It Is About More Than That

In my all things adoption group, a woman writes –

Let’s talk about “playing the victim”. I see this come up a lot in this group when adoptees and former fostercare youth are talking about their trauma. I can only speak for myself, but I’d like to explain why this is so bothersome.

This is a group about the realities of adoption. Our conversations are often about adoption. I talk about my adoption trauma a lot in this group. Why? Because it’s relevant to the conversation. The conversations I have in this group are not reflective of the conversations I have elsewhere in my life. This group is only a sliver of my life.

I have trauma from being adopted. I suffer from mental illness. I’ve been diagnosed with BPD (* see below). I don’t blame all of my struggles on being adopted. I can’t say for certain that it is the root of all my problems. But I also can’t separate it. I was relinquished as a newborn. This trauma has always been here. It is a part of the other problems. It is a part of me. But it’s not all of me.

* Note – BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. This means that people who experience BPD feel emotions intensely and for extended periods of time, and it is harder for them to return to a stable baseline after an emotionally triggering event.

I have trauma from being adopted but I have privilege in other areas of my life. I’m very fortunate to be where I am today. I’ve met many roadblocks as a result of being an adoptee, but I’ve overcome many of them. I’ve made mistakes and suffered the consequences of those mistakes, but I own them. I don’t blame others for my actions.

Being adopted comes with trauma. Being adopted has legal implications that can make things difficult. In a group about facing the realities of adoption, I don’t think it’s “playing the victim” to acknowledge the hard things. You have no idea how anyone has lived their life. We are simply sharing experiences that are relevant to the purpose of this group.

A Lifetime Of Regret

The Maiden of Sorrow painting by Tyler Robbins

In a discussion about a same-sex couple (two females) who wanted a family and were seeking perspectives on donor conceived vs adoption, a woman who gave up her baby at birth was strongly defending her choice as best for the child. This kind of denial is not uncommon. Truth is that many women who surrender their child at birth spend the rest of their lifetime in sorrow. Not even getting into the trauma that EVERY baby suffers at a preverbal, subconscious level due to that separation. Today’s story is from a woman who surrendered her child.

I’m a Birth mother. When I placed my daughter for adoption I lost the only good thing in my life. She was my joy. My reason for living.

I spent the next decade deeply suicidal and one of the things I heard a lot from people was that “suicide is selfish because it takes one person’s pain and passes it on to ten others.” These days I can’t help but think how much this statement applies to adoption too.

When I hear hopeful adoptive parents talk about the anguish infertility caused them and how they’re pursuing adoption now because they NEED to be a mother, I wonder if they realize they’re doing exactly this. They are trying to take away their pain of not having a baby by passing that pain onto the birth mother, father, child, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins instead.

I have spent years in agony over the loss of my daughter, crying and begging god to change what happened. I’ve watched others get pregnant and wondered why they were worthy of motherhood and I wasn’t. I’ve felt the need to be a mother because I was a mother. But I am a mother without a child now.

The future which hopeful adoptive parents were unwilling to live (a life without children) has become my reality instead. Do hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted realize – they are transferring their pain onto others, when they accept somebody else’s baby to fulfill their dreams ? What makes the pain spread through suicide so obviously selfish but the pain spread through adoption so widely acceptable ?

The first response was empathetic – you’re making perfect sense. Except the pain that leads people to suicide and the pain of having a child and losing it are both astronomically greater than any pain felt by never having children. So that makes adoption exceptionally selfish. I’m sorry for the pain you have been through. You did not deserve any of it. Saying a prayer for you.

It is frequently said in my all things adoption group that adoption is a permanent decision to a temporary solution. Society really needs to wake up to the harm of commercializing babies for profit and support struggling mothers and/or families better so children do not need to be taken from the family they were born into.

There are some adoptive mothers who finally realize that their infertility was at least psychologically caused by feeling their own mothers didn’t love them, even though there may have also been a physical component. If a woman is not whole in mind and emotions, any child brought into this life will have flawed parenting. There is also often a religious component to adoption. Some feel that God is punishing them with infertility and though some kind of twisted logic believe that adopting a child will get them back God’s good graces. So many don’t want to heal, they refuse to even admit they need to. And it’s their children and their children’s true mothers who carry the burden of their lack of awareness regarding their true issues.

Regarding a relinquishment of one’s babies and suicide came this comment –

I am an adoptee. My Mom died by suicide because her pain was too much to bear from losing two children to adoption.

I have been saying much of the same thing in regards to suicide. It’s not selfish or cowardly or a crime. I have also been saying that hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted are transferring their pain. Most do not heal before adopting. Adoptive parents are wrongly revered by our society. Nobody thinks to question them or ask them anything. Sadly, adoption is usually option B and adoptive parents do not heal nor research the topic before getting their wallets out.

