so much that says, “But I was beaten by the wave, I was tortured.” And I grew up in this idyllic childhood. Was never abused physically, emotionally, or otherwise. I was never in any kind of an abusive situation. But I relate to that line. I was beaten by the wave. Because obviously the point here is that the wave is adoption and anyone who’s not adopted, just talks about how wonderful and how good it was. But for me it was really a piece of, it’s hard for me to say. But a piece of torture. This torment where, I feel like I love my family that I was adopted into and I am happy with this life. But I also feel like I'm missing all these other things that adoption took away. And so I really, that part of it really resonates with me. And I think that people would find that shocking to hear from you know, a happy adoptee.
Haley - And they do find it shocking, right?
Reshma - Yes.
Haley - They find that shocking, because that’s the pushback. That’s exactly it, ‘cause it’s still praised, no matter what. Yeah, you know that’s interesting that you pulled that part out ‘cause that’s a section I had underlined as well. And when they write about the smooth, round stone, weighty and indestructible, and no flaws, and I’m picturing sea glass. I follow a few Instagram accounts that are just pictures of sea glass, so help me. Confessions, right? Confessions.
Reshma - Yes, I love it.
Haley - And there is such beauty in sea glass and some of the special colors that are found, like the rare stones that they show. And yet to understand what that piece of glass from likely, like a broken bottle or dish, how long it was in the water and where it came from.
Reshma - What it endured.
Haley - Exactly, exactly. And it’s, I mean, what a metaphor, you know? For an adoptee and to come out on the other side and what do you do with that? What do you do with that beauty, I’m putting beauty in quotation marks, which you cannot see on the podcast.
Reshma - Yes.
Haley - What do you do with that on the other side of it and how do you tell people the process that brought you to be this piece of sea glass at the end? Yeah, so impactful. Okay, the other thing I had underlined. “In thinking about you, about the wave, I recall screaming and dying. Perhaps I died at the command of the wave and was given another life, a different life.” And I think, that’s kind of the language that we repeat now, isn’t it? We didn’t get a better life than we were promised, we got a different life. And yet, we’re still screaming about it, screaming and dying. I don’t know, that part just resonated really a lot for me. And I think it again, speaks, I mean, I don’t wanna speak for all adoptees but I think a lot of us can identify with that.
Reshma - Yeah, and you know what’s so interesting about that is you know in order to get this new life, so even if you aren’t gonna call it better. In order to get this new life, you had to have an old life. And so, I mean, if we’re talking, regarding, we weren’t born to be adopted. We were born into families and then whatever circumstances happened, a multitude of things obviously. And then we were adopted. So you know, I love that part, “Perhaps I died at the command of the wave, and was given another life, a different life.” And then the next line says, “Death is losing, yet the wave which killed me is highly praised.” And I think, isn’t that interesting? Because our society, we’re so, I mean it’s such an obvious thing to say, that we understand death. And that, I mean, maybe not understand it, but that we acknowledge that it’s this very, very sad, difficult thing. Anybody who’s ever lost someone to death, we acknowledge that. But we don’t look at adoption that way, we don’t look at the death of the former life, the death of the other life, the first life. We just keep praising that wave. We just keep exalting it. And so this person is talking about screaming and dying, this person is saying they died, perhaps they died at the command of the wave and were given another life. And that in that death, they lost. But the wave that killed, it says, “Yet the wave which killed me, is highly praised.” And it’s just like, when you think of it in those terms, I don’t see how you could read this, with an open mind, I guess that’s the precursor, and not see how difficult it is to be an adopted person and not have people acknowledge the pain and the loss.
Haley - It’s that, it’s the disenfranchised grief, right?
