Dismantle The Systems

A mother who lost her child to adoption writes (she is also a family preservation activist, which I am too) –

I recently infiltrated a local foster/adoption support group (FASG), and I just want to point out the obvious difference in atmosphere between that group compared to the average mom/community group.

Any time someone in the FASG needs/wants ANYTHING — crib, diapers, formula, respite care, help with electric bill, clothes, high chair, a new bike, you name it — it’s provided, no questions asked. I’ve never seen so much free stuff passed around. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, to be honest.

But when a struggling mother asks for help, she is almost always demonized. I’ve seen women dragged through the mud and their social media accounts doxxed and overanalyzed just for asking for help. (e.g., “I see you got your nails done 6 months ago. I guess you can’t be struggling *that* bad. Maybe you should reprioritize your life.”) The personal attacks are always almost immediate.

If we helped mothers the way we help fosterers/adopters, there would be no need for the foster/adoption system. I agree. We do not do nearly enough to help struggling families survive in our current society.

She explains further – I believe our society’s general lack of knowledge surrounding women’s rights is (at least partially) to blame. And by “women’s rights,” I’m not referring only to abortion. Did you know that it wasn’t until 1988 that it became illegal for a husband to rape his wife in Arizona? And it wasn’t until 2020 that a rape survivor could terminate the parental rights of her rapist when the rape resulted in the conception and subsequent birth of the rapist’s child.

Children have been weaponized against women/mothers. Since we’re no longer the property of our husbands/fathers, they’ve gone after our children as a means of controlling us. We, as women/mothers, have GOT to do better to support one another. Because clearly no one else is going to do it.

Adding to this… I am in no way trying to deflect from the lived experiences of adoptees. I created the Hell that my placed daughter and other “kept” children will have to live in (and their children, spouses, grandchildren, etc). I’m merely suggesting that we should do more upfront to prevent the separation of families to begin with.

Simply Thankful

So often in this space I am focused on all of the things that are not quite right in adoptionland or within the foster care system. I do care about how adoptees feel about their state of being which began involuntarily and those complex feelings extend to donor conceived persons, especially those who may not have known about their origins until much later in life. I believe we can ALL do better and many who are similarly educated by the realities of life are now speaking out – to help the rest of us understand that the truth is complex and diverse but usually not the fairy tale narratives that adoption agencies prefer for everyone to believe.

My education about all of these related aspects has been brief and intense since my adoptee parents (yes both of them were) died in late 2015 and early 2016 (just 4 mos apart after over 50 years of marriage) and I made my own roots discovery journey. I am certainly grateful for what I learned that made me feel finally “whole” and for the genetically related family I am now acquainted with. They are all precious to me and totally human with flaws and positive attributes like we all are – myself included. And I still have a love in my heart for my adoptive grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins because they were the family I knew and grew up with. They are who I often celebrated Thanksgiving with throughout my childhood and early adulthood.

The thing I am honestly most thankful for is that I was NOT given up for adoption. It is my own personal “miracle” because adoption was so common in my family as to feel natural to us (though I now understand that it never was “natural”). My mom was a high school junior, unwed. My dad had just started at the University of New Mexico in Las Cruces. Yet, I was preserved in the family in which I was conceived. This may explain one of the reasons that family preservation is so important to me personally. I had a good enough childhood. Sometimes we were a bit financially challenged. Sometimes my dad’s anger was a bit too short fused. My mom was unhappy enough at one time to contemplate suicide. My youngest sister ended up homeless. My other sister lost her first born to his paternal grandparents in a court of law and my own daughter ended up being raised by my ex-husband and his second wife. Even so, I am thankful for every CRAZY experience of my own life because it has made my understandings of human nature so much deeper and more reality based.

May you too be counting your own blessings this day.

Only Way Passed Is Through

For adoptees and mothers of loss in reunion, the Thanksgiving holiday and getting everyone together can cause some anxious moments. One must simply say yes to the opportunity that was not a possibility for so long. We never know how such experiences are going to turn out but an inspirational message I listen to each week, said that saying Yes is the seed that creates the experience.

One adoptee writes – I invited my (birth, first) mom to Thanksgiving with my mother-and-siblings-in-law. My nephew is coming too, my sister already had prior plans. I just started reading The Primal Wound and I’m worried I’m gonna be just an emotional wreck. But my birth mom has been doing a lot of work around her trauma with it all. She placed 2 kids for adoption but another one overdosed last year.

Another adoptee writes – I’m going to my natural uncle’s house next week for Thanksgiving, and my natural mother and brother will be there too. It’s always emotional and I think it always will be. Honestly, I don’t even know why I go because it’s awkward for me. But the awkwardness is familiar at this point. I want my daughter to know her family, even if I have a hard time thinking of them as family.

