Glad I Was

1997 with my adoptee parents, apologies for the blurry quality

With Thanksgiving on my mind, I was remembering an email from my mom in which she told me she had to stop doing a family tree on Ancestry because it just wasn’t “real.” Both of my parents were adopted. Then, she added “glad I was” but that never really seemed genuine to me and the more I’ve learned about adoption and the trauma of separating a baby from its mother, the more I doubt she sincerely was grateful that it had happened, yet that was the reality and there was no way to change that. In a weird way though, I learned to be grateful that both of my parents had been adopted because otherwise, I would not exist and I am grateful for the life I have lived.

Learning my parents’ origin stories (they both died clueless), which was also my own ancestors’ stories brought with it a deep sense of gratitude for me, that I had not been given up for adoption when my mom discovered she was pregnant with me. By the ways of that time in history (early 1950s), she should have been sent away to have and give me up, only to return to her high school in time to graduate (she was a junior at the time of my conception and birth). The photo I have at the top of my blog are the pictures I now have of each of my original grandmothers holding one or the other of my parents as infants.

I continue to be grateful that I grew up with the parents who conceived me and then raised me throughout my childhood. I’ve heard many adoptees say that having biological, genetic children of their own made them fully aware of what being adopted had taken from them. At least, my parents had each other. I do continue to credit my dad’s adoptive parents with preserving me in our family. They were also a source of financial support for my parents during my earliest years. First, giving them space in their own home and me a dresser drawer bassinet. Then, an apartment in their multi-family building until my dad had saved up enough and was earning enough working shifts (and sometimes two shifts in a row) at an oil refinery to buy a house for our family.

In 2014, I experienced the last Thanksgiving with my parents. I knew their health was declining but I still expected to have yet another Thanksgiving with them in 2015. However, my mother passed away in late September and my father only 4 months later. They had been high school sweethearts and had been married over 50 years. My dad just didn’t find life worth continuing on with after his wife died. I knew that in the days after her death but then he sucked it up and tried. One morning, he simply didn’t wake up. He died peacefully with a bit of a smile on his face. I think he must have seen my mom waiting for him to join her.

That last Thanksgiving with my parents

The Anti-Adoption Movement

There is definitely a movement to reduce the adoption of newborns from unwed mothers and from people whose only sin is poverty. That’s not to say that it is not also important that children are never left in a seriously abusive situation. Unfortunately, what is “abusive” to some who insist on interfering in other people’s lives is not what true abuse actually is. Very few activists are claiming that adoption shouldn’t be an option, but the activists currently involved in the issue recognize that adoption is far from the perfect solution it was so long perceived to be. 

Already hopeful adoptive parents living in Texas are celebrating a bumper crop of adoptable babies in about one year from now. I suspected that as one of the motivations all along.

One woman describes her experience. The adoption agency had her move to another state while pregnant, purposely isolating her from friends and family who might have helped her. Though she knew who her baby’s father was, the agency told her not to tell him she was pregnant. She could have sued him for child support—he was a wealthy lawyer—but the adoption agency didn’t talk about that, only about the hardships she would face as a “welfare mom,” should she keep her child. They called her a “family-building angel” and a “saint” for considering adoption. “It was crazy subtle, subtle, subtle brainwashing.”

Adoption has long been perceived as the win-win way out of a a difficult situation. An unwed mother gets rid of the child she’s not equipped to care for; an adoptive family gets a much-wanted child. But people are increasingly realizing that the industry is not nearly as well-regulated and ethical as it should be. There are issues of coercion, corruption, and lack of transparency that are only now being fully addressed.

One issue is where an “open” adoption is promised but the adoptive parents sooner or later renege on that promise. So one reform is seeking to guarantee that “open” adoptions (where birthparents have some level of contact with their children) stay open. Activists also want women to have more time after birth to decide whether to terminate their parental rights. Given time with their newborn, many new mothers change their mind about adoption and decide to give parenting their child a serious effort. Young women who find themselves pregnant and unmarried still face pressure to choose adoption. 

