Always An Adoptee

Advice from an adoptee – If/when your adopted child says anything that you deem “negative” about their adoption, instead of just throwing around frequently used adoption phrases – please please please consider the long term affect of hearing some of these phrases

1. “Would you have rather stayed in the orphanage/on the streets, been aborted, would you rather have died?”

Yes, sometimes. Adoption is complex and complicated. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here instead of enduring nights of sadness, depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive questions, all the unknowns, the mental health problems .. I will never stop being an adoptee. It affects EVERYTHING in my life

2. “God/We saved you from your biological family.”

Let us decide that. What was I saved from? I do not know. There are many things adoption has NOT protected me from. So please let me decide in what ways I was saved. It may shift and change. Also, please don’t say negative things about our biological families. Give us the FACTS that you know and allow us to decide where to place them in our hearts and lives. Y’all don’t get to decide if our biological families are good or bad. Many things I was told about my biological family ended up being racist, unkind, untrue, and problematic.

3. “You were chosen”

Maybe. Kinda. But often, not exactly. My adoptive parents chose me between 2 babies. I was laying beside another baby and they chose me. But if they had decided “no, she’s not for us” they would have found another baby – easily. Adoptees often feel like replacements. We know a lot of our parents wanted A BABY – not necessarily “us” specifically. We have to process that – please allow us the space and time to do so

4. “They loved you so much they decided to give you up.”

No. What about desperation? Survival? Poverty? Lack of resources? Addiction? Death? Would you give up your child because you loved them? I was not given up out of love but I was raised to believe so. It made me feel awful about myself and my biological sister (she was not “given up”). Does loving someone mean sending them away forever? Would my adoptive parents do the same because they loved me?

5. “Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you are not dead/alone/orphaned/poor/etc. You are so lucky to have a loving, stable family.”

STOP telling us how to feel and what aspects of our lives to feel good about. Especially in response to something we have said, please don’t.

Please Imagine losing your mom at a young age and when you tell someone, they say “Wow but you should be so grateful that you still have…” or “You are so lucky that you have a family that loves you!”

How about “I am sorry for your losses and pain. How can I help without overstepping?”

There are days I would rather be dead than adopted. Days when I miss my biological family. Days that I want to return to a place I barely remember. Those are not the times to dismiss an adoptee’s feelings. Imagine how you’d feel hearing these responses.

I Try To Stay Humble

Before I began to know who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) – adoption was the most natural thing in the world. How could it not be ? It was so natural both of my sisters gave up a baby to adoption. So, in only the last 3+ years, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the impacts of adoption has passed down my family line, ultimately robbing all three of my parents daughter’s of the ability to parent. Though I did not give my daughter up for adoption, finding myself unable to support myself and her financially, I allowed her father and step-mother to raise her without intrusion from me. To be honest, I didn’t think I was important as a mother. I thought that a child only needed one or the other parent to be properly cared for. Sadly, decades later, I learned that situation was not as perfect as I had believed. My sister closest to me in age actually lost custody of her first born son to her former in-laws when she divorced their son. He has suffered the most damage of all of our children and is currently estranged from his mother’s family, viewing us all as the source of his ongoing emotional and mental pain. I love him dearly and wish it wasn’t so but it is not in my control nor my sisters.

I realize that not every adoptee has the same experience. We are all individuals with individual life circumstances. Right and Wrong, Better and Worse – such exactness doesn’t exist. Everyone heals in different ways. We all begin where we begin. I began where I was when I started learning some of the hard truths and realities about the adoption industry as it operates for profit in this country. I also know that the adoption practices of the 1930s when my parents were adopted are not the same overall in 2021. There are only a few truly closed adoptions now and many “open” adoptions. I put the “open” into quotation marks because all too often, the woman who gives birth and surrenders her baby for adoption because she doesn’t feel capable of parenting, just as I didn’t feel capable in my early 20s, discovers that the “open” part is unenforceable and the adoptive parents renege on that promise.

Those of us, myself included, have become activists for reforms going forward. Society has not caught up with us yet. Certainly, there are situations where the best interest of the child is to place them in a safe family structure where they can be sufficiently provided for. No one, no matter how ardently they wish for reform, would say otherwise. The best interests of the child NEVER includes robbing them of their identity or knowledge of their origins. In the best of circumstances, I believe, adoptive parents are placeholders for the original parents and extended biological family until their adoptive child reaches maturity. Ideally, that child grows up with a full awareness and exposure to the personalities of their original parents.

Any parent, eventually reaches a point in the maturing of their child, when it is time to allow that child to be totally independent in their life choices, even if they continue to live with their parents and be financially supported by them. It is a gradual process for most of us and some of us are never 100% separated from our parents until they die. Then, regardless, we must be able to stand on our own two feet, live from our own values and make of the life that our parents – whether it was one set with a mother and a father or two sets of mothers and fathers (whether by adoption or due to divorce) – made possible for us as human beings. I do try not to judge but I do try to remain authentic in my own perspectives, values and beliefs. Those I share as honestly as I can in this blog with as much humility as I have the growth and self-development to embody.

