Adoption Is Hard

As a society, we fail single mothers and we fail struggling families. We don’t provide the resources that would prevent the surrender of a child to adoption that we could. It’s amazing that it is next to impossible to google any articles on this issue. Most are advising hopeful adoptive families how not to experience a disrupted adoption experience. Almost everywhere I looked, the articles were pro-adoption.

The closest I found to a genuine admission “adoption is hard” was in this article that is not from an entirely un-biased entity (Catholic Charities) but it does describe accurately some of the obstacles adoptees encounter in trying to uncover their original identities.

My adoptive parents were “forward thinking” for their time and always told me that I was adopted. There was no surprise there. I was not the kid that asked a lot of questions and was content in what I knew – my birth mother was 16 and my birth father was a little older. In graduate school I decided it might be interesting to search for my birth family so I made some initial inquiries and found out in Pennsylvania it was not an easy process, for my type of adoption, to initiate a search – ADOPTION IS HARD. I let it go at the time and moved on. 

In 2016, I really wanted to know where I came from. Where did I get my green eyes, my nose, what was my ethnic heritage, did I have any similar traits to my birth mother ? So I began with the attorney who facilitated my adoption. He claimed to have no recollection of the adoption – ADOPTION IS HARD. Next I went to the courts (still called orphan court in Pennsylvania) and was told they had no records based on the little information I had – ADOPTION IS HARD. 

Like my own adoptee mother, this woman decided to try Ancestry DNA – and besides now knowing my ethnic heritage – struck out again – ADOPTION IS HARD. Pretty much matches my own mother’s experience there (though I have made much more progress since my mother’s death using Ancestry).

Yet, something a bit magical did happen for this woman. One night a Facebook message popped up on her phone. The moment she read that a woman had an Ancestry DNA match that listed me as a “close relative.” She had been searching for her sister who had been adopted for years. Turns out that this time the answer was a YES. She was that sister.

Then she began talking with her sister, her birth mother, two other sisters, and a brother (yes there are 4 siblings). Life got real. ADOPTION GOT HARD. You learn things that are HARD. You learn that your birth father wanted you to be aborted. You learn that your birth mother stood up to her own family in order to carry you to term. You learn that your birth mother, on the day you turned 18, contacted the same attorney you had, to leave her information with him “in case” she ever contacted him (yeah, clearly he lied to her in 2016). You learn once again that ADOPTION IS HARD.

She goes on to say – as she was writing, 4 months had passed since the day her world changed. “I can say that it has mostly been for the better. But it has not come without it’s hardships. My body is manifesting externally what I am processing internally in physical ways which has sent me on many trips to the doctors and multiple tests. On the flip side it is good, I am slowly getting to know the family that shares my blood. I love seeing what we have in common while also learning about our uniqueness.”

I write this blog to share the stories I encounter and continue to try to put into perspective my own parents’ adoptions. I have a desire to educate others affected by adoption about the realities. Whether these are adoptive families, people who have friends or family who have been adopted, or other adoptees, my message is ADOPTION IS HARD. It comes with trauma. Adoption comes with loss. Adoptees are the one group of the triad who have no say about adoption, the decision is made for them. Birth parents and adoptive parents alike need to respect that and understand that. This is about their lives, and their stories. 

I know it isn’t possible for me to speak for every adoptee out there. Each has their own unique story and journey. No one should ever forget that each adoptee’s story began with loss and eventually that loss is going to emerge. I know it did for my mom because she shared this with me as my also adopted dad wasn’t supportive of her efforts.

Believing in Colorblindness is a Privilege

Colin Kaepernick with his parents, Teresa Kaepernick, Rick Kaepernick and girlfriend, Nessa Diab

Read the link to Colin’s story at the end of this blog to understand more completely why his photo is here.

Articles that mention adoption always catch my attention. Today, I saw one in the Huffington Post – Like Colin Kaepernick, I Wish My Adoptive Family Had Talked About Race by Melissa Guida-Richards. She was adopted from Colombia in 1993 and her adoptive parents were one of many that believed in the colorblind ideology. Her adoptive parents believed that giving a child a loving home was all that was necessary. 

