Judging The Past By Present Values

Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw
~ photo by Carlos Osorio for the Toronto Star, 2012

As a Gemini, twins have always fascinated me. I have wondered if I once had a twin in utero who vanished. Having gone through assisted reproductive medical interventions, I know this happens. It happened with my older son when my pregnancy originally appeared to be twins. I really didn’t want the challenge but in my mom’s group we have several pairs of twins and one set of triplets. The father of the man I am married to was a twin. Both my father in law and his twin brother are now deceased.

The less than common occurrence of multiple births has my attention this morning after watching the documentary – Three Identical Strangers. The story tells how these men were separated at 6 mos and adopted out with strategic intent by the clinical psychiatrist, Peter Neubauer, through the cooperation of the Louise Wise adoption agency. Psychology Today did an article entitled The Truth About “Three Identical Strangers.” The article explains – Dr Viola Bernard was the chief psychiatric consultant to the Wise agency. In the late 1950s (before Dr Peter Neubauer was involved), Dr Bernard created a policy of separating identical twins when they were adopted. Dr Bernard’s intentions are described as benign. In a memo subsequently recovered, she expresses her hope that “early mothering would be less burdened and divided and the child’s developing individuality would be facilitated” by this separation. It wasn’t only the Wise agency but many other agencies that also practiced the separation of twins at the time of adoption.

The conclusion by Dr Lois Oppenheim in the Psychology Today article is – The basic premise of the film, that the triplets’ separation was a heartless scheme undertaken at the expense of the children’s well-being to enable a scientific study, is fiction. The filmmakers could have created a documentary about the complexities of the twin study, its origins and context, and the changing standards of ethical norms and lessons learned. This might have been less dramatic, but it would have made an important contribution to our understanding of gene research and parenting.

Yet, the practice of separating identical or even non-identical siblings in the adoption industry continues and the study and research of such persons continues to this day. Regarding my photo above of Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw, the story in The Toronto Star by Amy Dempsey tells us that the 12-year-olds were separated as babies in China but reunited after the two separate Ontario couples adopted them. When their separate/different adoptive parents made the startling discovery that their two daughters were identical twins, they vowed to raise the girls as sisters. Their situation is highly unusual: Lily and Gillian are two of only a handful of twin pairs – mostly Chinese children adopted by North American parents – who are being raised, knowing they are siblings but separately apart. For scientific researchers, the girls are yet another opportunity to study the effects of nature vs nurture in real-time. As for their families – strangers thrown together by the most unusual of circumstances – their situation explores a new kind of blended family, with unique and fascinating joys and challenges.

The Toronto Star goes beyond the story of the twin Chinese girls to note that in the late 1970s, scientists at the Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research began studying what was then a new category of multiples — adopted twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults. Dr Thomas Bouchard’s landmark paper was titled “Minnesota Study of Identical Twins Reared Apart.” The study shook the scientific community by demonstrating, across a number of traits, that twins raised apart are as similar as twins raised together. The study’s evidence of genetic influence in traits such as personality (50 per cent heritable) and intelligence (70 per cent heritable) overturned conventional ideas about parenting and teaching. And findings of genetic influence on physiological characteristics have led to new ways of fighting and preventing disease.

While I was yet pregnant with my oldest son, I chose to read a book titled Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy which had just come out in the year before. So my interest is long standing and it is little wonder that the issues continue to capture my interest. For centuries, the self-sacrificing mother who places her child’s needs and desires above her own has defined womanhood. Designed by nature for the task of rearing offspring, women are “naturally” tender, selfless and compassionate where their progeny are concerned. Those who reject childbearing or fail to nurture their offspring directly are typed as pathological, “unnatural” women. In traditional Darwinian evolutionary biology, the female of any species has evolved to produce and nurture the species; one could say it is her only role. Feminist treatises have long argued against the necessary conflation of “woman” with “mother,” and classics such as Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born have cogently argued that such altruistic maternity is a cultural construct and not a biological given.

