Closing An Open Is Common

Don’t believe the promises. Today’s story.

At 16 years old, I found out that my father and stepmother had given a child up for adoption. I believe that happened about 8-10 years prior to my finding out. I’m 39 and so, I think, she’s 31 now, according to a people search but it may not even be her.

It was supposed to be an open adoption but the adoptive parents quickly stopped that. They made it impossible to see and or contact her (I only recently learned this part). So I know who adopted her and a general idea of where they live(d). I don’t know anything more than that except that they’re deeply religious, like very hypocritically so.

Around the time that she was 16, and it still wasn’t legal for me to try and initiate contact, I found her on Facebook. I made a public post expressing my desire to meet and get to know my sister. I also PMd her, saying “I can’t tell you who I am directly but I hope you read my public post”.

Well, her adoptive father saw it and wrote back. I cannot remember exactly what he said but after that, contact was abruptly cut. (Not sure if it was me or him who did it – it was so long ago.)

Not sure how much later but I found out my current (and new) stepmom had found her and even friended her on Facebook. I seized my moment and sent her a friend request and a message explaining who I was. I do not remember the exact details but we did text a few times and the last time we spoke I was telling her she might be an aunt (I never did go through with that pregnancy unfortunately – I was 24ish at the time). If memory serves me accurately, she mentioned me to either her adoptive mom or dad. Then, I suddenly lost contact again (my guess is they made her cut contact with me). I never was able to contact her again and she didn’t contact me.

Fast forward to the present day, I am truly heartbroken. I want to know what happened so long ago. Does she even want to know me or know that she’s an aunt to two crazy kids ? I don’t know what crap her adoptive parents have put in her head about me. I want so much to approach her adoptive “father” and demand to know the truth.

What’s fucked up is that her entire childhood she grew up one street behind our father (out in the country, so actually a good 5 miles apart). Her adoptive father owns a local HVAC business and I know where it is.

What should I do next ? As far as I can tell, I cannot find a Facebook or number. The only address I can find is that people search one, which may not even be her. I don’t want to just roll up unannounced. My only option is to approach her adoptive father and I am admittedly extremely terrified. I’m 100% positive he’s followed me over the years (my various social medias) and hates me, as I’m clearly pro LGBTQ+ and an atheist. Everything he stands against, as a Orange clown voting douche canoe (LOL). Anyway…

I’m lost. He could either be all “I’ve been waiting for this, here’s her info” or a big old FU “you’ll never meet her” and the anxiety is killing me because I fear I will absolutely curse him out and make a major scene, if he denies me.

Do I have any right to try and establish contact ? I don’t want to push anything on her but judging by the past he’s going to be a major roadblock – he always has been. I don’t know how to approach this.

A response (and I really like the humor in this one) – If she’s 31, you have the exact same legal right to meet her, as you do any other legal adult. She may choose to ignore you – due to the influence, manipulation or other coercion by her adoptive family. My unethical life pro tip (I have used this successfully, though never in an adoption scenario) is to approach dad*. Your name is <most common girl name of your generation, region> and you went to high school with Sister. You’ve just moved back to this area and you remember her as so kind and she taught you about Jesus and you’re looking to reconnect. Could he please pass on your phone number to her? *If he knows what you look like, or you don’t look like you could have gone to high school with her, have a friend do this instead.

Another suggestion was this – I would send her a letter, but if she still lives with her adoptive parents and they know your name, then I would actually put a different name on the return address. It may even be a good idea to use a different return address. if possible. One where the adoptive parents wouldn’t be able to search it and see you or your parents name connected to it. Maybe even get a PO box.

In your letter, explain the situation exactly as you remember it, making sure that she knows that you only found out about her years after the adoption took place. Let her know that you’ve always had a desire to meet and know her. Just be honest and share your feelings. Let her know that you’ll respect whatever she decides but that you fear her adoptive parents have been making the decisions regarding allowing contact with you. However, maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s actually been her decision all along. Let her know, you’ll respect her wishes but you just wanted to reach out to make sure that neither of you were missing out on a much wanted relationship.

And of course, do a DNA test !! It certainly helped me in my own family genetic roots discovery journey.

Honesty

An adoptive mother writes – One fear is of facing the reality that she isn’t really my daughter. Getting that amended birth certificate was so bizarre. It’s a lie. I know it’s a lie, because she didn’t come from my body and that’s what that paper says. I am her mom, in the sense that mom is a title but she has a real mom that she misses. I am her mom in the sense that I will raise and protect her. It’s a strange thing to be both her mom and not her mom. I had the fear of losing her when I reached out to her aunt. I’m working through that and we are committed to being honest and doing what is best for “our girl” but there’s still anxiety about her mom. There are safety issues but I recognize the harm not seeing her does to my daughter.

When asked, when has she seen or spoke to her mother ? The adoptive mother replied – Once a year before adoption and a year before that the mother only made sporadic visits. I don’t want to share a lot of her personal information out of respect for her. I will say that I have always told the truth to her, age appropriately at each stage of her growing (the child is now 7 years old), and she has always wanted her mother. I have always been committed to making that happen, but wanted to wait until she was 18. I’ve since learned that’s not the best and I am working to connect her with her family. An adoptee advises “let her see her natural mother as the reality and not the romanticized version she will create otherwise.”

