Infertility and Narcissism

So many times, I have read adoptees speaking of their adoptive mothers as narcissists. It seems that Infertile women have a higher rate of narcissism. Many of these women become adoptive mothers. The findings of a research study (Psychological profile of women with infertility: A comparative study) revealed that infertile women group differed from fertile women group with respect to narcissism, dimensions of attachment style and uses of defense mechanism. The primary infertile group also showed marked difference from the secondary infertile group with respect to those variables.

Though I did love my adoptive maternal grandmother, I am forced to realize that she likely was a narcissist. I had to look up the definition. “Personality qualities include thinking very highly of oneself, needing admiration, believing others are inferior, and lacking empathy for others.” My mom struggled with her, never felt she quite measured up. My adoptive maternal grandmother was a phenomenal person and well regarded in her own circles but I do believe she damaged my mom’s own self-esteem.

Some of the comments I read in a group that seeks the ethical reform of adoption included these –

I am unsure if the narcissism pre-exists and adoption amplifies it, or if adoption creates narcissism. I think you would have to be a narcissist to think you are superior to an actual mother and have the right to take her baby, keep her baby, and deny / control her contact. Along with belittling her and gaslighting the mother and her child. To invade a mother’s pregnancy and birth, smear their infertility over her and her baby, and exploit her – that takes a particular cruelty and ruthlessness. While dressing it up as being ‘noble’ or ‘kind’ to the rest of the world. Glad this is being looked at. There’s plenty of infertile women who don’t adopt out of empathy for the mother. They accept their childlessness.

My observation too, narcissism in so many adoptive mothers with weak, ill equip adoptive fathers trailing behind them, trying to pick up the broken pieces but failing miserably. It’s a terrifying thought – children being adopted into these unstable and often unsafe environments

Mothers who had narcissist as parents are a target group for adoption predation. The roles that narcissists put their children into, now that they are mothers, allows them to be exploited by adoption counsellors in order to procure babies for their clientele, the prospective adoptive parents. These mothers are far easier to manipulate and their trauma is exploited, which often hasn’t been addressed or dealt with previously. Like all that is bad in adoption practice, it exploits the trauma and uses it as emotional impetus for an outcome against the mother and against her keeping her baby, along with the impossibly brief time frames allowed for her to make a decision. The ultimate goal – relinquishment.

Fitting In vs Belonging

The image could be the mantra for many adoptees. A lifetime of trying to fit in, be accepted and feel worthy is exhausting and traumatic. We don’t always even know the toll it takes on us emotionally, but it manifests in so many different ways in our lives.

Now that I actually know I am 25% Danish (my adoptee dad’s original father was a Danish immigrant) this story captured my heart. An adoptee writes about her struggle fitting in.

I’m an Asian European. My mother is Danish and my father is an American. I’ve grown up in both places but have moved home to Denmark and am staying here because I feel this is my true home.

Both my Danish and my American family are white, all my friends here in Denmark are white and I’ve almost lost contact to all of my Asian friends in the US because they mistakenly think that I want to be white, my husband is white (I chose him because of who he is and not what he is), and my two sons are often mistaken for being white. So whether I like it or not – and I actually don’t – I’ve developed a white identity.

When I look in the mirror I’m actually surprised to see an Asian woman and I honestly don’t know how to feel about the woman I see. I actually expect to see a white woman with rosy skin, blond hair and blue eyes. Not because that’s what I want to look like at all but because here in Denmark most women have blond hair and blue eyes.

My Asian friends in the US were South Asians, so I never really had any…what should we say ? Mongoloid Asians as mirrors to compare myself to and therefore, I have no idea whether I’m ugly, average, or beautiful. It’s a very strange feeling.

I have to admit that my family’s feeling about Asians and non-whites haven’t helped me to become a proud Asian either. They’ve always made it clear that it was probably a mistake to adopt me. I was never allowed to call my parents mom and dad but was told to call them by their first names. The family has said things like “you’re not really like them (other Asians), so you don’t have to mix with them”. They went hysterical whenever I was with non-white friends or boyfriends and they nearly threw me out in the cold, when I tried to discover the Asian in me.

I was actually disappointed when I fell in love with my husband. I thought, now they’re going to have their way. Oh, aren’t they just going to be thrilled that I’m marrying a white man and to make it all worse for me (better for them) he has blond hair and blue eyes like most Danes.

It doesn’t help the situation that my husband has said that he always imagined that his wife and children would be fair and have blond hair. I get so hurt when people say “your sons could be mistaken for white, you can’t even tell that they’re half Asian”. Said in a tone expressing ? relief or pride ?