From a review (link above) of Hrdy’s book Mother Nature – US anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy strides into the minefield, examining motherhood across cultures, historical periods, evolutionary tracts and biological species to better understand human maternity. Hrdy’s book resides in that rare space between academic disciplines (she is a professor emerita at the University of California-Davis and she has been schooled in anthropology, primatology, evolutionary theory, history and feminism). Her work can be situated somewhere between specialist treatise and popular biological science. Hrdy’s unique placement enables her to combine the best of Darwinian evolutionary biology with feminist cultural theory, without falling into the political entrapments of either camp.

Heartening for me, as a biological/genetic mother who lost physical (but not legal) custody of her daughter when she was only 3 years old, I am reminded in this review of Hrdy’s book that stay-at-home mothers are rare in the historical and evolutionary archives; community caregiving is an age-old model of childrearing. Throughout history in primate and human communities, mothering techniques involve “allomothers”: the delegation of child caretaking to other members (male and female) of the community. “Mothers have worked for as long as our species has existed, and they have depended on others to help them rear their children,” Hrdy writes. That means I was not the abject failure I believed my self to be for over 60 years but just another kind of mother. Motherhood today often includes women who have jobs and incomes of their own. Hrdy sees this as an evolutionary process to ensure long and safe lives for these mother’s child(ren). A lack of financial resources most certainly drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother, while I took a risk to see if I could earn some decent money driving an 18-wheel truck. There never was the intention to permanently abandon my child to other people. Thankfully, as adults we are happily close enough at heart and I believe love one another as fully as any mom could hope for. It is actually the lack of financial resources that is at cause for most adoptions.

In “60 Years On, Twin/Triplet Study Still Raises Questions” – an interview of Dr Leon Hoffman by Elizabeth Hlavinka for Medpage Today looks at the ethics of that study, which began in 1960 (the documents from which are sealed in the archives at Yale University until 2065). This tells me that Peter Neubauer, who died in 2008, eventually had his own qualms about the ethics of what he had perpetrated, though he is judged to have mostly been concerned with confidentiality issues that (until open adoptions began) were the rule in commercial closed adoptions (the effects of which continue to obstruct and vex adult adoptees to this day – change comes slowly). My blog today takes it title from an observation by Dr Hoffman – that the problem with a lot of “exposés” is that we judge the past by our present values.  That is an important point. He also notes that at the time of the Neubauer project, there was a prevailing belief that twins would be better off separated, if they were going to be adopted. That twins were more difficult for the mother and that it would be easier for the mother to take care of one child instead of two children. I understand. In our mom’s group, those with twins often hired au pairs to assist them in those early days.

In this interview, Dr Hoffman notes – I always tell parents of kids that I see, “How much is genetic and how much is environment?” and I always say, “It’s 100% of both,” because those two are always interacting with one another. More and more data has shown that genetic variations get very much affected by the environment. I believe this is also evident in the story about the triplets. They even admit that during that time of their own high publicity, they amplified their similarities because that is what people were curious about. It is clear that they each had unique personalities that do seem to have been affected by their adoptive parents and the differing environmental situations they were raised in. As aging adults, the two surviving individuals have very different surface appearances while retaining many similarities.

Since I have looked at mother/child separations now for several years and am against the practice of adoption generally and in favor of family preservation, I was emotionally triggered last night by thinking about the amplifying effect of separation trauma (which IS mentioned by the triplets in their documentary) as yet another separation wound for babies who grew into their humanity in the same womb. Fortunately for the children in my mom’s group, they don’t have either of those added traumas. “The twin relationship, particularly with (identical) twins, is probably the closest of human social ties,” says Nancy Segal, who is herself a twin. This is why it’s so important for multiples to grow up together. Segal, now a psychology professor at California State University, has found about 15 more sets of adopted twin children being raised by different families, most of them Chinese girls. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to China’s one-child policy, which led to the abandonment of thousands of female babies. Though China’s official adoption rules state that twins should be placed together, pairs like Lily and Gillian prove things don’t always happen that way.

I found one other article that I’m not going to say very much about. You can read the story – Stories of Twins Separated at Birth by Pamela Prindle Fierro at the VeryWell Family website. There are the two sisters – Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman. They found each other through Facebook and YouTube. They had been raised on different continents. The article includes information about the “Jim Twins” – James Arthur Springer and James Edward Lewis who found each other at the age of 39 in 1979. And there are actually MORE stories at this link.

