I Love Reunion Stories

From the LINK>BBC – Adoption: Son finally meets birth mum after 58 years.

Timothy Welch was only six weeks old when he was separated from his birth mother, June Mary Phelps, who was 18 at the time. He describes his adoptive parents reasons – “They couldn’t have their own children so they started the adoption process and when they were 36 they adopted me.” Timothy described his life with his adoptive parents as “really happy”, and never considered trying to find his birth mother until his adoptive parents died: Bill in 2018 and Eunicé in 2020.

As an adoptive child you always think about researching your birth family. A lot of it goes back to identity as a person over the years. He admits, “I wondered who I was, certain personality traits that were different from my adoptive family.”

Yately Haven in Hampshire was a mother and baby home run by the Baptist Church. It is where Timothy was born. The Haven was open from 1945 until 1970. Almost 1,800 babies were born there. Timothy was able to get a copy of his original birth certificate. It contained his birth mother’s full name, date and place of birth. A search angel was able to use voter registration rolls and with that information, Timothy was able to find his mother’s current husband, Michael Mortimer. Timothy gave Mr Mortimer his email, which he passed on to Timothy’s brothers and they arranged a day to meet up in London. Timothy says of his brothers, “They are both wonderful men – kind, thoughtful and reflective. I feel very fortunate to have met them at this stage of our lives and am going to enjoy getting to know them and their respective families very much.”

He says of then meeting his birth mother – “It was emotional but at the same time it felt natural. We spoke about a variety of things but the part I enjoyed the most was just looking at her and taking in the person that she is.” He was also able to learn about his birth father – Hedayat Mamagan Zardy, an Iranian Muslim. The couple had a fleeting romance and loved dancing in Oxford.

Some adoptees, like my dad, are afraid to know where they came from. My mom yearned to. Reading stories like this make me wonder how they would have felt, if they had the option to experience a reunion. Since they have both passed away, I can only choose to believe that reunion took place in heaven.

A Uterus With Legs ?

The issue of referring to an adopted child’s first mother as the tummy mummy came up somewhat coincidentally today but it did cause me to reflect on this again. Somehow, I always feel a bit of cringe at that phrase and the title of this blog reflects how some other people feel about it. I found that Lori Holden aka Lavender Luz did a poll. She is an Author & Speaker, Diarist & Open Adoption Advocate. She also has a podcast – LINK>Adoption: The Long View.

First what got me here. The commenter is blocked from posting/ responding for a month in a Foster/Adopt group. The reason she notes is that it isn’t ‘kind’ to mention to someone with ‘guardianship’ whose 4 year old child sees her biological parents – that agreeing/ pretending, letting child pretend that the child grew in HER belly vs reinforcing to child that she grew in ‘mama name’s ‘ tummy…. That mama ‘name’ is more respectful than tummy mummy.

Of course, there is also this – that they “saved” the child …. and have done xyz for that child – still does not change the fact that child did not grow inside her. The issue started when a photo was posted that showed a non reading age child in a shirt with letters only stating she loved her as ‘mom’… allegedly the child picked that shirt out and insisted she wear it in front of the tree….again listing all the things ‘she’ saved child from…

The commenter was blocked after mentioning that seemed passive aggressive since the sees her actual parents.

In the LINK>Poll about the term “tummy mummy”, the 300 respondents broke down this way –

  • 66% were adopting or adoptive parents
  • 11% were adoptees
  • 13% had a professional or nonprofessional interest in adoption
  • 10% had placed a child or lost a child to adoption

You might expect that with such an Adoptive-Parent-heavy sample, the results would lean positive toward use of the term “Tummy Mummy” but you would be incorrect.

  • 61% either didn’t like the term (26%) or detested it (35%)
  • 25% were either neutral (12%) or found it acceptable (13%)
  • Only 5% loved it
  • The remaining 9% chose “Other,” which allowed for commentary.

Some of their comments included – Feels like a white-wash term trying to sanitize truth. It diminishes the woman’s motherhood. Original family isn’t reflected in this phrase, which seems intent on removing all important connections and substituting them with a biological detail that isn’t even accurate.

This one was interesting – I hate “tummy mommy.” When people told me babies grew in their moms’ tummies, I pictured babies swimming their stomachs with all the food. And babies popping out of tummies, Aliens-style.

Another one noted – My husband is a reunited adult adoptee. I actually shared this with him and he made a vomiting noise.

Another adoptee noted – young children are not given enough credit for understanding that we can have two mothers that love us, regardless if one can’t be there at the moment. I know for me personally it would have helped me tremendously to have been able to see and talk freely about my mother as this real person.

