I have always loved to dance. As an adult adoptee, a bio mom, and an adoptive mom, I dance between love and loss regularly. I dance with joy over small victories and small signs of acceptance. I dance to escape pain and to avoid obvious rejection from my family(ies). Let me continue to dance with the pain, the understanding, the surrender, His plan, and not faint.

Posts tagged ‘baby scoop era’

Our Bodies Remember

In our split-level home around our kitchen table that seats our family of six, we pray for Naika; bringing Naika to us from her orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti will make us “seven.”  We labor to send Three Angel’s Orphanage support money each month, gather paperwork to prove our financial stability, our mental stability, the healthy tone of our home and family, that we have no criminal records attached to our fingerprints.  We are pregnant with the anticipation of bringing Naika to our home, and after ten months, she arrives on U.S. pavement at the Miami airport.  We wait, our unblinking eyes and our cameras fixated on double-doors with double-paned glass windows—limiting our vision.  In a slow moment, we see our little two-and-a-half year old daughter delivered out of customs; she rides in a cart toting her “luggage”—a candy apple red backpack with one change of clothes in it, and the name “Rosaline” written in black marker across the top.  We smile and speak softly to her, and she (with no smile written on her face) lifts her arms up to me—a request to be lifted out of the cart.  I place her on my hip, the hip accustomed to carrying our other four children.

Photos of our daughter this first night together in the airport hotel in Miami prove Dr. Bryan Post’s theories on attachment.  No matter my soothing tones and gentle rubbing of anti-fungal lotion on her skin.  No matter the first warm bath for her and her little Haitian friend who came over on the airplane too.  No matter the My Little Pony new jammies and the Pooh Bear sticker book.  No matter our concern she must be hungry and the ice cream cone she hesitatingly accepts.  Our expressions of joy in the pictures clearly miss her expressions of fear in the moment.  Little do we know, she falls asleep quickly and easily that night in the Miami airport hotel not because we love her and she feels safe, but because her two-and-a-half year old brain is shut down and fear chemicals race through her bloodstream.   

We awake the next morning in Miami, and the three of us get on a plane.  We put Finding Nemo in my husband’s computer to entertain her, and a couple hours later, we land in Minneapolis.  Naika on my hip, we maneuver ourselves and our luggage to our big black Yukon XL with one car seat in it—for her.  My ignorance haunts me still.  In my eyes, it’s our family vehicle with the car seat we have used for years.  Through her eyes?  A strange tangle of belts and buckles, bright colored fabric, in the back of a hollow black vehicle she has never seen.  I would like to think she trusts us enough to get in the car and allow me to buckle her into this car seat apparatus.  But most likely, she simply senses she has no power and no choice but to follow our lead.  Stripped of everything familiar in one night, survival now requires compliance with us—her parent strangers.  I buckle her in lovingly, but still–I buckle her in.  Eight years later, Naika does not remember this trip—only the story we tell her. 

As the years go on, well-meaning friends and acquaintances ask me, “How is Naika doing?”  They smile expectantly and wait for a good report.  I walk down a narrow path to answer them honestly, sharing Naika’s early days of living in an orphanage, of abandonment, of brain development that occurred apart from us, of experiences Naika had that we missed for two-and-a-half years.

“Well, she was so young.  She doesn’t remember any of that, does she?”  No, she cannot verbalize her memories.  But her experiences and memories shape her–just like they do you, I want to say.  And, they surface, like a beach ball pressed under water.

In the orphanage, she experiences hunger in a country where food is life-threateningly scarce.  Our videos and pictures of Naika eating at the orphanage table teach the memory of eating with one hand and protecting her food with the other—her arm circled around her plate.  By the time Naika arrives in our home, she experiences abandonment.  Her birth mom, Mama Marie, visits Naika in the orphanage—each visit surely ending with a newly pricked wound of separation between mom and daughter.  Naika does not remember the visits, but pictures teach the memory of Naika on her birth mom’s lap, Naika’s dark brown eyes—darkened by wondering and vacancy.  Naika learns competition and scarcity in the orphanage.  Visitors and relief workers bring gifts (sunglasses, fruit treats, and such).  Naika and the other children clamor to get theirs—shoving toward the front, afraid they might not get any.  By age two-and-a-half, my daughter’s experiences and memory train her to protect her food, to fear being left by her mother, to push to the front.  Two plane flights (Port au Prince to Miami, Miami to Minneapolis) and one car ride to our home in Brookings, SD does not erase who Naika became before she came to us.