The important thing to learn is that every action taken, that affects another human being, has the possibility of unintended consequences and that there is always the need for a fully informed consent in the interest of human well-being. An issue with adoptees is that due to their young age, they are never able to give informed consent and therefore, their rights are never considered. This is an issue with many adoptees who feel they are treated like second-class citizens with important basic human rights withheld from them – identity and medical issues foremost. An evolving issue with donor conceptions is similar. The human being conceived in that manner had no ability to consent to the method of their conception. Realistically, none of us consents (in a human sense, but I believe we do in non-physical prior to birth as I believe we are eternal souls).

The Era Of Sealed Records Continues

It is not some long ago issue. For many adoptees, their personal history, their adoption file and their original birth certificates are withheld from them even today in maybe half these United States. It is true that there has been progress made in some states. I believe New York was the most recent.

So today, I read the heartbreaking account below of yet another adoptee struggling with this, just as my mom did (however, she was denied because her mom was dead and her father’s status could not be determined – thankfully, I received her full file in 2017 from the state of Tennessee – if only she could have had the peace of mind her file would have brought her but she was also dead by the time I was able to obtain it on her behalf as her descendent).

Here’s that other adoptees’ sad tale –

I had to friend request my biological mother again. We were friends before when we first connected, but I unfriended her after writing her a long message unleashing my pent-up anger and hurt over my adoption. Anyway, the state of Florida says that if I want a copy of my original birth certificate, I need this woman to write a note permitting the courts to unseal my records. So, I have to expose myself to more trauma and talk to someone I don’t want to talk to, so I can have the factual account of my birth. I am so tired of laws that hurt adoptees and protect biological parents. It’s bullshit.

One response was this – It’s a human rights violation, considering these people signed away any legal rights they had to us, so they are legal strangers to us. They have as much to do with us as a neighbor, a store clerk or a real estate agent. Yet we are still beholden to them, when laws that separated us, make us ask their permission in the ultimate of hypocrisy.

Another adoptee shares –

I was born in the “blackout” period for Massachusetts adoptees. I think it was from 1974 through 2008. If you were born in that time frame, you need to convince a judge there is a “good reason” to give you your original vital records information. I don’t know what that is but I really don’t want my adoptive parents finding out I’m even poking yet, I’d rather have them on my side first.

And yet another from my own home state – I was adopted in Missouri. I had to have written permission from one of my adoptive parents to get my information. My adoptive dad wrote the letter for me. If he had died before the letter was written, I would not have been able to get any information.

And I agree with this adoptive parent – I have always felt that the Amended Birth Certificate was a lie and an awful thing to do to a child who has every right to that document. Blog writer’s note – For both of my parents, their birth certificates were total fabrications. How can it be a good thing to grow a life upon a lie ?

No adult should have to get any other adult’s permission to obtain their own records.

Someone else writes – I’m confused about how this protects natural parents. It seems like it’s just a difficult-to-impossible side quest to make it less likely that any adoptee will find their natural family, all to benefit adopters who fear reunion, in the guise of “protecting the birth mother’s privacy”.

Exactly !! The stated reason for the secrecy has always been to protect the privacy of the original parents but that rings hollow and it has been abundantly proven that the reason is to protect the adoptive parents from dealing with adoptee/original parent intrusions.

Don’t Say It’s Medicine

One of life’s more difficult circumstances – addiction – often causes a parent to lose custody of their child. A foster mother who is going to adopt such a child because there are no family options, still believes in reunification. She maintains a good relationship with the child’s mom and plans to continue to include her in here child’s life as much as is possible.

The question is how to explain to a very young child about the legal system and addiction, while respecting the mother’s right to tell her own story. However, seeing a need to also provide this 2 yr old child with the information she deserves. This foster mother is struggling with how to tell this child about addiction ?

