Secrecy v. Privacy

I belong to a group that almost 20 years ago divided into a “tell/don’t tell” perspective. I often wonder how that has worked out for the don’t tell group. And if it has served, at what point might their offspring do a inexpensive DNA test and thereby learn the truth – that they were lied to their entire childhood. I’m glad we never thought to go in that direction.

My blog today is inspired by an article in Psychology Today LINK> Secrecy v. Privacy in Donor Conception Families, subtitled Walking the fine line between privacy and secrecy is inherent in donor families. Some of the differences – Privacy is the choice to not be seen, while secrecy is based in fear, shame, or embarrassment. Privacy involves setting comfortable and healthy boundaries. Carrying a family secret is a heavy burden. Donor families based in honesty and transparency have more meaningful and deep relationships.

In that group I mentioned, we each recognized a right to privacy for each other and honoring their right to privacy demonstrated our respect for their choice and was a foundation for trust among us. Withholding information for fear of the consequences implies a negative kind of secrecy. Secrets require a lot of emotional energy and are a heavy burden to carry. Secrecy undermines trust and is therefore harmful within relationships. Privacy, which includes creating healthy boundaries is generally beneficial. Learning when and how to create boundaries is a good lesson to teach one’s children, especially in this age where information seems to flow so readily and once out there, can’t be taken back.

The stigma of infertility is still very present in society and is often the reason why a couple may not want to be open about how they were able to conceive their children. Yet there is also a sense of social responsibility that has mattered to me from the beginning. Women are generally NOT fertile beyond a certain expiration date. When someone conceives at such an advanced age as I did (46 and 49), that could give the wrong impression to another younger woman that they have more time in which to begin their family desire fulfillment than they probably do. There are always exceptions to anything age related but that is a general rule. Much harder to conceive after the age of 40. I conceived very easily in my 20s.

Many children not told the truth about their origin – whether it was adoption, a donor facilitated conception or an illicit affair – still feel that there was something being withheld from them. When they discover the truth, they often feel anger. Even with the more modern openness, such origin stories are still not the norm. Many who are aware of their status may have little opportunity to talk about it to others who understand. Some may not have the language to speak about their experience.

I have given my children the gift of 23 and Me testing and accounts. Both their egg donor and their genetic father are there. This has led to questions from relatives of the donor to one of my sons. My advice to him as tell them to ask their donor about whatever they are curious about. When one donates genetic material, they must be aware that questions may arise in the future. It is only natural. Still, it was my perspective it is up to her as to what or how much she wishes to tell one of HER own relations about the circumstances. Having the 23 and Me channel gives my sons a method of privately communicating with their donor. I also frequently show them photos of her and her other children, so they are more aware of these persons with which they are genetically related. Distance prevents closer, in person relationships at this time, though they have met her in person more than once. I have an interestingly close, psychic and emotionally connected, relationship with my sons. My belief is that it comes from a combination of carrying them in my womb and breastfeeding them for over a year plus being in their lives pretty much 24/7 for most of their childhood (though there have been brief absences for valid reasons).

Better Than Punishment

From an editorial by Dr Ruchi Fitzgerald in LINK>The Hill – It is unimaginable to think that seeking medical care could lead to losing custody of their children, yet this devastating predicament is all too real for pregnant women with addiction in the United States.

In our nation, the systems that aim to protect children from the negative effects of parental substance use often prioritize punitive approaches over proven public health strategies. Fear of being imprisoned, stigmatized, or having their children removed makes many pregnant women with substance use disorder (SUD) afraid to seek medical care, contributing to poor maternal health outcomes. Some state laws, including the law in Illinois where I practice medicine, even mandate that health care professionals report cases of detected controlled substances in a newborn infant as evidence of child neglect. While the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) has no such requirement, CAPTA’s overall approach has led to significant variation in how states, counties, and health care institutions implement its reporting requirements when substance use is involved during pregnancy.

Threatening child removal from a birthing parent with SUD without a risk assessment or evidence of danger to the child is not ultimately improving outcomes for children. Research has long shown that children affected by the trauma of family separation tend to experience worse long-term outcomes on a wide variety of indicators, including education, health, housing, employment, substance use, and involvement with the criminal legal system. With over 400,000 children in foster care across the US, the trauma of separation is widespread.

