Curiosity

Morgan Hannah with her mom

Researching Russell Moore for my blog yesterday, I somehow stumbled upon Morgan Hannah with a Medium article titled – I Was Adopted. I’ll share some excerpts and then, if you feel so inclined, you can support her writing by clapping for her piece there.

Morgan writes – “The difference between me and the rest of my family is that they will never know the curiosity of their personal history.” I think this one statement gets to the heart of the issue as to why most people do not understand this passion for a person impacted by adoption to know their origins and family roots. I wasn’t adopted like Morgan was but both of my parents were and it was like there was this black hole or void stretching out into infinity beyond them. So much we didn’t know – cultural background and family medical history. I once had a writer friend as me why adoption matters – then as I tried to explain, in her own words, she understood. She said, “Whether I am interested in my own family history or not, I know I can uncover it.” Precisely. These issues have been behind the effort to force states here in America to open up the sealed adoption records. Each state has its own laws and just under half allow adoptees access when they reach the age of maturity. My parents died clueless about their own origins.

Continuing on with some excerpts of Morgan’s own thoughts about all of this. She notes that New Jersey had passed a law to open access to original birth certificates for adoptees. “Then I read in the article that birth parents were sending requests for anonymity. Parents have every right to conceal their names, request no contact, and avoid letting the public know that they had a child given for adoption.

She states, “But why the hell would anyone do that?”

Morgan goes on to share – According to the article, state organizations such as New Jersey Right to Life and Catholic Conference worry that birth mothers will feel betrayed. The enactment of this law could cause an increase in abortions due to women fearing their pregnancy might be discovered.

There it is again – it is about how Christianity promotes adoptions as a counter to abortions.

Morgan had read that The Donaldson Adoption Institute released a report in November 2016 that looks at the thought process and influences that determine a mother’s choice to give up a child to adoption. She goes on to share that – According to the report, many new mothers say they felt social stigmas related to their religious beliefs, fear of being judged or being a single mother, along with emotional and self imposed physical isolation.

To balance her article, she adds this about why women have chosen abortions. Severe health related issues can make abortion the only choice, another report says. The Guttmacher Institute’s 2004 survey reports that “among the structured survey respondents, the two most common reasons were “having a baby would dramatically change my life” and “I can’t afford a baby now” (cited by 74% and 73%, respectively)… Women also cited possible problems affecting the health of the fetus or concerns about their own health (13% and 12%, respectively).”

Morgan did eventually find her original mother and so writes – “I am appreciative of knowing who my birth mother is and of having a deeper understanding of my identity. I fully believe that adopted children have the right to know the full details of their life, including genealogy and medical history.”

She is also Pro-Choice, writing – “I also believe women should have authority over their lives and their bodies, and I encourage everyone to be open minded about the difficult choices young women have to make about childbirth. With more people understanding the issues associated with adoption and abortion, the more support a new mother will have.” I absolutely agree with Morgan.

Schizophrenic Identity

Lately, I’ve been reading a book with the title Healing the Split by John Nelson MD. The subtitle is “Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill”. It is a topic of interest to me. I’ve not read very far into the book and it is a lot of pages but it seems worth the time. I give it approx an hour a day but am taking notes, so I don’t go very far but do have lots of time to digest the content.

This caused me to think about how it might apply to adoptees. It cannot be anything but a bit odd to know you were born to someone else – not the parents who are raising you. And that you had a different name at birth but the people who are raising you changed your name. You have no knowledge of genetic relatives, no natural mirror of your self that most people have their whole lives and no family medical history of any quantity or quality to convey to your doctor.

It is known that adoptees in general suffer more mental health effects than the general population and given what I just outlined above, it can come as no surprise that an adoptee might. While genetics always contributes some vulnerabilities in any person, adoptees have slightly more mental health problems – such as depressive symptoms, bipolar disorder, higher neuroticism and loneliness. Researchers into the impacts have found a slightly elevated genetic risk of depression, schizophrenia and neuroticism among adoptees. Personally, I believe this could be the result of conflicted feelings in the gestating mother. Not that I am a scientist or expert in this field.

The adoption of children may be a fundamental method of building families for some couples. However, adoptees often face subsequent adaptive challenges associated with family stress at the time of birth and during the adoption process. How could it be otherwise ? The main factor in these effects is both environmental and genetic.