So, she was reality checking her rehearsed explanation and good thing she was – here is what she was thinking of saying. “The judge decided you have to live with us because your mom was having a hard time when you came to live with us. Your mom was having a hard time not taking medicine that made her feel less pain, but that she wasn’t allowed to use while she was being a mommy. That medicine can make people feel sleepy and confused and forgetful. Sometimes people aren’t allowed to live with their kids when they start taking that medicine. Those mommies still love their babies more than anything in the world.”

It was very quickly pointed out to her how damaging it would be to call addictive street drugs (or even misused pharmaceutical drugs) “medicine.”

Do not call drugs – medicine. Have open conversations, age appropriate, with the child regarding the addiction, which is a kind of disease. Unless it is literally a misused Rx, do not call it “medicine.” And if that is the case, you can only really discuss such nuanced distinctions when she is old enough to ask about it and able to understand – heroin vs methadone vs fentanyl vs oxycontin. That probably would not be possible until her later teenage years.

Here’s one reason why – suppose you have an aunt who has cancer, and the chemo she had to take made her lose her hair permanently and even worse, she has an ostomy bag. People telling you, she got very sick and the medicine she took made those things happen to her, will leave a child terrified of getting sick and having to take medicine. The language used needs to be MUCH more specific. Don’t talk down to kids. Always go as specific, whenever possible, as you are able to.

Another example of why you have to be careful about switching words to describe something. While you may feel like it softens the blow to use the word medicine instead of drugs, consider when the child is four and the doctor prescribes medicine for an ear ache. Say someone dear is diagnosed with breast cancer, the child should not be told it is a boo boo. That is a terrible idea. So, explain that her mother takes drugs. Of course, the child will ask harder questions as she gets older, but it will also be easier to explain the situation more specifically then, however it has become by then.

Another possibility is to take that original explanation, leave the word medicine out of it and stay with the mom is going through a hard time. And call the issue what it is directly – drugs, plain and simple. Explain what drugs are and how they can affect someone. Drugs are not something you should ever shield any child from.

Speaking For And Over

Straight up – I am NOT adopted but both of my parents were and each of my sisters gave up a child to adoption, who I have been blessed to reconnect with in their late teen/early adulthood. I have learned the most from belonging in an all things adoption group where the voices of adoptees are privileged over all others, though there are original parents and adoptive parents (including those hoping to adopt and foster parents) and the rare oddball like me who belongs but doesn’t fit any of the usual categories. Now that I have dealt with my place in the adoption triad as it is often called, I’ll go on into today’s blog topic.

An adoptee writes – There needs to be a name for the bigotry of attacking, marginalizing and discrediting the voices of adoptees, donor conceived folk and former foster youth. I’m exhausted by the relentless online barrage from people who think they can speak for or over us based on the nature of our birth and/or conception and call us angry, broken and other hateful tropes.

This may shock you that anyone would be so inconsiderate and thoughtless but I will assure you, people are often clueless, especially about adoption. In fact, I was clueless before I entered this group about 3 years ago. I grew up thinking adoption was the most natural things in the world. Of course I would, given my family background. As a child, I thought my parents were orphans. They died knowing very little beyond some vague name related to their origins and their original parents. After they died, through effort, persistence and a lot of lucky, within a year I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were. My parents were adopted in the dark ages of the Great Depression, sealed adoption records, changed identities on their original birth certificates and in some cases even their actual birthdate was changed.

Now, on to some of the comments regarding my adoptee perspective above . . .

One commenter noted this truth – Many of the people who push adoption are anti-abortion but I call them “forced birthers”. Forced birthers want their baby mills to produce. To which another responded – Pregnancy and birth are expensive and a lot of women turn to abortion because they don’t want a child and its the most financially responsible choice for themselves. Another one noted – I had a bunch of particularly bigoted recipient parents call me prolife because I said donor conceived people had rights. But saying adoptees, donor conceived people and former foster youth have rights is not the same as saying embryos have rights and I’m absolutely pro choice. So frustrating how things are twisted.

