A Real-Life Reunion
I occasionally watch a show called “Holly’s World” on the E! channel. It’s a reality show that follows the life of Holly Madison, an actress/model who earned notoriety for being one of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends.
After their split, she moved on and launched a career independent of the bunnies and is now starring in a show in Las Vegas, in addition to this television show. It’s pure eye candy and mindless television, but occasionally entertaining. It includes her friends and their lives, in addition to her performances, and one of the main characters is a man named Josh Strickland. He is also a professional actor and one of her best friends. (He is a “real” singer and actor, having starred in Broadway musicals such as RENT and Tarzan, in addition to having been on American Idol and having a singing and acting career)
This episode was especially interesting to me because Josh meets his birthmother in this episode. Part of the storyline of this season revealed that Josh was adopted at birth in 1983, and his was a closed adoption.
Through some therapy sessions he revealed a desire to meet his birthmother and find out information about his birthfamily. He revealed to his therapist that he had curiosity about his origins, and was curious about things such as where his musical talent came from, what the story of his relinquishment was, if his birthparents were still alive. So, the magic of television (private investigators hired by the show), kicked in, and this episode (and the one following) revealed that he does in fact, meet his birthmother. Apparently the adoption was closed and his parents did not know anything about his birthmother or birthfamily. They supported him 100% in finding his birthmother, but explained that since all records were sealed they had never been able to find out any information for him. Through an incredibly emotional lunch (with his parents at his side, which I thought was so great), he meets his birthmother and learns a little bit about her background.
Josh and his parents Josh’s mother said, right before they meet Cindy, his birthmother: “I have nothing but admiration for this lady. She gave me a gift. She had to have loved him so much to have given him up for whatever reason it was, so she must be remarkable.” Of course that made me cry! The meeting was very emotional with a lot of happy tears. At first his mom starts to thank Cindy, and his birthmom tries to deflect the thanks. She says: “No, thank YOU, no, you don’t understand, I couldn’t do it. I just prayed he had a mom that could do it.” Then she directed her thoughts to Josh: “I thought about you every day, but I just couldn’t. I was young, I was with a man that did not want babies. I didn’t want an abortion. I wanted you to have a chance. Life is too precious for anybody. I didn’t want you to struggle with me. I wanted you to have a good life and I turned you over to someone who could take care of you. I already had a one and a half year old daughter, and I couldn’t do it. We would have struggled. Her and I struggled hard. I loved you and I have loved you your whole life and I will never stop loving you but I wanted you to have a chance.”Her honesty, even in their emotional reunion (I’m sure there was a lot of catching up off-camera) was so open and heartfelt, you couldn’t help but completely understand and admire his birthmother’s choice to place him for adoption back in 1983.
Cindy reveals that Josh has three half sisters (one older, two younger) and that one of them even attended the same high school as he did, and was two years apart from him. (She did not know where Josh was placed nor that they both lived in the same town).
osh meeting his birthmother, Cindy.They later meet at a restaurant, and it is revealed that the sisters did not know about Josh until recently (presumably, this information was revealed by Cindy to them because of this reunion) and they were also emotional about meeting him. I am really impressed with and thankful for Josh, his parents, Cindy, and his half sisters for allowing parts of their reunion to be shown on television. While I know that the television network was probably trying to sensationalize the experience to get more viewers, they for the most part treated it respectfully and tried to show the positive parts of their reunion. What I really loved was that they included Josh’s parents in the episode during his visit home. They initially showed him at home with his parents, looking at childhood photos and visiting his childhood bedroom. His parents revealed that they had fertility issues and despite taking fertility drugs, his mother was unable to conceive. Both his father and mother spoke so lovingly about how he came to them through adoption and how grateful they are to be his parents. They seem like a lovely couple and very supportive, loving, caring and down to earth people, and it is obvious that Josh has a great relationship with them. He has no siblings, so he was truly the apple of their eye. His mother kept saying that she has always wanted to “grab her around her neck and hug her, and thank her” (Josh’s birthmother) for her “gift”, and when they finally do meet, she does just that. She also tells Cindy that she raised Josh to know that whatever the reason for his placement, that his birthmother must have made the decision out of pure love, saying, “It couldn’t have been anything else but just love”. Josh explains to Cindy that he has never felt angry about being adopted, saying, “There was never hate in my heart about it.” To which Cindy replies, “I did it to save your life. Sometimes love is painful. When you love someone so much you have to let them go.”She then asks about his upbringing, his career and interests, and cries when he tells her that he played the starring role in Tarzan on Broadway and is a professional actor and singer. In a lighthearted tease, she jokes, “Wow I did good!” to which the entire group laughs and cries. In an especially poignant moment, after hearing his mom speak about how great his father was, and how close they are, and what an incredible dad he has been to Josh, Cindy says how happy she is with how he was raised and who his parents are, and that he turned out so well. She comments, “It was worth the pain.”That moment gave me the chills (in addition to the tears streaming down my face!). It reminded me of the book written by Patricia Dischler, “Because I Loved You: A Birthmother’s View of Open Adoption”.Dischler was a pioneer at the time of her placement of her son in the 1970’s, insisting on an Open Adoption when it wasn’t at all the norm. The conclusion to her book tells of her current relationship with her son, and gave me a lot of hope after reading it.I actually contacted Ms. Dischler after reading it and she sent me the most wonderful and supportive email. In it, she told me that just this past year she had the privilege to attend her son’s wedding and see him marry the love of his life. She spoke about how at the time of placement and for years afterward, it was still hard to reconcile the adoption experience, but the Open Adoption arrangement was the thing that not only made it bearable, but was best for everyone. One thing that struck me was that she told me that she had wished she had known, earlier in her placement, how well things would turn out. After being able to attend his high school graduation, and now witness