Must Read Books by Anna Maria Didio

As an adopted adult adoptee, a Mother with a much-blended family, and a writer myself, I guess I am well-placed to review these exceptional pieces of writing by the inspired Anna Maria Didio

The first book I had the pleasure to review is “Many People to Love “

Anna begins the book by offering candid and valuable advice to parents looking to adopt or who have already welcomed a child into their lives by adoption. Such advice as remembering that a show of anger is most likely a cry for help, a sign of inner trauma and pain. She also suggests that honesty, when questions arise, is 100% paramount. I am pleased to see she also clarifies that the journey of Adoption is rewarding if turbulent.

The story focuses on little Carla and her journey through the care system. From the secure world of her orphanage to adoption. Her earliest memories are of a favoured caregiver Rosa, who gently brushed her hair, and clearly loved her. Carla was placed for adoption into a world of uncertainty. She encounters new smells, and new toys and feels misplaced in her new environment.

It’s interesting to me how early on you feel a sense of insecurity from the pages as Carla experiences a series of ‘Adoption parties’ which I have discomfort with myself. The thought of a child meeting and being greeted and hugged by strangers who take away her friends whilst she is left unselected.

I feel for Carla until…. at last a family!

The story goes on to describe a new life of love and change and of course uncertainty. I like the way this book shows the side of adoption that runs deep within all of us who have lived experience. There is rarely a time I remember that I didn’t wonder if I would be ‘sent back’. This carries into adulthood and becomes a feeling of ‘ When will I be rejected?’

As well as being different genetically and therefore visually, the expectation is ingrained. The anxiety that one step out of line and the world will turn upside down. The book resonated with me and my family and I had expected that to be honest. I suspect that is why Anna reached out to me to review her work.

Much of the book is great education for prospective adopters as Carla gradually flexes her emotional muscle and acts out. I know hope many adopters read this as it is a child-friendly way of explaining what is actually very complex.

Many adoptees ‘act up’ as a way to say ‘ I don’t get it, what’s happening here, Help me understand!’

Some adoptees act out through aggression, to be heard. Some will fight the biological children of their new parents. Some might hide food, as a sign that they don’t trust where the next meal is coming from. Others might just steal for attention. Bedwetting is super common, as is an irrational need to be ‘sent back’ as that is where they remember first feeling safe and wanted. Albeit a temporary first home, children shouldn’t be expected to know that at the time. It’s hard to fathom how confusing this is to a child.

Imagine everything you had at the beginning of your life, all the things that become familiar to you. The smell of perhaps one person who gives you regular cuddles. Favourite treats, probably given to you by that same person. Your first bedroom with your favourite toys tucked in under the duvet with you to help you sleep. Early friendships, maybe at nursery or with children of your caregivers. The private childish jokes shared with those you know. The confidence to ask for simple things, like can you use the toilet.

Now, I want you to imagine a clean slate. All of these things in your life evaporate into thin air and are replaced by new and unknown people, smells, and rules, in a whole different environment.

Not so easy to get your mind around, is it? And you, my dear reader, are an adult….imagine yourself as if you were your childlike self..Pretty scary isn’t it?

There is one area of the book I would say is perhaps oversimplified. Where it suggested that every placement for an adoptee is a precious gift and assumed the child would eventually be entirely happy. Thankfully in many cases, this is the situation.

However, in some, we know the outcome simply isn’t a positive one…

But this book is written for adults and their adopted children, so I get that the narrative has to focus on those with positive outcomes, so I too embraced the happy ending.

This well-scribed book appeals as it embraces several very real aspects of adoption. Transracial and the importance of recognizing your child’s history and culture. It also highlights the need to respect the need for continued communication with treasured early-life carers and how this is not a threat but a blessing to all involved.

Long-term relationships in your child will be more easily established and maintained if early contacts are, at the very least in the background of their upbringing

An easy read with lovely illustrations whilst retaining its serious messages, pertinent to both adults and children.

All in all, I highly recommend this book in particular to prospective Transracial Adopters and their children

Anna’s second Book from her L.I.F.E Adventures series is “How I Wonder Where You Are”

How I Wonder Where You Are by Anna Maria DiDio

In this second story featuring Carla, her journey takes her towards her teens. She has settled into her family life and has become more secure in the knowledge she wont be ‘sent back’ Her family are also embracing her needs and her heritage. They are learning some Spanish as a fun family pastime and learning to show empathy for the fact Carla left much of her own ‘self’ behind when she was adopted.

