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It's Time to Reflect

posted by Linda Schellentrager on Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It’s Time to Reflect

During the course of planning activities for our 25th Anniversary year, I’ve pored through many old scrapbooks and photos … and memories

This year marks my 20th year of personal involvement, in fact. I was a new adoptive mom treading lightly down a path of openness in adoption with a one-year-old little boy when I first made contact with Betsie Norris, the founder, in 1993. I didn’t really know or understand what the future would hold in our relationship with his birthfamily … I just knew in my heart that if he always knew where he came from, it’d be the right thing to do. Through Betsie, an adoptee, I had validation in that thinking.

Besides supporting our openness path, the next thing that Adoption Network Cleveland did for me was to provide a safe place for me to talk (and mostly listen) to adult adoptees and birthparents at General Support and Discussion Meetings around town. As a young adoptive mom, I found myself concentrating on every word from the adult adoptees and would strain to hear things that their parents did right or did wrong. Over and over again I heard them say that they grew up feeling very loved but also they always wondered about their origins. Countless times I heard that adoption was a taboo subject in their homes, that they never wanted to bring it up because it would hurt their parent’s feelings, and that they had guilt even thinking about birth families. It seemed so wrong to raise a child with such fear to talk or even think about their beginnings. I was determined to do things differently with our little one … I wanted him to always have a full sense of his origins and an open door to always talk about his feelings.

I also learned from adoptees that sometimes they felt like they were their parent’s second choice … oh my goodness, I never felt that way. I fully grieved the biological child that my husband and I never created before adopting. This helped me to welcome our baby as exactly who he was … and importantly, acknowledge fully that he came from other people. On top of that, since they created him, how could I not love them with my whole heart, as well?

An eye-opening experience actually only happened in the last couple years, when a 55-year-old adoptee asked me a question she had been wanting to ask her parents her whole life. The words “Am I enough?” hung out there above our restaurant table. I looked in her eyes and said, “Oh my gosh, you are more than enough. I am honored to be a mom, yes, but mostly honored to be his mom.” I continued to look in her eyes and said, “You ARE enough.”

I also have always valued the chance to be in the same room with birthparents. Young or old, it doesn’t matter … they have an ongoing hurt that doesn’t go away. Sure, life goes on, but the pain of giving their child to another never goes away. That’s a pretty hard window to face as an adoptive parent. As daunting as it was, it was (and is still) invaluable as a parent to deepen my understanding of this thing called adoption, from all perspectives.

Over the course of the next decade, I volunteered regularly on projects and programs with the growing organization. I was a part of the start of our Adoption 101: Where Do I Begin? workshop for prospective parents, which is still going strong today. I am humbled to know that by sharing our openness story, many have taken that same path with a little less fear. After having an incredible experience as participants in the Parallel Group program for 9-13 year-old-adoptees and their parents, my son and I both volunteered. He volunteered as a teen leader, and me, as one of the Parent leaders.

Through my involvement, I learned how unique Adoption Network Cleveland is … that there is no other organization in the country doing all that we do, how we are considered a trend-setter and a national model and that we are the recipient of several prestigious awards. How cool that it is right here!

Since first learning of Adoption Network Cleveland in 1993, I have always felt extremely appreciative that Betsie started this place right here in Cleveland in a bedroom of her home. She worked continually on relationships and funding sources to eventually support such a cause. To make the most of funds, she volunteered her own blood, sweat and tears for years, while working full-time as a nurse, to get this non-profit organization off the ground. Now, she leads a team of 19 with the same passion, dedication and, yes, still holds a tight reign on precious donated dollars. 

In 2008, I was lucky enough to become an employee of this organization that I care so much about. My job is all-encompassing in terms of communication duties and is still all-encompassing around my heart.

Come reflect with us … reconnect with old friends … or meet new people … and join us all year long as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of something truly unique and special, right here in our hometown. 

Linda M. Schellentrager
Communications Manager
Co-Chair, 25th Anniversary Committee
Adoption Network Cleveland

P.S. Check out our $25 for 25 campaign, by clicking here

AND .. Save-the-Date - Friday, November 15, 2013 - for a special 25th Anniversary Party, which will be combined with our Annual Meeting. 

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