Been There, Doing Better

Today’s story – not my own.

I am a former foster care youth who was adopted. When my biological niece (I found my family via Ancestry) was taken and placed in foster care, I had to step up and help since I’ve been there. So, I got kinship guardianship of my niece while my brother was in a recovery program. He was making good progress. Sadly, about 4 months ago, he stopped going and relapsed. The timing was bad. The case worker and attorney are looking to switch my niece’s program to a Termination of Parental Rights goal. I’m afraid if they do this, my brother may spiral downward. I definitely don’t want to see that happen. I’m not given any specific information because I am just the caregiver. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the termination process or addiction. I don’t know what to expect or how to help my brother.

From experience, someone commented – As the current legal custodian of my niece and myself, a child raised under legal guardianship – Would you be willing/able to remain her legal custodian under kinship as a long term permanency plan? Being raised within my family was in some ways very beneficial for me. There was still a lot of trauma. But if your niece is safe with you and you can raise her long term, that may be very beneficial for her.

In response, the original commenter said – she has been with me a little over a year now. she was in foster care 5 months before she came to me. She will always be welcome here. I did not know there were long term kinship options. The only options I am aware of come from the caseworker. His perspective is if my brother does what he should, he will get her back. If I take Article 6 Custody (from termination of parental rights) that drops the case for both my brother and the baby’s mother. (I have never meet her. She checked out of the hospital early and never set anything up with Dept of Social Services to have visits or anything.) I didn’t want the final option, which I was told was my willingness to adopt her. I don’t know where this will go but I definitely don’t want to see my brother fall down the rabbit hole.

And then there was this (people can really care !!) – Addiction is a disease that can be treated. This child has a genetic risk of inheriting this gene. I want to share with you that I’ve been in recovery for over 23 years – completely clean and sober. I can share some things with you and resources, as much as you want. Please feel free to ask me ANYTHING either here or privately in private message. There IS hope and as long as your brother is still breathing, he can still clean up. There are resources for you, for the child, all sorts of things. It’s ok, and my heart goes out to you and I am sending prayers to your brother, you and all in this situation. There IS hope and he CAN recover. I think you are doing the right thing by keeping your niece with you in a kinship capacity. Please feel free to reach out, now or later, ok? xo

DNA Traveler

Tim Curran

I feel a kinship with this man’s DNA Roots journey. In fact, my family just finished watching the original Roots series based on the book by Alex Haley. I had my own roots journey and like this man, Tim Curran, 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA did help me on my way only I didn’t leave the US in search of family – yet. I’d love to travel to Denmark – from where my paternal grandfather immigrated to the US.

Tim’s story comes to me by way of CNN Travel. LINK>I used DNA analysis to find my birth family and it sent me across three continents. California connects Tim’s story to mine and like me, he found the impenetrable walls of sealed records and tight-lipped officials in that state. Only he was born in 1961 and my dad was born there in 1935. From what I know of my own father’s story, this part of Tim’s story seems to be very similar – “On opposite sides of the world, they had both butted heads with difficult parents and left home at the first opportunity. They both wound up in one of the most free-thinking places on Earth: San Francisco.” On my paternal side, it was San Diego.

I don’t think my paternal grandfather actually butted heads in his family but opportunities in that country for siblings other than the first born were limited. My grandfather was the 5th of 10 children and several of his siblings had already migrated to the US – mostly into the Illinois and Wisconsin areas. My grandfather chose to take a train from NYC, where he landed, and on that train met a woman, much older than him and a private duty nurse, who agreed to marry him. It was mostly a marriage of convenience. When we don’t really know the accurate story, like Tim, I filled in the gaps. I suspect he may have eaten dinners, while his wife was on duty with some person, at the restaurant on the beach where my grandmother was employed by her aunt and uncle. She had a truly evil step-mother and so yes, she fled them and refused to return to Asheville North Carolina, after they traveled to visit her grandfather in California.

Like Tim, I have found my mother’s and father’s families welcoming me – even though they hardly, if even, knew I existed before I made contact. Some were vaguely aware that one or the other of my grandmothers had given a child up for adoption but really didn’t know any more than that. Sadly, it does not appear that my grandfather ever knew he had a son, being the married man having an affair with a much younger woman. But resourceful as she was, she simply handled it ending up employed by the Salvation Army after giving birth in one of their homes for unwed mothers.

