What’s Best ?

Lily’s Slimy Struggle by Hefess on DeviantArt

Today’s Sticky Situation – I have a friend who approached me asking if we could adopt her child she is currently pregnant with. She has frankly just an absolutely awful situation. Her baby’s father is getting out of prison soon after baby’s birth. (Within a month or so of birth) He does not know she is pregnant. I know him. We all grew up together. He’s awful. Abusive in every sense of the word. Drug addict. Been know to be inappropriate with children. Scary guy honestly. She has tried to leave him in the past and he’s always found her. She has no money. No savings. No family. We have exhausted looking into women’s shelters in our area and none are accepting people right now. She is insistent that she wants me and my spouse to raise her child and while we could very easily welcome a child into our home, that’s really not the point. She refuses to stay with me in fear of brining danger to my family and kids once her ex is out of prison. She’s saying she understands if I don’t want to take her baby but that if I won’t she is going to put baby up for adoption, terminating all parental rights, the whole thing. I really feel like she is going to regret this. I’ve offered some of the resources I’ve seen mentioned in here with really no changes in her decision. What would you do in this situation? My wife is of the mind that we should agree with the idea that baby won’t be going to strangers and if she changes her mind she won’t be in a situation where her baby is just gone to a new family she doesn’t know and will have no recourse to her baby back. With us this can all be undone if she wants that at any point. I don’t disagree with that but it still just feels so wrong. Is this the right choice? What else can we do to help her? I’m just so lost on how to proceed. I know deep down she does not want to give up her baby. She feels like she’s doing it for their safety and I understand that reasoning. Thoughts? I would appreciate so much any advice. Thanks!

Initial response – Can you look into women’s shelters in other counties or states? Either way it seems like getting far away from the abusive father would be beneficial for her and baby. I know many people recommend guardianship in lieu of adoption. I don’t know the specifics of how that works but maybe that could be an interim option.

The original commenter’s response – We have looked out of area and there seems to be some options for housing but she has a decent job here. She makes just enough to support herself. She’s not sure how to move out of area with a newborn, no savings and no job lined up. I’m not sure how that works either. I completely agree leaving the area would be best.

This response seems practical – Talk to a lawyer (or pay for her to do so). One experienced in domestic violence and child custody would be best. Dad will be able to claim parental rights no matter how bad he is, so she’ll need legal advice about how to keep him away from the baby no matter what option she chooses. Then you could talk to the lawyer about a guardianship arrangement, if she needs someone (you) to care for baby, and it will be much easier to get baby back when things are more stable.

The original commenter’s response was – I’ve mentioned this to her. I’ll keep working on her because I agree I think this a good idea. Her plan was to adopt baby out and claim she doesn’t know who the father is.

To which the answering response was – that may work, but if he finds out about it, he could contest the adoption and even potentially get full custody if she’s surrendered her own rights.

And the original commenter’s response was – I’ve mentioned that to her. She’s just so scared I think she isn’t fully hearing half of what I’m saying. I don’t see any scenario he could ever get custody though. He’s a registered child sex offender along with drug charges, gang ties. Things like that.

There is some question about whether she is married to this man or not – if he is her husband, he’d automatically be put on the birth certificate. If he’s not, she’d have to name him to get his name on the birth certificate, but if he finds out (from a mutual friend, etc), he could assert rights and demand a DNA test to prove paternity. Hopefully he has no interest in that, but abusers often do stuff like that just to pull their ex back in, even if they have no interest in parenting. All it takes is for a mutual acquaintance to see her pregnant belly at the grocery store and pass the word.

Finally this advice, a plan that can be put into action – For now, set up a temporary guardianship for when the baby is born. That way, you can take care of baby’s medical needs and everyone involved can be as safe as possible, but she still has her parental rights. Tell her not to sign the father’s name on the birth certificate when the baby is born. This means no child support, but also no abusive man can come take the baby unless he demands a paternity test. Have her keep her SS, ID, and Birth Certificates in a very easy to grab place that’s not suspicious. This could be with her or you, just somewhere safe. This is so any split second notice she can take it and leave without it being noticeable. Start saving up for a deposit that can get her and baby into a new, unknown place with a cushion too so she has time to get job or income assistance. Keep an eye around town for the shelters opening up. Its not illegal to be homeless with a newborn for this exact reason. Do the same with food drives. Maybe start hording separate gobags with diapers and formula as well. Get a burner phone. Depending on how tech savy he is, one without a GPS. He will probably be calling her off the hook and/or looking for her once he gets out. Finally, and this is worst case scenario and I hate to bring it up, she needs to put it in a legal contract who this baby is going to if she dies. This will also ideally be in the go bag. I can’t help on the adoption end of your question, but I’ve been through the leaving part. It’s going to be scary, and its gonna f**king suck. I’ve had to do this before, minus a child.

