Welcome to the very first episode of Adopted, Now What? We are excited to have you and look forward to many value-rich episodes.
In this introductory episode, Becky Walker introduces herself as she also talks about her purpose and goals for the podcast and the meaning of the title: Adopted, Now What? She gives a glimpse of her journey as an adoptive parent and her daughter’s journey as an adopted child. She also lays out what future episodes will hold.
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Listen to the Episode here:
Adopted: Now What? – Introduction
Welcome. My name is Becky Walker. I want to welcome you to the very first episode of, Adopted, Now What? I am so happy at the thought that you are listening to the beginning of this podcasting adventure. An exciting adventure it is for me. As an adoptive parent, like me, or maybe as a foster parent or as an individual adopted as a child, like my own daughter, you’re acquainted with the start of a new adventure, new experiences, navigating unknown territory, the excited anticipation of getting started, the uncertainty of what would come next and whether or not you’ll be ready, the thrill of new challenges, and perhaps, the second guessing of whether or not you’ve done something right or wrong. In your adoption adventure, you’re probably familiar, like me, with spectacular moments of clarity and connection and sometimes very long moments of frustration, disappointment, maybe even despair.
I’m glad you’re here because all of those types of moments, those wonderful good feeling ones and those that may represent some of the hardest emotions you’ve ever experienced are why this podcast has been created. The name, “Adopted, Now What?” clearly has two parts. The first part is “Adopted.” This is intended to speak to both parents and to adopted children. I’m certainly not leaving out those individuals adopted as children that are now adults. You teenagers, I know you are no longer children that are in those transformative years leading into your own adulthood. Adopted covers us all.
The second part is “What now?” We all know that our lives are only experienced now, in the present moment. I love that idea. Given that adopted is a reality in some way in our lives, that moves us forward into “what now?” What will we do in all of the present moments, in all of the nows that we have available to us? That’s our great adventure. That’s the reason for this podcast. To provide a place for dialogue about the adventure of adoption at its absolute heart feeling, beautiful, best. Let’s be real, also at its, sometimes, heart crushing anguish, worst.
We will share stories. I’ll provide stories from my journey, and I’ll want to hear your stories. Of course, no two adoption stories are exactly the same. Even the adoption journey within one family is experienced from two very, very different perspectives, the perspective of the child and the perspective of the adult. In fact, the experience of one adoptive parent in the same couple can be vastly different, emotionally, than that of the other parent. This was certainly my experience. Who knows, maybe you’ll be one of our live interviews, sharing your story within the next weeks and months. I hope so. Besides adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents and even perspective parents, I will also interview individuals representing various aspects of the adoption arena, to get their insights and suggestions that can be helpful in our present moments. We’ll venture out to resources not directly in the adoption arena, but that have information that can serve us too.
My objective is for this podcast to provide opportunity for celebration, inspiration, empathy, learning, hope, healing, connection and community. I have a great concern for individuals who feel isolated in their adoption experience. I mentioned earlier that no two adoption stories are exactly the same. That’s true, because as we know, no two individuals and their experiences are exactly the same. Sometimes, just finding out that our experiences are not unique provides the first encouraging step toward overcoming the obstacles that we’re facing.
My plan in all future podcasts is to start with an expression of gratitude. A quote from Melody Beattie says, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace to today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” In this, my first podcast, I want to express my deep, deep gratitude that my life is linked to the life of my adopted daughter, Emilia. That is her Russian name. People asking if she’s named after Amelia Earhart have never been popular with her.
I’d like to tell you the first part of our story. You may recognize some parts of it that are very much like your own story. It started in early 2005, when I was sitting in my church worship service on a Sunday morning. I had that knowing moment. That moment that plays inside you when you believe you understand something very clearly for the first time, when the idea is born. My knowing was that there was a child that I was supposed to adopt. I came home and immediately started an internet search to educate myself about adoption requirements. Shortly afterward, I told my husband about my feeling that we were supposed to adopt. I asked if he was willing and he said yes. We started our journey. We were fortunate because we live in Fort Worth, Texas. A well-known adoption agency, the Gladney Center for Adoption, which had been founded 120 years prior to that time, was located in Fort Worth.
We started the process. We filled out the forms and submitted our application to adopt two older girls. Older meaning four years old or older, preferably sisters from the Ukraine. Why older? Because I worked full-time and felt better suited for children that could be enrolled in school. Why sisters? Because I was concerned that one child alone might be lonely. Why the Ukraine? Because my husband and I were 49 and 51 years old, and getting a child from outside the US was the only avenue available to us. Because we were interested in older children, the Gladney folks quickly told us of a wonderful program called Bright Futures, which brings children from various countries to the United States to meet perspective parents. The program focuses on older children. They asked us if we would consider participating in a program for Russian children in the late summer of 2005. We said yes.
