Pushing for What’s Underneath

by wendybancroft on July 19, 2012

Today a fellow adoption blogger–wordsmithwest at reallifeadoptioncom–wrote about how her foster adopt son is finally beginning to allow some of his deeper pain to surface. When it came, it came strong

I’m Asian, but…

by leahbancroft on June 29, 2009

I was speaking to someone new who I had recently met, and found myself explaining a bit about my adoption and my family. I also found myself explaining how I have never truly felt like I really fit in anywhere.

There is has always been a disconnect with me and other asian friends I’ve come to know. I feel as though when people meet me, maybe they expect me to come from a traditional, or strict asian family, possibly Catholic and maybe was very good at math, or at school in general. Or maybe I’m super submissive and polite, quiet, and yadda yadda yadda. I guess with that being said, I’ve loved to surprise people that I am not really any of those things.

I have grown up not really feeling like I fit with any group. I was raised by caucasian parents, but I’m not white. I’m asian, but I’m not really.. I think that’s a part of the movie ‘Adopted’ that really struck something within me about being something ‘but’. I’m Asian, but… Does that make sense? I’ve never felt fully accepted by asian people. Even when I went to get my nails done the other day at the salon, one of the ladies asked me where I was from, and I explained, and briefly said I was born in the Philippines, and adopted and moved here when I was young, etc. And it was like as soon as she understood I was adopted, and especially by a caucasian family, it was like I was automatically almost lower than her or something. I’m not even sure what it was. But it was a strange vibe that I got from her.


by jaybancroft on May 18, 2009

leahscaredstatues41Recently our daughter commented on how she couldn’t look at a particular photo of herself as a toddler because it brought back feelings of terror. Wendy and I were stunned to hear this. Even though we have learned much in the last few years helping Leah to work through her personal traumas as an adoptee, this one hit us by surprise.

The photo came about when we were living in Singapore. I loved to explore the city with Leah in a carrier backpack or with her toddling along beside me. On one such trip, we came upon a sculpture of fanciful figures in front of the National Museum that I found enchanting. I placed her on a ledge in front of the figures and backed off for about the millionth photo. Then I scooped her up and off we went, with me totally unaware of what just went down. Now when Leah sees that picture she remembers terror, and interprets it as feeling she was going to be left behind. The scene must have been confusing and, as I said, terrifying…a strange location, a scary sculpture that she didn’t understand, and Leah somehow not figuring out what I was doing.

Leah had two separations by the time she was four months old and we came along: from her birthmom at two months when the decision to put her up for adoption was taken, and then from relations of the birthmom who agreed to take care of Leah until an adoptive family (us) could be found. I don’t know how inevitable this is, but we’ve come to believe these traumas left a profound imprint somewhere deep in our baby. She had no words to express it, but the fear was real, visceral. Follow this with an episode like the picture-taking, and who knows what else, and the imprints just get deeper. Then, to our undying regret, when Leah was about 14 months old we arranged for our close friend Kathy, who adored Leah, to take care of her while we took a week’s travel break in Thailand. For our baby, it was happening again. She got extremely sick and clung to Kathy for the whole time. When we made an arranged call (no cell phones then), Kathy debated with herself whether or not to tell us, and just when she was about to, we lost the connection and were left assuming all was well.

What does one make of this? Why is it we miss these things? Some words I read recently by Canadian author Anne Michaels in The Winter Vault about all children hit me as ringing true:  “We do not like to think about children’s fears…We push them aside to concentrate on their innocence.”  I can so easily see myself in that statement and wonder how much I have covered up over the years. Then Michaels says this: “But children are close to grief, they are closer to grief than we are…In every child’s fear is always the fear of the worst thing, the loss of the person they love most.”

I talked with Leah about this realization recently and we chatted about how this issue of ‘abandonment’ affects her still. She mentioned she was going to reflect on it in her next post.

Do all adoptees need to grieve their adoption?

by wendybancroft on April 23, 2009

This question was recently posed by one of the growing community of people on Twitter with an interest in adoption and I find it a fascinating and important question. In our family, the answer seems to have been a definite “yes.” Our daughter did not start coming to terms with some of the demons in her life until she began to understand the source of her unhappiness and fears. But I know that not all people who are adopted share this experience/need and yet a conversation I had with a young man who had recently been reunited with his birthmom and while he said he had little curiosity or need to find this person when he was younger, when he did meet her and other half siblings, he felt an unexpectedly strong emotional stirring. So this has made me wonder whether the need is always there, whether admitted or not. And whether some level of grief for what was not, might be necessary in order to move on in at least some areas of your life.

“Leap of Faith”?

by wendybancroft on April 18, 2009

Shops close to our home in Singapore.