Reshma - Yes! Exactly. Well said. And even to go on, I mean we could probably talk about this for hours, but “While I violently swirled in the depths of the wave, I was polished and shined. I was forced out with no visible signs of trauma.” And that’s the you know, this blank slate baby. That, you know, a lot of us, a lot of adopted people talk about all the time. I’m not a blank slate. I didn’t come to you as a blank slate, but that’s how I appear to be. My history, everything severed, roots severed. You know, just before you, I belong to you now, I’m yours, putty in your hands, make me what you want me to be. And man, you know, if Dear Adoption has taught me anything, it is that a lot of adopted people who are sharing their experiences will say, I felt like I was being molded into something that I could never be. Or I felt like that even that blank slate, no visible signs of trauma. Obviously they are saying there was trauma there, but nothing could be seen. So ignoring it became a thing from the beginning. It’s just like, well there’s nothing here so it doesn’t exist. So I don’t know, I’m gonna carefully say this next statement. I think this piece is so beautiful. I think the words, I think the way that it is written is so beautifully written and I think it is also one of the most devastating things I have ever read. And I don’t know, it just all points back to, this is why we have to listen. If this is the experience of an adopted person, then we need to listen and we need to do things differently. But you know, I think that with every piece I read. At Dear Adoption, or anywhere, you know. Whenever I listen to your show or I read articles or blogs from adopted people I just think, you know, why aren’t we listening? If this is what’s being shared, why aren’t we listening? Because we’re all, it’s the not all, hashtag not all.
Haley - Well and, I think I agree. It’s so beautifully written and it’s, I think you said this maybe earlier before we started recording. That it’s so relatable, even though we could have vastly different stories than this person, because it’s anonymous. I have no idea who this person is, if it’s a man or a woman, if it’s, you know, their age. And yet when I read this I think, yes. Yes, me too. And same as when you’re describing are these things actually referring to abuse or not? All those different sections, I mean we can read so much into this piece and yet all of it is valid. It really does express what I think is the adoptee’s experience. So profoundly.
Reshma - Yeah, and you know what’s interesting is, obviously I’m behind the scenes, I get the emails, this was emailed to me at the Dear Adoption email of course. And sometimes a reader, sorry, rather a writer will go back and forth a bunch of times trying to decide if they wanna be anonymous or not. And so we just kind of go through those steps. And I ask questions, I have never once pressured anybody to not be anonymous. In fact, I would prefer if somebody’s even, you know, a little uncertain, I would prefer they share anonymously. Because actually in the last 3 or 4 months, I’ve had to take 2 Dear Adoption pieces down that were, had writers contact me later. One was saying they were being harassed by their birth family and adoptive family. And another writer asked that their piece be taken down because they're going into a new career and many of the people in their company are adoptive parents and they were worried that if that ever came up, even with a Google search or something, that that would come up and could impact them negatively. Which is just, I 100% respect both of those people, wanting them taken down and without hesitation. I don’t ask are you sure, immediately took them down. And I will always, Dear Adoption is about the writers, and their experience and their comfort in sharing it. So you want it gone, it’s gone, no problem. What’s interesting is so, when people usually mention that they're thinking of being anonymous, I usually say, unless you feel lightning strikes you the other direction, let’s go with that. Because I want you to be comfortable and that’s most important. And I don’t want them to get into a situation where they feel it needs to come down because they’re associated with it and people aren’t respectful or understanding or you know, being harassed because of it? Because they’re sharing their experience? That’s just terrible. But this piece, it took me a long time to get where I was going with that. But this piece, I didn’t exchange a lot with this person. They had their piece written. They completed the submission form. I don’t know who they are. They gave the information so I actually don’t have the background, where a lot of times I will, on an anonymous piece. You know, I may be connected to them on social media or you know, their email has their name or whatever this person did not and was very basically, all the information I have on them is written in the bio. Which is, a domestic adoptee, writing a book of poetry, focused on adoption. And that was it. So that is what I love about it because I don’t know so much here and I agree with everything written. I have felt all of the things that this piece touches on. And I have no idea, well I know one big difference is that this adopted person was domestic. And I’m obviously international and transracial. And that’s a big difference. It really is, I mean being adopted is being adopted. And then you start adding all the other layers and pieces in. And so I don’t know if this person spent time in foster care. I don’t know if they were adopted as an infant, I’m assuming, it kind of seems like this person was adopted as an infant. But we don’t know all those things. And yet I think so many adopted people, when reading this, are thinking, yes, yes, yes. Whatever their experience may be. And that is fascinating.
