A For Effort

Today’s story – I reunited with my biological family when I was 17 and have lost contact with my adoptive family since then, due to abuse/abandonment. My kids have always known my biological family as family and thankfully there isn’t any way for them to know how different it feels for me. Over the summer we moved from Wisconsin to Kansas to be close to my biological family. My birth mother and I have always had a challenging relationship and this move has made it unbearable. We moved into a house her boyfriend had available to rent and this has caused her to feel entitled to overstep when it comes to my kids and my life. She never had other kids and seems to be wanting to make up for it with mine. I’m almost 40 and am struggling greatly. Through the move, I have discovered that Wisconsin is truly home to me and my kids, and my real family, that I thought I was searching for, is the family I created back in Wisconsin. Now my kids and I are working on moving back and I’m struggling with so many emotions. I desperately want to be back home as soon as we can find housing but I know that moving back will likely server the unhealthy ties I have with my birth mom. It’s a relationship that part of my heart has always longed for but causes me endless stress.

Not all reunions work out. It is so hard to develop relationships with people you’ve not known your whole life – I know. I’m there myself.  Boundaries are the distance where I can love you and me simultaneously.

Sometimes we have to try something to know it isn’t right for us. Teaching our kids that decisions don’t have to be forever, that it’s okay to change your mind and realize you aren’t where you need to be, and to then take steps to change your circumstances as soon as you reasonably can.

It’s Never Too Late

Martha Einerson and Jonathan Tallert

Just a happy reunion story to give all of those adoptees and their first mothers hope by way of LINK> The Guardian – A new start after 60: I became a mother at 62. I am only going to share some highlights. The full story is at the link.

It sort of reminded me of how I connected with my nephew – a surprise email sent to our business account, that my husband forwarded to me. After Martha retired, a former colleague forwarded an email to her saying, “This seems kind of important,” adding a smiley face. I am a “sign” kind of person and so I really liked reading this part – she looked out of the window, “and there was this amazing double rainbow in the east. I thought: that’s a sign. I wrote a short note: ‘Hello, oh my gosh, I haven’t seen you since you were teeny tiny.’” At 62, Einerson had “become a mother”.

It was 1977 and in her first year at the University of Dallas. Yet by the time she knew she was pregnant, her relationship with Tallert’s birth father was ending. So, with her family’s support, she decided to give her child up for adoption. Later, as a professor of communication studies, who specialized in interpersonal communication and personal relationships, she often shared the story of her pregnancy. When she did the question was Don’t you want to find him ? And she would say: “You know, I don’t.” She goes on to elaborate that “My mother always told me: ‘You were his mother for nine months …’ but when you make a big decision, affirm it and reaffirm it as often as you need. And I did. It worked.”

She goes on to admit that every few years, she would wonder if her son was OK and if he was still alive. Even though she would tell people she wasn’t looking for him, she did register with adoption agencies, so he could track her down. Yet, she felt she had made a commitment to give him to another family. My adoptee dad was kind of like that too. He believed once you were adopted that adoptive family was your ONLY family. He never expressed to me any desire to find out anything about his adoption. Sadly, his half-sister was living only 90 miles away from him when he died and could have told him so much about his original mother.

Like many mothers who surrender their first born (my original maternal grandmother was one of those), she had no more children; though she and her husband have “a fantastic relationship … We were unable to have children of our own so we both dove into our careers.”

Happily, like many adoptees who achieve a reunion with their original mother, they quickly clicked with one another and discovered they naturally had behaviors in common (that is the genetic nature part of any human being’s personality). Sort of like how my grown daughter has called me by my first name since she was a toddler (though also “mom”), Tallert calls her Martha. “But once in a while, in a close moment, he’ll call me Mom,” she says. “And it still feels as good as it did the first time.” I too feel good when one of my children calls me “mom” or when one of my grandchildren calls me “grandma.” I guess it’s natural.

Never Their Fault

Sometimes it hurts my caring heart so much to learn the stories of adoptees, especially the ones with clueless adoptive parents who never comprehend their own accountability in the mental health of their adopted child.