Bedtime in our home her first night, and my new daughter screams terror in my right ear while I press my body over hers and sing loud lullabies into her right ear.  She cannot tell me this, but her orphanage director explains to me over the phone what bedtime looks like there.  I imagine Naika missing all things familiar at bedtime each night—her friends, where she slept, a favorite spot in the room, maybe a favorite set of sheets or blanket.  She gains us—her new family—and loses absolutely everything else.  I try comforting Naika as I have my other children and get nowhere.  She cannot tell me anything.  She is two-and-a-half years old and doesn’t speak English.  And so, screams and hot terrified tears on my cheek pressed up against hers with my singing lips in her ear, until she finally exhausts herself and sleeps.  Night after night we go through this process, until she finally copes better with going to sleep.  We create new memories about bedtime at our house; and eventually, I can simply sit on the floor in her line of sight until she feels secure enough to fall asleep.

Naika’s sadness, her fear, her trauma, her loss, and her confusion show up in her behavior.  I walk down the narrow hall between the bedrooms of our home behind my new brown daughter.  She bounces, jumps, and tiptoes oddly, pounding her feet into our carpet—all in the short hallway walk to my bedroom on the end right.  I am losing it and I don’t know why.  Why does she bother me?  She is adorable.  Everyone says so.  She bounces and moves with jerks and abruptness unfamiliar to me.  I sense disorder, imbalance.  I sense her anger.  Subconsciously, my observations of Naika’s terror in her new home awaken the adoptee in me, and I begin to unravel. 

My twenty-two year old birth mom and birth dad were both in the delivery room (unusual for 1970, I’ve been told).  My birth mom held me–my mom told me as part of my adoption story.  But then what?  Who did she hand me to when she let me go?  Who fed me?  Did I scream terror and cry hot tears while a stranger tried to comfort me?  I recognize Naika’s grief and fear more than I realize at the time, and my grief, my loss, and my memories begin to surface. 

I know the story well because my parents have told it to me since the beginning—every day since they brought me home.  I am chosen.  I am special.  I am adopted.  And I never remember not knowing.  A few months before my birth, my mom and dad receive a phone call from the adoption agency.  My mom rushes in with an outfit she picked for this very occasion—the day they will take me home as their daughter—a one week old little baby girl.  She dresses me anew.  I am their baby now.  They hold me, cuddle me, breathe in my smell, as I breathe in theirs.  They smell differently than the foster mom who cared for me from day three to day seven.  Who was she?  And, she smells differently from the nurses who held me in the nursery at the hospital.  Who were they?  And they smell and sound differently (each one of them) than my birth mom who carried me in her tummy for forty weeks.  Where did she go?  I would ask these questions, but I am seven days old.  And so my parents hold me, their baby, as I wonder and adjust to yet another change.  Do they look into my baby face and see the “blank slate” the social worker tells them I am, or do they see the grief, loss, confusion I cannot express?  Why does writing about this make me tired and make my head float?  I want gum, ice to chomp, coffee, chocolate, ibuprofen, a drink, chips, something.

Early on (for the first few years), Naika hoards trash, wrappers, remainders of candy bars she discovers she doesn’t like after one bite, a hard-boiled egg yolk because she only likes the whites, broken crayons, Barbies with jagged cut hair she must now hide, crumpled paper with scribbles, chewed gum (something we told her she could not have without asking), and more.  Here, under her bed and tucked in corners of her bedroom, lies my daughter’s pre-verbal memories of loss, of chaos—and evidence of how she feels about it.  Angry.  Ashamed.  Frightened.