So this important perspective – this may be a hard pill to swallow, that her relationship with her actual family is more important than her relationship with you. She needs that bond and connection. Please remember that you have added to her trauma by erasing part of her identity by changing her birth certificate. You have also muddied the waters for future generations who want to know their biological heritage, which isn’t you. Its important for you to know that the most painful thing her mother will ever feel is to hear her call you mom. I can tell you from experience.

These are all things you have to own, and let go of fragility. You are in a position of power. It’s scary for the child and her family, because there is this fragile adopter that controls if they ever see each other again. Keep that in mind. Think of how you would feel if someone had control of if you could see the person you loved the most again. How would you respond to them ? Would it be a healthy relationship ? Would you just do whatever it took to keep them happy ?

ADHD And Struggling

Design and Illustrations by Maya Chastain

I found much of this discussion helpful and so I am sharing it for today’s blog.

The original comment –

My 17 year old son adopted from foster care at 15, after 8 years in care. 2 failed adoptive placements before and he was living in residential treatment for 15 months before he transitioned to my home. He’s been with me for 2 years in total. He has not had contact with any biological family in 5+ years and did not have consistent care givers for the first 7 years of his life. He expresses hate towards his biological family and will not discuss with me.

He’s dealing with depression, anxiety, and ADHD. Although I believe the depression is very long term, today is the first day he has ever said it out loud. He had actively denied it previously. I also deal with depression and the sentiment he described of feeling like nothing even matters is something I’m very familiar with. He’s been let down so many times and I often tell him he’s had a very normal reaction to abnormal circumstances. He is so afraid to hope. He is in weekly therapy and working with psychiatrist. I feel like tonight him acknowledging his depression was a really big step forward. I am trying to help him navigate depression and be more hopeful. He is incredibly intelligent and capable and could really pursue so many opportunities and be well supported in whatever he chooses. He’s sabotaging himself instead. He is an older teenager navigating the transition to adulthood. Thank you for sharing any thoughts.

Response from an Adoptee with Depression and ADHD –

Just to translate some of what you’re saying here and how it may come across. You may not say these things out loud but “could really pursue so many opportunities and be well supported” tells me you probably imply these things:

“You could do so much more if you’d just apply yourself.”

*I’m never going to be good enough*

“Why are you struggling with something this basic”

*I’m stupid and can’t do basic things*

“You self-sabotage a lot”

*Push past burnout and ignore self-care*

My support network lets me move at my own pace. Also learning that I can’t brute force my way past ADHD by being “Intelligent” has helped.

No one really figures shit out until their 20s. Heck – I didn’t figure out anything until my 30s. Gen Z just has more pressure because you can’t live off the salary from an entry level job anymore.

The original commenter replied –

I definitely think this is something I’m struggling with and I appreciate your translation. I think what’s hard for me is that he is 17 but in many way operating as someone much younger. However he has the expectation the he be treated like every other 17 year old. We are fighting regularly because I won’t let him get a driver’s permit or I set structures around bedtime and Internet and he wants freedom. I’m very comfortable trying to meet him where he is and help him grow at whatever rate he grows. But he wants adult freedom and responsibility – he’s simply not ready for and it feels negligent on my part to just give him that because of his age. So I’m trying to help him set meaningful goals for himself, so that he can work towards the things he says he wants but it seems that his depression is a major barrier to working towards those goals.

I’m not rushing him to figure it out or trying to prescribe specific goals. I’m trying to support him in doing what he says he wants to do and having the freedom he wants to have. As a single parent, I’d love for him to have a driver’s license, just as much as he wants it. But how do I help him be ready for that, when the depression he’s experiencing seems to suck any motivation to do the work ?

Response from an Adoptee with Depression and ADHD –

Why can’t he have a learner’s, if you don’t mind me asking ?

People with ADHD (and often undiagnosed co-morbidities) struggle with being infantilized.

You’re talking about controlling bed time when ADHD can come with delayed circadian rhythm and insomnia.

Yes – ADHD often means you have issues keeping up with organizational skills, goal management, emotional regulation and peer relationships. That doesn’t mean you treat that person like a young child. In an environment where controlled exploration is allowed, you develop coping skills.

ADHD – ESPECIALLY as a teenager – means you’re fighting yourself for control of a brain that seems constantly against you. Emotions are hard to regulate. Your rewards system is fucked. Object permanence is a myth. Time is an abstract concept I’ve yet to grasp.

How can you expect a 17 year old to be motivated to control things that are hard and wield an intangible reward like “opportunities,” if he can’t have any control over what’s in front of him that matters.

“Opportunities” offers no tangible reward. My ADHD/PTSD/Depression brain looks at basic chores and goes, “I don’t get why that matters.”

I’m an adult. With therapy and support, I’ve found ways around that. But I also found it after I started having my own boundaries and stopped infantilizing myself.

Meaningful goals don’t work with ADHD. They just put things behind a glass wall you’ll never break. You get frustrated and give up easier.

You need to give him simple goals he can succeed at to build self confidence.

Don’t make freedom a “reward”. It breeds resentment. Work with him to set personal boundaries and schedules. Those won’t look like what works for a neurotypical.

I like “How to ADHD” for life hacks. I also really recommend Domestic Blisters but she’s more aimed at 20 somethings. Catieosaurus is great. She does talk about sexual health on occasion but nothing a 17 year old with Google hasn’t seen.

