A Sad Truth

Sharing a first person birth mother story . . .

I very regrettably placed my oldest daughter for adoption, after discovering I was unexpectedly pregnant. I didn’t see her at all the first two years. Then, for the past two years, we have only had day visits. It was going great until a month or two ago. Then, there were a few visits, where she clung onto me, crying and not wanting to leave, when I would drop her back off to at her adoptive mother’s. After the last really dramatic time that happened, a few subsequent visits were cancelled. Then, we had our first visit since, and everything was totally the opposite…

Now, she doesn’t want to be with me AT ALL, when her adoptive mother is dropping her off to be with me. She stopped calling me Mama C and just calls me by my first name. The entire ride home she cried that she wants her mom (adoptive mother). I understand, she is with that lady all the time. I’m glad she loves her but it’s clearly causing my daughter distress now to go with me. I don’t know what changed during those couple of missed visits but something definitely did.

Yesterday, I had my first overnight with her. She didn’t want to go with me at first, the first twenty minutes of our drive, she cried for her adoptive mother but then, she seemed was fine. We had a great day, she played with her little sister and my girlfriend’s son all day. Then bedtime came and she just wanted to go home, wanted her adoptive mom, and just seemed generally upset.

I got her to help me put my younger daughter to sleep. I told her we would call her mom, once I got the little one to sleep. My daughter fell asleep with her younger sister. Then, a little after 2 am, she woke up and was very upset, wanted to go home. I told her it was no big deal and we would call her mom and told her she did good by using her voice and telling me what she needs. I told her I understand because when I was her age, up until I was like 13, I would make my mom come get me anytime I tried to spend the night anywhere. I know that feeling she had, a giant pit in your stomach and all you want is your mom, but hers is probably 1000x worse because she’s an adoptee that already has separation trauma. So, we called her adoptive mother and I ended up driving two hours at 2:30 am to take her home. I tried to be silly and play music she liked and sing along (to keep myself awake and to make her feel better) but she was silent the entire drive. She didn’t want to give me a hug or kiss goodbye. She just wanted her adoptive mother.

I don’t know what to do. I know I caused all of this by choosing to put her up for adoption. I chose to drag everyone through a very expensive court case for two years because they were preventing me from seeing her at all. I chose to get shared custody of her in order to remain in her life. I will be honest, I want full custody of her and to keep her with me all of the time. I wish I was the mommy she cried for. But I’m not. At this point, she doesn’t want to go with me any more. She doesn’t want to stay with me and I have to accept that. My heart broke over her distress last night. It is not my desire want to cause her any type of stress or anxiety or pain. I don’t know what to do.

I feel like making her come with me is hurting her right now. But I also feel like, if I step aside and let the visits stop for right now, I’m going to be abandoning her all over again. It would also absolutely break my own heart. But it’s what is best for my daughter. That’s all I care about. I’m bawling my eyes out as I’m writing this. I just want what’s best for her, even if that’s not me right now.

The Weird Joy of Reunion

Sharing the current state of reunion that one adoptee has experienced.

Change. Change can be so beautiful, but very difficult. The past six months, I started my journey to find my birth family. Not only did I find both my mother and father. I found many other family members.

When I found my parents it was extremely exciting, but honestly, it brought up so many different emotions I didn’t expect to be brought up. It was weird talking for hours with these strangers that somewhere weren’t strangers. It was even weirder loving these two people that I’ve never even met. It confused me how it could be possible. How can I love two people that I don’t know. Looking at it now, it’s so beautiful. God intended natural family to be together. It wasn’t intended for adoption to be a thing. That love I have for them is wired in me. I didn’t know I would feel that way from the start. I thought that maybe I wouldn’t even like them. Thankfully, that love just comes naturally with parents and their children.

I am lucky enough to be building a relationship with them. It has been all I wanted for almost nineteen years and now I have it. It still blows my mind that I know them. Not only do I know them, but they want to know everything about me. I couldn’t be more blessed with who they are.

So yeah, you could say my life has changed. This change has brought sadness, happiness, confusion, and about any other emotion you could think of. Memories good and bad have been brought back to life. I am so glad God chose my adoptive and biological family to love me. Through all of this, I have seen just how lucky I am to have so many people rooting for me. I am even luckier that my biological mom chose my family. I get to tell the people who made me about the people who raised me and be so proud. Although this journey has been hard for my parents, birth parents, and everyone else involved, I am so excited for my future with my entire family.

Irish Adoption Rights

Susan Lohan

In this interconnected world, adoption is definitely not national but international, especially in regards to adoptive parents in the US. I do have some Irish roots (thanking all that is good that I can even know this today). My adoptee father’s, paternal great-grandmother (if I have this right) was fully Irish (both of her parents were Irish born in Ireland.) So, what happened there, does matter to me here in this blog.

