Prior to 2013, I was considered, by some, to be an adoption activist as I wrote and presented about historic trauma, and the role of legislation in determining legitimacy as a family, a person, a representative of an ethnic group. Adoptions were bad, staying within family/community was good. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. My husband experienced cancer; I went to live on the rez for a month to write my memoir and in the process get to know my tribal family, become more familiar with my community, a destabilizing experience; our son and daughter in law, who were living with us, gave birth to a beautiful baby, my grandson, who would tragically pass away 2 weeks after his 1st birthday from unexplained liver failure. I was diagnosed around the time his death with 2 separate cancers. While undergoing treatment I lost my mom, who lived a mere 7 minutes away. This was the woman who adopted me, the woman whose pain shone through her eyes although she smiled with pride, at my activism. And then things went downhill from there. I’m still reeling. I still feel guilty for the pain I caused that was brought about by this outside ‘thing’, this action that was forced on us and accepted, to a certain degree, by us.
Yes, I paid a social price for being raised white; yes I wished my birth family hadn’t been kept hidden from view; yes, I had no idea who I was and resent the social Durkheim-ian ‘facts’ that were being forced on me about who I was and how I should behave. I want birthfamilies who are functional, so they don’t lose their kids; I want relationships to be meaningful for all involved; I want wars and genocide to stop so kids aren’t the bargaining chips. But seen through my experiences of the past 3 and half years, those things are beyond me, beyond my voice, beyond my actions. When the dust has settled, what are left are the questions. My mom just wanted a child after six miscarriages. Is that so awful? My birthmom’s disappearance for weeks or months at a time, leaving her 8 other kids with other people while no one knew where she was (a thing I know, she told me), is this really the best person to raise a child with no help, no guideance? My birthfamily is fragmented, emotionally, mentally and socially. Would I be able to be the voice in the violent winds if I remained there?
My bottom line is I am who I am, through my history, through my experience. I am human, I do the best I can; I raise my children to be respectful and kind and generous and productive. I live in communities were I find social circles where I fit in, and veer away from social circles where my role is to educate – unless I actively take that role on myself, which I do at times.
By advocating either/or, birth OR blood, real OR constructed, I believe I’ve painted myself into a corner, and am searching wildly for some middle ground.
I apologize for the length of statement. So here is my question: Has anyone experienced an event, or series of events, a trauma, that shook them to their very foundation about their beliefs about who they are and why they are and what they’re doing? Have you changed? Your ideas? Your beliefs? And if so, in what ways? I’m trying to find some solid ground here and I’m wondering if others are too.