Book Tour: “Found” by Jennifer Lauck

One of my favorite bloggers in the whole world is Lori Lavender Luz from Write Heart, Open Mind. Last year I participated in her book club for Melissa Ford’s “Life From Scratch” and had a tremendous amount of fun. Mel, I am still anxiously awaiting the sequel ;)

So when Lori announced this year’s book tour, for Jennifer Lauck’s “Found”, I was eager to sign up. The topic, about a writer’s search for her birth mom, piqued my interest. While I have learned about adoption from bloggers like Lori, I don’t know that much about it from the point of view of someone who has been adopted. Adoption was a road not taken for me during my journey through infertility, but it was seriously considered.

Jennifer Lauck first came to public attention after Oprah singled out her memoir “Blackbird” and it became a New York Times bestseller. “Blackbird” detailed her extremely grim, almost Dickensian upbringing: think Oliver Twist minus the happy ending, plus a hippie cult. Adopted by a mother with a terminal illness, Lauck tended to her as a nurse until she passed away. Soon after her adopted father died too, but not before marrying a “wicked stepmother” who lent Lauck out to work for a sinister religious group. Lauck is then passed from family member to family member, sexually assaulted and used by the relatives who eventually took her in and formally adopted her. She worked essentially as a servant for them and they collected her adopted parents’ benefits, supposedly for her college education. Although when she’s ready for college, she’s told the money is gone.

To say that Jennifer Lauck did not have a positive experience with adoption is the understatement of the year. The people and institutions that were supposed to help her failed her time and time again.

“Found” details Lauck’s search for her birth mother, the hoops she had to jump through to find her, their reunification and the bittersweet afterward. Lauck is very honest about her feelings of abandonment, the physical sensations she feels being around her birth mother and why it is and was so important to her self-identity to know the biological DNA and definition behind her own temperament and personality.

I was especially moved by Lauck’s writing when she described how her son was physically removed from her after his birth. It made me identify with her in a flash:

“I was a mother now. I wanted my child. The baby fussed and the nurse patted his back as if he was hers. I sent my husband my best ‘If you don’t get that baby, I’ll kill you’ look. My eyebrows pulled together, my jaw went tight, and my eyes went narrow. As he reached out, yet again attempting to fulfill my primal wishes, the nurse shooed him away. She said something about hospital rules and my being overly emotional.”

Something I haven’t talked about here is that my physician recently diagnosed me with PTSD. She thinks it’s because of my miscarriages, but also the separation of my son from me upon his birth. He was put in the NICU when he was born, like Lauck’s son. I will never forget what bad shape I was in after my C-section: I almost suffocated due to an allergic reaction to a medication and I was in tremendous pain because they had to take me off painkillers altogether because of that reaction. (I imagine it’s how soldiers felt after being operated after the Civil War.) I was still so incredibly determined to see my son when I heard he could not be with me. Thankfully my daughter was OK, and had been brought in to be with me, but the morning after my C-section I walked to the NICU, slowly and in great discomfort. Each step I took was agony and the walk took 20 minutes (it felt longer) but the physical NEED to see my son was overwhelming. It overcame pain that was a level 8, exhaustion and fear for myself. Nothing mattered but that I see my son.

I have nightmares every night that I am unable to get to my children. That I am motionless, that some natural disaster or nuclear war is coming and I am powerless to stop it from coming for my twins. I wake up screaming many nights. So I am very thankful to Lauck for identifying so clearly that EXACT moment that caused the PTSD. And for telling me that I’m not alone in feeling that way. I thank her very much for that.

So, onto the questions!

1. Jennifer writes a lot about the first mom’s biological bond with her child. She writes of this bond as primal, almost as if adoptive moms will never be able to completely bond with their children, and I wonder what advice she would give to adoptive parents, particularly, women who want to be honest with their children about their birth stories and those who may even have functional open adoptions where every member of the triad respects the other.

Based on my own experience, I do think the biological bond is primal. But I can’t speak for all birth mothers: I was ready to have children, desperate to have them, even. I do think, after reading “Found”, that being aware of a primal bond is a really good idea.

What part of Ms. Lauck’s adoption journey challenged your idea of adoption the most?

I think what surprised me most was how small interactions with her birth mother Catherine could have so much more meaning than just face value. For example, Catherine opts not to pick Lauck up at the airport gate and instead tells her to meet her at the curb. Lauck’s reaction is this:

“Yes, Catherine is pissed.
No, she really didn’t want me to come.
Yes, my heart is broken.
No, I’m not surprised.
I cry as I stand at the curb, waiting.”

The smallest gesture causes a chain reaction, leaving her feeling utterly rejected. I think this is a most telling interaction, and a good one. From reading some open adoption blogs, it does seem that when a birth parent is late or doesn’t show up for an appointment, there is a big emotional reaction from the child. I appreciated Lauck’s honesty here.

