Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Adoption Screams at Me by Deanna Doss Shrodes

About two months ago, Deanna Doss Shrodes posted about the ways that adoption themes in media can seem intrusive. I found her post powerful. She was kind enough to grant permission for it to be reposted here. 

Adoption Screams At Me

Does it scream at you too? If you aren't an adoptee, probably not.

It calls to me from all directions, becoming a painful cacophony in my soul at times.
Adoption -- the teddy bear, rainbow and unicorn version -- clamors for my attention the way it seems to adore doing.

Communicating at me instead of with me.

The only place adoption usually communicates with me is when I'm surrounded by other adoptees, and a very rare handful of relationships of understanding . Otherwise, it communicates at me, and expects me to line up.

And when I don't line up, it can sometimes become the most ugly, nastiest beast I've ever encountered.
In those moments, I long to escape. Pushed to the edge of an emotional cliff, I want to leap off and disappear, away from all the people wearing rose colored glasses and holding cups of kool-aid.

Why do so many TV shows and movies have adoption themes woven therein?
It could be a sitcom, or reality show, or anything really. / stevendepolo
On the first night of our recent family vacation to the Berkshires, my family wanted to get movies and settle in for a night by the fire. I said, "Great! I'm all in. But no adoption themes, please. No orphans. No babies out of wedlock. No birthmothers relinquishing and crying. No heroic AP's flying in on their magic carpets to save the day. None of that.  Pick something else."
"No problem," they said. And they scampered off to choose two movies and came back convinced they had done just as they agreed to.

We settled in with hot chocolate by the fire, underneath blankets, snuggled up to each other. Popped in the DVD. The first movie began to play and imagine my shock when a horrific relinquishment scene was played out in front of my eyes. My family didn't bat an eye. They were numb, desensitized to the entire thing, even though a mother was transferring her baby to the arms of a stranger, while she sobbed and screamed, holding her arms toward the adoptive mother who walked away with her baby as a friend held her back.

It took everything in me to keep sitting on the sofa but I did.

Just like I always do.

Praise the Lord and pass the hot chocolate. / renee_mcgurk
On the heels of movie number one, movie number two went in the DVD player and imagine my shock when in the first five minutes of the movie, there came a train full of orphans. Again, my family did not even notice. It did not even register on their radar. They just sat there happily watching the movie as if nothing odd has just occurred.

I wanted to get up, and go sink down into a warm bubble bath in silence.

But I didn't.
I stayed there because I love my family. And I want to be with them.
And no matter how much I explain it, I'm really not sure  they will never grasp the reality of what this is like for me.
I'm starting to think maybe it's an unfair expectation for me to expect them to understand it.

It means so much to them that I watch movies with them. And,with the way adoption themes seem to weave into every show and movie these days to some degree, we may have little options otherwise.

If I got up and left every time they would probably just think I was overreacting.

As an adoptee, I don't see movies, nor the world with the same eyes.  I've tried to explain that I even struggle with animated movies. It seems most Disney movies have a theme of abandonment, adoption or significant loss somewhere in there.

Movies and TV are just the tip of the iceberg...

This week I visited two blogs that have been among my favorite for years. Neither has anything to do with adoption -- at all. Not even remotely close. But (drumroll please) it appears both blogs are shifting to a new direction as the writers feel the call to "redeem a child through the gift of adoption."


If I hear someone say redeem and adoption in the same sentence again I may need to be Baker Acted.

I've wanted to go to a popular leadership conference for pastors and staff members for a few years now. It's huge, attracting many thousands. I've just never planned my schedule to attend yet. So a few weeks ago, speaking of that particular conference, a minister-friend says to me, "Hey, you're involved in writing about adoption...did you know this conference is largely focused on adoption now? They really push it."

"" I said, my heart sinking. "I wasn't aware of that. Why would a leadership conference for pastors and Christian leaders be focused on adoption let alone 'pushing' it?" He informed me that amongst their teachings on leadership, they are addressing two areas: human trafficking and adoption. 

(I agree that both are similar, though not in the way most people think.) The friend went on to explain that the pastors who lead this conference are trying to stamp out human trafficking as well as encourage all Christians to adopt, following Jesus' command.

Hmmmm that was puzzling to me as I don't remember Jesus commanding us to adopt.

Yesterday was Valentines Day and friends who are neither adopted nor AP'S tweeted about their chosen way of celebrating the holiday this year: 
What are you doing for Valentines Day? Celebrate #adoption with me and so many others as we #spreadthelove.

I'm celebrating #adoption on Valentines Day! Join me! Link up your adoption story as we #spreadthelove!

