Coping With Reality

Mental health issues cause a lot of the removals of children from their parents. It is true that families lose their children to Child Protective Services because they are struggling with mental health and poverty.

We do have a mental health crisis in America. Many therapists only serve the 4Ws- Wealthy Worried White Women. Some people can’t access mental health care at all. Other people are ridiculed for needing mental health care, and so they won’t get help because they are embarrassed. Reaching out for help needs to become more acceptable in every day life. We need more mental health supports to address these issues, regardless of age, race, sexual oriented, socio-economic status or rural/urban location.

One person admitted – I was told I must not have financial issues if I can afford to smoke. That isn’t true. I can’t afford actual mental healthcare. Yes, my nicotine calms me down. Is it healthy? No. Do I want to stop? Yes. Don’t judge poor people for having addictions to cope with life. If they drove a Lexus, it would just be mommy wine culture that helped them cope.

One truthful response –  it’s easier to point out and shame someone else’s addiction, rather than deal with your own more socially acceptable addiction.

No Choice

There are so many ways adoptees experience a life that they had no choice in. Beginning with their adoption, especially if they were too young to have a say, which the majority are consummated when the child is too young to be given a say.

There are also situations where a mother gave up one or more children when she was young. She then subsequently remarried and had more children in that stable union. So it was in a story I was reading today.

The adoptee in this story had a no-contact failed reunion and was re-rejected in her attempt by her birth mother. The two children relinquished found each other in adulthood. While the father who knew about the surrendered children had died, their children had not been told about these half-siblings.

This adoptee became aware of her genetic, biological family thanks to DNA matching. The extended family she discovered have proven to be lovely, considerate, sensitive and good people. However, the subsequent children who were birthed by this woman’s original mother, who are all adults and have known about these two other children for a couple of years now, don’t acknowledge them or treat them as anything other than shameful embarrassments and inconveniences, a response modeled by their mother.

The mother contracted cancer and subsequently died of the complications. Before she died, she sent this woman a birthday card, accompanied by a handwritten letter expressly stating that she should not to come to her mother’s funeral. It was hurtful for her to say that she “only wanted people who loved her there.”

She never gave these two relinquished children a chance to love her and piling on their wounds, rejected them again as adults. In fact, they didn’t even know she was dying. When this woman died, none of her subsequent children told them anything about the arrangements. So neither of these two attended her funeral but at the last minute did send a wreath. They hoped to be at the least mentioned at her funeral, or in her eulogy or at her cremation but the purposeful silence continued.

Finally, the day after her funeral, her oldest son set up a What’sApp group with him, her brother and this woman and so, there was a video call. He was very matter of fact and explained about her death. He asked if they had any questions. Mostly the call was simply made to justify how he was carrying out their mother’s wishes. These wishes were extensive – excluding them from knowing anything about her deterioration, prognosis, hospitalization, palliative care, imminent death nor were they to be told about her dying or the funeral arrangements. This son admitted that he did think she was wrong to demand that,

This story takes place in Ireland and they have a “month’s memory mass.” Her name will be called out in her church as a mark of respect at her recent passing. It’s a tradition for family to attend at this mass that takes place four weeks after the passing of a loved one. She writes that her brother has to work but her husband will be there to be supportive. She says – “I have as much right to be there as any of them. Being banned from her funeral doesn’t mean I can’t go to this mass in her church. I need to be there to show they haven’t broken me and to have some closure. I also feel it would be a show of defiance to them for ostracizing us so blatantly.”

I totally agree with her and support this decision !!

When A Mother Doesn’t Want Her Child

Today’s adoptee story (not my own story) – Being adopted is having all of your rights stripped from you the minute you take a breath and become declared a human. That was my case. I had what is called a closed adoption.

There are many reasons people put their child up for adoption. Some women are coerced. Some have their children stolen. Some women just don’t want their child. That was me.

My birth mother named me, wrote down all of the non-identifying information about herself, her parents, my birth father, and his parents, and walked away to a fresh new start.

She had the child. She didn’t abort it. Many would agree that makes her a born again saint.

This is where no one wants to admit that the child will probably have many problems. That child was just given your epigenetics. The feelings you had while pregnant are now part of who that child is.

As for my mother, we have to assume things because she never used her words because she would never meet me or speak to me. She made me a living abortion by never having any responsibility or accountability for her actions. I assume she felt shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, anxiety, and depression.

