A Never Baby Person Parented

Kelsey Graham with baby daughter

I’m a family preservation, never adopt out if one can help it, person and so I really liked this story in the LINK>Huffington Post – “What It’s Like To Be The ‘Young Mom’.”

Kelsey admits – “I was never a baby person. Growing up, when family members would have kids, I stood back, adoring the baby from afar, but passing on chances to hold it. I never babysat beyond watching my younger brother. And while it’s true what they say — when it’s your child, it’s different — it was still overwhelming being responsible for another life when I was just starting to lay the foundation for my own.”

She was in her sophomore year of college when she got pregnant and was 20 when she had her baby. I can relate. I was 19 when I had my daughter. My pregnancy was deliberate as I was married and all of our “married” friends also had young children and so, I didn’t see any reason to wait. Really, I was still a child when my daughter was young. My marriage didn’t last and unlike the author of this story, I didn’t go on to college until much later when I picked up a few hours but never graduated.

Happily, for Kelsey – she is still with her then boyfriend and now father of her daughter. With a strong support system from her family, her boyfriend, and his family, she was able to finish her degree. At 27, she was fortunate enough to return to school to earn her master’s degree. During that time, she worked in the Graduate School Office as an assistant with other students ranging in age from 20-year-olds who had just graduated with their bachelor’s to others in their 30s. She says, “It was nice to be around people closer to my age and, even more, to be back in the school setting I loved and where I felt like I belonged.”

Often feeling like she didn’t fit in, which she describes in quite a bit of detail in her op-ed, she realized that women are judged for whatever choices they make, especially if they deviate from the very narrow idea of what’s “normal.” I also understand this from my own personal experiences but thankfully, I do have friends who seem to understand my unconventional life experiences are what make me – “me”.

I do know that I have always been living my life as best I could. I know my experiences matter just as much as those who have trod more conventional paths. I am glad for my Facebook friends today. I realize these woman include all the women who have also taken the path less traveled. It’s comforting. The author notes – “Being a young mom is what brought her to me, and I’ll always feel lucky for that.” Yes, I can say the same about my own daughter – despite the bumps on our own journey together, when I could not financially support the two of us and didn’t have the kind of family support the author had on her own journey, I was no longer married to my daughter’s father and he didn’t believe in paying child support nor did I want to fight him for it.

Kelsey is a Copywriter and Freelance Writer. You can find her at LinkedIn here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamkelsey/.

Turning 18

I have sons that are 18 and 21. The 21 year old is more of an adult now than the 18 year old but maturity is making changes in the younger boy’s perspectives. My daughter grew up away from me. At 3 years old, she ended up with her dad and a step-mother because I simply could not earn enough to support the 2 of us with child care necessary to even to to work – added to that rent, food, pediatrician bills, clothes, etc. During her childhood, communication was always difficult. I didn’t live in the same town and felt the disapproval of her parenting adults when I tried to visit. I even gave her a prepaid calling card so she call me when it was the least disruptive in her family life. I do remember seriously looking forward to when she was mature and no longer lived with them. Thankfully, we do have a good relationship – maybe not perfect and I blame myself for the feelings of abandonment she has experienced.

Anyway, I do understand the perspectives in this birth mother’s story.

My younger child’s 18th birthday is coming up this month. We haven’t had any contact since last year, when his adoptive mother got upset that I had posted something about 17 years gone, one to go. Somehow she assumed that this meant that I wanted the kid to come live with me when they turned 18, but I just meant that the control freak adoptive mother would have less power over him then.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine who adopted kids from Russia with his ex-wife has been completely alienated from them, and posted that he regrets ever adopting them in the first place. I guess his ex won whatever game she was playing. (This blogger’s note – a lot of people who adopted from Russia experienced huge challenges with those children.)

