Fake News

My all things adoption Facebook group is all about reforming the practice. The first step is waking people up. When I first joined this group, I was just beginning to learn who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted). Because adoption was the most natural thing in the world in my own family, I was totally in the adoption fog, even though I was not adopted myself. It was so normal in my family that both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption – one did it as her intentional choice, the other one wanted to keep her daughter but could not access the support to do so. Unbelievably to me now, my own mother who was actually troubled or at the least conflicted about her own adoption (believing she had been stolen from her birth parents by Georgia Tann) pressured my sister to relinquish her daughter to adoption.

So today’s story speaks to me of how society’s perspectives on adoption are based on illusions. Here it is –

I joined the group because I have always wanted to adopt a child. In my head (because of media, and various stories I’ve heard elsewhere) there are hundreds of thousands of children, maybe even millions, out there suffering and in desperate need of a loving home. I was SO convinced this is true that I believed having my own child was selfish. I’m not infertile or anything….I just had visions of helping a child… or even multiple children. I joined the group hoping to learn more about the adoption process and how best to help a child through the process. Boy – was I naive. Thank you ALL for your sharing your stories and providing an education that I never would have gotten if it wasn’t for this group. Seriously. Thank you. I am now no longer interested in adoption in the way the current system is run. But – it has left me with a deep wanting to help children and moms who go have to go through the system. It seems like poverty is the main reason children are pulled from their homes. What is the best way to be helpful, reunify, provide resources (what resources?) help the birth mothers, etc.?

One commenter wrote –  I’ve realized the best way I can help is at the source. If through the foster care system I am fostering pregnant and parenting teens to make sure the cycle won’t continue and help them keep their own babies. If it’s outside of the system same idea. Help at the source without removing the child. Offer babysitting, a room in your house, groceries, transportation, professional clothes and a hair dresser for interviews, etc. to do it right the focus is on the parents and supporting the parents.

Some more advice –

If you learn of a mother to be who is – for whatever reason – struggling/considering adoption for her baby/vulnerable take her under your wing and offer to help her educate herself and find balance, so she can focus.

Saving Our Sisters will educate and offer guidance and assistance.

Safe Families may have resources but be cautious as some factions are related to adoption agencies and highly religious.

The Family Preservation Project is a great site for education and resources.

Promote preserving the family….both in foster settings and vulnerable pregnancies. Our society loves to takes babies from parents who are “less than” (pffffttttt) and give them to the almighty “better than” (no, nope, nada)!!!!! Change in this area is an uphill journey but the more we speak of how critical it is for the children to be preserved in the family they were born into, the sooner THAT message will begin to drown out the child snatchers!

Emotional Toll

In the all things adoption group I belong to, adoptee voices are considered privileged. They are the ones who know what being adopted feels like. Sometimes adoptive parents or hopeful prospective adoptive parents come into the group. They struggle with the anger and pain that adoptees in the group express. There are also former foster youth who share their experiences and current foster care parents or hopeful to become foster parents come into the group as well.

Adoptees often express the emotional toll of trying to share their lived experiences with these other group members. Some who are not adoptees cannot take what they are reading and leave or become angry and disbelieving – surely they are the exception ?

If you ever encounter a “woke” adoptee (adoptees often express how it feels to have emerged from what they call the adoption fog when they believed the unicorns and rainbows version of adoption that the industry puts forth in pursuit of the profits they make facilitating adoptions), believe them when they express their struggles with feelings of abandonment, rejection, not belonging in the family they’ve been adopted into. Though most birth parents welcome a reunion with their “lost” child, not all of them do. These are more than sad for the adoptee experiences being abandoned and rejected all over again.

Glitter Birthmoms

This is a new term for me this morning but I will admit I struggle with this now. At one time, I wouldn’t have but I have learned too much related to all things adoption to go along with the denial or self soothing perspectives that the adoption industry puts forth and way too many mothers who surrender a baby to adoption absorb and then believe it. These birthmoms speak about adoption as some win/win scenario.

Someone asked the obvious question – What are glitter birth moms? And here was the response – Someone who is glad they adopted out their child and doesn’t regret it.