For most of her life, the family didn’t talk about her race and ethnicity. Actually, she was not aware of her true racial identity until she was 19 and found her adoption paperwork. Her parents had believed that if they raised her as Latina, she would be treated differently than the rest of the family. However, people often questioned her about where she was from ― particularly when her adoptive family wasn’t around. When she was out in public with her white parents, she found that she was included under their umbrella of privilege. But the moment she was out on her own, people treated her differently.

Many BIPOC adoptees eventually learn that the world is divided into how they are perceived with their adoptive families versus when they are alone. And this is especially true in today’s climate where an Asian adoptee shopping for groceries can be attacked, a Black adoptee pulled over by police is potentially in danger, or a Latina adoptee walking in their town is told to go back to their own country. Adoptive families can think that it will never happen to their child, but for most transracial adoptees, it does. It’s just part of the reality of being a person of color.

Transracial adoptees do not have the privilege of believing in colorblindness. It can be fatal for a Black adoptee to “forget” that they are Black. If that adoptee approaches a police officer the same way their white parents do, they could find themselves in danger. When adoptive parents do not properly prepare their transracial adoptee for a racialized world, they are left playing a game of catch-up that they hopefully can win before it costs them their very life.

Current policies disallow considering race when placing children in adoptive homes. This is due to laws like the Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA), which prevents child welfare agencies that receive federal funding from denying or delaying a child’s placement based on race. MEPA was amended in 1996 to establish that states could be fined for using race in placement decisions. While MEPA also requires agencies to “diligently recruit families that reflect the racial diversity of the children in need of homes,” it does not fine states that fail to do so.

Currently over 70% of adoptive parents are white and over half of adopted children are of a different race than their adoptive parents. One key issue with MEPA was that, while it made it significantly easier for white middle-class adoptive parents to adopt children of other races, it neglected to require anti-racism and transracial adoption education before or after placement.

The adoption industry perpetuates the idea that adoption ends in a beautiful happily ever after. When we think of adoption as an ending, we forget that it has a lasting, constant impact throughout the adopted person’s life, not just their childhood. Race should not be an afterthought in adoption. Adoptees are often pressured to be grateful and simply be happy that they have a family, to forget all of the challenges and trauma they experience.

When you are a person of color, you know how the world sees and treats you, and when your family refuses to be open to simple conversations about ethnicity and race, you start to wonder what’s so negative about acknowledging your identity. It impacts how you see yourself and how you believe your family sees you.

The author found that her adoptive family avoiding conversations of racial differences led to her having feelings of rejection and shame. She struggled to understand how her parents and relatives could love all of her, when they refused to acknowledge a big piece of her identity. Adoptive parents need to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations about race. Race may be a construct but its ramifications are very real.

At the beginning of her essay, the author also mentions Kaepernick’s interview in Ebony magazine. Worth the quick read.

Single Moms and Parenting

One of the most important “missions” in my all things adoption group is to support and encourage single moms to attempt to parent their baby rather than reflexively giving the baby up of adoption. Fortunately, that is more acceptable during the last couple of decades for a woman to be a single mom, than it would have been earlier in our collective history.

Several questions were asked of those who had made the choice to keep and parent their baby –

What is/would be/would have been the deciding factor in choosing to parent your child?

Of course, finances are a huge issue. But is money enough?

Better enforcement of revocation periods?

More/better emotional support?

Believing you are worthy enough to deserve your child?

Safe and affordable housing?

Yes, all of this helps. But what is the single factor that would be enough to tip the scales one way or the other?

Some of the responses –

Family and friends helping and being involved and better mental health care.

As someone who parented: A job that paid $15/hr that was full time during daycare hours. Literally that was all I needed. The most basic thing we should be fighting for: the right to be fairly compensated for our work. For me it was a labor rights issue, 100%. Why are jobs like this so hard to come by? The flip side would be: affordable childcare that matched the hours of your job.

Another one shared this was an issue for her as well. My exact problem right now. I’m unemployed, single mom of 4 kids and while I qualify for daycare, I can’t find one near me that has space for all my kids and is open for reasonable hours. 90% of daycares I find close at 5:30pm. My experience is service industry and retail. These jobs usually have varying work schedules and very low pay.