This morning I was reading a story about a man who was adopted as an infant and now as a grown man with wife and children is in long term residential treatment following his second suicide attempt. His adoptive parents accept no responsibility and prefer to blame his spouse for this man’s issues – unresolved trauma, low self-esteem, deep abandonment issues, anxious attachment, and other specific but undiagnosed mental health disorders which have included serial infidelity. The adoptive parents lied to him about his being adopted, lied about having his paperwork, lied about keeping it from him and made his biological reunion about their feelings of betrayal. Even so, his wife continues to love and support him and does her best to understand.

Another adoptee with similar adoptive parents notes – the adoptive parents insist that the adoption has nothing to do with anything, it’s all just the adoptee’s bad choices. Even when this one discovered their biological parents and that they had been coerced into surrendering their child to adoption (more common than people with no adoption in their background might believe), these kinds of adoptive parents will tell the adoptee that their biological parents didn’t want them. These kinds of adoptive parents have absolutely no idea how to take accountability. How to apologize. How to admit they weren’t perfect, and simply say sorry. They aren’t capable. Some adoptive parents were told that they never had to tell anybody about their own struggles with infertility. That it was acceptable to lie to their adoptee and the child would never know the truth to be troubled by it. It doesn’t work. Having been made aware of so many of these kinds of stories I am easily able to see the damage too often done. 

There is a kind of therapy that can be helpful to some adoptees developed by Peggy Pace and known as Lifespan Integration Therapy. This kind of therapy is known to clear trauma memory and the defenses against early trauma throughout the body-mind the trauma even when the emotional memories are pre-verbal and is not explicitly remembered. This method has been used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders. It has also been used to heal Dissociative Identity Disorder bringing more coherence to fragmented self systems eventually resulting in a unified wholeness.

A powerful realization can improve one’s overall quality of life, even when one will never completely understand what was done to them. Releasing these memory experiences means no longer holding on to the stress, burdens and overwhelming sense of the wrong done and for which the person was not directly responsible. When one is no longer forced to constantly recall the unpleasant feelings that have caused shame, guilt and anger, choosing to release the core cause as a reality that cannot be changed. Choosing instead to recognize the wisdom contained within the experiences. This effort can allow a person to release any attachment to the feelings associated with what happened and know that it is something that can ever be totally changed. The only thing that can be changed is how one feels about it.

One cannot expect to bring something wonderful into their experience until they have the internal space. That space can be created, by releasing what can never serve them, which can then move the person into a happier future. This is not a denial of wrongs committed against them but a gentle kind of the acceptance of reality.

Family Just Ought To Come First

My family is fractured by adoption but thankfully, those who went away have reunited with the rest of us and those we never knew are better known now thanks to those who did know my original grandparents. So, today’s unbelievable but true story.

Looking to find sources to help bring my cousin home. We have signed an intent to adopt and filled out licensing paperwork to adopt my 18 month old cousin. He has been in care 15 months and we only found out about this the last week in June. On July 1st, I started emailing the case worker asking for placement and expressing our interest in adopting, if it came to that. I got no reply. On July 11th, the Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) happened. I emailed everyday after expressing our interest and explaining we were already licensed to foster. We finally got to have a visit with him on Aug 1st and again, this past Friday via zoom. We have virtual bi-weekly visits set up because we are 10 hours away. We are the first members in our family to get to see him aside from mom and dad since he has been in care. The agency has made it clear that the foster parents have also signed an intent to adopt, so we are viewed as a competing party to them. They have now had him for almost 7 months. There is a post TPR hearing this week. The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) said it will probably only be a 10 min hearing and that probably nothing will happen at that hearing. The agency has made it clear they don’t plan on changing his placement until they give a recommendation regarding who they feel the best family fit is to adopt him and gives consent, then the judge orders the child’s placement. Please help If you can.

The response from a former foster care youth – It pisses me off foster parents do this and the state supports foster parents doing this. My heart hurts that so many kids miss out on being with family. My advice is don’t believe and never believe foster parents, the GAL, Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), caseworker, or anyone else in the system. They’re all for themselves. Don’t believe in the “child is bonding” crap either. They use this to keep kids and adopt them out to strangers. Don’t fall for the open adoption crap either. I agree with hiring a lawyer. I wanted to comment and say “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry you can’t get your cousin and I’m sorry foster parents and the state are selfish people. If the child is a child they are willing to disrupt, a perceived bond won’t matter, if that is disrupted again. I missed out on being with family because Child Protective Services (CPS) didn’t care, even though I did go back. However, I could’ve avoided 24 foster homes if CPS did their jobs and placed me with family. Nobody understands the trauma they’re putting kids through by not keeping them with family.

