Duty ?

Today’s story –

I was privately adopted as a baby. I was raised by my adoptive parents and 2 of their biological sons. My adoptive father was my favorite in the family. He took care of me and loved me and stuck by me, but more so for his biological sons. Even so, I felt closest to him. I’m 52 years old now. I have been taking care of my adoptive parents for about 5 yrs as a live-in caretaker.

My adoptive dad died 2 months ago and now I am stuck with my loveless, bitter, jealous adoptive mother who never seemed to like or love or want me. I believe she adopted me for charity status and attention.

Now that my adoptive father isn’t here to buffer her emotional abuse and filter her words for me, I am living in a nightmare situation. She doesn’t want me here but needs me. I feel like I owe her because that’s how she’s always made me feel. I’m grieving the loss of my adoptive father.

This happens. Both of my parents were adoptees and they both ended up having to care for or make arrangements for the care of their adoptive parents and to administer their estates (which is the most thankless job, I can tell you now because I had to help my dad after my mom died and administer their estate after he died 4 months later). It was my parents examples that allowed me to muddle through it and see it to the conclusion of all the related affairs. My adoptive grandparents were all good people. My mom’s adoptive father died early on and left my adoptive grandmother living alone for decades. My mom did have a difficult relationship with her adoptive mother but my adoptive grandmother’s decline certainly turned some tables between them, which I do believe was healing – somewhat.

One bit of advice for the adoptee trapped in difficult circumstances above (which I do agree with) was this – You don’t owe her anything. Coordinate her care with her insurance and take care of your emotional health.

Being a full time caretaker for someone who mistreats you should never be the duty of any person. This kind of work can be handled by others who are trained to do it. I can understand if there is love and care between the persons but if it isn’t there, it is better to get one’s self out of the role.

This thought occurred to me as well –  She has two sons to take care of her. Where are they? Also there are wonderful old folks homes, where people chose to do this work and get paid to take care of the elderly. This is not your job.

This is not (sadly) an unusual situation – I had that same relationship with my adoptive mom. She was abusive yet felt entitled to my attention because she “sacrificed soooo much” for me. I cut ties with her two years ago. I have no intention of ever speaking to her again. Birthdays, holidays, deathbed, NOTHING. You don’t owe her ANYTHING. If you are able to walk away, do it.. and never feel guilty for it.

From another – You don’t owe her your life and happiness. Is there a way to navigate getting her a state guardian or some other sort of assisted living arrangement? Do what serves your whole-self. And another – At the very least her sons should share the load. People take care of their parents when they age, out of love and charity, not because they HAVE to. You don’t owe her that for adopting you. What you’re doing is selfless.

There is serious truth in this one – Taking care of a parent is hard under the best circumstances. Adoptive and abusive add layers of complexity. I was in a similar situation with my adoptive parents and my mental health improved drastically when I moved out. And truth in this one too – You don’t owe her anything. Anything and everything she did for you growing up was her job and responsibility to do as a parent. Anything and everything she did to diminish you growing up, that was also her choice. If you choose not to sacrifice your happiness, sanity, mental health, and peace to be her caretaker, that’s just a consequence of her choices and actions. It’s okay to choose yourself and put yourself first.

I understand this reality as well – The problem with “put her in a home” or “there are wonderful elder-care homes” is that most of those “homes” are run, often by large corporate entities that own many such “facilities,” for profits and cause much misery and too early death to the helpless folks stuck into them. 

My parents and my in-laws all wanted to die at home with family. I am thankful that all of them were able to have these wishes fulfilled but none of these were cruel and abusive. That changes the choices one must make for their own good. We also had to have the help of paid care-takers in addition to our management of their situations.

Glad I Was

1997 with my adoptee parents, apologies for the blurry quality

With Thanksgiving on my mind, I was remembering an email from my mom in which she told me she had to stop doing a family tree on Ancestry because it just wasn’t “real.” Both of my parents were adopted. Then, she added “glad I was” but that never really seemed genuine to me and the more I’ve learned about adoption and the trauma of separating a baby from its mother, the more I doubt she sincerely was grateful that it had happened, yet that was the reality and there was no way to change that. In a weird way though, I learned to be grateful that both of my parents had been adopted because otherwise, I would not exist and I am grateful for the life I have lived.

