Glitter Birthmoms

This is a new term for me this morning but I will admit I struggle with this now. At one time, I wouldn’t have but I have learned too much related to all things adoption to go along with the denial or self soothing perspectives that the adoption industry puts forth and way too many mothers who surrender a baby to adoption absorb and then believe it. These birthmoms speak about adoption as some win/win scenario.

Someone asked the obvious question – What are glitter birth moms? And here was the response – Someone who is glad they adopted out their child and doesn’t regret it.

One woman talked about the ones she sees that are proudly proclaiming their child is in a closed adoption for their own “privacy” but are also Extremely Online, using their full name and photo, IDing themselves as biological moms. Uh, that’s not really how privacy works but they’ll find that out when the adoptee does DNA and matches with close relatives. (And this does happen increasingly these days – in fact DNA and matching has revealed to me my adoptee parents’ – both were – genetic families).

Just recently, I saw one like this from a Christian agency and the woman has gone into counseling unwed mothers to surrender after getting a degree in some social work area. I just couldn’t . . . Here is how someone describes a similar situation – The ones whose stories adoption agencies/adoptive parents trot out in adoption circles to reinforce the narratives they want. They usually talk about how young they were or what obstacles they had, how they picked the adoptive parents (blogger’s note – and I actually supported my youngest sister during a pregnancy where she sent me the profiles to give her a second opinion but that was before I learned all I have learned), what wonderful people the adoptive parents are, how they have thrived since then, sometimes how their child is doing, and saying they know they “made the right decision.” They paint adoption as “giving my child a better life than I could offer.” All of this is very typical.

One adoptee said about such women – my guess is denial and a way to deal with guilt, they can safely live in the fog. I hate the way adoption is always about the parents, adopted or biological.

Another adoptee shares this –

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I don’t **know** this is how my birth mom is for a fact… but at least on the surface she fits the bill on
paper;

She had me at 16, before her 17th birthday

& Because she placed me for adoption

(and that she escaped the stigma,
as she didn’t show and no one knew she was pregnant)

She was able to easily graduate high school

Get her bachelor degree

Married the “love of her life”

And have two well behaved sons at the appropriate time deemed by society

She is a pillar of her community, a kindergarten teacher

She is head of PTA and very active at fighting for kids rights and services in her community (ironically)

It hurts more because I was always
fed the narrative “she did this for me” “she wanted you to have a better life”

No.

It was always about her

She wanted a better life

She wanted to escape stigma

It was never about me

Another adoptee shares – My “unfit” biological parents both went on to have more children and raised them in stable, loving families, unlike the adoptive one I got. Like we always say, placing your child or adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and nothing to be proud of. My biological parents can insist they did it out of love for me all they want but all I would ever hear is “we couldn’t be bothered to get our shit together in time to keep you in the family but look at all these lucky siblings we did do that for!”

And this was an important piece of advice – Please don’t start framing adoptees as either having a “negative experience” or “bitter and abandoned.” This will only silence your child and make them feel they cannot share complex feelings. The best thing I ever did for my daughter was tell her she had every right to feel however she wants over a situation she had no control or say over. Its quite possible for adoptees to love their parents but find parts of their adoption traumatic or challenging. For Example my daughter mourns not growing up with her siblings I get to raise. That doesn’t make her bitter or negative – its a completely normal response to an abnormal situation.

Someone shares this, which I alluded to above about a Christian agency – There are glitter birth moms who make a career out of it, by becoming an “adoption professional” and are paid by agencies to speak at events, promote adoption to other expectant mothers, etc. I follow them closely. It has a two fold impact – not only is the birth Mum able to turn their relinquishment into an income stream but it continually reinforces to them that they made the right choice. And this is far easier to live with than being open to considering the alternative. I have seen one of them do a complete change – she was actually featured in national articles supporting adoption. I’m not exactly sure what happened – whether the openness reduced, the reality of what she had done started to sink in as her child got older, however I have seen her talk about how her she has really struggled with her mental health. She hasn’t come out and owned her past but I have seen her commenting against adoption now.

And this very honest assessment that has some balance integrated into it – I don’t know if I’m considered a glitter birth mom, I don’t regret placing my daughter given the circumstances of my life at that time and the circumstances of her current life. However, I wouldn’t preach that it’s the greatest thing ever either. I just feel it was the best choice out of the ones I had at that time. I didn’t do it all for her, yes she was definitely a consideration but I’ll admit my choice was selfish too.

