Reunion Questions

If at 17 years old, adopted from foster care with no contact with your birth mother your entire life but now with an opportunity to ask some questions . . .

What would you as this adoptee ask your birth parents ? If you have been through such a reunion, what were the questions that you thought, in hindsight, weren’t helpful to potentially building a relationship ?

Some responses –

Ask for the family medical history. This one is one of the more important ones. This is what drove my mom to try and find her original mother and/or obtain her adoption file.

Ask how many biological siblings you have. This one lets you know if you are the only child of your birth parents or did they go on to have other children, maybe through a remarriage to someone who was not your original father as well.

Ask for the reason they chose whatever decisions they had in their power to make that led to you ending up in foster care. This one could be a tricky one, it may lead to defensiveness or in the best possible situation, at least regret, and even better, ultimately to a radical change in lifestyle.

If they relinquished for adoption, did they decide to do that early on at the beginning of the pregnancy or at the last moment just before birth or just after ? In both of the cases of my adoptee parents relinquishments, it appears that their original mothers actually tried very hard to keep their first born child, and in the case of my mom, the only child born to her mother.

Ask who your biological father was. Does she know how to contact him ?

On a sweeter, more intimate note (I know this was the kind of information I yearned for related to my mom’s mother that finally at the end of most of my discovery journey, I finally received from my mom’s cousins, the daughter’s of her youngest uncle, who were about my age) – ask her what her favorite foods are, what is her favorite color. Ask about her childhood memories and ask her to tell you something about her extended family members.

One says – “I really wanted to look at my birthmother, hear her voice, and look at her handwriting. Basically I wanted to see if I could find that mirror of who I am.” This is the personal connection many adoptees crave. I do believe my mom yearned for these kinds of experiences. I now have the adoption file that was denied her and one of the treasures are two examples of her personal writing, a post card and a brief letter (though I also have her signature on the surrender papers).

Another interesting perspective that I saw even with my mom who wanted something, though my dad claimed not to want it at all – it is a strange juncture for any adoptee to arrive at, when been raised by people with whom the adoptee has not genetic or biological connection but who were the actual parents and sibling’s in the childhood family –

I told them that I was not ready for a full relationship with them. I wanted them to know I was alive and wanted them to know I had an amazing childhood. My mom told me that as a mother, she would want to know that everything turned out okay for her child. In one case, the biological father started calling the adoptee, “daughter.” He was buying her things and saying “I Love You.” This made her feel very uncomfortable and so, she asked that he not do those things anymore. For this adoptee, she was not his daughter. Happily, he accepted her boundaries. She shares the rest of the story going forward – they are now Facebook friends. Today he is a little more involved in my her daily life. We talk by phone from time to time. She admits that she still does not have the feelings towards him that a raised biological child would (though some of my friends do not have good relationships in adulthood with their genetic, biological family today).

And sadly, this is always a possibility – “I’ve reached out to my birth mom and have been shut out – no answers to my questions. No desire for a relationship.” Yet, there is something you can do in this situation to bring you closure and comfort. Write a letter. Tell her everything you want her to know about you, your childhood, who you are now as a person. In this way, you end feeling you said everything you needed to say.

An Adoptee Centric Movie

Siblings – Glorious 39

The blond on the left is the adoptee. In Glorious 39, an adoptee is the lead character and much about the emotions and behavior of the family in this movie ring true with all I have come to know about adoptees and their relationships with their family. Anne Keyes played by Romola Garai is the central character. Adopted at the time her parents didn’t believe they could have children, they subsequently had two – the brother and sister in the photo above.

Like many adoptees, Anne does not fit in with the family raising her. She has been adopted into a powerful political family. Like many adoptees, she is very close to her adoptive father. Dangerously so.

So, this is really a story about an adopted daughter’s relationship with her family. The fact that she is adopted is mentioned frequently throughout the movie. She also leads a different life, working as an actress, while the rest of the family except the father who is part of the pre-war government appears to live a life mostly of leisure (though her brother is actually part of the Secret Service). The pro-appeasement movement (which father and son are part of) hoped to avoid a conflict many believed they would lose. The elite also hoped to preserve the status quo of their comfortable lives. The appeasement theme is key to the relationships within the family dynamic.

The movie does not get a lot of good reviews. As a history buff to begin with, who enjoys seeing English culture and countryside, I did like the movie and it did make me think politically. But I was really drawn to the adoptee story (not too many reviewers mention it other than in passing). I believe that part was true to life, even if the lives are not those that most of us commonly experience as regards wealth and privilege. It is the relationships of the adoptee contrasted with the parents and siblings that really had my attention. There is a reveal of who the adoptees parents were and how she came to be in this family.

Trigger warning for animal lovers – there is a strong focus on the fate of family pets at the outbreak of the war that could be disturbing.

Adoption Can’t Give This

Dr Nelson, in his book – Healing the Split, suggests the ideal gestation, birth and infancy circumstances for healthy development in a child. This goes beyond the obvious and unavoidable trauma of separating an infant from their natural mother or any emotional distress that mother feels while pregnant and planning to surrender her baby to adoption.

Here is what he suggests – some of the best pregnancy, birth and infant care advice I have already encountered during my own last two pregnancies and baby care days, beginning in the early 2000s.

In pregnancy, this mother might be treated as special by her own loving selfobjects, so that she finds it easy to maintain a placid inner state. Her pregnancy would allow her extra time to meditate regularly and through this practice she establishes an unspoken communion with her unborn fetus with the subconscious residues of her own early life experiences resolved.

As the time of her child’s birth nears, the mother rehearses breathing and pelvic exercise to facilitate her natural delivery. As the child enters the world, he is welcomed into a softly lit room, the predominant feature of which is his mother’s warm skin and breast as she gently bathes and massages him.

