It Really Is NOT Fair

Anne Rudig writes “I’d like to know who my parents are.” in The Guardian. My adoptee mom wanted to know as well but was thwarted by the state of Tennessee at the time she tried. After her death, I discovered that the state of Tennessee had changed its laws for the victims of Georgia Tann’s unscrupulous practices. I tried to get my mom’s original birth certificate from Virginia and my dad’s (also an adoptee) from California and in both cases – the answer was NO without a court order and that means an expensive attorney and no guarantee of success. Fortunately, I found other ways to get my own desire fulfilled.

Anne goes on to say, “Like countless other adoptees in the US, outdated laws mean I still don’t know my parent’s names, ethnicities and medical histories.” The medical information was part of my own mother’s concerns as she had a condition that the doctors were having a difficulty diagnosing. Until I learned something about my grandparents I always had to say, I don’t know because my parents were both adopted. I only knew what showed up in their lives. Now I know my paternal grandmother had surgery for breast cancer.

Anne has had similar experiences – The medical history on my side of the family is solid white space. Each time I encounter a new doctor, the conversation is pretty much the same. “I see you have no family history for major illnesses – cancer, heart disease, stroke. That’s great.” “No, I have no family history.” Then follows an awkward moment as confusion travels across the physician’s face. I break the silence between us. “I was adopted.”

I read Anne encountered the same difficulties with the state of California that I did – “In some private and all closed adoptions the original birth certificate is sealed by the state of California. The only way to see it is to hire a lawyer and petition the court with a ‘very good reason’ to unseal. When I asked a clerk in Marin County, California, he couldn’t give an example of what a good reason might be, but he did say that wanting to know my origins wasn’t one of them.”

She goes on to say – “At the age of 69, I am not allowed to see my original birth certificate or know the basic facts of my origin. The names of my original parents, their ethnicities, vocations, countries of origin, ages, places of residence, and attending physician – all remain hidden. I want the date of my birth confirmed. I want to know where I came from. I want to know my original mother’s name. My adoptive parents are long gone. My original ones have likely passed too. Who is this law protecting, and from what?

In fact, I tried to make the same argument without success. All of my adoptive grandparents were dead and both of my parents were dead and yes, it was likely my original grandparents were dead too. Eventually, I came to the conclusion it is about money – about the state having to hire extra people to vet and dig up the records and copy them, etc for the descendants and/or still living adoptees. It’s about tax money and where it gets spent.

Anne asks – So why are states still sealing adoptees’ birth certificates? Sealed birth certificates obliterate our identity and origins – the exact things most people take for granted. The goal of closed adoptions is to turn the adopted child into a blank slate, ready for fresh imprint. But no baby is a blank slate. We all come with history, ancestry, fathers and mothers. And many of us don’t want to search; we just want to know.

My first husband and I conceived in the early 70s and didn’t know the sex of our baby until it was born. Still, we seemed somehow convinced we would have a son and when the baby we had turned out to be a daughter, we were surprised. I remember the nurses had to tell me 3 times that this baby was my daughter.

Anne shares – an over-eager sonogram technician led us to believe I was carrying a boy. While my pregnancy progressed, we selected a handful of boys’ names. In the delivery room, my doctor announced, “You have a beautiful baby girl.” My husband looked confused. “You’d better check on that.” So, when our daughter arrived there was a white space on her birth certificate, where her name should have been. We spent a week trying out names for her. 

Anne ends her essay with this truth – Sealed birth certificates were meant to protect adoptive parents from the embarrassment of infertility, the original mother from the shame of unwed pregnancy, and the child from the label of illegitimacy. None of this is necessary anymore, nor does it justify hiding personal information from adoptees. Forty-one states still restrict access to birth certificates through laws that date back as far as the 1930s. (blogger’s note – my parents were mid-1930s adoptees.) It’s time to repeal them. If not for me, then for my children, and perhaps theirs – and for all the children who will be adopted in the future.

Not A Blank Slate

One of the most enduring myths is that a baby is born as a blank slate that the parents get to write upon. The baby thief, Georgia Tann, used that concept as a marketing ploy for 30 years with adoptive parents but guess what ? The blank slate idea is alive and well.

Today, prospective adoptive couples are advertising on social media and adoptees find it very hard to take that without making comments from their own personal experience. One adoptee commented on one of these social media posts of a couple seeking a baby to adopt and got this response from another person there –

Babies actually are a blank slate. They are meant to be shaped, formed and nurtured by those that surround them. This family could be the second chance for a mother struggling with a difficult decision. I’m saddened to see your hate filled comments directed at a family who is struggling. Show some compassion.