It is known that psychiatric disorders, which includes depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are, to varying degrees, inheritable. The good news is that adoptees in a study reported being happy and satisfied with their lives. When compared to the general population, the study participants were more likely to be male, to smoke, have less education, attain a lower income, and to experience more stressful life events. 

Research found that genetic risk and adoption are both predictors of psychiatric problems. So, importantly both adoption and genetic risk contribute only a small amount to the individual differences in mental health. It does not surprise me that there are many factors that contribute to the development of mental health problems in any individual. It is also not surprising then that adopted children may face both special environmental and genetic risks which lead to adjustment problems and potentially mental illness. 

The Tangled Red Thread

Born into the social experiment of closed adoption in the early 1960s, Noelle was taken home directly from the hospital at the age of three days. Her early life in rural Washington state seemed idyllic. With loving parents, two brothers, and her beloved pets, she had a childhood to be envied. But all that was ripped away, first by the violent loss of her innocence, followed by the slow death of her mother.

Essentially left to raise herself, she embarks on a lifelong journey of self-discovery, guided at unexpected times by “the voice” only she can hear. Even the most mundane choices, such as where to go to college, seem to be divinely directed.

Haunted by recurring loss, Noelle is determined to find her birth mother, to uncover the secrets of the feelings and visions she cannot contain or control. In surviving the breakdown of her husband and marriage, she realizes she has a psychic connection with the family she never knew, and in a series of incredible events reunites not only with them, but also eventually with her soulmate.

A true account of one woman’s life, existing as not one, but two people: one born and one adopted, and enduring the reality of not completely belonging in either world.

Elle Cuardaigh asks these questions, “If adoption is beautiful…

Why do people lie about it?

Why isn’t it the first choice for couples who want children?

Why has it been this way for less than one hundred years?

Why doesn’t everyone give up a baby to someone who can’t have one?

Why does rehoming not only happen but is completely legal?

Why does Biblical scripture have to be twisted in order to justify it?

Why does the Quran condemn it?

Why isn’t it done this way all over the world?

Why are people in other countries horrified when they learn what adoption means here?

Why have several “sending” countries banned international adoption?

Why are adoption agencies being sued or forcibly shut down?

Why do adoptees turn to DNA testing to avoid dating a sibling?

Why is family medical history still the first question asked at doctor appointments?

Why are records kept from the very people they pertain to?

Why is a court order needed to see the records?

Why are adoptees terrified to ask their adopted parents questions about it?

Why do adopted parents swear their families to secrecy?

Why did the Catholic church get rich off its corruption?

Why is coercion routinely employed to get “birth mothers” to relinquish?

Why are there consistently over 100,000 eligible children waiting years for “their forever families”?

Why do white children cost more than black children?

Why is it okay to think of children as commodities as in the above question?

Why do the American Adoption Congress, Adoptee’s Liberty Movement Association, Bastard Nation, Concerned United Birthparents, and numerous other organizations like them exist?

Why do so many adoptees search?

Why did the Australian government officially apologize for its role in it?

Why are adoptees who are murdered by their adopted parents still considered “lucky”?

Why were adoptees used for medical and psychological experiments?

Why are adoptees the punchline of jokes?

Why is it recognized as a childhood trauma?

Why are adoptees considered “as if born to” their adoptive family, yet are subject to conditional terms for incest?

Why in cases where the baby goes back to the natural mother is it called “failure”?

Why are teen adoptees overrepresented in mental health services?

Why do so many rely on it as an industry for their paycheck?

Why is it patterned after the system Georgia Tann – a known kidnapper, trafficker, child killer, and pedophile – developed?

Why is it used as a tool of war and cultural genocide?

Why can’t all adoptees get a passport?

Why are others deported?

Why are adoptees four times more likely than the non-adopted to attempt suicide?

Why can’t we have this conversation?”

Inherited Adoption Trauma

~ Miley Cyrus ~

In an apparent case of inherited adoption trauma, Miley Cyrus shared that her mom was adopted. She believes that she inherited some of the feelings her mom had (I can believe that since my mom was also adopted).  The feelings of abandonment are real.  An adoptee, and at times this includes their children, has a need to prove that they are worthwhile and valuable.

Miley also shared that her dad’s parents divorced when he was 3 (same thing happened to my daughter – her dad and I divorced when she was that age).  In Miley’s case, she says that her dad raised himself.

She goes on to share that she did a lot of family history research and found there a lot of addiction and mental health challenges. This was her effort to answer the question – “Why am I the way that I am?”

She firmly believes and I agree – that by deeply understanding the past, we understand our present and create a better future from that awareness.