About six years since coming to us from Haiti, on a sun-filled spring Friday for her first track meet, Naika sprints at the sound of the track gun.  She runs to win.  She must win.  It is scary to be slow and last in an orphanage.  In our kitchen, Naika says things to me like, “I am almost taller than you,” “I am the oldest in our family,” and “Someday I’ll be the tallest.”  It is scary to be small and weak in an orphanage.  At home, Naika’s eyes follow her favorites—sour cream and cheddar cheese chips, watermelon, knock-off Uggs, gum, refried beans to make bean burritos.  She trusts herself to find and get what she needs most.  I fix her favorites, and she eats heartily–to the point of being too full and uncomfortable, just in case.  We stand in the grocery aisle at Hy-Vee checking out groceries; the clerk offers her a choice of maybe eight different flavors of suckers.  It takes her an abnormally long time to pick because when choosing one flavor, she then loses all the others forever.  She does not like the feeling of losing—even if she cannot narrate a memory to explain why.

Naika is a fourth grader now, and she has been in our family for eight years. This day, I drive to pick her up from school.  She sees both me and my car, but I have to go around the block and come back to get her in that same spot.  She watches my car begin to leave—without her.  She panics.  I see it in her face. Mostly, I don’t like that the adoptee in me recognizes that feeling—the panic of not being noticed, not being seen, and being left behind.  On a Sunday morning flurry of our family getting ready for church, I (the 40 year old adoptee, married into this family for 20 years) experience the same.  My husband’s detests being late for anything—especially for church.  I rush around the house, offering breakfast to the children, tidying up everywhere, showering and trying to meet the expectation of all of us going together on time.  My husband gets himself ready, expresses frustration that we are already late, and leaves our bathroom.  I rush to pull myself together, grab mascara that I can put on in the car, run down the stairs to the door leading to the garage, and find my husband and children gone.  He took them all. Deep in my gut, I ache. 

Bringing Naika into our home stirs the adoptee in me.  I see her brown little body running around our house and realize:  I am her.  She is my memory. Strange awakenings begin happening in me, and inconvenient awakenings:  a panic attack in Sam’s Club while pushing my cart, three trips into the emergency room for fear I have a brain tumor and want to be checked over, sleeplessness, anxiety driving me, and an awakening to know whose genes I carry.  One middle of the night, I startle out of sleep with a “ping” released deep in the middle of my brain.  I grab my husband.  I am frightened, I feel lost and abandoned, panicked, and I am being separated from my birth mother in that moment.  This night, a memory buried deep under, now surfaces.  I seek help for this new me by visiting my doctor.  He listens carefully, and suggests I am experiencing the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  “Isn’t that for soldiers who deal with bombs going off?”  He replies, “You had a bomb go off in your house.” 

Naika and I carry memory in our bodies, not always our words.  We carry early memories in our behaviors, not our narrative.  Naika carries some of my memory for me.  I do not remember my experiences as a little baby growing in my birth mom’s womb, separated from her shortly after delivery, held by nurses, sent to a foster home, and then arriving to my parents’ gentle loving care; but, I get a glimpse of the effects of such disruptions as I watch my daughter.  Each of us shaped by memories we cannot recall, but nonetheless. 

 

 

History of Adoption Language Research–“Adopt-a-Highway?”

From where and how did adoption language originate, develop, change, expand, increase, and become loan words and metaphors used in other domains?  Further, what connotations do adoption words carry and how do the connotations affect perceptions of adoption?    As an adoptee and an adoptive mom in Dr. Taylor’s Linguistic class, I found myself wondering why the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear or read “adopt the legislation,” “adopt-a-lot,” “orphan article,” and other such items.  Do the words themselves possess definitive power in their origin?  Or, does my personal experience with adoption cause me to hover and sometimes wince?  Where did the words surrounding adoption originate?

Following Dr. Taylor’s caveat to reach out to an expert, I sent Adam Pertman (Executive Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the preeminent research, policy and education organization in its field) an email with “Adoption Language Research Inquiry.”  I heard back quickly from Mr. Pertman via email, and we scheduled a phone conversation for an upcoming date.  I knew about Pertman and his Adoption Institute (its focus on research) through my experience with the “American Adoption Congress” and having attended two of their conferences.  Further, throughout recent years, the institute’s name populates several bibliographies and research documents I encountered. 