One woman talked about the ones she sees that are proudly proclaiming their child is in a closed adoption for their own “privacy” but are also Extremely Online, using their full name and photo, IDing themselves as biological moms. Uh, that’s not really how privacy works but they’ll find that out when the adoptee does DNA and matches with close relatives. (And this does happen increasingly these days – in fact DNA and matching has revealed to me my adoptee parents’ – both were – genetic families).

Just recently, I saw one like this from a Christian agency and the woman has gone into counseling unwed mothers to surrender after getting a degree in some social work area. I just couldn’t . . . Here is how someone describes a similar situation – The ones whose stories adoption agencies/adoptive parents trot out in adoption circles to reinforce the narratives they want. They usually talk about how young they were or what obstacles they had, how they picked the adoptive parents (blogger’s note – and I actually supported my youngest sister during a pregnancy where she sent me the profiles to give her a second opinion but that was before I learned all I have learned), what wonderful people the adoptive parents are, how they have thrived since then, sometimes how their child is doing, and saying they know they “made the right decision.” They paint adoption as “giving my child a better life than I could offer.” All of this is very typical.

One adoptee said about such women – my guess is denial and a way to deal with guilt, they can safely live in the fog. I hate the way adoption is always about the parents, adopted or biological.

Another adoptee shares this –

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I don’t **know** this is how my birth mom is for a fact… but at least on the surface she fits the bill on
paper;

She had me at 16, before her 17th birthday

& Because she placed me for adoption

(and that she escaped the stigma,
as she didn’t show and no one knew she was pregnant)

She was able to easily graduate high school

Get her bachelor degree

Married the “love of her life”

And have two well behaved sons at the appropriate time deemed by society

She is a pillar of her community, a kindergarten teacher

She is head of PTA and very active at fighting for kids rights and services in her community (ironically)

It hurts more because I was always
fed the narrative “she did this for me” “she wanted you to have a better life”

No.

It was always about her

She wanted a better life

She wanted to escape stigma

It was never about me

Another adoptee shares – My “unfit” biological parents both went on to have more children and raised them in stable, loving families, unlike the adoptive one I got. Like we always say, placing your child or adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and nothing to be proud of. My biological parents can insist they did it out of love for me all they want but all I would ever hear is “we couldn’t be bothered to get our shit together in time to keep you in the family but look at all these lucky siblings we did do that for!”

And this was an important piece of advice – Please don’t start framing adoptees as either having a “negative experience” or “bitter and abandoned.” This will only silence your child and make them feel they cannot share complex feelings. The best thing I ever did for my daughter was tell her she had every right to feel however she wants over a situation she had no control or say over. Its quite possible for adoptees to love their parents but find parts of their adoption traumatic or challenging. For Example my daughter mourns not growing up with her siblings I get to raise. That doesn’t make her bitter or negative – its a completely normal response to an abnormal situation.

Someone shares this, which I alluded to above about a Christian agency – There are glitter birth moms who make a career out of it, by becoming an “adoption professional” and are paid by agencies to speak at events, promote adoption to other expectant mothers, etc. I follow them closely. It has a two fold impact – not only is the birth Mum able to turn their relinquishment into an income stream but it continually reinforces to them that they made the right choice. And this is far easier to live with than being open to considering the alternative. I have seen one of them do a complete change – she was actually featured in national articles supporting adoption. I’m not exactly sure what happened – whether the openness reduced, the reality of what she had done started to sink in as her child got older, however I have seen her talk about how her she has really struggled with her mental health. She hasn’t come out and owned her past but I have seen her commenting against adoption now.

And this very honest assessment that has some balance integrated into it – I don’t know if I’m considered a glitter birth mom, I don’t regret placing my daughter given the circumstances of my life at that time and the circumstances of her current life. However, I wouldn’t preach that it’s the greatest thing ever either. I just feel it was the best choice out of the ones I had at that time. I didn’t do it all for her, yes she was definitely a consideration but I’ll admit my choice was selfish too.