Yet another issue –  I am a single mom raising my 4 children. The 2 fathers claimed the kids on their taxes and collected all the stimulus money. It took me 2yrs to get my tax return back because I had to file a paper return.. And I don’t know if I will get any of the stimulus money. The child support orders are ridiculously low. $600 a month for all 4 kids, IF I even get the payments. It’s rough.

This one found it a struggle but felt lucky as well – I was extremely lucky that the owner of our daycare knew the father of my child because his mother worked there years ago, so she gave me the toddler rate instead of the infant rate. She knew he wasn’t contributing. I was also extremely lucky to have found a mobile home for under $1,000/mo because the landlord was just an all around good guy who didn’t want to take advantage of single people and seniors. My job was a $24,000/yr salary, which meant that my paychecks were static and not variable, which made it easier to budget. I didn’t have much left over at the end of the month, but I managed to save $25 a month until I felt certain we were not going to be homeless again. Literally the bare minimum, but I spent most of my working life living on or below that and I was amazed by how little it took to change everything. We did great on this. She added – I agree that daycare should be subsidized and paid for by the government the same way school is. It doesn’t make sense to have you starting out paying the equivalent of a college tuition just so you can work.

It’s the myth – that adoption means everyone’s happy and doing well.

One shared why she didn’t go through with adoption and credits our all things adoption group as well – When he was born and that was it for me. I wasn’t letting go. And I would do anything and I mean ANYTHING in the world to make it possible. So for me it was that. However. I had a daughter that was going through cancer treatment, I didn’t feel it was fair to her. Those feelings washed away when I had him, I knew in my heart she needed him too. I definitely needed the support of my family. At the hospital I cried all night, My sister woke up and asked me if I was okay and I said “I cant just give him away, I can’t let him go” she said “then don’t “. And called all my family and they made it possible to bring him home providing all of the necessities we needed. Had I felt I had this support before the hospital in keeping him, I would not considered adoption all the way up to giving birth to him at the hospital. Honestly I still would have kept him after his birth at the hospital. I was definitely in mama bear mode. He’s 3 now and I update about every year in this group. Had I not been here, who knows if I would have gotten talked into letting him go by the hopeful adoptive parents -or not. But she definitely tried. She went on to share that her daughter was completely surprised. She said “you finally got me my very OWN BABY?!” She thought he was for her lol I love seeing them together, they are so cute.

Another woman shared – Not feeling good enough and finances were the primary reasons I placed. Instead of receiving encouragement, my past traumas were used against me as evidence that I wasn’t “ready.” I was made to feel like if I parented I was doomed to ruin my child’s life. The single one thing that would have tipped the scales for me though would have been honest information about the trauma adoption causes adoptees. I was VERY concerned about my daughter’s emotional well being. I was promised that my daughter would be unaffected as long as she was placed by three months. I DIRECTLY asked about the emotional consequences of adoption on my daughter and I was told there are none. I was told adoptees have no more problems than anyone else and most are “grateful” to have been given a “better” life. I really wish that some one would have told me that all first time moms are scared. That it would be hard but it was doable. The one single sentence that could have convinced me to parent though is “Adoptees are 4x times likely to commit suicide than non-adoptees.” I had struggled a lot with suicide before than. If I knew that adoption would could cause my daughter to feel suicidal like I felt, there’s no way I would have placed. I could have never intentionally done that to my daughter.

The response to this by the woman who first asked the questions was this – I didn’t ask this question to feel validated, but your answer has made me feel so validated. Because adoptees are always told to shut up and be grateful, and to stop being bitter and angry. For the most part, I refuse to speak to prospective adopters because they’re so full of themselves that they insult and demean me in order to preserve their fantasies. And how can you know what to believe when the people in power tell convenient lies? They benefit from you believing the lies. You’ve made me grateful (genuinely, not being snarky) that this group has given me the chance to tell expecting moms that if I had had a choice, I would have grown up in poverty with my mom. I would have endured whatever deprivation necessary, just to have my mom. Everyone else acts like I’m living in some stupid fantasy world. Thank you for telling me that what I want and would have wanted has validity, and that it would have aligned with what you wanted.

