When An Adoptee Becomes A Mother

Adoption is a lifelong process, and becoming a parent adds a layer of complexity as it causes adoptees to revisit, or consider for the first time, the losses that go along with adoption.

This can be surprising for adoptees that were comfortable with their family situation for a couple of decades.  I do remember (since both of my parents were adopted) that we had no medical history at the doctor’s office but we knew there was an explanation – adoption.

Adoption can be a delicate subject. The spectrum of the adoptee experience is vast, and the conversation often feels dominated by adoptive parents who have deeply ingrained fears about losing their child or children.  This is why I focus more on the adoptee and the original parents who usually have a diminished voice in society.

Feelings and issues are bound to come up when adoptees become parents themselves. Questions arise about family and cultural histories, medical concerns and the role of identity in the parenting experience. An adoptee frequently wonders, “Who am I, really?”

One adoptee shared this – “If there was a part of me that yearned for something – a hole that was difficult to fill – I didn’t connect that with being adopted. I struggled with anxiety and trust, and that worsened as I grew into adulthood. But I was certain I wanted to have biological kids — to create them, to grow them, to birth them. I didn’t know why I needed that, or why I was lonely and struggled to trust others. I just knew I needed to fill this hole, to find this missing piece.”

I have felt this with each of my three biological children – it is an emotional response when I see my baby for the first time, feeling a definite bond to that child. It is a tidal wave, taller and more powerful than falling in love. When an adoptee experiences this it is much more – like they had missed something their entire life but didn’t realized what it was until that moment.  The adoptee may even wonder if their mother felt something like that for them.  Or if she didn’t.  What did that say about their worthiness to be loved ?  I wonder if my adoptee mother had these sudden realizations.  She is deceased now and I can’t ask her about it.

An adoptee may struggle with how their own original mother could carry them for nine months and then simply let them go – permanently.

For many adoptee moms, this grief is new, something they don’t understand until they become pregnant themselves. New ways of thinking about their adoption often heighten the myriad emotions experienced during pregnancy and birth.

All adoption is rooted in trauma. Being separated from your original family, and from the woman who you grew inside of, is trauma. The baby does miss that heartbeat, that smell, that undeniable bond. For an adoptee during a pregnancy, it may feel quite novel to realize they are about to meet their very first blood relative.  Adoptees often experience an added layer of appreciation and gratitude for as well as an added connection to their children.

 

The Saddest Moment

 

One of the saddest things was a video of a brand new baby being presented to a woman, everyone in tears of happiness, excitedly saying, “the mother just signed away all rights!” I mean this is a video of the saddest moment of that baby’s life, and they truly don’t seem to have any awareness of that.

There sometimes seems to be a real disconnect.  Adoptive parents in their ecstatic joy totally clueless about what is being done to the mother who just gave birth and what will be a lifelong sorrow not only for her but for that child as well.

It has become well-known that a fetus bonds with the woman carrying it in her womb during the 9 months of gestation.  When it leaves the womb, this baby still knows its mother.  A newborn infant is not a blank slate with no awareness or memories.  That is what people thought for a long time and the well-meaning lie that was fed to prospective adoptive parents.

Georgia Tann who was involved in my own mother’s adoption in 1937 believed this and told her clients this was the reality but we now know that the baby knows differently.  In desperation as she tried to work through the difficulties of obtaining financial resources as an abandoned mother (she was married, but her husband had left her, and her father refused to help her and my mom), my grandmother turned to the Porter-Leath Orphanage for TEMPORARY care of my mom.  In doing this, she was being a responsible mother.

In doing this, she fell into a trap whereby she lost custody of my mother.  After being pressured, exploited and coerced to give up her very valuable little white blond baby girl to the Tennessee Children’s Home, my grandmother was allowed one last visit with my mom who had not seen her own mother for some days/weeks.

The joy expressed in my little mother’s body at seeing her mother is something real to behold as she was only about 8 months old at that time.  Throughout her life, my mom never stopped longing for the woman who gave birth to her.  When she tried to make contact, she was told her mother had died some years before.  My mom was devastated and heart-broken.