"You're Not My Real Mom!" and Other Real Fears of Adoptive Parents: A Conversation with Sara Easterly Transcript


Episode 6 Podcast > Full Transcript


If you’ve ever feared not being considered the “real” parent, if you are unsure how you can co-exist in your child’s heart along with their birth mother or father, if you are curious about how an adoptee tries to “earn” their love from their adoptive parents, this episode will speak to you. Sara Easterly, adoptee, mother, and writer, takes us into the secret fears and desires of an adopted child, and she does so with gentleness and grace.

Our guest today is Sara Easterly, and we are going to talk about the one thing that can grip the heart of an adoptive parent with a fist of fear. The concept of “real,” as in -- coming from another soccer mom “Oh, he’s adopted? Does he know who his real parents are?”-- and also as in this, coming from your beloved child: “You’re not my real mom!” -- which cuts even deeper.

Lori Holden:

Hello and welcome to this episode of Adoption: The Long View, a podcast brought to you by Adopting.com.

Whether you've been married or not, you probably have an opinion on this question: is a wedding the ending, the happily ever after ending? When I ask that in workshops I lead, people laugh and say No. Sure, they say, the wedding is the end of the journey to the altar, but it's just the beginning of the journey of the marriage

And that's the focus of this podcast. Once you fill the crib and are legally joined to your beloved child, your journey is not over. It's just beginning. We cover many of the things you need to know to navigate adoptive parenting over the long view. Starting with things you need to know now, perspectives you need to hear now.

I'm your host, Lori Holden, the author of the book The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption and longtime blogger at LavenderLuz.com. More importantly, I'm a mom through domestic infant adoption to a daughter and a son, now in their late teens. Let me tell you, it's been a ride. Think of any road trip you've ever taken. There are ups and their downs and it's always an adventure. You're always glad for the trip and afterward, you might on occasion, thinking, if only I knew then what I know now. Regarding your adoptive parenting journey, we aim to help you know now.

Our guest today is Sara Easterly. I'm so excited to have Sara here. She came on my radar earlier this year and I got to meet her at her book signing.

Sara Easterly is an adult adoptee. She's the author of the award winning Searching for Mom, a memoir. It won the gold medal of the Illumination Book Awards. I believe she's won two subsequent awards, including one just recently. Sara's essays and articles have been published by Dear Adoption, Psychology Today, Feminine Collective, Her View from Home, GodSpace, the Neufeld Institute, and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Sara is on staff with the Neufeld Institute which studies attachment and child development. Sara is also a mom with two tenacious daughters and the daughter of two amazing moms -- both her adoptive mom and her birth mother. Sara enjoys supporting mothers in their journeys and has a passion for helping the non adopted better understand the hearts of adopted children.

Sara, welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Sara Easterly:

Thank you so much, Lori, I'm so happy to be here.

Lori Holden:

Oh, so happy to have you. Tell us briefly your story of becoming an adoptee, the parts that you're able to share?

Sara Easterly:

Sure. Well, I was adopted when I was two days old. And I was born in Billings, Montana. My adoptive family had connections there, my aunt and uncle lived there. It was the domestic, obviously, private adoption that took place in the 1970s.

I've been always told that it was a gray market adoption, I never really knew what that meant. Other than I knew my story, I was brought to my aunt and uncle's house in the middle of the night where my mom and dad were waiting for me. I did love that story. It just sounded so kind of exotic and exciting. And I guess I've always been a writer at heart. And so stories like that were always kind of fun and captured my imagination. And that was most of all I knew about my story.

Up until my reunion, I had been told that my parents were 15. And it turns out, that wasn't the case. But that is kind of where my mind had been. They were a little bit older, my birth mother was about to turn 18. But now that I'm in reunion, and in an open relationship with my birth mother, there's more to the story.

The OB who delivered me was kind of known as the go to guy for what I'm putting in air quotes that you can't see is the “unwed birth mothers” at the time. And my birth mother had had a change of heart, she'd wanted to keep me but he shamed her and kind of put an end to that, which, you know, was fairly common in that era. And I think that's what the gray market was all about. It was, you know, probably a little bit crossing that line of ethics. But it was also perfectly legal at the time. And I'm sure that the OB, and just society in general, looked really frowned upon situations at that time, like that, of unplanned pregnancies and single mothers and really believe that they were doing the best thing. So it worked out for my parents.

