Emotional Unpacking; One Week After the American Adoption Congress Conference

AAC 2014 adoption conference

 So Much Adoption in Just Five San Francisco Days

AAC 2014 adoption conferenceSo I have been home a full week now and have barely begun to examine all that I returned with from the AAC. Granted there was Easter in the way. And that we had scheduled a 60th surprise birthday party for Rye’s mom for the Friday after I returned jetlagged on Monday. And I had tons of follow ups and emails and Facebook messages to attend to. And pending Adoptee Rights bills grabbed my attention. Alas, I have finally gotten to the point in my list where I can write about the AAC conference!

So before I really begin to share, let me say again how amazing it is to be among and completely immersed in AdoptionLand. Yeah yeah, I know. I go off on it all the time when I get back from one of these things, but really. It’s true. Seriously, it’s the one time in your life that there is no need to edit. There is no need for disclaimers. Or explanations. You just talk and everyone around you knows what you mean because they live it too. People sitting next to you not only get you, but they know who you FEEL because they feel it too. Plus, you get to meet people that you might talk to all the time online and really HUG them. Or even people that you don’t know, or even ones that you might think you don’t like, and it’s different in real life and you make a better connection. And then, there are just new people that are really great!
OK I’ll stop  sounding like a travel agent guru now. The point is that IF you are adoption affected, make a point of ONCE in your life treating yourself to a real live adoption event. Break down the walls, get over the fear and be among your own kind.

Segway into plug for the Adoption Initiative Conference coming up in NY this May. I’m speaking! 

OK so back to the AAC!

So there are some things that are like perfect snapshots of lovely experiences in my mind. Some are longer, some shorter, but layer upon rich layer make up the whole time I was there.  Rather than bore you with a chronological play by play, I’m just going to start with some of the moments.

Keynotes and Movies and Dancing , oh my!

Dancing! I had SUCH a blast dancing and it might not seem like it is related to adoption, but it was. The “dance party” was the Saturday night after pretty much everything was done. I know I couldn’t wait to dance; I just had all this extra energy and dancing sounded like a great way to work that out. It was literally cathartic, I found. And oh, we danced. Sometimes badly. Even very badly. But it didn’t matter because it was so much fun! It was like a really bad wedding, but with the crazy side of the family because that dance floor was packed. And when “We Are Family” came on, it was actually epic.

Not just being told that what I still consider my rather lame musings on here to be helpful to someone privately, but then having “finding your blog changed my life” announced to a room full of my contemporaries?  Insanely humbling. Wow. Still not sure how this all happened.

John Raible. For those who don’t know of John Raible ( you should!) he is an very outspoken trasnracially adoptee who is also adopted from foster care as a single homosexual male. I really want to say that I have heard him speak before, but after looking over this past presentation list, I don’t see that we have been in the same place at the same time before, so I guess I have just read/ watched him online. I guess maybe that is why I had the reaction to him I did, but I am not ashamed to say that his closing piece, in his keynote , was SO incredible moving and so powerful, that he brought me to tears. Not in a weepy, oh how touching way, either. He was BANGING his fist and YELLING and CURSING and oh, I was just overcome with pure emotion. It was like YES! A battle cry! And so I just had all these tears just well up in my and overflow.

Can’t wait to get the MPS# of the conference so I can get down what he said!

Speaking of keynotes.. Rickie Solinger was there! Again, if you haven’t read Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade and Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States then you should. What’s very interesting is that Rickie is not at all adoption affected, but she researches and writes some of the most dead on historical perspectives for us. I HAVE seen her speak before on a few occasions and it is always a treat, but this time, I made point of talking to her. Why?? Because years ago, I found out that she lives in the next town over and I told her so. And here is where I act like a goofy fan girl and sound positively giddy that she said “Oh I love uptown Kingston. It’s one of my favorite places. We should do lunch, but I don’t do lunch, so we can get cocktails.” As the thought of sitting up the block with Rickie Solinger discussing reproductive politics over drinks has me in this state, I am not sure if I can pull it off, but you know I will try!

The Movies! Great showings all conference long at the AAC! There was “Closure, which I had not seen in its entirety before. And “Father Unknown which is still in screenings and previews. That was super moving to see as the key players of the film were all there AND the whole film was basically shot on IPhones!  Sheila Ganz also showed her now classic “Unlocking the Heart of Adoption“. What struck me about this film was the age of it ( I believe it was filmed in the late 80’s) and the fact that back then, people were STILL SAYING the SAME THINGS as we do now.. and for the most part, not a lot has CHANGED. It was a good reminder that even those of us who are new or new-er to the adoption community, we did NOT invent the wheel and we are NOT the first folks by far to feel this way.

We also watched Jean Strauss’  “An Adoptee Roared in Ohio” which is a short film about the Ohio OBC access legislation and more particularly about Betsie Norris and her dad. Betsie was at the conference, as was Jean, so I could tell Betsie how she was seriously one of the cutest little  redhead girls ever after seeing her old home movies footage in the film. Plus, Betsie and company watched the results for the Ohio vote coming in at the 2013 ACC conference, so there was this whole “back where it started/ ended” feel to it…which is further developed as you will see if you watch the film. I leave the rest out rather than spoil it.