Secondary Infertility

Thinking about my birthday as the day I separated from my mother understandably led me to think that my mom was separated from her mother twice – when she was born and at approx 6 mos old when she was taken by Georgia Tann for adoption. My grandmother tried to get my mom back 4 days after the papers were signed but was blocked in her efforts by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. My maternal grandmother never had another child, though she doted immensely on her two nieces. I’m certain that she must of thought of my mom when she was with them. Though they called her Aunt Lou and even though I have seen in a communication post-surrender from my grandmother to Georgia Tann pleading for the photograph taken the last time she was with my mom (which I happily now possess), she signed her name Elizabeth.

However on my mom’s birth certificate she is named as Lizzie Lou Stark and she appears by that name in many of my mom’s adoption file papers, she seems to have dropped Lizzie and simply went by Lou. I’ve always called her by the double name – Lizzie Lou – and I am told she was a fun person. But she never had another child.

In learning about all things adoption (huge interest since there are 4 adoptions in my immediate birth family – both of my parents, a niece and a nephew were all adopted), I have learned that secondary infertility after relinquishing a baby is not all that uncommon.

Secondary Infertility and Birth Mothers by Isabel Andrews – Abstract in Psychoanalytic Inquiry (there is a paywall if you care to read further) –

Relinquishing a child has had lifelong consequences for women and for adoptees. This article explores a little-discussed aspect—secondary infertility, birth mothers who did not have other children. To my knowledge, this is the first study to research the incidence of secondary infertility and its impact on the women concerned. I discovered that between 13–20% of birth mothers do not go on to have other children. For a few, this is a conscious decision; however, for the majority there was either no known reason for infertility or their life circumstances foisted it on them, i.e., lack of suitable partner. Relinquishing their child has meant losing their only opportunity to parent a birth child, and that has bought tremendous anguish. Women considering relinquishing a child need to be made aware that secondary infertility is a real and present possibility.

The Declassified Adoptee wrote a blog about it that you can read – Should Secondary Infertility Rates of Birth Mothers be Disclosed in Adoption Counseling? – in which she refers to the article I linked above. The blogger writes – “Andrews was extremely respectful to mothers and recognized the deep loss that many of these mothers feel and expressed it eloquently in her article.”

Nancy Verrier who’s book The Primal Wound I have read, is referenced with this note – Andrews read that 40-60% of mothers who have lost children to adoption did not go on to have other children – that prompted Andrews to conduct this study.  She too found that 40-60% of the original mothers seeking support from Adoption Jigsaw did not go on to have other children and wanted to determine if this percentage was accurate.  She conducted a study that recorded (1) secondary infertility of original mothers seeking support from Adoption Jigsaw (2) secondary infertility reported from data recorded during the search and reunions conducted through Adoption Jigsaw and (3) information that was returned on questionnaires sent out to original mothers.

Andrews feels that in society, original mothers may not necessarily be regarded as being “mother” to the children they relinquished for adoption which may cause a more profound feeling of loss if they have not experienced motherhood and parenting by having more children. My mom’s cousins when I was finally able to communicate with them did indicate a knowledge that my grandmother had given up a child for adoption. It is true she signed the surrender papers. However, reading between the lines in the approx 100 pages I received as her file, it is clear my grandmother was exploited for her desperation caused by poverty and a lack of familial support to offset that.

Losing a baby is one of life’s greatest traumas; losing a baby to adoption is just as traumatic, if not more so.  When a baby dies, the parents receive enormous support, love, and understanding,  A funeral is held, cards, flowers, and visits recognize their devastation.  When a mother or couple lose a baby to adoption, particularly in the past, there is no recognition of birth, and thus none of loss” (Andrews, 2010, p. 91).