I know it’s a lengthy message but I hope that after having read it the reader understands why I’m not exactly a proud Asian and that it’s easier for me to try to blend into the white community and culture that I live in because this is the only place I feel at home. I am Danish; I’m Danish-Asian.

~ posted on Reddit

One comment touched my heart – it is the last one on that linked page but wow, two adoptees who married, that is like my own parents.

To the Danish adoptee, I am so sorry you were adopted into such a racist, white superiority, piece of crap for a family. OOH IT makes my blood boil when I hear stories like yours. How dare your family to even get a chance to adopt a person who is of color. There is definitely a glitch in the adoption service when it comes to screening the proper families to adopt internationally. When I hear stories like yours it makes me sad, angry and I can’t help thinking that there has to be way to solve these problems. I can only begin to understand how much pain you have gone through and trying your whole life to make sense of what it is that you have gone through. Let me tell you, you aren’t alone in this world. I am married to a Korean adoptee and he didn’t have the best adoptive parents either. I am also a Korean adoptee and being married to an adoptee, it is extremely complicated and trying at times. Our adoption and how we were both raised comes out in our marriage a lot.

It Actually Does Matter

I have known quite a few people who were not entirely happy with the family of their birth but those of us who have been touched by adoption lost the family of our birth. Some of us find our way back. Today’s blog is inspired by a story in Severance Magazine written by Kristen Steinhilber titled My Biology Matters. It Did All Along.

She writes – “It took me more than three decades of fairytale-oriented platitudes and assumptions thrown like bombs my way about adoption to piece together one very relevant thread: everyone who told me that biology doesn’t matter—including both sides of my own adoptive family—had intact bloodlines and genetic histories. And that what they were really saying, whether they meant to or not, was that my biology doesn’t matter.”

I encountered something like this as well. When I was first learning about my original families (both of my parents were adopted), I was attending a writer’s conference in St Louis when one of our members questioned me – If the adoptive family was good, why does it matter? As we talked, it slowly dawned on her that if she wanted to know, it would have been a fairly easy thing for her to learn as much as she wanted to know from her older family members. Not so for adoptees.

She goes on to write – “. . . withholding and secrecy—are encouraged in the world of adoption when it comes to the biology of adoptees. In fact, withholding and secrecy are legally enforced through sealed birth records. So when I found out, I assumed this was normal, understandable, or even maybe for my own good. My adoptive mother may have even believed that herself.” And adds, “since I’d always been told that adoption was such a gift, I didn’t feel I had the right to it. I pushed my own feelings away and suppressed what was in my gut.”

Even my adoptee mom, after being denied her adoption file and being told her mother was already dead, tried to put a good face on it all as she abandoned trying to do a family tree at Ancestry using the adoptive family details saying “it wasn’t real” and I understand that but needed to say at that point “because I was adopted, glad I was.” Though I doubt she really meant that, what else could she say at that point ?

She describes her experience of reunion – “I had a beautiful reunion with them for years and ‘fit’ naturally. Not in the same way that they fit with each other; that’s simply not possible when you miss out on all those years.” This has been my experience in having genetic biological relations reunions – I can feel these are really, truly the people who I am related to and at the same time I can’t make up for all of the years they were living their lives and I wasn’t in them. It affects my feelings towards the adoptive family I grew up with. I’m like my mom in very real ways – they aren’t real anymore, though at one time they were. The love remains for the good people they all were and are, yet they are also “strangers”, not actually related to me in reality. 

I understand it when she says, “The spiritual and psychological isolation of having two families but not belonging to either has ripped me from limb to limb . . .” That’s the painful part of it all. While I do now feel more “complete” and know my ethnic and familial roots, I don’t actually belong to either family group in any real way. It is actually very sad and only now do I allow myself to feel this, brought almost to tears by the truth of it. It is the sense of not belonging that plagues many adoptees and now I understand passes down the family line to their children as well.

She talks about the massive number of adoptees who stand in solidarity for adoption reform. At least, I am one of those now as well.

A Failed Adoption Is Not The Same Thing

A woman shares this – Someone’s asking how to support a friend whose adoption has been disrupted at [a specific point in an unborn baby’s gestation]. This friend is a would be adoptive parent. The responses to this situation, that include some from other adoptive parents who identify themselves as having experienced this, equate it to a death in the family, stillbirth, or trauma.

Certainly, one could relate the two up to a point. The prospective adoptive parents have been excited about the pending adoption. They have the expectation of holding a newborn in their arms. They may have invested in a crib, baby clothes and diapers among their other preparations. But the similarity stops there.

My daughter experienced a stillbirth with her first pregnancy. She describes to me being given the expelled fetus in a blanket to hold and say goodbye to at the hospital. She tells me that when she became pregnant again with my grandson, she could hear this first one saying to her in her heart, you weren’t ready for me then.