Back to Tim’s story (which you can read in full at the LINK at the top of this blog) – his father worked as floor installer in the city’s North Beach neighborhood — where she was a cocktail waitress and dancer. I pictured them meeting while he installed floors in a nightclub where she was working. By all accounts, it must have been a very brief affair. My father was living with a girlfriend, and my mother’s sister says she never once heard my mother discuss my father in any way. Other than the sister and her mother, no one else in her family was told she was pregnant. (I was lucky enough that my grandmother had a photo album with a head shot and the name of my grandfather on the back.) My father’s family says they are 100% certain he was never told. (And my Danish relatives likewise, never knew my grandfather had a son.)

Tim has a large Moroccan family who own a set of neighboring summer homes just yards from the beach. The houses are built on property his grandfather bought nearly a century ago (when the land was thought to be worthless). It is a place where they go to escape the summer heat of Casablanca. In that family, he was able to recognize that many of their personality traits and quirks – how boisterous, curious and sly they are – just like he was as well. When I met a cousin on my paternal line, her appearance could have made her my youngest sister’s twin. That obvious physical appearance connection between our families seems to have mattered greatly to her.

Touring the country of Morocco, the sites he saw were beautiful and awe-inspiring, alien yet weirdly familiar. He experienced the country in a unique and very personal way thanks to his DNA journey: as a son just one generation removed from his father’s homeland. Though Alex Haley was further removed from his own African roots, it must have been deeply emotional to experience the native culture, which was so different from the modern life in the United States that he became a successful author in.

Like Tim, I bravely went looking. I was not content with the not knowing that my parents died with. I had the wherewithall to seek answers and with determination found success. Just as Tim and Alex both did. It is a journey well worth taking and many have written about similar adoptee root journeys that they have taken. Not every effort succeeds. Tim’s parents were both deceased and my grandparents were all deceased. For Alex, the stories lived on, passed down orally from one generation to the next.

Sad Christmas

From my all things adoption group –

I just asked my biological mother (who I have a non-relationship with, as she refuses one) for just the name of my biological father. She was less than kind. I have done the DNA stuff, that is how I found her. But no one on my paternal side seems to have done that. It appears that a name is too much to ask of her. If you are not an adoptee, can you even imagine that pain?

Some responses –

From an adoptee – My birth mum won’t tell me where my dad is and I know she knows because “she isn’t surprised he’s decided he wants nothing to do with me.” It hurts. Is there no way of seeing if social media platforms might have any info? It’s a long shot but it might be worth it. I know they are shite to deal with and it brings more trauma but maybe they will be able to help.

From an adoptive mother – Two of my adult adoptee kids met the same stone wall. It is infuriating.

Another adoptee – my birth mother is a grade a b*tch who lies and manipulates everyone around her – so I empathize greatly.

And when there are other children ? Mine is the same and she has even convinced the children she kept that I am the problem. The previous adoptee added – same but 3 of them are adults and 2 are low contact with her and recently in contact with me. The things she said about me were just so completely off the wall false that I’m probably going to be mad about it a long time. It was the catalyst for me though and I blocked her across all platforms including email so she’d have to really dig to even contact me now. Plus this PS –  just in case you need to hear it – you are not the problem. She is the problem.

One birth mother notes – I will never understand a mother keeping that info away from their child. I’m sorry, it’s not too much to ask.

I had this thought as well – Is there a chance she might not truly know? From an adoptive mother who adopted through foster care – I fear my daughter is going to go through this in the future too, as her birth mother never identified her dad before termination took place. I pray all the time that she is going to be in a better place when my daughter turns 18 and will reveal that information to her. I hope yours does also. In our situation, there were several men who were tested before termination. I’m not sure if she was unsure or just playing games.

And sadly, this kind of thing does happen in families – As a birth mom, unless it was rape, (which she should tell you), there’s no reason for her to not tell you. I will always be honest when my son asks me and tell him who his father is. My cousin that has Ancestry found me and asked me who his father could be, I had to basically tell him that his birth mom probably was raped because this particular uncle was that kind of person. (She will not tell him who his dad was)

One suggestion from a woman who was fostered from birth and considers herself a forced adoptee at the age of 10 – Do both Ancestry & 23andme – My mother never would tell me either, but my genetic father lied & gave her a fake name, so in a way I am glad I never fixated on a name… DNA doesn’t lie.