and be part of his wedding, she finally had the peace and conviction that her adoption choice was right all along, that he was where he was always meant to be, and that her adoption choice was the best for him. Now that he is an adult, she sees how well he is doing and that the life his adoptive parents provided for him was amazing, and that gives her a lot of solace and closure. She had faith in her decision, but it was having the updates and photos and ability to meet him when he was older that really gave her some peace. I have a feeling that Cindy was able to find a lot of closure and peace in meeting Josh’s parents, hearing about his childhood, and knowing that he has had an amazing and great life. It is just too sad that it took 28 years for her to meet him! After watching this episode I realized that 28 years is way too long for a birthparent to meet their child for the “first time”. (Cindy mentions that she was able to spend only six hours with him in the hospital). It is also way too long for an adopted child to find out information about their biological roots and origins. It is unfair for a child to grow up knowing that they are adopted but no information about their birth family. I also think that it is wrong to raise a child who is adopted and never tell them that they are adopted. The joy that everyone involved had experienced was amazing, but there is also some struggles to come. Josh mentions, upon returning home to Las Vegas, that he is overwhelmed with all of this information, and feels sad that he couldn’t stay longer to spend time with his birthfamily. It also shows him speaking to his adoptive parents, assuring them that they will always be his parents and that he loves and adores them no matter what. Reunion and building relationships takes time, and they are navigating a unique road. I really wish them all the best in getting to know each other and hopefully becoming a part of each others’ lives. I feel that while a reunion of any type is better than no reunion at all, they could have saved years of “what if’s” and had the answers to the questions and unknowns that have probably plagued him for years. He kept saying how he felt so much more at peace and that finally some part of him had been resolved. It spoke volumes when they showed a shot of him meeting Cindy, while his parents were right alongside, and he said:”Now that I have met her, there are so many pieces of the puzzle that have been put together. Now I can really move on and respect the life I have and what I have been given.”In this, he was referring to his parents, the upbringing and resources that he had, their support in his choice of career, in helping him develop his unique talents, and their friendship, love and parenting. Honestly, I hope Bluebell one day, of course when she’s older, can recognize that the choice to place her for adoption wasn’t easy or a quick fix, but it gave her the best possible parents and environment and opportunities and resources. I KNOW that her parents are providing her the stable and loving family I wanted for her, and that it will make all the difference in her life. Josh didn’t really come out and say this, but it was apparent that his birthmother had raised his older sister and went on to have two more daughters, and was probably a single mom or a divorced mom for much of that time. Not that being a single parent is a bad thing at all, but you could see that Josh truly comprehended what her adoption choice gave him and provided him, and he was very thankful and appreciative of that. I am also really impressed that Cindy was willing to be on television after 28 years of having a closed adoption, and not having told her other children until recently. It must be very tough to place a child for adoption when you already have children (Cindy had a young daughter when she was pregnant with him) and also, explaining an adoption decision to children that a birthparent is or has parented. She was very brave to let the show come into her life about such a private thing. I thought one of the cutest things was when he was talking with his parents about their emotional day and how he felt about meeting her and his sisters.His dad, soft-spoken but with a heart of gold, was so sweet, saying: “Now when you come home you have two places to stay. If you don’t like what we are cooking, you can go over to Cindy’s house!” The fact that his parents allowed the reunion and their reactions and comments to be shown on a television show is really amazing, and I am so thankful that they participated. While the show has nothing to do with adoption, by including the adoptive parents and showing what a great relationship they have with their son, and their support of his desire to meet his birthfamily, I hope it inspires all members of the triad to reach out and try to build bonds between each other. I read a lot of blogs and sadly I have read a lot that talk about adoptions becoming closed over time, or birth parents feeling shut out. I also read about adoptive parents feeling frustrated because birth parents are not in contact or don’t want to develop a deeper relationship with the child or parents, and I think that is wrong. As a woman pregnant with a child, I knew the minute I was pregnant that I was 100% responsible for her, and that I needed to put her first always. I did not see adoption as a “quick fix” where I just have a baby, give her to a waiting couple with open arms, and never look back. I comprehended and knew, even before relinquishment, that my responsibility to her was for a lifetime, and even more so as a birthmother. By choosing adoption and by choosing to become a birthmother, I do have an obligation and a duty to develop a relationship with her parents, be present and available to them and to her, and to maintain a connection with her my entire life. I am her mom, though not her forever, day to day mom, I brought her into this world and I have always felt, down to my gut that part of the privilege of carrying a pregnancy and bringing this amazing little being to the world came with a very important responsibility. That is to make sure she knows who she is, where she came from, her background, her story. True, I hope to never have to tell her what a jerk DNA was or that I was truly frustrated and scared during a lot of my pregnancy. However, The Wonderfuls and I have already spoken about how her adoption story will be presented to her and I am confident that we can tell her the truth without having to go into detail about some of the more unpleasant parts. I’m in this for the long haul. Signing my parental rights away doesn’t absolve me from the tie that will always bind us, and I think that is why Open Adoption is so important. She will know who I am, and won’t wonder for 28 years what I look like. I won’t worry day in and day out, hoping her adoptive parents are kind and supportive people. Open Adoption provides the best of the situation; knowledge, the shared concern and love for the child, and a foundation for the child to form a solid sense of self. I am really glad I watched this episode and wish Josh lots of luck in developing relationships with his birthfamily and birthmom. He seems like a very well adjusted and caring person, and his parents obviously did an amazing job in raising him. I hope that both families can now come together as part of each others’ extended family, and the healing process can be part of that.