Always The Question

From The Huffington Post – I Was Adopted Before Roe v. Wade. I Wish My Mother Had Been Given A Choice by Andrea Ross.

“Would you rather have been aborted?” This is the question some people asked me when I publicly expressed horror at the June 24 overturning of Roe v. Wade.

This question is not only mean-spirited and presumptuous, it’s a logical fallacy. The notion that adopted people should not or cannot be pro-choice simply because we were born ignores the possibility that we can value being alive at the same time we value the right to make decisions about our bodies, our lives and our futures.

My birth mother was 18 years old and partway through her first year of college when she discovered she was pregnant. Her parents arranged for her to go away to a home for unwed mothers once she started showing. My birth mother had limited choices; abortion was illegal, so her options were to keep or to relinquish her baby. And maybe it wasn’t she who decided; perhaps her parents made that decision for her. Maybe she had no choice at all.

Either way, the right to choose to have an abortion has nothing to do with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention crudely referred to in 2008 as the need to maintain a “domestic supply of infants” available for adoption, a notion that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito referred to in the opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade.

I was born in the home for unwed mothers, whisked away into foster care within a day, then adopted by yet another family three weeks later. I was shuffled between three families in my first three weeks of life.

The logic of the anti-choice, pro-adoption crowd is that I should be grateful for the fact I wasn’t aborted. After all, I didn’t languish in foster care for 18 years. And my birth mother got to finish college and pursue a career, to have kids when she was ready. It was a win-win, right?

Not by a long shot. Psychology research shows that women who relinquish their children frequently exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. And children who have been relinquished frequently develop relinquishment trauma ― a kind of trauma that “changes an individual’s brain chemistry and functioning … and can elevate adrenaline and cortisol and lower serotonin resulting in adoptees feeling hypervigilant, anxious, and depressed.”

What’s more, the institution of adoption denied me the right to know anything about my heritage, ethnicity or medical history. My birth certificate was whitewashed, amended to say I was born to my adoptive parents, in “Hospital,” delivered by “Doctor.” As a kid, I agonized over what I had done wrong, and worse, how as a baby, I could have been considered so intrinsically deficient as to be unworthy of being kept by my original parents. My life has been marked by self-doubt. I also have a constant and abiding fear of abandonment. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I’ve spent countless hours and many thousands of dollars on psychotherapy.

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett argues that “safe haven” laws allowing women to relinquish parental rights after birth are adequate to relieve the burdens of parenthood discussed in Roe v. Wade, implying that providing a ready avenue for adoption substitutes for the need for safe and legal abortion. Her claim is also a logical fallacy. Adoption is not a substitute for choice.

I’m now past childbearing age, and I don’t have daughters, so the overturning of Roe v. Wade will not affect me directly. But I think of my beloved nieces and female students at the large university where I teach. I am furious that they no longer have the constitutional right to bodily sovereignty, and I’m terrified by the possibility their lives might change for the worse if they are forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. I do have a young-adult son, and if he impregnated his partner, I would want them both to be able to decide which option made the most sense for them. The circumstances that dictated my birth have no bearing on their rights.

No, I don’t wish I had been aborted, but I do wish that all those years ago, my birth mother had possessed the right to make her own decisions about what to do with her own body, the same right we all deserve.

Changing Identity

Difference 100% Mindset

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
~ C S Lewis

How Changing My Self-Identification Saved My Life

Growing up adopted by a white American family and living in a predominantly white community was difficult for me because I never felt like I fit in, or belonged. I faced racism and bullying pretty much as long as I can remember. I was led to believe I was ugly, unwanted, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness. I was like a chameleon almost my entire life, an expert at not standing out, not making any waves, always shying away from confrontation and always making up stories about who I was. I was a master at being “unseen.” Until I hit a roadblock about 5 years ago. I began to experience inner turmoil, depression, anxiety – all results of my identity crisis.

I felt stuck mentally, and physically, I was immobilized. I was unable to go to work, be social with friends and family, and I wasn’t able to take care of things like food shopping, laundry, or any sort of self care. The only thing I could handle doing was going to therapy so that’s what I did. Obviously, I wanted to find a way to feel unstuck and begin to get my life back together. But I knew that because I didn’t know my whole story, I had made one up in my own head.

This story I was telling myself was that I was unlovable, unworthy of happiness, and broken. That was the old story I kept playing over and over in my mind. That story wasn’t completely accurate, it wasn’t empowering, it does not serve me in any useful way now, and it definitely did not have to stop me from living my best life. In order to get my life back and be the person I wanted to be, I had to become really self aware of why my old self identity was holding me back in life.

My old identity was someone who was broken, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness.

The person I wanted to be was free, confident, healthy, happy, lovable, successful…and a badass!

So what was the secret to making my transformation? It was 100% mindset.

I had to literally imagine my old self was dying in order for me to allow the change to happen. I didn’t wait until I got my dream job, got my social life back, or find someone to love me to be happy. The actions and behaviors I took were as if I was already that person I always wanted to be. I learned to take small steps, enjoy my journey, be grateful, and be happy along the way. I visualized my new self every single day. I am confident. I am healthy. I am loved. I am happy. I am worthy. I am a mf badass!!

I am sharing my story with you because someone out there may resonate with it. If that’s you, then just remember you can do it because YOU ARE WORTH IT!! Have an amazing day and remember, you have the power to change your identity anytime you want, starting now. Thank you for reading this and letting me be completely honest and vulnerable.

