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Family Films About Adoption That Teach You A Little Bit More

How does one portray adoption on the big screen? To do it with care and finesse is difficult, but attainable. There are movies that do not portray it in the best light. However, there are others that pinpoint major themes in an adopted child’s journey. Not only that, but they also accurately highlights the birth mother’s journey and adoptive family’s journey. These three movies, although possessing a comedic element, depict adoption in a unique, but relatable fashion.

Juno (2007)

Juno is a story about a high school girl (Ellen Page) who experiences an unplanned pregnancy with her crush (Michael Cera). Throughout the movie, Juno’s wit never fades as she’s faced with multiple decisions regarding her baby. We also see every step of her pregnancy. She chooses a family that seems like they fit the “American Dream” ideal pretty closely. While getting to know them, she learns that the adoptive father isn’t ready to have a baby, and thus, asks for a divorce from his wife (Jennifer Garner). But all ends well, as Juno realizes that as a single mother, the wife would do an excellent job raising her baby.

Elf (2003)

Although a bit more unrealistic, this story follows the life of “Buddy (Will Ferrell),” the estranged baby from New York that makes his way into Santa’s sack on Christmas Eve. Upon his return the North Pole, Santa realizes that an infant had crawled his way into the sack. They grow to love the child and raise him as their own. However, Buddy, like many adoptees, soon realizes that he is not like the others. After a discussion with “Papa Elf,” Buddy embarks on a journey to find his birth father in New York City. Although his reception is not initially a warm one, Walter (Buddy’s birth father) learns to love his elf son. In the end, Buddy maintains a healthy relationship with both his birth father and adoptive elf father.

The Blind Side (2009)

This beautiful story of adoption follows the life of Michael Oher, a present-day professional football player. Throughout the movie, we see the struggle of Michael and his birth mother. Many nights, he is left on the street without food or a place to sleep; that is, until his adoptive mother finds him. After staying a few days in their beautiful place, Michael feels out of place. He retreats to his birth mother, who only turns him away once more. Throughout the movie, the viewer develops a sense of empathy for Michael, who struggles to find his identity in this world. In the end, Michael is adopted by the loving birth mother (Sandra Bullock) and her family, and experiences a new take on life. He even develops a relationship with his birth mother so she can stay in his life.

Saying Things You Think Are Helpful, But Actually Hurt

worried-girl-413690_1920              Adoption can be a difficult road to navigate. For birth parents, this can be a rocky road with highs that we appreciate and lows that can reach the deepest valley. Some of us are lucky enough to have a support system that is set in place. Other birth parents either make their own support system or have learned better ways to cope with the grieving process. I am a birth mother that is 4 years post-placement. You never truly “move on”, but you can “move forward”. As I look back on my adoption journey, there were times I thought I was coping well. You know, when you miss your child, but it doesn’t paralyze you or depress you. You miss your child in a healthy way and want nothing but the best for them like any other parent would. Adoption is mentioned in a conversation and today you feel confident enough to mention you had an adoption placement. Then someone says this thinking they are being supportive, “You will have more kids later in life.”

            Before I continue, most comments I heard during my pregnancy & after my adoption placement were from people with good intentions. These comments were from close friends and family who thought I needed encouragement. When they said these things, I had to remind myself that they didn’t mean any harm, but it doesn’t stop these statements from being painful. I’m going to list some statements and explain why they hurt. I’m also going to give an expecting parent’s point of view with a comical twist. As time goes on, you learn to forgive people and laugh.

“Why are you upset, you’re doing a good thing?”

Response: “Gosh, let me stop moping around. All this good I’m doing is the prescription I needed.”

We are upset, because who truly wakes up and says “I’m going to give my child to a stranger today.” Trust me, no one in their right mind says that. We love our children so much that we trust the adoptive parents to provide a better life for our children. We are filled with joy to complete a family that once thought having a child was a distant dream. However, it doesn’t stop our mind, body, and soul from missing and loving our child.

“You know it’s going to be hard, right? You’ll end up regretting it.”

Response: “Really?! That never crossed my mind. I almost thought it was going to be easy. Thanks for the advice.”