Forced separation also brings unimaginable pain to new families – triggering in some parents such despair that it deters them from seeking or continuing medical care, including treatment for their SUD. Study after study shows child removal is associated with parental overdose, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, and return to substance use. Public health-oriented policies that can result in better outcomes for families are part of the solution.

As an addiction specialist physician, I am involved with the medical care of pregnant people with SUD, and I have seen counterproductive child welfare and criminal investigations launched after a newborn infant tests positive for a controlled substance. Too often, parents become hopeless about recovery once their children are gone.

Current policies and practices related to substance use during pregnancy also result in serious health inequities. Pregnant and parenting people of color are much more likely to be impacted by forced separation than their white counterparts. Black parents are more likely than white parents to be reported for substance use to the child protection system at their child’s delivery despite similar rates of drug use, while Black and Native American children are overrepresented in foster care relative to white children in the setting of parental substance use.

Meanwhile, health outcomes are unnecessarily worse for mothers of color. Since 80% of maternal deaths are due to overdose or suicide, we can save lives with policies and practices that encourage treatment, not punish pregnant women with SUD for seeking it. Policymakers need to remove controlled substance reporting requirements that overreach and contribute to the current punitive approach.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) encourages child protective services agencies not to use evidence of substance use, alone, to sanction parents—especially with child removal; supports eliminating in-utero substance exposure language in child abuse and neglect statutes, and supports policies that extend social services benefits and financial support to families in need.

The US Senate will contemplate reauthorizing and reforming CAPTA this year. Health care professionals who treat pregnant people with medications for addiction, like methadone or buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, do not need to involve child protective services for that reason.

Recovery is possible with the right medical care and support. A pregnant person with addiction seeking medical care deserves a chance to heal and recover with her children. If we want pregnant and parenting people with addiction to access the evidence-based treatment they need, our decision-makers must embrace public health over punitive policies.

A Tough Way To Go

From direct experience (not my own) –

He was in the foster care system from age 3-18, with a failed adoption from the ages of 4-8. This is how broken the foster care system is and how adoption is not always rainbows and butterflies. Excerpts from his story – For a portion of my life my identity was ripped from me, changed, and those who were looking for me could not find me. I was in plain sight living under a different name. After 20 years of silence, I am finally ready to tell my story.

Trigger Warning – What you’re about to read is graphic, disturbing and may be triggering.

I was adopted – Twice. In my personal opinion, I lived a better life with my second adoptive parents than I would have ever lived without them. Yes, I am thankful for the opportunities I do have because of my adoptive parents. Yes, I have chosen to see the good in my life and be grateful for everything I do have. But this is the mature, 27 year old man speaking, not the boy who endured so much trauma that causes the 27 year old man to still go to therapy on a weekly basis. Today, I am what most would consider a successful man.

I was adopted the first time at the age of 4 to what the world thought was a loving home. From the ages of 4-8, behind closed doors I was brutally beaten daily. Some nights I would be locked outside at night in the cold rainy Washington state weather nights in nothing except my underwear. I would be stabbed by forks at the dinner table to the point I was bleeding because I would gag on and throw up my food, then be forced to eat my throw up. I would be told to stick out my tongue, just for her fist to slam up under my jaw, forcing my teeth to slam together and viciously bite my tongue. I would be tucked in at night not with a warm hug or a loving kiss, but rather a hand over my face suffocating me until I stopped moving. Her eyes turned into a cold, chilling midnight black, and she would grit her teeth together and say “I will not stop until your body is done moving. Once you stop moving, I will stop.” I would be grabbed by my neck and choked and slammed to the wall with my feet dangling, my entire 30lb body off the ground and glued to the wall from my neck. She has this super strength, black eyes, and could hold me off the ground by my neck, not letting go until she was satisfied knowing she held the life of the little boy between her palms, against the wall.

I would cry when it was time to line up for the bus at the end of the day in kindergarten while all the other kids would be jumping with joy to be picked up by their parents. I would cry because of the home I knew I was going to. Kids would ask me why I was crying. It’s the end of school and I should be excited. But I wasn’t excited, I was jealous because I knew the first graders got to stay the whole day, but I only stayed half the day, and I was going back to a place worse than hell. I would be asked by not only teachers, but doctors as to why I had bruises all over my body, just to tell them they were from my siblings to avoid my abusive adopted mom from ever finding out I told anyone because I knew if I told anyone I would be brutally beaten. I can go on and on, but I’ll end it here for now because as I type this I am getting dizzy, sick and shaking.