Not Reality, Scripted

There were a bunch of adoptee reunion programs on TV in the 1990s. I think seeing these really made my adoptee mom wish for a reunion of her own. It was not to be. Even as Tennessee was turning down her request for her adoption file, they broke her heart by telling her that her mother has died several years earlier.

As today’s story reveals, you really can’t believe what you see on these programs.

In early 2020 pre-COVID, I was contacted by a TV producer asking if I would be interested in being on a show. I won’t give the name, but it’s a show about finding lost family members. I immediately knew it was probably about my bio mom or dad.

I agreed, a little out of curiosity, but mostly because they offered me $4000 to be on the show and an all-expenses paid vacation to LA for filming.

Sure enough, it was my mother. She put forth this sob story. She was 15 (which I already knew) and that she felt like she had to give me up, in order to escape shame and disownment from friends and family. Also that her boyfriend pushed her to do it. She said, she always wanted to find me – blah blah blah. I felt completely awkward doing this around cameras.

I found out that ALL reality shows, even the feel-good ones, are SUPER scripted, and the producers kept trying to feed me lines to say, like “I’ve waited for this moment all my life.” At this time in my life, I really couldn’t care less about finding my biological family and had negative feelings about my firth mom, so I don’t think I played the “grateful daughter” role that they wanted. Anyways, the show ends and I go back to my life. I got my biological mom’s info and we text a few times a year.

I was just notified that the show will be airing in the summer, and I have had a lot of anxiety over it. I cannot shake the feeling that none of this was necessary and that it was all for show, and that my biological mom did this to give the world an emotional story to make herself feel better.

There was absolutely NO reason she needed to go on national television to find me. For one, I have researched, and closed adoption files can be accessed by the biological mother, if she goes through the proper steps. She could’ve found my adoptive parent’s information and gone from there. It’s also literally 2022 (actually it was 2020 at the time but still).

Everyone is taking Ancestry DNA tests. She could’ve spent 60 bucks to get a 23 and Me test and found out that I’m already in the data base. I just feel like she completely went to the extremes to do this and put our personal business out there for the world. What if I am portrayed as being an ungrateful bitch or something ?Or future employers search for my name and find the episode!!

One commenter noted – I hear you on the “reality” shows. I also did a pilot many years ago in which they wanted me to react a certain way, so did my daughter. Basically they’re all fake (not real at all). As for the biological mom, everyone is different in how they come to the decision, and what they do with it. She could’ve been looking for her 15 min of fame, or possibly she did feel so pressured and now finally felt like it was time to stand up to those who pressured her. 

And yet another added – or she wanted the money.

My Past Does Not Dictate My Future

I was very sad to learn that this kind of governmental judgement takes place.

“I was adopted into a foster home in the 80’s. My babies were just taken from me and are being adopted out. I keep hearing how they will be fine and have great lives and how they won’t experience the same life I have had.”

The first commenter acknowledged – “Sadly Child Protective Services does think that if you grew up in the system, you will not be good enough to be a parent.”

Yet another put forth a different perspective –

I am a former foster care youth that aged out of the system and became a foster parent. It is a lot of hard work to be a parent, especially a parent with trauma. It is something I am aware of and ‘show up and work on every day!’ But that doesn’t mean that we will not be good enough to be good parents or can’t be good parents. Does it mean we have to work harder and be aware that we have trauma that a lot of people don’t?! Yes! But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t incapable, it just means we actively work every day to be different then the generations before us! Child Protective Services asked me very extensively about my past and trauma, and I had to prove in a lot of ways how I have worked on it and that I am aware of it and continue to be aware of it. And work on my trauma and triggers as they arise. Now that doesn’t mean that former foster care youth and other people with trauma aren’t at higher risk for having Child Protective Services involved or their children removed. Because unfortunately, many of the kids I grew up with in the foster system are still in some way involved in the system or dead, it is a hard trauma to break out of. But honestly I feel like a lot of that, comes from the fact that everyone in my life, told me I would never be any better than my parents, or better then my genetics. We need to start telling these children with trauma that our pasts do not dictate our futures, we get to control them. We get to be better. And we need to help them do that. Before their inner voice turns into this message of ‘I’ll never be good enough, so why try to be better?’.

It is a tough world out there for a lot of people. Not every one has the same experience. Here is one that turned out “better” than “worse,” and still . . .

After finding my biological family and meeting my sisters, I definitely had the better life (theirs was full of switching homes, being raised by different people, drugs and addictions, and poverty). I was raised as an only child and had college paid for by my adoptive parents – up to my masters degree. They also helped me and my husband buy our house. Does adoption still affect me? Heck yeah it does. I have horrific abandonment issues, anxiety and depression.

This experience is also VERY COMMON among adoptees –

I was adopted at birth. My adoptive parents were great, and I didn’t deal with a lot of the issues I’ve seen mentioned by other adoptees (favoritism, neglect, abuse, doing the bare minimum, etc) I love them very much and consider them my parents. I would imagine my childhood is what most adoptive parents think they will provide, and birth moms think they’re giving their child up to.

But I still have always had this very deep sense of not belonging or fitting in anywhere. Feeling that everyone will leave me, I can never be good enough. I don’t ever feel “home”. I always thought there was something wrong with me, and despite my best intentions or efforts I still just couldn’t do it “right”.