Reproduce justice activists tend to focus on rights to contraception and abortion. Adoption reforms are equally important when it comes to men and women having full control of their destinies. Thanks to legalized abortion and a drastic lessening of the stigma against unwed mothers, the number of babies available domestically has been shrinking since the mid-’70s. Fifty years ago, about 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Today that number is 1 percent. 

Adoption is too stark in its severance of the legal relationship between those adopted and their birth family, and out of line with the emotional realities for most involved. Adoption is not a risk-free panacea.  It is highly complex, with implications for all concerned that endures for decades. The identity needs of adopted people are very important and adoption, in its current form, does not recognize these.

There are other options, such as kindship placements or guardianship, which can provide safety and stability for children, but do not require such a severe break with key relationships. When we do not provide financial support to families in need but instead take their children away from them, we have to ask ourselves – Are we really promoting the human rights of all children, irrespective of background, to live safely within their families of origin? It would appear that we do not.

Some of the above was excerpted from The Trauma of Adoption. Other parts of this blog were excerpted from Meet the New Anti-Adoption Movement. Some comments are my own.

Love vs Taking

I’ve had 3 in my life’s relationships (though the worst one was the one where I wasn’t actually married to her son). I have sympathy for anyone dealing with a toxic or even just difficult mother in law. I have great sympathy for this challenged young woman who’s story I share today.

Context: my mom and my MIL have problems with each other stemming from early 2020 because my MIL made so many Child Protective Services (CPS) calls on my mom that my siblings got taken.

Also, I’m Former Foster Care.

I moved back in with my mom temporarily (now permanently but it was supposed to only be temporary) so that my mom could work and have someone look after my siblings. She’s still working on getting my siblings put in daycare and get title 20 so it’s not horribly expensive

Anyway, now my MIL is trying to get my son taken because she is upset that we moved out and in with my mom (who she doesn’t like) and she wants to take my son.

When I first found out I was pregnant she freaked out and said she was going to “apply for custody” (like wtf) and then said all kinds of stuff behind my back while I was pregnant about how she was going to take him and I was going to be a bad mom.

I didn’t want to cut her out and I still don’t want to cut her out because she is his family but I don’t know what to do. She’s making up all kinds of lies about me and taking pictures of my bedroom in her house (which is a mess because she wouldn’t let me put any of my stuff anywhere else and we were in the process of moving our stuff out). I’m afraid that she’s going to get my son taken and I really don’t want him going through what I went through in the foster care system.

My son is very attached to me and I’m attached to him, I love him more than anything and I’m so afraid of losing him. I just knew that she was going to try to do this because she has always been jealous that he is not her baby and has always been critical of me from the very beginning and I’m so scared. I just don’t understand why she wants to mess with my and my son’s life.

I thought this was good advice – I would definitely have your boyfriend put a stop to it (they are not actually married but I had the same perspective of considering a woman my MIL when I was living seriously with someone I wasn’t married to). It’s his mother and he needs to take that responsibility and protect you and your baby. Maybe do what you can to get a place of your own. Since your mom has a CPS case against her, your mil can use that against you as well. So sorry you’re going through this. Might be best to cut ties for awhile until she learns to respect you as the wife/girlfriend of her son and the mother of her grandchild. You have a valid reason to be fearful.

Someone else advised – I think you need to prepare for a CPS investigation. Be prepared to show how he is financially supported. If/when they interview you, stay very calm and resist the urge to criticize your MIL. Say things like “I know she only wants the best for him and of course as his mother, so do I. And the best thing for any child is to be in a safe and stable home with their parents.” You may want to rehearse this.

And sadly, more than one said this but this one is good advice – I had a similar situation. We went to a lawyer. The advice was to completely cut her out so it shows you have no interest in her being in your life. It shows you are doing what’s best for your child as well. It even meant blocking all social media. It worked for us and if CPS shows up, be ready but you can say you have no contact with her.

A Lifetime Of Regret

The Maiden of Sorrow painting by Tyler Robbins

In a discussion about a same-sex couple (two females) who wanted a family and were seeking perspectives on donor conceived vs adoption, a woman who gave up her baby at birth was strongly defending her choice as best for the child. This kind of denial is not uncommon. Truth is that many women who surrender their child at birth spend the rest of their lifetime in sorrow. Not even getting into the trauma that EVERY baby suffers at a preverbal, subconscious level due to that separation. Today’s story is from a woman who surrendered her child.