A nurse said this to me during one of many third trimester check-ups. She knew about my adoption plan and worked with other expectant parents choosing adoption. I was truly shocked when she made this statement. I wasn’t shocked by what she said, but by who it was coming from. As expecting parents, some of us don’t have the best support system and that’s if we have one. My doctor was supportive and kind. He told me about support groups he thought would be great for me. He confirmed that the agency I chose was not only a credible agency, but a good agency in general to work with. For once I was feeling good about my decision. It is a shame that one comment made by the nurse could fill my mind with so much anxiety. She made me feel like I didn’t understand what I was planning to do. When in reality, I had already weighed my options and adoption was the best decision for my child to live a better life.

“You’re stronger than I am. I could never do that!”

Response: “I would have never guessed with the three kids standing behind you.”

This statement carries a powerful sting. For most birth parents, if our circumstances were different we wouldn’t do “that” either. Adoption isn’t for everyone the same way as abortion isn’t for everyone. When people say, “I could never do that” it makes you feel like you did the unthinkable. I spoke with other birth mothers who mentioned this made them feel sub-human and unworthy. We are worthy and very human, which is why it is painful to hear.

“So you don’t want your child?”

Response: (Blank stare)…..Really?!

Naturally as parents we want our children. We want to raise them, care for them, and provide for them. Even after adoption, birth parents feel the same way, but we understand that we can’t. Every birth parent comes with a unique story that leads to adoption for one reason or another. It doesn’t mean we are bad people. It does mean that we are selfless enough to think past our emotions to provide what our child needs, which is a good family.

When someone finds out you did an adoption and the room falls silent with uncomfortable stares.

In my head: Maybe they’re waiting for the punch line.

I think this is the worst reaction. As quiet as silence can be, it speaks volumes. Silence and stares can feel like a guilty brick being thrown in your direction. And let’s be honest, who wants to catch a brick. Most people who don’t say anything, typically don’t know what to say. It’s like the old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” This is true, but people tend to ignore what was said and move on to the next topic, so they don’t feel uncomfortable. If anything, at least converse with the birth parent. Talking about our adoption is a form of therapy. It is us accepting our situation and being able to live with it.

Time Heals, People Change, and Forgiveness Allows Understanding

As cliché as it sounds, time does heal all wounds. Some days are harder than others, but you learn to cope with the hard days. The biggest piece of advice I ever heard was to allow myself grieve. On my sad days, I allow myself to cry, scream, yell, etc. Once upon time, I would bottle it up believing if I cried I was slipping backwards. In turn, when I did cry I was a neurotic mess that could barely get out of bed. We must grieve in order to live a healthy life. Allow yourself to feel the emotions you feel. It’s okay and it’s normal. We must learn to forgive ourselves in order to live a healthy & happy life. I even forgave the people who said these things to me. This too came with time. To anyone that has or had an adoption, life does get better. The situation you are in makes you stronger. After a while, comments like these will roll off your back and make you laugh. Joy and laughter are key components in the grieving process. Without them life is just bland no matter how you look at it.

 

 

Dealing With Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS)

Finally! You bring home the baby you’ve always wanted, and your dream of being a parent has come to fruition! Yet instead of feeling the new joys of parenthood, you feel frustrated, withdrawn and overwhelmed. With the extreme highs and lows during the adoption process, it is common for adoptive parents to work through a wide range of emotions before and after placement.

If you are struggling with post adoption depression, there is help…and hope.

What is Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome?

Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) is a psychological response to new experiences and to losses. From feelings of disappointment, to the demands of meeting an adopted baby’s special needs, to the physical and emotional strain of not being prepared for parenthood.

Adoption advocate June Bond coined the term Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS) after meeting new moms who experienced feelings of sadness and an absence of bonding with their babies.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of post adoption depression vary widely and not all new parents will experience these symptoms at any one time. Some parents may have only one or two of these symptoms, but still may be experiencing post adoption depressions.

  • Depressive mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or binge eating
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme irritability and anger
  • Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Fear that you are not a good parent
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or inadequacy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Seek help

Don’t be afraid to ask an adoption professional or social worker for help – they can provide you with resources to help you with any worries or fears you may have. Talk to a therapist, your partner, friends, family, and other adoptive parents, who can provide you with necessary support.