That’s part of why when I see women being praised when they are considering adoption that it irks me so much. It’s not selfless and brave and giving some couple a chance at parenthood. It’s hard, and emotional and traumatic for everyone and people don’t want to hear that. My daughter is 9 and it breaks my heart a little. She told me she never wants to be pregnant and have biological children. She wants to adopt children like she was and I wonder if this is her way of reacting to her trauma. I see her often, I’m pregnant with her little brother and first biological sibling, and she’s so in love with him but I worry how she’ll feel when he’s here, the relationship that they could have had, if she hadn’t been placed.

Lastly, in the realm of Welfare Queens exploiting a system, I need to include this sadly misguided perspective on it all – There is a glitter birthmom in my life. She was a former foster youth who aged out and has been having children since then. Her oldest is 24 and she is pregnant with #12? now. She has raised none and actually believes she is doing good by giving infertile families babies and encourages her biological children to do the same with her own grand babies.  I believe it is a survival narrative. She knows how to get housing and WIC and medical care and all sorts of benefits. She does not see the impact of her decisions on her children – even those who have been vocal with her about it. And the trauma of knowing they have siblings all over the country that they may never meet. It is a sad cycle being repeated by the next generation.

Normal, Not Cured

Today’s story comes from a woman who was in foster care as a youth.

I live a perfectly regular life. I have a career, kids, a loving husband. I go on vacations, I read, I cook, I attend PTA meetings. I go to parties, concerts, weddings. I don’t talk about my foster care experiences that you may have seen were bad in real life. Very few know I was a foster kid. Heck, you might take your kid in to see me and wouldn’t know my foster care experiences. I’m just a normal person in real life.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I still struggle. I still attend therapy to cope with my experiences so many of which were negative. I still have nightmares and triggers. I’m not cured. My trauma is with me for life. I’ve learned how to cope and can wake up without it being the first thing on my mind. I know myself well enough to know when I’m triggered. I’ve learned how to put on a fake smile to hide my pain.

So please remember this, stop putting former foster youth and adoptees in a box and pitting them against each other. You want to believe all of the negative perspectives from former foster youth and adoptees are only online and the ones who had positive good experiences aren’t online but out there enjoying life. No, all of them are just living their life.

There are many adoptees and former foster youth who aren’t online and they’re struggling in real life. Many former foster youth in real life are trying to heal and many are fighting for a better system. Your own foster or adopted child might be struggling right now. You might not know because you want to believe they don’t hurt. All of the good adoptees and former foster youth are out living life and the negative ones are online in your mind. This is simply not true. You just want to believe it’s true.

Also, please stop putting individual experiences in the negative or positive box. If a former foster youth or adoptee says their experiences were negative or positive – that’s their right – it is their lived experience. You don’t get the right to define someone else’s experience.

If anything we all need to listen to the difficult, uncomfortable bad stories, more than the good. The bad story is what may have gotten you a child to raise in the first place. The bad stories are much more common than you want to believe. Sadly, the overwhelming evidence is that the bad stuff is way too common.

Break On Through

Read this request for advice this morning –

Dear Amy: When my mother was a teenager, she gave birth to a son and put him up for adoption.

I found out about it as a child only because my grandmother became quite mean in her later years and told me about it to embarrass my mom. My mother and I never discussed it, and honestly I had pretty much forgotten about it.

Many years later, I bought one of those DNA testing kits and later got one for my mom, too. A few days ago, we both received an “ancestry sharing request” from a person the DNA service has identified as being my half brother.

I asked my mom via text (I am currently living outside the country) if she was going to respond to him, but she didn’t answer the question.

I’m not sure if I should push the topic further with her.

Also, do I have any obligation to respond to this half brother? My gut instinct is to not respond at all. I found him on Facebook and saw that his posts were all far too political and religious for me.

Thoughts?

— Wondering Half-Sibling

Amy’s response –

Wondering Half-Sibling: Based on what you report, people in your family may have a pattern of dredging up challenging topics, and then burying them again when they hit too close to the heart — or simply become too uncomfortable to face.

One of my favorite quotes is from the poet Robert Frost: “…the best way out is always through.” I take this to mean that almost any challenging situation is made better — ultimately — by going through it, rather than around it.

Yes, you could take your half brother’s social media postings as a (faint) justification to ignore him. You have the right to ignore him. But he has the right to some factual knowledge about his own biological and medical history, and you should be able to help provide that without necessarily entering into a relationship that you obviously don’t feel inclined to have.