And this – “Tummy mummy” makes her sound like [my long-gone birth mother] was a surrogate rather than a human being making a difficult decision. It reduces her down to a particular “role”.

Concerned United Birthparents

A woman in my all things adoption group wrote – None of my family understands and it’s eating me up, I need to talk to someone. First thing, is there anyone in here that choose adoption, found an amazing family, went the whole pregnancy talking to them, growing a relationship, became friends but then changed your mind once you held your baby?

This actually happens more often than you might think.

One response was this – I did change my mind but I was so scared to hurt them. I ended up being talked out of keeping my son by my caseworker. PLEASE keep your baby if you have any regrets on adoption. You’ll never get over the loss of your own child but they can adopt and love ANY baby in the world.

Another adoptee also said – Please keep your baby. That feeling you feel is what you are supposed to feel. Adoptive parents are not entitled to your baby. That’s your baby. The bond you will build cannot be replicated. They will be sad but that is not your problem. Their sadness is not worth a lifetime of trauma for your baby.

One birth mother suggested – Birth Moms Support Groups. She notes that a few women who made the choice to parent have stayed in for the continued support.  She says, “I wish I could have had a full scope on adoption before placement, instead of all the “happy successful birth mother” stories I was sent by the agency.”

So I went looking and found this organization – Concerned United Birthparents – that titles, and is the graphic, for this blog. Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) provides support for all family members separated by adoption; resources to help prevent unnecessary family separations; education about the life-long impact on all who are affected by adoption; and advocates for fair and ethical adoption laws, policies, and practices. They are the only national organization focused on birthparents – their experiences, healing and wisdom. They list support groups – both online and in various cities. They do charge $45 for an annual membership. They note that they are an all-volunteer organization that operates almost entirely at cost through our membership dues.

Adoption Disenfranchisement

I was attracted to a Medium article today with the title LINK>Understanding Adoption – Epistemological Implications by Shane Bouel today. The image hits a deep place. It was created by Thoughtless Delineation – AI ART. Just today, I posted “There are 2 good things in life – Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Action.” I am borrowing from and adding my own insights and understandings to the article linked above.

However in reading the linked article I find reason for deeper contemplation – “All social behavior is guided by values. Thus the study of social behavior can never be value-free if value freedom is interpreted in the sense of the absence of values because the values of the society under investigation form a part of the social facts to be studied by sociology.”

He goes on to say – “Knowledge and power are linked. In order to reveal the nature of the knowledge/power nexus and its relationship to the process of adoption we must not only ask what we know about adoption but more importantly, ask how we come to know what we know about adoption.” He is actually talking about adoption in Australia but I expect what he has to say applies here in the United States as well.

Adoption is a social construct. The understanding of adoption by those considered experts – social workers, mental health professionals and policymakers – places them in a powerful position as the creators and arbiters of knowledge related to adoption. Their understanding of adoption has a particular influence on the way it is presented and represented both theoretically and as practice. Therefore, some understandings are a result of distortions of the knowledge process. These distortions are products of validating certain kinds of knowledge by promoting certain narratives and silencing others.

Statements about the real nature of adoption become everyday knowledge for most people, especially those with no direct experience of the practice. The habit of understanding social phenomena like adoption with our personally unquestioned beliefs (because they are scientifically legitimate) instead of first attempting to understand the nature and origin of those beliefs is especially evident when we take a holistic view of the experience of being adopted as expressed by many adoptees.

Some would have us believe that the primary motivating force behind much excluding, value-free social research has been conspiratorial, that it has been little more than a premeditated and conscious desire by the powerful to control the less powerful. However worse is the acceptance, legitimization and application of objectified, positivistic notions about the real nature of adoption. These deny us access to the multi-level experiences of those (adoptees and birth parents) who have been subjected to it. Moreover, blind faith in the power of positivistic social science has further resulted in the institutionalized devaluing and belittling of those suffering its effects. Those individuals who have been, in some way, consumed by the process and who have spoken out loudly about their experiences have been viewed as little more than emotionally charged, angry and therefore irrational persons out of touch with reality.

Not only has the individual affected been blamed for the socially created, contradictory, unintended and unwanted effects of the adoption process but they have also been systematically alienated, ridiculed and stigmatized. Adoption has been portrayed and presented as given, unalterable and self-evident and as a consequence, it confronts the individual as a historically and scientifically justified, objective and benign process and therefore, it is undeniable fact. The biography of those consumed by the process is apprehended merely as a reactive, subjective personal episode, separate and distanced from the institution of adoption. Many affected persons experience adoption objectively as coercion and in many cases worse, as an oppressive force.

