Why Is The Truth Hard to Hear ?

Today’s thoughts –

Relationships between adoptive parents and their biological kids are different than relationships adoptive parents have with their adopted kids. The connection with one’s biological kids is often deeper, biological connections are often stronger.

Many adoptees talk about how they could clearly see those differences in their adoptive families and in the way they were treated. Adoptive parents always defend themselves. “I love all my kids exactly the same. My connection is the same with all of my kids. My kids don’t feel that way and never will.”

There are a multitude of similar comments that have been uttered a thousand times.

If the reader is an adoptive parent – why is that something that’s hard to hear or gets you so defensive ?

No one is saying that adoptive parents don’t love their adopted children, or that they don’t have any connection with them. It’s simply not the same because biological connections matter. Yet an adoptive parent will immediately feel hurt because they don’t believe this is true about them.

For me, loving my biological children has always been natural, easy and effortless. Our bond was amazing the moment I laid eyes on them after birth. I hope my children all feel equally attached to me as their mom.

I suspect that anyone with adopted children has found they have had to work hard to love them with the same kind of overwhelming devotion (and some clearly don’t, as when the child is put back up for a second chance adoption). An adoptive parent must get to know their adopted child during the worst time in their lives. An adoptive parent may have to break some really hard news to them. In my own family, I had to explain to the adoptive mother of my nephew that his mother has a severe mental illness and that she has indicated that if she were in his presence she would not really be all that warm with him. It is very sad and I suspect he struggles now with all the truth that has come his way, including discovering that the man my sister named as his father was not and that the actual father was a co-worker with our dad that my sister seduced. No wonder she wanted to put the evidence of her behavior far away.

Any person who adopts has directly caused trauma. An adoptive parent may find that they did not bond or attach easily to the adopted child in the beginning. It may have taken a lot of work, a lot of therapy, blood, sweat, and tears. As parent and child, they may have had to work through mountains of pain, and will likely have some always. And maybe it is still hard somedays.

You can love them fiercely and they may even get more one on one attention than your biological children most days because they need it.

Yet, if you are being totally honest with yourself, you will admit that your bond with them is not the same as it is with your biological children. The love – while it is there and it is strong – is not the same, your biological connections with those children are strong as hell.

And as difficult as it is for you as an adoptive parent, it’s even more difficult for them. You are not their mom or dad, you never will be. They may have love for you, and maybe you have achieved some bonding, but the truth will always be that if they could go live with their mom/dad or other biological relatives – they absolutely would – without a second thought, simply because biological connections are strong as hell.

As an adoptive parent, if they can be honest with you, then you can know that your connection is strong. If you are able to hear them say that they wish they weren’t adopted sometimes, you are doing a great job. If you can suffer them telling you that they wish they were with their mom, you are humble and real.

They can tell you that even though their biological family treated them badly, they may still wish they lived with them – so they could (potentially) also be with their other siblings (often the case in these families that sibling groups become separated).

Maybe they are able to tell you that they are mad that you didn’t adopt their other siblings and maybe it wasn’t an option available to you at the time.

Most importantly, they know that you will respect and validate everything they say without trying change their minds, and without making excuses. They know that your love for them isn’t fragile and can’t be broken because they are able share feelings that sometimes hurt you feelings or make you feel bad.

Know this, your feelings are your problem. Don’t put them on your adopted child. And admit this, though your love for them, despite it being deep, is different than the love you have for your biological children, you will not deny the facts. Acknowledge that your connections, and bonds are different.

As an adoptive parent, these are things you should do your best to understand. It’s not about you and your image of saintliness out in the world. Your adopted kids know it’s different, don’t try to convince yourself that it’s not.

A Disconnect

I’ve been reading about infant development lately in a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. I often reflect on my own mothering of my daughter at the age of 19. Though the love was never lacking, I was not as good of a mother for her as I might have been, had I know how to be a good mother.

I believe some of that comes of the slight disconnect in my own parents as regards their parenting of us. It is not their fault, they were both adopted. Oh, they were good parents, not abusive, and we knew they loved us but there was something missing in them and it affected their parenting of us.

What was missing in my parents were their natural mothers, who carried them in their wombs and gave birth to them, may have breastfed them. I know that was true with my dad. I don’t have a record of that for my mom. She was taken to an orphanage for temporary care by her own financially desperate mother and put on a formula. My dad was allowed to stay with his mother and continue to nurse for some months as he accompanied her when she was employed by the Salvation Army, through who’s home for unwed mothers she had given birth to him.

I was reflecting on this as I sat out on the deck overlooking the field at my writer’s retreat. I was bundled up in a cozy jacket as the temperature is not more than the mid-30s and drinking warm tea.