I’m a Birth mother. When I placed my daughter for adoption I lost the only good thing in my life. She was my joy. My reason for living.

I spent the next decade deeply suicidal and one of the things I heard a lot from people was that “suicide is selfish because it takes one person’s pain and passes it on to ten others.” These days I can’t help but think how much this statement applies to adoption too.

When I hear hopeful adoptive parents talk about the anguish infertility caused them and how they’re pursuing adoption now because they NEED to be a mother, I wonder if they realize they’re doing exactly this. They are trying to take away their pain of not having a baby by passing that pain onto the birth mother, father, child, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins instead.

I have spent years in agony over the loss of my daughter, crying and begging god to change what happened. I’ve watched others get pregnant and wondered why they were worthy of motherhood and I wasn’t. I’ve felt the need to be a mother because I was a mother. But I am a mother without a child now.

The future which hopeful adoptive parents were unwilling to live (a life without children) has become my reality instead. Do hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted realize – they are transferring their pain onto others, when they accept somebody else’s baby to fulfill their dreams ? What makes the pain spread through suicide so obviously selfish but the pain spread through adoption so widely acceptable ?

The first response was empathetic – you’re making perfect sense. Except the pain that leads people to suicide and the pain of having a child and losing it are both astronomically greater than any pain felt by never having children. So that makes adoption exceptionally selfish. I’m sorry for the pain you have been through. You did not deserve any of it. Saying a prayer for you.

It is frequently said in my all things adoption group that adoption is a permanent decision to a temporary solution. Society really needs to wake up to the harm of commercializing babies for profit and support struggling mothers and/or families better so children do not need to be taken from the family they were born into.

There are some adoptive mothers who finally realize that their infertility was at least psychologically caused by feeling their own mothers didn’t love them, even though there may have also been a physical component. If a woman is not whole in mind and emotions, any child brought into this life will have flawed parenting. There is also often a religious component to adoption. Some feel that God is punishing them with infertility and though some kind of twisted logic believe that adopting a child will get them back God’s good graces. So many don’t want to heal, they refuse to even admit they need to. And it’s their children and their children’s true mothers who carry the burden of their lack of awareness regarding their true issues.

Regarding a relinquishment of one’s babies and suicide came this comment –

I am an adoptee. My Mom died by suicide because her pain was too much to bear from losing two children to adoption.

I have been saying much of the same thing in regards to suicide. It’s not selfish or cowardly or a crime. I have also been saying that hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted are transferring their pain. Most do not heal before adopting. Adoptive parents are wrongly revered by our society. Nobody thinks to question them or ask them anything. Sadly, adoption is usually option B and adoptive parents do not heal nor research the topic before getting their wallets out.

Fact is – adoption is big business. A for profit business. So if there were no adoptive parents, the money to be made selling babies would decrease. Sadly, adoption is socially acceptable, romanticized, sensationalized and is thought by many to be beautiful, rainbows etc. Adoptive parents are viewed as heroes and altruistic.

Suicide is stigmatized and people are afraid to discuss it and truly do not understand it. Our society has a hard time sitting in discomfort and looking at other people’s pain. That is why suicide is quickly labeled as selfish. In reality, society is selfish for not asking why the pain was so heavy. Even the words used around suicide make it seem like a crime or a choice. (committed suicide, killed oneself, took their own life). We are the selfish ones. We need to be talking about this. Not to mention the high suicide attempt rates and suicides among adoptees, as well as their original moms. Nobody is going to physically die because they can’t have a baby but many adoptees and moms are dying from the grief, trauma and loss that is the truth of adoption and family separation.

Every day, my effort here is to change the narrative about who adoptees are, about their stories, about the importance of keeping families together. Mine is one small voice but those who share my perspectives are legion. So the effort at reform begins with changing the narrative – adoption is NOT a “selfless” act but a “selfish” act. There is so much pain in adoption. I wish more people were aware of (and cared about!!!) the devastating consequences.

Is A “Foster Only” Home Acceptable ?

Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends

When my sons were young, this was a favorite cartoon in my family. Both of my sons had stuffed animals that were imaginary friends and they did mature out of it. In the cartoon, when this happens the imaginary friends are taken into a foster home.

Sadly, though there are MANY foster homes in real life. And there is a lot of abuse in the system. Today’s story is about attitude. A foster parent was posting publicly that she’s not willing to adopt the children currently in her home if they needed that, and that she believes it is totally fine to foster while being unwilling to adopt. I disagree completely because I feel that if a child has no possible route to return to their family and consents to adoption, they should not have to experience another loss, another transition etc. Basically I feel like foster parents need to be open to what the child and their family end up needing, and that taking a placement of a child KNOWING that if reunification cannot be achieved you will be disrupting that child, is wrong.

Obviously there are special situations (a child not wanting to be adopted by you, a child needing to move to be in an adoptive home with their siblings) but that’s not what this lady was talking about, she was talking about having a child in foster care long term, them needing an adoptive home, and refusing to be that home for that child resulting in their team needing to search for other options for them. I also feel like this happens a lot to kids who have (or are perceived to have) challenging behaviors, or older kids, so it’s not like they have all these other great options if an adoptive home is needed because most people who adopt waiting kids in foster care discriminate against kids with behavioral needs or older kids.

Basically, do you think being a “foster only” home is acceptable ?

And now some comments and perspectives.

ALL foster homes should be foster only when reunification is still on the table. Too many foster carers foster for the wrong reasons and sabotage renunciation. We need to go back to the old days when foster homes weren’t even allowed to adopt. Foster parents should be willing to give a child a safe place for whatever amount of time is needed, whatever the outcome. They’re supposed to be part of the team that helps the natural family work through it all. Foster only homes result in higher reunification rates and successful efforts. Eliminating foster only homes would feed the predatory foster to adopt system. No child *needs* adoption. Generally adoption is for the adults. Children need stable homes, but not the erasure of their genetic identity.

From an adoptive parent’s perspective – Why is adoption the end goal? Why can’t they remain in foster care? Why does termination of parental rights have to happen? It’s plausible to think that not having adoption available would reduce terminations and potentially give parents more time. But Child Protective Services is so quick to be done with cases and push adoption that parents aren’t given a fair chance. Very few terminations are actually needed. Maybe the state needs to help make it easier for kinship to take kids. Provide them the money foster carers receive. Why are you so set on adoption being the end result? I think that’s something you need to sit with. There are so many other options. And we can’t just settle for termination and adoption. Without adoption being in place parents rights can be reinstated later down the road if the child is still needing permanency. You feel like it wouldn’t be good for the kid, but several former foster youth have stated the exact opposite.

There was offered this example from real life – a person who has fostered 3 babies/toddlers in the last 3-4 years. They were not reunified with their parents. One went to an extended family member. The other two were placed for adoption through Child Protective Services. This person has 5 children of her own. Three are still at home. She doesn’t want to raise another child for 18 years. But she does feel strongly about providing a safe place for children – while their parents work their plan. Her position is hard for some to understand. People ask her how she can “just give them up after 8 months or a year in her home” and she simply says – “they were never meant to be here forever.”

Hopes & Wishes

For some time now, I’ve been writing these adoption related blogs every day. I don’t think I have missed many, if I’ve even missed any. I often wonder what there is left to say . . . and then something arises and off my fingers go to type up a new one.

I know my perspectives have grown since I started writing these. A lot of credit for that goes to my all things adoption Facebook group – where I often find stories and perspectives to pass along here without revealing any sensitive or private details. I hope that by sharing these, my readers also find their perspectives broadening along the way.

When I first joined that group, it wasn’t long before one of the members called me out on my unicorns and rainbows happy perspectives on adoption. It hurt at the time but it was an important wake up call and I do believe I have emerged entirely from what is known as adoptionland fog.

Because both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption, what is actually a VERY UN-NATURAL practice seemed entirely normal to me. Yet, now that I know who my grandparents are – I’ve added their birthdates to my annual birthday calendar – because I wasn’t able to acknowledge them in their lifetimes. It matters to me.