And I do agree with this person –

I was adopted into an amazing family, always loved and cared for. Had a good life and am a privileged adult. I have a good relationship with my biological family too. However, I despise adoption. It affected me in negative ways regardless of my “good” adoptive family and upbringing. It also has the ability to greatly affect our children and future generations. The trauma gets passed down. Nothing about adoption is ok. It should be a crime to separate families simply because there is money to be made from a demand greater than a supply. We need to overhaul our system so that adoption is nearly non-existent, like it is in other countries.

The outcomes are always unique and individual. No need to not all or even so –

I was adopted within a year of my birth. I had crappy adoptive parents. My life became significantly better after I was kicked out. I worked extremely hard to pay my way through college and live on my own. Life got even better when they stopped talking to me permanently. My biological kids are amazing and so is my marriage. However, I still sit and wait, expecting it to all fall apart. I don’t feel deserving.

One last perspective –

I was adopted at birth and have felt “lost” my whole life – empty – and have struggled. I’ve never felt complete and have always had bonding issues even with my own children. It’s like I love mentally but emotionally it’s a struggle to feel. If that makes sense. I’ve went through years of counseling, when I was in my 40s. I’ve worked my DNA, so I know who all my people are. I have a good relationship with my birth dad and some biological siblings and I now feel complete. But the love side of me, the connection…. I still don’t have it and probably never will.

I have often described my own adoptee parents (yes, both were adopted) as “good” parents but strangely detached. I blame adoption for that.

An Adoptee’s First Biological Child

I have read about this from the point of view of several different adoptees in the past. I have wondered what my own adoptee mom (or even my adoptee dad) felt as they created a biological, genetically related family of their own. They are both deceased, so I can no longer ask questions like that of them.

Today, I read – I’m curious about adoptees first experience being pregnant. Thought I was infertile all these years and I’m finally pregnant. I thought I would be flooded with more happy emotions. I often feel paralyzed and scared shitless. I’ve done the leg work to not put my trauma on a child, plenty of therapy when I was younger and actively trying to start a family. Not using a child to fill my holes as my adoptive mother did. Now I just feel disgusted and worried sometimes, feels somehow adoption related. My first parents non stop on my mind lately too. Any first child experiences good or bad would be very helpful! Thank you! She later added – I am very worried about not looking at my first mom the same. We aren’t the closest but our relationship is what I need it to be, I’m nervous I’m going to resent her after going through this; even though I know she didn’t want me. It’s almost like I’ve been in this weird limbo of not fitting in to either family and the thought of starting my own makes me want to run for the hills.

I am in reunion and have a good relationship with my First Mom but never cared much about my biological dad’s side, until I was pregnant and really until I had my son. It does make me sad that my son won’t know his aunts and cousins on that side but I haven’t had the bandwidth to try to make contact yet. Dealing with my maternal side has been enough drama and stress for one lifetime.

These feelings are totally normal, even for those without trauma. There are layers for many who feel this way, but even those I know who had ‘normal’ childhoods often feel this way too. You’ll also feel like failure frequently, out of your depths, like a bad mom, etc. those are all normal too. I have layers to mine due to trauma, so as time and healing have allowed, I have worked though different layers as they’ve come up (and up again and again). It was VERY important to me to avoid adding birth trauma, so I found a midwife and worked hard at allowing the natural biology and oxytocin stuff, breast fed etc. those all help with attachment and bonding (which I still greatly struggled with due to a severe attachment trauma).

I have 4 currently, and recently had a still birth, so I am now dealing with new levels of trauma added to those previous layers. Dealing with secondary infertility and a loss after 4 healthy pregnancies really rocked my internal dialogue (since fear of losing them through accidents/etc, just general anxiety like falling down stairs while pregnant (which I didn’t) etc). My mom hit a brick house (blogger’s note – I do not know if this is literal or figurative) while pregnant with me, so I’m sure there’s a layer there too.

I don’t know if my trauma has made it better or worse to be honest…the death of my son broke cracks into the structure that trauma built to protect myself from bonding and attachment. Though feeling (some) grief, I’m having glimmers of hope and joy, which is really mind fu**** me to be honest but I’m trying to roll with it. I deal with it small bits, here and there, denial in a box is its default space but when it does come out, I try not to stuff it automatically back in there. I try to give it space and observe it and know it won’t kill me, even if it feels like it will or should or could…sorry if I’m not making sense.

Give yourself space to feel the things you do and do not judge yourself harshly. Know you are not alone, the feelings WILL pass (even if it takes time, for me – it has been on and off for almost a decade) and no one is a better mom to your baby than YOU.

I experienced something similar with my pregnancies. I think fear is very common in any pregnancy, everything’s so new and life-changing. I think it’s an especially complex time for adoptees and a resurgence of feelings is common. Talking about how I felt helped me. I hope you know we’re with you and cheering you on.

I was fine while pregnant and when giving birth but got horrific PPD/PPA (Postpartum Depression/Postpartum Anxiety) despite being surrounded by love and support. I think giving birth brought up a lot of unresolved feelings and trauma and contributed to my PPD. I got through it with therapy and medication. It didn’t last forever thankfully and I had a lot of support.