Haley - It is fascinating. I was thinking, I was like, oh my goodness. How can one piece be so—
Reshma - All encompassing!
Haley - Resonant for us, yeah. Just, yeah. Alright. Any final thoughts on You Are the Wave?
Reshma - I think just that last line which is probably a great place to end it. “You are the wave, adoption. I am who died in order for you to rise.” And I think that is really telling. And it’s one of the big problems we have in adoption. That adoption is supposedly for the benefit of children. And so many adopted adults are saying it didn’t benefit me. Or, I would have been, I guess I need to be careful because I’m not trying to speak for all adopted people. But many adopted people are saying they didn’t get the better life. They had a different life. Many adopted people are saying, you know, so I sacrificed. I was sacrificed on this so that adoption could be praised. It’s a financially lucrative business. And I just think that’s really powerful. “You are the wave, adoption, I am who died in order for you to rise.” It’s just like there’s no regard for us, as adopted adults. And it’s so frustrating. In some sense I’ve gotten used to it, I know you have to, it’s like, big surprise, people aren’t listening. Or people are pushing back. But it is so frustrating. And that line kind of builds something up in me. I am who died in order for you to rise.” It’s like, at least give me a little bit of acknowledgement. You did this on my back, right? I carry around those weights with me.
Haley - Yes, I can't end any more, I can’t add anything to that.
Reshma - Yes.
Haley - Well thanks for bringing this letter, Reshma, it was so good. And a big thank you to the anonymous writer. I hope that they will listen to us chat about their beautiful piece. Okay, so now we’re gonna do recommended resources. And I know I’ve recommended this before, but I promise I have a new one for you right away. But Reshma’ documentary is going on it spring tour. And I wanna make sure that you know about it so you can go and see Calcutta is My Mother. So you have a few dates coming up here, they’re all listed at CalcuttaFilm.com. And so where are you going? We’ve got Denver and then?
Reshma - Denver, Seattle, Dallas, and Phoenix.
Haley - In April and May. So exciting. Awesome.
Reshma - Super exciting.
Haley - And if you wanna hear more about Calcutta is My Mother, go back and listen to episode 100, Reshma and I talk, deep dive, right? We talked about your documentary, we talked about how you had feelings after the world premiere. And I believe I mentioned your sweaty back. And why did I bring that up again? That was so rude.
Reshma - Oh, but the sweaty, it was good, because the sweaty back opened the door for us to talk about my big bottom going up the stairs. And all of those shots that Michael got from behind.
Haley - If you wanna go see very, very, very flattering shots of Reshma.
Reshma - Wait, I'm gonna interrupt you really quick. So I have to tell you something funny. Michael, director of Calcutta is My Mother, listened to the interview and he text me and said, oh my gosh you keep bringing up you going up the stairs. I’m gonna take at least one of those scenes out because you keep mentioning it. And I was like, thank you! Is that all I had to do?
Haley - How many scenes are that he’s gonna take another one out? Okay!
Reshma - There’s 2, and at least one of them’s got to go.
Haley - Oh my gosh, okay. So you better go during the Spring tour. Because if you wait til it’s streaming online, you might not have any shots of those. Sorry okay, CalcuttaFilm.com, you can buy tickets there. And I’m so envious of all you people that are close by in those cities, that you can go and see.
Reshma - More to come, hopefully.
Haley - More to come, yes. Okay now, my recommended resource, it’s a podcast. Who is surprised? No one. Okay.
Reshma - Not me.