Miley said – “It’s really hard because especially being young, there’s that stigma of ‘you’re no fun.’ It’s like, ‘honey, you can call me a lot of things, but I know that I’m fun.’ The thing that I love about it is waking up 100%, 100% of the time. I don’t want to wake up feeling groggy. I want to wake up feeling ready.”

Miley Cyrus has now been sober for 6 months.

Break On Through

Read this request for advice this morning –

Dear Amy: When my mother was a teenager, she gave birth to a son and put him up for adoption.

I found out about it as a child only because my grandmother became quite mean in her later years and told me about it to embarrass my mom. My mother and I never discussed it, and honestly I had pretty much forgotten about it.

Many years later, I bought one of those DNA testing kits and later got one for my mom, too. A few days ago, we both received an “ancestry sharing request” from a person the DNA service has identified as being my half brother.

I asked my mom via text (I am currently living outside the country) if she was going to respond to him, but she didn’t answer the question.

I’m not sure if I should push the topic further with her.

Also, do I have any obligation to respond to this half brother? My gut instinct is to not respond at all. I found him on Facebook and saw that his posts were all far too political and religious for me.

Thoughts?

— Wondering Half-Sibling

Amy’s response –

Wondering Half-Sibling: Based on what you report, people in your family may have a pattern of dredging up challenging topics, and then burying them again when they hit too close to the heart — or simply become too uncomfortable to face.

One of my favorite quotes is from the poet Robert Frost: “…the best way out is always through.” I take this to mean that almost any challenging situation is made better — ultimately — by going through it, rather than around it.

Yes, you could take your half brother’s social media postings as a (faint) justification to ignore him. You have the right to ignore him. But he has the right to some factual knowledge about his own biological and medical history, and you should be able to help provide that without necessarily entering into a relationship that you obviously don’t feel inclined to have.

Understand, too, that if your brother’s values and world-view are so very different from yours, he also may not wish to enter into a sibling relationship with you, either.

Yes, this would definitely reveal some very challenging truths for your mother. Given how her own mother treated him, she might not be able to face this reality. You could assume that when she and her family placed her baby for adoption, they did so with the knowledge that this chapter was closed — never dreaming that some day DNA would enable people to circumvent adoption contracts. It would be kindest if you contacted your mother (perhaps by phone, not text) and asked, gently and without judgment, if she would like to talk about this.

~ source for the above – The Washington Post

Some further thoughts from this blogger

It is true that the advent of inexpensive DNA testing has actually been a godsend for adoptees locked out of their own true origins, with original birth certificates denied them, with the truths of how they came to be adopted denied them – because the DNA tells the truth of our genes.  DNA testing has made all the difference for me as the child of two adoptees in finally knowing who all 4 of my original grandparents were and making connections with my true genetic relatives.  With over 6 decades of living robbed from us, building relationships is slow and not terribly productive with some.  With others there is definitely a heartfelt connection that I am likely much more grateful to have than they could ever understand.

Secrets

Reflecting on another blog I wrote several years ago, I see how it applies to this one. I believe also that those that have something to hide from other people will divert one’s attention away from that secret anyway. However there is a current of support for truth in Life that will “out” what should or needs to be known. That is why secrets can’t be “kept”. Secrets are the answer to the question and the answer will out itself because a secret usually does not exist for any good reason. For some people it is only in the seeking for answers to questions deep within them that they have the courage to go on living. It is as though the impossibility of finding an answer is itself a motivation that keeps them keeping on in vitally alive ways.

Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote – “Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

My mom had questions about how she ended up adopted because she did know that the Tennessee Children’s Home Society was the agency and that her conveyance to her adoptive parents occurred in Memphis.  In fact, growing up we all believed she had been born in Memphis.  At some point, she learned she had been born in Richmond VA.  This puzzled her.  How could she have been born there but then adopted as an infant at Memphis ?  She had heard about the Georgia Tann scandal when it broke in 1950 and she was still a school girl.  She worried then that she might have been a victim and her adoptive mother, while admitting that her adoption had taken place through that agency, said my mom was not “one of those” babies.

Life moved on.  My mother gave birth three times, each time to girl babies.  But the questions never really went away for her.  Then in the 1990s, awareness of the Georgia Tann scandal hit the national consciousness 40 years later with features on 60 Minutes and on Oprah facilitating reunions between separated mothers and their children.  My mom learned about Denny Glad in the 60 Minutes broadcast and did speak with her, learned some minimal information and received some advice.  So, my mom requested her adoption file from the state of Tennessee.  Sadly, this was premature in the sense that her inquiry occurred before the state was forced to open it’s files for the victims of Georgia Tann.  They did offer to ask my mom’s original parents if they were okay with her receiving her file.