I experienced PPD and difficulty bonding with 2 of my 6 babies. With the other 4, I felt that immediate attachment when I saw them. It took a few months with those 2, for me to feel like they were truly mine and that I was a good enough mother for them. In the long run, there has been no difference in the level of attachment or love I feel for them. (I’ve been parenting for 17 years.) Becoming pregnant with my firstborn was what awakened me from the “I should just be grateful” fog. I honestly believed I had no trauma from being separated from my mother, up until then. When I became flooded with instinctual feelings for my baby, I wondered if my original mother ever felt those things for me.

Not every mother gets that first glimpse of their child and immediately feels attached and wildly in love. It’s *not at all* uncommon for it to take time to build that attachment and have trouble bonding with your child at first. Then of course there are things like PPD and PPA that make bonding harder. But none of these things make a person a bad mother. Often people with a history of trauma – *especially* if that trauma has to do with abandonment or attachment issues – will have trouble bonding with their child. And it’s completely normal.

I wonder about this with my own mom, some of the things I have learned recently related to her second (actually third, because she had a miscarriage first) pregnancy as well as how I describe my own parents as being weirdly detached. Good parents but that cut thread of connection to their original families, I believe, had an impact on their perspectives related to parenting. They were good parents, not at all abusive, but quick to want us to be independent of them.

Another adoptee writes – I felt awful, disgusted, fearful when I was pregnant. I was terrified I would project what happened with my birth and adopted parents on my little girl. She’s 8 now and I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. I make mistakes with her but I am quick to apologize and let her know when I am wrong. I explain that I shouldn’t have projected my negative emotions on her. I also let her know it’s okay to not be okay. I had severe PPD and for a couple days when she was a couple weeks old when I wanted nothing to do with her. I told my ex husband mom that I needed her to take her for a day or so because i didn’t know what to do. Luckily that passed very quickly. I love my daughter more than anything in this world and would give my last breath to her. Also if you do have awful feelings, talk to your doctor. Medication did wonders for me with my depression. It honestly helped so much.

There’s a couple layers going on. I also got pregnant after miscarriage and sort of infertility. I don’t think I really processed or felt safe in my first successful pregnancy until after 30+ weeks. When I held my son, it was really the first time I saw and loved someone I was biologically related to. It was powerful, odd, terrifying. So many different emotions. I didn’t think as much about my first mother’s pregnancy with me. But we were in reunion and in a tough place then, so it was complicated. Give yourself time, space, gentleness. Pregnancy is a wild hormonal ride, even without added layers to it. And those added layers aren’t easy. 

And then there was this very different but honest perspective – I considered adoption, but I was stealthed/forced and thus very scared to have a baby so young even while married. I remember ridding that idea before the half mark because I felt him kick. And then at birth my very first thought looking at him was I could never give him up. Even totally unprepared I couldn’t have done it. I was actually really ashamed of that and told no one how I thinking or feeling, because I had solely considered my bio strong for doing so (drug addiction) and here I was poor and sick and barely legal to drink while a college student in a shit marriage… and I could Not fathom even leaving his side. I love him but sometimes I still don’t know if that was correct because he’s suffered a lot… my son was deeply abused by my now ex-husband and I have a lot of trauma from it I’m still working through… my own biological parent, I don’t think could have given me half the life I got from adoption, and even though my adoptive parents were super abusive. There’s so many mixed feelings and traumatic thoughts and memories that get brought up when an adoptee is pregnant. I hope you at least know all of your feelings and fears and joys are all valid all at once.

This perspective from another adoptee was interesting to read because I do know my mom saw a psychiatrist at one time but I don’t know her reasons for it – “It’s hard, I feel like I focused too much on doing the ‘right things’ and not traumatizing my kids, which often made me a hands off parent. I had to get my butt in therapy and put in the work to be a better me. Now I’m not a hands off parent and learned boundary setting with my kids.” I do know that I was surprised at the degree that my two sisters were dependent on our parents at the time of their deaths at 78 and 80. Maybe my mom overcame some of what I experienced in the decades before that.

Definitely worried I was going to fuck my kid up like I was fucked up. To the point of almost terminating. My second pregnancy was a lot smoother but I still experienced horrendous PPA with both. I had happy moments and sad moments in pregnancy. Despite my PPA though, I was lucky enough to avoid PPD and feel a determination I have never felt before in life when they placed my son on my chest. I looked at him every damn day and promised I would give him a better life. My husband and I weren’t in the best position at all. In poverty, high crime area, barely surviving. But I promised my kiddo I would get him out of there every single day. My husband is aged out former foster care youth, so he was just as determined as well. 3.5 years and another (planned this time) pregnancy and we made it. Our kids will never have to experience a life even close to what we lived. Having kids made me afraid and feel powerless and worry I was gonna be a horrible mom, but more than anything it made me, and my husband, WAY better people and helped us get out of the cycles so that we were not perpetuating them.

Pregnancy and childbirth weren’t really issues for me. My biggest issue is just feeling completely clueless and like I’m doing everything wrong. I was raised by my adoptive dad from age 8 onward, and don’t really remember much from being younger, so I feel like I have no experiences good or bad to reference. Like the concept of a mother is totally foreign to me, so I’m flying blind and making it up as I go.