In reading this book, I, an adoptive mother, was struck by how less than ideal Jennifer’s childhood was. My instinct is to blame the death of her adoptive parents and the subsequent bouncing around, abuses, etc that she suffered, for her trauma and feelings of abandonment as opposed to looking to the fact that she was adopted. Obviously I have a vested interest in this perception and I am acutely aware of this and that I need to force my mind to stay open to see the entire picture. I wonder what others think…am I alone in trying to downplay the adoption issue? Is her experience magnified because of her repeated experiences of trauma/abandonment or are her feelings fairly typical of adult adoptees?

I grappled with this question too. What if Lauck had been adopted by others? What if her situation were different? I haven’t read any other accounts of adult adoptees, so it’s hard for me to say. I do know her childhood was appallingly terrible, unique even in its utter lack of stability, love, trust and hope. The parents I know from the ALI community who have adopted children are so incredibly committed to loving them, providing the best possible environment for them, reading constantly about how best to parent them, and caring intensely for them. It’s therefore really hard for me to believe that excellent parenting doesn’t matter at all. I believe it matters a great deal.

And to continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list here.

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21 Comments

Filed under Adoption

21 responses to “Book Tour: “Found” by Jennifer Lauck

  1. Hi! I’m an adult adoptee also along for the ride in this book tour! I loved reading your insights as someone who isn’t connected to adoption in the usual way (as in your didn’t adopt, weren’t adopted, and didn’t relinquish a child).

    You’re third response made me pause and think. I can tell you that my childhood was very good. I had stability, love, trust, and hope. My adoptive parents loved me, provided for me, and treated me very well. They are my parents and I love them very much.

    That being said, I still felt abandoned by my first parents. I still felt trauma from that experience. I had the best adoptive parents in the world, and I still felt the effects of my adoption. And these issues did not hit me fully until I went away to college.

    Just another thing to think about… :-)

    • Thank you so much for responding and also answering my point from someone who DID have excellent parents. I honestly want to know whether excellent parents made a difference. Most of the Adoption blogs I read are parents working in an open adoption, who work with their children closely, recognizing that they are dealing with some sort of a primal wound. I should have clarified: I think Open Adoption Parenting does make a difference. But, I cannot answer that question. What do YOU think?

      • I think that Open Adoption Parenting is a huge positive thing that I wish I had in my life. And I think that every parent in adoption (birth/first/natural/biological and adoptive) needs to do everything they can to maintain a healthy open adoption for the child. That being said, I don’t think it’s a cure-all. It makes some things better, but it isn’t a magic pill either. I think that in a few years these open adoption adoptees are going to start speaking out and I can’t wait to hear what they have to say!

    • I so appreciate you sharing this, Jenn. My kids are navigating their journeys and I can say that how they perceive having been adopted, what they choose to embrace (ethnically, racially, culturally), and what they talk about has changed significantly as they enter tweendom and young adult years. I work with adoptive parents and try to get them to be open to this fact. Adoption “fallout” can occur at anytime for anyone (or not).

  2. Wow. What a powerful connection about PTSD. The way you describe it, it sounds overwhelming. I have heard a few birth parents say they have had similar nightmares after relinquishing.

    And I nodded my head when you said this: “I think what surprised me most was how small interactions with her birth mother Catherine could have so much more meaning than just face value.”

    You are one of my favorite bloggers, too (mwah!), and I’m so glad you shared your viewpoint on this tour!

  3. I haven’t read this book, but I wanted to comment on your PTSD. You had mentioned to me the PTSD, but I didn’t know to what extent (and I’m sorry if I never asked). That story made my heart ache for you and your experience, J. I had no idea about the recurring nightmares and how that fear comes to you at night. Is there any way you can start seeing someone about this? I know how much my therapist has helped me with my PTSD and how invaluable she has been for me. I hate that you had to go through that, and I hate that I haven’t been more supportive when you’ve briefly mentioned it, but I didn’t know how awful it truly was. I am so, so sorry.

  4. Your take on the book as someone not directly effected by adoption is so interesting. I am so glad you took part in the book tour.

    I found your take on the biological bond particularly interesting fascinating because I think we assume the biological bond is so strong and we forget that the mental state of the mother can have an impact (at least on the mother';s bonding) I say this from experience as I have children both by birth and adoption. I bonded differently with all 4 of my children and I am convinced that it had to do with where I was emotionally when they each entered my life. I loved your acknowledgement that you “were ready to have children, desperate to have them.” and that that perspective effects your take on the biological bond.

    I had been so stressed during my pregnancy with my second child, terrified that she was going to die, that I refused to bond with her while I was pregnant. For weeks after she was born I felt like I was babysitting. It took me quite a long time to really feel like her mother. This was also true with my oldest child, who was adopted. But when my second two were born (one adopted, one not), I would have jumped in front of a train for either one the minute I met them. I was instantly bonded and attached.