While waiting for my phone interview with Mr. Pertman, I started academic research towards answers to my questions.  My initial probes into adoption language returned next to nothing; this led me to suspect my lack of research skills as the culprit.  I made an appointment with a librarian at Briggs Library on campus.  Miss Elizabeth Fox led me through some basics in “graduate level” research for scholarly articles; and, she took me to the Oxford English Dictionary.  I recognized then I would spend time there, in the Reference Section.

Soon, I spent thirty minutes on the phone with Adam Pertman.  I shared with him my trouble in finding research on this topic of the language of adoption.  I asked him, “Is that because I have just not found it yet, or . . .?”  He enthusiastically jumped in and shared with me that very little research currently exists on the matter.  Further, he informed me of his interest to write a book about such.  Following, please note the wide-range of concepts and topics we discussed that morning over the phone in a 30 minutes phone conversation:

  • The term “put up for adoption” came from children coming off the Orphan Train and stepping up onto platforms waiting for a family to choose them. 
  • Mormon’s and families in other countries still adopt to “grow the flock”—increase their numbers (genius genes, for labor); it probably sounds more crass than it is, as many of them probably do love their children.
  • But, people develop biological families for strange reasons also—even for selfish reasons, too.
  • We cannot develop a good language around secrets and cultural shame.  We haven’t done it well yet.  The language is convoluted. (Pertman)  Pertman quote:  “We pay a very steep price for our history.”

 

  • “Positive Adoption Language” (PAL) aims admirably at “Let’s be positive about this.”  However, why can’t the language be “commonplace adoption language” or “normal adoption language?”  And, Pertman mentioned “was adopted” as part of PAL recommendations; however, current consensus shows that “adoption is a life long process,” so how can we use past-tense terminology?  Shouldn’t PAL be “is adopted?”
  • We discussed those “touched by adoption” (as opposed to “affected by adoption”) might be likened to minorities in our culture.  American Indians, African Americans, and several other minority groups have achieved space for public conversation.  Adoption does not share similar public space or public awareness.    Minority groups often face the problem of recovering from past discrimination or an overall regretful history, and adoption’s history carries regrets.   Pertman says about the struggle to find acceptable adoption words:  “we are trying to clean up the mess from the past.”
  • Because adoption has not made its way into a public conversation yet, many people a) do not think the language has consequences, and b) do not comprehend a problem with rhetoric exists.  Pertman echoes our Crystal textbook in his belief that culture affects language, and language affects culture. 
  • Many people in our culture view adoption as a second-class decision, “Oh, they couldn’t have kids, so they adopted.”  Also, programs like “adopt-a-highway,” “adopt-a-school,” “adopt-a-parking lot” suggest an insensitivity to the word “adopt.”  Do we mean to parallel adopting a highway with adopting a human being with our language?  Pertman wisely drew a picture of a continuum for me—that some uses of the verb “adopt” seem reasonable:  such as “adopting legislation,” some uses might seem marginally reasonable:  “adopt a pet” as most of the time people love and care for their pets—with the exception of choosing to “put one’s dog down” and such.  However, the nonsensical use of the word, such as “adopt-a-star” and “adopt-a-highway” should change, according to Pertman. 
  • What can we do?  Move forward to educate, inform, make public the discussion, change the culture, and change the language.  “Language affects the culture affects the language.” (Pertman)
  • According to Pertman, the culture is changing.  “Many women today are not opposed to the language and not tied to shame and secrecy.” (Pertman)

            After speaking with Mr. Pertman, I recognized the valuable experience of speaking with a real person “in the field.”  I sent emails to department heads on the SDSU campus in the Psychology and Sociology Department with clear descriptions in my subject line, hoping to find another expert—or at least someone interested in this topic.  Instead, my requests all returned as politely declined due to lack of knowledge.  However, one brave psychology professor (who must remain unnamed) responded, assuring me her lack of expertise in the area of adoption; still, she expressed willingness to meet.  That meeting, while very different from what I expected and very different from my interview with Mr. Pertman, helped me progress also.  Apparently, she teaches about adoption in her undergraduate “Child Development” class.  The professor showed me a textbook published in 2009 and one published in 2012.  Please find the following quotes from the textbooks:

Studies of transracial adoptions, in which parents of one racial group adopt a child of a different race, have found no differences between transracial adoptees and children adopted by same-race parents in terms of their racial self-identity, general adjustment, or self-esteem (Baden, 2022; Feigelman, 2000; Silverman & Feigelman, 1990; Vroegh, 1997).  As with children of divorced or single parents, it seems that the majority children adjust well and function normally (Psychology Textbook 472).

Common sense and life experience could argue against these two sentences.  This textbook section also uses the TIME IS MONEY metaphor:  “Adolescents who spend a lot of time wondering about their birth parents may have strained relations with their adoptive parents (Kohler, Grotevant, & McRoy, 2002, italics mine).”  As an adoptee, I read this as a warning:  I best not “spend a lot” of my time that way if I want a good relationship with the parents I have; further, I would not want my daughter to believe this statement.  The textbook section (barely one page out of at least 472 pages) does a terrible job, really, of introducing anything true about adoptees.  The other textbook presents a section called, “Adoptive Families.”  This section (in total barely one page out of at least 589 pages) summarizes, “Despite these risks, most adopted children fare well;” and “Clearly, adoption is a satisfying family alternative for most parents and children who experience it.  Good outcomes can be promoted by careful pairing of children with parents and provision of guidance to adoptive families by well-trained social service professionals” (588-589, italics mine).  Both of these seem to come from a place of “I’m OK, you’re OK” philosophy, seemingly, based on the general “everyone turns out fine eventually, regardless of who parents them” tone of these textbook sections. 

            And, both textbooks, when introducing any deviation from these comforting phrases and passages point to the biology and original background of the child as the first culprit.  When this professor paraphrased to me what the textbooks said, she used the words, “and then of course, there’s bad genes” and giggled.  I raised my eyebrows, leaned forward, widened my eyes beyond their true capability, and asked incredulously, “Does it say that in there?”  When she realized via my reaction that she had perhaps chosen offensive words, she put her nose in one of the books to read one of the following passages “word-for-word:”

Many children are put up for adoption because their biological parents were too young, lived in poverty, were addicted to drugs or alcohol, or suffered from a mental illness or serious health problem.  Other children were abused or neglected before being adopted.  (472)

Similarly in the other textbook:  “The biological mother may have been unable to care for the child because of problems believed to be partly genetic, such as alcoholism or severe depression, and may have passed this tendency to her offspring” (588).  After about a half hour, we clearly recognized ourselves as on different playing fields regarding adoption.  We amicably agreed to part ways, I thanked her, and she made copies of her textbook.  Afterwards, I e-mailed her some scholarly research articles from Psychology journals with research pointing to different conclusions than those we discussed.

 

Next, I received an appreciated offer from Dr. Taylor to share links to the Oxford Online dictionary for a set of words, if I could provide for him such a list.  I reviewed my brainstorm of words  and submitted to him my top words in terms of relevance to my project.  As a subscriber to the Oxford Online dictionary, Dr. Taylor possesses the advantage to browse the dictionary from his own personal space rather than drag out the heavy brown leather-bound volumes in Briggs Library.  I simply printed each of the words on paper to begin increasing my awareness of the origins of these words and how to further study them.  I will reference the effect learning the origin of these words surrounding adoption influenced me shortly.