And closing with this one – I never would have considered adoption if I’d had an adult that was willing to help and support me at the time. I got pregnant as a minor and the only people who reacted supportively were other minors, and I was already living on the street, so it didn’t seem like navigating being a parent would be possible for me. I stopped responding to the agency after my school’s social worker started helping me set up appointments and apply for assistance and I found someone with an empty spare bedroom. She helped transfer me to another school nearby that had a parenting program for teen mothers where I was able to catch up and graduate on time. All I really needed was one adult to vaguely care in my direction.

Anxiety For The Unknown

Today’s topic is stepping into what’s next when aging out of foster care. I don’t know how that feels but I have stepped into the unknown myself, to leave a dangerous romantic relationship with only a suitcase and $500 and drop myself into the city of St Louis where I knew no one and had not job waiting for me. It is empowering to face such great challenges and survive through them, so I am certain this young woman will be fine. In fact, immediately, from my all things adoption and foster care came lots of offers of support.

Right away came some simple advice with which I agree 100% – Make plans but try to stay in the moment, worry comes from living in the future.

The young lady admits – Everything seems to be slowly working itself out. I do have a lot of anxiety about the unknown. Many of us do but somehow we manage to muddle through. And that is what I found as well. Things begin to fall into place as you take the next logical step forward.

Do you have monetary needs ? Two possibilities were mentioned – Dream Makers project and One Simple Wish (both are said to be on Instagram, I’m not, so you’ll have to look for those if you are and are in need).

You can make a great life for yourself. I’m rooting for you to find that out for yourself. If you are in the Bridges program, they will pay your rent and utilities until you’re 21.

I know that many states do have programs to assist young people aging out of foster care. Many help with finding an apartment and a job, other skills a young adult will need to survive. For many, I think simply the huge shift from no responsibility to a LOT of responsibilities for their own welfare, can be scary. In this young woman’s case it includes her young son. Adding a dependent, which I didn’t have, certainly makes the situation more difficult.

More good advice – start out with making do and then improve things a little at a time. Do all of the things that you can for free, while you can.

With Privilege Comes Judgment

Growing up, I remember being told not to judge, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging them. I need to understand the other person’s experiences, challenges, thought processes, etc before judging their own personal choices or lived stories. It is true that judgments keep us safe, help us make friends, accomplish our goals, and all sorts of wonderful, important stuff.

The idea of privilege has become really controversial in some circles, even offensive. Usually the people who are offended by the idea of privilege are the people who have it. And when someone who has had some experience – maybe they have experienced being judged, as being inferior, because they were living in poverty, or they had a bad experience in foster care or in their childhood while being raised by adoptive parents – we should do our best to listen to their stories with compassion, realizing that because we did not have that experience ourselves, we cannot really know how bad it was for them. We need to simply give them the benefit of the doubt and open our heart to their pain and/or trauma.

So, too often when people are simply trying to share whatever awful experience they have lived through, someone will feel triggered and quickly counter this person’s lived experience with the words “not all” – which is simply meant to shut the person up and not allow them to revel their own experience honestly. Maybe you are a foster parent or an adoptive parent or do social work or work for the government in some kind of child welfare or government assistance office and you are feeling judged by the story you are hearing. You are desperate to point out that you are not one of those kinds of people yourself. And it’s wonderful if you are not. However, you should restrain yourself at such a time, take comfort and be confident in the knowledge that the story you are hearing is not about you but about the person telling it and their experience. Allow them to revel their own truth without dismissing it by inserting why you are such a good person (and in fact, maybe look long and hard at your own heart to determine is what it actually is that is being triggered. Is it your sense of being some kind of savior to some segment of humanity ?).

Privilege is something your life gives you that is good. By being able to see those aspects as a privilege, you should also be able to realize that you have had access to something that some other people didn’t.  Often in adoption land, as in real life, those with privilege and those in government service too often treat the underprivileged poorly and that is un-necessary. They have it hard enough without you piling on.

The truth is, adoptive parents hold the dominant view in society. Their perspectives rule when it comes to creating the perceptions that people with no experience with what adoption is like in general, believe it to be. Adult adoptees are too often either silenced or dismissed. Money rules. The financially privileged hold the power in society over the less fortunate – who are too easily overlooked or not seen at all. Adoption is almost always a case of allocating a child. Taking a child out of a poverty stricken family and placing that child into a rich one. Georgia Tann didn’t hide her belief that doing this intended engineering of a child’s life led to better outcomes for that child than leaving them in their original poverty-stricken family. So the truth is, money matters.