This current pregnancy (in which surrender is being considered) may be a mother’s only opportunity to parent and it is unethical, as is so often done in counseling, to tell her she is guaranteed to be able to parent other children in the future. (Amanda Woolston, June 26 2010, in her blog)

Seeking Ever More Accuracy

Years ago, the phrase NPE was coined to generally mean when the expected parent or parents weren’t.

  • NPE means nonpaternal event, also sometimes nonparental event.
  • Some folks didn’t like that term and began to use MPE, misattributed paternal event or misattributed parentage.

Of course, today, this situation could arise as a result of an adoption, a donor situation, either male or female, or the more often thought-of situation where the father isn’t who he’s presumed/believed to be based on the circumstances at hand.

There is one in my family. My sister never let on, even though I was supporting her through an unplanned, unwed pregnancy and was aware of her decision to surrender her child to adoption and was in on her thoughts as she made a decision on which hopeful adoptive parents to chose. For many years, I had a little lockbox in keeping for my nephew which I finally gave him in late 2016.

Imagine my own shock when his adoptive mother informed me that they were questioning the official paternity on his birth certificate. The DNA didn’t seem to add up. She was one of those good adoptive mothers who supported her adopted child’s search for the truth of his origins.

The actual father, proven by advanced DNA testing due to some uncertainty over which brother the father actually was, turned out to be my dad’s friend and former co-worker. What is worse is what I learned subsequently – that my sister actually did know who the father actually was. She informed him 6 months after the boy was born as though he had only just been born. Then, when the father indicated he was going to sue for custody because he never agreed to the adoption, very early in the morning on one Father’s Day, she called to tell him his son and the adoptive parents had been killed in a car accident. Imagine his father’s shock when this son turned up on his doorstep already in his 20s.

So, my sister is genuinely mentally ill. I don’t excuse this behavior even so. One can’t make these things up and it happens more often than one might think.

So, as the whole adoption related community (adoptees, original parents and adoptive parents joined by a whole host of friends and related family) seeks more accurate terminology, NPE has now been replaced by MPE – misattributed paternal event.

Inexpensive DNA testing and matching sites like Ancestry and 23 and Me are bringing truth into many adoptees lives, and in cases such as my own as the child of two adoptees, and has made all the difference in making us whole, in contact with our genetic origins and often with family members who’s lives continued to unfold, unknown to us, due to the rupture forced by adoption on the original family trees.

I Want To Annul My Adoption

The title of today’s blog comes directly from an adult adoptee. When questioned about why she would want this now, she replies –  I’m tired of being forced to live under false pretenses.

Parties who can reverse an adoption usually include the birth parents, adoptive parents and the child being adopted. In order for an adoption to be reversed, a petition must usually be filed by one of these parties and the court must be convinced of a compelling reason to reverse or annul the adoption. This is usually weighed under the legal standard of the best interests of the child.

An adopted child may wish to have his or her adoption vacated. They may wish to change this status when they are natural adults due to poor relationships with the adoptive parents or because they wish to reestablish contact with their birth parents.

Once the adoption has been reversed, the child’s birth certificate is changed to reflect its original state before the adoption.

Certainly a person who was an infant or minor child at the time of the adoption was obviously not able to consent to it and so an adult adoptee should be able to accomplish this, if that is their wish.

To annul an adoption requires legal representation and it’s expensive. A simpler and easier step in that direction is to request a legal name change. And just doing that is empowering.

And many adoptees do want their original birth certificate.  This is becoming more possible in about half of these United States. That in itself does not erase the validity of the birth certificate changes as part of a legal adoption.

One woman who has actually been looking closely at this writes – You’d have to be re-adopted again by your birth parents. You don’t have the option of annulling and reinstating your original birth certificate and identity, which seems wrong. You aren’t allowed a birth certificate without parent names.

She goes on to express her personal opinion – Adoptees should have the option of annulling an adoption considering most of the time we didn’t even consent to it in the first place. Why should I have to honor a contract, that alters who I am, made on my behalf without my consent for the rest of my life?

This is potentially a civil rights and human rights issue. Many adoptees object to the childish way they are treated like less than full citizens, with different rules applying to them to make them less than other people.

Late Discoveries

This is not as uncommon as you might believe. There are people who believe that someone is their original parent all of their lives, and suddenly, usually because someone in their family has died, they learn the truth. Today’s story is one of those . . .