Today, I came across this story in The Guardian about Susan Lohan who is an adoption rights activist. She was adopted as a baby, and has been denied any information about her natural parents. Lohan has spent years fighting the church and state seeking for them to reveal what they know – about her (and the thousands of others like her born into the same situation). Similarly, hidden information that traps adoptees as second class citizens here in the US continues.

In the mid-60s in Ireland, up to 97% of all children born to unmarried mothers, like Lohan, were taken for adoption, mainly by the religious institutions and agencies that controlled social services and opposed reproductive choice. The married couple who adopted Lohan were loving parents, unlike some families in the past who took in children to use as free labor. A housewife and a shoe salesman, they were the rosary-reciting ideal of Catholic Ireland and their religious devotion would have been necessary to adopt a child. Couples needed a priest’s approval to adopt and sometimes even proof that they couldn’t have children biologically. Religious-run agencies had used adoption “as a mechanism to separate families” who didn’t meet the Catholic ideal. Lohan’s adoptive parents were told that her mother had died in childbirth but they were skeptical. Lohan always had an image in her mind of her mother as an unmarried girl, too young to keep her. She later found out that her mother had been in her 30s at the time, a civil servant who became president of a trade union. “She was not a woman who was easily intimidated,” Lohan says. “And even she felt unable to resist.”

Lohan now helps to run the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA), which she co-founded more than a decade ago with fellow adoptees and activists Claire McGettrick, also adopted from an Irish Sisters of Charity institution, and Mari Steed, one of the “banished babies” adopted from Irish institutions to the US. The ARA campaigns for the estimated 100,000 adopted people in Ireland to have an equal right to their identity and information.

Lohan was about 21 years old when she met her mother, Nábla, for the first time. A social worker with the religious-run adoption agency made contact with Nábla and arranged and oversaw their meeting. At first, says Lohan, her mother had a stern demeanor but, as soon as they started talking, all that fell away and her mother spoke candidly. When Nábla had discovered she was pregnant, she was already maintaining the family home alone and supporting her brother studying overseas, as her own mother was dead and her father had left. There was no support for Nábla to keep her daughter – there was no welfare for unmarried mothers until the 1970s and, even after that, many were evicted or lost jobs if it was discovered they had children out of wedlock. So she was referred to St Patrick’s Guild, the adoption agency run by the Sisters of Charity. “We were not unwanted children,” says Lohan. “[Our mothers’] sexuality was unwanted. Their self-determination was unwanted.”

After their meeting, Lohan’s mother still kept her existence a secret and withdrew from contact for about four years until her death from cancer in 2000. “It broke my heart,” says Lohan, who was in her mid-30s at the time. “I think that was my first realization that I had been grieving the loss of my mother my whole life.” At her mother’s funeral, the priest spoke of “an additional sadness, because she was a single woman with no family of her own”. Lohan felt like screaming, not only at the untruth, but at the unending stigma.

Years later, having received no information about her father, she was meeting with an official from the adoption authority when he left her alone in a room with her file (she believes deliberately), which allowed her to find her father’s name. She went on to discover that her father had died in the 1990s, while she was searching for him. It would take her until 2016 to establish for certain that she had siblings.

Lohan has helped lead a successful political campaign against a bill that would have criminalized people adopted in Ireland for contacting their natural parents, punishable by a year in jail or a fine. In 2005, she was part of the advisory group launching the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, an initiative to enable people separated through Ireland’s adoption system to voluntarily register their interest in receiving information or contact.

An official review of adoption records has found evidence that tens of thousands of adoptions in Ireland potentially involved illegal practices. The Clann Project produced its own report on mother and baby institutions in Ireland. It found that the state’s policy involved the incarceration of thousands of women and girls and the separation of many thousands of children from their mothers “through a closed, secret, forced adoption system”.

How many more children will have to be born in Catholic-ethos hospitals and attend Catholic-ethos schools (90% of primary schools in Ireland are still under the influence of the Catholic church) because the church will not relinquish influence and the state will not ensure alternatives. “We should have absolute separation of church and state,” Lohan says. “It is long overdue.”

An Adoptee’s First Biological Child

I have read about this from the point of view of several different adoptees in the past. I have wondered what my own adoptee mom (or even my adoptee dad) felt as they created a biological, genetically related family of their own. They are both deceased, so I can no longer ask questions like that of them.

