Some events are so unspeakable words are hard to find. Acquiring more children will not heal this grief. Today’s story –
“I am a warm and loving mother whose kids were brutally murdered. They were 9 and 12. This happened last year. I was born to be a mom and now, I don’t know if I ever will be again. I’m won’t give up until my dying breath. Adoption is my only option and I thank foster to adopt for that possibility. My children were staying with their dad and he shot them both. They were my whole world. I want to be a mom again. I have so much to give. No one would pick my mess to live but I have faith there is yet another outcome.”
Wow, just wow. OMG, this is so so tragic. My heart breaks for her…. but her grief and tragedy are too big of a burden to put on innocent kids, who already have their own grief and tragedy to deal with from losing their original family. She can’t rely on children to heal her from this grief.
Even under the best intentions, when choosing a semi-closed adoption plan, even after years of contact – emotions can change. So it was, when the relinquished daughter turned 18 and enrolled in college, that a problem set in. It was a blind-sided moment for the birth mother. At her blog site, Her View From Home, under the subcategory, Motherhood – Adrian Collins tells the entire story of occasional in-person contacts, until the hammer came down.
Suddenly, the adoptive parents were no longer supportive of her daughter’s relationship with her birth parents. She’d been instructed to choose between her birth family and her adoptive family. There was no in-between or chance of negotiation. Of course, after so many years, on the cusp of maturity, this baffled Collins. She immediately got on the phone, pleading with them to consider all of them a vital part of their daughter’s life. They wouldn’t budge. Instead, they hurled insults at her.
They accused her of conniving to steal their daughter. They questioned her motives and tore at her character. They jabbed at her most vulnerable spots as a birth mom. And as she sat flabbergasted, all she could think was – “What have I done to deserve this?” Then, of all things, the adoptive mother even belittled her adopted daughter. Collins admits, “my voice escalated into shouts of, Why can’t you just love her?!”
The vindictiveness amazes me. Days later, her adoptive parents removed all financial support from their daughter and said they regretted the adoption. They turned their backs on her and disowned her. Collins felt betrayed. She had entrusted her daughter to them, and now they’d abandoned her. The pain of watching her daughter endure this loss was almost as unbearable as the day Collins had left the hospital without her.
It was her husband (and also the girl’s original birth father) who brought up the idea of re-adoption. “We can take care of you,” he told her. Since she was already 18, she only needed to give her consent for an adult adoption to take place. In essence, her own birth parents became their daughter’s legal parents once again. Adult adoption is somewhat common between some kinds of parents and foster or stepchildren. It is rare when this occurs between birth parents and their biological/genetic child. They didn’t pressure their daughter in the least and only assured her that their only motive for an adult adoption was to extend even more love to her.
In spite of Collins own doubts about building a strong relationship with the daughter she did not raise, she says – when she looked at her daughter just before the adoption hearing in court – she realized her heart had been fastened to her daughter’s ever since she had carried her in her womb. She had promised to give her daughter the best life possible and she was always willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. True, she wasn’t able to provide that for her daughter at birth. Now, she was happy at a chance to take care of her daughter as an adult. When their names were called to enter the courtroom, she turned to her daughter and smiled. Her daughter smiled back.
She admits – I’ve spent time in reflection about my decision to make an adoption plan. Did everything turn out as planned? Absolutely not. Would things have fared better if I’d kept my daughter in the first place? I can’t say. Sometimes we have to take steps of faith without seeing the whole picture. We can only do what we think is best at a particular time in life.
If we do the best we can, we really can’t get it wrong. That is my own belief. The All That Is uses everything that humans do to make it right – maybe it takes a long time for the right to come out – and even if I don’t live long enough to see that – I do believe it does turn out in the long run. My own “adoption reunion journey” proved as much to me. The whole situation of both of my parents being adopted wasn’t perfect from my own perspective but I would not be alive if it had not happened. I have said before, and I say it again now – it was imperfectly perfect. Sometimes, that is as good as it gets.
On the car radio on Sunday, I caught the tail end of a To The Best Of Our Knowledge episode – Was The Art Worth All The Pain ? – that was an interview with the visual collage artist, Nathaniel Mary Quinn. What really got my attention was, even though he was not an adoptee – abandonment and trauma issues – were quite similar to what most adoptees experience. And his resilience and maturing perspective on what happened to him in his earlier childhood was inspiring and remarkable. At the end of the episode, he indicates the abandonment he experienced gave him faith in a larger reality that he interprets as Divinely guided in which what happened to him was necessary for him to become what he was capable of.
When he was 15, his family simply disappeared, leaving him to fend for himself at his boarding school. He had earned a scholarship at a really high quality school. His mother had died and when he came home for what he expected to be a Thanksgiving shared with his 4 older brothers and father, he found an empty, abandoned apartment. It was traumatic not knowing where any of his family was but he returned to school and worked hard. Really hard. He developed a study schedule and stuck to it because he knew he was one bad report card away from losing his scholarship and becoming homeless.