Lord, we pray for families in the process of #adoption, for physical, spiritual and emotional provision.#spreadthelove

Today I'm praying for #orphans around the world, that they would find loving forever families. #spreadthelove

[double sigh]

Although I believe those in the orphan care movement mean well, many have no idea about this.

The world seems to have an absolute love affair with all things relinquishment and adoption.

It makes me want to move to a little cottage somewhere out in the middle of the forest.

I will still need wifi to stay in touch with my adoptee friends.

Deanna is an adult adoptee, a wife, a mother, and a pastor. Check out her site at


  1. Interesting post. I think each Adoptee's experience (while we all have a lot in common) is unique. For me, growing up with my parents (AP's) and my brother (who was also adopted - different bio family) was very clearly what was best for me. But maybe I'm one of the "lucky" ones. I went from a bad situation into a good one - and one that has remained "good" even now, 3 weeks after my Dad's death and 30some years into my life. I'm looking forward to adopting myself (hopefully next year).

    But yes, I do see adoption themes everywhere. The movie AI was very clearly to me all about adoption and the "disposable child" that "isn't ours" to me, but my (adopted) brother and our parents and friends didn't see it that way. I saw August Rush ONLY ONCE, because it was too painful to watch again.

    Maybe it has to do with home my parents "claimed" us. We were always their kids, and always encouraged and supported to find our biological background, if we choose to.

    Life is all about the choices we make and moving foreward with them. My Mom (AP) gave up a child for adoption when she was a teenager (and ironically, couldn't have bio kids w/ her husband later in life). She's done some great things with her life, and I hope her son has too. (He's never located us, but not because we're 'hiding'.)

    My Bio mom, however, still struggles w/ a lot of shame issues. But they are her own. I'm doing very well and have assured her that I'm okay, and grateful that she made the right decision.

    The drastic difference between these 2 women in my life have really shown me that there is no one single experience of any bio parent or adoptee or adoptive parent. We have similiarities, but, for me, being adopted into a wonderful family helped to show me to love with an open heart, judge with discernment but gentleness, and realize that there is room for those that "get it" and those that don't. ;)

    1. Hi J! I'm so sorry to hear about your Dad's passing.

      It sounds like your parents found a really healthy way to approach adoption - allowing you to be both "fully theirs" and also fully connected to your biological background. And where you are is a great place -- being able to love everyone, know the truth for yourself, and be gracious with those who don't get it. That's so healthy!

      I've been thinking recently that, the stronger our confidence in our position or beliefs, the less defensively we need to hold them. It sounds like you're there.

      I think there are some people who are not so confident in their adoption stories - maybe adoptive parents who maybe still struggle (or avoid a struggle) with grief, shame, or guilt over aspects of their story - adoptees struggling with (or avoiding thinking about) unresolved identity issues - birth family members still struggling (like your first mom) with shame. And I think when people aren't sure that they themselves are OK with their adoption story, there might be a tendency to paint adoption in one color. "All positive" perhaps. I don't think that's what you're doing here - but you've probably run across people who do it. And I think what I read in Deanna's post is a plea that says, "Please don't paint adoption in only one color; I need to be allowed to view it as positive and painful, healing and hurting, gaining and losing."

      What do you think?

    2. Definately not all one color. ;) I struggled with being "unwanted" and all of that, and abandonment is something I'm intimately aquinted with - and that was also something my parents didn't quite know what to do with. They loved me through it, and their steadfastness helped me (eventually, many years later) learn that my worth has nothing to do with the $500 they paid for, well, me. (Adoption fees) To my parents, I was "theirs".For me, the journey was a little different. It's hindsight where I see that it really WAS the best situation I could have been in.

      Adoptees especially often face being someone's "dirty little secret" and some elses "plan b". But that's a MUCH bigger topic! (Yet one I'd LOVE to discuss - I've been both!)

      It did take me until my late 20's to be able to look back and realize the enormous amount of luck/fate/God/destiny, etc that played a role into my GOOD situation. So while I may make it 'seem' like all wine and roses, rainbows and unicorns, there was a whole huge emotional journey along the way. And to some degree, it's a journey I'm on to this day.

      Many people (adoptees, bio parents, foster parents, adoptive parents) aren't able to come into that "good" place - or just aren't there yet. (I'm of the opinion that as long as you're on this side of dirt, there is ALWAYS a chance for things to get better.)

      You hit the nail on the head - confidence with who you are (adoptive parent, adoptee, bio parent, foster parent, etc) really does translate to others.

    3. Wow - you've said a couple golden things here. As long as you're alive - stuff can get better. And realizing that your situation is a good situation was a process. I would love to hear about being someone's "dirty little secret," someone else's "plan b" and still, overall, a person in a good situation! Please keep sharing!


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