I also had to hear the muffled cries of my brother as he would be choked, beaten and abused while fear and adrenaline would shoot through my veins as I listened to the muffled cries of my twin as I watched his body stop squirming, and almost peacefully slowly stop moving knowing I was next. I quickly learned that once the hand covered my mouth and nose, the quicker I would lay limp, the quicker she would be satisfied and leave the room. I would run away at the sound of punches, slaps, screams and terrifying, gasping cries of my sister knowing my 30lb self had no ability to protect her.

My biological mother gave me up to this family because she trusted them. At first she didn’t give me up. At the age of 3 we were taken from her because she was an alcoholic. We were placed in this home but still visited our mother often. My mother would end up signing away her rights so the family could adopt us. My mother died never knowing the truth about what she signed her rights away for and where she sent her three young children. My mother thought I was going to a home that could provide more love than she could, even though she was an Angel and nothing but comfort to me. I didn’t know what money was, nor did I care she didn’t have any. I didn’t know what drugs or alcohol was, nor did I care that she used/drank them. All I knew was what the warm motherly feeling of love, compassion and dedication was, and that is what I felt in my mothers arms, and only in my mothers arms.

I have struggled with abandonment issues and identity issues my entire life. As a young man I cheated on the mother of my daughter because if I got a glimpse of love or attention from a woman, I did not know how to turn it down. I yearned for love and affection. I dealt with losing my sister. No, she didn’t die, I was ripped away from her after the first adoption failed because the next home simply didn’t want 3 children. I would live in the same town as my sister, the only piece of my mother I had left, just to be denied the ability to see her for years at a time. I have matured immensely and have learned from my mistakes, but the trauma is still rooted deep within. I have used my childhood as motivation to stay strong and push foward to obtain a simple, successful, happy life. That’s all I’ve wanted and that’s all I work towards every day, and to make sure my children have the most loving, stable home I can possibly provide for them.

Even when the hardest part of my childhood was over and I was adopted for a second time, this time to the most amazing, most loving family I could dream of who did everything to love and protect me, I had identity issues. Not with sexual orientation, but with who I was genetically. Where I came from ancestrally. I knew nothing about ME but I lived inside me every day. I never understood why I wasn’t enough for my biological mother and father to change so they could take me back. Why was I never good enough? That’s what I asked myself every day. I asked myself this every time I was told to pack my bags and given a trash bag. I would be moving to yet another foster home. I was told I had no biological family, but I did. Dozens of biological family members existed in the very state and county I lived in, and they were looking for me. I love my second adoptive parents very much, and I am the man I am today because of them. My parents mean absolutely everything to me.

A song I associated myself with, and feel with every fiber in my body is “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride. As a young boy, I would listen to it and it would resonate with me as if the song was specifically written about me, and just for me. There’s no reason why an 8 year old boy should hear that song and feel such a strong connection to it and understand it so perfectly, but I did. No one knew what was happening, and if I told people who knew the family, they wouldn’t believe me. Even one of my adoptive sisters who lived in the home during the abuse denies it and claims it never happened, despite it being my whole world every day living in abuse, because only my brother, sister and I were abused. But it was hidden so well, that some of my abuser’s own biological children weren’t aware – although I know one was, and unfortunately, she inherited the abuse after the adoption failed.

What You Did

So poignant, from a birth mother

As I sat there broken and alone
You saw opportunity

As I sat there and cried my eyes out saying I can’t do this,
I don’t want to do this . . .
You reminded me of things I had said previously that would discredit my parenting.

When I was scared,
You reassured me with . . .
“This is the best thing you can do for your child.”
“This is the most selfless thing.”
“Your child will thank you for this one day.”

When I was down and out
You saw the perfect moment to snatch my baby.

And now, a piece of my soul walks outside of my body. Breathes in air that we don’t share, hurts in ways I’ll never truly understand, has a really tough life in front of him.