I was thinking about how my mom took my bottle from me at 13 months to give to my newborn younger sister. My mom intended no harm, she didn’t know better. We can’t do better than we know how.

So, as I was drinking the warm tea, I imagined mothering myself. I imagined being warm and cozy in the soft embrace of my mother, drinking in the warm, nourishing liquid.

In that moment, I forgave my mom and had to extend that forgiveness to myself. I can acknowledge that I might have done better if I had know how to do better and in realizing that, I can acknowledge that my own mother would have done better had she known how to do better.

My late life sons (born when I was 47 and 50 years old) have benefitted from having a better mother in me. Certainly, I did have previous experience when the first boy was born and I had a huge amount of support from my in-laws who came every day for the first 4 months and only stopped when my husband begged me to ask them to back off.

My husband was always a good and nurturing co-parent as he did not become a father until he was personally ready to commit to that responsibility. When the second boy was born, he doubled down on the attention he gave the older boy, that he suffer less from the loss of attention of his mother, due to a newborn in the house.

It was a situation that I had to rectify when the younger boy was about 2 or 3 and the older one about 6 as he was acting out a lot to get my attention. With sufficient attention from me, that behavior quickly ceased and the younger boy benefitted from having more dad time.

Hindsight doesn’t replace ignorance but ignorance is not willful neglect.

What Is Wrong With This Picture ?

There was a time in my sons younger days when I worried that their behavior was going to result in unintended consequences.  Sometimes well-meaning people insert themselves in ignorance into other people’s lives.  Fortunately, we weathered those years without the worst happening to us.  That is not always the case for some families.

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler writes –

“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

This is definitely a reason for concern as our government has been trending authoritarian.

In a YouTube titled “Legally Kidnapped: The Case Against Child Protective Services” the narrator says – “They don’t want you to know what is going on because if you did you’d rebel, you’d fight back.”

There is an agency that has ripped families apart for decades.  In 2014, when that video was made there were 400,000 children in out-of-home care. That is a staggering number.  It is true that 20% of Child Protective Services removals are for physical/sexual abuse.

With the ongoing legalization of marijuana in many states in this country, it may shock you to know that a vast percentage of child removals have been for the use by their parents of this substance.

The sad truth is that foster children are 6 times more likely to die of medical neglect, physical abuse and/or sexual abuse while in CPS care than a child suffering in poverty is.

You can learn more at https://stopcpslegallykidnappingchildren.org/

Adoption-Competent Therapy

Given an awareness that separation of a child from the mother inflicts deep, often unconscious, wounds – what is a method to achieve some kind of healing regarding an event that won’t change ?

I find it interesting that my mom, an adoptee, believed she had been stolen til the day she died.  There was some basis in her belief, as she did know that she was a Georgia Tann baby and that many of the children that Tann placed were not legitimately available for adoption.

I also believe that it may have been a very deep seated memory at a pre-verbal time in her infant life from having just seen her mom (she had been placed in an orphanage ONLY for temporary care while her mom tried to get on her feet) and then given to a complete stranger who took her by train from Memphis TN to Nogales AZ.  One can see how without words to explain her experience, the feeling of having been STOLEN dominated her belief about the “inappropriate” (my mom’s word for it to the state of TN when she tried to get her adoption file released to her) way she had been separated from a mother who never intended to give her up.  Such a sad story.

For today’s adoptees that wish to find some relief from their own wounds there is the possibility of therapeutic intervention.  If choosing to go that route, it is important to locate a practitioner competent in adoption related trauma.

All adopted children — of all ages — are at risk for changes in their brain’s chemistry and structure. These alterations don’t just go away with time and, if not effectively treated, can become increasingly problematic as a child grows older.

An adopted child knows they are different and some of their behaviors are not acceptable. This can shatter any self-esteem they may be trying to hang on to.  Deep down in this child’s very core is a deep black pit of shame and grief.

Adoptees are over-represented nationally in the mental/behavioral health field. That means that the percentage of adoptees seeking mental/behavioral health services is much higher than the percentage in the general population.  If you are going to seek therapy, educate yourself on what makes a therapist adoption competent.  You don’t want to go down the general diagnosis pathway that leads to a medication intervention and never acknowledges the core problem.

They Would Abandon You Too

It was important to stay on the adults’ good side.
There was no one else to take care of you,
and if you questioned them too adamantly,
you’d probably get sent to your room without dinner,
or they’d drive a stake through your ankles
and leave you on the hillside above the Mobil station.
~ Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Many adoptees have a lifelong fear of being abandoned – again.  Whether they remember their earliest days or not, it is buried deep within them that someone important once left them behind.

Logical reasons for their adoptive state do not always soothe an adoptee.  After all, if it happened once, it could happen again.