Another woman shares (she is an adoptive parent) – I have had two late term stillbirths. Both were cord deaths. In no way, shape or form would I say that a failed adoption is at all related to experiencing a stillbirth or death loss. You cannot even put the two together. It’s only recently that stillbirth has been allowed to even be spoken about. This is why pre-birth adoption matching of unborn babies to be shouldn’t be allowed! Adoptive parents who compare the two, taking away from the women who have had an actual loss by birthing a stillbirth baby by comparing that tremendous sorrow with a belief that their loss of a baby because the expectant mother has changed her mind is a kind of mental illness.

An adoption reform response to prospective adoptive parents experiencing this kind of loss could be – “While this is a type of loss for your family, can you shift your perspective and realize how amazing it is that this mother and your family will not have to live with the certain regrets surrounding an adoption? It is a lovely and precious thing for this mom to be able to parent – just as it would have been for you.”

Bridging A Detour

Still raising awareness about Foster Care issues.

A request for guidance or advice – my wife and I have 4 foster kids. We get along great with the biological mom and they’re actually going to be reunified in the next month which is a huge win.

The biological mother has come to us and told us she is pregnant again, this time with twins who are due in December. At 25 years old, she is doubting he can handle 6 kids. She is asking us to adopt the twins.

We said “yes” of course but are wondering now what ?

Differences of opinion – focusing on the biological mother’s motivation to reunify with her children. Being pregnant with twins and faced with a total of 6 children, could feel overwhelming. This coming from an adoption reform and family preservation perspective.

This person wanted to know what the barriers were for this biological mother to keep and raise ALL of her children.

Yet, the group where this occurred, is made up of hopeful adoptive parents who offered the usual pro-adoption narrative line – “She is making a loving choice.” They were more focused on offering advice related to pursuing the adoption.

I really liked this response –

Of course, she is overwhelmed. I’ve been there. At 28 years old, I have 6 kids. Yes, it was hard but we’ve made it work.

Another person reflected on why this story is disappointing.

The foster parents have been doing everything correctly with the biological mother and have been supporting the reunification of the foster care children with their original family.

One can understand the foster care parents believing that this person they care about, needs their help – by adopting these twins she hasn’t met yet.

And I agree with the suggesting that this expectant mother needs counseling before she choses a permanent solution which in the moment is a temporary situation because change truly is constant.

And here’s the suggested response to be truly supportive of this young mother – “It’s going to be hard but you can do this. How about we help with babysitting, meals, grocery pick up, we can watch them overnight a couple times a week so you can sleep.”

Racially Determined Adoptions

I spent most of last summer educating myself about racial inequality and reform issues. Now I see this advertisement. First of all, $13,000 tax credit for adopters??? Think if poor mothers got $13,000 to keep and raise their own babies. The newborn adoption industry would totally collapse.  In Canada, they pay single parents so that they are not burdened with having to find a job and child care. There are no losers in that scenario. This program lasts until the child is 18. The amount per month decreases as the child gets older.

Note that African American babies are less valuable at Everlasting Adoptions. One could ask – Doesn’t this somehow directly violate anti-discrimination laws? Besides the smell of human trafficking in this brochure. No one regulates this business. It’s truly the wild west at this time in human history as regards adoption. This one isn’t even an adoption agency, its like a “travel agent” for people who want to pay someone to find a birth mom for them. If found, the parties then go to an adoption agency to draw up the paperwork but on Everlasting Adoptions website, they proudly take credit for successfully completed matches.

NPR did a story back in 2013 titled Six Words: ‘Black Babies Cost Less To Adopt’. The title for this one came from a Louisiana woman. Other contributors have also addressed the skin-color based fee structure for many adoptions, NPR noted – The intersection of race and adoption has prompted many people to submit their six words to The Race Card Project. Americans adopt thousands of children each year. And as the nation has become increasingly diverse, and with the growth of international adoption in recent decades, many of those children don’t look like their adoptive parents.

One adoptive parent, remembers a phone call with an adoption agency social worker. “And [she] was telling us about these different fee structures that they had based on the ethnic background of the child. And … they also had, sort of a different track for adoptive parents.” Moving through the process would be quicker, if the family was open to adopting an African-American (not biracial) child, the social worker explained to her. “And that is because they have children of color waiting,” but adopting biracial, Latino, Asian or Caucasian children could be a slower process because there were more parents waiting for them. “And I remember hearing this and just sort of being dumbfounded that they would sort of segregate — to use a loaded term — segregate these children by ethnic background before they were even in this world,”

It is a profit-motivated, supply and demand business. Thankfully, NPR also found that some states and agencies are using a different formula to make adoption more affordable for families, with a sliding scale based on income rather than skin color. In that system, lower-income families pay less to adopt. Some agencies are also moving toward a uniform cost system where all adoptive parents would pay the same fees. (Though I am still not in favor of adoption in most cases.) Still, back in 2013, the cost to adopt the Caucasian child was approximately $35,000, plus some legal expenses. I see upward of $40,000 in Go Fund Me efforts set up by hopeful adoptive parents today in 2021.