The adoptee replied – I’m sorry you can’t have a child of your own. Adoption is not what you think. Babies are not blank slates and will forever yearn for their family. Please educate yourself prior to posting this stuff on Facebook and preying on a woman who is in need of support, she does not need strangers ripping away her child for their own self serving rights. Educate yourselves first. It’s preying on children. There is something bigger going on inside of your heart that you need to address. Get some support to help you heal and in the meantime, stop preying on humans.

Hopeful and already Adoptive Parents –

If you could look into the future and know that the child you will adopt will resent you for adopting them, for the actions you took to acquire them, for paying for them, would you continue the process? Does hearing what adoptees say in private, but keep from their adopters, give you a glimpse into what that future might be? (I share such stories here all the time.) If you knew for a fact that their thoughts and feelings would be in the same vein as what you hear from grown adoptees, would you still keep trying to adopt? If you knew the child you are seeking to adopt would commit suicide from the pain their adoption brought them, would you still keep trying?

But of course, hopeful and already adoptive parents live in la-la land for the most part and such warnings simply fall on deaf ears.

Erasing History

I think if my mom was here, she’d say much the same.  When I found a cousin on my paternal grandmother’s side, she immediately noticed something that had escaped my attention – my grandmother’s name was not on his adoption papers – the Salvation Army owned him.  This is the enduring legacy of adoption and I am simply VERY fortunate I was able to track down who ALL 4 of my original grandparents were – not for lack of the powers that be trying to obscure it.

Today’s adoption story (is not my own but I can relate) –

“This is a strange life. Looking back over it now I feel that I was propelled into constructing a life that has been totally separated from who I am. This was deliberately done by the State and its agents once they had got their hands on me and my brother. They stole me from my mother’s arms and then proceeded to lie about who I was, about where I had come from about my ancestry. They deliberately falsified fundamental documents about my identity. The moment that I was born I was unborn. They removed my mother’s name and the name that she had given me from history and acted as if they had never existed when they did exist. They did so on the basis that this history was inconsequential and as such could be wiped like one wipes a blackboard clean.”

“I have had no choice but to struggle with the circumstances of my birth from the very beginning. I was thrust into a battle between life and death, truth and lies, reality and State manufactured fiction. I was born a pawn on the chessboard of the States so called battle for public morality. I was the symbol of the transgression, of the fact that sex outside marriage existed. But no one talks about this fact, no they still see adoption as that of being rescued from a mother and a family that chose not to care for you. It was no such thing. The State set in motion the theory of Closed Adoption through its adoption practices and through the whip of economic compulsion tens of thousands of mothers gave up their babies. There was no money to keep them and no public support or support from their families. All they received was righteous moralistic outrage as their pregnant daughters were sent away.”

I say I can relate because –

My paternal grandmother was unmarried and had an affair with a married man.  I would suspect she didn’t know he was married when she first started seeing him in the mid-1930s but I think she probably did know by the time she knew she was pregnant.  Self-sufficient woman that she was, I don’t think she ever told him that she was expecting his child.  None of his family knew he had any offspring until I turned up.  DNA proved to them I was actually related.  My grandmother did know who the father was.  She gave my dad his name as a middle name and put his photo next to one of her holding my dad at the Salvation Army home for women and children in El Paso Texas that employed her after she gave birth at one of their homes in San Diego California.  She applied for employment and they transferred her to El Paso Texas with my dad in tow and that is where he was adopted.

Continuing with this man’s emotional story –

“I feel tired today. I feel tired full stop. For my entire life I have been struggling to deal with the circumstances of my birth. From the very beginning my heart was wounded. When you are given away, rejected, abandoned, it is personal. It hurts. When you are forced to live in a society that acts as if the wound does not hurt, it is suicidal because there is no outlet for the pain. No acknowledgment, no sorrow, nothing but silence. Your life is built on this silence. Holding in the hurt, trying to act as if you belong when you have been permanently displaced, always blaming yourself for how you feel because the whole system has set you up for self-blame. From the very beginning no one listened to your cries for your mother. From the very beginning you were met with silence. From the very beginning your most vital needs were ignored and your heart was hurt. You were separated from your emotional needs and your heart was born under an avalanche.”

“From the very beginning it all felt like it was your fault, that you had done something wrong, as if you had had brought this situation upon yourself simply through existing. From your first breath you were struggling for your life without love. There was no beauty in your birth, instead they had turned your life into a fight for survival and no one took any responsibility. They just left you to it. And that set the pattern of your life, of the life that they had created for you, you were abandoned, rejected and left to it. No one checked on how you felt. No one asked if you were struggling. They just left you on this hard road all on your own having to work out how to survive on your own. A road populated with strangers. And you lonely and you knew what the world could do.”