Transracial adoption is only going to be successful if the adopting family…including extended family , allow the child to be herself. Knowing where you are from and who you might have been being so important for an adoptee. I’m happy this book addresses these issues both eloquently and sympathetically.

For Carla, her biggest questions are, who her Birth Mother is, why she gave her up and whether she thinks of her. The story addresses a fairly common, yet questionable exercise, popular in schools. Actually, there are two such ‘projects’ that massively trigger an adopted child within the school setting. I’ve been there, and am just waiting for my son to be put through this misadventure. One of these misjudged homework assignments is for the child to produce a baby photo. As many parents of adoptees will agree, early baby photos may be few and far between if exist at all. For a child to be asked to produce one causes confusion not only by their transracial placement but by adoption itself. I wish those responsible for writing school syllabi would think long and hard about the effect of these projects on adopted children in their care.

This book addresses the second potentially triggering school assignment that is common today. Write your family tree. Now, I am not saying this isn’t a worthwhile activity because it is. However, if you are adopted it takes a lifetime to feel that you slot into that family tree as if you were born into it. Your roots determine your family tree and they differ from those written in the existing tree of your adopters. Trust me, no amount of platitudes or political correctness will change how that feels.

So for me, my family tree is biological and that is only possible since I have been in reunion with my biological Mother, and my siblings on both sides. That’s just a fact, not romance. That is what a family tree is. You, your siblings, your parents, their parents and so on…

My adoptive family have a biological Family tree and I sit vicariously upon one of the branches. Sometimes I am perfectly comfortable there, although the expectation is to feel unfailing gratitude for my position perched on it.

Other times I have an arse full of splinters and am constantly awaiting the branch to snap from my weight!

Carla is tasked with creating this family tree and the author explores the emotional repercussions with sympathy and clarity. I applaud Anna for this as it’s a tricky one.

The theme of this simple yet heartfelt book is not knowing where an adoptee comes from. Always remember the ‘Where’ really refers to the ‘Who’ How I wonder where you are is a message asking where is my Mother. Where are you and why am I here and not with you, right there. I empathize strongly with this as most of my life I asked the same question. It’s not a slight to my adopter, I love my Adoptive family, although sadly it was taken as such (see Unconditional Love) to the detriment of our relationship forever.

Anyway, Carla navigates her way through with the help of her family and I especially liked how Anna highlighted how this question was most pertinent on Carla’s Birthday. After all, if a Birthmother puts their child to the back of their mind, surely on their birthday they must dominate their thoughts?!

How I wonder Where You Are by Anna Maria DiDio

So to conclude. I enjoyed this second book more than the first but mainly as I could empathize with Carla more due to her being older. My childhood memories are more acute from this age onwards.

Both books are simply written and propose a clear message. Anna has a definite understanding of both adoptee and adopter (as do I) which is rare in an author. Having read both to myself and to my son I think they will become invaluable in his ongoing understanding of his own adoption and his feelings around it. I am a firm believer in bite-sized portions of information. As these books are designed for children, I recommend they sit amongst your child’s other story books as they have a clear yet harmless tone.

Do read them before you read to your children as they have areas you may want to highlight and give different levels of emphasis.

Many thanks, Anna, for trusting me to Review your excellent Adoption based books…

Anna Maria DiDio, MSW is an Adoption L.I.F.E. Coach and adoptive parent, writer, speaker, and women’s advocate. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two grown-up daughters. She is a best-selling Adoption and Children’s book author. For more information about Anna, and to purchase her books directly please visit her website here: www.amdidio.com

Readers, as always thanks for being here

Much love, Black Sheep xxx

Sunday Thought

Amazing how a humourous MEME has the power to evoke a blog post out of me! I shared this on twitter and as it became something of a rant, I decided to share it here too .. Anyways. Looking at this image brought up a train of thought that obviously needed sharing with you

I’m laughing cos this made me think of my AM. She’s now classed in hospital as a “frequent faller,” when I had my first child at 36 I was a “geriatric mother” Love how this country generalize so easily. If I react negatively to obvious racism I’m “an angry black woman”.