Someone else offered this interesting exercise – It helps to do train of thought free association… anti-adoption-truth-sayer, hard truth silencer, kidnapper sympathizer, rainbows and unicorns narrative, adoptee-phobe, foster youth-phobe, trauma denier, child trafficking supporter, baby objectifier, baby snatcher, willful ignorance, privilege/entitlement, keeping one’s blinders on, cognitive dissonance, rose-colored glasses, saviorist, virtue signaling, oppressor, crush, gag, hush, censor, suppress, repress, hide, mask, bully, harass, gaslighting… Really I think gaslighting is what is going on…Definition – Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation; gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. As I continue to think about this… it’s basically “separation trauma gaslighting”…

One noted that she hates the term ‘recipient parent’ because she doesn’t like the idea of adoptees being viewed as gifts. She suggests an “individual who feels entitled to another person’s child”. 

And someone else acknowledged it is conception discrimination.

Yet another said – What is a term that can be used to describe genetic identity seekers? Or people who don’t like to be separated from their genetic family? I think we need a word that encapsulates who we are. Then we could add an anti-, -ism, or -phobia for the opposite side of that concept.

Another one pointed out – Home wrecker is such a strong emotive world, and everyone immediately knows what it means. Maybe Family wreckers or some other similar term?

One woman speaking for her own interests says, I like using words like advocate and mentor to describe myself at this point in my life. I advocate for family safety and preservation and transparency and accountability within the human services systems in our country. I have also been thinking of what to call this movement for adoptee dignity, and the advocates who are tirelessly speaking out about these issues. And your blogger likes this perspective because that is what I think of in regard to myself and what I do in this blog.

An adoptee who has encountered these behaviors says, When someone comments that I should be grateful, sometimes I will tell them to check their privilege. I also like obscurantist, which means deliberately preventing the facts or full details of something from becoming known.

Another noted that this would be a form of childism. The child is objectified, and there is a hierarchy of value placed on them by adults based on many factors including: the circumstances of their birth, how they came to be placed with their non-biological family, how well-treated and accepted they are by the family they were raised by, whether or not they aged out of the foster care system, etc. Childism may be too broad and not specific enough.

And maybe this is the bottom line – I think the most important thing we can do is change the conversation. I think we just need to keep going. Even when our comments get erased or we get thrown out of the conversation just keep commenting. If enough of us keep commenting on the posts with our view I think we can change the conversation.

And on the speaking out side of things, one wrote – I like using terms like fragility and privilege to get people’s attention and get them talking about why they have the views they have so I can knock them down a peg or two. I keep links handy, peer-reviewed studies/articles, etc. and drop them in when relevant.

When A Mother Doesn’t Want Her Child

Today’s adoptee story (not my own story) – Being adopted is having all of your rights stripped from you the minute you take a breath and become declared a human. That was my case. I had what is called a closed adoption.

There are many reasons people put their child up for adoption. Some women are coerced. Some have their children stolen. Some women just don’t want their child. That was me.

My birth mother named me, wrote down all of the non-identifying information about herself, her parents, my birth father, and his parents, and walked away to a fresh new start.

She had the child. She didn’t abort it. Many would agree that makes her a born again saint.

This is where no one wants to admit that the child will probably have many problems. That child was just given your epigenetics. The feelings you had while pregnant are now part of who that child is.

As for my mother, we have to assume things because she never used her words because she would never meet me or speak to me. She made me a living abortion by never having any responsibility or accountability for her actions. I assume she felt shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, anxiety, and depression.

When my sisters and cousins met me, everyone said how much I looked like my mother and acted like her.

My emotions were torn.

I had always wanted to look and act like my family. Now I do, and the woman that gave birth to me is also the cause of my trauma. I wanted to rip my DNA out of my body.

I had suffered from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation for most of my life. I had been given Prozac and Zoloft when I was in my mid 20’s. They caused me extreme pain in the back of my head. I came off of them and took an overdose of muscle relaxers one night and ended up in a psych ward over the weekend.

When I met with the doctor, he told me the prescriptions would have killed me had I not stopped taking them. I was having a reaction because of my low blood pressure. I did see a psychologist a few times after that, but it wasn’t any help.

I spent many years thinking I was fine after that. I had also learned not to let anyone really know what I was thinking after that.

I was in what is known as the “fog.” I went on with my life. I worked a lot and drank. I thought if I just stayed ahead of what I felt, I was ok.