Today, I read – I’m curious about adoptees first experience being pregnant. Thought I was infertile all these years and I’m finally pregnant. I thought I would be flooded with more happy emotions. I often feel paralyzed and scared shitless. I’ve done the leg work to not put my trauma on a child, plenty of therapy when I was younger and actively trying to start a family. Not using a child to fill my holes as my adoptive mother did. Now I just feel disgusted and worried sometimes, feels somehow adoption related. My first parents non stop on my mind lately too. Any first child experiences good or bad would be very helpful! Thank you! She later added – I am very worried about not looking at my first mom the same. We aren’t the closest but our relationship is what I need it to be, I’m nervous I’m going to resent her after going through this; even though I know she didn’t want me. It’s almost like I’ve been in this weird limbo of not fitting in to either family and the thought of starting my own makes me want to run for the hills.

I am in reunion and have a good relationship with my First Mom but never cared much about my biological dad’s side, until I was pregnant and really until I had my son. It does make me sad that my son won’t know his aunts and cousins on that side but I haven’t had the bandwidth to try to make contact yet. Dealing with my maternal side has been enough drama and stress for one lifetime.

These feelings are totally normal, even for those without trauma. There are layers for many who feel this way, but even those I know who had ‘normal’ childhoods often feel this way too. You’ll also feel like failure frequently, out of your depths, like a bad mom, etc. those are all normal too. I have layers to mine due to trauma, so as time and healing have allowed, I have worked though different layers as they’ve come up (and up again and again). It was VERY important to me to avoid adding birth trauma, so I found a midwife and worked hard at allowing the natural biology and oxytocin stuff, breast fed etc. those all help with attachment and bonding (which I still greatly struggled with due to a severe attachment trauma).

I have 4 currently, and recently had a still birth, so I am now dealing with new levels of trauma added to those previous layers. Dealing with secondary infertility and a loss after 4 healthy pregnancies really rocked my internal dialogue (since fear of losing them through accidents/etc, just general anxiety like falling down stairs while pregnant (which I didn’t) etc). My mom hit a brick house (blogger’s note – I do not know if this is literal or figurative) while pregnant with me, so I’m sure there’s a layer there too.

I don’t know if my trauma has made it better or worse to be honest…the death of my son broke cracks into the structure that trauma built to protect myself from bonding and attachment. Though feeling (some) grief, I’m having glimmers of hope and joy, which is really mind fu**** me to be honest but I’m trying to roll with it. I deal with it small bits, here and there, denial in a box is its default space but when it does come out, I try not to stuff it automatically back in there. I try to give it space and observe it and know it won’t kill me, even if it feels like it will or should or could…sorry if I’m not making sense.

Give yourself space to feel the things you do and do not judge yourself harshly. Know you are not alone, the feelings WILL pass (even if it takes time, for me – it has been on and off for almost a decade) and no one is a better mom to your baby than YOU.

I experienced something similar with my pregnancies. I think fear is very common in any pregnancy, everything’s so new and life-changing. I think it’s an especially complex time for adoptees and a resurgence of feelings is common. Talking about how I felt helped me. I hope you know we’re with you and cheering you on.

I was fine while pregnant and when giving birth but got horrific PPD/PPA (Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety) despite being surrounded by love and support. I think giving birth brought up a lot of unresolved feelings and trauma and contributed to my PPD. I got through it with therapy and medication. It didn’t last forever thankfully and I had a lot of support.

I experienced PPD and difficulty bonding with 2 of my 6 babies. With the other 4, I felt that immediate attachment when I saw them. It took a few months with those 2, for me to feel like they were truly mine and that I was a good enough mother for them. In the long run, there has been no difference in the level of attachment or love I feel for them. (I’ve been parenting for 17 years.) Becoming pregnant with my firstborn was what awakened me from the “I should just be grateful” fog. I honestly believed I had no trauma from being separated from my mother, up until then. When I became flooded with instinctual feelings for my baby, I wondered if my original mother ever felt those things for me.

Not every mother gets that first glimpse of their child and immediately feels attached and wildly in love. It’s *not at all* uncommon for it to take time to build that attachment and have trouble bonding with your child at first. Then of course there are things like PPD and PPA that make bonding harder. But none of these things make a person a bad mother. Often people with a history of trauma – *especially* if that trauma has to do with abandonment or attachment issues – will have trouble bonding with their child. And it’s completely normal.

I wonder about this with my own mom, some of the things I have learned recently related to her second (actually third, because she had a miscarriage first) pregnancy as well as how I describe my own parents as being weirdly detached. Good parents but that cut thread of connection to their original families, I believe, had an impact on their perspectives related to parenting. They were good parents, not at all abusive, but quick to want us to be independent of them.