Profiles In Adoption

National Council for Adoption recently conducted this survey of adoptive parents. They are supposed to be surveying birth parents and adoptees next, but it’s clear from this survey who has the loudest voices and is viewed as most important when it comes to adoption. This organization is the face of what can be viewed as the adoption machine in this country.

You can read the 48 page report, based on the results of this survey, at their website. Look for the “Read the Report” link in the orange bubble here –>National Council for Adoption. The paragraphs below come from the report’s highlights, as excerpted on page 3, with some additions from my current perspectives.

Adoptive parents tend to be very highly educated and have relatively high household incomes. According to their adoptive parents, adoptees have very positive educational outcomes. Some have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services. Some have a 504 Plan. This is intended to help kids who need more support in public school. This plan’s name does not clearly identify its purpose. A 504 plan makes changes at the school level, so that the child can learn. Some people mix up 504 plans with special education. They’re not the same. Special education is special instruction for kids who need more than standard teaching. A 504 plan, on the other hand, is about making sure the classroom fits how your child learns.

Anyone who has been at all involved in broad based adoption related communities (that is one that includes adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents) would not be surprised to learn that due to the trauma involved in adoption generally, many adoptees will receive an impact diagnosis of some sort during their childhood. They will also therefore require therapeutic services after an adoption has been finalized.

The current trend in our modern times is that, eventually, adoptees will regain some contact with their original birth parents, siblings and other extended genetic family. In the best circumstances, the adoptive parents encourage and facilitate these reunions.

Also related to modern trends is that adoptive parents with a child of a different race/ethnicity will seek activities in which the child and their adoptive parents can participate so that they may become familiar with cultural aspects related to their biology and/or country of birth.

Today’s blog is simply to make your aware of this survey and resource for information you may not find through other avenues.

So Young And Pregnant

Raped 10 year old Ohio girl had to travel out of state to for an abortion in Indiana. A 14 year old in foster care says “Conception, continuing the pregnancy and relinquishment was not my decision. As a child in foster care, those decisions were made for me.”

The future is not bright for the very young women who may become pregnant in light of the Supreme Court ruling regarding Roe v Wade recently.

Sadly, in the case of the 14 year old former foster care youth, the outcome is troubling. Here is her story.

I see adoptees speak of how traumatizing it is when their birth moms refuse to meet them. I don’t want to cause any pain but the thought of meeting sends me into a meltdown. Contact and meeting isn’t something I want but I constantly read that I “owe” this to her. I’m not in a place where I can handle the fallout it will cause. I’m not interested in reliving the hell of 20+ years ago.

This isn’t something I can make myself do. It is too traumatic. I can’t pretend I’m interested in meeting or having a relationship when I’m not. She represents everything I hate and resent. I want to spend the rest of my life as if she doesn’t exist. I don’t want to see pictures or hear her voice. I want to be left alone.

How am I supposed to handle this? I don’t want to explain anything. Will she get it and leave me alone or eventually show up at my door?

I leave the story here. I’m not wishing to delve into the responses. Just wanted to share how one young woman forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy and then give her baby up for adoption feels 20+ years later.

Ray Liotta and Adoption

I don’t remember him actually making any kind of strong impression on me but I did see the movie “GoodFellas” back in 2020 (thanks to Netflix keeping track of these things for me).

It is interesting how ideas for this blog come to me. This one was from a short acknowledgement in Time magazine about the man’s recent passing. Something about his adoptive mother dying during the filming.

I thought, so another adoption story. It never ceases to amaze me how many people in our society are somehow touched by adoption more broadly (meaning not necessarily adopted themselves but in their extended family). I went looking to learn more about this aspect of the man’s life.

The story I read was about how he found peace with his adoption. He said, “At first, I didn’t understand how a parent could give up a child. So, I had that kind of energy of just being like, that’s just f***** up.” His perspective changed after the birth of his own daughter in 1998, at which point he felt he had to trace and locate his birth mother.