Learning my parents’ origin stories (they both died clueless), which was also my own ancestors’ stories brought with it a deep sense of gratitude for me, that I had not been given up for adoption when my mom discovered she was pregnant with me. By the ways of that time in history (early 1950s), she should have been sent away to have and give me up, only to return to her high school in time to graduate (she was a junior at the time of my conception and birth). The photo I have at the top of my blog are the pictures I now have of each of my original grandmothers holding one or the other of my parents as infants.

I continue to be grateful that I grew up with the parents who conceived me and then raised me throughout my childhood. I’ve heard many adoptees say that having biological, genetic children of their own made them fully aware of what being adopted had taken from them. At least, my parents had each other. I do continue to credit my dad’s adoptive parents with preserving me in our family. They were also a source of financial support for my parents during my earliest years. First, giving them space in their own home and me a dresser drawer bassinet. Then, an apartment in their multi-family building until my dad had saved up enough and was earning enough working shifts (and sometimes two shifts in a row) at an oil refinery to buy a house for our family.

In 2014, I experienced the last Thanksgiving with my parents. I knew their health was declining but I still expected to have yet another Thanksgiving with them in 2015. However, my mother passed away in late September and my father only 4 months later. They had been high school sweethearts and had been married over 50 years. My dad just didn’t find life worth continuing on with after his wife died. I knew that in the days after her death but then he sucked it up and tried. One morning, he simply didn’t wake up. He died peacefully with a bit of a smile on his face. I think he must have seen my mom waiting for him to join her.

That last Thanksgiving with my parents

Sharing Some Thoughts

Adoptee Julian Washio-Collette

From Dear Adoption

I complied choicelessly when you took me from my mother’s authorized 10 minute embrace the day after I was born, such was your generosity. I did not resist when you placed me into the hands of strangers who fostered me, and then did it again two months later when I met my adopters for the first time. Why did everyone smell and sound and feel so strange? You gave no reply. 

You did not ask for my consent when you changed my name and falsified my birth records and hid my family from me. But I went along with your interventions, as a child must. Why, though, did you put me with a couple who would soon despise one another? Did you not see that coming? Oh, but I endured the divorce like a champ, buttoned my lip. Always your faithful servant. I must say, you almost broke me when my adoptive mother then decided she didn’t want me anymore and relinquished me when I was nine years old. But I endured. I always endure.

Being adopted a second time as an older child was pretty awful. Tough love from dear adoption. Tough it out. You changed my name and falsified my birth records again, and now two families were hidden from me by force of law. Wow, that was hard. I mean, the impressions I retain of my first family are strong and enduring but you did succeed in stealing their names and their identities from me. Did you really think, though, that I could forget the people I knew at nine years old? Well, I tried. God knows I tried. 

Remember the time when my second adopters unknowingly took me to my old neighborhood, where I lived with my first adoptive mother who I am supposed to forget? You sure put me in some unique and challenging circumstances. Builds character, I guess. Is that what I should call you? Character builder? Anyway, we went into an ice cream shop. I was in my own world, really, trying to puzzle things out, or just leave the real world behind. I was fantasizing about having the superpower of being able to disappear, to make myself invisible, when some old friends from my old elementary school walked in. Talk about awkward! You said the first nine years of my life never really happened. What was I to do? They noticed me, called me by my old name. I froze. I was trying to be faithful to you! You told me to forget my past but you neglected to tell me that it might sneak up on me again like this. I had to wing it, which is a lot to ask of a child. Too much, really. So I just stood there, mute, numb. You really should have given me an instruction manual for such anomalies. My new adopters weren’t much help, either. They were as mute and numb on the car ride home as I was. Pretend nothing happened. Hey! That would make a great motto for you, don’t you think? Dear Adoption: Pretend Nothing Happened.

I do say, as compliant as I am, I have to question your judgment. How could you have put me with yet another couple who would come to despise one another? Was that on purpose? I guess you must have had some high expectations for building my character! Well, there was another divorce but I was used to that by then. Getting thrown out of my house…wait, was that my house? Well, whosever house that was, being forcibly made houseless at sixteen was a bit of a curveball but, hey, I’m made of tough stuff. You made sure of that!

I walked away from my adopters’ home for good with a large plastic garbage bag of clothes and other belongings slung over my back. It was the middle of the night. I had nowhere to go. You cut me to pieces and left me bereft of family, of friendship, of kindness. You shaped me to be so utterly alone. You placed an impossible burden of forgetting on my shoulders and forced me into roles and relationships that didn’t fit, that were disposable. And you disposed of me. I should call you mother! You broke me down and scrubbed me clean so that you could create me according to your own image. Surely, as I walked into that uncertain night, I had no mother but you. I slipped my hand into your cold, ghostly grip. Now it’s just the two of us, you whispered, as you wrapped me in privation and ushered me into the world.