And, you know, I had a wonderful, what I would call a normal middle class upbringing. And grew up in Colorado and had two very loving, loving parents. For sure. So what I have come to see as they, you know, would have been very, it was it's very kind of sad, bittersweet story with my birth mother, but I landed in a really wonderful home too.

Lori Holden:

I have to tell you, when I got to that part of your book, and I put myself in the place of your birth mom, and realize how disempowered women were in that time period, and all that shame, and it just made me so sad for the both of you and for your and for your mom. Like there's no winning. There's no win out of all of that.

Sara Easterly:

No, it's true. It's um, yeah, very sad. It's sad all the way around.

Lori Holden:

Yeah,

Sara Easterly:

There's also joys all around too, and joys to be back in reunion and to now have a relationship. After all those years. I feel you know, I love saying that. I do have two wonderful moms now. I mean, it's Wow, that's amazing.

Lori Holden:

I like how you redirected that. Adoption is so complex, it can be two opposite things at the same time, it can be sad and it can be joyous. And I think sometimes we don't really get that until we live it. When I overhear adult adoptees talking in their spaces that they've let adoptive parents into, and when I read memoirs of adult adoptees, Which I highly suggest that adoptive parents do, a lot of listening.

But one thing I keep hearing about is this phrase “coming out of the fog.” What do adoptees mean when they say coming out of the fog? And what was it like for you to come out of the fog?

Sara Easterly:

Yeah, thank you for asking that. I would say no matter, kind of what we were just alluding to, no matter what the noble, tender and loving or necessary circumstances are related to adoption, there is a bond between a mother and the infant in utero. Scientifically, that creates something significant.

And so there is fallout when that bond is disrupted. And we don't always want to look at that. In the adoption space, it can be painful to look at that. And it can be painful for adoptees to look at that. I see it as being able to hold -- coming out of the fog for me, I often explain it as -- it's being able to hold the BothAnd when it comes to adoption, not the Either/Or. And anyone can be in the fog, not just adoptees.

But I think it's particularly hard for adoptees to look honestly at it when we're children. One, we have so much emotion and it's just too much emotion for consciousness. For starters, and in many cases, and you know, a lot of cases, it's pre-verbal experience. So how do you have words for something that's got these feelings that are felt before you learn words -- our grief tends to be largely unrecognized.

You know from reading the book that -- having lost my mother, when your mother dies, people rally around you with support and sympathy and they, they're there to listen, your good friends are there to listen, people bring you casseroles. But when we lose our first mothers, through the process of adoption, nobody's bringing casseroles and it would be weird. You know that that just won’t happen. But that doesn't mean that that grief isn't there. And it can be confusing if there's no outlet for the grief.

And you know, just how do you make sense of that, all alone, all alone. So it's hard. And it's not just something that you can just kind of keep stuffing to the background.

The third thing I would say about it is that many of us as adoptees become like an incredible people pleasers, which I know is kind of an existential place a lot of them go to but I think after we've lost our first mothers, we can work so hard, unconsciously, we don't know we're doing this, you know, I this has taken an adult perspective to go back and fill it in.

But we work so hard to keep our next mothers close. We want to take on their beliefs or what we perceive to be their beliefs, even if they're not pouring the beliefs in, what we think those beliefs should be. We assume because we want to keep our parents close. We've got to it's you know, our brain is doing that for a reason for survival.

Lori Holden:

And I want to ask you more about the good adoptee. But before we get off of coming out of the fog, I wanted to ask you if, developmentally -- is there a time when that processing starts to happen? Does it happen for everyone? Is there something that triggers it? Is it an innate curiosity for people who do come out of the fog and some who don't come out of a fog? What do you know about that?

Sara Easterly:

Well, you know, developmentally I was slow at it. So I'm probably not the spokesperson. I mean, when I see adoptees in their 20s who are much further along than like, oh my gosh, that took me to 40. So I think I think as adoptees you can kind of anticipate an extended adolescence with us and when that adolescence is going to end it depends on so many factors and how deep those wounds are and how repressed they are and how much room and space there was given for them to unfold.

