Sour Grapes

From my all things adoption group – an adoptee after reaching maturity should not have to deal with this in her adoptive mother but I have seen such bad behavior before in one of my adoptee relative’s adoptive mother as well. So sad.

How do you help someone you love, who is on the fence and struggling, come out of the adoption fog ? Or do you even try ? The person I am talking about is going to be my daughter-in-law in less than a month. We have become close and she is great. She is only 20 years old. I’ll call her T.

T expressed to me that she was curious but scared to reach out to her birth mother. She eventually did so behind her adoptive mom’s back. Her adoptive dad has passed. She said her birth mother was very nice and she told T that she tried to make contact many times throughout the years but that the adoptive parents would block her and change their numbers. T told me she didn’t know who to believe because her adoptive mom said this was a lie. T asked me why would her adoptive mom lie and so, she tended to believe her adoptive mom over her birth mom. I gently asked her to think about who would be more motivated to lie about this.

Anyway when her adoptive mom found out that T was contacting her birth mom, she had a complete emotional breakdown and made T feel so bad. She even said maybe it was a big mistake even adopting her blah blah blah.

I met her adoptive mom last week at the bridal shower and she told me that she was totally fine with T meeting her birth mom but she would not let the birth mom emotionally abuse her with lies.

T has since blocked the birth mom on social media and says she is scared and creeped out. These situations have shoved her way back into the adoption fog. I’m so sad for her because I know that this is important for her mental health. She deals with a lot of anxiety and often struggles with her adoptive mom. T was adopted with 2 her biological sisters who also are struggling with anxiety and mental health.

What can I do with the most love to help her ? She has some leads on her biological dad but now says she is even more creeped out by him. Someone told her he may or may not have shot someone in the past. I wonder who she got that idea from?? Eye roll.

She is definitely afraid of getting in trouble with her adoptive mom (who is paying for the wedding). Her adoptive mom also helped her get a car, after T went back into the adoption fog in submission. Another Eye roll.

My own comment is simply – why do adoptive mothers behave this way once their adoptee is a grown person ? Clearly exerting financial leverage (I saw my mom’s adoptive mother do that with her). They had the child all to themselves all the child’s life. I saw this during a loved one’s (adoptee) wedding. Previously, I would never have thought that woman could be that way but . . . adoptive parents it seems also have their own triggers.

Who’s Real ?

It’s a conundrum, a confusing and difficult problem or question. I understand it personally. When I finally learned who my original grandparents were and met relatives who were genetically and biologically related to me, my adoptive family receded into the background.

As a child, I had grandparents who adopted my parents when they were young. They are the only grandparents I knew growing up and going through old family letters from the early 1980s that I need to finally let go of, I see how they were my personal cheerleaders as I left one kind of life I had been living and began the long and slow process of making a different kind of life for myself. I am grateful for their love and concern.

I have aunts who became more significant again in my own life after my parents died. I am grateful for their love and support.

Those of us impacted by adoption often struggle to describe our relationships with two sets of relatives. Sometimes the word “real” is used to describe those that family DNA type websites would consider as being accurately related to us. It gets cumbersome to try and define “real” from “acquired”.

The topic came up yet again in my all things adoption group. I thought this was a good response – “Everyone is real. It’s kind of a given.” Direct and to the point. Even so, it can be confusing to people who don’t know your personal family history.

We aren’t exactly playing along with our adoptive relatives but for an adoptee, the person is often too well aware that their name and their birth certificate have been falsified to change their identity – from the one they were born with to being in effect the possession of the people who adopted them. This was often done to prevent the original parents and the adoptees from ever finding each other, though with the tools available today (inexpensive DNA testing and matching websites) reunions are taking place constantly.

One adoptee admits – I had a hard time with “real” as a kid growing up. When people found out that I was adopted I was always asked, “Do you know your real parents?” “Do you have any real brothers or sisters?” “Do your adoptive parents have any real kids?” People seemed to use that word in place of biological and to my kid-brain, it felt like I was somehow less of a person because I wasn’t my adopters “real” kid.