Julian Washio-Collette leads a mostly quiet life with his wife, Lisa, in a cabin tucked away behind a monastery in the glorious coastal wilderness of Big Sur, California. He blogs occasionally.

Tapping Into The Origin Story

My Origin Story. Certainly, discovering that has been true for me as I learned about my adopted parents origins and meeting biological, genetically related family for the first time at well over 60 years old. Learning this became more real than anything else that I had previously believed about my life. And this had indeed changed my focus as far as writing goes.

Before I chose to be born of these parents, I must have known they were both adoptees and that they had been separated from the parents who conceived them. This then really is my origin story. This became the north star of my day, constantly pulling me and allowing me to bring this eternal something into time.

I know not all attempts at a reunion for people impacted by adoption turn into happily ever after stories. Mine didn’t really. I mean it didn’t turn into relationships with a lot of substance but they were real ones – after living a deception really – all my life.

If you embark on this quest, you will see there are these little, tiny moments along the course of your lifetime that have allowed you to see beyond the story you could not know before. It impresses upon you all the time and encroaches upon your awareness. It is the real reality and while these may seem like little tiny moments, they are not really little. Fall in love with these moments. Yes, a part of you will probably be nervous about how you will be received. That’s not the truth of what your quest is really about, even if it seems that way. These moments of touching your origin story, will guide your steps, your thoughts, your conversations, your deeds and you will bring into everything you are doing, this love, beauty and intelligence that is seeking to move you to your goal.

Notice when suddenly, grace appears.

I was always interested in knowing where my parents actually did come from. Then, one day, my cousin called to tell me that she had obtained her father’s (my uncle, my mom’s brother) adoption file. This was something I had long wanted to do regarding my mom, who had been denied her own adoption file when she was seeking that. Now, I knew that it was possible.

So, suddenly, something happens and the wall is gone and regardless of how it actually turns out okay you are still here, okay, and still alive with a wholeness you lacked before. It was that moment when I knew that I had achieved this goal.

If you embark on this journey, you will have to do something but an energy will also be pulling you forward. You will find that the obstacles, hindrances, and the obstructions you thought were there, actually have no power over you. With persistence and determination, you will get where you are hoping to go.

The vision of becoming whole becomes more real than the circumstances you knew before you began. I know. I didn’t expect that to happen to me but it did. While I still love the people who played the role of grandparents in my life until they died, when I think of “my” grandparents now, I think of those people (and the people they came from and the people who have come from them) as my “real” family. Even if I lack that lifetime of experiences with them.


Regret from a Birth Father

Why I relinquished a son to adoption,
and why I never would again
~ Ridghaus

Today’s blog is thanks to a sharing by Amber Moore Jimerson. You can read the full, original story there. I have edited and condensed it for this blog.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was relinquishing my son to an adoptive couple. I would not find the words for the feelings surrounding my decision, until I experienced more life, had other children, left Evangelicalism, and discovered my own adoption story.

I had taken a job working for a Christian church in a neighboring state. Then, I received a phone call from Angie, my ex-fiancé’s best friend: “Becky is pregnant.” So, I left the job and returned to Becky in Kansas with hopes of reconciliation. Growing up in an abusive, alcoholic family, I wanted something better than I had, something more stable. I wanted to give our child a chance at the happiness neither of us had growing up. Despite a sincere effort, I couldn’t stay in the relationship, even for the benefit of this unborn child. After a month, we broke up again.

Back at my home church, the youth pastor’s wife contacted us to say that her sister, Colleen, and husband Brian, were looking to adopt. Colleen brought a hopefulness edged with caution; she’d experienced several miscarriages and a couple of adoption attempts which fell through. That first meeting and subsequent meetings went well, and we felt moderately comfortable about them raising our child.

I chose adoption because God could redeem our “sin” as joy for this stable couple. I chose adoption because they paid the medical bills. I chose adoption for a clean slate. Except, over time, I learned there is no clean slate. A couple wants to experience parenthood, and they will look into the eyes of the crisis couple and convince them to relinquish their child because parenting is tough. “Please give your child to us because we want one, and it will be too difficult for you.” Separation creates trauma, and trauma rewires the brain.