Understand, too, that if your brother’s values and world-view are so very different from yours, he also may not wish to enter into a sibling relationship with you, either.

Yes, this would definitely reveal some very challenging truths for your mother. Given how her own mother treated him, she might not be able to face this reality. You could assume that when she and her family placed her baby for adoption, they did so with the knowledge that this chapter was closed — never dreaming that some day DNA would enable people to circumvent adoption contracts. It would be kindest if you contacted your mother (perhaps by phone, not text) and asked, gently and without judgment, if she would like to talk about this.

~ source for the above – The Washington Post

Some further thoughts from this blogger

It is true that the advent of inexpensive DNA testing has actually been a godsend for adoptees locked out of their own true origins, with original birth certificates denied them, with the truths of how they came to be adopted denied them – because the DNA tells the truth of our genes.  DNA testing has made all the difference for me as the child of two adoptees in finally knowing who all 4 of my original grandparents were and making connections with my true genetic relatives.  With over 6 decades of living robbed from us, building relationships is slow and not terribly productive with some.  With others there is definitely a heartfelt connection that I am likely much more grateful to have than they could ever understand.

Tricky Situations

I get it.  Sometimes family isn’t really safe.  What’s a foster parent to do, in order to keep lines of communication with original family open ?  And do it safely ?

First of all it may take time to build trust and allow the original family members an opportunity to get to know you as a real and caring human being.  When the original family can see clearly that you are caring for their children in a manner a loving parent would want their child cared for that can go a long way towards developing that trust.  It is about having rapport with one another in common cause.

As a foster parent you may have to put aside your thoughts of worry and/or fears.  Begin by just engaging with these kids’ parent(s) from a perspective of one human being to another human being.  In other words, common courtesy and good manners. Don’t bring up conditions like – “you need to be safe for contact to begin or continue.”  Wow, is that ever a sure way to get anyone’s heckles up. Of course, if something dangerous actually happens, then as the responsible party you will have to make the appropriate call, but don’t anticipate it.

No finger pointing, looking down your nose at the original parent or assuming the worst about them.  Try to put yourself in their shoes.  Think about how hurt you’d feel if some stranger put conditions on seeing your baby.  If this parent does get violent, well of course, you are going have to end that visit.  Logic would dictate that you don’t need to tell a parent in this situation.  In child protective situations, they already know the issues.  As the foster parent that will just need to be the move you make IF the time comes.

Don’t  listen only to or form an opinion solely based on other people’s opinions.  Depend first on your own personal knowledge of the original parent(s).  Your direct experience.  Give this parent who has already suffered the worst possible loss a chance to redeem themselves.  People change.  People learn from mistakes.  It is terrible to be stuck into a permanent box over temporary behavior that was so very wrong – admittedly.  This is not to be in denial of danger or to reject out of hand what you’ve been told but balance that with what you experience for yourself.  Forewarned but NOT pre-judgmental.

Get away from the governmental system as much as possible.  Try navigating the first family relationships organically and as naturally as possible.  If possible, make contact with other extended first family members.  Extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents – can be absolute gold in a foster child’s life.

Realize that child protective services and social workers may not be motivated to assist you.  You may have to find the extended family yourself.  You can try searching on Facebook and reaching out to them privately and directly.  It would be a rare case that someone in the child’s genetic extended family didn’t want anything to do with these kids.  There would likely be someone who would love to be in their life and has been prevented with obstacles put in the way.

I want to be clear that I have never been a foster child or adopted, I have never been a foster parent or an adoptive parent and I have never been a biological/genetic parent who had my rights terminated.  I have been intensely educating my own self for 2-1/2 years (even since I began to learn the stories behind all of the adoptions in my own biological/genetic family).  I work very hard to gain an accurate understanding by considering and listening to ALL of the related voices and perspectives.  My desire is to be as balanced as possible, when I write blogs here.

The Sound of Love

It may be hard to imagine what a joy it is for a mother who once relinquished her child to adoption to finally hear their voice decades later.  One such story that reached me today and was conveyed like this –

“I got the call I’ve waited on for almost 31 years. More so the past 2 years.
My Son called me! 💙💗
His voice was like that of someone I’ve always known. He sounded so familiar. Almost a 2 hour phone call.  It was more than I ever imagined.💓

It may have taken a pandemic but it finally happened 🥰

And now I embark on this next rail of this roller coaster that has been my life. At least today I woke with a smile.”