That’s part of why when I see women being praised when they are considering adoption that it irks me so much. It’s not selfless and brave and giving some couple a chance at parenthood. It’s hard, and emotional and traumatic for everyone and people don’t want to hear that. My daughter is 9 and it breaks my heart a little. She told me she never wants to be pregnant and have biological children. She wants to adopt children like she was and I wonder if this is her way of reacting to her trauma. I see her often, I’m pregnant with her little brother and first biological sibling, and she’s so in love with him but I worry how she’ll feel when he’s here, the relationship that they could have had, if she hadn’t been placed.

Lastly, in the realm of Welfare Queens exploiting a system, I need to include this sadly misguided perspective on it all – There is a glitter birthmom in my life. She was a former foster youth who aged out and has been having children since then. Her oldest is 24 and she is pregnant with #12? now. She has raised none and actually believes she is doing good by giving infertile families babies and encourages her biological children to do the same with her own grand babies.  I believe it is a survival narrative. She knows how to get housing and WIC and medical care and all sorts of benefits. She does not see the impact of her decisions on her children – even those who have been vocal with her about it. And the trauma of knowing they have siblings all over the country that they may never meet. It is a sad cycle being repeated by the next generation.

In The Fog

When I first started learning about all of the impacts and issues surrounding the practice of adoption, I didn’t know what this concept really was like.  Both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption, adoption was the most natural thing in my life.  I really didn’t see a problem with it and while this concept more commonly refers to the adoptee who discovers the reality and “wakes up”, what I didn’t expect was that as the child of adoptees, I too was in the fog.  And I have woken up as well and that is the purpose of this blog, to share these new understandings with whoever is moved to come and read these little daily observations.

Learning about adoption trauma can be a big surprise for someone like me.  For the adoptee, this can prove to be a nagging feeling that you didn’t know how to name.  This concept answered your question as to what it was.  For some, their love and/or gratitude for their adoptive parents can make them not want to learn about adoption trauma, even though generally speaking, it affects every adoptee to some degree, whether consciously or unconsciously.

“Happy” may not be the right word to describe coming out of the fog. It’s more accurately about being able to authentically traverse and articulate the variety of effects that adoption had on your life, good or bad, but the bad often does far outweigh the good.  In my case, it is a sorrow that for over 60 years I did not know about my own biological/genetic relatives.  Now I do have some contact but it is like being slightly removed and an outsider no matter how kind they are to me directly.

It can be easy to be judgmental.  Rationally, you may know your original mother was struggling and yet still find it impossible to understand that she could ever give up her children.  In my own life, I lost physical custody of my daughter, even though that was not my intention but that I was struggling financially was the reality.  Seeking to find a way to support us, I left her with her paternal grandmother temporarily.  That decision with the expectation that it was temporary became permanent and I can never get back the years I lost.  My mom told me of her perspective on my situation – she would have just toughed it out.  Maybe true but then she coerced one of my sisters to give up her own child.  I guess my mom’s fog was quite thick.

In the end, I lost my daughter to my ex-husband and a step-mother.  He had refused to pay child support but ended up paying to support our daughter.  I ended up paying a steep price to gain that support.  I have never stopped grieving and have tried to come to terms with it, through accepting that it is simply our reality.  So much damage is done when a mother is separated from her child, no matter why or how.

 

What’s Done Is Done

I think that I need to add some context.  What I seek is to promote reform in the methods of securing for children who need that, a loving and stable home.  It is not my intent to pass judgement on anyone who has adopted a child and is raising that child.  What is done is done.

I would hope that any prospective adoptive parents reading this blog would pause in their headlong rush to acquire someone else’s rightful baby.  One suggestion would be to read The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier.  Actually that is good advice for people who have already adopted and would like to understand their adopted child better.  She says of her book – it is written for the adoptees, birth and adoptive parents as a bridge to understanding their child(ren) and to promote the healing process for all of them.  Rearing an adopted child is different from rearing one’s biological child.

Ms Verrier is the mother of two daughters – one adopted and one she gave birth to.  She also has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and is in private practice counseling members of the triad.  I learned about her by being in a private Facebook group of adoptees, original mothers and adoptive parents.  I have learned a lot from them, especially about the effects of adoption as adult adoptees begin to wake up and speak loudly about their experiences.  I know how it feels not to raise my own precious daughter, so I have a sense of what birth mothers feel and that pain of separation as well.  Navigating the complexes of interacting with a second mother who is more mother to my daughter than I am.  It is not an easy path.