Brian left Christian ministry and the family when his adopted son Zach turned 11. A stable family is only a momentary snapshot. Brian leaving couldn’t be anticipated, but nevertheless that negated a reason I chose to give him up.

The clincher – when Zach turned sixteen, I found out that I had been adopted. It turned out to be unexpectedly important to meet my own biological family. My mother’s voice sounded like a song I’d always known and never heard. Watching my father shift tools easily from right to left and back to right handedness brought to mind a moment when I was 11 and my adoptive father asked, “how do you do that?” I had no idea that what I’d done was unusual.

I was reminded of a line from Ron Nydam’s book “Adoptees Come of Age” – “Adoptees are always re-creating the circumstances of their relinquishment.” My biological identity is a part of my identity, one part among others, and its importance to me took place by affirming that I came from somewhere, from someone, who did things kinda like I did them and who looked a bit like me.

Early spring 2011 when Zach turned 21, I asked him, “If you’ve ever wondered the question as to whether I’d do it again, I wouldn’t.” Zach replied, “I think I’ve always wanted to know, but I couldn’t find the words to ask.”

I chose to relinquish my first son into adoption over temporary pressures, largely financial, some cultural, Christian mindsets and expectations, and a general concern I wouldn’t be able to escape the poor parenting models I received. The backward glance has greater clarity.

I have told my children that if any of them were ever in my previous situation of facing an unplanned pregnancy, I’d want them to come to me. He had relinquished a son at age 19, and then later, at the age of 35, learned that he himself had been relinquished and adopted. He would want his children to tell him. He would tell them that they have his complete support and that he’d never let them adopt away one of their own children.

The Stories Adoptees Tell

This is kinda silly and heartbreaking and I don’t share it with people so for some reason I’ve been compelled to share here to see if anyone can relate. I have recently been watching a show called Homeland, I’m sure some here have seen it. The main character Carrie works for CIA so she has to leave her daughter behind many times. I am 41 now so bare with me on the reference- my mom left me initially when I was 3 but she’d come in and out of my life till age 11. Then she was just totally gone. I have not seen or heard from her since 1991. When I was little I’d tell people that my mom was Cyndi Lauper and she was away on tour (wild imagination I guess). I’m sure no one believed that but I told that story anyway. Now watching Homeland I realize maybe a CIA spy would have been more interesting?

Another acknowledges – You probably just wanted a good reason for her absence. I told my teachers and what not that my mom died in child birth. I guess it was easier that she died rather than admit that she had left me. Always protecting ourselves from people leaving for good.

And sadly – I was actually told (the lie) in my younger years that my 1st mom died in childbirth. I remember laying in bed at times and in my mind I used to pretend my mom was a beautiful movie star, such as Elizabeth Taylor. The lie was revealed in my teens and broke my trust with my adoptive mother and destroyed the comfort of that fantasy forever.

Someone else admits – When I was a kid I told people Chester Bennington from Linkin Park was my real dad and my mom wouldn’t let me see him. I didn’t actually know the truth about my biological dad until almost adulthood, so my kid brain tried to fill it in.

From yet another – I had elaborate fantasies where my mother was an alien and my father was maybe a famous actor I’d had a crush on. (All my celebrity crushes up until the past few years have been significantly older than me.) Like, sure, Harrison Ford might be my dad!

I find this one interesting because I have suspected my mom named my sister Lou Anne because at some deep level she had heard her birth mother called Lou. “I used to name every single Doll or toy Jennifer. My adoptive parents told me my mom’s name was Jennifer when I was 7. Sure freaked them out for a long time.”

Which reminded another one – I used to tell myself that Jennifer Lopez was my mom and gave me up for adoption lol. I’m not even Hispanic.

And lastly, this one – I used to watch this travel show, the ladies name was Samantha, same as my birth mother, it was a closed adoption, so I didn’t know much. I always thought it may be her and often wished it was, that I was adopted because she was single and busy with her show. Gave me a face and wonderful person to dream about.

The Girls Who Went Away

Studies that have examined the grief of relinquishing mothers have identified a sense of loss that is unique and often prolonged. In one such study, the grief was likened to the separation loss experienced by a parent whose child is missing, or by a person who is told their loved one is missing in action. Unlike grief over the death of a child, which is permanent and for which there is an established grieving process, the loss of a child through adoption has no clear end and no social affirmation that grief is even an appropriate response.