Yesterday, Judy on Twitter Adoption Moms, posed the question: “Have you or others you’ve known followed a “leap of faith” to adopt?” Made me think–was my decision a “leap of faith”? Here’s what I wrote: I guess so. I’ve never thought of it that way. I’d had several miscarriages, been taking the gamut of fertility tests, finally decided not to keep trying to get pregnant. I had a biological son by my first marriage and although my husband had no children, he had heart disease and was worried about passing this on.

But, we lived in Singapore then and my son had gone home to live with his father. I missed my son terribly. Then I had another miscarriage. I was devastated. After that, I KNEW I still wanted to mother a baby. A few days later I was having my hair done and the woman in the chair next to me was talking to her stylist about adopting her second baby from the Philippines. I perked up. Started asking questions, and within days we began our process to adopt from the Philippines. Yes, I guess it was a leap of faith. Little did I realize just how huge that leap would be.

Leah–An Introduction

by leahbancroft on April 17, 2009

IntroductionI have been waiting quite some time before making my first post to this blog. I have been collecting thoughts, and feelings over the past little while, promising myself that I will soon put them into words that can articulate something that people can get something out of. Then time went on, procrastination took over; scratch that, fear took over.

I think my hesitations to post something were about finding the right things to say. ‘How’ am I going to have anything valuable to say, what can people take out of my feelings on the subject of adoption. What about my own story will strike a chord in theirs? I finally came to the realization that it would be better to quit being so precious about everything. Get something out there, even if it’s quick and dirty, just get something out there to discuss and watch it evolve from there.

So with that, here is my first post. All I wanted to say that it is only over the past year, or even more recently, that I have truly found an honest interest in learning more about my adoption. Growing up, I was very fortunate that my family was always so open about the topic. Somehow I told myself and others that I was really interested in learning more, and that I was interested in one day going back to seek out my birth mother. At the time I’m not sure what that truly meant. I’m still not even sure what it means.. but I am a lot more aware of the emotions that are throwing me on a roller coaster. Now that I am older I’m better able to understand these questions, and fears surrounding my adoption.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my thoughts and discoveries in this space, and hope you will find it helpful to you or those around you.

I invite you to also follow me on Twitter – @adoption_leah

I know that this will be a long journey. There are so many emotions I have yet to let myself feel for fear of becoming overwhelmed by the whole thing. I think it’s time I grit my teeth and bear it, because I am at a point in my life where I feel there are many missing pieces to this jigsaw puzzle, and I’m not even sure where to begin, and hopefully this is a good place to start.

Watching “Adopted,” the movie

by wendybancroft on April 13, 2009

Leah todayToday I was reminded of the film “Adopted,” available as of today as a download from the site http://www.adoptedthemovie.com. It’s a powerful film, especially for those of us involved in a transracial adoption, and especially if we have adopted from, or are adoptees from, Asia.The film documents the experience of two families–one of whom adopted a baby from Korea who is now an adult, and the other embarking on a new adoption of a baby from China. Two very different experiences as we learn.

I was reminded of the film because of a notice from Facebook of a change at their page there so I went to the page. There I saw they were asking visitors to the site whether they had seen the film so I responded that I had. I had and so had my daughter Leah and my husband. Leah, grown up and living on her own, had watched it first. Then we watched. And while we watched, I talked with Leah on MSN. Here is that conversation:

W:  Are you there? Dad and I are watching this together. I’m making notes. It’s not easy to watch some of this.
L: no it’s hard
W: We’ve just watched the beginning. They’ve been digging clams and then there is the family scene.
I am confused about my reaction. I am crying because for the first time I think, I saw the difference from the outside.I guess saw what you might have been experiencing.And saw how this might have hurt you.
W:  I don’t feel this way when I look at photographs of our family.
L:  I know.  me neither
W: Oh I’m very glad to hear you say that…about not feeling the difference in our family photos.
L:  One thing I learned is that parents want to think it’s just love that they need to give.
W: We know now that’s not the case but I think yes dad and I thought we could overcome any potential problems through love and support (ya) And by living in a mixed community which, as you say, did help.
L: yes

W: Okay…I think I can go on now (watching the movie).
L: ok
W: I like this couple who are adopting.
L: me too
W: Ah, there are the words you quoted: “adoptees are chameleons.”
L: yes and “families adopt, adoptees adapt.”
W: yes. I saw you wrote that. We haven’t come to that yet but I have thoughts about that…..We never even saw a photo of you before we met you!
…….She (baby in the film) was in foster care…had developed bonds. Was grieving. (By contrast) We felt it must have been okay for you because you were less than 6 months old…a time when babies are said to bond easily…and you bonded so quickly with us….but you must have been confused at the change in voice and touch and environment…even though you were surrounded by love.
L: yes….even though.
W: a separation….and a second separation for you.
L: ya
W: the fact that you were so responsive and happy does attest though to the love you had received before you even came to us.
L: true
W: In this way your story truly diverges from the girl in the film. You were not abandoned on a doorstep in any way.
L: I know
W: That would be so hard to live with….at the same time, her birth mother obviously wanted her to be safe and that’s why she left her on the steps of a police station.