Haley - So I love true crime podcasts. Which, I just do. I love true crime podcasts and one of my very, very favorite shows is called Criminal. And the host is Phoebe Judge and she has this really distinctive voice and she’s amazing. Now this is a highly produced, wonderfully done show. And I’m recommending one episode, and it’s called Baby Snatcher. And I bet you can guess who the criminal in this episode is. Famous baby snatcher, child trafficker extraordinaire, Georgia Tann. Yes. That’s right. So they go through with the author of The Baby Thief, the untold story of Georgia Tann, the baby seller who corrupted adoption. They talk to the author of the book and they tell some of the stories about Georgia Tann, about some of the babies she sold. And also how she really normalized infant adoption and made it more socially acceptable. So I really recommend that you go and listen to this. Because this is good, can I categorize it as that? These are powerful stories you can tell, to people in your life that aren’t related to adoption but you wanna tell them about the shady underbelly? This is something that they could relate to and feel, have a little step into understanding child trafficking and the corruption behind the adoption industry. Again, this episode is Baby Snatcher and the podcast is called Criminal. Have you heard that one yet?
Reshma - I haven’t but, I’m going to listen, like today.
Haley – Yeah, yeah. It’s very good. Okay, what did you wanna recommend to us?
Reshma - I wanted to recommend a blog that is written by an adoptee, it is called The Ungrateful Adoptee. And the website is theungratefuladoptee.blogspot.com. And I think she’s an incredible writer, she’s an incredible truth teller and I say this, I feel like I’m not disrespectfully at all. She’s very blunt and very bold. But in writing about her experience, I think that we have a lot to learn, if we will listen to her and her experience. And I get very frustrated with adoptees being labeled as happy or angry or grateful or ungrateful or whatever. Although her blog is called the Ungrateful Adoptee. But I just appreciate what she has to say about her experience and I know that what she says resonates with a lot of people. So I am for all adoptees to share all experiences and this is one I definitely think is very educational and a lot of insight there.
Haley - A very candid and honest—
Reshma - Yes. And you know, it’s like some of the pieces at Dear Adoption. Not easy to read, it might not be everybody’s flavor. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in hearing adoptees’ experiences so that we can do better moving forward and that means that we’ve got to listen to the wide range of experience.
Haley - That’s right. Looking at the reality, right? There’s no sugarcoating.
Reshma - Yes. Not at all. Which is good, we could use a little less sugarcoating.
Haley - Yes! That’s funny because in some of my descriptions for my show, is this is, not the usual adoption talk. There’s no sugarcoating here.
Reshma - Right. No there isn’t, that’s good.
Haley - Reshma, where can we connect with you online?
Reshma - You can connect with me on Facebook at Reshma Mcclintock, and then on my website ReshmaMcclintock.com, and you know, I’m kind of everywhere.
Haley - And in person at CalcuttaFilm.com. If you go to one of your spring screenings!
Reshma - Yes, I would love to see you there! Thank you.
Haley - Wonderful, thanks so much for sharing this letter with us today, and for you know, just talking through it with me. I really appreciated your insights.
Reshma - I love being here, thank you.
Haley - So as of the time of releasing this episode, last weekend was the American Adoption Congress Conference and the Indiana Adoptee Network Conference, Reshma showed her documentary there. She got a standing ovation, people cried and laughed and just loved it. So if you are near any of the upcoming locations, I implore you to go and see it because I can’t. Because I’m so far away. And I know you will be so, so glad that you did. And speaking of the other conference, I am planning on doing a little update show next week about the things that were presented there and I got some on the spot interviews with a few of the conference attendees and presenters which I thought were really interesting. And I have a couple stories to share, personally. I was able to give my very first keynote speech. And some other interesting things happened. And I’m not sure yet what I’ll be sharing specifically about those items. But tune in next week to find out. And I really, you know my favorite part of any of these events, is connecting in person with fellow adoptees. I was able to have a meetup with Adoptees On listeners, Thursday night. And it was just magical and special and I loved it and there were some people that came that lived in the D.C. area and other people that came that lived in the D.C. area that didn’t know each other and we were able to connect them and that was just the best. So hope that some new long term friendships were born of that event. Anyway, I’ll talk more about that next week. But as always, I just wanna say a giant thank you to my monthly Patreon supporters. Who I got to meet some more of at the conference which was amazing. And I would not be able to continue making this show for you every week without your very generous support. So thank you so much. You are making this show possible. Thanks for listening. Let’s talk again next Friday.