I’ve been tempted to just post publicly that the adoptive mother wins, that I regret ever having kids at all. When I saw “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” I thought about how there is no universe where I would have chosen to have kids and have her adopt them. Even if I’d been dying of cancer, I would have picked someone else to raise my kids. She’s been horrible to me so many times over the last 18 1/2 years, and still every few years, she’ll initiate contact with me and just pretend like all the past awfulness didn’t happen, or maybe that we’re equally at fault. She’s never apologized for anything, I don’t think she understands the concept. She’s said that she wants me to respect her as a “mother”, but I can’t even pretend to.

If on their 18th birthday, I posted that I regret that I had kids, would that make the adoptive mother happy? Is that what she wants? If I was really a horrible mother, then wouldn’t it make sense that I regret attempting to raise children? What does she want from me in order to at least not guilt trip them about any attempt to contact me? If I groveled before the Queen (the adoptive mother) and apologized for trying to raise my kids instead of being a docile handmaid, would that improve my chances of ever having a relationship with either child as adults? How am I supposed to feel? I guess if neither kid wants anything to do with me, they wouldn’t be checking my Facebook to see what I post.

This blogger’s perspective – There are no win situations in life and we simply can only do the best we can do.

Doing Good in Uganda

Ageto Gertrude Amony

This story was posted in a community I am part of –

So awhile ago I reached out to this community seeking some direction, I was stuck with three kids from my husband who died and left them in my care (their mom died before we met) and I am a 29 year old living in Uganda!

After the frustration of taking care of the kids through some hard days with zero support from family members and friends, I felt that I didn’t have any other choice but to place the kids for adoption believing that would be best for them and their own well being and future. We were about to be thrown out of our home due to accumulated rent. Just getting our daily food was a big hassle plus clothing costs and other bills.

One of the very kindest person I have ever met, was in this community. She took her time to understand my situation and started helping us with whatever help she could offer, intending to make our burden less heavy. Truly, she has seen us through the most difficult moments in our life.

She helped me purchase a sewing machine and the materials I needed to get back into my tailoring business. I had sold it due to our financial hardships. Life is starting to look a lot better and the happiness and joy she has brought into our lives with her assistance is unmatched, I have a lot to be thankful for but am choosing to be grateful for the opportunity to be able to take care of the kids and seeing them grow into the kind of adults that their biological parents would be proud of.

To that person, I lack words to tell you how grateful I am but may you also achieve everything good in this life. Thank you.

Find her at WordPress to view some of her clothing designs – agetostitches.wordpress.com. Order clothing on her Facebook page here – Ageto’s Stitches.

Often It Isn’t Intentional

Short again on time today. Seems to happen too often in this holiday season. Learned about a new “adoptee related” Facebook page today – The Healing Adoptee. Sharing some wise insight from there today.

There are lots of ways that humans experience loss. Most humans are allowed to grieve those losses. Those of us on the adoptee side of adoption have generally not been allowed to grieve the loss that we experienced in infancy and childhood.

Ungrieved loss causes trauma. When a person experiences trauma they develop coping mechanisms which generally are not healthy. One of these coping mechanisms is deflection. When we hear something that we don’t like the idea of (our self) having done (that) we will think, “No, I didn’t do that.” I know that I don’t like hearing that I hurt somebody else because it causes a loss to my sense of self respect, and how I want to present myself to the world at large.

When we use deflection immediately upon hearing that we caused somebody else pain it causes that person more pain, And then they lose respect for us. Me personally, I prefer to be respected by other people. Therefore when I was told recently, that I caused someone pain I took a few deep breaths and accepted that my words had been hurtful to that person, whether I intended those words to hurt or not. Having decided to use a coping skill of deep breathing instead of a coping mechanism, deflection, I saved my self-respect by not continuing to hurt the person that I had been having the conversation with.

I apologized for unintentionally using unhelpful coping mechanisms in my conversation with her. It would be nice to see the online adoptee circles benefit from taking a moment to stop when we feel as though someone else’s pain is triggering our grief, take some deep breath, recenter and move forward with the intention of being gentle with one another, by not maintaining the use of the deflection coping mechanisms.