Another adoptee had this advice –  If your body is saying no or to hold off, then there’s a reason for that. Forcing it may cause you to experience more further trauma than you need right now. Once a trauma wound is created, there’s no going back and undoing it. So again, go with what your body is telling you. If your body is saying it may not be the best timing right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue it further in the future. It’s your life and your choice. The only one you answer to is you, not them. Do what is best for you, and however it plays out will be what it is. But don’t let anyone bully or manipulate you into feeling obligated. You aren’t. The only person you owe an explanation to is yourself, even if you feel otherwise. At the end of the day you need to fight for your own healing and safe boundaries. If this gathering doesn’t fit in those spaces this year, then honor yourself by not going. If it feels right and like you are prepared, then go and remember to honor yourself. None of these decisions are easy. It’s all a tangled mess. Whether it’s them or not going, I hope you ultimately choose yourself first, because you are worth it.

From a first mother in reunion – been with our son, his parents and other family many times, including holidays and intense gatherings. Best advice: your feelings are the most important of anyone else in the room. You may have a tendency to want to protect or care take others. Not your job!! Try not to worry about them. Focus on having a good time. Keep it light. It’s pretty amazing you are all together. You will have time to process later. Big emotions do come and go. On Thanksgiving, enjoy the day. You are very courageous – stand in this knowing. 

From another first mom – in reunion with my daughter for 7 years. She’s coming to stay tonight with her 3 kids. When we first met, we both discussed how nervous we were but it all unfolded very naturally. I’m in phone contact with my son and he wants to meet up before Xmas and I feel just as nervous again, Although you never know how things will play out, you have to start somewhere. Being nervous is very normal.

A World Without Adoption

I bring this up frequently – we do not support families well enough in this country. If poverty, racism, and health care inequities were properly redressed, adoption would be a last resort. Very short on time today but picking up a few points from an article in LINK> The Nation – We Should Be Fighting for a World Without Adoption by Michele Merritt.

Remarks from the Supreme Court, most notably from Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in the recent overturn of Roe v Wade position adoption as a viable alternative to abortion. Framing the tragedy of losing reproductive freedoms as a problem easily solved by the relinquishment of a child obfuscates the reality of adoption as an institution that is steeped in systemic injustice. Moreover, such a framing underscores the way adopted people—the ones purportedly “saved” by adoption—are overlooked. 

The social narrative that places adoption on a pedestal and views adoption as an alternative to abortion completely misses the point that it is not a reproductive choice at all. It’s a parenting choice—and one that should be a last resort, instead of being lauded as a great act of charity or a cure for a world where abortion is all but outlawed. 

In the conservative adoption fairy tale, a pregnant person who does not feel that they are capable of adequately parenting hands off these duties to people who have been desperately hoping to become parents. The child, it is assumed, will fare better, escaping a life most assuredly filled with poverty or neglect. Above all, this child “could have been aborted,” so adoption rescues them from annihilation.

Certainly, this was Georgia Tann’s theory when she took my blond, blue-eyed mom from her poverty afflicted parents by exploiting my maternal grandmother’s desperation under extreme circumstances (a missing husband, gone off to another state while working with the WPA to fight an epic flood on the Mississippi River in 1937). My mom did grow up under affluent circumstances in the adoptive home of a banker and socialite mother. Her first mother never had another child (not uncommon among women who lose their first born to adoption).

It is true that many parents who relinquish children for adoption cite financial concerns as a chief obstacle to parenting, but that does not mean that adoption is the solution. Positing adoption as a solution to impoverished parenting ignores the fact that another solution exists: supporting struggling families. You can read more at the link in the first paragraph.

Refusing To Choose

Tony Corsentino

I get notifications from Tony’s substack – LINK> “This Is Not A Legal Record – Irregularly timed dispatches from my travels in the world of adoption.” Tony recently got married.

He writes – “I invited him (his adoptive father) and my biological aunt and uncle to my wedding not to force a reckoning—neither to heal a wound nor to inflict one. I did it because they were among the people I wanted present. And I did it as a protest against the expectation that I would have to choose who my “real” family was. I was conscious that no one in the world was asking for this convergence of souls. There are no cultural expectations or rules governing it, no script to follow. If anything, the co-presence of my adoptive and biological families signaled a breach in the covenant that we assume closed adoption to represent: that the family of origin shall disappear from the life of the adoptee, who shall be “as if born” to the adopting family.”