At school, he was fed 3 or more meals a day and had to wear a uniform so clothes were not an issue. On Sundays, the school band he was part of at Culver Academy in Chicago would put on a parade performance. Afterwards, when everyone else went to lunch, he went to a mound of grass on a golf course and grieved to a song by Al Green – on repeating loop 10 times – for 4 full years.
Today, he is an acknowledged artist with works included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His first solo exhibition was at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Quinn’s work is a complicated blend of painting and drawing that achieves the appearance of collage, a combination of human faces with comic book figures and other provocative images. Quinn describes his art as “luminism.”
“The technique of light,” says Quinn. “It’s the torch that I’m carrying from the platform of cubism. Cubism was a technique designed to show multiple angles and viewpoints of a particular object, but to show it on the same plane. “Well, luminism is designed to show the multiplicity of viewpoints and dispositions of the internalized world of that object.”
“Whereas in cubism one would paint the multiplicity of viewpoints of a cup, luminism will show the multiplicity of viewpoints of the internalized world of that cup,” he says. He applies a perspective of luminism to collages of human, often family, figures from his life. His art draws on a difficult upbringing spent in an impoverished public housing project in Chicago with a broken family.
It can be uncomfortable to look at. His collaged and fragmented figures are meant to demonstrate that we are all the sum of our experiences. In his words, “I hope to convey a sense of how our experiences, both good and bad, operate to construct our identities. I also want to portray a mutual relationship between the acceptable and the unacceptable, the grotesque and what is aesthetically pleasing.” Formed from an amalgam of family photographs, images from articles and advertisements, and his own furious brushstrokes and charcoal marks, the men and women who populate his compositions appear as hybrids, at once monstrous and delicate. For Quinn, they are portraits of his fractured family and images of all human beings’ multi-faceted selves.
I do believe in all the reforms I have previously written about – retaining identity and family history information, not changing names or birth dates and not listing adoptive parents as the original parent. Beyond that is a consideration for guardianship rather than permanent adoption.
All that said, from direct experience, adoptive parents have been a part of my own family’s life in positive ways. First of all – my grandparents by adopting each of my parents. On each side, they were a positive influence on my life and the lives of my siblings as well as on my parent’s lives. They were good people who meant well. What we now know about the wounds suffered by adoptees was not known at the time they took possession of my parents.
My mom’s adoptive parents modeled financial security for us and affirmed the value of advanced education. My dad’s adoptive parents modeled faith and uncompromising personal values for us. My dad’s adoptive parents may even have been responsible for keeping my parents together by getting married and preventing me from being given up when my teenage mother found herself pregnant. I am grateful for that much.
Each of my sisters gave up a baby to adoption and these two children are fine adults. In one case, my niece is showing us what a good and consistent mother she can be. Even though she has been reunited with my family, she has remained steadfast in her appreciation for the people who raised her.
My nephew could not be a higher quality person. His adoptive mother has gone the extra mile to answer the identity questions that evolved as he matured. It appears that even my sister either didn’t know who his actual father was or chose to name the person who had the financial resources to help her make what has proven to be a quality choice as a substitute mother. Given my sister’s very evident mental illness, it is for the best that she didn’t try to raise him.
All that to say, while I remain firmly of the opinion that there are better ways to provide for the welfare of children than adoption, it is not that the adoptive parents in my own family’s life were to blame. It was naive ignorance and the intention to do good – which all of them have.
Adoption is not the gray area it is often portrayed by the industry as. It is more black and white, with that overlap of gray.
As difficult as it may be to fully realize, in order to adopt, on some level you are okay with taking someone else’s child from them. You may not even be willing to consider the pain it causes the original mother and/or father.
This the inconvenient truth at the heart of becoming an adoptive parent. You may want to “believe” you are some kind of heroic savior but you really are simply wanting something (a child) that for whatever reason you don’t believe you can have any other way.
Some people can do this and function adequately to parent that child. Many adoptees, even though they have LIVED that condition, can’t reconcile the thought that this was okay with their adoptive parents.
This is not to judge or dismiss the reality that some children may actually fare better than they would have with their original parents. I can see this in my own family dynamics. Because I have the kind of faith that believes given a long enough view throughout time, it all works out – both at the physical level and in the soul karmic level.
There are always excuses on the part of adoptive parents. What if this ? What if that ? But I did this or I did that. If I had not, then what MIGHT have happened to that child ?
I respect ALL of the adoptive parents that are a part of my family’s life story. The adoption reform movement wishes only that adoptive parents recognize that their decision to adopt a child was driven by a desire to fulfill their own “selfish” motives. To be honest about that. They can admit simply that they wanted kids and couldn’t have them using their own reproductive capabilities. It was always about what they personally wanted for themselves.
It’s not the only thing that would make adoption concepts more honest but it is a beginning on the adoptive parent side of a complicated equation.