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).

Almost Aborted ?

This story got my attention – LINK>My Family Oversimplified My Brother’s Adoption Story by Carrie McKean in The Atlantic. She writes –

My brother arrived in my life like the rain always did: after fervent prayer and petitioning. With the matter-of-factness of a child suddenly convinced of her cosmic power, I greeted God with a new request: “Can I have a little brother or sister?” True story from this blog author – before our sons were conceived, I prayed for my husband to want children. The rest is obvious (though I never told him about those prayers).

Then, our old family doctor in a neighboring town, a man familiar with my mom’s longing for another baby, asked if my parents would like to adopt a newborn boy. It was to be a private, closed adoption, as requested by the infant’s birth mother, who faced an unexpected pregnancy in a rigidly conservative and nosy town.

In truth, I don’t think my parents ever knew much about the circumstances leading to my brother’s adoption. They never met William’s mother, so the doctor was the only narrator, which left plenty of room to fill in the story’s gaps with details that suited them.  

At a local crisis-pregnancy-center fundraising event, when her brother was already a teenager, her father called her brother up to the stage and announced – “His birth mom wanted to get an abortion, but the doctor wouldn’t do it.” It was the perfect fairy tale for the occasion, featuring a thwarted villain, clear protagonists, and a satisfying resolution. She writes that she joined in the applause. We were the heroes. We’d saved him. We would save them all, if we could.

She admits that – For most of my adulthood, I haven’t thought much about the fact that my brother was adopted. But in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I find myself considering his entry into my life yet again. Watching the gleeful moods of many in the pro-life community post-Roe, I see glimpses of my past. Believing that your brother was “almost aborted” has a way of crystallizing one’s convictions. Growing up in a conservative evangelical community, I was taught that morality was black-and-white. It was an orderly worldview with no room for messy complications; those were hidden behind closed doors. 

She goes on to share – People like me were “single-issue voters,” and the voter guide in my church bulletin told me which politicians were pro-life. Just like so many within the pro-life movement today, we were blinded by our convictions to the uniquely complicating circumstances and considerations in each unwanted pregnancy. 

In the middle of the extremes of a polarized country, the majority of Americans believe that at the least, abortion should be legal in some circumstances and illegal in others. Many lawmakers seem more interested in pleasing a vocal base than they are in having nuanced and thoughtful policy discussions. No person should be reduced to a political pawn. When it comes to aborted or not – we can’t objectively weigh the life we have against the one we don’t. Even in my case, I can’t weigh what my life might have been like had I been given up for adoption because I was not.

Regarding her brother’s adoption, she recognizes regarding his birth mother that – It is possible that adoption was her Plan A, despite the story we grew up hearing. Or maybe she wanted to keep her baby, but her parents pressured her into a different decision. In my own family, my mother pressured my sister to give up my niece. My youngest sister was always going to give my nephew up for adoption. Both were true of the birth mothers in my own family.

The story’s author says – These days, considering that my brother’s mother might have bravely endured a set of circumstances she never wanted because she had no other choice sends my emotions spinning wildly. I move through anger, indignation, and sorrow for the circumstances she faced, for the personal agency she might have been denied, for the losses my brother and she have always had to live with, for the persistent grief that comes from severing a primal relationship. But the spinning can stop in only one place: gratitude for the abortion she did not receive, for the brother that I have. For the family that we’ve made.

Adoption tends to run in families – I know it has in my family – abundantly. The author adopted her youngest daughter. At the age of 10, this girl has begun to grapple more and more with the fact that she doesn’t look like the rest of her family. Her adoptive mother notes – “For weeks, she’d been dissecting our family tree and figuring out how everyone fit together.”

One day this daughter said to the author’s adopted brother – “You’re not my real uncle,” she said, keeping her voice falsely nonchalant and tossing her head so that her long black hair fell to cover half her face. “Because you’re not my mom’s real brother.” He quickly glanced up and caught the author’s eye. They both heard what she was saying between the lines about herself and her place in their family. The author realized that her brother knew better than she ever could, what this daughter was feeling, so she stayed quiet and let him respond. 

“Hey,” his voice softened as he leaned over to gently bump her shoulder with his. She didn’t budge. He playfully kicked her cheetah-print Converse with his mud-caked work boot and she finally looked up to catch his eye. “I’m here, aren’t I? Doesn’t get more real than that.” I looked up at the sky and blinked back tears. His voice, gentled by his West Texas drawl and infinitely tender heart, landed like rain on the brittle places.