Just as it was with Georgia Tann, money continues to be the motivation in our modern times. There are people making a LOT of money by taking money from rich people, in return for giving them the opportunity to experience parenting. An experience that infertility or the tragic death of their biological child may have robbed them of. Money can buy you the opportunity to parent a child. Only people with money can afford a domestic infant adoption. This is the reality. And some determined people without financial good fortune will even set up a Go Fund Me page or some other kind of charity outreach to get the money to adopt a child. But the fact remains – the adoption industry is doing very well at generating a lot of revenue for itself.

No Answers

I have a friend with a similar problem to today’s story. Her daughter is not adopted. Her situation is as complex but not as fraught – perhaps. Unless we have the experience our self, we really can’t judge how someone else copes or not with the challenges of their life. I have no answers or even ideas for this one, only empathy and compassion for the whole situation. Though an adoption problem is mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it isn’t clear that the daughter is adopted but she may very well be. Adoptees often (though not all) have relationship issues.

“We dissolved the adoption of our son 5 years ago.”

“We currently have a daughter in a private residential treatment center. She is beginning to own her problems and making an attempt to work on her life, maybe 5% of the time. The staff says they see improvement, we have seen very little, if any, plus her usual tactic is to put forth just enough effort to get you off her back but then regress severely. I have zero faith that the effort they see is going to be genuine, granted she has never had full support 24/7 when she would achieve these moments of trying to cooperate before, so maybe this time is different. Anyway, staff is telling us we need to give her the benefit of the doubt. ‘She is beginning to see that there is a better way to work through her trauma, but doesn’t fully believe she has what it takes. She needs to see you believe in her, that you think she can do it.’ This came after we cut a phone call short because she refused to engage. Kinda like a smack on the wrist.”

“Her program has periodic 10 day home visits and one is coming up the end of this month. To say I am dreading it, is putting it mildly. She causes chaos and pain at every turn and I am the one stuck with her for the whole 10 days. I am really struggling with the ‘Trust her more,’ issue. I don’t trust her one bit. She has stabbed me in the back, figuratively, so many times over the years when I gave her one bit of trust.”

“It feels to me like my daughter is all that matters, no matter what she does to our family, her siblings suffer too, we are to put that behind us and give her the benefit of the doubt. I have always had issues with healthy boundaries and am actively working on that area. This issue feels like I am to push all that aside because my daughter’s life matters more.”

She posted this in an adoption disruption group. She felt the members would understand her point of view. Many of them have shared stories about their challenges and know all about the trauma and grief these children bring into a family.

The woman goes on to write – “I want to love her, but she makes it incredibly hard to do so. My question is, how do you stay emotionally healthy when you feel as though your needs don’t matter? Are you to ignore your own needs, while giving a child who has destroyed so much, the benefit of the doubt? How do you begin to process it? I crashed emotionally on April 1st because I know this is the month for her next home visit…I can’t keep reacting this way.”

The Fog

In adoptee centric communities, one quickly learns about “the fog”. This is the feel good narrative that adoption agencies and adoptive parents “feed” their adopted child. Many adoptees never come out of the fog. Most do not come out until maturity, maybe when they give birth to a biological child genetically related to them and begin searching the adoption related literature, a prominent one is The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. This is the preverbal, subconscious trauma experienced by a baby when they are taken from the mother who gestated them and then gave birth. It matters not a lot whether this separation occurs immediately after birth or months later. My parents were 6 mos and 8 mos old at the time they were separated from their mothers – so preverbal. The trauma is real and has ongoing effects.

So, I was attracted to an article in The Guardian titled Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory in the Health & wellbeing section by Moya Sarner. A feeling of brain fog has become more common as a result of the collective trauma of the COVID pandemic. It is described as a feeling of being unable to concentrate. There’s this sense of debilitation or of losing ordinary facility with everyday life.