~ Ann Fessler, The Girls Who Went Away, Page 208

Looking for an image of the book cover, I found an old story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 2015 titled Legacy of Loss. It is a story about Leslie MacKinnon who relinquished 2 sons to adoption when she was still a teenager. Her grief inspired her career as a therapist in the Atlanta area who works with people who’s lives have been touched by adoption.

Only a year after giving up her first-born son in an Alabama maternity home, she was once again giving birth, this time at her family’s home in Florida, unmedicated, untended and unseen. She had tried to bring on a miscarriage by throwing herself down the front stairs, drinking a bottle of castor oil, soaking in the hottest baths she could stand. She even tried to commit suicide by driving her car too fast on a hairpin turn but realized even death would not erase her shame.

After losing her second son to adoption, Leslie felt herself split in two. The shame-filled girl who couldn’t look anyone in the eye stayed hidden inside, frozen in time. The girl on the outside transferred to the University of Georgia in 1967 to study social work. There, she learned the only way to keep the pain at bay was to work longer hours and aim higher than anyone else.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in social work in 1969, Leslie moved to Atlanta and was hired by Families First, one of the biggest social service agencies in town, which gave her a scholarship to get her masters. She got her degree at Tulane and returned to Atlanta to work as a licensed clinical social worker.

This is how her story begins. You can read the entire story at my link.

What Do You Expect ?

A comment was shared that read – “I would love to know what you expect for people who don’t want their child to do ? Trash can or abortion ?”

One reply – As an answer to “what would you expect…?” I would simply say that I expect any woman who is choosing to continue a pregnancy would be offered resources FIRST to ensure she feels capable and supported in the “default” choice to parent. If an expectant mom (and dad, if he’s in the picture/available/found) truly and genuinely refuses/chooses not to parent – then options can be explored, starting with the least traumatic. I expect good humans to not take advantage of someone else’s hardship, or encourage/manipulate an expectant parent to permanently separate from their child due to lack of resources.

Another reply – The separation of mother and child at infancy changes how your brain is hardwired because the child is put into a fight or flight mode and grows knowing that as it’s baseline of emotion for life. So yes, literally a lifetime of trauma. I am a functioning adult in spite of the trauma of being handed to strangers at 5 days old.  The trauma can be managed. I think you can learn to coexist with it. But I don’t think it ever heals and goes away. It’s always there.

Another – I’d remind the poster that the number of babies that are found in dumpsters / trash cans are few and a unique situation. Let’s focus on vulnerable young girls/women who seek an adoption agency due to many reasons – mostly resources and money – creating fear and panic. This is the primary reason mothers and newborns are separated. It is money / profit focused (agency & attorneys) swooping in to “help” the expectant mom see how worthless she is and how magnificent the 30-40 COUPLES competing for her baby are!!!!

Baby2Baby

I had not heard of this non-profit charity before this morning. In 2006, Karis Jagger, Lee Michel and Marnie Owens, 3 moms in Los Angeles founded Baby2Baby and began the important work of giving back to children in need. As a project of Community Partners which is a fiscal sponsorship program.

As Jennifer Garner wrote regarding the recent celebration of the organization’s 10 anniversary – Moms consider diapers, wipes, hygiene products, warm clothes, car seats— “necessities”— but what happens when families can’t afford these basics, when parents are choosing between diapering and feeding their child?

For ten years Baby2Baby has worked tirelessly to better the lives of families, lightening the load for struggling parents who want desperately to give their children as comfortable and safe a childhood as possible. When basic needs are met, parents have more resources for food and shelter, yes, but just as important—they have more bandwidth to read to, play with, sing to their babies—to enjoy them. For children’s growing brains, connection is where the magic happens.

They are a go to organization for relief across the country, sending trucks of necessities to families impacted by natural disasters and humanitarian crises. They have an ongoing tally of the good they have done. Currently 200,032,502 donations distributed including diapers, wipes, clothing, cribs, backpacks and more. The Baby2Baby National Network is a group of like-minded organizations who distribute basic essentials to children living in poverty in over 40 cities across the United States. 

Baby2Baby is a mega diaper bank and nonprofit organization providing essential items to children in need across the country. In the last 10 years, Baby2Baby has distributed over 200 million items to children in homeless shelters, domestic violence programs, foster care, hospitals and underserved schools as well as children who have lost everything in the wake of disaster.

You can learn more about them at their website – https://baby2baby.org/