Many adoptees will say and, obviously not all adoptees choose parenthood but many of those who do will say that becoming a parent starts to pull them out the fog, and that's for sure what happened for me. That was definitely becoming a mother. And I waited until later in life to become a mother. So that maybe had I done that sooner than I might have come out of the fog a little bit sooner, but it was for sure. becoming a mother.

Lori Holden:

And is that because of the biological ties that you have with this human being and seeing somebody who looks more like you and all of that?

Sara Easterly:

Yeah, exactly. I think, you know, there were three things, I think that that was for sure.

The first one is just this first time, this inaugural window, seeing my genes and studying the first traces of my very first blood relative really pondering genes and who were related to where our different traits come from, how we're connected to our family members. I had a lot of frustration around that because my daughter, everywhere we went, people were saying she looked like my husband. And that wasn't the frustration just kept building because I didn't realize at the time why it was so frustrating that I needed her to look like me, I needed to see some mirroring, some genetic mirroring in my family member.

The other second thing I would say about how motherhood for me, started to pull me out of the fog was that it forced me to question a long-held belief that I had had that I didn't like babies. I was very reticent about becoming a mother. Just kind of we didn't talk about it. And it just sort of happened. And I think looking back now, that's because I just had such weird mixed feelings about babies. When people, coworkers, would bring them into the office, I'd kind of just have interests, you know, yeah, and I just wasn't interested.

But I think that all went back to myself as a baby. And I didn't want to face the fact that babies were precious, I think there was a story I had told myself that I wasn't precious enough to keep. And so babies in general, it was easier just to kind of say, oh, babies aren't anything special -- than to actually realize I was one of those too, and I was special as well.

So that you can't hold your own baby in your arms and deny that that's a precious being in a miracle and something so outstanding. And so it just kind of started to shift that story.

And that's a false story I had about myself. And then there were other flawed beliefs that got questioned and challenged as well. And some of them are just the nature of adoption, too. But, one, I think, I just went into parenting deciding, okay, my kids are never going to have any wounds, which, you know, I had wounds. So I wanted to make sure my kids weren't going to suffer. And I think a lot of us go into parenting that way. I started doing it.

I did attachment parenting via baby wearing. And I was kind of looking at it almost as a checklist or a job that I was trying to master and then just kind of kept learning some lessons. My youngest daughter would just pull my chin and kind of want to look deep into my eyes. And here, I'm thinking I'm doing it all right, and yet I am missing something really significant. And that is connection. And, you know, I think I have this false belief because of the nature of adoption that mothers are replaceable. You know, that's a little bit of the, you know, it's not an intended message, the message of adoption. Nobody ever just wants to outright say that. But that was a message I had that carried over into myself as a parent.

But I realized no, mothers aren't replaceable like that. You know, obviously, I still thought and wondered a lot about my birth mother. And that didn't negate the fact that I had a wonderful mother, my adopted mother but I they weren't were

Lori Holden:

The BothAnd again, right?

Sara Easterly:

Exactly, exactly. And, you know, it really started to teach me to that loving deeply is really challenging for adoptees, we're afraid the rug is going to be pulled out from underneath us, our brains learned that and then respond accordingly to protect us and so it is a default, even with our children, which is sad to say, but

Lori Holden:

Backup for five seconds just because I lost you there.

Sara Easterly:

Okay. Our brain has learned that and responded accordingly just to protect us. And so it is a default in especially in our closest relationships. And you know, it's heartbreaking that it also extends to our children, but it's just that fear, that fear of intimacy and it takes a lot of work for me. It's continual work. For me to unlearn that, those flawed beliefs that I just took on no one taught me these things, it just is what my brain did.

Lori Holden:

So for you, the fog clearing made you question some of the really tightly held beliefs you had that you didn't even know were beliefs. Like, you weren't worthy at the beginning, that mothers are replaceable, and that everything could change (snaps fingers) like that. Is that kind of what coming out of the fog can be?

Sara Easterly:

Absolutely, yeah, that's what it was for me.

Lori Holden:

And so it makes sense, then that you don't want that second mom to disappear too. So you have to be really good. You have to be worthy. So let's talk about -- and you do this in your book -- what a good adoptee does what can we equate being a good adoptee with being a healthy person?