It could be helpful for an adoptee to understand that this feeling isn’t unusual or weird. There isn’t something wrong with you. It’s a completely normal reaction to a seriously traumatic experience. This can affect you ability to problem-solve, your capacity to be creative in the face of life’s challenges. There can be a lot of different factors that taken together and interacting with each other, can cause these impairments, attentional deficits and other processing difficulties. Humans have effectively evolved to stop paying attention when nothing changes, but to pay particular attention when things do change.

For an adoptee, it is life changes such has giving birth that can begin the process of waking up from the fog. The adoptive parents dying, so freeing the adopted child from a need to remain loyal to the people who cared and nurtured them growing up that may kindle a need for their own personal truth. Who were the people that gave them life ? Are they still living ? What is the background story ? Are there other genetic relations ? What can they learn about their familial medical history ? What is their cultural identity ? Waking up to the reality of who the adopted person actually is.

Brain fog is a common experience but it’s very complex. It is the cognitive equivalent of feeling emotionally distressed; it’s almost the way the brain expresses sadness, beyond the emotion. One needs to think about the mind, the brain, the immune and the hormonal systems to understand the various mental and physical processes that might underlie this consequence of stress.  

When our mind appraises a situation as stressful, our brain immediately transmits the message to our immune and endocrine systems. These systems respond in exactly the same way they did in early humans – with what may feel like an irrational fear.  The heart beats faster so we can run away, inflammation is initiated by the immune system and the hormone cortisol is released. A dose of cortisol will lower a person’s attention, concentration and memory for their immediate environment. 

An experience of the fog is one of the most disturbing aspects of the unconscious. Recognizing the fog is our body and our brain telling us something, a signal – an alarm bell. We should stop and ask ourselves, why am I feeling this way ? What is the trigger ? What is the source ?  The idea is that we have a force inside us that is propelling us towards life. What has been hidden from us is now pushing us into a discovery. To make connections with our familial tribe and seek to expand the meaning of our very own life with the truth. 

The mental weight of our unknowns becomes harder to drag around. We have – at some moment in our lifetime – a will to know something about ourselves and our lives, even when that knowledge is profoundly painful. Paradoxically, there is also a powerful will not to know, a wish to defend against this awareness so that we can continue to live cosseted by lies. An adoptee might chose to live in the misty, murky fog rather than to face, to suffer, the painful truth and horror of their origin situation because the truth of the experience of how and why they were separated from their natural mother is too hard to bear.

We all experience grief, times in our lives where we feel like we can’t function at all. If you find yourself here, may it be mercifully temporary and may you recover from the shocks of reality and move forward, feeling a new wholeness in an expanded identity of yourself.

#whatabouts=derailment

In The Simpsons animated series, Helen Lovejoy often exclaims, “Ohhh, won’t somebody please think of the children!”

Something like this happens in broadly represented adoption groups (adoptees, original parents, adoptive parents and foster caregivers). “What about . . . ?” statements regarding kids being abused when issues of adoption and foster care are discussed, especially when the overall goal is to encourage family preservation only derail the effort to put forth viable solutions.

To assume any thoughtful, caring adult is seeking to justify kids being abused by impassioned support for the well-being of the whole biological family is abhorrent. I do not and never have advocated for allowing the abuse of children. What I seek to discuss through this blog in a variety of ways is how abuse and neglect stem from other factors in a person’s life. Being more pro-active on the side of helping families (and people in general) find the support they need can actually help stop abuse and neglect from ever occurring.

If you don’t believe that is possible, then maybe you are not doing enough in your own life to be part of the solution. Maybe you need to open your eyes to the simple truth of what is actually going on. You may need to stop sitting in your bubble of privileged judging of other people’s challenges.

I do believe that no one is born a terrible person. Life happens and sometimes it is a person’s path forward that results in inconvenient truths about the lack of support in our society for marginalized people. Not everyone is fortunate enough to always have goods choices that help them along on one of those better paths in life.

However, allowing people to have better choices CAN lead to a better life, a better person and a healthier, more stable family. This is not Utopian ideals. This is the honest truth derived from being open to learning about a diversity of challenges and experiences as well as the outcomes of those for many different people.

To that question, will there always be children that need someone else to care for them? Sadly Yes, of course there will.

