What Would You Expect Me To Do?

Overheard somewhere in America – “What are people supposed to do who can’t have kids biologically? Suffer and never adopt a baby?”

Uh, yes, that is not a reason to adopt. They should go to therapy and learn to manage their grief. Then, they will not be suffering anymore.

Your infertility isn’t an excuse to cause another human trauma and grief. You should find a way to pour your desire into kids without taking them away from their parents.

Adopt a dog or other pet if you want to love and take care of something.

DWI – Deal With It.

Figure out who you are without kids. Plenty of people don’t procreate. Find other things to enjoy. Travel. Etc. 

Understand that a baby, yours or someone else’s, isn’t the solution to your problems.

This societal narrative that people have to have kids to be fulfilled needs to change. There are infinite ways one can find fulfillment!

Wanting a child is a natural desire. But taking a child away from the biological mother and brushing away its name and environment is trauma. Adoption is not an option.

The beginning and end of you as a person doesn’t come down to your reproductive organs. 

Society as a whole needs to unpack the stigma around not having children. For EVERYONE, including fertile people who simply don’t want to procreate, including people who wanted kids but couldn’t have them. We shouldn’t attach so much grief to not having children. You don’t have kids? Find another purpose. Find other passions.

There are the parents who say you’re selfish for not giving them grandchildren. The random strangers in public saying you make such a cute couple. 

Literally – no one has ever died because they didn’t have a child. If your happiness is dependent on another person or on that baby you wish you could have, that’s a major problem. No one else can truly bring you happiness, you have to find that within your own self. Your self worth is not determined by others. If you think it is, that’s not mentally or emotionally healthy.

This really comes down to the mythical elevation of the 2 parent nuclear family with children as the only acceptable family structure and the breakdown of the village/extended family connections. We need to make room for everyone at the table, special friends, aunties, uncles, cousins. The next deeper question is, if I am not part of a family unit with children, what is my place in society? Do I get to be part of a family? That’s real inclusiveness.

Parenting is not a right.

Family Breakdown

Painting by Mary Cassatt 1889

Some reading I was doing today in a book titled Healing the Split by John E Nelson MD caused me to reflect on my mom’s adoption from a new perspective.

He writes – “While there remains much to learn and study, schizophrenogenic mothers bring a sense of incompleteness to child raising. This is not the same as that mother rejecting her child.”

“Quite the contrary. She regards him as particularly close and significant for her. She needs her child in a distorted way as much as her child needs her.”

This causes me to reflect on my maternal grandfather. His very young mother gave birth to him AFTER her husband, his father, has died. He was her first born (even as my grandmother was her father’s first born and his wife had died but only after the 5th child was born) and remained extraordinarily close to her all her life.

As much as I have blamed my maternal grandmother’s widowed father for not supporting her and my mother, when it appeared that my maternal grandfather (whether this was entirely true or not) had abandoned her at 4 months pregnant – there remains this question in my own heart that can never be answered now. Why did he leave her and why did he not come to her defense when she returned to Tennessee from Virginia after my mom had been born and reached out to him through the Juvenile Court in Memphis.

With the same kind of destructive failure to be supportive that I blame my maternal grandmother’s family for, I do also believe that my maternal grandfather’s mother was not supportive of him. I believe she was not happy he had married my grandmother nor did she want anything to do with the child they conceived while married.

I can never know this for certain but why didn’t he take her back to Arkansas with him, when his WPA job in Memphis ended ? It could be because he was dependent upon his mother since she was caring for his children after their mother, his wife, had died – so that he could go to work in Memphis.

So, I believe the deck was stacked against both of my mom’s natural parents raising her – by her very own grandparents, their father and their mother, one on each side of the parental equation.

Dr Nelson notes in his book – “Any movement toward autonomy leads him to feel that she cannot survive without him, added to his certainty that he cannot survive without her. For him to individuate would destroy them both.” Just the thoughts percolating in my own mind this afternoon related to my own familial adoption stories.

No, I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day

Oh, little darling of mine
I can’t for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don’t work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

~ lyrics in Mother and Child Reunion by Paul Simon

Not A Choice

Imagine.  You are just born. Immediately, your tiny self is thrust into the chaos of foster care and/or adoption. You had no say in what was done to you.

Your newborn self wanted no one else in the world but the mother who carried you in her womb, who’s blood ran through your veins, who’s heartbeat was your lullaby as your neurons formed and connected. You wanted her. You cried for her. You experienced the rush of cortisol and adrenalin as your primal need was denied.

You did not sign up to be involved in adoption.

You did not volunteer to become an adoptee.

Those choices were made by others, and that was that. It is the common plight of all people, when they come into the world. Infants cannot dictate who cares for them – or the quality or lack of it that is administered. Infants cannot control where they are taken, what sort of environment they are raised in, or the people around them.

If you were adopted, when you are old enough, you can speak out about your feelings. You can speak about what you experienced, you can speak about the feelings you have had, the life you have known, and the pains you have felt.  Tell your own truth honestly.

Find other adoptees, so that you know that you are not alone in having these feelings.

Do not be ashamed that once upon a time, you told other people that you were happy to have been adopted. You had nothing to compare it to.

Do not be ashamed, if you often cry in private. You carry a profound grief. Do not think it wrong to try and find your original family. If you are able to do that, the experience may (but that is never guaranteed, as people as very complex creatures) be healing.  If nothing else, it will be the reality you were once denied.  The truth of your origins.

You have my sincere compassion. I am not an adoptee but my family of birth is full of adoptees – for one reason or another. You truly are not alone.

Changing My Perspective

For most of my life the secrets blocked any backward knowledge of our family’s origins.  My parents were both adopted.  It was simply a fact of life.

Now that I know more of the stories that preceded my parents’ adoptions and have informed myself more accurately about the practice itself, my perspectives have changed – for the better, I believe.

During my parents’ own childhoods, I doubt they were much inclined emotionally to go into the secrets that caused their adoptions.  They were dependent on their adoptive parents, after all.

It’s a horrible, scary place.  If they thought carefully, it was hard to rationalize it.  How could a woman, who they had been told all of their young life, loved them so much, that she wanted them to have a better life, and motivated by that, place them into the arms of strangers, who then raised them ?  It doesn’t really add up.

As maturity enters into thought processes, they could not but come to realize the simplicity of the truth – they were taken from their mother’s arms and placed with strangers.  It is not hard to understand how this would throw them for an emotional loop, should they deeply contemplate it at all.

How much more the complicated paradoxes must have weighed upon my mom as she became pregnant with each of her daughters.  The feelings that any mother to be has about her developing baby would have triggered thoughts about her own original mother.

Then, she is cradling that babe in her arms for the first time.  Watching the
precious one sleep . . . can it be any surprise, that an adoptee might wonder “how in the heck did adoption ever happen to me ?”