Reproductive Justice

And Reproductive Justice MUST include adoptee voices because adoptees are intimately familiar with the same systems of white supremacist violence that make reproductive justice necessary. Today’s blog is thanks to an op-ed by Tina Vasquez in LINK>Prism. The goal of this series about reproductive justice and adoption was simple – disrupt the adoption storytelling that has become the norm in mainstream media. These feel-good stories from the perspective of adoptive parents rarely include the voices of adoptees or question the preponderance of “cheap, easy, and fast” transracial and international adoptions by evangelicals that amount to little more than child trafficking.

No more salvation narratives. No more narratives of gratitude. No more framing adoption as a “win-win.” No more white saviors. We will question adoption as a system—its power dynamics, its economics, and its privileging of certain “reproductive destinies.” “Out of the Fog” is a phrase adoptees often use to describe facing the reality of their adoptions.

LINK>Operation Stop Child Protective Services (CPS) was founded by Amanda Wallace. She spent 10 years as a child abuse investigator before realizing that “she had become the silent enforcer for an oppressive system.” She now lends her insider knowledge to families navigating the system and trying to regain custody of their children.

About 27% of adoptions are transracial, according to a recent survey from the Department of Health and Human Services: birth mothers are disproportionately women of color, and adoptive parents are overwhelmingly white. Low-income Black and Native American children are the most likely to be separated from their families. Poverty is often interpreted as neglect when applied to these people.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, white evangelicals wasted no time communicating their desire to take the babies that result from forced pregnancies. Never mind that most people denied abortion care simply become parents and that there is little evidence linking abortion bans to increases in adoption.

Time and time again, the solution offered to state violence is adoption, yet we fail to center adoptees whose lived experiences and areas of expertise touch every injustice and systemic problem our movements battle against. This is especially true when it comes to reproductive justice. While efforts are being made to explicitly discuss adoption as a reproductive justice issue, adoptees’ voices are still not being uplifted in these conversations. Adoptees are building their own movements—including Facebook groups like LINK>Adoptees for Choice—but will movements for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice invite them into the fold?

Closing An Open Is Common

Don’t believe the promises. Today’s story.

At 16 years old, I found out that my father and stepmother had given a child up for adoption. I believe that happened about 8-10 years prior to my finding out. I’m 39 and so, I think, she’s 31 now, according to a people search but it may not even be her.

It was supposed to be an open adoption but the adoptive parents quickly stopped that. They made it impossible to see and or contact her (I only recently learned this part). So I know who adopted her and a general idea of where they live(d). I don’t know anything more than that except that they’re deeply religious, like very hypocritically so.

Around the time that she was 16, and it still wasn’t legal for me to try and initiate contact, I found her on Facebook. I made a public post expressing my desire to meet and get to know my sister. I also PMd her, saying “I can’t tell you who I am directly but I hope you read my public post”.

Well, her adoptive father saw it and wrote back. I cannot remember exactly what he said but after that, contact was abruptly cut. (Not sure if it was me or him who did it – it was so long ago.)

Not sure how much later but I found out my current (and new) stepmom had found her and even friended her on Facebook. I seized my moment and sent her a friend request and a message explaining who I was. I do not remember the exact details but we did text a few times and the last time we spoke I was telling her she might be an aunt (I never did go through with that pregnancy unfortunately – I was 24ish at the time). If memory serves me accurately, she mentioned me to either her adoptive mom or dad. Then, I suddenly lost contact again (my guess is they made her cut contact with me). I never was able to contact her again and she didn’t contact me.

Fast forward to the present day, I am truly heartbroken. I want to know what happened so long ago. Does she even want to know me or know that she’s an aunt to two crazy kids ? I don’t know what crap her adoptive parents have put in her head about me. I want so much to approach her adoptive “father” and demand to know the truth.

What’s fucked up is that her entire childhood she grew up one street behind our father (out in the country, so actually a good 5 miles apart). Her adoptive father owns a local HVAC business and I know where it is.