Another adoptee writes – I felt awful, disgusted, fearful when I was pregnant. I was terrified I would project what happened with my birth and adopted parents on my little girl. She’s 8 now and I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. I make mistakes with her but I am quick to apologize and let her know when I am wrong. I explain that I shouldn’t have projected my negative emotions on her. I also let her know it’s okay to not be okay. I had severe PPD and for a couple days when she was a couple weeks old when I wanted nothing to do with her. I told my ex husband mom that I needed her to take her for a day or so because i didn’t know what to do. Luckily that passed very quickly. I love my daughter more than anything in this world and would give my last breath to her. Also if you do have awful feelings, talk to your doctor. Medication did wonders for me with my depression. It honestly helped so much.

There’s a couple layers going on. I also got pregnant after miscarriage and sort of infertility. I don’t think I really processed or felt safe in my first successful pregnancy until after 30+ weeks. When I held my son, it was really the first time I saw and loved someone I was biologically related to. It was powerful, odd, terrifying. So many different emotions. I didn’t think as much about my first mother’s pregnancy with me. But we were in reunion and in a tough place then, so it was complicated. Give yourself time, space, gentleness. Pregnancy is a wild hormonal ride, even without added layers to it. And those added layers aren’t easy. 

And then there was this very different but honest perspective – I considered adoption, but I was stealthed/forced and thus very scared to have a baby so young even while married. I remember ridding that idea before the half mark because I felt him kick. And then at birth my very first thought looking at him was I could never give him up. Even totally unprepared I couldn’t have done it. I was actually really ashamed of that and told no one how I thinking or feeling, because I had solely considered my bio strong for doing so (drug addiction) and here I was poor and sick and barely legal to drink while a college student in a shit marriage… and I could Not fathom even leaving his side. I love him but sometimes I still don’t know if that was correct because he’s suffered a lot… my son was deeply abused by my now ex-husband and I have a lot of trauma from it I’m still working through… my own biological parent, I don’t think could have given me half the life I got from adoption, and even though my adoptive parents were super abusive. There’s so many mixed feelings and traumatic thoughts and memories that get brought up when an adoptee is pregnant. I hope you at least know all of your feelings and fears and joys are all valid all at once.

This perspective from another adoptee was interesting to read because I do know my mom saw a psychiatrist at one time but I don’t know her reasons for it – “It’s hard, I feel like I focused too much on doing the ‘right things’ and not traumatizing my kids, which often made me a hands off parent. I had to get my butt in therapy and put in the work to be a better me. Now I’m not a hands off parent and learned boundary setting with my kids.” I do know that I was surprised at the degree that my two sisters were dependent on our parents at the time of their deaths at 78 and 80. Maybe my mom overcame some of what I experienced in the decades before that.

Definitely worried I was going to fuck my kid up like I was fucked up. To the point of almost terminating. My second pregnancy was a lot smoother but I still experienced horrendous PPA with both. I had happy moments and sad moments in pregnancy. Despite my PPA though, I was lucky enough to avoid PPD and feel a determination I have never felt before in life when they placed my son on my chest. I looked at him every damn day and promised I would give him a better life. My husband and I weren’t in the best position at all. In poverty, high crime area, barely surviving. But I promised my kiddo I would get him out of there every single day. My husband is aged out former foster care youth, so he was just as determined as well. 3.5 years and another (planned this time) pregnancy and we made it. Our kids will never have to experience a life even close to what we lived. Having kids made me afraid and feel powerless and worry I was gonna be a horrible mom, but more than anything it made me, and my husband, WAY better people and helped us get out of the cycles so that we were not perpetuating them.

Pregnancy and childbirth weren’t really issues for me. My biggest issue is just feeling completely clueless and like I’m doing everything wrong. I was raised by my adoptive dad from age 8 onward, and don’t really remember much from being younger, so I feel like I have no experiences good or bad to reference. Like the concept of a mother is totally foreign to me, so I’m flying blind and making it up as I go.

What helped me the first time around was preparing to be surprised. Knowing that this baby, although my flesh and blood, would be their own little person. Their own soul. I was there to love and nurture whoever they were. And I really was continuously surprised, usually in a pleasant way. I never went for schedules and “Child must be doing X by a certain age” BS. Instead my kids developed as naturally as possible. All of this was in defiance of my “normal” adopted upbringing. What was crazy was that my eldest looked nothing like me or my husband. Thank God I had already reunited with my birth mom, so I could show people that’s who my daughter looked like, because otherwise it would have been hard to explain.

