After living in North Texas for 31 years, I had forgotten how beautiful South Jersey was. I remember when I first moved to Texas and told them I grew up on a horse farm, the local Texans and nearby states just could not comprehend that New Jersey had country and farm lands or livestock. Country girl never entered their mind when they learned I was from New Jersey.
They believed the whole northeast was like NYC with sidewalks and high rises. I always felt like they thought I was fabricating my place of origin. In fact, no matter how many times I told my story over the years, most had this suspicious belief gaze. Even though some had never been to the northeast and others only to one area.
Looking back, it astounds me how people can have preconceived ideas about a person or place without knowing anything about the person or the place. It’s all based on hearsay or Hollywood. We know how Hollywood can paint their vision. That’s what happens when we make assumptions. We lump everyone together with our narrow vision. Obviously there are very populated areas in New Jersey, especially the closer to NYC areas. But the whole state is not like that.
With today being the first day of National Adoption Awareness Month, it is a good reminder that not every adoptee has had the same experiences. Not every mother/father who relinquished had the same choices. Not every adoption story follows the same path. Or ends with a happy ending for everyone connected. How could it?
Adoption is a quilt of stories and experiences. And each of those stories change and evolve over time for each person and family. There is no cookie cutter experience.
Please take time this month to not visualize adoption with a singular preconceived lens. Please allow space for those who were directly impacted, whose story has changed in a most profound way to share their story. And know that one person’s experience does not transcend over to another’s.
“There are a thousand stories in the big city.”
“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” ~Lao Tzu
“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” ~Washington Irving
Karen Whitaker, (Member-at-Large) has served on several volunteer committees over the years, through her employers and her son's elementary school. She truly enjoys volunteering and serving. Karen learned more about the adoption experience and the impact when relinquishing her parental rights in 1999. What was then presented as an open adoption - pictures and updates for the first five years - she lacked awareness about what open adoption, or even adoption in general truly meant and the emotional impact relinquishment had on mothers, adoptees, and on birth families. Thankfully, their open adoption grew beyond pictures into a larger, long-distance family, with visits and family vacations over the years. Karen then began researching adoption and connecting with other birth/first/biological mothers to understand her emotional attachment to this experience. She was met with amazing people from the adoption community who mentored and supported her in her journey to healing. Karen advocates for the rights of mothers and adoptees as well as all members in the adoption constellation, for compassion and transparency. As a hard of hearing person, she also advocates for disability rights. When not working or volunteering, Karen is still quite busy being a mom.