“Even though nobody said anything your birth set the path that you would follow as you tried your best to come to terms with it by outrunning your hurt heart. You felt that, in the silence, that this pain, this sadness that you felt in the world always must have been a sign that something was wrong with you. And there was, but no one would tell you what it was. And so in the absence of an explanation you labelled this hurt, this feeling as meaning that there was something wrong with you and so you locked up your heart and who you were. It was clear that you had to become someone else, you had to not be the person that you had been born to be. And you were right. They did not want the person that you were born to be. They did not want your ancestry, your mother, your personality and who you were deep inside. No, they just wanted a blank slate, a void, a nothing who would be exactly what your adopted parents wanted you to be. They called this attachment. You attached by disassociating from yourself, from your thoughts, your feelings and your emotions. You were to become “as if born to” these adopted parents and their names would be writ large on your birth certificate.”

There is more, much much more.  I won’t go on but adoption hurts.  Loss of identity hurts.  No family history hurts.  It even hurts children like me who’s two parents were both adoptees.

 

Not A Blank Slate

The trauma of being separated from your mother can’t be ignored. No matter the age of the child. The trauma is intensified by the fact that an infant can’t understand, healthily process, or vocalize what’s happening to them.

One of the first things I learned about Georgia Tann was her assertion that the babies she provided to adoptive couples were a blank slate they could mold in their own image and preferences.  This is decidedly obsolete and archaic thinking. You can’t try to put a square peg in a round hole and expect it to fit.

This blank slate idea was never the truth as many adult adoptees can tell you today, as families in reunion discover where their natural traits actually came from.  One such story from an adoptee is this – I really never related to my adopted family. We didn’t enjoy the same activities, foods, interests etc. When I finally found my birth family the very first night I felt like I was finally home.

However, even biological children can’t be molded after their parent’s ideal. So why should any adoptive parent expect a child (that’s not even from their own genes) to turn out according to the adoptive parent wishes ?  Natural biology is real and shows through. DNA is a thing that exists. Being adopted doesn’t mean that your adopted child will all of a sudden biologically come from your adoptive parent genes. Even if the adoptee’s birth certificate lies and says they were born to the adoptive parents.

My own daughter and two sons have often reminded me of how much they are their own person.  My daughter may have some personality aspects that feel very much like my own but she is not a mini-me.  Even our two boys raised under very similar circumstances are different from one another, reminding me to treat each one as individually as they deserve. Any adoptive parent who expects things to be any different is simply fooling themselves with a fantasy that cannot be fulfilled.

And people can be so clueless and ask the most awkward questions.  Case in point.  One woman shared – I am a brown Latina woman. I went to a birthday party for my daughter’s friend (4 at the time) and I was holding our foster son and as soon as I walked in a woman said to me, ‘how did you get a ‘white baby’?! I was so shocked that I could not think of what to say. I’ve practiced a lot since then. LOL.

Or how some people after an attempt to “educate” them will say something like – “God clearly put you together and meant for you to be a family.” At that point, an enlightened adoptive mother might get more forceful and say that if their god had intended us to be a family, he would have made it so without putting my child through adoption trauma. The woman who shared this went on to say “I don’t really stand for people who think they can speak for their god, especially when it comes to adoption.”

One of the uglier remarks come from a person who upon learning a child had been adopted, went on to say they are so glad the child won’t turn out like their original parents.  In front of the child no less.

As for the blank slate theory, regardless – no one should become a parent simply to enforce what they want on their children. Parents to help their children become the best version of themselves, find their own path and passions, and are supportive of the child along the way.

 

A Womb-Wet Infant

I love this image because my youngest son actually had such an unhappy expression as he was pulled out of my womb via c-section.  But that really isn’t the topic of my blog today.

So many hopeful adoptive parents only want what those in the adoptee community call “womb-wet”.  I remember when my husband decided he wanted to become a father after 10 years of marriage, we once discussed adoption.  His uncle had adopted a son.  My parents were both adopted.  Yet, not even knowing what I know now, we felt that adoption was not a good choice.  So glad we didn’t go that route.  The route we went was complicated enough but the results are generally satisfying.

So in my adoption community (which includes all variations from original parents who surrendered to adoption, to adoptees, to former foster care youth, to adoptive parents, to expectant single mothers and to hopeful adoptive parents) came this woman’s comment –

We are attempting to foster kiddos 0-2. We were basically told that we will most likely not receive an infant placement and that school age kiddos are where the need is. As a family, 0-2 fits our needs for many reasons. I guess I don’t understand. With as many kids in the system, wouldn’t they rather have a home ready for placement when the news arrives instead of fishing around when the need arises and there isn’t a home available? Please no hateful responses. Looking for advice as we are beginners.