I had bad Postpartum anxiety. To be fair my Mother in law did NOT help. I was afraid someone would steal my babies and I wouldn’t get them back. She would literally snatch them and walk away so we ended up having a long break from her and eventually things worked out once she calmed down enough to understand me and that my husband wasn’t going to side with her. But with all my babies I couldn’t be away from them. I had hard time taking showers and no one could hold them expect for my husband if I didn’t have eyes on them. If I had them with me, I was fine. It was bad with #1, better with #2, #3 was a whole other mine field because that one was a girl. I kept fearing I’d wake up and want to walk away. My husband was a major support. Only my 5th wasn’t as bad, but my husband had paternity leave and was home with me the first 4 weeks. I know it wasn’t rational. But I’d have panic attacks that they were gone. I do not have an anxiety or panic disorder. I’m usually extremely even keel. It caught me majorly off guard. Parenting wasn’t and isn’t an issue though. Gentle and communitive parenting came very naturally to me.

I had good support and my first pregnancy was wanted and planned. I do know that once my baby was born, I saw my biological mom and adoptive mother through a different lens. I did start feeling really sad about my adoption for the first time. I started think how I didn’t bond with my adoptive mother until I was after a year old. How that is not normal. I made me feel a new kind of pain. Sometimes this sounds silly but I feel like I love my kids more than non-adoptees because of my experience. I felt like I didn’t really understand my biological mother at all, even though she was very young mother. I started to excuse her uncomfortable behavior because I don’t feel like anyone is ok after something so traumatic. I didn’t feel resentful, just sadness. Pain. Loss. I don’t understand how some people don’t want their babies but it’s not always for me to understand that either. When she says “I love you” it makes me uncomfortable because I feel like “how?”. Lots of feelings.

Adoptee Anger

Adoptee anger by Kyleigh Elisa

What one adoptee has to say about her own from Kyleigh shares about Adoptee Anger posted in Intercountry Adoptee Voices. Kyleigh was adopted from Colombia and brought to the USA.

I am angry for sure. I feel like my anger ebbs and flows. Like, some days I’m just ready to burst and others, it’s a slow burn deep down.

When I was first given permission to be angry about my adoption about a decade ago by a therapist, it was like a volcano that erupted inside of me and I couldn’t stop it for months. Back then it was more about always feeling unacceptable. Feeling like I hated how I was different in a sea of white people. That no-one close ever really acknowledged the pain inside me due to adoption. That I was made to feel like I was an exotic commodity, while also being told, “No, you’re just like us. You’re just our Kyleigh”. I feel like that was some kind of unintentional gaslighting trying to make me feel accepted, but it had the opposite effect.

Since then I let my anger out more regularly and I don’t drink to dull the pain like I used to. I am definitely still angry though and I hate being adopted. I hate colonialism. I hate white supremacy. I hate the patriarchy. I am afraid of religious organizations that allow people to justify it all. I believe all these things contribute to why we are all adopted.

Billowing anger by Kyleigh Elisa

I just start thinking about it all and the anger billows. It’s a thought path I have to force myself to interrupt because it does not help me. While I think it’s good to be aware that stuff exists, I also cannot allow it to deteriorate my mental health. So I research and try to give back to our community and participate in adoptee organizations – this reminds me that I’m not alone.

Remembering I’m not alone helps a lot. Taking gradual steps to reclaim pieces of my culture that were taken from me helps too. It’s scary while I try to get back what was lost, and that’s upsetting at times, but in the end I reap the rewards accepting each little piece back to me, as it’s mine to rightfully hold.

Sad Story With Triggers

Liu Xuezhou

Trigger Warning: Content contains explicit details about suicide and suicidal thoughts.

When Liu Xuezhou‘s story first went viral last month, it brought together people from all corners of the internet — and the world. On December 6, the 17-year-old shared a video on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, where he asked the public for help in finding his biological family. Amazingly, thousands of strangers joined forces, and before long, the teen was able to connect with his birth parents. But instead of finding some closure and peace in the reunion, Liu was heartbroken when they both shunned him. Tragically, it appears the experience was so devastating that Liu took his own life over the weekend, Chinese media reported.

The teen was in the dark about his exact birth date, as his adoptive parents only knew that he was born sometime between 2004 and 2006 in Hebei, a province in northern China. He was purportedly sold by his parents as a baby. His biological mother has disputed this saying it was complicated. At some point during the adoption process, Zhang said that the “middleman” who transferred Liu to his adoptive parents insisted on giving them money for the child. The child was “sold” for $4,200 – most of which went to the middleman.

When Liu was just 4 years old, his adoptive parents both died on the same day in a freak accident. Over the years, he was passed from relative to relative, never truly calling any one place his home. To make matters even worse, he reportedly struggled financially for most of that time. After his story went viral, the teen shared that he’d taken on a part-time job to help pay for his schooling and was living in a run-down home, where he was barely scraping by.

Detectives were quickly able to track down Liu’s biological father using DNA testing, and the two were finally able to meet just weeks after the teen initially shared his story. The pair met up in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei. Though the boy hoped he could go and live with his father. The man told his son that he simply couldn’t because he was already raising another family of his own.