Once I compiled my group of Oxford dictionary definitions, I became curious about how the American Heritage Dictionary online (AHD online) might emit different results.  Looking for adoption words there led me to several revelations, as noted in my portfolio.  For the purpose of this narrative, I will mention only a few discoveries.  First, when I typed in “adoption,” “adopt” arrived on my screen.  The second definition brings up the matter of a pet:

  1.  To take on the legal responsibilities as parent of (a child that is not one’s biological child). 
  2. To become the owner or caretaker of (a pet, especially one from a shelter).  (AHD online, italics mine)

My entry of “birthmom” returned “birth mother and birthmother” and the definition stands alone as “One’s biological mother”  Lack of reference here to adoption seems odd to me, as I do not refer to myself as the birthmother of my biological children—only on rare occasions when people ask if we adopted all of our children.  I typed in “adoptee rights” and found no entries.  I did notice “American Indian” commands a much lengthier definition along with a “Usage Note” compared to the “African American” entry which merely states:  “A black American of African ancestry.”  The second definition of “stepchild” bothered me; “2.  Something that does not receive appropriate care, respect, or attention:  “For the longest time, children’s books … were considered the stepchild of publishing” (Robert Sabuda)” (AHD online).  I checked on this word for two reasons:  1) Adam Pertman mentioned the “accepted language” of stepfamilies, and 2) Kyle referred to his research obsession as the “forgotten stepchild” of Larson’s.  If I were a stepchild, I would not want to find this second entry as part of the definition or hear it used.  To my dismay and shock, when I began to type “orphan” into the AHD online, the search engine recommended “orphan disease” in the white box underneath.  I checked into it and found:   “A disease that is relatively rare, for which the development of drugs is considered to be commercially nonviable.”  “Orphan,” then, took me to a definition holding true two a child for only the first two entries, and then the definitions switched to “animal, “one,” a “technology or product,” and  “a very short line of type.”  I do shake my head at the freedom of the use of a word that originally and most popularly defines a child without parents to care for him or her.

            Speaking of shaking my head, my next research event—searching for journal articles through the Briggs library online site, I typed in “adoptee” and found articles the following titles (to name a few):  “Juvenile Delinquency and psychiatric contact among adoptees compared to non-adoptees,” “Counseling Adult Adoptees,” “ADHD in international adoptees,” “ Our Adoptee, Our Alien,” “Pre-Adoption Adversity and Self-Reported Behavior Problems in 7 Year-Old International Adoptees,” “Risk for schizophrenia in intercountry adoptees,” and “Suicidal behavior in national and international adult adoptees.”

At this point, I turned to Crystal’s book, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, to find answers.  Crystal speaks to my musings in his “Lexical Dimensions” chapter:

Some of the most loaded words in the language are those associated with the way society talks about itself, and especially about groups of people whom it perceive to be disadvantaged or oppressed.  The most sensitive domains are to do with race, gender, sexual affinity, ecology, and (physical or mental) personal development.  (177)

Crystal also refers to a period through which I lived—“the early 1990s . . . [when] people reacted strongly to what they saw as a trend towards terminological absurdity” (177).  My hopes to coin “new words” diminished as I considered even my own eyes rolling with seemingly “absurd” politically correct new words—all the way to “height-challenged” instead of “short.”  But Crystal’s text took me a step further:  “Critics of PC believe that the search for a ‘caring’ lexicon is pointless, as long as the inequalities which the language reflects do not change” (177).  Of course, proponents of PC language believe using incorrect terms can only “perpetuate these inequalities” (Crystal 177).  The following words in Crystal’s text makes me weary of setting out to make adoption language more politically correct:  “Dissatisfaction over one term tends to spread to its replacement, as has been seen with such sequences as negro to black to Afro-American to African-American” (177).  Additionally, “Those who adopt a PC line typically do so with an aggressiveness which creates antagonism” (Crystal 177).  This controversy over “language” shows up in the “Positive Adoption Language” movement and its predecessor:  “Respectful Adoption Language” (RAL) invented by the adoption industry in the mid70s, and not to remain unmentioned—“Honest Adoption Language” (HAL) and Inclusive Language.”  Reading this section in Crystal’s book deters me from forging on as “one of those” who creates a new list.  For now, I stand more on the side of Mr. Pertman and PC critics—that the words and usage of the words will not change until our culture understands adoption.