Ray was born in 1954, the same year I was, in Newark New Jersey. He was adopted at the age of six months. He was in an orphanage at the time. His adoptive parents were Alfred and Mary. Liotta knew he wasn’t his adoptive parents biological child growing up. He also had an adopted sister, Linda.

His drama teacher in high school asked him if he wanted to appear in a play during his senior year. Liotta didn’t take it seriously at the time (he was into sports) but it led to him eventually studying acting at the University of Miami. After graduation, he got his first big break on the soap opera Another World.

In his 40s, he hired a private detective to locate his birth mother and younger siblings. He subsequently learned from her that he is mostly of Scottish descent (like I learned regarding my maternal grandmother’s family). He then met his birth mother and siblings – a half brother, five half sisters and a full sister. She explained to him that she had given him up for adoption because she was too young and couldn’t contend with the responsibility.

He said that then, “I realized that she did it for very valid reasons from her perspective and for 99% of the kids put up for adoption, the birth parent believes that it’s for the betterment of the kid… Often, the household, the situation, the age just dictate that’s the best thing to do for the child.” After the meeting her, Liotta honestly said that he was “disappointed” by his mother’s story. He reminds me of my own mom in saying that he was “really grateful that [he] was adopted.” When Larry King mentions there is a book for adoptees called “You Were Chosen,” Liotta admits that his was “I was given up.” Most adoptees hate the “chosen” narrative.

Liotta died in his sleep while filming Dangerous Waters in the Dominican Republic. Foul play is not suspected in his death. At the time of his death, he was engaged to fiancée, Jacy Nittolo. That had made him a happy man. He wrote, “Christmas wishes do come true. I asked the love of my life to marry me, and thank God she said yes!!!” Liotta is also survived by his 23-year-old daughter, Karsen, who he shares with ex-wife Michelle Grace.

They Grow Up

Image Created by Irene Liebler

We currently have baby birds in a nest at the end of our back porch getting ready to fledge. We have witnessed many such events. When I first married my husband, my mother in law said “We are nest builders.” She had a lifelong love of birds and of her family. So today, an adoptive mother lamented. She adopted a 12 year old from foster care. The child is now 21 years old. I have a 21 year old myself who sometimes gives the impression of getting restless though he has not yet flown the nest. This woman’s son has joined the army reserves and is on his way out of the country on assignment.

She was trying to say goodbye to him, when he replied – “I don’t want to talk. I’m trying to get away from you guys (ie her husband and herself). I’m an adult now and you can’t force me to live with you. I was trying to leave on a good note.”

Much like the advice – “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” – attributed to Kahlil Gibran, I thought these were very good insights –

The best thing a former foster parent and adoptive parent ever said to me was that you spend the short time you have with kids teaching them right from wrong and hope they take that with them into adulthood.

When they turn 18, they will leave to find their biological families. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. If their first families are doing well, then great! If they are not, you pray that what you taught them sticks and that they navigate their relationships in a way that keeps them mentally/physically safe.

If kids come back to you/stay in your life is dependent on your relationship with them before they became adults. It’s also dependent on how you spoke about their first families and if you encouraged a relationship.

Kids are people that grow up and become their own people. They have the RIGHT to leave the nest for a reason, a season, or forever.

The Archaic Shadow Of Secrecy

Parent Child Match

The closed, sealed adoption records of yesterday are much easier to pierce with today’s inexpensive DNA testing. Today’s story from Severance Magazine.

It begins this way – in 1967, I’d given birth to my first-born child in an unwed mothers maternity home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had been a typical 17-year-old high school senior with plans for the future that evaporated overnight. In the sixties, it was considered close to criminal for a girl to become pregnant with no ring on her finger. The father of my child had joined the Army, preferring Vietnam to fatherhood. After my parents discovered my shameful secret, I was covertly hurried away and placed in an institution for five months. There, I was expected to relinquish my baby immediately after giving birth to closed adoption and I was repeatedly assured my child would have a better life without me. After his birth, I was allowed to hold my son three times. My heart was permanently damaged when I handed him over the final time. The home allowed one concession—I could give my baby a crib name. I named him Jamie.