Another question, is there an over-abundance of foster care necessitated by child removals and adoptions taking place in our country today? Maybe, maybe not. These are complex situations that deserve intelligent, nuanced thinking.

The goal of this blog is to help in educating people who may not have as broad of an access to all things adoption and foster care thinking, nor the attention that captures for me many of the stories I feel are worth sharing here.

Not Only A Happy Ending

I’m not personally in favor of either international nor transracial adoptions and I really have no right to an opinion on either but I do realize they are both fraught with complexities that no one should enter into unaware.

Adoptees are not a monolithic variety of human being. They differ as much as any individuals do.  Jillian Lauren is both an adult adoptee and an adoptive mother.  With her husband, Scott Shriner, the couple adopted an Ethiopian boy.

She says that she does not love adoption because it is one long Disney happy ending. She loves adoption for the way its struggles have defined her life and made her strong. This is a realistic perspective.

Here’s her adoptee story –

My story began with my unwed birthmother stranded alone in a snow-blanketed Chicago, feeling terrified and foolish. Across the country, my soon-to-be-mother had cried herself to sleep in her West Orange, New Jersey apartment every night for years, longing for a child. A deal was struck, a baby passed from one set of hands to another. I was adopted just barely before the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. My mother says she did not once put me down during the entire trip home.

To be so unwanted and so wanted at the same time can carve a fault line in you.

She admits that at one time, her perspective on adoption was similar to what Laura Barcella once wrote – “Being forsaken by my biological mother has burdened me, for as long as I can remember, with a sense of inborn exile — a gaping hole where my identity should be.”

Indeed, adoption does not give any one who has been adopted a life that is always comfortable or easy.

Jillian Lauren goes on to describe what it has been like with her adopted son’s profound anxiety and fear. It is derived from having survived malnutrition, illness and unimaginable loss in his first year of life. For almost the entirety of his first three years with the couple – he ate little, slept less and had violent tantrums roughly 10 times a day.  Lauren admits that during this time, he often bit her until she bled.

Adoption is a narrative that begins with loss and definitely trauma.

She shares that through the trials with her son of the past few years, she has come to understand herself as selfish, vain, petulant and unequal to the task of mothering. To be certain, she has also found resiliency, determination and resourcefulness.

Each person grows through their challenges.  The good and the bad both have qualities that can serve our ongoing journeys.

 

It’s Not The Same

From personal experience, I believe the biology matters more than the genetics.  The bonding that occurs when a baby grows in the mother’s womb, is kept close to her after emerging in birth and nurses at her breast for an extended number of months.   The love I experienced at the moment of each of my three children’s birth was instantaneous and overwhelming.  Unmistakable.

Certainly, children are usually easy to love.  The innocence and purity of their new lives unsullied by the travails of life’s circumstances.

An adopted child is never really “yours”.  That is a mistaken concept.  An adopted child is one you care for and in the best circumstances care for equally as you would care for a child that issued forth from your body but what is lost is not replaceable.

You may not love your adopted child “less” than biological children if these are also present in your home but the quality of love is different, it is not the same.

Most adoptive parents are afraid to admit this truth because they’re afraid people will judge them and think it means they love their adoptive kids less.   Deep down they know it’s not the same at all. They are lying to themselves to keep up the farce. It will never be the same love. It can’t be. And they can’t deal with admitting that.

Love ebbs and flows in all loving relationships, even between parents and biological children. You never stop loving your children.  My mom struggled with the challenges of my youngest sister all their lives.  My sister believed, even after our mom had died, that our mom hated her.  I know that is not the truth.  However, from my perspective on the outside witnessing, my mom didn’t accept my sister was the way she is.  My mom was always trying to make her what my mom would have preferred her to be like.  That was the source of the tension and conflict between them.  But love – I definitely know my mom did not stop loving my sister.

The connection between a biological mother and the child she gestates is different than adopting a child who’s life began elsewhere. In truth, it has nothing to do with loving them or not.  It has everything to do with hormones and biology.

So, biology does matter. It doesn’t mean an adoptive parent will treat their adopted children differently, or love them less but it’s not the same because biology does matter. You will never have the same relationship with your adopted children, that you have with your biological children. That’s the effect that biology has.  The bond is special and it simply can’t be recreated through adoption.