Of course, as this girl matures, there will be more questions. It is good that there is another adoptee in the family that she will grow up close to as those questions demand answers.

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.

A Lot Of Anger

Today’s story – She is 13 years old. She has reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and takes it out on the whole family. She is my cousin’s child, so also my cousin. She is placed here along with her 2 other sisters. She is triggered by her younger sister’s happiness in being here and how we are one big happy family but she doesn’t feel a part of that.

An interesting suggestion was this one – Therapeutic Boxing. This is a style of depth psychotherapy using boxing skills to bring subconscious and unconscious material to the conscious mind, an unconventional style of mindfulness to look beneath the surface of behaviors. Also contact sports to help channel the anger into a positive. Some recommendations included kickboxing and Krav Maga (an Israeli martial art developed for the defense forces, it is derived from a combination of techniques used in aikido, judo, karate, boxing, savate and wrestling. It is known for its focus on real-world situations and its extreme efficiency) and rugby.

With adoptees – it is a given to seek out an adoption trauma informed therapist. Managing how an adoptee navigates trauma is a life-long road with peaks and valleys. Another type – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – a type of talk therapy for people who experience emotions very intensely. Evidence suggests that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders and suicidal ideation, as well as for changing behavioral patterns such as self-harm and substance use. There is also Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – a structured, goal-oriented type of talk therapy. There are also rage rooms, also known as smash rooms or anger rooms, where people can vent their rage by destroying objects. Results according to experts appear mixed. One suggested that her oldest (age 10) loves to break large blocks of ice. There’s a lot of sensory input with that activity and it works wonders! One had a high school art teacher that always had old clay projects she could smash into the dumpster. She found that a very satisfying and helpful release. Another suggests group therapy because having other people who can relate makes some feel less alone with their situation. There are so many forms, yet another is Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). Some target difficulties in attachment and some difficulties in intersubjectivity, finding it hard to give and take in relationships.

There are activities one can apply to develop coping skills and emotional regulation skills. Some examples include – Relaxation techniques: deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle technique. Also taking a quiet bath in the dark, being alone but intentional about where and how one spends that time, eliminating all other distractions. Exercise; dancing, talking a walk, lifting weights. Talking with someone you trust. Engaging in art; drawing, coloring, painting, photography, playing a musical instrument.  Journal, then later burn it into ashes. Also, scream into a pillow. 

For the time being validate her anger. Acknowledge that you couldn’t even imagine what she is going through and apologize to her. Tell her that she’s welcome to be a part of that family bond, whenever she’s ready, and to take her time. And tell her until then, you can be a friend – if she let’s you. Some adoptees find only adulthood brings the freedom they need to cease being so angry.

Abandonment is a Perception

Perception matters. As we go through our own “adult” stuff and often have to make hard choices, we are not always aware of how our children are perceiving what we had to do. My marriage at 19 ended in divorce after the birth of our daughter a few years later. Eventually, I then left my daughter with her paternal grandmother (about the age of 3), but she eventually ended up with her dad and a step-mother. I made attempts to stay in contact and reassure her always that it never was about her directly but my own problems. Fortunately, we are close today as adults raising children (my grandchildren and two sons I have now from a subsequent marriage who’s ages are close to that of my grandchildren). I have faced that as a child her perception was understandably about having been abandoned, even though it was never my intention to never to have her under my own roof again during her childhood.

Today, I read about a woman with somewhat similar concerns. She left her child’s father when her daughter was only a year and a half old. She gave her mother legal guardianship of her daughter as she was going through a really rough time in her life. It’s shameful and it’s tough to face these kinds of reality. Finally, this woman met someone with whom she has been able to create a whole and loving family with her daughter and a subsequent baby brother from her new relationship. This daughter is now 9 years old and there are understandably “issues”.

Her daughter has ADHD and a fiery personality. Also some mood and behavioral problems exasperated by her abandonment trauma. She tends to be self-centered (normal) and melodramatic (from me). She can be very mean and unforgiving at times. She easily gets stuck on feelings of being left out or forgotten, even while we’re actively spending time with her.

One response suggested – Behavior is communication. Give each other grace. You are not the choices you made.

Another offered a perspective which I find valid – She has emotions that she is shoving down because she does not know how to deal with them. A huge part of healing childhood trauma is to grieve the losses that caused the trauma. For her, it was not having you or her father in her life for those years. My suggestion is that you start working on grieving your losses, and be open and honest with her about it (age appropriately). Let her see that you are in denial, angry, bargaining, sad, and finally accepting of what happened. That will give her permission to explore those feelings that she has inside of herself. I would also suggest a trauma/grief informed counselor. 