Fact is – adoption is big business. A for profit business. So if there were no adoptive parents, the money to be made selling babies would decrease. Sadly, adoption is socially acceptable, romanticized, sensationalized and is thought by many to be beautiful, rainbows etc. Adoptive parents are viewed as heroes and altruistic.

Suicide is stigmatized and people are afraid to discuss it and truly do not understand it. Our society has a hard time sitting in discomfort and looking at other people’s pain. That is why suicide is quickly labeled as selfish. In reality, society is selfish for not asking why the pain was so heavy. Even the words used around suicide make it seem like a crime or a choice. (committed suicide, killed oneself, took their own life). We are the selfish ones. We need to be talking about this. Not to mention the high suicide attempt rates and suicides among adoptees, as well as their original moms. Nobody is going to physically die because they can’t have a baby but many adoptees and moms are dying from the grief, trauma and loss that is the truth of adoption and family separation.

Every day, my effort here is to change the narrative about who adoptees are, about their stories, about the importance of keeping families together. Mine is one small voice but those who share my perspectives are legion. So the effort at reform begins with changing the narrative – adoption is NOT a “selfless” act but a “selfish” act. There is so much pain in adoption. I wish more people were aware of (and cared about!!!) the devastating consequences.

If Others Are Uncomfortable

It seems to depend upon what your life experience has given your perspective. An adoptive parent writes – My 6 year old’s story is a rough one for both she and her mommy. We have shared her story with her with the help of a therapist because we want her to feel empowered and never feel like she has to hold any kind of shame. As she is getting older, she has begun to just kind of drop her story to friends of hers and their parents and I can often tell that people are caught off guard and at times seem uncomfortable. Is it better for us to let her share as she feels comfortable or, should we teach her to guard her truth?

From adoptees come these responses –

Never make her guard her truth, always let her define her story.

and

I kind of don’t care if others are uncomfortable. That’s their problem. Feeling like we have to hide to make others comfortable creates shame in my opinion.

Then, from a professional –

I  work in the field of mental health/sex offenders/criminal justice/substance abuse. I think an age appropriate discussion about disclosing appropriately, and over sharing to people she doesn’t really know, is definitely warranted. While it’s her story, her ideas of boundaries are just being formed at 6, and people who endure trauma can often overshare as a coping mechanism, something that she may battle throughout the rest of her life. She should start practicing healthy boundaries now. I personally struggle with this, and often have to remind myself that every conversation I have with others isn’t a therapy session. I’d definitely bring this up with her therapist to help her work on boundaries; if she doesn’t have one, you might consider getting one to help her navigate her past trauma in healthy ways.

In response, another woman asks – what consequences are you worried about as she shares her story as she feels comfortable ? I’m asking about consequences to her, not related to people around her being uncomfortable.

To which the professional responds – what someone wants to share at 6, isn’t necessarily what someone wants to share at 16, or 36, etc. I’m not saying that because it’s shameful, because it’s not, but it can be harder to gauge at that age who is safe to disclose private information to.

I work with sex offenders, so I’m paranoid. Let’s say the child mentions to an adult in their life (who happens to be an undiscovered sexual predator) that they’ve previously been victimized, sexually. Sex Offenders are opportunistic, and may see the child as a viable option for future abuse. This isn’t something that’s rare. Survivors are often revictimized. The original comment didn’t say this was the specific scenario, I’m just pointing out why it may be a concern.

Another woman affirms this perspective by sharing – My therapist told me about over sharing my child abuse and my past domestic violent relationship and how it can definitely make you a target for people that look for vulnerable people. They’ll take your trauma and use it against you when the time is right. My Domestic Violence Survivors class also told me this. I was over sharing at 21 as a way to cope, to see if people were like me or had sympathy.

And yet another – Yeah as a survivor of serious childhood abuse and former over sharer, learning that I could choose what to share and who with was a big piece of recovery. And some people can have some really fucked up and dehumanizing reactions to hearing someone else’s pain, reactions I wouldn’t wish on a little kid. They sucked enough as an adolescent and young adult.

These situations are not rare, here’s another – Oversharing can go from awkward at best to seriously dangerous really fast and in ways that can’t be taken back. Oversharing has showed up in my life as a fawning trauma response. I didn’t learn how to think critically about what kinds of things I was actually disclosing to people until I was in my 20s and I feel like thinking about it in age appropriate ways at age 6 could have been a huge advantage in life.