I now think of my adoptive grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins as placeholders for the real thing I lacked. This isn’t a judgement of them. They probably all viewed it as natural to our lives as I did but it really isn’t. I don’t even think of them as related to me anymore. But I do have a history with them and have felt their love and concern over the years, especially during my own childhood.

And adoptionland IS changing slowly but surely, one family at a time. In my all things adoption group, expectant mothers are often encouraged and even financially supported to the best of our ability (such as with Amazon gift registries) to keep their babies. It is more of a walk the walk than simply talk the talk group and I am proud of that.

Adoptees and former foster care youth are PRIVILEGED voices in that group, as they should be for they have the direct experience to open the minds and hearts of the public in general. Many people who have already adopted are learning to be more sensitive and to do the already reality situation better, including honesty, truthfulness and attempts to keep their adopted children connected to their biological/genetic families and at times, even culture (when that is different than the adoptive parents’ own culture).

My hope and certainly my wish is for our society to be more supportive of struggling families in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE and to see adoption no longer a choice that couples realizing infertility feel privileged to make – taking some other family’s baby to pretend that child was born to them.

A change it is a comin’ and I am grateful to be part of that. Happy New Year.

The Reluctant Birth Mother

So sharing with you today the tale of two women.  One gave birth to the little girl – the other adopted her.  I’ll let the adoptive mother speak here –

I am looking for advice. My daughter is 8 months old. Without sharing too much of her story, her birth mother initially preferred a closed adoption, however, after getting to know each other she was willing to let it be open. She initially didn’t want her daughter to know that she was her birth mother, she just wants to be a “family friend.” I cannot and will not lie to our daughter. Her birth mother and I haven’t spoken about this again, but as our daughter gets older, this will need to be addressed (sooner rather than later). Suggestions on how to address this with her mother?

Her birth mother has gradually decreased our communication from a few times a week to now monthly. I continue to send her text updates every 2 weeks and regularly share photos/videos to our privately shared album. She is no longer responding to any texts and only comments in the album maybe once a month. She rarely, if ever, answers my questions to her regarding her life, family, health etc.

I KNOW that she loves our daughter and that she is grieving. Her birth mother really is a wonderful soul and I believe she thought, in her circumstances, she was doing the best thing she could for her daughter. I also know that she is trying and struggling to care for herself and get herself back on her feet. Since she initially preferred a closed adoption, I am afraid if I give her too much space, she will stop responding completely. (I thought over time, her and I’s (and my husband) relationship would get closer and then better communication, and I had hoped visits, would follow).

My questions are –

What do I do? I have so many questions for my daughter. I want to be able to give her a “family tree” of her birth family. I want her to have visits and memories/pictures with/of them. I care very much about her birth mothers mental and physical health and am worried of pushing her too much too fast. Any suggestions on moving towards more regular communication and a more open relationship? Am I being impatient and need to give it more time? I’m afraid of looking back and thinking “I should have tried harder then”. Or, am I completely in the wrong here and need to follow her lead instead?

To some, this first bit of advice may seem extreme but when one considers the goal of family preservation it makes a lot of sense.  Adoptive parents are significantly more financially strong than the original parents which is often the main reason babies are surrendered.  Here it is – What if you invited her to live with you and get on her feet? Honestly, her daughter should be with her, and your role should be as a god parent, and letting her have the resources to stabilize will help her parent her daughter.

Another woman bluntly explains – Every communication may be horribly painful and fraught to her, this isn’t a casual friendship. You have her child.

And regarding semantics –  I suggest you use “lost a child to adoption”, instead of “placed.”

The adoptive mother is attempting to get a lot of information out of the birth mother which so far she does not answer.  In response to this effort by the adoptive mother, she is told – do not ask her questions! None of your business! Her business is her daughter. Your job is to facilitate contact however mom desires…and, it will change and vary for her lifetime!

And in an honest assessment – you can not force anyone to communicate or share anything and I don’t feel you’re giving adequate enough time for her to even begin to process anything ! (Again note – this child is only 8 months old !!)  You need to take a step back and stop trying to force anything before you ruin the chance of her daughter knowing her at all in any capacity – that’s how people push away! Keep putting in effort to show mom you’re willing when SHE IS READY – even if she decides not to! Still her choice !