What helped me the first time around was preparing to be surprised. Knowing that this baby, although my flesh and blood, would be their own little person. Their own soul. I was there to love and nurture whoever they were. And I really was continuously surprised, usually in a pleasant way. I never went for schedules and “Child must be doing X by a certain age” BS. Instead my kids developed as naturally as possible. All of this was in defiance of my “normal” adopted upbringing. What was crazy was that my eldest looked nothing like me or my husband. Thank God I had already reunited with my birth mom, so I could show people that’s who my daughter looked like, because otherwise it would have been hard to explain.

I had bad Postpartum anxiety. To be fair my Mother in law did NOT help. I was afraid someone would steal my babies and I wouldn’t get them back. She would literally snatch them and walk away so we ended up having a long break from her and eventually things worked out once she calmed down enough to understand me and that my husband wasn’t going to side with her. But with all my babies I couldn’t be away from them. I had hard time taking showers and no one could hold them expect for my husband if I didn’t have eyes on them. If I had them with me, I was fine. It was bad with #1, better with #2, #3 was a whole other mine field because that one was a girl. I kept fearing I’d wake up and want to walk away. My husband was a major support. Only my 5th wasn’t as bad, but my husband had paternity leave and was home with me the first 4 weeks. I know it wasn’t rational. But I’d have panic attacks that they were gone. I do not have an anxiety or panic disorder. I’m usually extremely even keel. It caught me majorly off guard. Parenting wasn’t and isn’t an issue though. Gentle and communitive parenting came very naturally to me.

I had good support and my first pregnancy was wanted and planned. I do know that once my baby was born, I saw my biological mom and adoptive mother through a different lens. I did start feeling really sad about my adoption for the first time. I started think how I didn’t bond with my adoptive mother until I was after a year old. How that is not normal. I made me feel a new kind of pain. Sometimes this sounds silly but I feel like I love my kids more than non-adoptees because of my experience. I felt like I didn’t really understand my biological mother at all, even though she was very young mother. I started to excuse her uncomfortable behavior because I don’t feel like anyone is ok after something so traumatic. I didn’t feel resentful, just sadness. Pain. Loss. I don’t understand how some people don’t want their babies but it’s not always for me to understand that either. When she says “I love you” it makes me uncomfortable because I feel like “how?”. Lots of feelings.

Shame

I’m only going the summarize this article but provide you with the link because it is well worth your time to read it – I Kept My Family’s Secret For Over 60 Years. Now, I’m Finally Telling The Truth by Yvonne Liu – published in The Huffington Post.

I believe shame had a lot to do with adoption records being sealed to begin with. Closed to access by the very person – the adoptee – is the information matters most to. Early in my “adoption issues” education I encountered the issue of dumpster babies. There are also babies left in a basket. For most of my life, I thought my own father had been left in a basket on the doorstep of The Salvation Army in El Paso TX because his Mexican national mother lacked her family’s acceptance of a mixed race baby who’s father was an American national. Nothing was further from the truth but I was well in my 60s before I knew that. My father never expressed any interest in learning the truth and details of his own adoption and I believe it was because he was afraid of what he might learn. By the time I knew the truth, my dad was already deceased and knew next to nothing.

Today’s story relates to a baby left in a basket in a Hong Kong stairwell near Sai Yeung Choi Street. She was taken to St. Christopher’s Home, the largest non-government-run orphanage on the island. Officials at the orphanage named her Yeung Choi Sze, after the street where she was found.

Infertility was the shame her adoptive mother hid. That is not uncommon among adoptive mothers, especially those of Chinese descent because Confucius believed a woman’s greatest duty was to bring a son into the world. This adoptee’s mother couldn’t produce a son, much less a daughter.

In June of 1960, this baby girl from China landed at O’Hare International Airport. Her adoptive mother was disappointed in the baby she received from the beginning. She was a sick and scrawny baby, clearly malnourished. Her mother’s first reaction upon seeing her was, “Why couldn’t I have a healthy baby like everyone else?” Throughout her life, the family’s story about her was a lie – that she was born in Chicago. Every school form, all of her college and job applications, and even her medical records listed her birthplace as Illinois. 

The adoptee’s parents were never warm emotionally. From a young age, she was afraid to upset her mother, who was often emotionally volatile. Her mother showed her attention when she needed her daughter. If she dared push back on the relentless demands to refill her teapot, type her Chinese cookbook or vacuum the house, her mother would retreat to her bed, sob, and say, “You don’t love me because I’m not your real mother.” Hugging her, the adoptee would desperately proclaim her love for her adoptive mother, telling her, “You’re my only mother.” Then she would quickly and quietly fulfill her mother’s commands.

Her adoptive father was not any warmer emotionally. From her time in the third grade, she threw myself into becoming a star student in hopes of earning her father’s love and attention. After immigrating to America with $50 in his pocket, her adoptive father earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry while working as a dishwasher on the weekends. He was chronically depressed and withheld any affection from her, even though she wanted that desperately.

The adoptee won a full scholarship to attend a top MBA program and enjoyed a solid business career. She even married the nice Chinese man her mother chose for her. But for as long as her parents were alive – and even after they died – I continued to keep the family’s secret that she had been adopted. Eventually, she told her husband and children but asked them to continue keep the family’s secret. That’s how deep and dark she considered her secret shame to be. I truly believed I would carry it with me until I died. The ancient Chinese beliefs that she must have come from an immoral mother, would mean she was tainted by her origins.