He has much more to say. It is time well spent to read his worthwhile essay.

Turning 18

I have sons that are 18 and 21. The 21 year old is more of an adult now than the 18 year old but maturity is making changes in the younger boy’s perspectives. My daughter grew up away from me. At 3 years old, she ended up with her dad and a step-mother because I simply could not earn enough to support the 2 of us with child care necessary to even to to work – added to that rent, food, pediatrician bills, clothes, etc. During her childhood, communication was always difficult. I didn’t live in the same town and felt the disapproval of her parenting adults when I tried to visit. I even gave her a prepaid calling card so she call me when it was the least disruptive in her family life. I do remember seriously looking forward to when she was mature and no longer lived with them. Thankfully, we do have a good relationship – maybe not perfect and I blame myself for the feelings of abandonment she has experienced.

Anyway, I do understand the perspectives in this birth mother’s story.

My younger child’s 18th birthday is coming up this month. We haven’t had any contact since last year, when his adoptive mother got upset that I had posted something about 17 years gone, one to go. Somehow she assumed that this meant that I wanted the kid to come live with me when they turned 18, but I just meant that the control freak adoptive mother would have less power over him then.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who adopted kids from Russia with his ex-wife has been completely alienated from them, and posted that he regrets ever adopting them in the first place. I guess his ex won whatever game she was playing. (This blogger’s note – a lot of people who adopted from Russia experienced huge challenges with those children.)

I’ve been tempted to just post publicly that the adoptive mother wins, that I regret ever having kids at all. When I saw “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” I thought about how there is no universe where I would have chosen to have kids and have her adopt them. Even if I’d been dying of cancer, I would have picked someone else to raise my kids. She’s been horrible to me so many times over the last 18 1/2 years, and still every few years, she’ll initiate contact with me and just pretend like all the past awfulness didn’t happen, or maybe that we’re equally at fault. She’s never apologized for anything, I don’t think she understands the concept. She’s said that she wants me to respect her as a “mother”, but I can’t even pretend to.

If on their 18th birthday, I posted that I regret that I had kids, would that make the adoptive mother happy? Is that what she wants? If I was really a horrible mother, then wouldn’t it make sense that I regret attempting to raise children? What does she want from me in order to at least not guilt trip them about any attempt to contact me? If I groveled before the Queen (the adoptive mother) and apologized for trying to raise my kids instead of being a docile handmaid, would that improve my chances of ever having a relationship with either child as adults? How am I supposed to feel? I guess if neither kid wants anything to do with me, they wouldn’t be checking my Facebook to see what I post.

This blogger’s perspective – There are no win situations in life and we simply can only do the best we can do.

Bravelove

I had not heard of this site before today. Bravelove is a Pro-Adoption Movement. They say that their mission is – “We understand that adoption is not for everyone. Ideally, no one wants to separate mother from child. So often the brave act of placing a baby for adoption is viewed in a negative light, when in reality it is a selfless, difficult, and loving act a birth mother can make for her child. We aim to invite and empower women to consider adoption when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.”

It is precisely the kind of narrative I find disturbing but it exists and has existed since the beginning of commercial adoptions. I learned about it today via Stephanie’s story. In my all things adoption group I read – “Stephanie” says “That’s what is so beautiful about open adoption. He doesn’t have to wonder, he doesn’t have to guess. He can just ask. He can ask us why. He can see us and say ‘okay that could have been my life, why is it not my life? And we can explain.'”

Or try to explain because it won’t be easy. Her explanation will be “we only have this life because we chose adoption”

A woman in my all things adoption group said – I mean, really? That’s your explanation? It doesn’t matter how wonderful your life is after relinquishment, letting your relinquished child know that you wouldn’t have the life you have now, if they hadn’t been relinquished . . . The woman said – it doesn’t sit right with me.

As I have seen in my own family – adoptions lead to more adoptions. Stephanie was adopted. My parents were adopted. My two sisters both gave up babies for adoption.

Dismantle The Systems

A mother who lost her child to adoption writes (she is also a family preservation activist, which I am too) –

I recently infiltrated a local foster/adoption support group (FASG), and I just want to point out the obvious difference in atmosphere between that group compared to the average mom/community group.

Any time someone in the FASG needs/wants ANYTHING — crib, diapers, formula, respite care, help with electric bill, clothes, high chair, a new bike, you name it — it’s provided, no questions asked. I’ve never seen so much free stuff passed around. It was a bit of a culture shock for me, to be honest.