The truth is that adoptees and former foster youth are given priority to express even their raw and unfiltered feelings in this group, hence the plea for “no hateful responses”.  That doesn’t guarantee there will be none.  For some members, it takes a bit of getting used to but I have learned so much being a part of this group.

The first response went something like this – “Am I wrong in saying she’s contradicted herself? When she says that there’s so many kids in the system wouldn’t you rather have a home ready….right after saying how the need is for home age kids…..?  Also am I correct when I say fostering isn’t about your needs but the needs of the children?”

Another reply was – “Age 0-2 fits their family’s needs better…yeah right.  I think the term they are looking for is blank(er) slate”.

There are MANY older children in foster care.  Therefore, one person commenting rightfully noted – “Wouldn’t they rather have a home ready for placement?  Translation – doesn’t want to be ready for children already in need.”

Another wrote – “I will literally never understand the baby thing. How do you decide to become a foster parent because babies are cute? I mean really . . . can “fit in/meet needs” or whatever weird phrase you want to use WAY easier than a baby who you can’t even begin to try and explain the situation to and therefore can’t even start to comfort or calm completely for weeks after they are placed.”

Another said – “Really sounds like a spoiled, entitled brat, who’s stomping her feet, pissed off that she’s not getting what she ordered, the moment she ordered it.”

I really urge all of you thinking about becoming foster parents or hoping to adopt someone else’s newborn baby to consider how you could use your resources most effectively and your passion to help families by focusing directly on helping families stay together.  Sadly, fighting for reunification as a foster parent really isn’t enough.  Sadly, for kids in foster care, the damage is already done.

 

No, You Don’t Deserve A Baby

Regarding adoption, one prospective couple wrote – “I want a baby not a full grown kid. My husband and I deserve a baby. We both crave a baby to raise as our own”.

I get that.  Not that I believe they deserve someone else’s baby but that they are hoping for that blank slate that Georgia Tann always advertised her babies as being.  Science has determined that isn’t the truth but anyway.

Another prospective adoptive couple stated, “Older children come with so many issues. You can’t mother an older child like an infant. Especially as first time parents”.  Though I was not a first time parent, my husband was.

When my husband decided he wanted to be a father, we did talk about adoption but decided that we wanted a truly blank slate as our beginning position.  We wanted to conceive and for me to carry our baby in my womb, give birth and breastfeed that baby for a reasonable length of time.  We did need considerable medical assistance and there was a compromise involved that seemed reasonable but still must be faced fully and accepted.  Which I believe I have for the most part.

Regarding the expense of adoption, someone was quoted as saying, “Adoption should be free like abortion is”.  Now that does blow my mind because abortion is not free.  I know.  I had one back in the mid-1970s.  There is a cost in dollars at the time and over the long run a cost mentally and emotionally with making such a significant decision.  I continue believe it was the right decision at the time I made it but that doesn’t equate to the reality being easy to live with.

Here is another statement that is absolutely not true – “If adoption wasn’t so expensive, there would be more kids who find homes”.  Fact is there are 4 couples wanting to adopt for every child available to be adopted.  That is one of the reasons that over the most recent decades, many couples have gone out of the United States to obtain a child to raise as their own.

One of the major interests among the members of the adoption community – original parents and adoptees – is reform.  Part of reform is actually raising awareness and changing perspectives.  That is the hope and the purpose for which I write a blog on related topics each day.

It Is NOT God’s Plan

Many Christian couples who struggle with infertility begin to believe somehow that this signals God’s desire that they adopt someone else’s newborn baby.  This baby is not a blank slate. Newborn or infant adoption is not mostly trauma-free simply because this human being is pre-verbal.

I don’t believe for a minute that God is deliberately punishing you by causing you to become pregnant under difficult circumstances only to hand your baby over to complete strangers and then more or less throw you away (forget you ever existed or mattered).

What is actually selfish ?  Saying that giving a child up for adoption is the most selfless thing someone can do is flawed logic.  Does that mean biological mothers who keep their infants are selfish for keeping them ?  It is selfish not to give your precious baby to the more privileged minority of people who have much better financial resources to parent with ?  If that logic were true, then all biological parents would give their children to someone else to parent, since it is selfless towards the child to keep them when someone else has greater resources.

Using God to take away someone else’s baby is exploiting a vulnerable person and trying to use any belief in God they might have to coerce them to YOUR will.  This is not God’s will, this is you trying to use God for your own purposes.

I will never be able to get behind the idea that God got the wombs mixed up when he gave a baby to their mother.  God didn’t give a little baby to one mother for her and her baby to go through the rest of their lives with trauma simply to “heal the infertile wounds” of another couple.

It just doesn’t work that way but Christian couples are very prone to use their religion to justify taking a baby away from a vulnerable mother.