What should I do next ? As far as I can tell, I cannot find a Facebook or number. The only address I can find is that people search one, which may not even be her. I don’t want to just roll up unannounced. My only option is to approach her adoptive father and I am admittedly extremely terrified. I’m 100% positive he’s followed me over the years (my various social medias) and hates me, as I’m clearly pro LGBTQ+ and an atheist. Everything he stands against, as a Orange clown voting douche canoe (LOL). Anyway…

I’m lost. He could either be all “I’ve been waiting for this, here’s her info” or a big old FU “you’ll never meet her” and the anxiety is killing me because I fear I will absolutely curse him out and make a major scene, if he denies me.

Do I have any right to try and establish contact ? I don’t want to push anything on her but judging by the past he’s going to be a major roadblock – he always has been. I don’t know how to approach this.

A response (and I really like the humor in this one) – If she’s 31, you have the exact same legal right to meet her, as you do any other legal adult. She may choose to ignore you – due to the influence, manipulation or other coercion by her adoptive family. My unethical life pro tip (I have used this successfully, though never in an adoption scenario) is to approach dad*. Your name is <most common girl name of your generation, region> and you went to high school with Sister. You’ve just moved back to this area and you remember her as so kind and she taught you about Jesus and you’re looking to reconnect. Could he please pass on your phone number to her? *If he knows what you look like, or you don’t look like you could have gone to high school with her, have a friend do this instead.

Another suggestion was this – I would send her a letter, but if she still lives with her adoptive parents and they know your name, then I would actually put a different name on the return address. It may even be a good idea to use a different return address. if possible. One where the adoptive parents wouldn’t be able to search it and see you or your parents name connected to it. Maybe even get a PO box.

In your letter, explain the situation exactly as you remember it, making sure that she knows that you only found out about her years after the adoption took place. Let her know that you’ve always had a desire to meet and know her. Just be honest and share your feelings. Let her know that you’ll respect whatever she decides but that you fear her adoptive parents have been making the decisions regarding allowing contact with you. However, maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s actually been her decision all along. Let her know, you’ll respect her wishes but you just wanted to reach out to make sure that neither of you were missing out on a much wanted relationship.

And of course, do a DNA test !! It certainly helped me in my own family genetic roots discovery journey.

Lament and Repentance

From an adoptive parent’s perspective –

We became foster parents to “help the whole family” and adopted our son (met him at 5 weeks in the NICU, brought him home at 6 weeks, adopted him at 2 years). He was our 8th placement- some families we were able to be helpful towards more than others, I can see my failures or ignorance too.

We have kept a private Facebook page to keep biological parents updated with pictures and an ability to message. Some family members have a recent relationship with our son, and I feel like we have all gained family. BUT, the biological parents aren’t safe (actively using drugs).

I hear you adoptee’s. I hear how you hate adoption. I hear your lack of control, choice, autonomy. Hating that your name was changed, lost culture, lost history, lack of belonging, desire for real change in the system and legislation. I hear you. Your feelings are valid and real. Thank you for sharing with us and allowing us to learn and gain understanding and mourn with you.

As an adoptive parent, I sit in lament and repentance – over my ignorance (even after lots of books and trainings), my savior/rescuer habits and mentality, my selfishness and self centered ness. And I’m just sad with you, and sad with my child.

My question…What were things said to you/done/moments of clarity or understanding that helped you bond and attach to your adoptive parents? I understand it’s a journey and a process, but I still want emotional health and intelligence for my teen.

PS – have been in therapy with an adoption specialist for 3 years.

From an adoptee in response –

Do you have any idea how hard it is to love yourself as an adoptee ? F*** your bonding. Kids will bond to others when their brain says it’s safe. And some don’t at all. At the end of the day, the child may never naturally attach to you but that isn’t saying they won’t naturally attach to others. Trying to have those children identify non-biologicals as being the traditional family roles, when they do not actually fit (mom, dad, etc) is not helping make the kids feel like part of your family. It’s an attempt to replace the family they already have. It’s easier for you but it’s harmful for them. Look into support groups for kids of addicts. Keep learning more about active addiction and what is a threat and what is not. Actively support and promote a bond with the original parents, while teaching your adoptee boundaries and healthy coping.