The pain from adoption is there, whether we admit it or not. You can see it in people’s eyes when you say you’re adopted. They get that I’m sorry look. With so many people aware of the trauma adoption causes, you would think it would change.

As for me, I am doing everything I can now, to fix my epigenetics from my mother.

Just Don’t

Some honest advice from someone who has been where you may be now . . . .

Just need to get this off my chest. Any expectant moms reading this that are considering adoption, please do not do it, not even an open adoption. My daughter has spent this past two weeks with us and she was so happy. She went home to her adoptive parents today and asked to spend another two weeks with us. Well adoptive mother just sent me a message that they spoke to a social worker and that their attorney will contact us this week, so I guess they are getting a restraining order. My hands are tied as legally I can’t do anything because of a piece of paper I signed 13 years ago. So please never consider adoption as the better choice for your baby because it will torture you the rest of your life and your child’s life as well.

And this child won’t have more rights in adolescence.   Adoptees do not have the same rights that non-adopted people have. For some reason, the courts care more about making the adoptive parents happy with their purchase than they do about the best interests of the child.

Someone asks this woman – They sent her to you for two weeks and now won’t let her come back ? Why is she involving an attorney ?

So, some more of this sad story – my daughter threatened to hurt herself, if she can’t be with us – so they sent her to spend two weeks with us. Picked her up today.  Now because she wants to stay longer with us, they want to get restraining order. I have evidence of some physical abuse that she has suffered being with them.

Expectant moms – you do NOT want this to happen to your precious child !!

Some good legal perspective with which I agree – They may find that they can’t get a restraining or protection order over this, depending on the jurisdiction. Simply because your child wants to spend time with you doesn’t rise to the level of an order against you in many places.  Also, if they try to get a protection or restraining order against you, you have the right to defend yourself and be involved in the court case.

On the other hand – People get restraining orders all the time for frivolous reasons. Courts pass them out like candy on Halloween. You don’t even need to have any evidence. Orders of protection are used more often to harass and control people than they are for actually protecting people.

Another woman added more cautions for expectant moms – Anyone who wants to terminate your legal rights to your own child does NOT have your child’s best interests in mind. Nor is that ever in your best interests.  Someone who truly wanted to help a child, would’ve stepped in as a mentor, God parent, adoptive aunt/uncle figure. Don’t trust anyone with your children. Once you do, there is NOTHING you can do to protect your child from that person.

And for adoptive parents who may be dealing with a situation like this – consider what stopping visitation does to your adopted child.  That is guaranteed to cause resentment against you and heap more trauma on them.  Consider your next steps very thoughtfully.

 

 

Break On Through

Read this request for advice this morning –

Dear Amy: When my mother was a teenager, she gave birth to a son and put him up for adoption.

I found out about it as a child only because my grandmother became quite mean in her later years and told me about it to embarrass my mom. My mother and I never discussed it, and honestly I had pretty much forgotten about it.

Many years later, I bought one of those DNA testing kits and later got one for my mom, too. A few days ago, we both received an “ancestry sharing request” from a person the DNA service has identified as being my half brother.

I asked my mom via text (I am currently living outside the country) if she was going to respond to him, but she didn’t answer the question.

I’m not sure if I should push the topic further with her.

Also, do I have any obligation to respond to this half brother? My gut instinct is to not respond at all. I found him on Facebook and saw that his posts were all far too political and religious for me.

Thoughts?

— Wondering Half-Sibling

Amy’s response –

Wondering Half-Sibling: Based on what you report, people in your family may have a pattern of dredging up challenging topics, and then burying them again when they hit too close to the heart — or simply become too uncomfortable to face.

One of my favorite quotes is from the poet Robert Frost: “…the best way out is always through.” I take this to mean that almost any challenging situation is made better — ultimately — by going through it, rather than around it.

Yes, you could take your half brother’s social media postings as a (faint) justification to ignore him. You have the right to ignore him. But he has the right to some factual knowledge about his own biological and medical history, and you should be able to help provide that without necessarily entering into a relationship that you obviously don’t feel inclined to have.