Trust the process

Creating a strong bond with your child isn’t something that always happens instantly. Not every parent feels an immediate connection with their child, even among biological parents. Remember that you and your child’s bond will grow in the days, months and years to come.

 baby bed mother GIF

Take care of yourself

Get plenty of rest, eat well, go for walks, and designate “me time” when needed. Don’t feel guilty if you must cancel an obligation or two to focus on self-care. Caring for your body will decrease the negative effects of depression.

 video baby best amazing sleep GIF

My Adoption Story: Alyssa

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Hello readers! I am excited to be one of the newest members of Adoptions From The Heart’s Marketing team. As AFTH’s Donor Development & Marketing Coordinator and an adoptee myself, I want to introduce a recurring blog segment called My Adoption Story.

My Adoption Story will reveal personal adoption stories from all spectrums of this unique reality. My goal in designing this interview-style segment is to offer a platform to the diversity of life stories created by the adoption experience. For our readers, I want to invite you into the incredible variations of family, life and love that adoption creates.

As our first story, I will share my own

A brief background:

In 1987, as a newborn infant, I was adopted from Bogota, Colombia by Jewish, American parents from Long Island, New York. My parents, Pat & Irv Brookstein had also adopted my brother Jesse four years before me from Bogota through the adoption agency FANA (Foundation for the Assistance of Abandoned Children).

I was born on March 21st 1987 severely underweight and suffering from bronchial pneumonia along with many other babies in the agency at the time. My mom told me every moment until arriving in Colombia that she suffered greatly from being unable to soothe and comfort me in my fragile state.

My adoption was closed and I departed from Bogota with a name and nationality that would soon be replaced. The Colombian, Adriana Gonzalez without a home or family soon became Alyssa Brookstein, a US American with two loving parents and an adoring older brother.

Do you have a memory of finding out you were adopted?

I have no memory of finding out. It has felt like I have always known. Apparently, my brother told me upon his own childhood impulse when I was a toddler. He broke the news to me during playtime. I took the news without a care and continued focusing on what was in front of me, my toys!

Why did your parents decide to adopt?

My parents chose to adopt after years of trying to get pregnant. My mom experienced multiple miscarriages culminating in a near death experience from an ectopic rupture. During her ectopic rupture, she died on the table and remembered having an out-of-body experience. She recalls floating above her body and wanting to go towards a light but a message was communicated to her that she had more work to do. Soon after this defining experience my mom decided to adopt.

While growing up did you ever struggle with your adoption or feeling like you belong?moonshooting.png

I never felt like I did not belong with my family because my mom constantly told my brother and I that she wanted children more than anything in life which reinforced the knowledge that we were dearly wanted, even wished for long before we were born.  As an adolescent, my family’s obstacles overshadowed my personal struggles so I kept my pain to myself and struggled inwardly. In retrospect, I can see that some of my struggles were related to adoption but I was so silent with my confusion that I would have had no idea how to communicate my inward struggle. So, the answer is yes, I struggled but so silently even I was unaware of the anguish.

As an adoptee, do you ever feel like something is missing in not knowing your birth-family?

I do have a faint recollection of what came before Alyssa Brookstein and with that, a faint curiosity. This question is difficult because my experience is like Plato’s allegory of the cave; my reality is such that I am so far removed from my Colombian reality that it is near impossible to imagine it. In addition, I have experienced boundless love from my mom & brother that never made me want for someone or something else. I also love the diversity adoption has blessed me with, I am a Colombian, American Jew! I am empowered by my adoption mystery because it adds immensely to my sense of self. I find peace in my personal unknown.

Do you want to search for your birth family?

I do not have a great need but a small curiosity which holds the potential to grow. I believe that everyone has numerous roots across the world that could lead to incredible self-discovery, I am no exception. Because I am Jewish, Israel is a motherland and I returned. Poland is a motherland because it is the land of my ancestors and I returned. Colombia is a motherland because it is the land of my blood and I will return. When I return, I plan to let my instinct lead the journey. In my mind the search for my birth family will find its own way without plans and details; if it is meant to be it will be.

It is often said that adoption is built on loss. As an adoptee, how do you deal with loss in your life?

As an adoptee, great loss revives intense and disorienting waves of emotion. I have no waking memory about the 1st great separation I experienced in life but I have an acute emotional awareness that I survived something catastrophic as an infant. In the wild, newborns will not survive without the protection of their mothers. I feel I was aware that my life was threatened, first because I lost my lifeline, my mother, and second because I was gravely ill. I feel that every living being knows when their life is teetering on the edge of death no matter their state of consciousness. I was no different.