Buyer’s Beware

LINK> Elle magazine has an article – Inside America’s Adoption Fraud Industry – by Sarah Green. Stories like those shared in that article are not new to people involved in adoption related communities. And generally speaking, the internet has brought not only more contact for many of us with family and friends, plus a wealth of information we may not have encountered otherwise, but also the danger of being taken in a scam. If you are thinking of adopting this way, do read the article for examples of red flags and safe ways to proceed.

One couple in the story spent dozens of hours and thousands of dollars perfecting every detail for their baby’s homecoming — from building and furnishing his nursery, to stocking frozen breastmilk and baby supplies. Arriving in Houston Texas, instead of a baby they met disappointment. Meeting with their lawyer on a deserted restaurant patio, “All I can remember is our lawyer sitting us down and opening with, ‘I think this is a scam. I’m so sorry’.” Deep down, they knew he was right.

Sadly, this deception is not uncommon. America’s public adoption industry includes high infant price tags, often years-long wait times and a frequent lack of autonomy. This has prompted thousands of couples to look into alternative resources, such as social media, in order to take personal control. In America, privately-handled adoptions are not outlawed as they are in many other countries. This unprecedented shift towards reliance on a federally unregulated market has created the perfect breeding ground for scammers wanting to exploit hopeful adoptive parents.

Social media adoptions represent a significant trend where prospective parents and birth mothers locate each other independently, with little or no professional assistance. Only 18,300 babies are voluntarily relinquished for adoption annually, yet over a million American families hope to adopt each year — this translates to 55 families vying for each adoptable infant. In 2022, adoption ads have sprung up all over Instagram and TikTok, featuring strategic hashtags and polished profiles of eager couples promoting themselves as the perfect parents for any available newborn. 

The scale of adoption fraud has not been quantified. There are no publicly available statistics on the prevalence of this crime. One FBI investigator believes that adoption fraud is as prevalent as any other financial crime. There are also elements of shame and hurt that prevent victims from admitting what has happened to them. It appears to be an under-reported crime.

Social media has allowed this type of criminal activity to transcend state borders. Whatever legal or procedural safeguards a state imposes, the internet can render them meaningless. This makes it nearly impossible for victims to pursue legal action. However, a Georgia state law passed in July 2021 made both adoption fraud and deception illegal. If someone allows you to expend money on a reasonable reliance of a false adoption plan, it is now a prosecutable offense.

There is even a Facebook group dedicated to LINK> Ending Adoption Scams. Their ever-growing list of known scammers has become an invaluable resource for countless prospective parents.

An Alternative to Adoption

Even before I knew so much about adoption, when secondary infertility became an obstacle to my husband’s desire to be a father, my OB-GYN said, “there is another way.” Now that I know more about the trauma that adoption causes, than I knew at that time, I will always consider this the best way. Even before we knew about that, my husband and I rejected the idea of adopting children. I do feel that sperm donors are more worrisome because the history of that kind of donation may include many, many half siblings. I have a biological, genetically related, grown daughter and two grandchildren, so having been there and done made accepting the “other” way easier for me personally.

Distance prevents us from having a closer relationship with our donor but my children have met her on more than one occasion. They are aware of her and that she has children, two sons and a daughter, which she has raised. Occasionally, I show them pictures of her and those children, when she shares them at Facebook. She has always been interested in the boys, while being non-intrusive but totally open to any relationship they may want to create with her. They have a private method of contact with her, if they wish to use that, through 23 and Me.

The Guardian today has another family’s story. “They used her eggs to have a baby. Now they’re one big family.” by Ellie Houghtaling, with photographs by Bridget Bennett. The subtitle notes – “Anonymity is meant to protect donors, but taking another path can afford a different sort of security – and new ways to think about how to raise a kid.” We took a similar path, our donor was a stranger we “met” on the internet and had what is called a “known donation”. We have not had exactly the same style of parenting as in this article. We have always been open and transparent with our sons about how they were conceived because they were wanted and not some kind of accident.