My grandmother just passed away a few days ago. Yesterday my mother (grandmother’s oldest of six kids) gets a call from one of the sisters who has been taking care of things (the mother is in Colorado, sister and grandmother are in Hawaii). The sister tells my mother that my grandmother was married to another man, prior to marrying the man who we all thought was my mother’s dad.

The first husband was my mother’s actual biological father. He abandoned my grandmother, leaving her with my mom and disappeared. So the ‘grandfather ‘ we always knew, offered to marry my grandmother and tell everyone that my mom was his oldest daughter. They got married and moved to Germany. They told everyone that my mom was his daughter. And this was my mom’s life.

Somehow my mom, lived into her 60’s without ever needing a copy of her birth certificate….honestly, which I am not sure how…but yeah. Now, she needs her birth certificate and asks her mother if she has it….her mom tells her that the hospital had burned down or flooded and all the records were destroyed….

Somehow after going back and forth, my mom managed to get a copy of her birth certificate…which had what she thought was the wrong name on it. It had my great grandmother’s last name on it, my grandmother’s ‘maiden’ name….which coincidentally turns out to be also the last name of her biological father. (Apparently grandmother married a step brother? Maybe. No actual biological relationship though….because his father was not my grandmother’s father and his mother was not her mother.) My mom has a fit and somehow manages to get her birth certificate changed to my grandfather’s last name….all because that is who she has always thought she was.

Now she is questioning everything. Apparently she is not who she thought she was. Her birth certificate should not have my grandfather’s name on it. She wants to know if she is LEGALLY married to my dad…they have been ‘married’ for over 50 years.

But of course – Yes, she is legally married to the woman’s dad because she legally used her legal name when filing for her marriage certificate. Officials do ask for information on the parents, but that is to streamline county record keeping and would not make the marriage certificate null and void. The mom answered those questions to the best of her ability with the knowledge she had, she did not commit fraud and her marriage is valid.

 It is shocking to hear something like this. It takes a while to adjust and get through the emotions that any person would feel when presented with such unexpected information. It is not unusual in these kinds of circumstances to find out after one’s mother has passed. In this case, the mom at the age of 70….this grandmother would have been 92, but she passed a few days before her birthday. It is life changing and learning this is like having the rug pulled out from a person.

The sister finding out was accidental. There are three sisters. The father told the second sister in 1984 after he had been drinking too much…and she told everyone but the mother and a third sister. The third sister found out and crying, very upset, told the mother. She only told her because the second sister was threatening to tell the mother but not a nice way. Sadly, the family is a bit horrible and not terribly close.

Stealing Babies

 

This actually happens.  Today, I read a story.  A woman gave birth in 1977 and was told her baby was stillborn.  She was not allow to see, hold or bury her baby.  My daughter gave birth to a stillborn and she was given that opportunity in the late 1990s.  So anyway, when this woman went back for her 6 week check-up at her doctor’s, she overheard that a nurse in her doctor’s office had adopted a baby girl at about that same time.  It is understandable that the woman believes that was her baby because it is too much of a coincidence.  Of course, the doctor’s office has been unwilling to share the nurse’s personal information with the woman or even the private detective she hired to help her.  She was looking for some advice.

Surprisingly, one of the first responses was this – I am currently helping my friend locate their birth parents. It’s not my place to say how, but the cases are similar in that I have virtually nothing to go on other than DNA. I am not an expert, but this is what I would suggest. 1. If possible get DNA tests done with at least one site. 2. I would research the doctor. I would create an entire profile for him, look through directories for that time, find his address, neighbors, etc. 3. I would order a copy of the daughter’s birth certificate. If there’s a record of a live birth, I would file a police report. 4. I would use social media to not only search for her daughter, but I would find out info about the doctor and his employees that way.

Someone else added checking stillborn/death records while agreeing that the first step is determining if the daughter was alive and stolen, or if she passed away and it’s just a horrible coincidence.  There should be a death certificate and a record of the body. If this is not true, it could be a criminal case.

Finally, contact the regulatory agency that licenses the hospital to demand that they look into the improper handling of the daughter’s body, if that is indeed what really happened. And she should check with the insurance company to see if they were billed for any hospital morgue services.

Then start calling your state representative and senator and tell them I’m a constituent with an issue. Explain what happened and ask them to look into it. It’s an election year. They’re listening now more than at any other time.