Then, the teen found his biological mother in Inner Mongolia and arranged to meet with her in person, with the same hopes to be taken in. Her reason was also that she’d started a family of her own and simply “wanted a peaceful life.” 

At first his parents pooled some money together and sent him on a vacation to Sanya, a city on Hainan Island. But when he continued to ask them for help with finding a new place to stay, they reportedly refused. In fact, his mom even blocked his phone number and social media accounts, essentially cutting him off from all contact with her. Both parents claimed Liu asked them to buy a house for him and that they were poor when they gave him up and were still too poor to do anything of that sort. Liu claims he was merely asking for money to help cover his rent.

Having been “abandoned twice by his biological parents,” which had deeply affected him – it was the subsequent cyberbullying that made things even worse.  The 17-year-old reportedly died from an overdose of antidepressants. His aunt confirmed his death with local media outlets, sharing he was found early Monday morning and immediately rushed to a hospital in Sanya, China, before he was pronounced dead.

This story highlights the very real and dangerous nature of child trafficking, which sadly occurs all over the world but is particularly egregious in China. Under Chinese law, child trafficking can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But even so, the nation remains ranked as one of the world’s worst countries for human trafficking.

Parallel Universes

I only just learned about this book by David Bohl. I have not read it. He is an adoptee. I found an story he tells about being an adoptee and I share from that story today. He talks about the moment he learned shame in connection to his adoption, as well as the confusion and hurt that followed. A hurt that could not and should not be ignored, because ignoring it just fuels the fire of shame…and for him, alcoholism, until he found the origin story that helped him become whole. 

He says, I’ve been two people my entire life. I don’t have a dissociative personality disorder—I’m just a regular guy whose reality is that I am a relinquishee and adoptee, and a person in long-term recovery from alcoholism. In the past my perception was so warped I had to occupy a few Parallel Universes: worlds that collided with each other, but that were also able to contain a person made out of two people. Until I made those worlds connect and interlock, living a split existence almost killed me: I was terrified of confronting my reality; its darkness. 

He shares an old Cherokee fable called “Tale of Two Wolves.” A battle between two ‘wolves’ inside us. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace love, hope serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?“ The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one that you feed.” 

Bohl disagrees. He says, It is possible to free yourself from the bad wolf—such as the evil of trauma—but starving it won’t work. Your darkness is part of you. Even if you manage to starve the wolf, there will still be a skeleton left behind. A skeleton is not closure—there’s no such thing as closure: we only have context and from context comes wisdom. For me, starving the bad wolf would mean I’d ignore my past, my authentic self, which means I’d ignore reality and the fact that I am a human being who had been relinquished and traumatized by it. I would ignore the fact that I was also drinking myself to death.

He shares, When I was six years old, I told two friends that I was adopted. It was never a secret in my family, and it felt normal, although I understood that it made me unique. I’d look at my family members—most of them olive-skinned, dark-haired – and I’d look at myself in the mirror with my freckled face and red hair. But our difference didn’t bother me. It didn’t bother me until the day I confessed my adoption to two friends. Their shock was so palatable that I urged them to my house so that my mother would confirm the secret I just shared with them. At first, I thought their shock came from being impressed—as if I told them I could fly—but as my adoptive mother cheerfully explained that it was indeed true, I saw shadows of pity, even revulsion, cross my friends’ faces. In that moment I learned about shame. I needed to hide and never reveal my true self. Revealing true self was dangerous. 

The revelation of my adoption introduced capital-S Shame into my life—a thing so huge it overshadowed everything. The world became a giant microscope and I felt observed, scrutinized because I was different. I felt like a freak. As an adult, he became an alcoholic. He had ignored the fact that he had been relinquished. He didn’t want to know about his origins. For Bohl, once he confronted that reality, he could no longer drink in peace. It was the beginning of his recovery.

His story gives me pause. After my dad (an adoptee) died, my sister and I discovered a “confession” of sorts that he wrote for a religious retreat that he and my mom attended. It was about the time he was arrested for drunk driving and bargained with God to let him escape the worst impacts (loss of family and employment). Then, he admits that he broke his bargain, for the most part though he returned to church with my mom after their children had flown the nest to keep her company and I know from personal experience that he continued to go to church during the 4 months he lived after her death until he joined her there in whatever place the soul goes.

This story touches me not only because I discovered his DWI arrest but also because he never seemed interested in his origins. His adoptive parents were his parents and he wished to know no more than that. More’s the pity. He had a half-sister living only 90 miles from him when he died who could have told him about his mother. His father never knew he had a son. His father died in 1968 but they were so much alike – both loved fishing and the ocean – that they would have been great buddies had they known of one another. Was my father ashamed of having been given up and adopted ? I don’t know, he never expressed any feelings about it with me. When my mom, also an adoptee, wanted to search for her mother, he cautioned her against it, saying she might be opening up a can of worms. So, she confided in me but that is the only indication of my dad’s feelings about his adoption that I ever received.