A Failed Adoption Is Not The Same Thing

A woman shares this – Someone’s asking how to support a friend whose adoption has been disrupted at [a specific point in an unborn baby’s gestation]. This friend is a would be adoptive parent. The responses to this situation, that include some from other adoptive parents who identify themselves as having experienced this, equate it to a death in the family, stillbirth, or trauma.

Certainly, one could relate the two up to a point. The prospective adoptive parents have been excited about the pending adoption. They have the expectation of holding a newborn in their arms. They may have invested in a crib, baby clothes and diapers among their other preparations. But the similarity stops there.

My daughter experienced a stillbirth with her first pregnancy. She describes to me being given the expelled fetus in a blanket to hold and say goodbye to at the hospital. She tells me that when she became pregnant again with my grandson, she could hear this first one saying to her in her heart, you weren’t ready for me then.

Another woman shares (she is an adoptive parent) – I have had two late term stillbirths. Both were cord deaths. In no way, shape or form would I say that a failed adoption is at all related to experiencing a stillbirth or death loss. You cannot even put the two together. It’s only recently that stillbirth has been allowed to even be spoken about. This is why pre-birth adoption matching of unborn babies to be shouldn’t be allowed! Adoptive parents who compare the two, taking away from the women who have had an actual loss by birthing a stillbirth baby by comparing that tremendous sorrow with a belief that their loss of a baby because the expectant mother has changed her mind is a kind of mental illness.

An adoption reform response to prospective adoptive parents experiencing this kind of loss could be – “While this is a type of loss for your family, can you shift your perspective and realize how amazing it is that this mother and your family will not have to live with the certain regrets surrounding an adoption? It is a lovely and precious thing for this mom to be able to parent – just as it would have been for you.”

How Old Is Too Old

How old is too old to adopt an infant ?  This is going to be a tough one for me to have a balanced perspective on.  I came across a plea by an older retired couple for any woman to give up her infant so they could adopt the child as they now have the money and time to devote to the child.

After 10 years of marriage, my husband surprised the heck out of me by saying he decided that he actually did want to become a father.  When we married, he was glad I had been there, done that, and no pressure on him.  I have a grown daughter I birthed at the age of 19 who has made me a grandmother twice.  It is true that I do believe that men who are ready to be devoted fathers are actually better fathers.

My own father, when I told him we were going to try to conceive at our age, told me he questioned my sanity.  That has come back to me repeatedly.  I was 47 when my oldest son was born and 50 when the younger boy came along.  At the age of 60, when he was 10 years old, it really hit me that when he turns 20, I will already be 70.  Oh my.

Adoption is a special circumstance that imposes stricter considerations than assisted reproductive medicine but when I wanted to conceive that second child I was put through a battery of tests to determine if it was actually a good idea to let me.  I passed and the rest is as they say “history”.

Truth is that none of us have a guaranteed length of life.  We are all born to die and not all children’s natural parents live to see them grown.  I know this personally since both of my natural grandmothers lost their own mothers at a young age.  My mom’s mother when she was 11 years old and my dad’s mother at 3 months.

So, I have to believe given my own circumstances and family history that there are more important considerations than longevity.  Financial resources are an important one.  Can the parent provide a safety net for the child if the parent doesn’t live to see the child mature ?  Is the parent responsible enough to make arrangements in a will or trust for their child when it is not yet a mature person.  We have done both.

With the 2008 financial collapse, our business took a significant hit that we have yet to recover from.  Thankfully, we continue to get some business and manage to stay afloat.  Given that our sons are now 19 and almost 16, we do have that hope that we can live a while longer to see the youngest reach the age of 21, at least.

In my own philosophical belief system, children choose their parents before birth with a full knowledge of likely outcomes, though I also believe there is free will that affects trajectories and outcomes.  So I do believe my sons knew what their unique genetic/biological make-up would be and that we would be parents that were old enough to be grandparents.

I don’t regret having children at such an advanced age.  Becoming parents has deepened our life experience as a couple.  Our sons are a joy to share life with.  I don’t think I can be objective about whether older, retired couples should adopt infants.

Is It Really Possible ?

A discussion in an adoptee’s group caught my attention yesterday but it wasn’t the first time I have pondered this coincidence (which I don’t actually believe is one).

A woman noted that on her first Christmas in her new adoptive home she was given a doll.  She named her doll Carol.  Decades later she learned her natural mother’s name was Carol.  Her adoptive family said it was only a coincidence because she was so very young could not have known.  The good ol’ blank slate theory.

My mom died never knowing her natural mother’s name (she only knew her parents were Mr & Mrs J C Moore which hardly told us anything at all !).  My husband and I have theorized that she named my sister LOU Anne because she had heard her mother’s name while in the womb since we know that fetuses in the womb can hear.

My grandmother signed her name on my mom’s original birth certificate “Lizzie Lou” and in letters to Georgia Tann after losing my mom to that master manipulator and in a divorce from my mom’s natural father, her first name is listed as Elizabeth.

However, imagine my wonder in coming into contact with my mom’s cousins (the children of my grandmother’s youngest brother) and hearing them refer to my grandmother as Aunt Lou !!

Not only that but the first time I saw a photo of my grandmother I thought she looked a lot like my sister Louanne.  I believe.