Sadly, they informed her that her mother had died several years before devastating my mom’s desire to let her mother that she was okay.  As a mother herself, my mom felt her mother would want to know.  She also had a mysterious health condition and no family medical history to assist in revealing whether this was genetic and even what the condition might actually be as a diagnosis was proving hard to come by.

The state had promised to make every effort to contact my mom’s parents.  They did not.  They only sent a minimal inquiry to the Arkansas Driver’s License Bureau to determine if my grandfather had a current Arkansas license.  They replied “no record”.  Of course they had no record.  He had been dead for 30 years.  They could have checked the Social Security Death Index but they never tried.  This really vexed my mom (not that she knew he was dead but he was much older than her mother – my mom did know that much) because they denied her the adoption file on the basis that they were not able to determine whether he was alive or dead.

It is really a shame – these secrets that adoption has forced on it’s victims.  Seeing her adoption file would have answered at least some of my mom’s questions.  The question I can’t answer (since I now do have her adoption file) is why her father left her mother when she was 4 months pregnant because they were legally wed.  I have to live with that question unanswered because there is no one alive who could answer it for me.

Who’s Right Is It ?

It is a sad truth that adoptees are often treated as second class citizens and denied their basic human right to know the details of their identity.

Today, I read about an adoptee struggling with her original mother’s insistence on keeping the original father’s identity a secret from her.  In the course of having DNA testing, she located some cousins and has now identified her father.  Stalking him online, she has relieved herself of a serious concern.  As an adoptee, the extreme secrecy made her worry that there was something wrong with her DNA. She wondered if her conception might be related to incest and this concern caused her to worry about having children.

The original mother seems to be a difficult relationship.  For one thing, she thinks this daughter should thank her for giving birth to her. The nun who facilitated the adoption, has commented to this woman that her mother’s life would have been easier if she’d chosen abortion. The time frame was after Roe v Wade.  I remember hearing from my nephew’s adoptive mother that my youngest sister who gave him up for adoption once wrote them when the boy was in his teens, she expressed being hurt that they did not thank her for what she had done for them.  They were quite mystified by this.

Yet, this woman knows that according to her original mother, that the mother has been tormented by what she did in surrendering this child to adoption for 22 years.  This is really not surprising.  When it comes to our children, surrender or abortion, can cause lifelong regrets for one reason or another.  It is always fraught.

Where it has gotten weird and where the relationship between mother and daughter has broken down is the mother’s refusal to reveal the father (she said it was a one night stand and because my nephew’s conception was a similar event, I know these things do happen).  Even when offered extreme “protections” such as being asked if this mother would put the name of the woman’s original father in a safe deposit box, give the key to an attorney and sign a contract with her that she could only access it in the case that she was incapacitated and the woman needed this information for a life and death medical reason for herself or her family – the original mother simply said, “No”.

Her mother’s repeated statements that she loves her ring hollow, even insulting, when this mother appears to be willing to literally let her daughter die before divulging the name of her original father. Oh, the harm secrets do.  It seems the woman came from a wealthy family who never was told about the birth of this daughter.

The original mother became a bit unglued – she accused her daughter of trying to get her family’s money (she claims that she doesn’t need or want it), of trying to get her thrown in jail for perjuring herself regarding knowing who the original father is, which would rob her of raising her sons (the woman notes – we’re well beyond the statute of limitations, and of course I’m not trying to get her thrown in jail), and has told the nun who facilitated the adoption (and who seems to be mediating the complications even now), that this woman withheld her personal medical history from her mother so she can’t give it to her sons (yet, the woman did give her mother a detailed medical history), among other things.

Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for her after a happy childhood with adoptive parents that never lied to her and gave her love and a family life.  She has been able to discover that her original father is a normal, healthy person with a normal-looking healthy family (including half brothers related to her).  She feels like a huge weight of uncertainty has now been lifted from her shoulders. Even so, she is extremely hesitant to contact him.

And she is sickened by being someone’s dirty secret. She feels she would be complicit in the lie if she allows who her father is to remain a secret. Yes, being an adoptee is painful, traumatic and never easy.  Just in case you thought walking away from an unwanted pregnancy would free you. It never does.