Thoughts on Adoption
Tatiana Beller, June 2019
On January 30th, 2014, I heard from my birth father, Joe Lambert, for the first time. Two years later, he invited me to participate as a co-facilitator for California Listens. It was an opportunity to travel from one end of the state to the other listening to Californians share their stories about being Californian. For me, it was an opportunity share Joe’s work for three years. In the process of listening to those stories, we encountered several stories about adoption and parental separation.
Every time we heard another adoption story, Joe would inevitably wait until lunch and out us as a father daughter pair. There was a connection to adoption that is hard to understand unless you are part of the story. As an adoptee, the status has defined my life. As a facilitator and an adoptee, the perspective gave me a window towards these stories. I could understand the pain and loss. The adoptee stories were about finding a sense of identity and trying to find your voice in an alien world. It was about craving for roots and destroying secrets.
Each of the stories showed this narrative and the impact that adoption had in the individual’s lives. Because it is a subject matter that affects so many, it was inevitable that it would become part of the larger dialogue of what means to be a Californian.
How A Poet Was Made: On Adoption, Race and Discovering Voice by Lee Herrick
Lee Herrick is a poet laureate from Fresno, California. He arrived at the workshop wanting to tell the story of what it is like to be an international transracial adoptee. The story he wrote is about finding your voice as an outsider. It was about learning to be a poet and the importance of words. As an adoptee myself, I saw myself in his story and I am sure it would speak to others who have lived the experience.
Secrets by Catherine Weissenberg
So much of adoption is about secrecy. The child born becomes a secret. His birth certificate is hidden away, a new identity is given, and the past is forgotten by all involved. Catherine Weissenberg choses to break through the secrets in an effort to find her own identity. She arrived at the workshop to tell the story of her experience finding and reuniting with her birth family and why she chose to reunite with her family. She explains why adoption is filled with so many secrets and how by breaking them, she was not only able to understand more about herself, but also build connections to those left behind the veil of secrecy.
When the Necessary is Impossible by Gail Steinberg
Not all adoption stories are about adoption. Some stories about adoption are about parenting and the difficulties found in parenting. Some stories are about giving your whole heart and soul into the child and that not being quite enough. The isolation of being a mother when your child requires more than you are capable of giving. In this moment, adoption becomes irrelevant. It is about the love of a mother for her child. Gail Steinberg arrived to California Listens to tell the story of her adopted daughter through her art. The result was a beautiful window into the profound love and pain that is parenting.
Each of those stories brought us closer to the story of adoption. Witnessing these stories with my own father after missing him for forty-one years was powerful. It brought up that we are also part of a larger California adoption story. And like the participants who so generously shared with us, we saw this opportunity to work together as a way to continue our own story beyond the confines of the workshop. Our storytellers became part of our larger story as we listened to theirs.