In 2020, locked down by the pandemic and having just turned 61 years old, she finally began questioning why she had internalized her adoptive parents’ shame about infertility and adoption. Feelings of low self-esteem, insecurity and anxiety as well as lingering questions about identity, rejection, belonging motivated her to learn more about adoption. She did a lot of the things I did as well – read books about adoption and joined Facebook groups for adoptees. Like her, I was already in my 60s as well.

She came to realize that there was no reason to hide her truth any longer. It was time to live an authentic life. She had nothing to hide. She choose to tell her truth publicly in The New York Times. A 98-word Tiny Love Stories piece about her adoption. Then my brother (also adopted) gave her a dusty manila file he discovered during pandemic cleaning. It was labeled “Yvonne’s Adoption.” At 62 years of age, she finally read the documents her adoptive parents had deliberately kept hidden from her when they were alive. The yellowed tissue-thin papers held the truth of her beginnings.

She writes, “My heart ached for the baby who languished in that orphanage for 15 long months. Surely a caretaker would have picked up my malnourished and anemic body when I wailed. Surely someone helped me when I still couldn’t sit on my own at 9 months. Surely a hired helper gazed into my eyes as she fed me diluted Carnation formula, water and congee. I sobbed, imagining how that tiny baby must have experienced those first few months of a life that would turn out to be mine.”

For much of her childhood, she was a quiet child, afraid to be a burden. On the rare occasions when she complained or questioned her parents, they would answer, “Where would you be if we didn’t adopt you?” They never said the same thing to her adoptive brother because he fulfilled their traditional Chinese filial duty to have a son to carry on the family name.

Then, she wanted to understand, why the lies ? So she learned Chinese history, read cultural and sociology books, pored over Chinese memoirs and novels, interviewed Chinese cultural experts and people who lived in China at the time her parents had. Now she is able to recognize that her adoptive parents were a product of tradition, circumstances and time.

She was able to realize some gratitude for the circumstances of her life. Because her birth mother loved her, she left me at a busy stairwell to be found. Because she made that choice, the woman has lived a full life. She is also able to be grateful her adoptive parents chose her. She is no longer ashamed of being an adoptee.

You can read more of her writing at YvonneLiuWriter.com. She is currently writing a memoir about adoption, childhood trauma and mental health. 

Whatever Became Of ?

In Life magazine’s – Year in Pictures 1972 – in a Feature titled Whatever became of ? – I read about “Mike” and “Tammy” – twin children found by police in a Long Beach California alley on May 5 1972. As a Gemini, twins fascinate me. After national publicity, the children were identified as Tamara and Brian Woodruff. They had been abandoned by their mother and were placed in foster care. Their mother was placed under psychiatric observation.

I tried to learn more about the twins but understandably, out of privacy concerns, they disappeared from any easy ability on my part to find out. So, I looked into the topic of child abandonment. It is defined as the practice of relinquishing interests and claims over one’s offspring in an illegal way, with the intent of never resuming or reasserting guardianship. An abandoned child is referred to as a foundling (as opposed to a runaway or an orphan). Some of the effects on survivors of abandonment include feelings of guilt about being at fault for being abandoned.

The earlier in life estrangement happens, the more damaging it can be. It can impact personal development, anxiety and depression, and of course the adult relationships people get into. When that person is trying to have a sense of identity, they are dealing with a black hole where their mother should be and a really dysfunctional model of love.

In parenthood, when she holds her baby in her arms, a woman who was “abandoned” as a child might say – “I will never leave you. I will never do to you what was done to me. Mommy will always come back.” And what she is doing is self-consoling through nurturing her child.

One woman says that becoming a mother did end up being one of the most healing parts of her own journey. And much of her anger did disappear as she reflected more on all the things that had broken her mother before she ever broke that woman. She found a lot of compassion for her original mother and the path that woman had to walk through life. Even so, she says something my own mother said to me once, “as a mother myself, I know I’ll never understand the choices you made.” For this woman, in being the mom she always wished she’d had; she found healing.

I will admit this one hits home in a very personal place. So, I didn’t do it illegally. I did not intend to never have her living with me when I dropped her off at her grandmother’s house. Yet I am at fault for lack of foresight.

I struggled financially after my divorce from my daughter’s father who refused to pay child support. I was always an adventurous soul. Would wander off further and for longer than my slightly detached adoptee parents ever seemed to notice.

And so, from financial desperation, after being rejected from a good paying job with the railroad because my ex worked there, I tried TEMPORARILY leaving my daughter with my former mother-in-law, while I tried to earn a bit of money driving an 18-wheel truck.

I didn’t know it then, but that was a point of no return. My daughter would sometimes visit me, even for extended periods of time, but she would never live permanently with me again. I never thought of it at the time as having abandoned her, but I know now that regardless of my intent, I must accept responsibility for whatever emotional harms that may have done to her. I know it did emotional harm to me. I’ve never fully gotten over the outcome or my sense of guilt for it.

Thankfully, my daughter did not eliminate me from her life entirely. I did make real efforts to stay in contact with her throughout most of her childhood. There were periods of time that due to the people I was living with, it became impossible to be contact with her but as soon as it was safe, I did resume contact and she was still young enough, that it reconnected our bond with one another, even if it did not reconnect us full-time under the same roof.

Sadness remains in my mother’s heart regardless. Knowing the legal definition of child abandonment helps but does not heal my personal pain at all that I missed with my daughter.