When my sisters and cousins met me, everyone said how much I looked like my mother and acted like her.

My emotions were torn.

I had always wanted to look and act like my family. Now I do, and the woman that gave birth to me is also the cause of my trauma. I wanted to rip my DNA out of my body.

I had suffered from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation for most of my life. I had been given Prozac and Zoloft when I was in my mid 20’s. They caused me extreme pain in the back of my head. I came off of them and took an overdose of muscle relaxers one night and ended up in a psych ward over the weekend.

When I met with the doctor, he told me the prescriptions would have killed me had I not stopped taking them. I was having a reaction because of my low blood pressure. I did see a psychologist a few times after that, but it wasn’t any help.

I spent many years thinking I was fine after that. I had also learned not to let anyone really know what I was thinking after that.

I was in what is known as the “fog.” I went on with my life. I worked a lot and drank. I thought if I just stayed ahead of what I felt, I was ok.

The pain from adoption is there, whether we admit it or not. You can see it in people’s eyes when you say you’re adopted. They get that I’m sorry look. With so many people aware of the trauma adoption causes, you would think it would change.

As for me, I am doing everything I can now, to fix my epigenetics from my mother.

Meanwhile In Another Reality

Imagine the dominant social narrative surrounding adoption was flipped – that it was viewed negatively by society (media, public, social policy, etc) with no saviorism or birth mom/adoptive parent platitudes like brave or selfless.

Imagine it was considered a socially unacceptable way to build a family or to fulfill a deep wish or right to experience parenting and people seeking to adopt were viewed as selfish.

This radical change came about as the catastrophic effect on children caused by relinquishment, and subsequent adoption became common knowledge.  And that clear understanding developed societal beliefs that deliberately perpetrating adoption was as unpalatable as the current “anti” adoption movement is viewed by proponents.

Instead, society truly became child-centered – where the child’s needs are put first. One that does not permit ownership, name you as parents nor replace the birth certificates, allow name changes, or any family severance. It is also socially unacceptable to brag about your adopted child, or even share their story.  It is instead as embarrassing as it is to admit you are not raising your own birthed child (I know that one way too intimately).

Then other options (like guardianship) would be the default route for permanence when  strangers are needed to care for children who are not able to live with their natural family for safety reasons.  We can and should imagine “better”.  That is why adoptees and original mothers are speaking out about the deep wounds that giving up children for adoption has caused for them.

Honoring My Grandmother

In 1916, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lou Stark was born to James Coleman and Mabel Irene Stark on this date in Eads Tennessee.  It is my understanding that her father was a difficult man and quite old when he began to have children.  Lizzie was the oldest and her nieces and nephews called her Aunt Lou.

It seems that her siblings and my grandmother each escaped their family home as soon as they could.  One can surmise that my grandmother chose the possible opportunities of the big city, Memphis, to her west.  There she would meet an older man who had become both widowed and had lost one of his children not long before.  Most likely he was attached to a big WPA project building a hospital in Memphis.

So they married but his children and the mother to whom he was devoted and who supported him by caring for one or more of his children caused his heart to remain in Arkansas.  For reasons I will never be able to explain, he left her in Memphis four months pregnant.  Whether it was considered an end or a temporary separation can never be known.

What I do know is that my grandmother was sent away to Virginia to give birth to my mom.  Most likely, she was an embarrassment pregnant with no husband in sight in a very conservatively Christian community.  I suspect she was supposed to leave my mom in Virginia but she could not.

I cannot believe she brought my mom back to Memphis with any intention of giving her up for adoption.  Juvenile Court records do show that she reached out for my mom’s father over in Arkansas but he did not respond.  In his defense, there began a Super Flood on the Mississippi River the month my mom was born.  Refugees poured into Memphis from Arkansas who bore some of the worst destruction.  My grandfather was out shoring up levees.

My grandmother found the going difficult in Memphis.  The people who had been supportive of her previously were suffering from charity fatigue.  In desperation, my grandmother sought temporary care for my mom in an amazing citadel of an orphanage with a storied history.  The superintendent there betrayed her to Georgia Tann who was a master at separating children from their natural parents.

After being given a no win choice (surrender your child or be declared unfit – a threat with teeth in it because the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley was good friends with Tann), my grandmother tried to get my mom back 4 days later.  But Tann had a paying customer on her way from Arizona by train to pick my mom up and no way would the baby thief give my mom up.

Such a sad story.  She never had another child . . .