But when a struggling mother asks for help, she is almost always demonized. I’ve seen women dragged through the mud and their social media accounts doxxed and overanalyzed just for asking for help. (e.g., “I see you got your nails done 6 months ago. I guess you can’t be struggling *that* bad. Maybe you should reprioritize your life.”) The personal attacks are always almost immediate.

If we helped mothers the way we help fosterers/adopters, there would be no need for the foster/adoption system. I agree. We do not do nearly enough to help struggling families survive in our current society.

She explains further – I believe our society’s general lack of knowledge surrounding women’s rights is (at least partially) to blame. And by “women’s rights,” I’m not referring only to abortion. Did you know that it wasn’t until 1988 that it became illegal for a husband to rape his wife in Arizona? And it wasn’t until 2020 that a rape survivor could terminate the parental rights of her rapist when the rape resulted in the conception and subsequent birth of the rapist’s child.

Children have been weaponized against women/mothers. Since we’re no longer the property of our husbands/fathers, they’ve gone after our children as a means of controlling us. We, as women/mothers, have GOT to do better to support one another. Because clearly no one else is going to do it.

Adding to this… I am in no way trying to deflect from the lived experiences of adoptees. I created the Hell that my placed daughter and other “kept” children will have to live in (and their children, spouses, grandchildren, etc). I’m merely suggesting that we should do more upfront to prevent the separation of families to begin with.

A For Effort

Today’s story – I reunited with my biological family when I was 17 and have lost contact with my adoptive family since then, due to abuse/abandonment. My kids have always known my biological family as family and thankfully there isn’t any way for them to know how different it feels for me. Over the summer we moved from Wisconsin to Kansas to be close to my biological family. My birth mother and I have always had a challenging relationship and this move has made it unbearable. We moved into a house her boyfriend had available to rent and this has caused her to feel entitled to overstep when it comes to my kids and my life. She never had other kids and seems to be wanting to make up for it with mine. I’m almost 40 and am struggling greatly. Through the move, I have discovered that Wisconsin is truly home to me and my kids, and my real family, that I thought I was searching for, is the family I created back in Wisconsin. Now my kids and I are working on moving back and I’m struggling with so many emotions. I desperately want to be back home as soon as we can find housing but I know that moving back will likely server the unhealthy ties I have with my birth mom. It’s a relationship that part of my heart has always longed for but causes me endless stress.

Not all reunions work out. It is so hard to develop relationships with people you’ve not known your whole life – I know. I’m there myself.  Boundaries are the distance where I can love you and me simultaneously.

Sometimes we have to try something to know it isn’t right for us. Teaching our kids that decisions don’t have to be forever, that it’s okay to change your mind and realize you aren’t where you need to be, and to then take steps to change your circumstances as soon as you reasonably can.

Only Wanting Confirmation

This adoptee’s experience is not unusual.

Today I’m feeling more riled up than “normal” about the way I’m feeling pulled to keep my mouth shut about adoption trauma and the fact that you can have a “good” adoption and still be traumatized — because I have MANY friends and family members who are adoptive parents who hate for me to stir the pot.

I know this is pretty typical behavior for me – “don’t stir the pot, don’t make anyone else uncomfortable, stick with the narrative they want to hear….” And yet, I have pulled away from all these people since they adopted their children because “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” and I don’t think they want to have a constructive dialogue.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here – how do you deal with those in your circles who have adopted children and only ask your (adoptee) perspective to hear what they want to hear?

One international adoptee had this to say – I literally don’t care and I’m really honest. I can’t fake it. I try to phrase it in a respectful way but I just speak my truth and they can think what they want.

Another admits – I’m at the point where I say what I think and let the chips fall where they may. The truth is too important to hide.

An adoptee from a domestic infant adoption uses avoidance when possible – I try to avoid the conversation because it is still so triggering for me – if someone tries to pull me in, I speak my mind. I try to be concise but honest. I try not to overextend myself emotionally, but not saying anything feels worse sometimes.

It is slightly different from a birth mother’s perspective – I had family before I placed my son that had adopted and some now that are looking to adopt. I get told that every time that I need to respect the practice of adoption. WELL, I still say how traumatic it is and how they need to stop talking for their adopted children. I’ve been banned from gatherings and everyone just says I picked the wrong adopters and all kinds of other dismissive stuff. I will always hate adoption -period – and will always listen to what the adoptees in the family have to say for themselves.

From a trans-racial adoptee –  I walk a fine line, personally and professionally. If people ask for my opinion or experience, I answer honestly while keeping my audience in mind. I have resources to suggest in case they ask.

Finally . . .

