Kept – An Adoption Journal

This is causing some noise. They say of this journaling tool that it “has all the same heart and soul and the only change we made to this adoption version was to the pregnancy page. We now call that ‘The Beginning’ and have the prompts ‘how we found out about you,’ ‘how we told our loved ones about you,’ and ‘how we met’.”

On their Facebook page, one man writes – you obviously haven’t talked to any adult adoptees about this book. So many of us would have told you that your company name has a very obvious meaning to us. Also treating us as if our story began with adoption is effectively an erasure of our origins.

The company owner of Kept replied – Thank you for your phone call today. I really appreciate your willingness to engage and help us learn about the adoptee experience. As we talked about, we had only consulted with adoptive parents on what they would love to record from their child’s life. And we had a huge misstep with not consulting with adult adoptees on this product. A lot would have been caught. The heart was to record memories from when the adoptee was adopted into their adoptive family, but we didn’t realize how starting here would be harmful and insensitive. Thanks for your willingness to keep the conversation going with us. We really appreciate it.

Another one wrote – I’m speechless. Did you talk to a single adopted person? I’m an adoptee, a Licensed Professional Counselor who counsels adoptees, an author of adoption resources, and an adoptee civil rights advocate who led the multiyear effort to pass a 2021 landmark adoptee rights bill in Connecticut. I understand Kept is your company name, but it is beyond tone deaf, insulting and egregiously ignorant to publish a journal to document an adoptee’s life under such a name. You have seriously mis-stepped here, not only regarding adoptees but adoptive parents. I’d withdraw this product until you have consulted with adoptees (and at least some birth/first mothers) and LISTENED TO THEM.

And again, the company owner had to humbly reply – We didn’t. We should have consulted with people with exactly your experience. We should have listened to learned so much more before we launched this product. I’m dumbfounded about my own tone-deafness with the language of our brand name and how it would cause hurt related to this product. It was just a huge, unintentional, albeit hurtful misstep. We do have the product on hold until we’ve consulted with enough adoptees and can see a way forward. We are listening. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

The response from the adoptee above was this – Thank you for listening and responding. As you have abruptly discovered, there is a great deal of pain and anger in the adoptee community about how our experience has been unseen or actively silenced. I believe you are actually in a position to help adoptees, as well as adoptive and birth/first parents, given your desire to find a way to help parents hold the life stories of their children.

Yet another adoptee bluntly wrote – It’s obvious you didn’t talk to a single adult Adoptee. “Kept” is an awful name for an adoption journal. If I had been kept, I would have grown up with my biological family. Perhaps “Bought” would be a more appropriate title. After-all most of these adoptive parents dropped thousands purchasing their newborn babies.

Repeatedly, the company owner has to apologize with basically the same message over and over again.

Here is another adoptee’s response – As an adoptee this is highly insensitive. Adopted children have a very traumatic start to life, this leads to developmental trauma which affects them through to adulthood. Their life doesn’t begin when they are adopted. So much happens prior. Adoption should be for a child to keep them safe. Their journey should be honoured. The name kept is disgusting. Adoption happens because we were given away, point blank period. Please do some research and educate yourself because you are doing a disservice to every single adopted child.

Not crystal clear about the problem yet ? Here’s another – Calling a book “kept” that’s meant for an adoptee is really tone deaf. An adoptee is given away, relinquished, sold. That’s nice that you talked to some of your friends who have adopted, and some adoptive parents but did you ever talk to an adult adoptee about this? Did you ever consult what kind of information the person who the book is ultimately for might want to know when they’re older? Their journey, our journey, my journey, stared with my natural family. I have a history with them too. Every adoptee has a first family. Do better. Talk to adult adoptees when making a book for them.

And another – Just here to echo the comments of others. As an adoptee, I find using your brand/company name for this type of product incredibly tone deaf and insensitive. We are not kept. We are people who have endured trauma after trauma. Please pull this from your line and research deeper. Consult with those this actually affects.

And another – It’s obvious this journal was made for kept people — that is, people who were *not* adopted. Adopted people are quite literally *not* kept. We are given away. “Kept” is a term which refers to those who were *not* given away. The only person who could possibly think this is tasteful is one who *was* kept. Please listen to the voices of adult adoptees. We know adoption better than the people you know who have adopted.

And this – I am glad that you are now intending to speak with adopted people, but I am really disappointed that you had to be told/asked to do that. If someone wrote a book about Black people, or people who had Jewish heritage, or people who were refugees from a war, without speaking to these people or at least researching their experiences, it would be incredibly offensive and wrong. As is this. To which she added later as a reply – I am impressed, though, that you are now considering it; and have acknowledged your action’s impacts; often adopted people are dismissed or bullied when they speak of their experiences and viewpoints, or show society how damaging its actions are, so thank you for that.