We proceeded with the rest of the adoption qualification steps. I refused to look at videos or photographs of perspective children, as I firmly believe that the children that we were supposed to adopt would be provided by God. Therefore, in July 2005, I was surprised when I received an email from Gladney providing pictures of a five-year old girl, not sisters, only one girl. The right girl, the one God had chosen.
In the late summer of 2005, we met this girl that was to become our daughter, Emiliya Nikolayevna Gridina. She stayed with us with for a little over a week in our home. She was bright, energetic, healthy, independent, funny and charming. At the end of the visit, we had to send her back to Russia with the rest of the kids from the Bright Future’s group. I cried. She stood beside me and petted my arm. Then, came our own two trips to Russia to facilitate the adoption process and visit Emilia in the orphanage, one trip on October 2005 and one in February of 2006.
Finally on February of 2006, we stood in the Russian court and we were granted the approval to adopt her as our daughter. On March 6, we brought her to the United States. Now, during the time she had visited with us and when we saw her at the orphanage, things were really very positive. However, a very astonishing thing happened to me the night we picked her up at the orphanage to start the trip home. This was the same night of the day we had been in the Russian court and finalized the adoption.
We went to the orphanage to pick up our daughter. When we climbed in to the car, it was very, very cold. There was lots of deep, deep snow. It was after dark, and we had a four hour trip ahead of us to get to Moscow. When we started that trip, because it was so very cold, I automatically reached out and pulled her to me to snuggle so that she would stay warm. In that moment, my world changed. She shoved me away from her and refused to let me touch her. I remember that moment so clearly. It was the first of many, many painful moments that I was to come to experience in the following days, weeks, months and years. It became clear very quickly that she didn’t want anything to do with me. Other than allowing me to bath her, wash and dry her hair and provide her with food, she didn’t want to be touched by me. She didn’t want to speak to me. She didn’t want to be near me.
Now, she was okay with being near my husband and that was good because that helped us get our home and get her settled. But it was abundantly clear, after we got home to Fort Worth, that the connection and the happiness that we had thought would automatically come, wasn’t showing up. Through a family connection, we were very fortunate to have a young woman who was fluent in Russian live with us the first three months after we came home. She was a young American woman that had worked in Russia in orphanages with Doctors Without Borders. This was an absolute miracle.
One of the things that became very clear, as she and my daughter conversed in Russian, was that our new daughter was completely uninterested in my husband and me. The word that really stuck with me was, “She has disdain for you. She doesn’t care if you’re here or not. She doesn’t want to be your daughter. She doesn’t feel like this is home. You are immaterial to her.” This was a huge blow. She would tolerate my husband’s presence and in fact fell into a very manipulative pattern of interacting with him.
Meanwhile, I could not travel alone with her in a car because she would try to jump out. She would not stay in a room with me alone. She would try to run away. She often flipped the bird at me. She kicked me and bit me. She would hide out of the peripheral vision of other people and flipped the bird at me. It was the start of a very, very difficult time. My world, where I had almost always gotten along easily with family, friends, classmates, colleagues, nieces, nephews, even stepchildren, was now turned upside down. Nothing I tried, the things that had worked for me in the past, none of it seemed to work.
Throughout these podcasts, I will want to share with you a variety of things that have happened in my relationship with my daughter. Spoiler alert, I want you to know that today our relationship is in a very, very different place than where it was when we first brought her home. I am so grateful for the lessons that I’ve learned, for the experiences that I’ve had. But they were not easy, they were not easy for me and they certainly were not easy for my daughter. She did not set out to be difficult. I do not think of her as having done things to me. She’s always done the best she could with what she had to work with, and I’ve done the same.
I recognize now that I was unprepared. I tried to find help. I tried to find resources. But this was at a time that the impact of early childhood trauma was just beginning to really be talked about in the adoption circles. Thankfully today, we have many, many more resources that we can call on, but it’s still not easy. Resources are still not readily available to a lot of adoptive parents. We will explore things that can be done. We will look to experts for advice. We will look to other parents for stories and information. We will share these, our stories. We will look to adopted individuals for their stories and ask them to look on their own experiences to share what worked, what didn’t worked, what they are and were feeling, what they really hoped that they would find in the relationships with their adoptive parents.
The objective is to provide inspiration, hope, healing and a place for stories. The outcomes of relationships created through adoption can be wonderful, and usually they are. My story is a happy one but the road to that reality has been very difficult. I hope your road is easier, but I know for some of you, it’s not. I invite all of you on this journey together.
As I said earlier, it would be my practice to start with a statement of gratitude. It will also be my practice to end with one. Today, my gratitude is for you, you who will participate in this journey and add to these podcasts, so that your experience and your insights and your pain and your immense joy can be helpful to others. Thank you for being here today. I look forward to talking with you next time.