As an adoptee, the loss of a mother has been the most profound experience for me because I have lived through it twice. My mom Pat passed on in 2014 after surviving 14 years with cancer. In a strange way, I feel like I was more equipped than most to cope with great loss because I had already survived the greatest loss in the most vulnerable condition but my experience also made me that much more fearful. Could I survive the loss of a mother for a second time? My adoption has given me a deep, inner wisdom about loss but I still struggle immensely on how to manage the compounding losses.

may-you-have-sunnier-days-at-the-beach

EPILOUGE:

It may be true that adoption is built on loss but it is also built on love. Before I conclude I want to say that being adopted into a family does not mean that the family is always ready, just like many traditional families. Like many moms who dream of having their own children, my mom dreamed of my brother and me and because of adoption her dream came true. My dad was absent most of our lives and for my many years his abandonment caused me to question my adoption in a negative light but without him my mom would have been unable to adopt. Ultimately My Adoption Story taught me that love is what binds people together more than anything else in life, more than genetics, family names, religion or race. Love was passed on to me and my brother which is why he and his wife are now the proud parents of 6 foster children and why I am working for Adoptions From The Heart.

After Seeing Thousands of Adoption Profiles, How Hard Could It Be to Create Our Own?

AFTH’s Director of Marketing and Communications saw a different side of the adoption experience when she and her husband began the journey as prospective adoptive parents. She has chronicled their journey in her Adoptive Families Circle blog

One of the steps of the process challenged her in ways she wasn’t expecting. Read her Adoptive Families Circle blog about the obstacles she faced when creating their profile.

profile-design

Going into the adoption process, we knew it was paperwork heavy and that, by the end, we could probably go pro if “avoiding paper cuts” were an Olympic sport. We also knew that there would be parts of the process that would flow more easily than others, such as gathering all the home study requirements (which took more effort and time than I expected).

From the moment my husband and I submitted our application, I was excited about working on our adoption profile and I thought this would be one of the easier parts. I have seen thousands of families’ profiles in the 10 years I’ve worked at the agency. That exposure, coupled with my graphic design background, made me confident in my ability to easily produce a winning profile, if there is such a thing. That is, until I started actually working on it. I had a blast creating the backgrounds and planning the layout, and then my creative juices came to a screeching halt when my husband and I began to add the real content. You would think, being a blogger, that the words would come easily; I mean we are experts on ourselves. I can easily talk about how great a dad and husband David is all day long, or what it is like to live in our neighborhood. The truth is, seeing so many profiles before creating our own was a hindrance. Because I had seen so many examples and ideas, it severely clouded my vision of how I wanted our profile to look.

I tried to jumpstart my efforts by brainstorming different themes to pull through our profile, to show who we really are as a family. I was so excited about the list I made, which included: being a lighthearted and fun couple, the importance of both immediate and extended family in our lives, what a great team we are as parents, and the creativity and laughter that fill our home every day. As it turns out, those are the exact same points every other hopeful adoptive couple or parent is trying to highlight in their own profile. My excitement faded and I found myself stuck and without direction, again.

So, how did I get on the right track? Well, to be honest, attending the agency’s profile meeting was very helpful. I had been too eager to get started to wait for the meeting; shame on me. Social workers displayed examples of what to do and not to do. The social workers also shared feedback from expectant mothers, which was invaluable. All of the things they went over in that meeting were things I knew, but just couldn’t seem to apply. It felt like I was wearing blinders when it came to creating our own profile.

The truth of the matter is that expectant parents choose families for so many different reasons. It could be because of the connection they see between the couple, the neighborhood the family lives in, the parent’s love of Halloween, the activities they participate in, or even because they play Scrabble on the weekends with their neighbors (true story). A woman considering adoption may be looking for a family with children or a family where her baby will be their first. She may want a family who is less than a few hours away to make open adoption visits easier, or she may choose a family in a different state because that is where she visited her grandparents as a child. She may choose an older couple because of their life experience or a single parent because she was raised by her father. She may have no other explanation than “I just knew they were the ones.”