Yet another woman added – I read your post as desperate to control, but not selfish per se–at this point it seems to me that you are trying to create a reality for your daughter that you see as ideal. There isn’t an ideal in this situation. You can’t create the ideal. You can forge a real relationship with the mom based on respect and care and awareness of pain and even unspoken boundaries.

The bottom line advice to the adoptive mother about the reality of the birth mother is this – time & space, she needs to grieve.

And The Song Remains The Same

A hopeful adoptive parent is quoted as saying “Adoption is a beautiful way to grow a family because it takes great strength and sacrifice.”

What does that even mean ?

It is NOT the adoptive parents who make the sacrifices, even if they consider the financial impact on their lives of having adopted as some kind of sacrifice.  Or if they think of their infertility – the giving up of having genetically related children – as some kind of sacrifice.

What do they sacrifice ?  Most don’t even lose money because they crowed fund and stuff to raise money to adopt (yes, fundraising from strangers so you can adopt someone else’s baby is a thing).  And even if a foster care adoption, they either get a “free” young child or if they adopt an older child or young child with issues.  The adoptive parents receive money until the child(ren) is 18 to help offset the cost of raising them.  People raising their biological child are not afforded that luxury.

You know who gets sacrificed ? The child.

And a sign of our current time ?

Social distancing is the default setting for ALL adoptees due to separation trauma. Consider it an insight into how it feels to be adopted.

If you as an adoptive parent need some kind of recognition for adopting a child, then you absolutely did it for the wrong reason.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I continue to unwrap the gift I have received late in life of knowledge about my natural grandparents, meeting my genetic relatives and understanding the impacts of adoption on my entire family.  It is a gift that has not stopped giving to me more and more each day.

One year ago, I completed a family history as a gift to 9 of my relatives.  Having recovered our unknown genetic history and having some additional family stories I felt were worth saving, I self published it economically in a spiral bound book.  If something ended my life, I did not want the knowledge lost again.

Over the last year, I’ve been retelling the story of finding my original grandparents but soon realized I could not convey an accurate understanding of the final miracle in that journey without delving into something I did not cover at all in the family history.  That is my journey as executor of my deceased parents estates and having to contend with a brilliant but delusional sister.  It certainly adds an element of tension, uncertainty and conflict.  Truth be told, two parts of my on-going story have only revealed themselves this last November.

Even so, I’ve decided I am now “complete” with a version that I hope will be commercially published and bring some modest amount of revenue into my family’s financial support while opening a door for me to publish whatever comes next (I have a couple of ideas in progress – one has waited 5 years for me to have the time to take the rough draft into a finished form).

May your own heart be warmed with the love of knowing family.  No family is perfect and often they vex us and yet, they truly polish us into stars of shining light for others to be inspired by.  May all your holidays be bright.

 

The Scourge Of Poverty

Many children end up in foster care or adopted for no more reason than poverty.  A recent suggestion was if stipends that go to foster care could be redirected to parents working hard to keep their children.

Definitely, a single mom can feel stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty, constantly worried that one financial emergency will send everything tumbling down.

In 2014 there were 46 million poor people in the U.S., and millions more hovering right above the poverty line.  A single mom may live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment and have food, furniture and toys for her child and still be very much at risk.  That apartment may not be located in a very safe place to live.  Yet subsidized housing may be all she can afford.

I was such a single mom at one time in my life.  Most of my paycheck went to rent, food, child care costs so I could work, gas and pediatrician bills.  What drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother was – so I could try and earn a higher standard of living.  I didn’t have a lot of hope for the future, if I stayed in the situation I was in.

If you’re poor, it may be in every aspect: emotionally, support-wise and family-wise.  And even when there is family support ?  As in grandparents raising several grandchildren as their own of which I do know more than a few.  Heck I turned to a grandparent myself in my own dire time of need.

And the strain on children of living with adults who are overwhelmed by life or who don’t have the skills they need to raise their children because they themselves came from troubled homes only compounds the core problem of poverty.

Poor families today are more isolated from neighbors, work, family – all of the social networks that help people through life.  There has to be a better way than the business as usual way we have now.