Sara Easterly:

Yeah, that word “good” is so charged. You know, it's, it's tricky. And that comes from Betty Jean Lifton, that's a phrase she termed. And when I learned it, I thought, Oh, that's, that's it, she knows. She knew what she was talking about. Um, for me, it was always trying to measure, trying to stand out to be good for my parents to be good for my teachers. Wanting to be better and best, working to win love, proving my loyalty and devotion, saying the things I thought my mom wanted to hear. So, from the outside, when any anybody doing that? It's hard to look at that as unhealthy because who doesn't love a well behaved child? I mean, my children are not adopted. But I think all the time, gosh, I wish they were robots. It would be so much easier.

Lori Holden:

I hear ya.

Sara Easterly:

Yeah. I mean, it would, and society needs and thrives on this, too. I mean, that's how our society, it works when we're all being good. It serves everybody. So it's not to say that we want to groom “bad” children. But I think just knowing the dynamic, there's a huge temptation for adoptees to do that.

And so I think just knowing that it can go along, it's not healthy for our kids feeling like they have to work for our love. That's not ultimately healthy. Nobody's good all the time.

I had parts of myself that I had to hide from my mom, I felt like I had to hide those things. Because there's more to me than the good adoptee and I wanted her approval so bad, I had to hide anything that didn't add up to what I felt was what my mom needed. And it also feeds insecurity. If my mom loved the curated me, that tells me she wouldn't love the rest of me, the whole me. And then it's not an authentic relationship, because it's only based on part of the story. So again, that's just not healthy.

Lori Holden:

And this kind of ties back to the BothAnd concept as well. You wanted to be loved for all of you, the “good” and the ”bad.” And to be authentic, you needed to know that you didn't have to be worthy of love. But you had those deeper beliefs about and, I'm not adopted, but I remember having those too, since worthiness is is probably a developmental thing that a lot of people go through.

So you have written about pushing the boundary with your mom on this one point where you kind of left being the good adoptee and you yelled at her (when you were a teenager) yelled at her and in anger and you said "I'm going to go find my real mom!" So can you explain for us what that explanation was? And what it wasn't?

Sara Easterly:

Yeah. My poor mom.

And, bracing myself, my kids are on the verge of adolescence. And I'm like, oh, gosh, I mean, I remember at one point my mom is saying someday I hope you have two teenagers just like you and two teenage daughters, and yeah, I'm sure she's laughing.

A real mom is something that's so complicated. And, you know, I think any teenager you know, there's a few aspects to this that I want to speak to, I think, you know, most teenagers, we got to find out what those pain points are for our parents. It's just part of our process and we’ve got to cut to the quick sometimes.

For me, I'd learned that telling my mom that I was going to leave and go find my real mother were words that had a lot of power. And she reacted with hurt feelings and so the words were, in fact, powerful.

That didn't feel good after the fact. These are things, when you've got this brain it's going primal and developing into adolescence you don't think through very carefully. It didn't feel good after the fact. And I wasn't always using those words as a weapon. As an adult looking back, I wasn't intending to hurt my mom. And…

Lori Holden:

You froze? Are you there?

Yeah, you weren't intending to hurt your mom.

Sara Easterly:

Yeah, I wasn't intending to hurt her. I didn't want those words to be a weapon.

But at the same time, when I say I wasn't intending they were coming without conscious thought. It was coming from an unspoken place of longing, and since infancy for my birth mother and feeling the pain over the very real feelings of relinquishment. So what's hard about that, that I've seen is that it's really hard to not take that personally when you're an adoptive parent. It can kind of knock the confidence, and for my mom, you know, she, she, she, it was upsetting. She packed my lunches everyday, she showed up at all my meets, she was there, engaging with my teachers and working in the classroom doing the, you know, always the classroom mother, the room parent and standing by me through struggles with friends and boyfriends, which of course, there were a lot of -- that kind of adolescent kind of drama and stuff.

And so, those things were absolutely true. My adoptive mom was amazing and just as real.

But I think a lot of the “real mother” goes back to the unrecognized and hidden grief that adoptees have when it's not acknowledged, that grief that I spoke to earlier. And when the first mothers are kind of treated as if they don't matter, then I think a lot of adoptees feel this need to have a response that this is real, because it is real. It's a real dynamic that those mothers are real mothers, the first mothers.