It’s truly tragic, and what’s left of my soul shatters, crumbles, breaks with every breath I take.

How is adoption beautiful ? Tell me that !!

The Hardest Thing

To give birth under an assumed name and then walk away leaving the baby behind. Clearly it was the plan before the baby was born. The mother has yet to be identified or found. Child Protective Services has now placed the baby girl in a foster home. After being there for a year, they will want this couple to adopt the baby girl.

The only thing the mother left behind was a box with a toy and a note that says “the hardest thing I have ever went through, is missing you”. If the mother were to be found and come back for her baby, of course, reunification of the mother and infant would be the obvious goal.

But if the mother does not return, how will her adoptive parents explain to the little girl what happened ? The current foster mom definitely will not say – “she loved you so much, she gave you away”.

Suggestions –

Find a therapist to help you navigate what will be a lifelong process. Words matter and age appropriate are critical. You have a big job ahead of you – do all you can to do it well.

DNA testing as soon as possible to identify members of the natural family and get in contact with them. It’s unlikely to find nothing. Many people take DNA tests. Even a cousin can point you in the right direction.

In answer to the question of what to tell others about the child, some practical advice – A child in your care ? A kid who lives with you ? That’s what she is right now. Asking what to tell her if or when you adopt her is putting the cart before the horse. You should be doing everything you can to prevent that from happening, including a permanent legal guardianship. Did you see the recent case in Michigan where a mother didn’t tell the father that she placed the baby? You need to slow this process way down, so you can be sure this child doesn’t have family out there who want to take care of her.

The Dept of Social Services is going to be working to find the mom. There are many reasons she may have felt she had to do this. Maybe she’s in an abusive relationship or fears harm to the baby. It is not uncommon for some mothers to fear they can’t care for a baby. Good to hope they do find her and are able to help her.

At this point, no one actually knows the mother’s story. That matters.

As for the child’s story – always tell her the truth. You don’t know why the mother chose what she did. So if the child asks – you say, I don’t know. “I don’t know honey, sometimes people make decisions and we don’t know why.” “You are safe and cared for and loved and we will support you no matter what.” Follow up with a trauma informed therapist and let take the therapist take it from there. Explain that she can talk with you about it. Never sugar coat or tell her things you don’t know. Tell her what you know. Facts. You can do it age appropriately. It is her story. This is the reality.

Begin a Lifebook for her, so that she doesn’t have to ask. Work with a trauma informed therapist on how to word her story in a way that she can understand at various ages (perhaps include photos of the hospital room and certainly of the note and toy, the box they were in) and keep the story about her (not about you or your thoughts or feelings).  Practicing the story before the kid is old enough to ask will help avoid it becoming a big secret or something scary.

Read The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier. It is perspective changing.

Abandoned Babies

Will there be more with Roe v Wade being overturned ?

A story making national news recently is about a baby found, wrapped in a towel in a stroller outside of an apartment complex, by a Coeur d’Alene Idaho resident when they left for work around 6 am.

A woman, identified as an adoptee named Webster, in this youtube news story, is quoted saying “We are living in a time where people feel like they are alone and they don’t have a support system or a net under them.”

If you are considering abandoning your baby, you likely are experiencing many different thoughts and emotions as well as being faced with one of the toughest decisions of your life. You might have one or more of these factors occurring in your life –

  • Have a history of substance use and are afraid to share that information
  • Not have proper documentation to live in the United States and fear being deported  
  • Be living with a mental illness or facing postpartum depression  
  • Be afraid of the baby’s father or worried about what your loved ones might say   

If you are desperate for help, you may see no other option but to abandon your baby. Perhaps, you even wonder what happens to abandoned babies after they’re found?    

There are really only three ways a woman can abandon her baby:  

  • A prospective birth mother can work with an adoption agency to make an adoption plan for her baby. This is one legal way a woman can release her baby from her responsibility to care for it.
  • With Safe Haven laws, women have the option to safely, legally, and anonymously leave their baby, unharmed, at a safe haven location — like a hospital, fire station, or a church.   
  • Even so, some women, feeling completely overwhelmed and unaware of the first two options, will take drastic measures, such as the case with this abandoned baby, leaving them in an unsafe condition.  