If an adoptee reacts outwardly instead of the preferred silence, and dares suggest someone is offence, they are “overly sensitive ” If an adoptee has to correct  a statement of “fact” about how it feels to be adopted , they are “ungrateful”

Deflated

If we have to point out that we need support from our Adopters to find our history , we are ” hurtful and insensitive” to our adopters.

If we take steps to trace our birth family , we are “Shunning our upbringing and should be satisfied to have been rescued”

If we don’t show gratitude endlessly by denying we existed before our adoption ,we don’t deserve unconditional love

We should accept that our lives began only once the ink had dried on our adoption papers and not a minute before

It’s fair to say this list is not in any way exhaustive ..but writing it so far I am already exhausted!!

Thanks for reading

Much love always

Black Sheep xxx

I Miss You Dad

A year ago today you took your last breath,  

I’m guessing they call it “a peaceful death”

Activity, noise and faces in those last few days

Yet felt like any other day in so many ways

I’d arrive, make the tea

Sit beside you and chat

Fill the air with banal nonsense

About this, about that

More visitors than in the previous 2 years

We had to accept a future ending in tears

The quiet broken by the morphine pump bleep

Unaware as you drift in and out of your sleep

Oddly comforting as it meant no more pain

Surely it’s wrong to see the sunshine, not rain

Your breath is shallow and your eyes slightly open

I convinced myself you heard every word that was spoken

We told you we loved you, I placed flowers near your head

I have no regrets; every word had been said

I remember the whole week, yet every day  I’d feel dread

District Nurses, the Hospice, faithful carers by your bed

Everyone waiting and holding their breath

There’s nothing harder than waiting for death

Not something you wish for but know it’s the end

They say time heals, that broken hearts mend

Surreal to be witness to the end of your life

My brother and I supporting your wife

Your strength was unfailing, as was your will

Life carried on while it seemed to stand still

whilst my heart broke and tears stung my eyes

your soul was released and took to the skies

The last time I saw you, your face wasn’t you,

so gaunt and withdrawn, your smile wasn’t there

No longer my Daddy, a shell of yourself

I just couldn’t bear to see more of you leave

I kissed you goodbye and started to grieve

Thank goodness for photos of your heart-stopping grin

The one person who had faith, encouraged me to win

“Parkinson’s mask”, they say takes a man’s smile,

Well, it only took yours for a very short while

Your smile was too powerful, your will was too strong

So much it did take but you still battled on

Disease took so much, your dreams, so much hope

You amazed us, with your courage, ability to cope

You fought 15 years, from diagnosis to the end

Such dignity, so stoic, your glass  still half full

An honour to call you my Hero, my Dad

If I have half of your courage, I’d be grateful and glad

You battled on, no word of complaint, your soul held on strong

Letting go was hard but relief for you can’t be wrong

I know when you’re near me, see signs you’re close by

A robin, a butterfly or words in a song

You pop into my head

I’ll see your face in a cloud

You’ve got my back, on my side

I acknowledge you out loud

I know it was time, you couldn’t take anymore

With pain and discomfort, and everything sore

Rest easy my hero and stay by my side

From the day that you chose me, to the day that you died

Until together again, you’ll stay safe in my heart

Keep guiding and smiling down from above

Raise your face to the sunshine, I’ll hold my head up high

Despite my best efforts I can’t help but cry

I know that you hear me when I say “Love you Dad”

