I’m Not Your Daughter

Expectations. When couples adopt, they have certain expectations of the child. They expect the child to be something that maybe the child is not. It is way too common. Today I read – “Anyone just want to look at their adoptive mom as scream I love you but I’m not your daughter!!” This really touched a nerve as it brought over 100 comments. I’ll share only a few.

The very first comment came from an adoptive mother (no surprise). I would ask myself whether she did any of the things mentioned below… If so, she’s taken on the role of mother and you’ve taken on the role of her daughter.

1. bring up (a child) with care and affection.

2. look after (someone) kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so.

You mentioned above that you love her and I’m sure you also appreciate her. But what does her not being your birth/first mother have to do with the situation? Is she trying to help you in a difficult situation and you don’t want her help? Is she being nosey into an area that you prefer she stay out of??? I’d say that’s how most moms are. And it’s because they care.

Another adoptive mother responded to the above – I’m horrified that you would invalidate this adoptee’s feelings. It is not her job to make her adoptive mother feel like a mother. 

And yet another adoptive mother said – Your comment was tone-deaf and demeaning. It’s unsurprising yet somehow still bizarre that you would try to introduce the perspective of an adoptive parent over the voice of an actual adoptee. It feels like projection and it’s so yuck.

Finally, an adoptee responds – your comment just made me feel gross and burdened just like everyone else does. It’s always about how it’s my job to be gentle on my adoptive mom and all adoptive mother’s feelings. It’s my job to make her feel better about not being my mother. All at the expense of my own feelings. You basically said Oh hush now you mean ol’ adoptee…don’t ever hurt your adoptive mother, she is fearful and she just loves you and cares about losing you. That is why you should never say how you feel as an adoptee. The cardinal rule in my life as an adoptee has been that my (or any) adoptive mothers feelings matter more than mine. Adoptive mothers are the victims and it’s my job to worship them and never ever hurt their feelings by saying being adopted hurts. I feel this damaging belief is what keeps adoptees in the fog and from getting the support they need. 

Another adoptee shares her experience – My adoptive dad acted like I was committing a crime against my adoptive mom when I found and initiated a relationship with my birth mother. I was over 30 years old. They’d never offered to help me find or contact her. I did it myself and he spoke to me as if I were a naughty child disregarding her feelings.

From the original commenter – this is not just “I’m upset with her”. I also don’t need advice on what to do. She is NOT my. Mother period. I didn’t choose to be adopted. I will not be gentle. I’m tired of having to cater to others over something I had no choice in. I will not be quiet.

This morning I was reminded of this song by Karen Drucker which I have always loved.

Busting The Myth

It’s painful to realize you have been lied to by the adoption agency you turned to in a moment of desperation. Even my own self, in leaving my daughter with her paternal grandmother for temporary care, that turned into her dad raising her and then a remarriage for him to a woman with a daughter (they then had a daughter together), could be perceived as abandonment as well. I have admitted to my daughter that there are similarities in her experience growing up with that which adoptees experience in being separated from their natural mother. At the time, I thought one parent as good as the other (even though I didn’t intend for her dad to get her). I really intended to recover her but it did not work out that way and to this day I struggle with what I did in ignorance.

In my all things adoption group, one woman writes – and then when your baby is *one week old* and you come out of the fog of the agency telling you it’s the right, selfless thing to do and realize what a terrible, life altering decision you just made – it’s too late and you have to spend the next several years in court and hope your family can lend you around $100,000 for legal fees to get your baby back from the wonderful, brave, selfless adoptive parents that have your kid.

Another wrote – this comes off extremely harsh and unproductive to me because these women do not understand the ramifications of the decisions they’ve made. And that is true for me as well. I was 22 years old at the time I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother. Life altering indeed !!

Someone else said – bottom line is regardless of intentions, the infant brain perceives it as abandonment. I’m fiercely defensive of my momma; I believe that the despicable social mores of the Baby Scoop Era and sheer desperation drove her to surrender me. My baby self was damaged either way. That’s what I believe this graphic is trying to convey.

And I agree. Sheer desperation has caused at least 3 of the 4 adoptions that are part of my childhood family (both of my parents and then each of my sisters gave up a baby). One of my sisters simply thought it the most natural thing in the world – I believe – because our parents were adoptees. Unbelievably, my mom who struggled most with having been adopted, coerced my other sister into doing it.

One noted – Just once, why not talk about how the fathers were nowhere around and went unscathed in everything. To blame a mother who was . . .

In my own parents’ case – first, for my mom, her mother was married but he more or less (whether intentionally or not) abandoned her 4 mos pregnant. After she had given birth, she brought my mom back from Virginia (where she had been sent by her own father out of shame) to Memphis. She tried to reach my mom’s father but got no response. Though there was a major flood occurring on the Mississippi River at the time (1937) and he was in Arkansas where his mother lived and his daughters were. He was WPA fighting the flood there in Arkansas. His granddaughter (who I have met) does not believe he was the kind of man to leave a wife and infant stranded. Georgia Tann got ahold of my mom and exploited my grandmother to obtain a baby to sell. My mom was 7 months old when her adoptive mother picked her up but she did spend some of that time in what was believed to be temporary care at Porter-Leath Orphanage. That was my grandmother’s fatal mistake because the superintendent there alerted Georgia Tann to my mom’s existence.

In my dad’s case, the father was a married man and an un-naturalized immigrant. I don’t believe he ever knew. My paternal grandmother had a hard life. Her own mother died when she was only 3 mos old (the original abandonment if you will). She was a self-reliant woman. I don’t believe either of my grandmothers intended to abandon their children. After giving birth in Ocean Beach, near San Diego California in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers, my grandmother then applied to work for them and was transferred to El Paso Texas. I believe they pressured her to relinquish my dad. He was with her for 8 months.

Finally, here is one person’s experience with being adopted – Abandonment is exactly right. And it directly leads to abandonment and attachment issues later. Even with therapy and understanding what happened and learning coping strategies, I still feel this horrible gnawing black hole inside of me when I feel like someone might leave me. And it can get triggered by such inconsequential things. The worst part is that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, especially before learning how to lessen the effects on others, because the behaviors I’ve done out of desperation drove the people I was scared of losing away. And sometimes that’s felt deliberate, like it won’t hurt as bad if it was my idea and I left them instead of them leaving me. It hurts just as bad.