Add to this that adoptees often honestly do feel that they don’t belong in the family they are being raised within. And quite honestly, that feeling is accurate, even though it is their reality.

Hopes & Wishes

For some time now, I’ve been writing these adoption related blogs every day. I don’t think I have missed many, if I’ve even missed any. I often wonder what there is left to say . . . and then something arises and off my fingers go to type up a new one.

I know my perspectives have grown since I started writing these. A lot of credit for that goes to my all things adoption Facebook group – where I often find stories and perspectives to pass along here without revealing any sensitive or private details. I hope that by sharing these, my readers also find their perspectives broadening along the way.

When I first joined that group, it wasn’t long before one of the members called me out on my unicorns and rainbows happy perspectives on adoption. It hurt at the time but it was an important wake up call and I do believe I have emerged entirely from what is known as adoptionland fog.

Because both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption, what is actually a VERY UN-NATURAL practice seemed entirely normal to me. Yet, now that I know who my grandparents are – I’ve added their birthdates to my annual birthday calendar – because I wasn’t able to acknowledge them in their lifetimes. It matters to me.

I now think of my adoptive grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins as placeholders for the real thing I lacked. This isn’t a judgement of them. They probably all viewed it as natural to our lives as I did but it really isn’t. I don’t even think of them as related to me anymore. But I do have a history with them and have felt their love and concern over the years, especially during my own childhood.

And adoptionland IS changing slowly but surely, one family at a time. In my all things adoption group, expectant mothers are often encouraged and even financially supported to the best of our ability (such as with Amazon gift registries) to keep their babies. It is more of a walk the walk than simply talk the talk group and I am proud of that.

Adoptees and former foster care youth are PRIVILEGED voices in that group, as they should be for they have the direct experience to open the minds and hearts of the public in general. Many people who have already adopted are learning to be more sensitive and to do the already reality situation better, including honesty, truthfulness and attempts to keep their adopted children connected to their biological/genetic families and at times, even culture (when that is different than the adoptive parents’ own culture).

My hope and certainly my wish is for our society to be more supportive of struggling families in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE and to see adoption no longer a choice that couples realizing infertility feel privileged to make – taking some other family’s baby to pretend that child was born to them.

A change it is a comin’ and I am grateful to be part of that. Happy New Year.

Almost Good Enough

So this morning, I was reading the story of a couple who adopted a baby and finally got around to fulfilling their intention (when she reached the age of 6) to make this understandable to the child.  They used this book to open their discussion.

What is interesting is that within this adoption discussion community it wasn’t the book or that they had “done the right thing” in making their child aware of the circumstances around her entry into this family, but the issue turned out to be no effort to remain in contact with the original mother.  The couple’s response was – “Currently we do not have contact. When our daughter wishes to seek her out, of course.”

That did not sit well with this group.  She was told – “You shouldn’t wait until your daughter asks.”  And she was questioned as to why she had not.  Furthermore, “If you wait, it could be harder to find her first mother or something could happen to her (there’s no shortage of adoptees who have searched and found a grave at the end of the search – and I will note here, that is what my own adoptee mom found and it broke her heart). Also, what if she goes on to have other kids and your daughter has siblings? It’s another important series of conversations you guys need to prepare to have with your daughter.”

Another adoptee goes on to share, “I was too scared to ever ask anything about my birthmom because I sensed how anxious that made my adoptive mom. So, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that your daughter may have that loyalty we talk about adoptees having and not want to upset you guys by asking questions.”  I have seen this my self with my niece, who my sister gave up at birth for adoption.  It is a real and deep concern for many adoptees.  Very common.

Adoptees deserve their truth – however that looks – and however they process it.  It’s the adoptive parent’s job to be ready to help their child navigate the issues and to be a soft landing place as the reality sinks in.