An important piece for adoption reform is for counselors to address with any expectant mother – why she has red flags around the father. All adoptees need better family medical history information than most have had – certainly my parents had none. 

One responder noted – It’s emotional immaturity. She won’t process her actions and own any of it, therefore she won’t give you the information and she doesn’t even see why that may be damaging to you because she’s so hung up on herself. The truth is that she may not know, but even that – she’s unwilling to share. It wouldn’t bring you any answers but it also wouldn’t add to the pain she’s caused by straight up caring only about herself.

And finally another adoptee who was in foster care – I found my birth mother 20 years ago. My father has been difficult to locate though I know his full name. I actually informally met my half sister on my dad’s side through 23 and Me. I have sent her a request to chat but so far nothing.  It would be cool to meet the man. It’s apparent he doesn’t want to meet me. He could simply contact my mother.

Secrecy v. Privacy

I belong to a group that almost 20 years ago divided into a “tell/don’t tell” perspective. I often wonder how that has worked out for the don’t tell group. And if it has served, at what point might their offspring do a inexpensive DNA test and thereby learn the truth – that they were lied to their entire childhood. I’m glad we never thought to go in that direction.

My blog today is inspired by an article in Psychology Today LINK> Secrecy v. Privacy in Donor Conception Families, subtitled Walking the fine line between privacy and secrecy is inherent in donor families. Some of the differences – Privacy is the choice to not be seen, while secrecy is based in fear, shame, or embarrassment. Privacy involves setting comfortable and healthy boundaries. Carrying a family secret is a heavy burden. Donor families based in honesty and transparency have more meaningful and deep relationships.

In that group I mentioned, we each recognized a right to privacy for each other and honoring their right to privacy demonstrated our respect for their choice and was a foundation for trust among us. Withholding information for fear of the consequences implies a negative kind of secrecy. Secrets require a lot of emotional energy and are a heavy burden to carry. Secrecy undermines trust and is therefore harmful within relationships. Privacy, which includes creating healthy boundaries is generally beneficial. Learning when and how to create boundaries is a good lesson to teach one’s children, especially in this age where information seems to flow so readily and once out there, can’t be taken back.

The stigma of infertility is still very present in society and is often the reason why a couple may not want to be open about how they were able to conceive their children. Yet there is also a sense of social responsibility that has mattered to me from the beginning. Women are generally NOT fertile beyond a certain expiration date. When someone conceives at such an advanced age as I did (46 and 49), that could give the wrong impression to another younger woman that they have more time in which to begin their family desire fulfillment than they probably do. There are always exceptions to anything age related but that is a general rule. Much harder to conceive after the age of 40. I conceived very easily in my 20s.

Many children not told the truth about their origin – whether it was adoption, a donor facilitated conception or an illicit affair – still feel that there was something being withheld from them. When they discover the truth, they often feel anger. Even with the more modern openness, such origin stories are still not the norm. Many who are aware of their status may have little opportunity to talk about it to others who understand. Some may not have the language to speak about their experience.

I have given my children the gift of 23 and Me testing and accounts. Both their egg donor and their genetic father are there. This has led to questions from relatives of the donor to one of my sons. My advice to him as tell them to ask their donor about whatever they are curious about. When one donates genetic material, they must be aware that questions may arise in the future. It is only natural. Still, it was my perspective it is up to her as to what or how much she wishes to tell one of HER own relations about the circumstances. Having the 23 and Me channel gives my sons a method of privately communicating with their donor. I also frequently show them photos of her and her other children, so they are more aware of these persons with which they are genetically related. Distance prevents closer, in person relationships at this time, though they have met her in person more than once. I have an interestingly close, psychic and emotionally connected, relationship with my sons. My belief is that it comes from a combination of carrying them in my womb and breastfeeding them for over a year plus being in their lives pretty much 24/7 for most of their childhood (though there have been brief absences for valid reasons).

Limited

Mindy Stern

I discovered Mindy Stern today and have maxed out my “free” member-only stories on Medium for the month looking at her essays. They are definitely worth reading. She speaks truth about what it is like being an adoptee. That the experience is not better, only different. You can find links to her Medium essays at LINK>The Mindy Stern. If you want insights straight from an adoptee voice, go there.