You were part of your daughter’s wounding, you can play a major part in her healing too. It all starts with the parent healing as an adult. Learning what triggers us, so we can be the calm, consistent adults that our kids need because our calm becomes their calm, our ability to regulate our emotions becomes their ability.

More than one recommended LINK> Trust Based Relational Intervention – which I have seen and mentioned before. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.

Someone else suggested mediation. Sometimes a safe person who’s not her parent can help her better understand/hear what you may be trying to communicate (and vice versa). And her suggestion came from personal experience – “I’ve had mediations done with both my and my mother’s therapist, and each time seemed to help shed some light on new aspects of a topic being discussed with our respective therapists.”

And an acknowledgement that I also understand personally – The mere fact that you care so deeply, is absolutely everything. DO NOT ever give up on that. Parenting is so hard, even without the added guilt you carry. All you can do is wake up and do the best you can do for that day.

Finally this from someone who’s been there (and hits me in the guilt place for I have done this too) – I wish my mom had owned her hand in my trauma WITHOUT excuses or trying to push blame onto others. I wish she would have validated my experiences. I wish she would have created and protected a safe space for me to understand and unpack all of the feelings and thoughts I had, preferably with a therapist. I wish she would have spent time one on one with me doing things I cared about, getting to know me deeper. I wish she wouldn’t have told me how hard XYZ was for her, I didn’t care, it wasn’t a competition, I was the helpless child. Even if my mom’s choices were between bad and worse, she was an adult who had brought me with her to that point. I wanted a mom who wanted to BE my mom.

She added – Your bit you wrote about your daughter feeling left out or forgotten hit me like a ton of bricks. That feeling is something I am working on to this day. I felt so out of place with my mom, stepdad, and new baby brother. I knew I was forgettable and honestly with a new baby – replaceable. They felt like a whole little family and I was just the chump she had to come back and get so I could tag along. (blogger’s note – though I never was able to bring my daughter back into my own life fulltime – we did have visits – I did go on to have 2 sons who I have been raising. This caused me to consider how that might feel to her – even though she is an adult with children of her own.)

One more – Focus on being your best self today and in the future. That’s how you can make it up to them, they’re often incredibly wise about this stuff. This way of thinking encourages you to reach a point of acceptance and decide… everyone’s alive, healthy, and you can’t change the past. I think that’s what I would say to my own parents, just sin no more and I don’t want to dwell in the past. (Though there may be times when the wounds bubble back up.)

My own last insight – life is messy, complicated and sometimes very very difficult. We can only acknowledge where we have failed but instead of continually beating ourselves up over that – move forward with being the best person we have managed to be at this time.

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.

Never Their Fault

Sometimes it hurts my caring heart so much to learn the stories of adoptees, especially the ones with clueless adoptive parents who never comprehend their own accountability in the mental health of their adopted child.

This morning I was reading a story about a man who was adopted as an infant and now as a grown man with wife and children is in long term residential treatment following his second suicide attempt. His adoptive parents accept no responsibility and prefer to blame his spouse for this man’s issues – unresolved trauma, low self-esteem, deep abandonment issues, anxious attachment, and other specific but undiagnosed mental health disorders which have included serial infidelity. The adoptive parents lied to him about his being adopted, lied about having his paperwork, lied about keeping it from him and made his biological reunion about their feelings of betrayal. Even so, his wife continues to love and support him and does her best to understand.

Another adoptee with similar adoptive parents notes – the adoptive parents insist that the adoption has nothing to do with anything, it’s all just the adoptee’s bad choices. Even when this one discovered their biological parents and that they had been coerced into surrendering their child to adoption (more common than people with no adoption in their background might believe), these kinds of adoptive parents will tell the adoptee that their biological parents didn’t want them. These kinds of adoptive parents have absolutely no idea how to take accountability. How to apologize. How to admit they weren’t perfect, and simply say sorry. They aren’t capable. Some adoptive parents were told that they never had to tell anybody about their own struggles with infertility. That it was acceptable to lie to their adoptee and the child would never know the truth to be troubled by it. It doesn’t work. Having been made aware of so many of these kinds of stories I am easily able to see the damage too often done. 