The way a baby is surrendered will affect what happens to the infant afterwards. Babies who are abandoned in an unsafe location often have tragic outcomes because help comes too late. Babies that are found safely, after they’ve been abandoned or surrendered to a safe haven location, become a ward of the state.

Safe Haven babies are typically checked out by a doctor and, if necessary, given medical care. Afterward, the state’s social services department is contacted. Once that happens, the baby will be placed into foster care and become a ward of the state. In some situations, a private adoption agency might be contacted.  

When a woman does not contact an adoption agency for assistance or use the Safe Haven law locations, if she can be located and identified, criminal charges will be filed against her. That is why the police in Coeur d’Alene Idaho are actively seeking information about who the woman may have been.

It Can Be Hard To Reconcile

Consider this. You are an adoptee. You are highly dependent on your adoptive parents’ good will. You have already experienced what felt like abandonment or rejection, regardless of whether that was the truth of your adoption circumstances. This reluctance, and often even an inability to get to the honest truth within one’s self, is true for many adoptees. It is even possible for them to be happy with the people who adopted them – I know that my parents were, and that as the “grandchildren,” we loved and respected and cherished those people.

One comment on this graphic image admitted – “Shit it took me until I was 25 to even have this conversation with myself.” Another said – “took me until my early 50’s.” or “35 for me!” And this – “Going through the fog was unlike anything I could imagine. Isn’t it nuts? I’m 31 now and I’ve only talked to 2 people honestly about it all.”

More – “I’m only 55. So it’s still only been a few years and I’m still reeling some days.” Or this, “The last couple years I would think I was through, only to be thrown back in even deeper.”

I have also read The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier – I would recommend it to anyone with adoption within their own family background. I found it balanced and fair in her perspectives as the mother of an adoptee plus a biological child, and not only that, as a therapist to families with adoption related issues.

So this one resonates with me – “40 for me! And that was only after my birthmother died and a fellow adoptee gave me ‘The Primal Wound’ to read.” 

One wrote – I want to share this on my personal page but I know my adoptive parents will be offended. In response, another person noted that this is how so many adoptees feel. They’d never risk sharing their feelings. Going public on Facebook is brave. I do it and then most of the time I get annoyed – it’s crickets and so I delete it.

A Complicated Relationship with Love

“No one has a more complicated relationship with love than a child who was adopted.” from an article in Psychology Today titled The Complicated Calibration of Love by Carrie Goldman. Children are the only ones who simultaneously crave, reject, embrace, need, challenge, inhale, absorb, return, share, fight, accept, and question your love on a daily basis.

How does the world convince an adoptee they are loved and valued ? The same world that thrust a great injustice upon this child by separating them from their first mother and possibly siblings, the world that passed them along to a doting foster mom to whom they became attached and then separated them again, the world that dropped this child into the outstretched, naïve, and eager arms of adoptive parents, their greatest joy intricately tied to the child’s greatest sadness, the world that views this child’s story as a happily-ever-after and now expects them to be grateful, happy, well adjusted, and perfect at all times—how does such a child learn to trust the love of that world?

Carrie notes – To match the giving of love with the exact need of any recipient is a moving calibration. There is no reliable unit of measurement for something so imprecise as human affection. We try. We offer up our love in words and actions, hoping to meet the ever-changing needs of our lovers, our children, our friends, and our families – every relationship that matters takes some work.

When one person in the relationship inhales the sour breath of the beast that is insecurity, a beast whose presence twists the very air between two humans and makes greater the flaws that beckoned it in the door. Insecurity, also known as fear, feeds on the dark and scary parts of the mind, growing in strength and power as it distorts what is real and what is imagined.

Sometimes insecurity grows too large until there is almost no space left for the relationship. But the antidote to such despair is hope, and hope, fortunately, needs less fuel to stay alive. These dynamics occur in any relationship, and the intensity can be magnified by a thousand when one of the partners is an adoptee.

The choice to be an adoptive parent is built on mountains of hope, oceans of hope, forests filled with the hope that a thousand seeds planted might one day yield a mighty tree. What combination of internal resilience, good parenting, genetics, access to birth history, love, acceptance of grief, and endless empathy is needed to raise an adoptee to wholeness ?

