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When Emerging from the Adoption Fog, Secure Your Own Mask First

by Laura on December 5th, 2013

When I was a jet-setting/child-free/business woman (turns out, not as fabulous as it seems), and well before the prolonged U.S. recession, I ignored the pre-flight safety warnings, frantically typing one last email before the airplane doors closed.

Photo Credit “Morning Flight” by thaikrit

But, man do things change when you become a parent.

Travelling with my kids recently, we sat enraptured as the flight attendants (somewhat sarcastically) described the safety features of our ‘roomy seven-thirty-seven.’ They’d barely finished when the questions began:

Maksim (age 3.5): When do we get to go on the water slide?

Me: It’s not a water slide, honey, that’s how we could exit the plane in case of an emergency, if our plane had to land in the ocean. [Mentally throwing salt over my shoulder. Superstition and godlessness in the same person, go figure!]

Danica (age 5.5): The ocean!? Why would we land in the ocean?

[Now I’m getting a sick feeling in my stomach, like the kind when you feel like you're bring on bad luck ... but I press on, because if you know anything about me, you know I don’t sugar coat it for my kids.]

Me: Like I said, if there’s an emergency, such as a problem with the plane, then we would have to land in the ocean and take that slide.

Danica (not missing a beat): Are their sharks in that water?

Me: Yes, probably.

Maksim: Are they nice sharks?

Me: I don’t think so, but kids, we don’t have to worry about that. The flight attendants and the pilots are going to do everything they can to make sure that we will be safe and we’ll get to America without any problems. And, we need to be safe, too.

… They sat so quietly, thinking. They clicked and tested and tightened their seatbelts. They even secured the tray tables that they’d been so excited to slam up and down just five minutes earlier.

After the safety demonstration, the kids continued to peruse the laminated safety card with various step-by-step cartoons.

Danica: Why do they show here that moms are supposed to put the mask on themselves first, and after that, the kids? … Aren’t moms supposed to take care of the kid first?

Me: That’s an excellent question. The thing is, we would need those yellow cups if the oxygen in the airplane cabin wasn’t working right. Those cups are meant to help you breathe. If I can’t breathe, how can I make sure that the cup is working properly for you?

Danica: Yeah, but I could help you.

Me: That’s true, and you’re a nice girl. However, I would need to be reaching up for it, and making sure it’s tight enough on you; which is why they tell adults to secure your own mask first, before helping others.

This advice is so good for life … In order to be of any help to others, you have to make sure that you’re okay first.

This goes for those of us in adoption advocacy, in adoption reform, and for anyone who’s hell bent on fog-busting <<< Yeeeeesss … I know, that includes me, as well. >>>

 

Getting access to oxygen while living in an “adoption fog”

[You just knew I was going to go there, right? I’ve simply got this veritable itch to connect my life experiences to the hard job of processing emotional journey of adoption somehow.]

In our Western adoption-positive society, adoption is a chance at a better life, it’s unicorns and rainbows and … aren’t you just so grateful for the family that took you in?!?! You’re so lucky!

We live in a fog; we exist in an adoption fog … that we consider to be plain-old oxygen.

Stay with me here; I’m taking this metaphor to a whole other level.

When the plane of adoption-positive society starts to crash, when our world is rocked … by a life change, by the birth of our own biological child, by the death of an adoptive parent … we begin to see that everything about adoption is not roses and delicious calorie-free cupcakes (I wish!).

When we are flailing, we must put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. We must make sure that we, personally, exist in a fog-free environment to the extent that we are able. It’s a metaphorical case of those who are without sin should cast the first stone.

I’m guilty of this, I admit it.

I’ve wanted to yank people out of the adoption fog, to shake them awake and say LOOK! It’s right in front of you! SEE! All of your unaddressed post-adoption issues which have kept you from growing into the person you really are, they’re right here, plain as day! Your reluctance to search, your adamant affirmation that you never think about your adoption, and that your adoptee status in NO WAY affects your life, daily or otherwise.

Yeah. I, too, have to take a step back. Breathe. Count to ten and back. Sometimes one-hundred.

I, too, have spent time in the fog. Not as deep as some—I called adoption shenanigans many-a-time even as a child. But I’m guilty of foggy thinking, of ghost-kingdom-living, of letting unaddressed post-adoption issues affect my relationships.

For those of us who want to make a difference in the institution of adoption; who want social justice and open records for adoptees; who want break the cycle of secrecy and shame and give the gift of truth to the next generation of adoptees … We are strapped in tight; we’re on this airplane ride together.

But remember: Help yourself first, before you try to help others.

Here’s a truth: I can feel a contagion coming.

The critical mass of fog-blasting is making a difference.

In order to stand together, to not nitpick and in-fight (which is exactly what those who are against us would want), we must make sure our OWN mask is secured, that our own personal adoption fog is clearing … before accusing anyone else of foggy thinking.

Because when the adoption-positive plane comes crashing down, there will be sharks in the water. There are plenty of people who are waiting to bite, to take us down.

If your mask isn’t firmly secured, you risk being exposed for hypocrisy, and let me tell you: Adoptees have some of the most sensitive bullshit meters around.

Breathing fog-free air … only then, can we reach out—genuinely and without hypocrisy—to someone else in need.