Understand, too, that if your brother’s values and world-view are so very different from yours, he also may not wish to enter into a sibling relationship with you, either.

Yes, this would definitely reveal some very challenging truths for your mother. Given how her own mother treated him, she might not be able to face this reality. You could assume that when she and her family placed her baby for adoption, they did so with the knowledge that this chapter was closed — never dreaming that some day DNA would enable people to circumvent adoption contracts. It would be kindest if you contacted your mother (perhaps by phone, not text) and asked, gently and without judgment, if she would like to talk about this.

~ source for the above – The Washington Post

Some further thoughts from this blogger

It is true that the advent of inexpensive DNA testing has actually been a godsend for adoptees locked out of their own true origins, with original birth certificates denied them, with the truths of how they came to be adopted denied them – because the DNA tells the truth of our genes.  DNA testing has made all the difference for me as the child of two adoptees in finally knowing who all 4 of my original grandparents were and making connections with my true genetic relatives.  With over 6 decades of living robbed from us, building relationships is slow and not terribly productive with some.  With others there is definitely a heartfelt connection that I am likely much more grateful to have than they could ever understand.

Who’s Right Is It ?

It is a sad truth that adoptees are often treated as second class citizens and denied their basic human right to know the details of their identity.

Today, I read about an adoptee struggling with her original mother’s insistence on keeping the original father’s identity a secret from her.  In the course of having DNA testing, she located some cousins and has now identified her father.  Stalking him online, she has relieved herself of a serious concern.  As an adoptee, the extreme secrecy made her worry that there was something wrong with her DNA. She wondered if her conception might be related to incest and this concern caused her to worry about having children.

The original mother seems to be a difficult relationship.  For one thing, she thinks this daughter should thank her for giving birth to her. The nun who facilitated the adoption, has commented to this woman that her mother’s life would have been easier if she’d chosen abortion. The time frame was after Roe v Wade.  I remember hearing from my nephew’s adoptive mother that my youngest sister who gave him up for adoption once wrote them when the boy was in his teens, she expressed being hurt that they did not thank her for what she had done for them.  They were quite mystified by this.

Yet, this woman knows that according to her original mother, that the mother has been tormented by what she did in surrendering this child to adoption for 22 years.  This is really not surprising.  When it comes to our children, surrender or abortion, can cause lifelong regrets for one reason or another.  It is always fraught.

Where it has gotten weird and where the relationship between mother and daughter has broken down is the mother’s refusal to reveal the father (she said it was a one night stand and because my nephew’s conception was a similar event, I know these things do happen).  Even when offered extreme “protections” such as being asked if this mother would put the name of the woman’s original father in a safe deposit box, give the key to an attorney and sign a contract with her that she could only access it in the case that she was incapacitated and the woman needed this information for a life and death medical reason for herself or her family – the original mother simply said, “No”.

Her mother’s repeated statements that she loves her ring hollow, even insulting, when this mother appears to be willing to literally let her daughter die before divulging the name of her original father. Oh, the harm secrets do.  It seems the woman came from a wealthy family who never was told about the birth of this daughter.

The original mother became a bit unglued – she accused her daughter of trying to get her family’s money (she claims that she doesn’t need or want it), of trying to get her thrown in jail for perjuring herself regarding knowing who the original father is, which would rob her of raising her sons (the woman notes – we’re well beyond the statute of limitations, and of course I’m not trying to get her thrown in jail), and has told the nun who facilitated the adoption (and who seems to be mediating the complications even now), that this woman withheld her personal medical history from her mother so she can’t give it to her sons (yet, the woman did give her mother a detailed medical history), among other things.

Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for her after a happy childhood with adoptive parents that never lied to her and gave her love and a family life.  She has been able to discover that her original father is a normal, healthy person with a normal-looking healthy family (including half brothers related to her).  She feels like a huge weight of uncertainty has now been lifted from her shoulders. Even so, she is extremely hesitant to contact him.

And she is sickened by being someone’s dirty secret. She feels she would be complicit in the lie if she allows who her father is to remain a secret. Yes, being an adoptee is painful, traumatic and never easy.  Just in case you thought walking away from an unwanted pregnancy would free you. It never does.