Back to the interview with Bohl, which takes a heartbreaking turn – he says, I got sober at the age of 45 after a seizure that forced me to dig up the records of my birth—I had to know my medical history. And then there she was: Miss Karen Bender, who died at the age of 56. She was a red-headed coed, a flight attendant, a mother to three daughters and two sons—one, me, relinquished—and, eventually, a half-ghost drinking herself to death in a heap of old blankets in a rented storage. Her lonely heart gave out in a homeless shelter. She died alone, isolated like a sick animal, hiding from the world. Not wanting to bother anyone. No one around to see her final departure. Her shame. 

He ends his story with this – she was a tragic wolf. But instead of starving the memory of her, I dug deeper and it helped me to become a survivor whose heart started to heal once I got context and clarity about where I came from and who I was. And even then, I sometimes still felt like an outsider. Yet I wanted to live the kind of life that didn’t depend on adapting. I understood reality and the two wolves that informed it. I had my own family, I was learning my origins. There was darkness in my past but there was also healing that stemmed from it. There was joy, too, and freedom— I was connecting with people in genuine way; no longer through the haze of shame and unhealthy coping mechanisms.  The Reality that I found triumphs over Shame, its capital S getting smaller and smaller as I now live as a man who is whole. 

David Bohl was adopted at birth by a prosperous family. Throughout his earlier years, he tried to keep up a good front and surpass the expectations of his adoptive parents, as he tried desperately to fit in. Bohl was raised with no religious teachings. David later struggled with traditional recovery fellowships; and so, instead sought out secular supports, where he finally fit in. This support allowed him to learn the stark facts about mental health and addiction, as well as the monumental issues many “reliquishees” need to overcome to find peace and the quality of life they deserve. Today, David is an independent addiction consultant

Disturbing

Isabella Kalua

What causes such a sweet face to create such a pained looking smile ? It is Isabella’s smile in the most recent pictures that disturbs me on some psychic level. The adoptive parents (Lehua or Isaac Kalua) are now strongly suspected of having murdered the 6 year old a full month before they reported her missing in Hawaii. They have now been arrested and are awaiting a hearing to provide them with legal counsel. There is an article about the current state of the case at this link from Maui.

I found a dissertation by Katherine E Sunder titled Mothers Who Kill Children They Have Adopted. Her dissertation topic is described this way – A mother killing her child is a disturbing and puzzling crime. A review of the cases in the United States from 1993 through 2013 that involved mothers who killed children they had adopted was conducted. The similarities and differences between mothers who kill their adopted children and mothers who kill their biological children are described. The common factors and general patterns that exist among these mothers are examined to propose a theory for why a mother decides to kill her adopted child.

While an average of four children die every day from child abuse and neglect in the United States, adoption is often put forth as a way to try and prevent such tragedies from occurring. Generally, parents who adopt domestically and also internationally are described as extremely devoted and committed to family. They are described as people who will literally “lay everything on the line” to parent a child. Considering the rigorous and demanding process these parents go through in order to adopt a child, it raises the question of why would a mother kill the child or children she adopted ?

However, the killing of a child is not an arbitrary or unpredictable crime. Instead, it can be viewed and experienced as imbedded in and a reflection of the societies in which it occurs. Abuse by adoptive parents is often mentioned by adoptees in privacy constrained groups. In an abuse-related killing of a child, the mother has intentionally committed a purposeful physical assault that unintentionally led to the child’s death. The purpose was not to kill the child but to provide harsh discipline. 80% of these cases involve the child welfare services in their background. Some cases involve the mother’s attempt to stop the child from crying. Some cases involve an abusive relationship with a violent male partner.

Isabella’s body has not yet been found and it is not known what may have caused her death. Homicide investigators say, “What was initially reported was that she had left her home in the middle of the night, and when they [her adoptive parents] woke up they didn’t see her.” Police say support from the city deputy prosecuting attorneys and individuals from the domestic violence division was critical getting police where they are today in their now eight-week investigation. Also the FBI is credited with offering evidentiary analysis that was extremely valuable including behavioral analysis unit into the mindset of the suspects in this case.