I don’t know how much my mom tried to talk to her adoptive mother about her adoption. At most, I know that my adoptive grandmother did her best to reassure my mom that she was not one of those babies that Georgia Tann had stolen and sold after the scandal broke. That is about as much as my mom ever told me about it. I do know that my mom went to her grave believing her adoption was inappropriate. I know that the state of Tennessee refused to budge and give her the adoption file that had been closed and sealed. The one I now have completely. I now have contact with genetic relatives though it will always be problematic because I didn’t grow up with them and it leaves a gulf of experience that a late discovery that I am “one of them” never quit seems to bridge. I know my mom gave up trying to do a family tree at Ancestry because in the language of genetic connection that is what DNA is all about, the adoptive families weren’t real and she eventually resigned herself that it was pointless to continue. Just a few of the sorrows and sadness felt by one adoptee and I was fortunate as her daughter to be trusted with her truest feelings about it all but even those were only expressed in a limited way. There is no other way to say it. Adoption robs an adoptee of so much.

I was able to relate to so much in Mindy’s essay – LINK>Don’t Make Us Choose. Because my adoptee parents (both were adoptees) were never able to unravel their own origin stories, adoption limited us as their children from hearing much of anything about them or how my own parents felt. What I know now is what I had to find and reveal to my own self after they died.

The essay describes Mindy’s visit to her adoptive mother at the hospital after emergency heart surgery. The nurse asks her – where did you get your height? – because she is 5’6″ – her adoptive mother is 4’8″. All her life, her adoptive parents expected her to lie and pretend. She says, “pretending was implicit in our contract. Intended or not, their silence told me lying about my identity was acceptable, even encouraged.”

Mindy asks her readers to “Imagine what it feels like to worry if answering a basic question about your height will hurt your mother’s feelings. Consider the pain of pretending. The charade begins the moment our records are sealed, birth certificates amended, names changed. They build every closed adoption on lies, and adoptive parents who don’t proudly celebrate their child’s differences conspire with the pretense.”

Similar to my adoptee father, her dad never knew about her until she found him. Her birth mother took the secret of her to the grave. My dad’s father never knew about him. They look very much alike, just like my mom looks very much like her birth mother. Adoption robs the adoptee of genetic mirrors. They never know where this physical or innate trait (like a love of fishing in my dad) came from. The truth in my dad’s case was both nature and nurture. His original father spent his life involved with fishing, my dads’ adoptive parents loved to go fishing. Yet Mindy explains that her adoptive mother kept a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding Mindy’s original parents.

When Mindy does try to touch that place with her adoptive mother, the tears begin. So, Mindy says “I’m not a sadist so I go along with the policy. She won’t ask, I won’t tell, and our relationship will stay limited and distant and my god that is such a shame.”

I have struggled with that need to choose – my parents’ adoption and now knowing the truth they never did – has forced me to confront it, second hand. Who do I love – my adoptive relatives or the ones that came through the birth of my parents to their original parents? I have almost worked through it well enough to be able to love them all equally. Mindy describes a snippet of conversation with her adoptive mother when she touches that place.

“Mom, you get how fucked up this is, right? It’s like telling a gay child you accept them but not allowing their partner to come to dinner.”

“I’m afraid it makes you… regret your life.”

“They (her reunion with genetic family) give me something you can’t, you give me something they can’t. Neither of you replaces the other.” And I appreciate her words because they express the paradox of adoption so well. She notes that after that the server arrived and placed our food down. Her mother changed the subject. Mindy says, “We were done. That was the best she could do. At least she listened.”

Her essay ends on a decidedly happy note and I encourage you to read it for a smile today.

Losing My ?

As the child of both parents being adoptees and as the sister to my only two sisters, who both gave up babies to adoption – I’ve said “adoption” was the most natural thing in the world for me. But that isn’t quite right – it’s not natural – and all of the kids I grew up going to school with didn’t have adoptee parents (though thankfully, my parents were NOT my adoptive parents) and adoptive grandparents and adoptee uncles. So, I can’t really say it was commonplace to have adoption be so primary in our lives.

The closest I can come is that it was the reality. Not having a medical history for my parents when asked about that in doctor’s offices was just the reality.