Speaking of Jean Strauss, I also attend her session of basic video an d filming which was really great and super informative. Jean  was also very inspirational and empowering. One day I will manage to work out whatever issue I have about dealing with my own films. Gah, I just can’t stand to hear myself talk. I don’t know how you all put up with me. My voice is like nails, I tell you, nails on a chalkboard. But apparently only I have that issue, because at the very end of the conference.. ..I got to film with Jean! Squee!  She wanted to get some birthmother stuff on film to use for more short film footage for later OBC access bills; so we specifically talked about what we were told, what we did sign, what legal implications re privacy were stated, and then how we feel about the current laws “protecting birthmothers” now. So I babbled, though it was a more difficult, a more labored babble for me. It was, as it always is, very moving to hear other moms tell their own stories and for this kind of footage to be affective, you have to be willing to let the emotions come up. Plus it was the end of the conference so I was already on emotional overload. I think I did ok.

And there was OBC access planning meetings and the state regional lunches. I got to meet some of the adoption therapists that are moms too; so I have added to my recommendation lists! I really like it so much much better when I have met the person I am referring others to! Now I know of FOUR moms who do therapy out of the, I think 6, that are known in the USA? Eh, maybe I am making up the numbers, but I know four now!

Plus I was thrilled for my two Search Angel friends that won the Spokeo  2014 Search Angel Awards. I was so happy to have a mid year visit with my long time Adoptee Rights Coalition Demonstration pal, Patricia Ann Neal, and I got to met my FB friend, Laura Ann Brandl-Witherspoon, as they were there! Both were honored for their outstanding volunteer work in adoption searches as they well deserved.

Other wonderful serendipity bits: Walking into the gift shop and having another mom say to me ” I’m kind of freaking out. Would you like to get a drink?” and of course, I say yes. Turns out she is in a situation where she/her adopted daughter are about to contact her daughters father to tell him that he IS a father.  So I sit and talk to her about this because I had also told my son’s father that he was a father after the adoption was done and reunion had taken place WHILE AT AN ADOPTION CONFERENCE! Odd enough to happen once, but then for me to literally walk into almost a same situation and be able to say,  “yeah, I did this too and I felt this way.”  Tell me again how the world works in mysterious way!

Then there was the fact that I actually met an Adoption Attorney who is a Quad A lawyer  and.. ready for this.. I LIKED HER. Really! She gave the workshop on Oregon’s SB 623 and how they got pretty much ALL the adoption records released in the sate quietly under the radar. Not only was she instrumental on that, Robin Pope actually gave me the presentation files so I can get them up on slide share and, well, share them! ( coming soon!) Plus she clued me into the AAAA conference coming up in September. I’m getting more info on that, but it looks like an interesting opportunity to open up dialogue with that important fraction of the adoption industry. We discussed that and other decent, understanding adoption attorneys over drinks. I hugged her goodbye.

Also of note is the upcoming adoption memoir Kathleen-Cathleen. Now granted, there are a bunch of adoption memoirs out, but THIS one is written by a reunited mother and daughter pair and looks at  different points in reunion through BOTH sets of eyes. Can I just say WHAT an AMAZING insight this should give all members to understanding how our perspectives might alter our reunion experience. Kate ( Kathleen) and Cathy (Cathleen) each read from their book and it was the first time that they had hear each other’s versions ( with ten years in the process, that’s some restraint!) .  The concept is absolutely incredible and I can’t wait for this book to be out. In the mean time, both have blogs! Momma Kate is here at Mothertone and Daughter Cathy is over here at Reunion Eyes. I think it is worthwhile to note that the concept of the book came out of an AAC conference and a conversation with Betty Jean Litton in the bathroom.

10259366_10152415303646804_21292093_nAnd because this is long enough already, I will close with a final gush. My AAC conference experience was influenced so positively by the serendipitous connections made with LeAnne Parsons, my roommate. Leanne and I had never met before and really had barley talked before. I knew she had a radio show someplace and was a life coach. That’s it, but we both needed a roomie and it was…. wonderful.  Not only did we just click perfectly and roomed without one single instance of anything that could be remotely consider uncomfortable with two strangers living together for five days, but on the Sunday, in a mere 6 hours, we had the best tour on San Francisco. It was a great honor and pleasure to fulfill her childhood dream of walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. So yeah, on a perfect Sunday afternoon, still welling with all the above good things ( and more) we walked that bridge and life was better than good.

After going to more than a few adoption conferences, it might seem silly to say that they are life changing events. I mean, really, how many times can one’s life really change? But I have to say, that I did walk away with one giant realization when I got home. I was SO damn happy being among my AdoptionLand peeps in CA. For me, it is pure  freedom. I talk openly, I run around like a goon, and I literally am just so happy.. and, not only that.. I feel loved and so accepted.

 

( The bad selfies are a tribute to my husband..and were tons of fun too!)

And so, I wondered.. why am I not like that every day? Why is it only in AdoptionLand that I feel so right? And I realized that even among those closest to me; I end up hiding. Maybe it is just left over of living with this adoption in my life for so long? Maybe I am still protecting part of me? But in any case, I am not a fan of it anymore. And so I have resolved to bring back that open happy Claud to my every day. After all, I don’t have anything to hide. It’s not like there are people around me who do not know my birthmother status. So for me, and I might need some reminders, it’s a Crack Whore Birthmother T shirt day every day ( even if it is in the wash.)

The 2015 AAC conference will be held in Boston next year March 25- March 29 2015

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

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