A Product Of A Product

I read an interesting thread this morning that I thought reveals some really important perspectives and so, I share this.

Things I find odd: in the decades following discovery, none of my adoptive family asked about or acknowledged the existence of my half-siblings.

Nor did they either ask how I felt about being lied to for over thirty years; lies they participated in telling. I don’t say this to shame them. I am not even naming them here. As children, they were emotionally abused in that they were told to lie to a family member, every single day. They should not have been asked to do that. I don’t fault them for remaining silent prior to my accidental discovery of my adoption. What I find completely baffling is the continued silence.

What does that say about the nature of love, respect, compassion and connection that adoption supposedly creates? You may say; most adoptees know, so your experience is an anomaly. If so, there are thousands and thousands of anomalies running around these days. There are STILL adoptive parents posting on social media who say they haven’t told the adoptee, don’t know when or if they will. In transracial adoptions, adoptive parents can’t avoid the truth of adoption, but many make a practice of dodging questions, fabricating stories, joking about the adoptee’s pain. And I add, knowing a good number in the donor conception contingent of family creating, there were many who did not ever intend to tell their children. Of course, that was in the days before inexpensive DNA testing. Oops.

I guess odd is not a strong enough word. Cruel, maybe?

There were 4 children in my family; two of those were adopted. First a biological, genetic daughter, then the adoptee girl – me – and an adoptee boy, then a biological, genetic son. My adoptee brother died when I was 13. He was 12. The oldest daughter always knew. The youngest son learnt in high school. Yep; both of those were told to lie. Apparently it was important for them to tell other friends and acquaintances that I was not their “real” sister. I, however, was never told.

What a way to set family relationships up to fail. The refusal to engage with me now “post-discovery” reveals how deep that failure goes and it does increase the pain that I felt as an adoptee to an almost unendurable level.

In their defense, I don’t think they ever learned, nor knew how to learn, how to engage emotionally in a healthy way, not just with me but with others. Some of this was the result of being raised by adult children of alcoholics and a great deal of death and dysfunction occurred in the course of our upbringing. How much of that dysfunction can be attributed to being taught to lie ? It could not have helped the circumstances.

This brings on additional sharings of a similar nature.

Thanks to a friend recognizing my now ex husband was a functional alcoholic, I got into Al-Anon. I was also fortunate to find a couple adoptee support groups at that same time and found that there is a lot of overlap!! Dysfunction doesn’t discriminate. The ex was the son of a violent alcoholic. I dated men who had drug or alcohol issues. My adoptive parents were the youngest in their pre-Depression era families and we’re definitely not what we would refer to as “healthy” today. Add adoption to the mix…

My adoptive mom’s dad was a violent alcoholic. My adoptive dad’s dad was more of a gentle alcoholic, I think. They came out of hard times. Add the pressures of infertility during a time when women’s primary role was parenthood ? So much pain and suffering.

You are right about silence being cruel. Speaking as a first mom… losing my baby to adoption at 17 years old … I was told I would go on with my life, as if nothing had happened. My family never spoke to me about it. It’s traumatizing and cruel to pretend it never happened. I’m sorry that any of us are here having this discussion but we must talk about it, if we are to heal. I was in the adoptee fog for 43 years… & now 12+ years in reunion… I won’t be silenced any longer.

And by sharing such personal thoughts about personal situations, maybe some who encounter people living with such pain will be a little kinder. Until you walk a mile in my shoes . . . seems to fit. Always give the benefit of the doubt and consider the kindest possible explanation for whatever seems “off” is also good advice.

Gender Disappointment as a Cause for Adoption

I read about a mom who has gender disappointment and so wants to give her baby up for adoption. She doesn’t agree with having an abortion but is ok with choosing adoption because she didn’t want a girl baby.

There’s a huge difference between “oh man, I really wanted a girl/boy!!” vs “I don’t want this baby since it’s a girl, so I’m going to cause lifelong trauma in this child because I didn’t get my way.” Either way there will be major trauma.. staying with a mother who doesn’t want you or being given to a family who does but having adoption trauma.

Someone commented that there are thousands of families out there who would adopt this baby in a heartbeat. If the mother had chose abortion, she would just continue having kids. The commenter then asked, What if this happens again the next time she gets pregnant ?

I do agree – she needs the help of counseling before anything else can happen.

In my own family, I know that with my youngest sister, my parents were really hoping for a boy but got a third daughter. This sister now has serious mental problems, very likely a paranoid schizophrenic, but she also fought A LOT with our mom. I have to wonder if the disruption between them didn’t start in utero.

One woman shares this story – when my mom had my little sister, the mother that she shared a recovery room with asked if she had a boy or a girl. Upon hearing girl, she disappointedly said – if my mom had had a boy, she would ask to switch as she just had her 3rd girl.