I say – good for him, pushing back on expectations !! He goes on to share –

On his last night in town, as I was driving him to his hotel, I told him that not only was I thankful for his kindness to my biological family, but it healed something in me to see him in a literal embrace. He replied with what I later learned he had also said to my aunt and uncle that day: that he was grateful to them for giving me to him. This remark, generously intended and deeply unsettling (I am no one’s gift; they had no role in it; my birth mother did not relinquish me for his sake), reminded me that my father will never grasp the nettle of adoption.

He concludes with this thought – “The legacy of the trauma and secrecy of adoption is that I remain isolated in my freedom.” I understand from my own sadness. Learning the truth about my parents origins, while answering lifelong questions, left me bereft. Not fitting in with either the adoptive or biological families – in truth. The ties that bind get cut and like Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again. Sadly, this is the truth about it. He notes that “Every move is risky.” regarding reconnecting and risking alienation from the people who raised you.

Of course, he is right about this – “There is no such thing as the successful resolution, or closure, of an adoption.” And closing with “There is still much that I cannot say, hurts that I dare not inflame. There is still no inclusive we. There is only me, standing in particular relationships to the particular people I care about. It’s a kind of paradox: the further I go along the path of reunion, the more fully I perceive this atomism into which adoption fractures the idea of ‘family’.”

Adoptee Margot Tenenbaum

I watched a Wes Anderson movie titled The Royal Tenenbaums. The rest of my family chose not to. What really got my attention was the character of Margo Tenenbaum played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The character as written and her behavioral traits mirror what I have read from so many adoptees.

Paltrow as Margot

I knew someone had to have written about it. I found it at a site called LINK> Very Troubled Child from where the image above was found. The creator, Alberto Favaretto creates unique travel bags, he writes – “Margot Tenenbaum was adopted at age two. Her father had always noted this when introducing her. She was a playwright, and won a Braverman Grant of $50,000 in the ninth grade. She and her brother Richie ran away from home one winter and camped out in the African wing of the Public Archives. They shared a sleeping bag and survived on crackers and root beer.”

Another WordPress blog, LINK> Film Genres, shares Margot’s failed reunion with her biological family this way – “Margot’s lack of a father figure comes about mostly from her adopted father’s refusal to accept her as one of his own children. Each time she was introduced to anyone by her father, he always referred to her as “my adopted daughter.” Margot snuck away from home at the age of fourteen to find her biological father, only to have him “castrate” her in a sense by cutting her finger off when chopping wood. She sought out for her biological father and he essentially cuts her off with the removal of her finger. The removal of her finger created a gap that she can be seen as constantly searching for something to fill with.”

In Vogue, Christian Allaire wrote just over a year ago – LINK> What Makes Margot Tenenbaum’s Style So Good, Even 20 Years Later – Margot is an outsider. That’s only underscored by her fashion sense: She’s decidedly more fashion-forward than the rest of the Tenenbaums. But her looks, while distinctive, are never overstyled. In one scene, she’s smoking in the bathroom while painting her toes and wearing a tight, nude slip dress. You get the sense that she does this very thing—in the same exact outfit—every single day. “She was known for her extreme secrecy,” says the narrator. “None of the Tenenbaums knew she was a smoker, which she had been since the age of 12.” Margot has an air of mystery to her, and her chic, demure wardrobe only adds to this.

From Brain Mass, Sociology, Family & Childhood, LINK> Character Analysis of Margot. Margot was adopted at age two. This is the foundation of her identity issues. My response will always come back to this foundational issue in Margot’s existence. Margot may feel as though she is not really a part of the family and just an attachment piece to the family when she is continually reminded publicly that she is adopted. This act will intensify feelings of rejection and low self-esteem. As a child, she appears to be in desperate want of nurturing. This lack of acknowledgement intensifies the obscure feelings she may be experiencing due to her being adopted. Adoption does influence a child’s development. The specific issues that a child will experience when he/she has knowledge that he/she is adopted are: separation, loss, anger, grief, and identity. Between the ages of 7 and 12, the adopted child experiences the “full emotional impact” of being . . . (more at a paywall there).

Enough for today’s blog. I just recognized how richly the adoptee character of Margot in this movie was developed. I’ve had so much exposure within a group that prioritizes the voices of adoptees. where I have spent a lot of time the last few years, since my adoptee parents died and I started on my own genetic, adoption influenced, roots journey.