L: my birth father abandoned me

W: Yes he abandoned your birth mother too though and to him, undoubtedly, you were not real….(then I reminded her that I was also abandoned by my birth father who broke up with my mother when she was pregnant with me. I realize I have some anger about this).

W: Moving on then with the movie.
L: k
W: “it’s not my journey, it’s our journey.”  She says this in reference to dealing with racism in her past but I guess this is what I was referring to above too re “families adopt; adoptees adapt.” We all had to adapt–it was our journey and what you were experiencing affected all of us, including Aaron and later, Karen.
L: ya I know
W: Your birth mother did not “give you up” willingly. She tried to care for you..you were with her for the first two months of your life. She came to meet us to make sure we would be good for you.
L: yeah?
W: Did you not know that?
L: I don’t know….maybe but didn’t really ‘know’…..I think I faked caring to want to know in the past
W: Yes. She was living in one room all by herself in Manila. She had no way to take care of her self except for the Diloys.
L: I’m good at faking things
W: Yes you are.
W: Do you want to know now?
L: ya
W: Okay. She was very poor. And she had not been able to find work in Manila.
L: I don’t want to know right this minute…..but soon
W: okay. I’ll tell you what I can when you’re ready.

(Later in the film)
W: They are meeting the birth mother. Dad is crying. I am watching carefully and remembering how it was meeting Gemima (Leah’s birth mother—we met her in Manila).
Oh this baby is going to have problems. She’s too old for this.
L: I kept thinking, this moment we are seeing is where it all begins
W: For you it actually began two months earlier, before you were with us.

W: oh good! Such a happy baby! And wow is she beautiful!
L: yes very…very
W: These new parents are starting from such a more advanced state of knowledge! (ya)

W: Who recommended this stupid movie! All we do is cry!
L: LOL I know I didn’t cry til after
W: I wish we could have been with you.

(Later, when the movie finishes).
L: it was hard seeing them in the Korean restaurant
W: at the restaurant?
L I felt that way when we visited the Zamoras (Filipino friends with a daughter Leah’s age)
W: You mean at their home? How did you feel?
L: I look like them but nothing in common
W: Right. That would have been strange with Sandy.

L: when I was little I knew I was considered special and lucky but didn’t understand why really
W: We didn’t consider you lucky. We thought WE were lucky.
L: no but people would say so
W: they did?
Who said this?
L: I don’t know…just growing up. People who didn’t know me
W: I wonder if you may have heard us talking about our experience in Manila when we first had you and were walking with you there….
L: I dunno
W: …we would meet Filipino people who would be curious about us and when we told them we were adopting you, they all said how lucky you were.
They were thinking of the poverty in the Philippines and that you were well out of it.
L: right
W: But not that you were lucky to be adopted after being “abandoned.”
W: Filipino family ties are very strong.
L: right…yes….I can see that….I saw that at the zamoras….and growing up in Vancouver….friends who were Asian etc

W: Well honey…we’re pretty wiped right now. How bout you?
Want to talk more about this now?
L: no
Okay….by for now.
L: ttyl….xoxo
W: xoxoxoxoxoxo

I don’t believe in fate

by jaybancroft on March 21, 2009

I don’t believe in fate, not really, but in some sense I began to think how much our baby was meant to be our baby. After a short period of time, you begin to imagine your baby couldn’t be any other baby, she is too perfect, too much a part of you like an arm, a leg, an extra heart. Our friends in Singapore, where we lived at the time we adopted Leah, used to enjoy laughing at me, I so much loved having this baby and (apparently) conveying that I must have thought it was actually me who brought her to term.
Our other child (now adult) is Wendy’s son from a previous marriage, so I never had any birth children and hence no thoughts of whether or not I could equally love and parent a child who was not my own. If anything, having my step son from the age of seven gave me confidence to do so and eager to start from baby on up. At four months, Leah was it for me.

Hello and Welcome

by wendybancroft on March 20, 2009

Leah was adopted from the Philippines 23 years ago. It’s been 23 years of love and joy matched by anger, depression and fear. This is her story, but it’s her parents’ story too. It’s also her brother’s story and his family’s story–because adoption affects everyone.

In the first hours