Ultimately, it is the unique qualities of our family that will aid in us being selected. Not that we are more unique than any other family, but something about who we are will foster a connection with her. Instead of trying to create the “perfect” profile, I shifted my focus to creating a profile that most accurately showcases who we are, what it’s like to be a member of our family. We are not a “Leave It to Beaver” type of family. We make mistakes and stumble, just as all parents and people do. We may lose our patience after a hard day at work, or forget that the play date was rescheduled and arrive on the wrong day. To be clear, I’m not going to have a page dedicated to our faults; however, I am going to highlight our humanness. It will be clear that there is always room on our laps and in our arms, and love in our hearts. We want to show that laughter and smiles occur much more frequently than tears, and that kisses and hugs are more numerous than time outs. Most importantly, I want to show that our commitment to our child’s birth parents will not fade. We will keep our promises. We are extending our faith that we will be chosen and she is extending her faith that we will raise her child, our child, in the best way we know how.

With that said, I have thrown away my preconceived standards of what I originally thought our profile should be, and instead focused my attention on creating it from within our hearts. We are who we are, and that will be what makes our profile shine to just the right person.

Book Reviews September 2016

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All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.
Separated Lives by Lynn Assimacopoulos – Fans of genealogy may find this book very intriguing. This book is a short glimpse into how Lynn helped her sons friend track down his birth parents through perseverance and the internet. With the help of Google and several genealogy sites and other genealogy hobbyists, Lynn was able to track down Ryan’s birth parents.

Short, sweet and to the to the point this is an interesting story of how one person can use the internet to help someone find the separate pieces of their lives and put themselves back together. Amazon.com price $9.00 (pb)

Megan’s Birthday Tree: A Story about Open Adoption by Laurie Lears -Many adoptee’s wonder about their adoption, their past, their birth parents and why they were placed for adoption.  Open adoption helps to answer those questions for families and adopted children by giving them access to their birth parents.  In this story Megan loves looking through the letters she gets from her birth mother and gets excited when she receives a picture every year of her birth mother standing next to a tree she planted when Megan was born.  Megan loves to see the tree grow.  When she learns her birth mother is moving she is scared that her birth mother will forget her.

This story is sweet and honest.  The fears that Megan shares are real and they are handled very well in this story.  In the end Megan’s birth mother assures her that she could never forget her that she is very important to her.  Then she shows her that she had dug up the birthday tree to take it to her new home.  This book shows how important open adoption can be to help eliminate children’s fears and answer their questions. Nice story. amazon.com as low as $.01 (HC used) kindle price $6.99

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Letters to their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon –   Uplifting letters from authors to their younger selves.  These letters cover everything from self-acceptance, keep pursuing your dream because it will happen, to stop being a bully and hanging out in parks at night.  For every kid who thought they were weird, different or didn’t know where they fit in this shows that it does indeed get better. I also like the idea of writing to yourself, one of the authors actually wrote a letter to his older self when he was 13 then stumbled upon it later and used it when writing his piece in this book.  What an amazing find and what a great idea.  To see where you are in 10-20-30 years and look back on what you thought was important to ask at that time.   amazon.com price $10.99 (pb) Kindle price $6.99

 

August Book Reviews 2016

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All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews – This is a riveting tale of courage and triumph.  After Anna’s mother dies she decides to return to the place of her birth and try to locate her birth family.  This trip takes Anna to a run-down apartment in Seoul where she learns of a tragic and resilient history, meets her biological grandmother and discovers her legacy.

Beautiful and well written this story tells the tragic history of Korea and what happened there. It is sad, hopeful, beautiful and full of life.  I couldn’t put it down and was sucked in from the beginning. William Andrews captures feel of this tale and really makes you believe it.  I almost forgot I was reading a book of fiction.  The characters jumped off the page and I could see the dust and feel the pain, courage and spirit to survive.

You don’t have to be adopted to relate to this story.  It’s about learning your history.  Whether you don’t know it due to adoption or if you are learning it from a distant relative this story is more about the strength of the women in this family and their will to live.  Very well done. amazon.com price $9.21 (paperback), $4.99 (kindle)

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp – Two couples both desperately wanting a child, but the actions of one father changes the lives of both couples forever. To complicate matters even further the child these couples find themselves battling over is the biological child of Cat and her husband, but was born and raised by Diana and Liam. Through Embryo donation Diana and her husband got pregnant and gave birth to Noah and raised him until the day he disappeared.

This is a complicated story that reminds me of the Baby M case from many years ago.  Although that case was a surrogacy case and the mother of baby M was the surrogate.  Who has more rights to Noah? His biological parents or his “adoptive” parents? This is a difficult story that leaves you struggling to figure out what is right and what is just. The ending was completely satisfying and believable. amazon.com price $17.23 (Hardcover) $13.99 (Kindle)