And so it's an unintentional way of gaslighting. And I love that there's that word now to make sense of so many dynamics for now. But I think it's just natural that we're going to have really big feelings of loss and the need to remind ourselves and those around us that the person we had bonded with for nine months, at least, sometimes in other cases, more is indeed real. So it's that BothAnd -- both mothers are real. And I think it can be a little bit of a sticking point for parents that if they feel the need to keep defending that they're the real mother, then it can lead to the child's, almost to a point of obsession, needing to protect that realness. And it can turn it into a competition when it doesn't need to be. Having two mothers should be recognized as an important part of the adoptee story.

Lori Holden:

And from the adoptive parents’ side, it does take a certain amount of healing and strength to be able to withstand hearing that you're “less than” (because that's sometimes the translation that happens in our brains when we hear that when maybe that's not what was meant). We're just looking for validity.

And the the opportunity to claim and be claimed by both of your mothers and both of your fathers

Sara Easterly:

Yeah,

Lori Holden:

and that doesn't diminish one.

Sara Easterly:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Lori Holden:

You shared it on my blog and a guest post one time, a brilliant reframing, and I'm going to read you this quote. You said,

I wish my mother had paused to realize the inherent compliment I was giving her when I mentioned finding my real mom. I felt safe enough with her to lash out in anger. But more importantly, secure enough in her love to reveal my inner deep, usually very private feelings. The person closest to me was my adoptive mom after all, and I relished sharing myself with her. My deepest yearning was for my adoptive mother to know and love me, all of me.

So there's a couple of things in there. One, that it was a compliment, that you were willing to be vulnerable with her and show her your true feelings in that moment that came from a subconscious place.

And then the second one is that you wanted her to love the BothAnd of you, all of you.

So can you tell what do you think adoptive parents can take from this?

Sara Easterly:

I think I think the biggest thing is just that reminder not to take your child's feelings personally. The feelings and the emotions are not about you. And again, I mean back to just especially adolescence, when a lot of this starts to bubble up, I think just remembering it's normal developmental adolescence in some way too.

But with adoptees, this is what tends to come up. I think stepping outside of ourselves and seeing our children for who they are, seeing the immense grief and the frustration that's behind the attacking energy is an opportunity for the relationship to progress to a deeper level.

They're not going to admit that it's grief, if you call it out right?. Gosh, I mean, especially in the heat of the moment, adoptees are adolescents don't admit.

Lori Holden:

That's way vulnerable.

Sara Easterly:

Yeah. But I think just the fact that even if you know that, and it's what you see, it will reframe your perception, and I think influence the way that you react.

So I think being able to see that will really go a long way in not taking it personally. Because all adolescents are filled to the brim with emotion and especially adoptees, and they don't always make sense to the children and adoptees who are spewing those emotions out. I think for adoptees, we have some very deep wounds. And it takes time to get to a place where both the cognitive and the emotional integration can come about. And it's not all at once. And I don't think it's possible until reaching maturity on the other side of adolescence.

And again, like I said, I had an extended adolescence. So you know, Dr. Gordon Neufeld, whom you mentioned, a child developmental psychologist, he often says we all grow older, but not everyone grows up. And I sure I mean, we see that everywhere in culture.

Lori Holden:

He said we all grow older, but not everyone grows up.

Sara Easterly:

Yes. So we all age, but not everyone grows up. And we know that. I mean, we see that everywhere. In and out of adoption. But heavy emotions have to go somewhere.

And if we're doing our job as parents raising our children to be functioning members of society, on the other side of maturity, it's our job to just drain that well and be a safe place to drain the well. And be the place where the kids aren't going to be expelled or bullied or teased or fired. The person who can see past that attacking energy and help nurture the tears because that's where the adaptation and growth comes and the softness and the balm to that attacking energy.

And ultimately, that's how we become the place where our children and our adoptees know that they're loved no matter what. We're not going to be ruffled, and we're not going to be hurt or go away, which of course feeds into our story, that our love is solid, can be trusted, the connection can't be broken, no matter what.

