I was adopted as an infant and searched for my first family in my early twenties. Interestingly enough, I found them living in the same town I grew up in...my first mother, however, had passed away while searching for me several years earlier. She was not allowed to hold me in 1968 before signing the papers, and was told I was a boy...so she had been searching for a son. I found her mother (my Grandmother) and her brothers & sister--I am still very close to them.
I'm also blessed that I found my first father, his parents, and my two half-brothers...as well as many aunts, uncles & cousins. It was wonderful to get to know them and spend time with all my grandparents, and even my great-grandmother before she passed away. What a gift of identity and self-esteem to be embraced by such a large and loving first family. I was, however, not really able to take it all in immediately, because of the complexities of being an adoptee and how frozen my emotions were at the time. I loved my adoptive family so much and dealt with feelings of guilt and disloyalty for having searched and found.
Going through this two-decade long reunion has truly been the roller coaster ride of a life-time. Being adopted affects every area of life and every relationship. I'm thankful to say that I survived the "waking up" years (including the profound grief) and am so much more grounded as a person. I am so thankful for my family who adopted me, as well as my family with whom I am reunited...that I can call them all family and know and accept myself in both.
HOW HAD THE ADOPTION EXPERIENCE AFFECTED YOUR POETRY?
I grew up in a family that wasn't very "artsy" and never tapped into a creative side at all within myself. When I found my first family, I was surprised to find many artists, poets, and "artsy" people everywhere. I am not very good at it, but I love allowing myself the freedom to explore the feelings that are unlocked when I do something creative, such as painting or writing.
My first introduction to "adoption poetry" was a framed version of an old classic, "Chosen Child." It hung on my Mother's bedroom wall right next to an ever-growing collage of my school pictures as I grew up. I never understood why I hated that wall. It felt as if, when I entered that room, I needed to avoid eye-contact with that wall, those pictures, and that poem. But I couldn't understand why. I thought I hated myself and my pictures, but now I realize it was the poem.
The poem had a lot of contradictory statements which is confusing to an adopted child. The first stanza says, "I had to tell you, Dearest Heart, that you are not my own" -- it goes on to explain how much she wanted and desired a baby and how we were brought together through adoption ~ then the last stance of the poem states that I am "hers, and hers alone". Now HOW can that be?
How can I NOT be her own, and also HERs alone? It didn't make sense. Yet that is just one example of many "double-messages" adoptees grapple with in a life-time.
Think about it -- according to the adoption industry, in order to increase the number of available babies for adoption (the commodity), we (adoptees) get mixed-messages galore ~ we are "unwanted", "crisis'", "abandoned", "orphans"; yet "chosen", "special", "lucky", "gifts". Our mothers are told they are "incapable", yet "heroic." Our very identities are "amended" in order to fulfill a role, and we're expected to cut ourselves off completely (the message of "sealed records") from the identity, heritage, and family-line we were born of.
Adoption is a legal contract that tries to do the impossible -- "as if born to" can never replace the reality of profound loss for an adoptee, yet we are asked to live a life-time of splitting ourselves off from our very core. We become masters at people-pleasing and compliance because we are given a message that our adoption has made us "worthy." It cleansed us of being a "bastard." Our original identities are "sealed" and, therefore, must somehow define us in shame. So we work extremely hard to earn our place in a world where everything about us had to be "amended" in order to be accepted. What a heavy burden for any child, any human.
As a young child I was the master home-made card maker. I would make elaborate cards for my Mom proclaiming she was the BEST Mother in the world. I think it was my way of trying desperately to ease the insecurity in both of us. With the words of the "Chosen Child" poem always looming, I can now understand that insecurity.
Years after my reunion with my first family, I went to an art class which turned out to be a life-defining experience. We were asked to read the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You'll Go, and then compose a poem, and create a companion pastel drawing. I had never taken art before and felt like, because I had no talent, that my pastel would be embarrassing at the least, but decided to go for it and try...
Well, something like four hours later, after feeling like time was literally standing still, I brought myself back into the real world as a different person. A person who had finally given myself permission to grieve and shed tears over my adoption. I had always heard that art was good for the soul, that it somehow unlocks the right (more feeling) side of the brain, and by the time I pulled myself away from this project I was a true believer. I vowed to take more art classes, set up a studio, and dive into this new found healing passion. Five years later here I sit without going one step further into that dream...
I'm just thankful for the amazing experience of that class, that teacher, and the healing that flowed through it.
PLEASE SHARE A SAMPLE POEM(S) ADDRESSING (IN PART) ADOPTION:
[Curator’s Note: The following is the poem Samantha wrote during her art class, which first was titled “”Oh, The Places You'll Go" before its final title below. There's a useful link on the first line.]
You'll wake up floating on a river of golden tears
Streaming past your hidden view
Amidst eyes of blue
Encircling your heart is crimson red
Blood of the fathers you never knew
Heart enshrined...finally to find the real 'you'
Safely hidden in this prison of blue
Your only chance now is to ride the hues
Grief unlocks the colors of life
You'll find your "purple" deep inside...after the ride
So close your eyes, and feel the depth
You'll find you're not alone
Surrounded by the throng, the unseen tears...Hold on
We must visit the eyes of our fore fathers
The pain of our unknown
Connect with the blood with whom we found life
Love through the tears of our own.
Another adoption-related poem, "Ties That Bind" is available HERE.
ABOUT THE POET:
My name is Samantha Franklin and I am a reunited adoptee, wife, mom, daughter, and friend...very busy & very thankful. I started blogging about my experience as an adult adoptee back in 2007, two years after the birth of my only child, Andrew. He was born three months early, weighing only one pound. I had been reunited with my first family for several years, but nothing caused me to awaken more to my own adoption issues more than giving birth to my son and having to leave him in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit every night for 98 days. Blogging has been a true blessing and has helped me grow so much as a person. My blog is entitled, "Neither Here Nor There" and can be found at www.PeachNeitherHereNorThere.blogspot.com.