An adoptee did not choose to be adopted at a very young age; it was foisted upon them and packaged as “you’re so lucky” by the world. An adoptive parent must allow and validate all the feelings and viewpoints, even the ones that don’t fit the happily-ever-after narrative. 

An adoptee is unlucky. They are not growing up with their first family. If biological children for their adoptive parents are also in the picture, they cannot help but wonder if the adoptive parents love their biological children more. Many adoptees worry they will never be good enough. Most adoptee do battle with legitimate fears of abandonment in every relationship they enter into throughout life. Often an adoptee rages against the unfairness of being adopted and basically hates being adopted.

~ Carrie Goldman writes a parenting blog called Portrait of an Adoption.

The Archaic Shadow Of Secrecy

Parent Child Match

The closed, sealed adoption records of yesterday are much easier to pierce with today’s inexpensive DNA testing. Today’s story from Severance Magazine.

It begins this way – in 1967, I’d given birth to my first-born child in an unwed mothers maternity home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had been a typical 17-year-old high school senior with plans for the future that evaporated overnight. In the sixties, it was considered close to criminal for a girl to become pregnant with no ring on her finger. The father of my child had joined the Army, preferring Vietnam to fatherhood. After my parents discovered my shameful secret, I was covertly hurried away and placed in an institution for five months. There, I was expected to relinquish my baby immediately after giving birth to closed adoption and I was repeatedly assured my child would have a better life without me. After his birth, I was allowed to hold my son three times. My heart was permanently damaged when I handed him over the final time. The home allowed one concession—I could give my baby a crib name. I named him Jamie.

In the Spring of 2016, this woman and her husband submitted DNA tests to Ancestry.com. By October 2016, a  ‘Parent/Child Match’ message popped up on her iPhone, causing me to stop me in my tracks, as my knees gave out from under me. After 49 long years, Jamie had found her. Who was he? Where was he? Would he hate me? How would this affect my life? My family? His family? She had always dreamed of finding Jamie but never thought past that point.

She relates – that night I heard my son’s voice for the first time. The wonder I felt when he said, “I know your voice” transformed me. In minutes, the secret of my son changed from fear of anyone knowing about him to wanting to shout out to the world, “My son has found me!” She also learned she had three new grandchildren.  Within four days, her son flew from Louisiana to California to meet her. She describes that first meeting as magical. She says, “My son was back in my life, and suddenly I was whole.”

Due to severe depression brought on by the COVID pandemic as a messy divorce, the loss of his job, and unhealthy isolation began to destroy him, she worried from a distance. In February 2021, they had what would be their last conversation. Before hanging up, her son said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” Two days later, the son she had mourned for 50 years, the son who had found her, left her again. He took his own life. Now she had lost him twice and this time was forever. Even so, she cherishes that phone call.

She ends her story with this – “I wish I could speak to all the birth mothers out there, who continue to carry the shame and guilt that society placed on us. For those who refuse to allow their relinquished child back into their lives. I want to say I know your fear. I know your uncertainty. I lived it and still live it. It is deep-seated in us, regardless of the circumstances that resulted in us leaving our children. Please know if you are brave enough to welcome that lost child into your life again, you may create a peace and a bond worth all the fear and guilt. There is nothing quite like reuniting a mother and her child, and you may be giving a gift of connection to that child and yourself, as it should have been all along.”

Invalidating Adoptee Perceptions

Adoptive parents and even hopeful adoptive parents often say:

“I know many adoptees that don’t feel like their adoption was a bad thing, they are glad they were adopted” or “they don’t have trauma, they are fine” or “adoptees whose lives are fine are not online talking against adoption.”

One of the last emails I got from my adoptee mom before she died, she actually said “glad I was,” meaning adopted. She was lamenting how she just couldn’t finish doing the family trees on Ancestry because she knew the information just wasn’t real – for her or my dad (who was also adopted). So it was not that I believed she actually was “glad” she had been adopted but what else could she say at that point ? Neither my mom nor my dad really knew anything beyond a few names – at most – about their original parents.

I didn’t invalidate her feelings – my dad never expressed his own feelings about adoption to me. After both of my parents died, within one year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were, something about their stories and had some contact with some biological, genetic relations.