The Brigid Alliance

St Brigid of Kildare

Learned about this non-profit organization today – The Brigid Alliance. I wish things were different but here we are. You might be surprised if you’ve not been listening to as many adoptee voices as I do every day, to learn how many will say plainly – I wish I had been aborted. Beyond that, many do not wish to have children themselves. Here’s one example –

I’m an adoptee, former foster youth and former kinship foster youth. I do not want to be a parent. I have multiple reasons some of which include severe mental health issues, cost, responsibility, dysphoria etc… I am on long term birth control and am in a long term serious relationship. Abortion access is not limited in my state currently but could definitely become restricted. If I were to become pregnant, my first choice would be abortion. However due to limited access, I know that might not always be possible. My question is what advice would you give to someone who is pregnant but doesn’t want to be a parent and can’t access abortion?

Clearly, pregnancy prevention should not be all on the woman in a committed relationship. Agreeing to a vasectomy, which is a form of male birth control that cuts the supply of sperm to the man’s semen. It’s done by cutting and sealing the tubes that carry sperm. A vasectomy has a low risk of problems and can usually be performed in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia. The man can opt to have a vasectomy reversal in the future. This is a surgery to undo a vasectomy. During the procedure, a surgeon reconnects each tube (vas deferens) that carries sperm from a testicle into the semen. After a successful vasectomy reversal, sperm are again present in the semen and a man may be able to once again get his partner pregnant.

In the case presented in this blog today, the male was not willing – so what else ? Pre-emptive preparation can help. Research what pharmaceuticals can be accessed online and know what the resources are in your state before you need them. The LINK> National Women’s Health Network has a fact sheet on safe and effective FDA-approved abortion pills (aka medication abortion) which are now available by mail in several states — without an in-person clinic visit.

Lastly, today I learned about LINK> The Brigid Alliance, a referral-based service that provides travel, food, lodging, child care and other logistical support for people seeking abortions. They prioritize clients who are beyond 15 weeks of pregnancy and for whom it’s generally more expensive and harder to find a provider near home. They are part of a growing ecosystem of support organizations propping up abortion care access in the US due to an increasingly hostile environment post-Roe.

The group takes their name from a story about St Brigid of Kildare who ministered to a nun who had failed to keep her vow of chastity, and became pregnant. Based upon a 1987 translation of the story: “A certain woman who had taken the vow of chastity fell, through the youthful desire of pleasure and her womb swelled with child. Brigid, exercising the most potent strength of her ineffable faith, blessed her, causing the child to disappear, without coming to birth, and without pain. She faithfully returned the woman to health and to penance.”

Guilty For Being Honest

AITA

I had to google the meaning when I came across this today. It is easy enough to find so I won’t repeat it.

The adoptee story today is about a transracial adoptee who has the unique physical characteristic of having blue eyes which is unexpected given her nationality. Her adoptive mother also has blue eyes and this causes some understandable misconceptions but she will always offer the explanation if it seems relevant.

It is amazing how often people see into other people what they want to see. My sons do not have my DNA and they know the whole story about how and why they don’t. We’ve often had strangers remark that one of my sons favors my husband and the other favors me but the truth is that they genuinely can and do favor their dad in some way or other but neither is a carbon copy of him. The funniest one I get when I am with my sons is about being their grandmother. Since I am ALSO a grandmother, that is what I answer, while correcting the misconception, saying that I AM their mother. I carried them in my womb, I nursed them at my breast and I have been here for them 24/7 all of their lives (they are now 18 and 21).

So this adoptee’s very young cousin said he wished he had his mom’s eye color like this adoptee got her adoptive mother’s eye color. She told him honestly that the woman who gave birth to her didn’t have that color of eyes either. That it was just a coincidence. Her cousin asked further questions and she answered honestly. That she had come from a different country and that is why she looks different from him and from her adoptive family. She explained that their DNA was different. He was young enough that after her explanation, he just went back to playing with his Legos because he was satisfied.

Later, her aunt (this cousin’s mother) expressed her disapproval to the adoptee. She said that the adoptee didn’t have to tell the boy that she was not her mother’s “real” daughter. The adoptee affirmed that she didn’t say it that way. The aunt was unhappy that the adoptee would admit to other people that her unusual eye color (blue) didn’t come from her adoptive mother. That separating herself that way from the rest of the family was hurtful to all of them.

This story reminds me of the Toni Morrison novel – The Bluest Eye – that I read (it is a very sad and disturbing story). This adoptee says that her adoptive father used to sing Elton John’s song Blue Eyes to her. The adoptee said AITA for saying I’m adopted ? I didn’t know this song until today.

Vital Record Fraud

One of the issues that disturbs adoptees the most is that their original birth certificates were changed to make it appear as though their adoptive parents actually gave birth to them and usually their names were changed as part of that. This happened to BOTH of my own adoptee parents.