Lori Holden:

And that's a tall order for parents. But it's also required to be that refuge, even when you feel like you're under attack. Yeah, and your advice to not take all of that personally is so helpful.

You once said -- I love bringing up your own words -- that adoption is much more complex and nuanced than we have been led to believe, by viral YouTube videos and messaging from adoption agencies or the church. What do you mean by that? And what do adoptive parents need to do in response to the complexity that exists?

Sara Easterly:

Yes, I'm so appreciative that you asked that, Lori, and I'm so appreciative for just all the ways that you are open to hearing from adoptees. And this is one that can be a trouble spot. So I say what I'm about to say -- I just want to preface by just saying I am going to speak honestly and hope that it can land and that it's not offensive in any way.

Lori Holden:

Okay, so everybody listening, take a deep breath so we can hear and be expansive.

Sara Easterly:

For decades, adoptive parents have been leading the conversation on adoption. And not to say that adoptive parents can't have a voice, but it has been at the silencing of adoptees and I think it has been detrimental to the adoption and to authentic relationships. The messaging is one sided. It's not always well thought through on how it will land. And it can be presented as a very saccharin sweet story.

Lori Holden:

Without much complexity at all,

Sara Easterly:

Yeah. There was one last last fall that was widely shared of a very young girl parroting her adoption story to her gushing mother. And it went viral. And I was seeing it. In many different spaces. It was jarring because I'm seeing it in you know, non-adopted spaces where people love that, society eats it up. It's so cute, little kids are adorable. And when they're telling cute stories, it's super cute.

And in the adoption community, it's getting spread around with a different -- because this child we all know that's been trained into her, and not knowingly, not on purpose. But hearing only the adoptive parents' side of the joyous story, and then the child parroting it back, it's this child trying to be good for her mom and win that love and it's heartbreaking. It's like looking in a mirror at yourself when you see that happening. And it's very heartbreaking and and hurtful to adoptees to see that and then worrying about -- you just you can't help but want to wrap this little girl up and like, talk directly to that mom, like, please don't put that pressure on.

And that's not to say she can't know her story. But there is room for more. And, and, and you know, just how is she gonna find herself later down the road. And also there's privacy issues on that too. Putting any child's adoption story out there online, and our perception changes as we grow -- so we just don't know where it's going to go later. And so we've got to be really careful early on any point of the journey of how much we're sharing of that story.

And, frankly, there's a lot of messaging around adoption that can be very hurtful. And it's really hard to recognize once it becomes so widely used. And I was thinking about this last night, even just some of the vernacular of phrases like killing two birds with one stone or don't beat a dead horse. Those are phrases a lot of us say all the time and without thoughts. We're not thinking of actually killing birds or horses, but it's just become part of a common kind of vernacular.

And I think in the adoption space, there's a lot of that too. There's words such as “forever home” and “Gotcha Day” that are insensitive from adoptees’ and birth family perspectives. Those kinds of words present adoption as if it's a light and breezy thing. And they center adoptive parents as victors over others’ oppression and pain. And so that can be hurtful. And so a lot of the messaging is about how much love your birth mother had for you that she found this other family for you. That's very common. It was common in my era, and it still reigns a lot today. And it's confusing

Lori Holden:

She loved you so much she gave you away.

Sara Easterly:

Right? Yeah. And, that's carried over into my marriage as an adult. Love means leaving. I mean, that's how it lands: love means leaving. And so, my poor husband, I'm constantly looking for the exit doors. It's really hard to be serious about love. From the adoptee point of view, if we really pause to consider that adoptees voices were more out there, than we would be a little bit more careful about ramifications. I know we don't want tha for our children. Nobody wants to have a hand in that.

You know, another one. This was just said to me the other day, so this is fresh. I had someone say to me, adoption is the,THE most noble thing a parent can do. And so it's that presentation of the adoptive parents as saviors and saving this child from doom and gloom, whatever the other situation was, and certainly sometimes that is the case for sure.

