I have mentioned on my blog before that I speak occasionally at a local university on the topic of adoption. The class itself is entitled, "Issues in Adoption". The majority of the students enrolled are seeking to become social workers.
The professor of the class, D, is a family friend we got to know through church. At one time, she worked for a private adoption agency. She married and divorced never having children. She later adopted two children (not related) from Guatemala and was a single mom. I babysat for her when I was in high school and through college on a very regular basis. I was more or less a nanny to her boys.
Over the years, we formed a very close relationship. When I babysat and she would come home from work late in the evenings, I would stay at her house for another 2-3 hours just talking. She was very open minded and would talk to me about being adopted, my feelings, my thoughts towards my aparents and siblings, etc. She made me feel like it was okay to have a curiosity about my heredity. Growing up, I always knew I was adopted, but it was more or less just the giant elephant in the room. I never really felt like it was okay to talk about it. Needless to say, she was a godsend through a very informative part of my life.
D asked me several years ago, before I was in reunion, if I would be interested in coming to speak to her class. My first thought was "No, way!", simply because I am not a public speaker. The thought of a room full of strangers staring at me while I shared my adoption story made me cringe. However, D would not let up. She would ask each time a new semester started...4 times a year (counting the 2 summer sessions) to be exact! After about a year of asking, I gave in. How hard could it be?
The first time that I went to speak, I was still in major denial about any and all feelings I had adoption related. I went and shared with the class my feelings about my birth mom...how wonderful and brave she must have been to not abort me but instead make the ultimate sacrifice just so I could have a better life...a life she could not provide me...a life free from racial prejudice and an unsupportive extended family. I continued on with how I grew up in a financially stable home, I didn't 'stick out' in the family photo album, I had a great childhood, I grew up going to church, I went to college on a basketball scholarship, met a great guy, got married, had children...I had it all. What more could I have asked for in life? THAT was my story that I shared. And what's so sad is that I actually believed it. That is what I grew up believing my entire life. I am actually embarrassed to even post it, but it's the truth and I'm not going to stray from it..however ugly it may be!
At the end of my spiel, it's open to the class to ask questions. They asked all kinds of very personal questions, but I of course answered them with the textbook, "I'm a very happy, fortunate adoptee that was 'saved' by a wonderful, loving family" answer. Kind of sickening when I think about it. Anyway..this went on for a couple of years. During that time was when my birth mom 'found' me. After we were in reunion for a couple of years, she even went with me and spoke from a birth mother's point of view. I shared my fairytale adoption/reunion story, while she shared her story of unspeakable loss to happy ever after now that she had me in her life. I got to where I really liked going. It was fake therapy at it's finest. The more often I went and shared how wonderful my life was, the better I felt about being an adoptee. That was until the day I was asked one too many questions.
The kid was only in the class because he needed 3 more credits and thought that class would be easy. He would be the one to ask a question that left me speechless. At the time, my birth mom had rejected me...again. She was actually supposed to be at the class to speak with me but never showed up so I went alone. I wasn't in the best frame of mind, but had promised D I would be there and I am NOT a promise breaker. I went through the routine...life is great, I'm so fortunate, blah, blah, blah...and then started taking questions at the end. I was getting ready to wrap up when his hand shot up in the air. It was like he just had an epiphany or something. I called on him and he said, "Are you really as happy as you say that you are? Something about you tells me there is more to the story than you're sharing. I'm only here because I have to be, but something about your story makes me want to stay longer because I want to hear more. I want to hear the whole truth." OMG...you could have heard a pin drop. I was speechless. After a couple of minutes, and YES, it was a couple of minutes so it felt like an hour, I told him something along the lines of everyones life has things they wished were different, but overall I was happy and that was it. It was a bunch of BS...he knew it, I knew it, for all I knew everyone knew it...but I wasn't ready to admit it.
I left as soon as I could with D following after me while she let the class have a 10minute break. She wanted to talk, but I told her I was fine. The question just caught me off guard. I could tell that she too knew I was a fraud. There was nothing legit to my story. I fought hard to keep myself composed and left the campus. I haven't been back since. How in the world could I share my experience when I couldn't admit the truth. The class was supposed to teach the students about issues in adoption. What help was I when I was just pretending that there are none. I was humiliated and so disappointed in myself.
Well, it has been almost 3 years since that dreadful, eye opening day. D called today and has asked me to come speak to her class in August. I have agreed. However, this time I am going to tell the whole truth...no matter how hard it might be. I never realized how big of an opportunity I had until it was brought to my attention that I was being a fake.
I have a month, but I am preparing now. I would appreciate your help. If you could share one thing with this group of students about adoption, what would it be? The purpose of the class is to teach about adoption issues. We all have them. I do not know one person affected by adoption that does not. So...speak up now, please! I'm listening and ready to share.