Intertwined and Corrupt

In the adoption group I belong to, an adoptive mother wrote –

If you understand how deeply corrupt adoption is, and do not understand how deeply corrupt the justice system is, then you may need to re-evaluate how much you REALLY believe adoption is corrupt.  This can also be said the opposite way.  Both systems use each other to remain corrupt.  In my opinion, if you support one of these systems, you ultimately support both. This is not political either. Just basic human rights.

Let me say it again – this woman describes herself as a adoptive mother.  WTF ?

One adoptee replied –

I’m not making a statement on my opinion of the justice system. What I’m saying is that this is an adoption page where the focus is adoption. Nobody, especially an entitled, self-important baby buyer is going to hijack this page for her own agenda. It pisses me off to have an adoptive parent tell me that I’m not allowed to speak out about adoption unless I follow her rules. Fuck her! Let those that have lived experience with the justice system speak their truths and be heard in their forums. This space is for us.

Another adoptee noted –

You cannot dismantle the systems of adoption that affect us as adoptees, without addressing ALL of the systems that fail ALL OF US.  The fact is, adoption, AND the justice system both fail people of color far more, and far worse, than they fail white people.

Another responder affirmed –

The criminal justice system does play a part in the adoption system and adoption reform. It definitely played a part in my case along with many other cases… they absolutely go hand in hand.

And the best response was this –

Adoption is driven by selfish, baby seeking citizens who think they are better. The demand of these selfish and/or savior minded citizens is what drives the corruption because supply does not meet demand. Demand equals money equals corruption, coercion, manipulation. Every single person that goes into the corrupt system of adoption wants the same thing…a child. The goal is singular. Take a child from their mother: We adoptees are the pawns. The ones that have so much value people are willing to pay $30000/$40000 to get us. Hopeful adoptive parents don’t care about our rights and don’t care that they are paying to ruin lives.

So let’s say it this way “If you understand deeply how corrupt the justice system is and you don’t understand how corrupt the adoption/foster system is and how YOU are part of that corruption – then maybe you need to re-evaluate”

 

Think About The Mothers

The family I was born into is heavily affected by adoption.  Until I learned about the truth related to my mom’s adoption, I never thought much about how the mothers who gave up a baby to adoption were affected by what happened.  I never thought about how it might have affected both of my sisters who each gave up a baby to adoption.

My first exposure was reading Lorraine Dusky’s book A Hole in My Heart.  We have since become friends on Facebook and I know a lot more about what happened to her than only what she wrote in that book.  She has been an activist for opening the sealed records in the state of New York.  The effort was recently successful.  Almost half of these United States continue to obstruct adoptees from knowing the truth of their origins.  Adoptees are treated like second-class citizens denied the basic human rights that most people unaffected by adoption never give a second thought.

A friend in my writer’s guild once asked me at a conference as we were discussing my manuscript project, what does it matter if someone was adopted if their adoptive parents were good people and their childhood fortunate ?  As I explained it to her, she understood in her own way that her genetic origins were simply something she took for granted.  Whether she cared to know anything at all about her heritage, it was accessible to her.  Not so for the adoptee.

The more contact I have with women who have lost their children to adoption, the more I understand the lifelong regret, sorrow and pain this causes them.  Adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Too often people think the problem that is today will always stay a problem forever.  Change is constant, so that perception is never the truth but it is easy to lose sight of that in extreme need.

Not only do many mothers never know what became of their child, many adoptees exist in a black hole.  If they know they were adopted (which is generally the case in our modern times and even for both of my parents, adopted in the 1930s, they knew they had been adopted even though they never learned anything about their own origins), there is this strange kind of existence and knowing they are not related to the people who are “their family” and genetic heritage ? the heritage that is their adoptive family’s possession, it isn’t their heritage.

And sadly, when one finally does know the heritage, as I have been blessed to discover my own (know all 4 original grandparents and something about each of their stories) and have contact now with true genetic relations, I don’t feel fully as though I belong to these families.  We have no shared history.  It is as though I’ve been robbed twice.  Though I am grateful to at least have the truth now and not a false identity.