It is rare for families to meet the stranger donating eggs to them. In the US, egg and sperm donation is usually a closed process. It is more common for a family to hear about the donor through an agency. With anonymous donation, the couple may receive only basic, non-identifying features about their potential donor – such as their university or their eye color – without ever learning their name or hearing their voice. Most donors go through some testing. In the case of egg donation, hormone injections are utilized over a period of time to procure whatever number of eggs the donor produces. With agency facilitated anonymous donation methods, the donor is never told whether their donation was successful, who the family is, or what any offspring that result look like.

Before our first procedure (she donated again for our second son), we spent time with our donor and her youngest son. We were respectful of what she was doing for us. Both times, we provided her with whatever comforts she suggested would be helpful after her eggs were retrieved and have stayed in contact with her over the years. Our sons are genetically the same – the sperm and egg sources were the same for both. I see our donor and her children reflected in the appearance of our sons. It makes me happy – which might seem strange to some people – but I think it is a reflection of my fondness and appreciation for her. As far as being their mother – the donor has shown a total understanding of the differences in her and my roles. My sons treat me 100% as their mother, which seems natural and understandable regardless.

Becoming a family thanks to that “other way” has proven to be a good choice for my own family. Our sons seem to understand they would not even exist under any other circumstance.

Guilt

Today, I’ll let the feelings and thoughts speak for themselves. (Not my own personal experience.) From blogger – At The Willow Tree.

Today marks one week since I had to give him away.

You’ve probably heard that being a foster parent is rewarding. You’ve probably heard that it is challenging. You’ve probably heard that there is grief in saying goodbye. You’ve probably heard that there is joy in knowing we were there when it counted.

But have you heard of “foster parent” guilt?

I hadn’t. In fact, since I’ve been fostering, I still haven’t heard anyone mention it. This is the first I’ve spoken of it.

You see I had this sweet little love until Thursday of last week.

He came to us at three weeks old. He had to have an extended stay in the hospital to help his little body detox, followed by two failed placement attempts with relatives… they gave him back to CPS, TWICE.

I remember his perfect little face, fingers and toes on the day he came HOME. Now he’s almost six months old. He’s finally sleeping through the night, two weeks ago he rolled over for the first time and he’s almost sitting up on his own! He’s devouring any solid food he can get his cute, chubby little hands on. He is a real smiler, it literally goes from ear to ear. He can’t help it. He is my happy boy. He looks to me for comfort and security. You see, I was his constant. I was his safe place. I was his everything, until last Thursday.

My home was the only one he’s ever known. My arms were the ones that he’s happiest in. My voice is the one that calmed him. My family was his family. He trusted me totally, completely, utterly, unquestionably.

And what shatters my heart is that I had to betray his trust. He wasn’t mine to keep. I know that – BUT HE DIDN’T.

This last week has been a blur. The long awaited court hearing has come and gone. I found out that the home approval had last minute been approved for another relative. The judge approved moving my boy again to yet more relatives. I had two hours after the court hearing to pack what I could, say goodbye and drop my baby off in an unfamiliar town, in a strange parking lot with more caseworkers. I watched as they drove away with him searching for ME! The guilt is crushing.

I had to give him away.

And as much as that hurt me, the thing that I can’t bear is how it has hurt him. How his little innocent heart, which believed I would protect him from everything, is now so deeply and irreparably hurt by me.

Please don’t be quick to jump and tell me not to feel guilty. Don’t say it’s not my fault. Don’t remind me of the good I’ve done and how that will set him up so well. Because in my head I know these things. I know them. But however true they are, they can’t change the facts.

Foster care will always, always be second best. And moving these already broken little people on to yet another home will always, always cause even more trauma. It’s unavoidable. It’s not my fault, yes – but I am still caught up in the process. And it is still me who had to look into those sparkling, big brown beautiful eyes, so full of trust and love – and then hand him over to strangers, and leave.

I’m sure he has cried for ME. He has searched for ME. He feels abandoned by ME.

So yes, I am guilty. And I am heartbroken. And so incredibly sad and sorry for the unfairness of this world.

But there is hope. And faith. And love. And in the truest, wisest book ever written we are told that love is the greatest.