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.

Fragility Self-Test

Before you decide to adopt or foster a child, consider your own emotional state.  Here’s some help for contemplation.

1. Do I feel defensive when an adoptee, former foster youth or birth/first mother says “adoptive parents tend to…?”

2. Do I feel angry when people tell me I benefit from adoptive parent privilege — that the adoption industry works in my favor, or that my socioeconomic class and/or race enabled me to adopt?

3. When an adoptee, former foster youth or original mother talks about adoption, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think?

4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?

5. Do I have a history of embracing hopeful or adoptive parent behavior that I now feel ashamed of, so I need to show people that I’m no longer “like that”?

6. Does saying “not all adoptive parents” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls adoptive parents out for some perspective or behavior?

7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of poor adoptive parent behavior?

8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “every (adoption) experience is different?”

9. Do I try to convince adoptees, former foster youth and original mothers that they’re wrong about adoption by pointing out people from their position in the triad who agree with me?

10. Do I feel the need to talk about my own hardships (such as infertility, a “failed” adoption, or a difficult childhood) when an adoptee or original mother talks about their pain?

11. Do I think the adoption community would benefit if people stopped talking about the hard stuff, were more supportive, learned from “both sides,” or focused more on the positive?

12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is harmful make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?

13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are adoptees or first mothers when someone points out my problematic behavior?

14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m one of the good ones?

15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about adoption should be given equal weight to that of an adoptee or original mother, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the adoption conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?

16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points when commenting in a discussion?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with adoptive parent fragility. Take time to reflect on why you feel the way that you do. Take time to listen to adoptee and original mother perspectives.

Adoptive parent fragility is a hindrance to healing because it prevents adoptees/original mothers from being able to engage with adoptive parents in honest conversation, without also having to bear the burden of catering to adoptive parents’ emotional comfort.

At its worst, adoptive parent fragility can cause an emotionally unhealthy situation for adoptees/original mothers because of the power dynamics and the weight of being responsible for the adoptive parents’ feelings, while not being allowed the same consideration to express their own.

There is also the weight that comes with people that you care about lashing out at and abusing you (verbally, emotionally, and/or digitally).

If we cannot talk honestly about the issues surrounding the traditional adoption industry, then we cannot make progress towards creating a healthy reform.

Who Was Georgia Tann ?

Georgia Tann in the photo above is with her most desirable kind of adoptable child, a blond fair-skinned girl.

From a Memphis Tennessee Commercial Appeal article dated October 7, 1979 –

Georgia Tann was accused of selling babies for profit.  The money apparently bought her the “good life” of fur coats, chauffeur-driven limousines, gambling trips to Cuba, a summer cottage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and social status with Hollywood’s movie stars.

The state of Tennessee charged that Miss Tann made more than $500,000 in her illegal baby-selling scheme during the decade before she died of cancer on Sept 15, 1950.  Both her own granddaughter and the state investigator believe she spent all of her money before she died at the age of 59.

Her granddaughter said, “It was a running joke in my family that Georgia Tann’s last will said, ‘I spent it all’, Vicci Finn said (she is the daughter of Dr Victor Watson and June Tann Watson – her parents were both dead by this date).

“When Georgia Tann found out she was ill and wasn’t going to live long, they (the Watsons and Miss Tann) went on a nationwide tour. They stayed at the finest hotels and spent money. This is what my mother told me.”

Miss Tann was in charge of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Memphis Branch, from 1922 until her death in 1950.  Both my mother and her older brother had been adopted from that agency in the 1930s.

Georgia Tann wasn’t able to defend herself during the investigation as she lapsed in and out of consciousness due to the complications of cancer.  The powers that be in Memphis at the time (many of whom were directly implicated as having benefited from or were beholding to, because they too had adopted children from Ms Tann) chose to let the matter die as the primary criminal target was taken beyond conviction by death itself.

The adoption agency was closed, never to be allowed to reopen, 3 mos after her death.  Many reforms were instituted in Tennessee as a result of the practices uncovered.  The state also decided to unsealed the agency records for those persons directly affected by the practices in the mid-1990s.

Which is why I now know much more of the actual story of my mother’s own adoption than she did and died not knowing.