I keep myself busy, to avoid feeling sad

You can see me touch your photo and then sigh

You wrap arms around me when I break down and cry

You meant everything to me and so much more

Your strength and wisdom, so easy to adore

I miss you, can’t believe a year has flown by

Treasured memories, but I knew that you’d die

Taking comfort, you’re rested and healed up above

I will live my life and still feel your love

One day we’ll hug again and not be apart

Rest easy my hero, forever in my heart

Love and Miss you Dad xxx

Mother’s Day Looming

As we get nearer to Hallmarks favourite occasion, We see many social media posts on Mother’s Day that rip the guts from an adoptee..if only it were so neat to wrap up a mother’s love in a pretty pink bow…I don’t apologize for “not everyone” statements as on Twitter they are jumped on…(like I care!?) But I press on anyway. What makes folk uncomfortable makes for enlightenment…so here goes…
I hate Mother’s Day as an adoptee, I love it as a mother to my children .Who doesn’t love chocolate? Shite like this fb post below hurts my heart .It painfully discounts those whose mother’s in all guises have never mothered unconditionally..those who want the world to embrace this perfect image of family bonds that should be naturally strong and not forced, or worse, for show… not everyone can feel that pull to their mother…that’s what breaks My heart…Until my biological family embraced and welcomed me unconditionally I didn’t know how fucked up my Adoptive upbringing had been…no expectations or emotional blackmail, just warmth and love .No payback for services rendered, just respect. No punishments, subtle or not so subtle for stepping out of the perfect socially accepted bubble…just love….my BM sends me daily prayers to covert me..I still love her as it’s from a place of pure love …my Admom manipulates and gaslights me whilst claiming it’s love. I’ve two mother’s yet none…

Its true that deep down I know I’m loved and love her. I’m hoping I can heal the deep seated wounds before it’s too late. I know I won’t get an apology and certainly cba to ask for one.. Narcissistic parenting is common but no less painful once it’s taken hold. If only I knew her past, her trauma, her loss . Maybe I could feel empathy for her. A closed book. When I bought my late father a journal for us to work on together , she was so jealous I bought her one too. My dads didn’t get far as he struggled to talk by that stage so I regret not getting it sooner.. I did learn about his love of school, his first best friend and his relationship with his siblings. My mother said she would probably tweak the questions to suit herself..in other words they were too sensitive to her, especially the question “Is there anything you would like to apologize for!?” Well that was expected but the reality no less hurtful.

im guilty of still needing to do same for my children…yet I have published my journey so they’ll have that one day. For Mother’s day all I need is my children’s love. I’m proud I’ve broken the cycle of mothering that she raised me and my adoptive siblings with.

Bizarrely many of my siblings have no clue about having a mother at all yet they make amazing mother’s themselves

I do love both my mothers. However, I don’t view either as my mother. One I love very deep down for doing her best even if left me damaged as an adult. The other I love on an animalistic level. She grew me inside her yet due to circumstances gave me away ..(I prefer “gave away” to “gave up”)

Let me explain the subtle difference

Gave Away. This suggests that for a child entering the world with an agreement to be adopted, it’s already decided they are to be given away to someone or something else..maybe one day to be reunited

Gave Up. I don’t believe a single birth mother on this planet willingly Gave up on their child. They hope for eventual reunification, hope the parting is temporary and that one day they would see that child again.

So I prefer the term Gave Away . It’s clearer and more real.

Still as heartbreaking but for the Birth mothers reality it’s closer to the truth…

And so for all that said, I wish both my Mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. But for me I’ll lay low and cuddle my amazing children ..

Thanks for reading …

Much Love, Black Sheep xxx

My Mothers

A Light in the Darkness

It’s been an interesting start to 2022. Seeing a new Chapter of my life start without my beloved Dad, but life has to go on. Starting a new job , loving it and it’s for a Charity that helped Dad in the end stage of his life which makes me love it even more.

Schools went back then within days my girl gets bloody Covid19. Thank goodness had a jab as really poorly with it as it is. I do think anyone who is a Covid19 sceptic should see her right now as it’s really unpleasant

I’m hopeful I’ve made a breakthrough in how to communicate with my Mother ,and my brothers, without putting myself in harm’s way. I arranged a family zoom meeting yesterday which worked well..With both brothers there I felt less vulnerable for verbal attack and actually enjoyed the catch up. Maybe that’s the solution going forward. After an upsetting visit around my Birthday (Christmas) I struggled with how 2022 was going to look . Fingers crossed this could work as a Covid19 safe, Emotional safe , Anxiety free space for my adoptive family.

Since Dad died I’ve felt his approval for my distancing from my Mother’s behavior. “Hate the behavior not the person” right. His undeniable loyalty to her was amazing but I’m sure the face she showed him was rarely the face she shows the world . That makes me feel sad for him even now. And sad for her. It’s got to be exhausting showing yourself as someone you believe to be a better person that you feel inside. Yet he still adored her despite the likely control.

I recognize her fragility, her insecurity and her own sense of disappointment. I wish for her she could look inside and be true to herself. I’ve never stopped feeling the need to have her approval…her pride in me.. even just to feel genuine love for me as her child. Even if this is deep within her , it’s never been felt or shown . That will always hurt but I have to swallow it as it hurts only me, I realize that now. I’m working on that not mattering to me, it’s a work in progress..at great expense! I laugh with my Therapist that even my Counseling is about her!! I must be quite the cash cow as so many webs to unpick all in one person. He’s proud of how far I’ve come…from a daily weeper.. to a knowledge worker on all things Narcissist!! But he’s still a long way to go with this psyche. I’m yet to believe I’m worthy or good enough or even a valuable person in the world. Hopefully it will come. For now I’m just trying to figure out how to love myself as much as I love my family and friends .