Then this one made me smile – It works for me. Adoptees are “kept” in return for their services: replacement placeholder for the real child adopters can’t have/to fuel a savior syndrome/virtue signaling tool/to carry on the line of genetic strangers/to look after adopters in their old age/to provide a generic childhood so someone can acquire the title of ‘mother’ or ‘father’…Kept: having the expression of principles, ideas, etc., controlled, dominated, or determined by one whose money provides support.

Someone is working on something called “Kept” about women who were kept by their teen moms and comparing them side by side with stories of women who were relinquished for domestic infant adoption. In adoptionland, “kept” people are those who are NOT adopted.

The company prides itself on using the colors of nature for its baby memory books. One commenter wrote – This is APPALLING.I was not kept. I was TAKEN. Who the hell thought this was a good idea??? And ‘fog’ as one of the colors? You have got to be kidding.

The Fog

In adoptee centric communities, one quickly learns about “the fog”. This is the feel good narrative that adoption agencies and adoptive parents “feed” their adopted child. Many adoptees never come out of the fog. Most do not come out until maturity, maybe when they give birth to a biological child genetically related to them and begin searching the adoption related literature, a prominent one is The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. This is the preverbal, subconscious trauma experienced by a baby when they are taken from the mother who gestated them and then gave birth. It matters not a lot whether this separation occurs immediately after birth or months later. My parents were 6 mos and 8 mos old at the time they were separated from their mothers – so preverbal. The trauma is real and has ongoing effects.

So, I was attracted to an article in The Guardian titled Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory in the Health & wellbeing section by Moya Sarner. A feeling of brain fog has become more common as a result of the collective trauma of the COVID pandemic. It is described as a feeling of being unable to concentrate. There’s this sense of debilitation or of losing ordinary facility with everyday life.

It could be helpful for an adoptee to understand that this feeling isn’t unusual or weird. There isn’t something wrong with you. It’s a completely normal reaction to a seriously traumatic experience. This can affect you ability to problem-solve, your capacity to be creative in the face of life’s challenges. There can be a lot of different factors that taken together and interacting with each other, can cause these impairments, attentional deficits and other processing difficulties. Humans have effectively evolved to stop paying attention when nothing changes, but to pay particular attention when things do change.

For an adoptee, it is life changes such has giving birth that can begin the process of waking up from the fog. The adoptive parents dying, so freeing the adopted child from a need to remain loyal to the people who cared and nurtured them growing up that may kindle a need for their own personal truth. Who were the people that gave them life ? Are they still living ? What is the background story ? Are there other genetic relations ? What can they learn about their familial medical history ? What is their cultural identity ? Waking up to the reality of who the adopted person actually is.

Brain fog is a common experience but it’s very complex. It is the cognitive equivalent of feeling emotionally distressed; it’s almost the way the brain expresses sadness, beyond the emotion. One needs to think about the mind, the brain, the immune and the hormonal systems to understand the various mental and physical processes that might underlie this consequence of stress.  

When our mind appraises a situation as stressful, our brain immediately transmits the message to our immune and endocrine systems. These systems respond in exactly the same way they did in early humans – with what may feel like an irrational fear.  The heart beats faster so we can run away, inflammation is initiated by the immune system and the hormone cortisol is released. A dose of cortisol will lower a person’s attention, concentration and memory for their immediate environment. 

An experience of the fog is one of the most disturbing aspects of the unconscious. Recognizing the fog is our body and our brain telling us something, a signal – an alarm bell. We should stop and ask ourselves, why am I feeling this way ? What is the trigger ? What is the source ?  The idea is that we have a force inside us that is propelling us towards life. What has been hidden from us is now pushing us into a discovery. To make connections with our familial tribe and seek to expand the meaning of our very own life with the truth. 

The mental weight of our unknowns becomes harder to drag around. We have – at some moment in our lifetime – a will to know something about ourselves and our lives, even when that knowledge is profoundly painful. Paradoxically, there is also a powerful will not to know, a wish to defend against this awareness so that we can continue to live cosseted by lies. An adoptee might chose to live in the misty, murky fog rather than to face, to suffer, the painful truth and horror of their origin situation because the truth of the experience of how and why they were separated from their natural mother is too hard to bear.

We all experience grief, times in our lives where we feel like we can’t function at all. If you find yourself here, may it be mercifully temporary and may you recover from the shocks of reality and move forward, feeling a new wholeness in an expanded identity of yourself.