There is a kind of therapy that can be helpful to some adoptees developed by Peggy Pace and known as Lifespan Integration Therapy. This kind of therapy is known to clear trauma memory and the defenses against early trauma throughout the body-mind the trauma even when the emotional memories are pre-verbal and is not explicitly remembered. This method has been used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders. It has also been used to heal Dissociative Identity Disorder bringing more coherence to fragmented self systems eventually resulting in a unified wholeness.

A powerful realization can improve one’s overall quality of life, even when one will never completely understand what was done to them. Releasing these memory experiences means no longer holding on to the stress, burdens and overwhelming sense of the wrong done and for which the person was not directly responsible. When one is no longer forced to constantly recall the unpleasant feelings that have caused shame, guilt and anger, choosing to release the core cause as a reality that cannot be changed. Choosing instead to recognize the wisdom contained within the experiences. This effort can allow a person to release any attachment to the feelings associated with what happened and know that it is something that can ever be totally changed. The only thing that can be changed is how one feels about it.

One cannot expect to bring something wonderful into their experience until they have the internal space. That space can be created, by releasing what can never serve them, which can then move the person into a happier future. This is not a denial of wrongs committed against them but a gentle kind of the acceptance of reality.

Utterly Disgusting Attitude

This adoptive mother thinks she has it all figured out but adoptees and many biological mothers are NOT buying it. This is why open adoptions close and is used as a marketing tool. This comment is very disrespectful towards birth moms. Many do think about their children. They grieve. They feel loss too. Keeping birth parents away will not prevent the child from feelings of abandonment.

From the adoptive mother – I kinda feel like some groups in the adoption triad lean towards having relationships with biological relatives. Not every time though. I felt in our situation, it is toxic. So I joined several groups… I honestly don’t think it’s the best decision in like 90 percent of these situations. It seems like everyone wants to sugar coat the biological parents. The fact is they couldn’t/didn’t want to get their crap together for their children…. We did!!! I decided to do some research and joined groups that I didn’t fit in…Like I am in a “I regret my adoption, birth parents group” and “Adoptees who didn’t find out they were adopted until they were adults” and even a “I regret my abortion group.” I think it’s the best thing I have ever done and it has truly been an eye opener to see ALL sides. I joined the abortion group after seeing several women in the “I regret my adoption” group say that, because their ADULT biological children didn’t want anything to do with them, they wish they had just aborted them.

Anyway, I’ve come to understand a few things. My adopted daughter will not have any type of relationship with her biological mom, because that is when trauma happens. They are too young to understand why someone can’t be around, so they feel unloved. My daughter knows she’s adopted but doesn’t know what it means. She’s 4 years old. I am telling her things like her name changed to our name, she wasn’t in my belly. I won’t lie ever to her. I keep a record of why she doesn’t get to see her biological mom (her dad passed away).

When she is old enough to be told the 100 percent truth, it will not be a shock, and like I said I will never lie to her. If I feel like the time isn’t right for a question she asks, I’ll just say that I will tell her that part when she’s a little older. Most adoptee’s end up hating their biological parents the most…. Then, they are mad that they were lied to by their adoptive parents….and they do want to know some history, and they like to have their old records (I made sure I have my daughter’s original birth certificate and social security card). I had to change her social security number because someone in her biological family was using her old number…

Most adoptees are mad at their adoptive parents for sharing pictures with the biological parents. Most wish they weren’t lied to but had the chance to have a stable childhood, where they didn’t even know they were abandoned…. They wish they had the chance to grow up in a healthy environment, instead of the adoptive parents taking care and caring so much about the biological parents who abandoned them. Adoptive parents feel guilty but shouldn’t… it isn’t the adoptive parents fault that the biological parents don’t want to be there. We cannot force them and popping in and out isn’t healthy. There needs to be boundaries. Most adoptive parents are empaths (that’s what brought them to adoption), we almost feel the birth parents pain of losing a child, but the fact is, most of the birth parents aren’t even thinking of these kids 99.9 percent of the time and have never been empaths or they would have taken care of their children.

I’ll never make my daughter feel unloved by anyone!! She won’t have to deal with all of the adults problems in her childhood, she will have a happy one!! So that’s my plan… lol

Anyway, good luck! Go join some groups. Several groups. They are all different and definitely seek all sides of each group. Every situation is different and just never make ANY person feel like someone doesn’t love them or they weren’t wanted. Keeping that biological family away in most cases insures that they WONT feel abandoned. We all want what’s best for OUR kids and all we can do is our best.

A few thoughts from the “other” side – “well, doesn’t she have it all figured out ?”