In the Spring of 2016, this woman and her husband submitted DNA tests to Ancestry.com. By October 2016, a  ‘Parent/Child Match’ message popped up on her iPhone, causing me to stop me in my tracks, as my knees gave out from under me. After 49 long years, Jamie had found her. Who was he? Where was he? Would he hate me? How would this affect my life? My family? His family? She had always dreamed of finding Jamie but never thought past that point.

She relates – that night I heard my son’s voice for the first time. The wonder I felt when he said, “I know your voice” transformed me. In minutes, the secret of my son changed from fear of anyone knowing about him to wanting to shout out to the world, “My son has found me!” She also learned she had three new grandchildren.  Within four days, her son flew from Louisiana to California to meet her. She describes that first meeting as magical. She says, “My son was back in my life, and suddenly I was whole.”

Due to severe depression brought on by the COVID pandemic as a messy divorce, the loss of his job, and unhealthy isolation began to destroy him, she worried from a distance. In February 2021, they had what would be their last conversation. Before hanging up, her son said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” Two days later, the son she had mourned for 50 years, the son who had found her, left her again. He took his own life. Now she had lost him twice and this time was forever. Even so, she cherishes that phone call.

She ends her story with this – “I wish I could speak to all the birth mothers out there, who continue to carry the shame and guilt that society placed on us. For those who refuse to allow their relinquished child back into their lives. I want to say I know your fear. I know your uncertainty. I lived it and still live it. It is deep-seated in us, regardless of the circumstances that resulted in us leaving our children. Please know if you are brave enough to welcome that lost child into your life again, you may create a peace and a bond worth all the fear and guilt. There is nothing quite like reuniting a mother and her child, and you may be giving a gift of connection to that child and yourself, as it should have been all along.”

Not Reality, Scripted

There were a bunch of adoptee reunion programs on TV in the 1990s. I think seeing these really made my adoptee mom wish for a reunion of her own. It was not to be. Even as Tennessee was turning down her request for her adoption file, they broke her heart by telling her that her mother has died several years earlier.

As today’s story reveals, you really can’t believe what you see on these programs.

In early 2020 pre-COVID, I was contacted by a TV producer asking if I would be interested in being on a show. I won’t give the name, but it’s a show about finding lost family members. I immediately knew it was probably about my bio mom or dad.

I agreed, a little out of curiosity, but mostly because they offered me $4000 to be on the show and an all-expenses paid vacation to LA for filming.

Sure enough, it was my mother. She put forth this sob story. She was 15 (which I already knew) and that she felt like she had to give me up, in order to escape shame and disownment from friends and family. Also that her boyfriend pushed her to do it. She said, she always wanted to find me – blah blah blah. I felt completely awkward doing this around cameras.

I found out that ALL reality shows, even the feel-good ones, are SUPER scripted, and the producers kept trying to feed me lines to say, like “I’ve waited for this moment all my life.” At this time in my life, I really couldn’t care less about finding my biological family and had negative feelings about my firth mom, so I don’t think I played the “grateful daughter” role that they wanted. Anyways, the show ends and I go back to my life. I got my biological mom’s info and we text a few times a year.

I was just notified that the show will be airing in the summer, and I have had a lot of anxiety over it. I cannot shake the feeling that none of this was necessary and that it was all for show, and that my biological mom did this to give the world an emotional story to make herself feel better.

There was absolutely NO reason she needed to go on national television to find me. For one, I have researched, and closed adoption files can be accessed by the biological mother, if she goes through the proper steps. She could’ve found my adoptive parent’s information and gone from there. It’s also literally 2022 (actually it was 2020 at the time but still).

Everyone is taking Ancestry DNA tests. She could’ve spent 60 bucks to get a 23 and Me test and found out that I’m already in the data base. I just feel like she completely went to the extremes to do this and put our personal business out there for the world. What if I am portrayed as being an ungrateful bitch or something ?Or future employers search for my name and find the episode!!

One commenter noted – I hear you on the “reality” shows. I also did a pilot many years ago in which they wanted me to react a certain way, so did my daughter. Basically they’re all fake (not real at all). As for the biological mom, everyone is different in how they come to the decision, and what they do with it. She could’ve been looking for her 15 min of fame, or possibly she did feel so pressured and now finally felt like it was time to stand up to those who pressured her. 

And yet another added – or she wanted the money.