I am not an adoptee myself.

My parents were both adoptees, both of my sisters are birth mothers who surrendered a child to adoption and one of my sister’s lost her child in court proceedings.  So there is a lot of observation of life experience to cause my interest in ALL things adoption.  I have read many books and articles and I listen to the wounded in the private group.  Two years ago, I would NOT have said a word against adoption.  Today, I realize how lucky I am that I was not given up when my teenage, unwed mother discovered I was growing within her.

It has been a journey in which my perspectives on adoption have changed radically in only about two years time.  There is no going back for me and I cannot promote or cheer on adoption as it is mostly practiced today.  I know too much now.  No more unicorns and rainbows and I have woken up from my own kind of adoption fog.

So here is where I am at regarding FUTURE loving homes for the children that need it.

Guardianship (kinship if possible), no name changes, no birth certificate alterations, total transparency in an age appropriate manner as to the child’s biological/genetic family and full access to the complete medical histories of their parents. Reform is needed. Making MORE adoptions possible is NOT what I support at all. Loving homes – yes – non-abusive circumstances – absolutely !!

I also support ALL mothers who want to raise their children being financially supported at least until the child(ren) reach maturity.  That would have certainly helped me and at least one of my two sisters remain in our childrens’ lives as we expected when they were born.  If we can obscenely support rich people and corporations and huge military budgets, we could actually support families. That our society does NOT is a travesty with mental health and self-esteem impacts.

The Lies That Bind

I finished reading this book yesterday evening.  On Saturday, it absorbed my entire 4 hour writing session because I simply could not stop reading.  That was the first time a book truly did that to me.  It is a page turner, at least it was for me, because having been on my own journey to discover my family roots – I understood empathically the disappointments and the excitement of being on the hunt.

There are differences in our experiences.  Laureen is an adoptee and she definitely offers a clear-eyed and honest expression of the issues that most adoptees face.  It was easy for me to recognize the truth in these descriptions.

I am not an adoptee but what I have discovered is that as the child of two adoptees (and neither of my parents knew much at all about their origins or heritage when they died after 8 decades of life) I am almost as impacted by the issues adoptees face as the one who is adopted is.  My situation has only been slightly better because I do know who my parents were  but nothing beyond them until very recently.

There is a bittersweet aspect that I won’t give away but I do highly recommend the book – even if adoption has not impacted you.  Why ?  Because it is written so very clearly about why reform is needed in adoptionland – from the practice of placing children to the unsealing of adoption records in all 50 states.  This is a situation with societal impacts which all people should care about.

What Is Normal Anyway ?

Growing up in my immediate family, adoption was the most normal thing.  After all, both of my parents were adopted and they were “normal” or were they ?  Until recently, I didn’t know that being adopted could leave traumatic wounds at such a deep and pre-verbal level the person isn’t even conscious those feelings are there.

Now, my mom was a Georgia Tann baby and when she was a schoolgirl in the early 1950s, the scandal in Memphis broke into national news.  Her adoptive mother admitted she had been adopted there but that she was not one of the stolen babies.  Life went on and she got pregnant and married in time for me to be legitimate.

Fast-forward to the early 1990s and the Georgia Tann scandal hit national attention again with stories on 60 Minutes and Oprah among others.  My mom learned that she had not been born in Memphis but had actually been born in Virginia.  She could not reconcile the disparity of this in her own mind and learning about some of the most extreme atrocities perpetrated by Miss Tann, my mom knew at a very deep level that she never should have been adopted and that her adoption was somehow inappropriate – that last word was one she used when she tried to get her adoption file from the state of Tennessee but was rejected.

What is normal, anyway ? Normal is what you know.  We knew adoption was real and we knew that our parents were being raised by people who did not give them birth.  We knew that ALL of the relatives we knew as such, were not related to us.  It is a bit odd to re-think that now but at the time it was what we knew as a reality.

“What makes us normal is knowing that we’re not normal.”
~ Haruki Murakami

Now, I do know that my parents being adopted was not a normal situation.  And I even know that I have been a victim of adoption fog.  Even as I was discovering who the people were that actually gave birth to my two parents.