If I could look down on my life from above, maybe where my Dad stands? I see life as offering such promise… opportunity to grow into another character for my book, whilst still being my best self. My family and treasured friends have held my hand throughout what now is my past life.

New hair…I’m reinventing myself…been braided for 20 years…now rocking my inner Chaka Khan with big bouncy curls. New Job.. albeit part time , after working from home over 20 years I am actually going out to work! Feels like I belong in a new world of my choosing. I’m loving it and still enjoy the work I do at home. I’m no longer just Mum, Wife, home maker, cleaner, cook, Uber!!? .. I have a valuable place in a role that gives back. A Charity that sees to it that end of life for people like Dad can pass away in pain free peace with the glow of love around them . I’m honoured I can do something worthwhile and love it at the same time. Feels meaningful. That’s what’s called a “Win Win” 😜

Anyway, while I continue to grieve my Dad, I know he is proud of me. Proud of who I am and how I conduct myself in life. I miss him so much but am happy he’s at peace and free of struggle, pain and despair. I’m certainly proud of him and for his memory I won’t turn my back on my Mother. That would have been the easy thing to do in reality. The more courageous thing is to set strong boundaries and manage our communication to protect myself and my family from upset.

She knows, as do all the people in my life, that finding my biological siblings has given me a place to really belong. Until I had them in my life I knew nothing of how a biological family would look. It’s easy, simple, honest. It’s comfortable, genuine and raw. I’m a big sister and a little sister …I feel loved, oddly admired and accepted like never before. They are all my world and I will never ever make apology for that. They are my family too.

So I continue to straddle the tightrope between my two worlds. That’s just how adopted life has to work.

On one side the family I adored who raised me to be who I was meant to be , yet as I see how different I am from them (not just physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually (they’re intellectual not me …I like to think I’m street wise and creative.. works for me anyway!) I realize I need to see myself as worthy, as a good person with a value in the world. I’m trying hard with help for that as still doubt it to be honest. Maybe 2022 will be my turning point?

On the other side of my taut strung tight rope is my biology. My BM who I love like a big sister, she will never be a Mother to me but is equally important. Also the huge tribe of siblings I now have in my life. Only in my world just 4 years yet as if for my whole life. Having known about me all their lives they reached out to find and embrace me. I feel the warmth of their love even in the 2 year gap of meeting due to COVID-19. After 2 years, meeting again was as if we are in each other’s lives daily. An hour long Happy Birthday call on my Birthday , then a Happy New Year video message. These meant so much to me, I cried. They don’t see it as a huge gift. For me it’s the world.

And so 2022 holds new promise. A year to reinvent myself , find a way through the past darkness that descends when least expected. I will navigate the two worlds whilst ensuring they never collide. I will continue to wear two hats, “Biological” and “Adopted”. It’s got to be safer on my mental health to keep these worlds separate, like parallel lines on a train track. Neither harming the other , both spared from the anxiety of trying to find a place in the other. Like a square peg in a round hole…never gonna fit.

Anyway, I wanted to share with you a poem I came across which sums up how my grief for Dad still hangs in my heart , like a black cloud that lifts then descends. I am sharing it here as I know in my head I could hear him saying these very worlds…

A light in the darkness
That’s what I wish to be
When you feel lost and all alone
Let me be the one light you can see

A light to illuminate a path
When you are feeling lost
To never, ever give up hope
No matter what the cost

A light to guide you from the dark
To a better place where you can see
The future is not completely lost
From your burdens you can be free

A light of peace and of hope
Of kindness, understanding and love
That you are important, yes you matter
Hold your head up, look up above

A light that gives you promise
That in your heart hope’s flame burns inside
Treasure all things that are good
Let my light become your guide

A light that in time you will take and share
With someone, who was just like you
Then you will be their beacon of hope
Just like my light has been for you

By
Stephen G schuller

Thanks for reading Sheepsters! 🤗

Much love Black Sheep xxx

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