Someone else noted – gender disappointment is so bad. Kids are more than their gender. Another noted – I see a lot of “well I want a girl for all the pretty dresses and rainbows and unicorns” but she might not even like those things. Or you might think you have a daughter until one day she tells you – he’s a boy. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be the gender you want, even if they’re born the “right” sex.

In my own family, we have also always tried to emphasize that we will accept and love our children no matter what, regarding gender identity and/or sexual preference.

Another wrote – I have twins, I wanted a b/g set and when I found out I was having 2 girls sure I was like “oh man I wanted a boy and a girl” but I wasn’t like super upset. Having gender disappointment is fine but it’s not a huge deal, not to mention gender doesn’t really mean anything anyways.

We actually have quite a few sets of twins in my mom’s group. Most are same gender twins but a couple were boy/girl twins. No one ever expressed any regret with the sex of the baby they birthed.

It has long been common in Asian cultures to prefer having sons. So comes this very sad story – she’s Korean and her parents are Caucasian. Very turbulent home life. On her 16th birthday, her parents said they don’t know when she was born, and she didn’t lose the tip of her finger from getting it slammed in a window at preschool, the story she had been told all her life. She was found in a dumpster/garbage can in Seoul. She was given an appropriate birthdate. She had gangrene in her finger/s, that was the one they couldn’t save.

And there is this sad story about why . . . I have suffered from gender disappointment. I honestly think my adoption has a lot to do with why I had gender disappointment. I have 4 boys and always wanted a girl. There are a lot of reasons why, one being trying to “right” the mother-daughter dynamics caused from adoption (I also had a pretty emotionally abusive adoptive mom). I also have always felt like an outsider in my family growing up, and I still feel like it even in the family I created.

My boys are daddy’s boys and have always loved following their dad around and doing the same things as him. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Mom, you stay home. Just dad,” when my older boys were little. They have zero interest in anything that I’m interested in, so many times I’m stuck doing things alone. And yes, I already know girls can be the same way. 

It’s not even about growing up dynamics, but more about adult. When children grow up, it’s seems to be more socially acceptable for daughters to be friends with their mothers than sons. You rarely see adult sons shopping, going to “girly” movies, or even vacations with their moms, yet these are pretty common with mothers and daughters. It is more acceptable for sons to hang out with their fathers when they’re older. Of course I hope my boys put their potential future families first because that’s healthy and what should be done, but knowing that I will be kept at a distance still makes me sad.

It’s just my abandonment issues talking.

One other woman writes –  I can kind of relate to this. My adoptive dad didn’t really want kids, but would rather we were boys, if he had to have them at all. My adoptive mom found out she was pregnant with my sister when I was placed with them. Therefore, we are 9.5 months apart in age. My mom is very frilly and girly. She owned a dance studio, so we grew up doing dance and beauty pageants. Luckily, I liked those things. Anyway, we always heard people telling my dad how he was surrounded by girls and how he needed a boy…blah, blah, blah.

I also get this ALL. THE. TIME. “Are you going to try for a girl?” “Oh, you would have such a cute daughter.” “You NEED to have a girl! They are so fun!” It’s always so awkward…especially since my husband had a vasectomy after our 4th boy.

Stress Responses

Some adoptive parents mistake their adopted child’s compliance with the situation as a good outcome adjustment.  What I have learned from adoptees that there is an even more intense reaction that is called fawning.  Think of the kidnap victim that eventually identifies with their captors – like Patty Hearst did.

Every adoptee is an individual and each responds differently to the circumstances of their relinquishment and their placement in a new home.

Fawning is best understood as “people-pleasing.”  Both of my parents were adoptees and I saw this kind of behavior in my mom and learned it from her.  This kind of behavior can endear one to other people but it is not always healthy to be this way.

People with the fawn response are so accommodating of other people’s needs that they often find themselves in codependent relationships.  Fortunately, when that has happened to me, I’ve found a way out – even if it took some time to get there.

Fawn types seek safety by merging with the wishes, needs and demands of others. They act as if they unconsciously believe that the price of admission to any relationship is the forfeiture of all their needs, rights, preferences and boundaries.  It takes some maturity to take one’s power back.

Sadly, fawn types are more vulnerable to emotional abuse and exploitation.  Abusers may suppress a survivor’s fight or flight responses by threatening punishment.  The appease response, also known as ‘please’ or ‘fawn’, is a survival response which occurs [when] survivors read danger signals and aim to comply and minimize the confrontation in an attempt to protect themselves.  I’ve been there, done that and I’ve seen my mom do likewise.

If you are an adoption survivor (adoption is definitely a form of trauma to a child), you are not alone in using this for safety. There is no shame in struggling with fawning. Fawning, like the other stress responses, is a self-protective armor. It has helped many adoption survivors live through being placed in a family that does not fit their nature naturally.