Not knowing our racial heritage was just the reality. In fact, it may seem a bit odd but until I knew better (in 2017, when I was already 63 years old and both of my parents deceased), I honestly thought my mom was half African American and my dad was half Mexican – not kidding about that – that is how I was able to explain to myself that my parents had been given up for adoption – they must have been mixed race, which made me at least 50% mixed race along with 50% white (because I was definitely light skinned, blond haired and blue eyed). The truth was far from my creative imaginings. My mom had a lot of Scottish along with some English and thanks to slavery a smidgeon of Mali. My dad is half Danish.

My 4 adoptive grandparents were all wonderful people. My mom’s original parents were highly thought of and loved by their relations. My dad’s mother was loved and his dad, well he was a lot like my dad. Never knew he had even one child, let alone a son. More’s the pity – I think they would have made great fishing buddies.

Yet for about 5 years now, I’ve been reading the thoughts of adoptees wherever I find them and my perspective has entirely changed. I do not think adoption is a good thing in most cases. I actually thought my parents were orphans for the longest time – like until I was grown and heard from my mom that she was trying to get the state of Tennessee to release her adoption file to her because she was CONVINCED her adoption had been inappropriate (to a great extent because Georgia Tann had been involved) and she wanted to contact her original mother. Then, the state of Tennessee broke her heart because they told her that her mom had already died a few years earlier. She knew her dad was likely (and even that was not certain) older than her mom, so probably dead too. About 2 years after my mom died, I was able to do what she never could – get her entire adoption file from the state of Tennessee.

I do have Ancestry as well as 23 and Me to thank for most of my progress on my dad’s side. I now know who all 4 of my original grandparents were (something my own parents died never knowing). I have contact with some genetic, biological relations who are still living. I feel whole in a way I never even knew I did not feel before I learned all of that.

Somehow this song speaks to my feelings about all of this . . .

No Win Situation

An unwed mother is pregnant with her 2nd child, due in early February, and the dad has no plans to be involved. She has a 5-year-old that she had the same heartfelt struggle with making this decision. She has spent almost every day of his life, wondering if he would’ve been better off if she’d just put him up for adoption. That is what she wanted to before his dad stepped in and said he wanted to keep him. She has limited to no support from her family and friends.

Where she is now . . . “The only consensus I managed to come to is that I’d be traumatizing my baby if I put it for adoption, but if I don’t have support, I’m going to ruin the baby anyway. So many of those adoptees have such a jaded, negative view of their birth families for putting them up for adoption, but they also resent their adoptive families for ‘stealing’ them, so I’m right back to square one of no matter what I choose, I’m evil and ruining my baby’s life.”

From an adoptee – I’m an adoptee of a closed adoption. A DNA test for Ancestry revealed my birth parents. If I were you, I wouldn’t adopt and as an adoptee, I regret being adopted. I don’t necessarily think my birth parents ruined my life by not keeping me because I don’t know what my life would have been with them. Having another baby won’t ruin your life. It won’t ruin your son’s. You can get your mental health back either way, because either way it’s going to take work and probably therapy. I just wouldn’t make the decision out of fear that you’re not capable because I think that’s when we get into decisions we regret.

So often, when unwed expectant mothers come into my all things adoption group seeking insight, it is almost universal that they don’t feel capable of parenting. It is most likely true in all of these cases that those who do decide to parent still have a difficult and challenging situation to navigate. With some mothers, the group goes the extra mile to supply things the mother will need once she has her baby, if she decides to parent. These women often come back when the baby is older saying how grateful they are to have been encouraged to keep their babies.

This group also sometimes helps a parent who has become embroiled in a custody situation where adoptive or foster parents want to keep the baby they managed to get. The legal process is daunting, fraught with challenges and no certainty of being won. Better to at least give parenting a try. Worst case, there is always the option to surrender to adoption . . .

My favorite saying in life is from the Lemony Snicket movie – A Series of Unfortunate Events. I can’t find what I remember anywhere but it comes down to no matter how dark or bad things look, there is always a way out of that situation. It has often inspired me to hold the line until I see the way has proven to be so . . .

Baudelaire Kids from Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events

How To Answer What’s It Like

Though my mom talked to me about her being adopted, my dad never did. I didn’t have enough background foundation to ask more direct questions of my parents and since they are both deceased, that opportunity has been lost to me. Therefore, I am always interested in adoptee’s who share how it feels to have been adopted.

Some stories for a Sunday morning –

As an adoptee, I get a lot of questions about my experience and feelings toward my adoption. I have found great value in trying to understand and explain those experiences. Recently I was asked by a friend, “What is it like for you to be an adoptee during childhood ? What about as an adult, is it the same or is the experience different ?”