But it's also presenting it as one sided/ If it were 100% about the child, then family preservation and socio economic programs to support struggling mothers would be a higher priority, as well. So it doesn't mean that adoption doesn't save children. But it just means that we have to remember not to water down that mainstream messaging so much where it makes it seem so simple and straightforward, because there are benefits all the way around. And yeah, I guess a theme of our conversation, the BothAnd/

So back to the church. I mean, I grew up in the church, and so I've heard a lot of talk about how adoption and my adoption was God's will, and how I was God's gift to my family. And again, you know, these are things that I know are true for the parents’ perspective, and I believe with my faith, I believe I have come to believe God has been taking care of me all along.

But I think being overly effusive about God's divine plans when it comes to adoption discounts the loss, and the first family’s struggles. Without meaning to it sends a message about that first family that isn't honoring to the first family. And by not honoring that first family, it can create that divide, because the adoptee feels stuck in the middle.

It also unknowingly sends the message that God is all about our adoptive parents. And it reinforces that belief that we have, we just kind of tend to have as adoptees that we don't matter, and it can silence us and alienate us from that God that in faith-based families that those families are wanting to point their children to. So just with caution, and yeah, I guess that's, I have a lot to say about that.

Lori Holden:

Say that one more time.

Sara Easterly:

I said, I apologize if I'm rambling now.

Lori Holden:

No, it's super helpful to understand from your perspective, that some of the things that make us feel good for saving or rescuing when in some ways *I* was saved.

That creates a dynamic of discounting the birth family, and when you discount the birth family, you're discounting a large part of the adopted person because they are of the birth family.

So there's so much more behind the platitudes that we see on those YouTube videos, viral ones and what we see on adoption agency sites and what we see what we hear from the church, then. There's a lot more behind it that that needs to be thought about before we start perpetuating the simplicity, the simple stances. There's a lot behind it.

I always ask my guests to boil down the best piece of advice that you have for adoptive parents about the long view. So what is yours?

Sara Easterly:

I would say again, do your best to get comfortable with the complexity of adoption. I think the more comfortable we can all be in that the less likely we're going to simplify the story or take the dynamics personally.

And the more likely we're going to be to really see our children, the full children, and convey that everything inside them is welcomed and that there's room for all of it. It's a no strings attached kind of love, and just reinforcing that no matter what you're never going away. And that's just opening the door for trust and authenticity.

Yeah, I think you know, I would also say just play a listening role like you're doing right now. If you're still listening here and like Lori you're doing, listen to adult adoptee voices and, we're not always easy to hear. I will speak for myself and other times there's still some anger under there and some of that attacking energy and so I think before discounting it just keep listening just keep listening to lots of different sources and it'll be easy to sort out what is and isn't relevant I think often we tend to be discounted if the specifics of our adoption aren't the same, or, any number of reasons to discount. “Oh, that's not the case for me,” but just if you keep listening over time, what should be relevant well, and what could be relevant later will bubble to the surface. Every story is different and so hang in there. Hang in there and II will say my mom and I mean, this you know the full story and Lori through the book but -- we got there.

Lori Holden:

I lost you again.

Sara Easterly:

My mom and I, we got there to a place of really deep love and connection, but it did take a long time and it makes me really sad how long it took. It didn't happen until my mom was dying. That I was able to fully trust that she loved the whole me. And never fully tested that until she was dying. And that just makes me sad.

And so I do have a strong wish for more authentic relationships. So I say just, there's always hope, persevere, keep the faith, keep going. And it will, I do believe it can get there. And I really hope it does.

Lori Holden:

Being privy to the story of you and your adoptive mother, and the healing that happened with all of that was just wonderful. I so enjoyed reading that.

So we are going to put show notes, information about how to reach Sara into the show notes. You can find her at Saraeasterly.com. Sara does not have an H on it. And we'll have a link to her book. And Sara, I just want to thank you so much for sharing your heart today and helping all of us better understand your experience and what adoption feels like from your perspective.

Sara Easterly:

Lori, thank you so much. And thank you so much for the work that you're doing for this show. I'm just so excited about it and honored to be a part of it. Thank you.

Lori Holden:

I think my biggest talent is finding fantastic guests.

So thanks all of you for joining us with each episode of Adoption: The Long View, we bring you guests that expand your knowledge of adoptive parenting. Please subscribe, give this episode a rating, and share with others who are on the journey of adoption adoptive parenting. Thanks to each of you listeners for tuning in and investing in your adoption’s long view. May you meet everything on your road ahead with confidence, capability and compassion.