This interview with award-winning adoption author Sherrie
Eldridge is the third of a four-part series. Each part will focus on a
different book that Sherrie has written. This post includes a
discussion of Sherrie's book, Questions That Adoptees Are Asking.
CG: This book seems to be the most controversial of your books, given its religious nature. Can you tell us how your Christian beliefs tie into your view on adoption?
SE: I had searched for my birth family for fifteen years without success. Then I hired a little lady from Michigan, and she managed to find my birth mom in two days! I was very scared to contact her, but I did. It was a big shock for her.
In my first conversation with her, she told me she had been raped and I was the product. I was utterly speechless. Never had I imagined that scenario when I pictured the circumstances of my adoption. It was like the wind had been knocked out of me.
For several years afterward, the fact that I was the product of a rape felt like a dark cloud of shame hanging over my head. I am a Christian, and I was a Christian before searching for my birth mother.
Within my religious beliefs, I needed to dig down deeper spiritually to find peace with the rape. And one day, it dawned on me that I didn't have anything to do with the rape itself.
I am a good thing that came out of something bad. And when I embraced that knowledge, it changed everything. My birth mother was raped. But when I ask myself, "Where did I come from?" I answer myself with, "God made me."
When I redid the book, I made it overtly Christian, because I don't believe there are many post-adoption resources for Christian families. There is a bible study at the end of every chapter.
I wrote it for a very specific purpose. I am not writing to proselytize - I am sharing my faith and what has given me peace.
One of the talks that has grown out of this is called "The Gift of Grief." It is a favorite of the audiences, because it teaches that grief can be turned into a gift. We can grow from every loss. At a certain point, you have to decide, do you really want to live in pain or move on?
CG: How would you recommend that people who are not religious use this book?
People could take my beliefs and use them as a springboard for their
own spiritual beliefs. In fact, there is a beautiful review from a
woman who is a Buddhist, where she expresses this concept very
Excerpt from the aforementioned review:
Sherrie's book is leading us to our divinity, wholeness,
self-healing, and self-awareness . . . which is a painful but
exhilarating journey. Sherrie does make reference to the Bible and Christianity to guide
Though I am an SGI-USA Buddhist and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as
my form of prayer, her book was still very helpful to me.
Sherrie speaks for all of us in her book, and this book has saved my life.
CG: How did you come up with the topics to address in this book?
I interviewed 70 adoptees for this book. It takes them from the womb
to the tomb. It is even being translated into Russian and will soon be
distributed in the Ukraine.
CG: Readers, see below for a sampling of the chapters included in the book:
Why Was I Abandoned By My First Family?
Do They Ever Think About Me?
Why Do We Think About Our Birth Parents?
Why Do We Feel Like Something's Not Right Inside?
Why Would Someone Give Up A Child?
Why Doesn't Anyone Get It?
Why Can't We Trust Anyone But Ourselves?
Why Do We Get So Angry With Our Moms?
Why Are We Hurting Ourselves?
Why Are We Terrified of Rejection?
Why Do We Cover Inferiority With Overachievement?
Why Are We Resistant to Therapy?
Why the Unquenchable Thirst for Connection to Our Birth Family?
Why Are We Treated Like Children When We Search?
CG: Which chapters in this book resonate most strongly with you?
SE: When I was a teenager, it was Why Do I Get So Angry With My Mom?
thought there was something wrong with me because I felt such rage at
my mom. My friends didn't get that angry with their moms. Looking
back now, I know that it was misplaced anger, and my poor mom got the
brunt of it.
As an adult, it is Why Are We Treated Like Children When We Search?
are treated like children, especially by the government, with the
closed records. I am still trying to get the birth records from the
hospital where I was born. We adoptees have human rights to our birth
Some adoptees say they want to search because they
need to know their medical records, but I see that as a cover for the
real desire for connection. I have lupus; I could be really bitter and
I could give up. People with missing history can be bitter.
of getting out of the victim mentality is knowing that our birth
parents have given us gifts. It is more than just what your medical
records are. Your connection to your birth parents is reflected in
other aspects of you as a person. What do you like, what are you good
at, who are you?
CG: At the end of each chapter, you offer
ideas to help adoptees overcome the obstacles discussed in the
chapter. What are some of your recommendations for adoptees seeking
reunification with their birth families?
SE: After my birth
mother rejected me post reunion, it deepened my understanding of how
scary it is to face rejection and then actually experience it. It gave
me compassion for other adoptees, because I have been there.
We have an online support group for adoptees called email@example.com.
This is run through my nonprofit group, Jewel among Jewels, and I lead
it. Adoption rejection is rampant, but we don't see it on Oprah and
Dr. Phil. We see the emotional reunions and happy endings, but there
is a lot of rejection that takes place too. There are a lot of old
romanticized ideas about adoption that pretend there is no pain, but
that is not true.
I always recommend that adoptees have an
intermediary first contact their birth parents. It is a big shock for
a birth parent to hear that you are trying to find them, and it helps
if a third party makes the initial contact.
CG: What do you think is the best way for adoptees to heal so they can move on?
Be in a support group with one another. Before we can be in a triad,
we need a group with just each other. Adoptees need other adoptees.
Birth parents need other birth parents. Adoptive parents need other
adoptive parents. You can say what you want to without fear of hurting
whoever is sitting next to you.
We have resources on my
website. There are companion workbooks to some of the books. For
example, a hurting birth mother could start a support group with our
workbook, Beauty From Ashes.
In working together, birth
parents or adoptees or adoptive parents can turn their pain and grief
into a chance to grow. This is the gift of grief.
Note to readers: This book was originally published in 2003 under the title Twenty Life Transforming Choices Adoptees Need To Make. It has since been rewritten and repackaged as Questions Adoptees Are Asking.
For those of you who would like to learn more about Sherrie Eldridge and her publications, please visit her website: Sherrie Eldridge