I have so many mixed feelings about it confusion, pain, anger, and loneliness are the primary feelings I have about it, especially when I was younger. I didn’t understand why I was so different from my family and from others. It was always a hot button for someone being a jerk to press – being unloved by my birth mother or disposable by her. I mean, the family I grew up in ? We don’t look alike, act alike or even communicate in the same ways. I was sent away during a four year period of my childhood to boarding schools and wilderness programs because they said I was “out of control.”

I just had so much anger when I was younger but now I truly believe that my adoptive parents had no idea how to handle me. I didn’t get to say things like “it’s because of my heritage,” or “it’s the Irish in me” because I really didn’t know my history. Those feeling are subsiding with age and time and my search for who I am increases yearly. I want to share those genetic connections that others share and see my quirks in another person, without seeming like I am ungrateful.

My adoptive parents are very supportive of this search but I know that it does hurt them. As a father myself, I am finally experiencing some of those things and kinds of similarities I always wanted, and it is a beautiful feeling. The feeling now is more longing, hope, and feeling lucky to be alive (I know this is not a popular thought with all adoptees but it’s how I feel), and an acceptance of my own reality as I create for my own self my life going forward. It still hurts, a lot. And it fills me with the constant fear regarding my other relationships that I might again experience being abandoned.

Blogger’s note – my father never did get that son he wanted. My parents had three daughters and so, maybe that is why my mom was more forthcoming with me, than my dad was.

Another one – I was fostered from birth and forced to become an adoptee at the age of 10 (it was a closed adoption during the Baby Scoop Era, a period in history starting after the end of World War II and ending in the early 1970s, my mother was coerced to relinquish her rights just before I turned 8 years old).

I still hold a deeply felt anger for the lies I was told and also the physical and mental abuse at the hands of the woman who was allowed to adopt me. I miss my natural mother daily – always have and always will. What I have found empowering as an adult adoptee (yes, it is part of who I am & always will be — I am an adoptee) is speaking out for others, advocating for current foster and adopted youth, so that there’s the opportunity for them to have a better childhood than the one I experienced.

I never would have thought so but doing the DNA tests and discovering living blood relatives (aside from my daughter and her family — who are descendants – and my estranged mother — I never knew of anyone) has been healing. Additionally, I’ve become very involved in building out both sides of my ancestral/heritage family tree. It has been an education in many ways, and although there is a bittersweet sadness to so much, there is also an identification of where I actually do belong within the life/death continuum and that has been an emotionally uplifting experience that has caught me off guard but in a mostly positive way. I am honoring their ancestral (genetic/genealogical) legacy, at the same time I am acknowledging my own place, while learning many things that even my mother (who hid my existence) never knew.

Blogger’s note – for my own self as well. Doing the DNA tests at Ancestry and 23 and Me have filled in the gaps that parents died never knowing. I still need to complete the “new” family trees I started for each of them with their birth identities and genetic relations at Ancestry. It just feels like the right thing to do for each of them. I now have family history. When one has grown up without that, it is difficult to describe how amazing that actually feels.

The next story – I was in the fog until I was about 20. I always knew I was adopted. And my adoptive parents did so much better than most. I always felt like the rug would be pulled out from under me. Always waiting for some big bad disaster. Always distrusting and always feeling like I was somehow “wrong.” As an adult, I have worked really hard to break the cycle of harm. But I still always feel like I have to prove something or I am not valid. And I don’t think I will ever feel like I fit in anywhere.

One last story – as a child I was very curious about my heritage, I always wondered if I had siblings. My adoptive parents gave me a good childhood, we did a lot of things and they were very loving. As I got older, I was also “out of control” and my parents didn’t know what to do. I ended up, moving out at 17 years old.

I had been living in the fog, up until last year. Now, as an adult, it’s like a rollercoaster. An unexplainable ride of emotions from good to bad and everything in between. I’ve been through my reunion. I have 4 half brothers, who I love dearly. I have no relationship with either biological parent. No romantic relationship in my life BUT it’s nice to know that I’ve consistently sabotaged most of them, due to my fear of abandonment (now I understand why). I’ve spent the last year or so really healing from my adoption trauma and it’s felt really good. I still have pain that will never go away. I struggle mostly with the desire to love my biological mother as I “should” and resenting her terribly for abandoning me (twice). She wants no relationship with me and I’m ok with that, it just makes me sad.