Denying The Father

I came across a question posted by a pregnant woman.  The baby she is carrying will be a daughter.  She asked, “Is it unethical to leave a potentially dangerous father off of a newborn’s birth certificate ?”

The immediate response was honest – Every person has a right to know their true identity.  In fact, among adoptees this is a significant and primary issue.

Someone suggested the expectant mother put him on the birth certificate but terminate his rights.  This expectant mother offered – He’s never done anything to me so far except be an asshole but he has a felony charge that is relevant to the situation.  I spoke to a lawyer and he said he’d give it a 50/50 chance that a judge would allow termination of rights without a stepfather around to adopt. And the father would have to willingly be there and declare he wants to terminate rights.

Doesn’t seem fair but this is the reality we as women often have to cope with.

Then came this caution – The reality is, if he’s on the birth certificate and you file for public assistance, he’ll be charged child support.  That system is crappy and may share your address. Don’t let people pressure you into any move with your abuser you’re not comfortable with.

Someone offered what seems to be a rational alternative – She can always establish paternity later. All she has to do is file for child support and give his name and the state will take care of finding him and doing paternity test. You can’t take him off birth certificate once he’s on but you can establish paternity and get child support without him on birth certificate.

And I do believe this is an important consideration – Not putting his name on the birth certificate makes it harder for him to just take her. That would be proof that the child is indeed his daughter and does have legal rights, unless you go through the court to have it documented in the way you wish. Not putting his name he would have to go through court for paternity and visitation.

It does appear that the father is aware.  In fact, the expectant mother says he wants to co-parent and she wants only full custody and that any visitation be supervised.

My sympathy and compassion go to the expectant mother wanting to protect her daughter.  She says she does intend for her child to know ALL of her family.  At this time, this is not an adoption issue but it is a family separation issue.

Why One’s Name Is Important

This is an actual homework assignment.  Now, imagine you were adopted.  How do you answer these questions in a classroom where most of the other children were not adopted ?

One of the reforms most mentioned in the adoptee community is the importance of a child keeping the name they were given at birth.  My mother, really cared about her birth name, once she learned what it was.  My father discovered his birth name when his adoptive parents died and was surprised by it.

Changing a child’s name after adopting them is taking away their legitimate identity in an effort to pass them off as having come directly from you – as though you gave birth to them.  In fact, adoptee’s birth certificates are changed to further the false story of their origins.

Certainly, in a more morally judgmental time, the idea was that adoptees were bastards who needed to be protected from the cruelty of being outed.  Now single mothers give birth to children intentionally.  Times have changed and so should how we protect and nurture a child who’s parents are just not ready to be fully supportive of them.

Every child has a right to their authentic identity and to their actual conception and origins stories.  The time is now for a good reform.

People Still Buy Babies

In this day and time so far away from the scandals of Georgia Tann stealing and selling babies, I never expected to see someone actually talking about “buying” a baby. It troubles my heart though realistically, one doesn’t come by a baby without cost, even when that child is gestated in their body.

The bit of advertisement above came from a FB group called “Mothers United Against Anti-Adoption”. I removed the more personal, identifying information.

I’m not joining and I am NOT “anti-adoption”. I have simply come to understand that being adopted is way more complicated than I understood growing up or for most of my life (both of my parents were adopted).

I agree that regardless of how you become a mother (or father), the common thread is love.  And whether we are natural or adoptive parents, we all go through the same kinds of challenges of feeling like an utter failure. As one adoptive mom said in a Huffington Post article –

“Some days I get tired of it all and just want to be a family. Not the adoptive family … just a family.”

A young woman approached the adoptive parent (it is a transracial adoption and so it was rather obvious), “I was adopted as a baby and it has been a wonderful thing. We need more families like yours.” I stared at her, stunned.

“She didn’t think what I assumed everyone was thinking. She saw beauty and love and hope and family. She thought we were wonderful and it made her smile.”

There are children who need alternative parents for whatever reason. What is perceived as “anti-adoption” issues are really mainly related to two core issues –

[1] Identity and Genetics – let your adopted child keep their original name and don’t have their birth certificate altered.

[2] Family Preservation – whenever possible, the natural parents should be supported in locating the resources to parent their children and given every encouragement.

For those times when a child actually does need alternative parents, then adoption fills a need.