Here’s the thing – we (as a society) KNOW that the biological mother is crucial to proper human development. Humans start bonding in utero. We aren’t born blank slates. Human infants don’t begin to see themselves as a separate entity until starting around 6 months. Before that time, the baby sees themselves as part of her still. She* (and ONLY HER) is the baby’s nervous system. Her repeated comforting gestures makes the infant feel safe in a way a stranger can’t. She’s that baby’s EVERYTHING. The world is scary, big and loud to babies. Turning to the only familiar person for comfort is the way infants learn what is truly scary, and more importantly, what’s not. It’s how humans learn to control our emotions and self soothe. There has been enough research on human development to know that the biological mother (most importantly), biological father and extended biological family are vital to the child’s healthy development and developing a good self image for themselves. Modern science can tell us exactly what is needed for healthy infant development, and why – despite the lack of research done directly related to adoptees – we adoptees and many other people already know adoption flies in the face of everything necessary for proper child development. Humans aren’t interchangeable. Everyone knows that. It’s crazy how there is such a disconnect, when it comes to adoptees. Like science has PROVEN that humans need certain things in infancy and childhood to grow into healthy adults. Do people glorifying adoption think “except adoptees”?? Why don’t adoptees need those things? Many seem to want to believe that adoptees will be just fine without them. Better than fine, in fact, LUCKY! It makes NO logical sense to an adoptee.

Where does this disconnect happen? Do they really think we’re not human beings, so we don’t need what every human being needs?? Or do they all just have an image in their head that our biological families are always drug addled, wretched abusers who abandoned us without a second thought? The more likely is that second explanation. And if that’s true, why do they have to hard press so hard, exploiting vulnerable mothers, and make it impossible for them to change their minds? Literally that is the way the laws are. Adoptees are treated like they are in the witness protection program from their own natural families. Adoptees are supposed to believe they were super unwanted and no one could “force” their natural parents to actually parent them. NONE of that makes logical sense. They get furious if asked to realize the scope of the damage they’ve done.

Mental Health and Regrets

An expectant mother says “I’m not sure with my mental health I can parent another child.” This is despite the fact, that she is a good parent to her first child and that child isn’t suffering. Does she really think giving away her baby is going to do wonders for her mental health? She may be the happy mommy for a while after doing, this with no regrets. But she can only lie to her self for so long. Eventually, she is likely to wake up and wonder wtf did I do?

One woman replied – I was this mother. I placed my 3rd. I had absolutely NO idea what it would do to me.. it absolutely broke me! I could barely function for almost 2 years. I don’t think people really understand what giving away a child means. Adoption is pushed as sunshine and rainbows in society, so I think we somewhat look at it in a positive light when we are contemplating making that choice. . But no it absolutely will NOT help your mental state in any way.

And she is alone, another one said – Me too. And yet another one said – Same with my third also. Fact is, it is the rare person who won’t realize they exchanged one set of mental health issues for another and this one lasts a lifetime for yourself, the child, other children, etc…Then this, my mental health took a nose dive after adoption. Mentally I always struggled but since then, I have been in and out of behavioral health facilities and have made 3 suicide attempts. Someone else thought – it’s a way to delay the trauma and people should be honest that all you’re doing is delaying it and compounding it later.

On that last note, came this reply – i think that also delays trauma for many in a different way, too sadly. Granted each can choose for themselves but I have supported friends who have chosen this route for a variety of reason and again, they weren’t supported after or informed of just what an emotional roller coaster it can take you on, for a VERY long time.

Now I get that’s not for everyone and some may not be as impacted by it, but my friends who have (and many were moms already) came to me and told me, they wished they had listened to me (because I told them – I’m not sure it’s going to help in the ways that you believe it would help) and many were seriously already struggling (hence not feeling able to add another kid) and they didn’t think they could nose dive further but many have. In fact, one reached out this week to me talking about how 2 years after, she still regrets it and wishes she had listened to me.

I believe support for people who go this route is lacking and very much needed – many are left to deal with it in silence and it’s a dirty secret and they have guilt and shame, which contributes to more issues they have in the long run because they don’t have a proper healing outlet to deal with all the feelings and even physical stuff sometimes after (my one girlfriend ended up with an infection and needed to be hospitalized which compounded the trauma).

Finally, this – If there are reasons causing these feelings they usually stem from trauma and lack of support – and if those were addressed, it would be still hard to parent (cuz lets be real – its hard!!) but when you have a better support system vs a system working against you (like Child Protective Services or whatever). I said to my original mom recently, what happened after Termination of Parental Rights ? She jumped at the judge when he said they weren’t her kids now, they were HIS. She spent the night IN JAIL after losing her kids.