Being abandoned, makes us feel abandoned. Adult adoptees who found out later in life, prove this. They say they always felt like they didn’t belong, like they weren’t loved or couldn’t feel loved, even when it was shown – like a big piece of them was missing. It didn’t matter that nobody bothered to tell them there was a piece missing, they knew it.

And the empath stuff – I just CAN NOT. I feel like she read somewhere that adoptive mothers lean toward narcissism, and she’s just trying to say the opposite and have that take hold as a public opinion. This lady seems like a piece of work. I feel bad for her adoptee, because it’s sounds like mommy has it all figured out how to just side step her child’s experience of being traumatized at all. I’m honestly in awe of this person’s audacity. Just wow.

Betrayal After Betrayal

Today’s story courtesy of the LINK> Huffington Post – My Dad Hid My Sister From Me For Decades. Then I Learned That Wasn’t Our Only Family Secret by Sarah Leibov. I share excerpts. You can read the whole story at the link.

Her dad had impregnated his girlfriend long before he met her mom and she was placed for adoption. The truth was revealed because the woman was coming to Chicago where the author lived and not only her mother (who had divorced her father 20 years ago) and her brother (who also knew about this secret sister) thought Sarah might want to meet her.

Her brother knew because he was going through their dad’s briefcase seven years ago and discovered letters from this woman and began corresponding with her. The mother discovered the secret when she asked who sent an email she saw on her son’s computer.

Sarah describes her reaction to the shock of learning about this sister. I only noticed that I was crying when people passing me on the street gave me sympathetic looks. I sat down on the curb, shaking. I was in shock, but another part of me was relieved. Intuitively, I’d always felt that my father was hiding something from me. Hearing the news validated the fear I’d buried inside for years. I was confused as to why he had kept this secret. My parents had divorced and married other partners when I was young, and I’d already had every kind of sibling imaginable ― my brother, a stepsister from my mother’s next marriage, and three half siblings from my father’s second marriage. Why would he keep quiet about this one? I didn’t know why my brother had never confronted my father, or shared the news with me. It was betrayal after betrayal.

She didn’t want to meet her father’s hidden daughter behind his back, or hide it from him, as he had from her. She called her brother and told him, “Call Dad now, and tell him what you know, or I will.” The next day, her father asked Sarah and her brother to meet him at a deli she’d never heard of. She thinks he thought she wouldn’t make a scene in an unfamiliar public setting, but admits, “I upset his plan. Tears flowed down my face as I ignored inquisitive looks from people trying to enjoy their matzo ball soup.”

Her father told them that when his girlfriend discovered that she was pregnant, she told him that she was moving to another state and planned to place the baby for adoption. Two decades later, the hidden sister gained access to her adoption papers and reached out to both her birth parents. Their father had then started corresponding with her and even met with her several times over the years.

Sarah writes about their first meeting – My fiancé and I met my new sister at a restaurant the following evening. My father was right ― she was lovely, kind and unassuming. I noticed that we both had inherited my father’s dark eyes and curly hair. She seemed a bit nervous and just as intent on making a good impression as I was. In her warm presence, all my envy disappeared.

And in the years since, we have bonded over our mutual interests in music and meditation, both on the phone and in person. I am very fond of her, but it’s so much more than that. I admire her political activism and ideals. She is a health care worker, and I’ve never heard her blame anyone for the difficulties she has endured. She lives with an easy, open acceptance that is challenging for me.

The hidden sister turned out not to be the only secret in their family. Turns out that her maternal grandfather had an affair during his marriage to her grandmother. Her mother and this half-sister (discovered thanks to Ancestry.com) were born only a few months apart, but on opposite sides of the country. When asked if her father had ever traveled to the East Coast, her mother explained that he was a traveling salesman. “We hear that a lot,” the geneticist told her mother.

Upon learning about this, Sarah was angry at her grandfather for deceiving her mother, similar to how she had been angry at her father for withholding a sister from her. It was frustrating that because the grandfather was deceased they couldn’t get answers from him. I know the feeling. I would love to know why my maternal grandfather appears to have abandoned my maternal grandmother and the baby that was my adoptee mother.

When she saw how overjoyed her mother was to have discovered a sister so late in her life, Sarah’s perspectives changed. It wasn’t their actions that were reprehensible, their decisions to hide what happened had caused pain.

She ends her essay with this – “Enough time has been stolen from me and now its my responsibility to recover what has been lost.” I understand. Building relationships with people who didn’t know you existed for over 60 years isn’t easy. I simply keep trying to stay connected with my “new” genetic family.

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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.