So those who are not adoptees, who say these kinds of things probably just miss the signs that are there but not verbalized. I know my mom dearly wanted to make contact with her first mother but the state of Tennessee denied her access (which they then gave me in 2017 – wow it doesn’t seem like 5 years already that I have felt finally “complete”). If she had been so happy about being adopted, she would not have tried so hard to accomplish a reunion.

The thinking described above is problematic because it assumes that adoptees always feel comfortable sharing their true feelings about adoption with adoptive parents. That is rarely the case.

One adoptee admits –  I spent 50 years saying I was fine adopted, never an issue and believed it. I knew I responded to things differently than others, but never equated it to being adopted. It’s very difficult for adoptees to verbalize true emotions. The changes in our brain at separation try to protect us from rejections. It’s all subconscious. I had no idea my lifetime narrative was to protect myself, until I did deep work in therapy that focused on opening those areas of the brain to process the trauma. Life changing. The processing is very hard and easily something you’d try to avoid. Once you do it though, at least for me, it was life changing. I was 50. I get so angry I didn’t do it sooner. I didn’t know I should and clearly neither did my adoptive parents because I always appeared fine to them.

They don’t have the support to speak freely about their own feelings. Instead, they say everything is fine because the trust is broken. Maybe they tried to express these feelings in the past and were rejected or judged. The fear of rejection is so ingrained. It’s just not something most would attempt to do. The adoptee may feel too fearful to tell their adoptive parent or foster parent how they truly feel. They may have received a message that feeling any other way than glad is wrong.

One adoptee says – From the outside my life looks quite successful and there are lots of people who know I’m adopted. I’m absolutely certain that there are those who would point to me as a ‘happy adoptee’. No, you idiot, I don’t know you that well or trust you enough to share my pain and trauma.

To say of any adoptee – “They don’t have trauma, they’re fine.” It’s just so very invalidating. Every adoptee will automatically have trauma, no matter how they were adopted. To me, it’s the equivalent of a racist person saying they have black friends. Just because you have black friends doesn’t mean your ideals are not racist or harmful. Adoptees can grow up having a good life while growing up but they all come into adoption with trauma.

Nancy Verrier writes in The Primal Wound: “As adults, we believe what we want to believe, and we want to believe that a child who is not causing any trouble is well-adjusted. It is important to not be lulled into believing that this child suffers no pain-that ‘my child is not having those problems.’ Adjustment often means shutting down, creating a ‘false self.'”

Which leads another adoptee to say – This was true for me well into adulthood. It was not until I was about 40 that I started processing my adoption and how adoption trauma affected my whole life. Even now, I talk about my adoption trauma to some people, but not others. If hopeful adoptive parents think that adoption trauma only happens to those “with a bad experience,” they will continue on with pursuing adoption; and then, not be able to see and address the trauma in the child for whom they are caring.

Adoptees often talk about how they feel the need to be people pleasers in order to be accepted (my mom certainly was that way and she passed that trait down to her children). An adoptee is likely to tell their adoptive parents whatever they think those parents want to hear.

Which leads a foster parent to admit that they had experienced this first-hand. She says, When we started fostering, one of my adult adoptee friends was all rainbows and unicorns about it. As our relationship grew deeper and she heard more about how I was supporting the kids’ ability to know their families and saw how we worked for family preservation, instead of keeping the kids with us, she began to tell me her complicated feelings about her own adoption, and how she felt like she couldn’t have those conversations with her adopted family.

In the interest of fairness to people who have already adopted and may think that many of my blogs are too negative. Few people with any depth of knowledge on adoption think all adoption is wrong. I now present this point of view from an adoptive parent –

I work with adoptive families. I make an effort to learn from people who have experienced adoption trauma. I do this so that I can try to help my own kids, and other adoptive families who have already adopted, to see the signs of trauma and do their best to help manage this. Do the best they can for their kids. What is upsetting for me is when the comments say “adoption is a horrible thing”. I have seen some comments that literally say ALL adoptions are awful and should never be done. Using the analogy of dating apps, saying no one should ever use a dating app because someone ended up raped, would be similar. That anyone you meet from a dating app is actually terrible. Anyone who gets married from meeting someone there is in a fog . . .