For a moment, I will present what I found on Wikipedia as a beginning to my research—not as an end.  The quotes I use here come directly from Wikipedia, and most of them relate to the history of adoption and view adoption through a social lens.  Thus, while not directly connected to my linguistic search, much of what I read spurred my further research.  I found phrases like “The Code of Hammurabi . . . details the rights of adopters and the responsibilities of adopted individuals at length;” and, “political and economic interest of the adopter  . . . a legal tool to strengthen political ties between wealthy families and created male heirs.”  I learned from Wiki that “many or Rome’s emperors were adopted sons.”  I read words like “slave supply,” “children as commodity,” “to ensure continuity of cultural and religious practices,” and “adoption of males to perform the duties of ancestor worship.” 

I pressed on further through Ancient times, to the Middle Ages to the Modern Era on Wikipedia and found the Germanic, Slavic, and Celtic nobility “denounced adoption” as “bloodlines were paramount” because “a ruling dynasty lacking a natural-born-heir was replaced.”  Napoleonic code “made adoption difficult” and soon after monasteries began raising children who needed parents.  Wikipedia notes this as the “beginning of institutionalization.”  Then, then moving into modern times, I find “the first modern adoption law occurred in 1851.”  I found stories of Sister Irene, the first “foundling asylum” located at 17th East 12th St in NYC.  The details of the address fascinate me as my own search details, addresses, phone number, license plate numbers of my birth family did.  Had I discovered that I spent part of my life in the “foundling asylum,” I would have wanted to know the exact address; and, I would have visited that space.

Finally, I discovered “Charles Loring Brace” and essay entitled The Best Method of Disposing of Our Pauper and Vagrant Children (1859).  Charles Loring Brace carries the notoriety as the author of the “Orphan Train” movement, and the “father of foster care.”  Along with Brace’s rough-edged title, I found Henry H. Goddard’s book (1911) titled, Wanted:  A Child to Adopt, and the following excerpt: 

How short-sighted it is then for such a family to take into its midst a child whose pedigree is absolutely unknown; or, where, if it were partially known, the probabilities are strong that it would show poor and diseased stock, and that if a marriage should take place between that individual and any member of the family the offspring would be degenerates. 

Then, in 1945-974, I see the term “baby scoop era” defining a term of rapid increase in the number of adoption.  Eventually, science began to emphasize nurture over genetics, and the “eugenic stigma” of Brace and Goddard’s movement lessened.  By 1945, the trend of sealing adoption records began; Charles Loring Brace “introduced it to prevent children from the Orphan Trains from returning to or being reclaimed by their parents.”

            In sum of my Wikipedia findings, I made some discoveries regarding why the hairs raise on the back of my neck when I google “adoptee grief” and find articles and pictures of animals.  Built into the eugenics movement, I found Goddard’s use of the word “pedigree.”  And, built into the history of adoption, I find “slave supply,” “economic interest of the adopter,” and “children as commodity.”  Mr. Pertman spoke directly to this during our interview on the phone:  “We pay a very steep price for our history.”  Words carry both denotations and connotations, and the connotations steeped in this type of history bother me at a gut level. 

            Crystal speaks of “The Loaded Lexicon” in CEEL, stating that “connotation refers the personal aspect of lexical meaning—often, the emotional associations which a lexeme incidentally brings to mind.”  And, “connotations vary according to the experience of individuals, and . . . are to some degree unpredictable” (171).  I find the excerpt from S.I. Hayakawa in which he distinguishes between “snarl words” and “purr words” an interesting concept; I applied these concepts to an “Adoption Glossary” I found on a widely accessed site—Adoption.com.  I included this glossary with an “S” for “snarl” and a “p” for “purr” next to it, based on my own experience and the connotations the words carry for me.  I offer this as an attempt to not create a completely new glossary of terms, but to begin a discussion (even if with myself) of positive, negative, and neutral adoption language words. 

At this point of my research, I find my engagement with the OED quite helpful; it even brought to a place of more peace. 

            On the other side of this I-Search project, mostly I feel “not done.”  I cracked open the door, but I want to learn more.  Personally, my research awakened a new awareness in me regarding adoption language.  So often, I find myself accepting life and its issues as complicated.  The longer I live, the more sides to every story.  

 

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Running with Science

A young scientist that runs...a lot

Pearls Of Blissdom by AntheasChronicles

It's the little things that make life blissful!

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