Adoption Reform as a Social Movement

Today I read a opinion that Progressives support judicial reform (including changes in the nature of policing), oppose separating children from their parents at the Mexican border, care about minorities and other marginalized communities of people and are concerned about wealth inequality. The criticism is that Progressives show no understanding when an adoptee says – The adoption system is broken. It is a multi-billion dollar industry which exploits mothers in need of aid instead of aiding them financially or emotionally, commoditizes children, separates them from their families leaving long-lasting emotional and mental scars, denies them basic human rights and needs, and then sells them to rich families. The whole system should be dismantled and rebuilt from scratch. The first 4 “supported” issues can easily be combined through the lens of the adoption system to be relatively the same. Why the lack of understanding ?

I am a progressive and I have tons of adoption in my family background. I have now spent almost 4 years intensively educating myself about everything related to the adoption industry which includes foster care. So, I know that what this adoptee was saying about the adoption system is the truth. So, next I thought – is the accusation against Progressives fair ? I did a little google search and sure enough – very little on that topic comes up. I did find one paper in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare titled “Adoption in the US: The Emergence of a Social Movement” that I thought might be promising but I am left with mixed feelings about it because I am suspecting it won’t go far enough. It is 21 pages and I will try to find time to read it (I admit, I haven’t read it yet – it’s long, okay ?).

I do know that drop by drop of clarity into the muddy waters of the unicorns and rainbows fantasy myth about adoption IS taking place. I belong to a Facebook group that has over 6,000 members – almost all of them sharing personal stories and most are VERY reform minded. That is significant and they are not the only ones shedding light on everything related to adoption and changing hearts and minds. This group of caring individuals has certainly brought me out of the fog of believing adoption is a good thing and helped me to see the very problematic aspects it honestly entails.

Adoption is one of the few issues that seem to have strong with bipartisan support. I was shocked at how much the federal government supports adoption – when I found out my Republican Senator Roy Blunt and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar are both the co-chairs of a committee that encourages – and legislates financial support to foster adoption.

Certainly, there is no excuse for the ignorance. If someone with a direct experience of adoption – either a birth mother who lost her child to the system or an adoptee who has learned about how the trauma of being separated from their mother has affected them and will have lifelong lasting effect on them – says the system they came from is broken, as a Progressive who cares, you should listen to them. Then, do the work of researching the issues for yourself but by all means – listen. Then, if you are truly a caring individual, find something you can do to help reform the practice. Do something about the problems that cause unwed expectant mothers to lose their child in the first place.

The Ideal Perspective ?

The most common experience from those I have witnessed is a lifetime of regret on the part of the birth mother. That is why my all things adoption group encourages expectant mothers to at least try and parent their newborn for some significant period of time before giving their precious baby up for adoption.

On the other side are voices trying to convince expectant mothers that the BEST thing they can do for their baby is let them go. And so today, I saw this description of that mindset . . .

This is from a “Bravelove testimony”. Although this perspective is from an adoptee testimony, it could have just as easily come from adoptive parent testimonies, birth mother testimonies or adoption professional testimonies. It is often seen as the desired perspective that adoptees should hold of their adoptions. It is often praised as a perspective showing love and respect for birthmothers, yet to me, it is reducing women who are birthmothers to the decision they made and dismissing them as complex people who were dealing with complex situations.

“A birth mother has three options. She can choose to have an abortion, and I wouldn’t be here right now. She can give birth, but choose to say “no this is my child and I don’t care what kind of life she has, she is mine and I’m not going to let her go,” and be totally selfish, but my birth mom chose the most selfless option. And probably the hardest; to carry me for nine months, give birth to me through all that pain and suffering and then look me in the eyes” and say “I love you so much I can’t keep you.”

Some version of the above, maybe not so direct but with similar implications, is often seen as the ideal attitude for an adoptee to have in order to “come to terms” with their adoptions.

I have reversed my own thinking about adoption (both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption). I’ve done my best to understand the history of adoption and my grandmothers who surrendered their babies in the 1930s as well as how the thinking about adoption has changed over time, fewer births due to Roe v Wade, more open instead of closed adoptions, the advent of inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites opening up a whole new wave of reunions between adoptees and their birth parents. It appears to me no matter how good of a job adoptive parents did in raising a child, no matter what kind of wealth supported amenities they were able to offer (private school, horseback riding or ballet lessons, etc) adoptees and their birth parents seem to yearn for one thing throughout their lifetimes – to be reunited. This says something powerful to me about the whole push to separate women from their babies. When those adopting are evangelical Christians (whether the good people adopting believing they are doing some kind of saving grace for any unwanted child are motivated by that or not) the leadership of that religious persuasion is seeing adoption as taking the children of heathens and converting them to the faith.

I never did think that the choice a woman makes – to surrender her child or not – was selfish or selfless. All birth mothers are simply human beings who were doing the best they could under whatever circumstances they were dealing with. Each one has my own sympathetic compassion for the effects of that decision on the remainder of their lifetimes.