Note from the blog author – many will say of adoptees who think their adoption was good and only good that they are still in “the fog” and have not woken up – but I laugh at this because I met my husband of over 33 years through an eligibles ad in an entertainment weekly, back in the day before heavy internet usage – my mom was horrified but my parents ended up being grateful we found each other.

continuing from the paragraph before . . . That such persons will eventually realize that they are miserable. I truly hurt for the adoptees who have parents who don’t acknowledge them or have been cruel to them. It is awful and has changed my mind about many aspects of the adoption process in this country. However being an adoptive parent in itself is not a bad thing. I have seen little acknowledgment that there are birth parents who are not going to parent. And some have no family support. Is it better to put those kids into an orphanage than to adopt them into a family who loves them and tries to give them a wonderful family and childhood?

I don’t think so and here’s why. My daughter’s birth parents were on the road when she was born. They had no idea where they would be living. Her birth mom has lived in many states since then. Anyone who adopted her would have been out of state within a week after she was born. But I was told that I screwed up by adopting out of state and I should have moved (multiple times, I guess) to be near her birth mom. Not everything is black and white.

I would love to see adoptees who have had terrible effects from trauma or adoptive families who are unwilling to listen to use their experiences to help other adoptive families learn how to act, be the way they would have wanted their adoptive parents to act. I believe this would be more productive than just telling them they are awful people for wanting to raise a child. My daughter has literally yelled at me for trying to understand the perspectives of adoptees who acknowledge their trauma. I have tried to encourage her to explore the same places that I have, to see if her adoption has had negative effects on her. I really would want to help her work through that. She has seen some of those places. Her opinion is that they are toxic. I continue to expose myself because it’s important for me to know the other side, so I will be able to recognize if my kids are struggling with adoption trauma – even if they don’t see it.

I am only suggesting that it would be a lot more effective, if everything weren’t so black and white in adoptee spaces. I’m still trying to learn what I can but I do think some people can manage trauma of any kind (adoption or otherwise) with little negative effect, especially if they have loving support. I hope that’s what we are all striving for.

And all of that above received this reply, which honestly is my own opinion too, at this point – I do believe there should be no adoptions. None. Zero. I want universal healthcare, good sex education, universal basic income, easy and free abortions. And any child born to parents who are not safe should be cared for by guardians, not adoptive parents. The harm done by having your life legally altered and severed is unnecessarily extreme.

Finally just to drive home the point to end this lengthy blog –

MOST adoptees had absolutely *wonderful* adoptive parents, and that *it didn’t matter* how good their adoptive parents were, or how much of a “positive adoption experience” the adoptee had; every adoptee still has trauma. Their DNA was still literally altered by early childhood trauma. Their identity was altered without their consent. Most adoptees have been denied the very basic right of having access to their own original birth certificate.

Yes, there are some children who cannot remain with their parents. *Most of the time* those that absolutely *cannot* be with their parents (which is so unbelievably rare), have at least *one* member of their biological family that could raise them. And in the *exceptionally rare* scenario where none of that is possible, adoption STILL isn’t necessary.

If you cannot love a child, care for a child, make that child a part of your home and your family, provide financial physical and emotional support for that child, without having legal *ownership* over that child, then you have absolutely *no right* caring for that child. Full stop. There is no “not all” or “what if” that can change the fact that adoption *is not necessary* to provide care to a child.

Adoption is unethical. There is absolutely *no changing that*. Caring for a child who has no home or safe family is not a bad thing, and literally *nobody* in their right mind would say that (but consider – whether or not there *could* be a safe family for that child, if their original parents were simply provided with good support). And that is NOT all that adoption is.

Many with a depth of knowledge about adoption, would allow that adoption *only* happen for older children (and by older I mean 16+, and even that I honestly hesitate to be okay with, as it’s perfectly possible to adopt an adult). And *only if* that child is ASKING to be adopted, without being prompted in *any way* by either the foster parents or the system itself. And *only if* the child fully 100% understands what adoption means, and has been told explicitly what they will lose by being adopted. *Only then* is adoption even possibly acceptable.

Everyone, please, just stop assuming an adoptee “had a bad experience,” if they speak out against adoption. Many adoptees would be frankly pissed off that you would imply that their *wonderful* and *caring* adoptive parents were bad parents.

I will continue to believe what I now do.