Not every attempt at a reunion ends happy.  Some mothers are so devastated that they have tried to block out all memories of the unhappy experience.  They do not wish to remember what happened.

And in this time of isolating ourselves an in-person meeting may not be possible but I guarantee that someday this will all be in the past and while life may never look like it did before ever again, a new kind of normal will emerge.

An experience like the one I have shared is healing for both the mother and the adoptee when it goes so beautifully even with the complications of our current moment.  Advice for entering into such a fragile beginning –

Understand your emotions will be very intense, this is normal.
Journal journal journal.
Cry cry cry.
Yet, try with all your might not to burden your child.
Ask for their permission before you do stuff.

Adoptees had no choice regarding what happened to them. If your relinquished child comes back, be grateful for such a blessing.  Always be gentle towards both you and your child.

Oversharing

I have been reticent until recent years to share some things that I consider privacy sensitive.  Our perspectives on where the boundaries are can change over time.

It is a topic in adoption related groups that the balance is difficult to determine.  There are adoptive parents who upon meeting you will immediately share with you that their children are adopted and have trauma histories.  Realize you only just met and they don’t really know you or you them.  That is considered in poor taste now within our modern society.

An enlightened adoptive parent may wish to be aware of not owning their adopted child.  The adoptive parent may take care not to ignore the original family.  At the same time, the adoptive parent may be concerned that they don’t stigmatize their child by making an issue of the child’s adoption.

One balance can be to remain open to discussing adoption while not initiating the conversation.  The context in which it comes up matters.

It appears that oversharing is often related to wanting to be acknowledged for doing a “good deed”.  Saving a child’s life – is often NOT the truth – no matter how much the adoptive parent would like to believe that.  Adoptive parents have often not accepted their role in separating a mother and child.

Adoptive Parents in some groups want to be quick to point out that the behavior they’re asking for help managing is NOT A RESULT OF THEIR PARENTING.  Some Pro-Life adoptive parents overshare to burnish their credentials – I saved this child from abortion by convincing her mother to give her up to me instead.  You get the idea . . .

Before you overshare, ask yourself – Why does anyone need to know ?  There may be times.  Just be selective and consider whether sharing will eventually cause some kind of problem in the future.

Help Rather Than Hinder

So you are preparing to adopt a child.  You may feel uncomfortable, protective, or defensive about the reality of your child’s pre-adoption loss of the first family.

“The moment the subject of the adoptee’s woundedness and loss comes up, it’s like a shield goes up and they can’t hear a word you say,” Jayne Schooler, adoption professional and author.

It’s painful to enter into your child’s suffering.  It’s so much easier to assume that all is well inside your child, especially if she hasn’t manifested any obvious problems.

The first thing your child wants you to know is this: I am a grieving child.  I came to you because of loss—one that was not your fault and that you can’t erase.

Present circumstances can trigger unresolved loss for an adopted child.  They can and do mourn the mother who carried them for nine months in her womb, whose face they never saw, and whose heartbeat was their original source of security.

Most adoptive parents, instead of helping their child to grieve the loss and find closure, deny his past losses and romanticize his adoption.  Denying loss and failing to grieve can keep parents and children at arms’ length instead of in a healthy, invested relationship.

Webster’s defines romanticism as “imbued with or dominated by idealism; fanciful; impractical; unrealistic; starry-eyed, dreamy; head-in-the-clouds; out of touch with reality.”

Could it be that you have unknowingly been an adoption romanticist all these years ?

The best thing you can do to help your child is to grieve your own losses which may have occurred prior to adoption—losses such as infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or death—and to let yourself feel sad for your child’s losses and your inability to protect him from whatever happened to him prior to joining your family.

Thanks to Sherrie Eldridge for expressing these thoughts that I have excerpted for today’s blog.  You can find her thoughts here – https://sherrieeldridgeadoption.blog/.

Eye Of The Beholder

We need to talk to each other more.  We each have a perspective but it is not the whole picture.  We need to be able to hear the sadness, grief and anger.  We need to be able to hear the needs and good intentions.  We need to be able to hear the frustration of a young parent not receiving enough support to do what it is they were assigned to do when they conceived a child.

Perspective is everything but it need not be fixed in a rigid position.  We can expand upon what we are able to understand by seeking to hear from those others with a different view on a situation.

Money tends to rule too much of what is considered the right perspective in this country.  For too long, the rules have sided quite strongly with the perspective of those people with the money who desire for their position in the adoption triad to be inviolate.  We’ve allowed the legal system to put up walls to deny 2/3s of the triad any kind of rights in the circumstances.