And one more example –  A young woman I know really well shared her abuse story with potential boyfriends because it was important for her to be accepted and she attracted some pretty yucky pedophiles who got off on just hearing her story.

And to balance things out, here is another adoptive parent’s perspective –

Our daughter likes to share her story on her terms as she chooses. Sometimes she shares a lot, sometimes only pieces (like “I have two moms and two dads” and nothing else). I always tell her it’s her story, and she can share what she chooses. If people don’t understand and ask questions, she can answer or say “I don’t care to share that part.”

None of us owe other people parts of ourselves. We gift to others the chance to know parts of us, and those gifts, depending on how they are received, may or may not lead to more sharing. Our daughter is carrying a heavy load and will have to navigate a challenging life as a result of her adoption. I decided (based on hearing so much from adoptees) to learn how to make her feel empowered by owning her story since so much has been taken from her. This sharing can at least belong to her and be on her terms.

PS. If she shares in a school environment, like an “About Me” project, I inform the teacher ahead of time that I will be attending class to help support her if there are difficult questions. Nothing has ever come up, but our daughter has appreciated me having her back.

Unintended Consequences

We do not always see down the road of our life’s journey far enough to know where our decisions will leave us.  When I left my daughter temporarily with her paternal grandmother, I did not intend for her to be raised by her father and step-mother and to never live with me permanently again.  When my maternal grandmother sought temporary care for my mom at Porter-Leath Orphanage she did not intend to fall into Georgia Tann’s trap and lose my mom.

At first, it was a joy to discover who my original grandparents were.  Both of my parents were adoptees and they each died knowing next to nothing (just a few names) about their origins.  Because of the Georgia Tann scandal, Tennessee turned my mom’s adoption file over to me in October 2017.  Suddenly, doors opened for me all the way down both lines and within a year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were and for the first time in over 60 years of living, not only felt whole but had real genetic relations.

What I was not prepared for was how that would ultimately make me feel.  How do I feel now ?  Like a total outsider.  The people I grew up with are not related to me.  Oh I am glad my parents were treated well.  It may be that their lives were easier for having been adopted.  I loved my grandparents through adoption very much and deeply appreciated aunts, uncle and cousins.  Yet, learning the truth of my origins has unexpectedly diminished all of them for me.

I am full of joy for the genetic relations I have uncovered and they have helped me know my original grandparents’ lives better than I would have otherwise.  I do feel an honest connection to each of them.  However, I have no life experience with these people.  That leaves me feeling again like an outsider.  They are all very kind and welcoming but knowing me is not really a priority in their own lives.  I understand.  I go slowly and attempt to build relationships over time through the sharing of some experiences.  It is so late in life for me that it won’t be huge but it is something.

This is what adoption does to us.  It shatters our families and I had no idea when I embarked on this new journey that I would feel today the way I do.

 

National Infant Adoption Reform Act

There is more than one effort and while none of them have succeeded completely, awareness means that improvements will continue to progress, or so I do want to believe.

One women’s story –

Losing my son to an unnecessary adoption has been devastating. A part of me died, and my children have been traumatized by being unnecessarily separated. It has given me insight into the billion dollar industry of infant adoption. I have been driven to bring awareness to the injustice of coercive persuasion that exists today. There is no accountability and no consequences when an adoption professional participates in coercion of a mother in crisis. Adoption so often is a permanent decision made by a resourceless, overwhelmed mother facing more often than not temporary crisis. This was my situation.

All I needed was someone to tell me to take my son home from the hospital and to really sit down and eliminate and/or break down the obstacles I felt I was facing. If mothers are given support to not feel she has to make a decision before leaving the hospital is imperative to give the mother time to bond with her child and her hormones time to level off. I have done exactly this with over 50 mothers and showed them that what they were facing was temporary and did not warrant a permanent, lifelong, traumatic separation for both herself and her infant. It has been life-changing for all of them, and they are so very grateful.

No mother should be in contact with any adoption professional prior to the birth of her child. Pre-birth anything creates obligation and focus is taken off the mother and her child and the very special experience of childbirth. Money needs to come out of adoption. It will eliminate adoption fraud, it will eliminate coercive persuasion that paying ‘expenses’ for a pregnant mother in crisis creates. No mother should be able to sign any relinquishment papers until she is 6-8 weeks post partum, and has been cleared of post partum depression. A mother is considered ‘disabled’ for weeks by insurance companies after having a child, yet a mother in crisis is expected to make a permanent lifelong decision hours after going through one of the most wonderfully beautiful and traumatic times in her life. This needs to change. Mother’s need support and families need protection.

To read a proposed bill to reform adoption, go here –

http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/adoption/niara-national-infant-adoption-reform-act/