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From → Adoption

18 Comments
  1. This is so true, Laura. It's one of the many reasons I entered therapy– aside from banging my head repeatedly on the dashboard and crying, not knowing how I was going to work anymore. I had to get help for me or I wouldn't ever be able to help others, effectively.

    Thanks for this insightful post, as always.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      "banging my head repeatedly on the dashboard" <—– been there, done that.

      I feel like we still come up "against" people who want to tell us to go back to our "place," who want to silence us and think that what we have to say is bullocks. I don't like it, but I have to come up with a healthier, more constructive way to deal.

      Love you!
      Laura

  2. Sitting on the front row of my aMom’s funeral holding my husband’s hand on one side of me and my first father’s on the other and knowing love and understanding…that is the fruit of feeling like suffocating through facing adoption fog head on and finally coming out the other side. Painful but worth it.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      ((((((Samantha))))))) I understand. And I know that myself, and your lost daughter sisters are standing with you. I am so sorry for your loss. Yes, it is painful, yes, so worth it. Thank you for reading. You're in my thoughts … Laura

      • samantha568 permalink

        Thank you ((((Laura)))). I am still in shock over my aMom's passing. I loved her so much. I realize that much of our "love" when I was younger was actually terror/fear of insecurity and holding on to her for fear of being abandoned. But as she supported me (even though it was hard coming out of the fog herself, with jealousy and insecurity as an adoptive parent, and me, with loyalty issues and feeling like her happiness and very life depended on me being a loyal daughter)…as she supported me through search and reunion and we found that even after 20 plus years of knowing my family of birth, and putting up better emotional boundaries so I could actually become "real" and live through it, being there for one another all that time, even though it felt very painful at times…our relationship weathering the exit of fog….that is what actually brought us close. I am so thankful for her, and realize that every parent makes mistakes, but those who love unconditionally, even when it begins with performance and finally ends with understanding….is a real treasure.

  3. Lil lost mink permalink

    Oh that makes me cry!! So true are your words. Lately I’ve been giving up thank God my kids are grown. But my pain is theirs because I am a basket case they don’t know how to help. I’ve paid big money only to have the system laugh. I have no rights as an adoptee from the sixties. My bio mom refuses contact because I a big secret her other children and family don’t know about and I was her fifth child. Thought about taking a social worker class but as you can see I have pain I don’t know how to deal with on my own problems how in the heck am I going to help others. Bless you for your blogs.

    • Sophia Fletcher permalink

      Bless your heart…my story is so similar to yours! 5th child of a woman with a secret. None of them want to know me. Also born '61. Thankfully I found some first cousins who don't care how I got into the family, and frankly were not surprised at all to learn of my mother's "indiscretions"…apparently she's the only one who doesn't see herself for who she is/was. I hope you've read The Primal Wound? And find a support group if at all possible….hang in there!

  4. Laura ,

    All very true. I was so deep in the fog 15yrs ago, I didn't even know there was fog.

    It's a challenging journey making our way when you can't see 2 ft in front of you. The fog lifted abruptly for me, finding and losing my birth mother all in one breath, then losing my new family in their own fog and now, my daughter, because she endured my pain and now my illness. She is in her own fog.

    Ironic…I came full circle to end up clear minded, free of fog but back to being alone.

  5. guest permalink

    sucks air we are perpetually in terminal [relative] hold as adoptees, and even the truth (or lack of) is not ever parallel with our own healings. to leave our adoptee's shell/fog is not the exquisite journey we adoptees would wish nor want for anyone else before we leave this plane [relative.] far too many adoptees die in terminal wondering. great words to ponder inyour piece today. thank you.

  6. Noelle permalink

    The most life changing thing a therapist said to me was "you can't save others from drowning if you are drowning too. You need to get to shore and when you do you are in a better position to help others." It was the first time someone gave me "permission" to distance myself from others and to really focus on taking care of myself…that saving yourself first helps everyone in the long run. If someone else is drowning with you, they are going to take you down. When I came out of the fog I was drowning, but once I got the okay to leave everyone behind while I worked on me, it was life changing.

    • Laura Dennis permalink

      Noelle,
      An apt metaphor indeed. It is SO true; you are in absolutely no place to help someone else if you yourself are drowning. It is SO hard, though, to recognize.
      I can totally relate to that feeling of drowning when emerging from the fog, but yes, like you say, when you take care of yourself first … life changing.
      <3 Laura

      • While floating in your life raft, you can pull others aboard, though.

  7. As often happens to me with thought-proving blog posts such as this…I start to write a reply and it becomes it's own blog post.

    I invite you to read what this inspired in me: http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2013/12/jo

    Mirah Riben

  8. samantha568 permalink

    Adoption myths are what sets us all up for the fog. Heartbreaking. I'll never be completely "healed" either until eternity. Thank goodness for every minute and day and year we have to grow. The journey (even painful) is the life. As I sat at her funeral I could feel the love and understanding of my childhood friends, family friends, adoptive and birth families. I agonized for years about "coming out" of the fog and disloyalty. It is what actually brought us all closer together and still is bringing us closer. I will miss my Mom so much.

  9. That was the most hilarious things to talk about with an air hostess when you are having such serious situation. I really want to say that you have got a good sense of humor.

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