The synapses that are rapidly proliferating within his still unfinished brain form a physical supporting grid for a psychic self that is primed to accept soothing, is ready to trust and can intuit a sense of belongingness.

As the newborn’s psyche begins to construct holographic patterns of the consensual world, his empathic parents instinctively anticipate his needs, neither overstimulating him nor leaving him wanting. Wordless harmonies resonate between him and his caretakers and condition his own fundamental vibrational patterns. These harmonies are periodically broken by inevitable frustrations and deprivations but timely reunions with empathic parents quickly restore synchronous patterns within his psychic field.

As the child grows into a toddler, empathic mirroring enlivens his tentative explorations of a world apart from mother, followed by just a little extra soothing that directs his psychic energies along navigable neural pathways. This compensates for his inborn exaggerated stress reaction and enables him to incorporate his mother’s self within his own without fear of engulfment. His self-secure mother joyfully encourages his wary independence and offers a fresh measure of support during what is a particularly lengthy rapprochement period. This insures that his slowly forming self-boundaries can withstand the social challenges that this unusual child will later endure.

As the child learns to communicate, his parents take pains to be consistent in their rewards and punishments. When he is excited and hyperaroused, they set firm limits on his behavior and they teach him to cope with this and similar altered states of consciousness by monitoring his breathing and concentrating on his inner awareness, especially his feelings. They teach him to ask for a massage and also to give one back. Both calm a turbulent arousal. Kindly, they teach him to laugh at them, and at himself.

Dr Nelson believes that as many as half of all permanently disabling psychotic altered states of consciousness could be prevented or diverted into a favorable life pathway if given the right start in life.

Protecting Children

There has to be some kind of balance that safeguards a child without destroying family.  We should care that children are loved, sheltered, clothed and fed and in some manner instilled with values beneficial to society.  Money should not be the sole determinant of where the child’s welfare is best served and society really should do more to preserve a family’s ability to stay together.

Child Protective Services strikes fear into the hearts of many parents.  When my sons were young and difficult to keep civil in public, sometimes requiring a strong response from me, I did worry some well-meaning person might misjudge what they witnessed, though I am certain that I pushed the envelope at times, I don’t believe I ever was entirely abusive.  I did regret some reactions and there is one in particular my youngest son will never let me forget and that I more than deeply regret – though love was not destroyed and we remain very close.  I suspect he also understands that one can push their parent over whatever boundary restrains them.  I often think that if my children do not learn about going too far with me, who loves them, someone else could kill them someday for acting ignorant of their potential danger.

My grandmothers lost my parents (both of them) to adoption during the Great Depression (1935 and 1937) due to no other awful reality regarding their life’s circumstances than simple poverty.  Sadly, in the modern times we live in, society discounts the importance of natural parents and thinks they’re replaceable, especially if they’re poor.  This is something that is and should never be.  In most cases, even flawed natural parents are better for a child than moving them into the home of someone totally unrelated (in the genetic sense).

Who among us, that has ever had the difficult and challenging job of parenting another human being, is pure enough to cast the first stone ?  Yet some do precisely that with the best of intentions.  I never try to judge another parent because I have not walked a mile in their shoes nor to I know all of the circumstances behind whatever behavior I may be witnessing.  I’m not suggesting to stand there and do nothing if a child is being SEVERELY beaten.  Discipline is a controversial subject in which parents are becoming more enlightened but for which there is no consensus.

 

Finding Out One Was Adopted

Above is a segment of my Dad’s original adoption papers.  He was actually adopted twice (his adoptive mother divorced the first husband and remarried, changing my Dad’s name when he was already 8 years old). Upon discovering one of my Hempstead relatives, the first thing she noticed had entirely been missed by my own self, the Salvation Army appeared to “own” him and his mother’s name was nowhere to be found on the document.

I don’t know how old either of my parents were when they learned they were adopted but I believe each was as old as they needed to be told.  I think they always “knew” even before they consciously knew.

There are many ways an adoptee can learn they were adopted.  They might accidentally overhear a conversation.  They might develop a serious illness that requires accurate medical information.  They may discover papers in their adoptive parents’ files after their death or a stranger may come into their life (thanks to DNA testing) and claim to be related.

Most human beings have a need for love and a sense of belonging, also for self-esteem and a recognition of their value.  It seems the almost all emotional wounds need these and some also highlight safety and security and I believe that is true of adoptees as well.

There are so many sad, false beliefs that filter into the heart of an adoptee – something must be wrong with me because my “real” parents gave me away, I don’t belong anywhere, I probably never should have been born, I don’t know who I am and if my “real” parents could abandon me, anyone could.

An adoptee seeking reunion with their original family fears another rejection.  If they were adopted into a family with children already, they may believe they are loved less and many fear they could be taken away from their adoptive family and even fear that it might be the original family recovering them.

Adoptees suffer many side effects of having been adopted.  They may be subject to mood swings, they feel less equal within a family unit, they may be obsessed with the past, struggle with a sense of identity, see how they are different than the adoptive family they are living within, have a hard time saying good-bye, may be always trying to prove their worthiness, may expect to be deceived or engage in risky behavior and may exhibit behaviors indicating a subservience.

That is a lot but it actually is not the end of it – they may experience anxiety or situational depression, they may need to double-check facts for accuracy, they develop various insecurities, they may be cynical and reject the adoptive family.  An adoptee may fantasize about a reunion with their “real” family and actually seek them out.

On the plus side, an adoptee respects honesty and openness.  It may have been emphasized to them that they were chosen, even if they had a hard time accepting that as a positive aspect of having been adopted.  They are adaptable, analytical, appreciative, centered, curious, diplomatic, easygoing, empathetic, happy, private, sentimental, supportive and wise.

They are as complex as any human being could be.