Not All Misses The Point

Within a large adoption community discussion space, one often sees the push back from some that their adoption experience was not so bad. When I first went into that community, I was definitely in “the fog” of believing adoption was a good thing, or at least natural. Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption – no wonder – but I have learned so much in the 4-1/2 years since I began to learn about my original grandparents that my perspectives, I believe, are not only more realistic but better informed. I owe a lot of credit to that adoption community that I continue to be a part of.

This morning I did several google searches looking for content to add to the text graphic above. Hard to find anything under “not all,” oppression vs protection, etc. But finally I did find one that seems to bridge both points of view – I Am Grateful To Be Adopted—and Yet, Adoption Is Still Traumatic by Theodora Blanchfield at Very Well Mind, <LINK>. I was also surprised to see a blog from Missing Mom from last year show up in a search.

I think this article also reflects something my adoptee mom said to me at the end of her life – she never could really totally sort out her mixed feelings about having been “inappropriately” adopted (as she termed it) as well as being denied her own adoption file by the state of Tennessee or any possibility of a reunion with her original natural mother (who it turns out was married but separated from my mom’s father and therefore, exploited by Georgia Tann). She said something like, “you know, because I was adopted” (related to trying to create a family tree at Ancestry and how it “just didn’t feel real to her”) and quickly adding “glad I was.” Yet, it didn’t feel genuine.

Like Theodora, my mom grew up in privilege (my mom’s adoptive father was a banker and her mother a socialite). Yet, Theodora writes –

“I have dealt with severe depression, and my psychiatrist monitors me for signs of bipolar because of genetic susceptibility combined with that attachment trauma. I’ve been in inpatient treatment for six weeks, I’ve attempted suicide twice (adoptees are four times as likely to attempt suicide as non-adoptees and deal with mental health issues at a higher rate than non-adoptees). I receive monthly ketamine infusions for my treatment-resistant depression.”

I am aware my mom, admitted to me, she had at least once contemplated suicide. I know that she was frequently under the care of a psychiatrist and was sometimes prescribed Lithium (a mood stabilizer that is approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression and/or mania).

Theodora notes – Adoption narratives, like many other things on social media, paint things much more black and white than they actually are for many people. Anti-adoption advocates paint adoption as akin to human trafficking; adoptive parents and adoptee advocates paint adoption like it’s a fairy tale with a happy-ever-after ending. But what if it’s somewhere in between? 

She goes on to describe many other unpleasant effects that she believes ARE related to the trauma of having been adopted. She adds “Privilege doesn’t negate not knowing where you came from or erase that always-wondering what’s nurture and what’s nature—something you’ve probably never thought about if you’re not adopted.”

She adds, “Telling an adoptee that you ‘don’t think of them as adopted’ is a knife that cuts both ways. It’s meant to be an olive branch, but it also discounts that it is my reality, that I was separated at birth from the woman with whom I share DNA who carried me for nine months. It invalidates the reality of the complexity of all those feelings bubbling up just below the surface, pushing them down until that soda bottle bursts, spilling out years of repressed emotions.”

Not A Celebration

One adoptee’s story –

I was 1 year old, when my mother was convinced to give up her rights to parent me. I was 2 years old, when I was ripped away from my father who asked everyone for help, even social services. After that, I spent 3 years as a medically complex ADHD autistic child (without even a diagnosis of autism until I was 30!) I was bounced between 6 foster care homes before I was adopted at age 5.

I didn’t want to bang that gavel but the judge, the social worker and the woman who raised me – all made it seem like such a party, a good thing, a reward even.

Fast forward 25 years.

My dad’s parents passed in 2020 and 2021. My parents have been gone for over a decade. The woman who raised me passed in May of this year.

I have never EVER felt more unloved, unwanted, and alone.

I’m not included in anyone’s end of life plans, not provided for, not even mentioned.

Because of adoption, my own and my birth mom’s, I will never know her side of the family. I’ve tried everything, Ancestry, Genome Link, I’ve tried it all. Even asked for assistance from angels in the search groups. There’s nothing.

I have two children, who I cling to for dear life. But I have no family outside of them.

Adoption is trauma. Now with the overturning of Roe v Wade, there will be many more generations of adoptees with trauma to come, maybe for decades.