Some one adoptee asks – If birth certificates are such a “vital” record – why are the vital records of adoptees sealed and fraudulent ones put in their place?

At the Adoptee Rights Law Center’s LINK> The United States of OBC anyone can search the status for their state. There you can find out about any restrictions that limit an adult adoptee’s right to obtain an original birth certificate. Only in eleven states (indicated by checkmark) do adult adopted people have the right to obtain their own original birth certificates upon request. Early in my own roots discovery journey, I bumped my head against both Virginia and California who said I would have to get a court to approve my request (thanks to my mom’s adoption being part of the Georgia Tann scandal in Tennessee, when I received her full adoption file records, her original birth certificate from Virginia was there). The birth parents, the adoptive parents and both of my parents were already deceased. As their descendant, under such circumstances which would reasonably mean no one who had reason to object was still alive, I was still denied.

I enjoyed the answer from one adoptee – Because it is vital to maintain the “as if born too” facade. It is much like entering a witness protection program.

Initially the original birth certificates were sealed only from the public. Eventually, the reasoning became to protect the adoptive family from interference by the birth family. According to a document in the University of Michigan Journal of Gender and Law titled LINK> Surrender and Subordination: Birth Mothers and Adoption Law Reform

For more than thirty years, adoption law reform advocates have been seeking to restore for adult adoptees the right to access their original birth certificates, a right that was lost in all but two states between the late 1930s and 1990. The advocates have faced strong opposition and have succeeded only in recent years and only in eight states. Among the most vigorous advocates for access are birth mothers who surrendered their children during a time it was believed that adoption would relieve unmarried women of shame and restore them to a respectable life. The birth mother advocates say that when they surrendered their children, their wishes were subordinated and their voices silenced. They say they want to be heard now as they raise their voices in support of adult adoptees’ rights to information in government records about their birth mothers’ original identities.

Opponents of restoring access, in “women-protective rhetoric” reminiscent of recent anti-abortion efforts, argue that access would harm birth mothers, violating their rights and bringing shame anew through unwanted exposure of out-of-wedlock births. Opponents say they must speak for birth mothers who cannot come forward to speak for themselves. Birth mother advocates respond that the impetus historically for closing records was to protect adoptive families from public scrutiny and from interference by birth parents, rather than to protect birth mothers from being identified in the future by their children. They maintain that birth mothers did not choose and were not legally guaranteed lifelong anonymity. They point out that when laws that have restored access have been challenged, courts have found neither statutory guarantees of nor constitutional rights to, anonymity. They also offer evidence that an overwhelming majority of birth mothers are open to contact with their now grown children.

One had some interesting contemplations – thinking all about adoptees and how we basically prove a large side of nature bs nurture. And I mean the nature part. Our world likes to think that nurture is most important and that we always have a choice. We are a puzzle piece that society and the world doesn’t want us to fit into the big picture, we challenge people’s beliefs that they think are naturally instilled in them, when really it’s all just a bunch of bullshit that has been shoved down everyone’s throats. Even with doctors – good luck getting into the genetics department. The whole thing is gate kept. Really makes me wonder if our existence proves something scientifically that we are aware of, that would change the way people see things.

Not Under But In

One of those platitudes that many adoptees totally hate. This is something insecure adoptive parents say to make themselves feel better.

Another one of those is this one – I was waiting for and hoping for a child for a long, long time and that when I saw my child I knew in that instant that this was the child I have been longing for. To which someone noted – what you just said is extremely gross, predatory and disgusting. Another said, your comment proves once again that whichever child is on offer would be the one that the adoptive parent longed for… and the solution to their sadness.

This one went on to note – We are interchangeable, all the horror we went through, losing our families, losing our names and heritage — it was all something we should be happy and grateful for — our hearts should be full because the adoptive parents got their wish for a child, we are their child as soon as they could lay claim to us.

An adoptee says – The other mottos I despise is that the child is part of God’s plan or a child that is born to a different mother, but was really meant for their adoptive parent. 

Just one last important note for today as I am short on time. From an adoptive mother – I have a seven year old who, although she clearly does love me very much, will still make comments occasionally like- you stole me from my mom, I miss my mom (prior to my fortunately finding her original mother), that’s not my real last name. She came up with these statements all on her own at SEVEN. All of that was before we found her original mother and built the relationship between them that they now have. She doesn’t know any other adoptees, so it isn’t like someone is telling her to have those feelings. So no matter what you think you are doing for your adopted child, they will still grow up to have the same feelings as so many adult adoptees often express. The sooner you, as an adoptive parent, accept this and deal with your own emotions around it, the better you will be able to help your adopted child.