    Sorry that I am rambling on here. Thanks for pointing out an important issue (one that I wished perhaps I had mentioned when i was writing my responses)

  5. I really liked your comment about how much small things mean. I am beginning to see this in my daugther. If she knows we’ve sent a pictures or a letter to her birth mother or if she knows I’ve sent her a message through Facebook, she will ask me every day if her birth mom has responded. And even when I explain, for example, that I don’t think the mail has had a chance to reach her yet, I still see a little disappointment if we don’t have a response from her birth mom.

  6. Hello and thank you for taking on this topic and this book. I am honored.

    I want to suggest Show Me the Way which is my third book and details the birth of my son and what I consider the insensitively of the medical establishment around birth. He has suffered unnecessarily from our separation, as did I, and this dis empowerment of women–this total deprivation of our right to birth our children without fear is one of the big issues of our time. The documentary The Business of Being Born speaks to this challenge.

    As Jenn spoke to above, adoption based on the closed conditions and intense shame of the past, is a significant wound. I do not believe I would feel less lost had I had a more optimal upbringing. Adoptive people who have had every opportunity still feel this emptiness–Steve Jobs comes to mind.

    For what it is worth.

    Thank you again, Jennifer

    • Thanks Jennifer. That was the biggest a-ha moment: your passage reminded me of having to see my son looking terrified covered in wires. He certainly DID recognize me, and he wanted me to get him the HELL out of there. I was able to nurse him (because the NICU nurses were too sick of me to protest) and comfort him and that helped. I did Kangaroo care a lot and I could feel his vitals increase each time we did that. He came home with us (we were leaving him behind over MY dead body). I’ll definitely be checking out your book. And thank you for pinpointing something that was really bothering me years after the fact. My son is a confident, assured and outgoing little guy so maybe it’s just me who suffered. I hope so.

  7. Of course excellent parenting matters, especially for adoptees but it does not remove or heal the damage of the loss of a mother or the other traumas associated with adoption. All you can do is your best, try not to cause further damage and read all you can including Brodzinsky’s work on the adopted life and it’s stages.

  8. The timing for this book tour wasn’t right for me this year. But I am doing a little blog hopping/touring anyway and appreciate reading your review and answers to the questions. I appreciate your candidness here and as someone who also doesn’t have first hand experience with adoption (though I have an adopted niece and some close friends who are both adoptees and adoptive parents). I also wondered what someone with less strong of a connection to the topic would think of this book, so reading your take on it showed me that. Anyway, nothing profound to share, but wanted you to know I was here and reading.

    (((HUGS))) about the PTSD. I am returning to therapy this week after a 5 1/2 year hiatus. I don’t expect to be diagnosed with anything (though if I recall last time my therapist had to diagnose me with something for insurance purposes and I think she chose mild depression. But I am looking forward to tackling a few things that I am struggling with and could use a professional’s perspective on and assistance in coping with. xoxo

  9. I’m subscribing to your comments thread :-) I have to comment again to do so!

  10. Oh sweetie – in tears over your story of being separated from your son in the hospital. Trying to wrap my mind around the physical and emotional pain you went through.
    Hugs.

  11. m.

    I’ve also been thinking through your third response. While my childhood wasn’t perfect (who’s is, really?) I know my adopted parents loved me as well as they could and cared for me the best they knew how. I never felt abandoned by my birth parents – perhaps some of that was because of how I was told of my origins. “They were so young and they loved you so much”… – but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel sad and I didn’t feel loss.

    (I realize now) my adopted parents did a lot of things right, they shared all of the truths that they knew. I just wish (for all of our sakes) more of those truths were known. No one should have to ask someone else (or pay them, or go through any kinds of hoops) to learn their own name.

    I can’t imagine how reading Jennifer’s passage of her own separation brought you back to yours. I’m so sorry.

  12. I also didn’t have the chance to participate, but I’ve really enjoyed reading your insightful responses.

    I’m so sorry about the PTSD. After being forced to leave my daughter in the NICU for so long, I can see that as a response. Also — while it’s nowhere near the same thing — it gave me new insight as an adoptive mama into what it feels like to be separated from your child after birth. Heartbreaking.

  13. I had different questions than you did so when I read your response to the second question with the first line … ““I think what surprised me most was how small interactions with her birth mother Catherine could have so much more meaning than just face value.” I was struck. While reading the book, I, as a birth mother, found the value in those small interactions to be fascinating. I chat with my children who were adopted (a daughter and two years later twin boys) and am always aware of when they want to talk to me. We speak here and there, not every day, but when we do chat I am always really good about responding to them as quickly as I can. I know that adoptees do have some feelings of rejection from their birth parents, and I never again want them to think that I would reject them.

    It was great to read your take on the book, as well as your responses. Thanks

  14. Interesting take on the book, especially your similar experience in the hospital after giving birth.

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