Maybe I don’t have all of the answers to how we go about providing for the welfare of children in our society but I do believe that denying people their right to know where they came from or what became of a child they gave birth to and then lost – often for no better reason than poverty – can’t be the best answer.

Adoptees are speaking out.  Original parents who gave birth and then lost a child who is yet alive and living elsewhere are speaking out.  And the motivations and needs for security by people who are investing their time and resources to provide a stable and secure home for a child should be heard as well – but not to the degree that we deny the needs of other two limbs of this triad of persons.

What Is Enough ?

My mother doubted her worth as a human and as a mother. She never believed she was good enough. Adoption did that to her. She felt broken and torn.

My mom tried very hard to know her roots. She appealed to the state of Tennessee for her adoption file. Though her father was twenty years older than her mother and her mother had already died, she was denied because the state didn’t really try too hard to determine her father’s status. He had been dead for 30 years, when she made her attempt.

She did an Ancestry DNA test and had a profile, hoping against hope to learn some truth. At least, she had some idea of her ethnicity from that effort.  She tried to complete family trees but since they were based on persons who adopted her and adopted my dad, she quit and said to me, “It just didn’t feel real.”  Of course it didn’t.  From a genealogy perspective – it wasn’t the truth.

I now have the complete story for both – my mom and my dad. I wrote everything up in a limited edition book given to family, so that what I worked so hard to learn would not be lost with me, if I died.

There is no risk-free exposure for the children of adopted parents. I know. The wounds and damage passed down my family line and other children ended up adopted too.

Fragility Self-Test

Before you decide to adopt or foster a child, consider your own emotional state.  Here’s some help for contemplation.

1. Do I feel defensive when an adoptee, former foster youth or birth/first mother says “adoptive parents tend to…?”

2. Do I feel angry when people tell me I benefit from adoptive parent privilege — that the adoption industry works in my favor, or that my socioeconomic class and/or race enabled me to adopt?

3. When an adoptee, former foster youth or original mother talks about adoption, do I feel defensive because they’re describing things that I do or think?

4. Do I feel angry or annoyed by the above questions?

5. Do I have a history of embracing hopeful or adoptive parent behavior that I now feel ashamed of, so I need to show people that I’m no longer “like that”?

6. Does saying “not all adoptive parents” or similar phrases make me feel better when someone calls adoptive parents out for some perspective or behavior?

7. Do I expect an apology when I feel like I’ve been unfairly accused of poor adoptive parent behavior?

8. Do I feel better when I say, hear, or read, “every (adoption) experience is different?”

9. Do I try to convince adoptees, former foster youth and original mothers that they’re wrong about adoption by pointing out people from their position in the triad who agree with me?

10. Do I feel the need to talk about my own hardships (such as infertility, a “failed” adoption, or a difficult childhood) when an adoptee or original mother talks about their pain?

11. Do I think the adoption community would benefit if people stopped talking about the hard stuff, were more supportive, learned from “both sides,” or focused more on the positive?

12. Does being told that something I say, think, do, or otherwise value is harmful make me want to shut down, leave, or express my discomfort/displeasure in some way?

13. Do I feel the need to state that I have friends/family who are adoptees or first mothers when someone points out my problematic behavior?

14. Do I feel the need to prove that I’m one of the good ones?

15. Do I feel that my opinions and perspectives about adoption should be given equal weight to that of an adoptee or original mother, that I have something unique and important to contribute to the adoption conversation, and/or that it is unfair to be told to listen more than I speak?

16. Do I feel the need to defend myself on any of the above points when commenting in a discussion?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are dealing with adoptive parent fragility. Take time to reflect on why you feel the way that you do. Take time to listen to adoptee and original mother perspectives.

Adoptive parent fragility is a hindrance to healing because it prevents adoptees/original mothers from being able to engage with adoptive parents in honest conversation, without also having to bear the burden of catering to adoptive parents’ emotional comfort.

At its worst, adoptive parent fragility can cause an emotionally unhealthy situation for adoptees/original mothers because of the power dynamics and the weight of being responsible for the adoptive parents’ feelings, while not being allowed the same consideration to express their own.

There is also the weight that comes with people that you care about lashing out at and abusing you (verbally, emotionally, and/or digitally).

If we cannot talk honestly about the issues surrounding the traditional adoption industry, then we cannot make progress towards creating a healthy reform.