How To Answer What’s It Like

Though my mom talked to me about her being adopted, my dad never did. I didn’t have enough background foundation to ask more direct questions of my parents and since they are both deceased, that opportunity has been lost to me. Therefore, I am always interested in adoptee’s who share how it feels to have been adopted.

Some stories for a Sunday morning –

As an adoptee, I get a lot of questions about my experience and feelings toward my adoption. I have found great value in trying to understand and explain those experiences. Recently I was asked by a friend, “What is it like for you to be an adoptee during childhood ? What about as an adult, is it the same or is the experience different ?”

I have so many mixed feelings about it confusion, pain, anger, and loneliness are the primary feelings I have about it, especially when I was younger. I didn’t understand why I was so different from my family and from others. It was always a hot button for someone being a jerk to press – being unloved by my birth mother or disposable by her. I mean, the family I grew up in ? We don’t look alike, act alike or even communicate in the same ways. I was sent away during a four year period of my childhood to boarding schools and wilderness programs because they said I was “out of control.”

I just had so much anger when I was younger but now I truly believe that my adoptive parents had no idea how to handle me. I didn’t get to say things like “it’s because of my heritage,” or “it’s the Irish in me” because I really didn’t know my history. Those feeling are subsiding with age and time and my search for who I am increases yearly. I want to share those genetic connections that others share and see my quirks in another person, without seeming like I am ungrateful.

My adoptive parents are very supportive of this search but I know that it does hurt them. As a father myself, I am finally experiencing some of those things and kinds of similarities I always wanted, and it is a beautiful feeling. The feeling now is more longing, hope, and feeling lucky to be alive (I know this is not a popular thought with all adoptees but it’s how I feel), and an acceptance of my own reality as I create for my own self my life going forward. It still hurts, a lot. And it fills me with the constant fear regarding my other relationships that I might again experience being abandoned.

Blogger’s note – my father never did get that son he wanted. My parents had three daughters and so, maybe that is why my mom was more forthcoming with me, than my dad was.

Another one – I was fostered from birth and forced to become an adoptee at the age of 10 (it was a closed adoption during the Baby Scoop Era, a period in history starting after the end of World War II and ending in the early 1970s, my mother was coerced to relinquish her rights just before I turned 8 years old).

I still hold a deeply felt anger for the lies I was told and also the physical and mental abuse at the hands of the woman who was allowed to adopt me. I miss my natural mother daily – always have and always will. What I have found empowering as an adult adoptee (yes, it is part of who I am & always will be — I am an adoptee) is speaking out for others, advocating for current foster and adopted youth, so that there’s the opportunity for them to have a better childhood than the one I experienced.

I never would have thought so but doing the DNA tests and discovering living blood relatives (aside from my daughter and her family — who are descendants – and my estranged mother — I never knew of anyone) has been healing. Additionally, I’ve become very involved in building out both sides of my ancestral/heritage family tree. It has been an education in many ways, and although there is a bittersweet sadness to so much, there is also an identification of where I actually do belong within the life/death continuum and that has been an emotionally uplifting experience that has caught me off guard but in a mostly positive way. I am honoring their ancestral (genetic/genealogical) legacy, at the same time I am acknowledging my own place, while learning many things that even my mother (who hid my existence) never knew.

Blogger’s note – for my own self as well. Doing the DNA tests at Ancestry and 23 and Me have filled in the gaps that parents died never knowing. I still need to complete the “new” family trees I started for each of them with their birth identities and genetic relations at Ancestry. It just feels like the right thing to do for each of them. I now have family history. When one has grown up without that, it is difficult to describe how amazing that actually feels.

The next story – I was in the fog until I was about 20. I always knew I was adopted. And my adoptive parents did so much better than most. I always felt like the rug would be pulled out from under me. Always waiting for some big bad disaster. Always distrusting and always feeling like I was somehow “wrong.” As an adult, I have worked really hard to break the cycle of harm. But I still always feel like I have to prove something or I am not valid. And I don’t think I will ever feel like I fit in anywhere.

One last story – as a child I was very curious about my heritage, I always wondered if I had siblings. My adoptive parents gave me a good childhood, we did a lot of things and they were very loving. As I got older, I was also “out of control” and my parents didn’t know what to do. I ended up, moving out at 17 years old.

I had been living in the fog, up until last year. Now, as an adult, it’s like a rollercoaster. An unexplainable ride of emotions from good to bad and everything in between. I’ve been through my reunion. I have 4 half brothers, who I love dearly. I have no relationship with either biological parent. No romantic relationship in my life BUT it’s nice to know that I’ve consistently sabotaged most of them, due to my fear of abandonment (now I understand why). I’ve spent the last year or so really healing from my adoption trauma and it’s felt really good. I still have pain that will never go away. I struggle mostly with the desire to love my biological mother as I “should” and resenting her terribly for abandoning me (twice). She wants no relationship with me and I’m ok with that, it just makes me sad.

Inside Grandma’s Womb

I think I already knew that all the eggs a woman has were there in her ovaries at the time of her birth. Since we did not grow up with my maternal grandmother (due to my mom having been adopted), I feel a definite fondness for my maternal grandmother who never had another child after having lost my mom due the the schemes of Georgia Tann during her days of stealing and selling babies in Memphis TN to enhance her own wealth. In some strange way, it makes me happy to know that even though Tann could take my mom away from my grandmother, she couldn’t take my grandmother out of the core beginning of each of us.

My mom certainly yearned to know her own mother and was devastated when seeking her adoption file from Tennessee (who denied her as her father’s status of alive or dead was not ascertained) told her that her mother had died some years before.

There is a strong maternal line running down from my grandmother to my mother to me and to my daughter and then my granddaughter. My mom looked a lot like her mother at a certain age. I love feeling that mirror showing through. It is also a happy thought that when I was in my mom’s womb, my daughter’s seed was forming and when she was in my womb, my granddaughter’s seed was forming. We are all connected. Sweet.

The Legal Rights Of Siblings

This from someone with experience – If you are adopting a child or children in who have siblings being adopted into other homes, make sure you have a quality attorney, NOT one of the ones that are contracted with through the state. Know the laws in your state in regards to sibling rights post adoption. Your attorney needs to go over this in great detail. Sibling separation agreements, continued contact agreements, etc are just RECOMMENDATIONS and not legally binding, unless they are worded in a certain way. This means that even though they are telling you these things will have to be agreed to and take place in order to adopt, any adoptive parent can choose to cut contact without punishment – at any time – and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Don’t be like me. Don’t think that just because the agreements are there and someone is verbally telling you this has to be done is going to mean that it will prove legally binding. It may not. Don’t be ignorant like me. KNOW THE LAWS. Have an attorney who is well versed in these matters. And make sure that continued sibling contact is legally required and can be enforced. I learned a valuable lesson about this, but it may be too late and sadly at the expense of 3 children who shouldn’t have to be denied contact. 3 children who will carry scars and wounds because of my ignorance in this area. I don’t know – what the fuck was I thinking ? But undeniably, I fucked up. I preach and preach about us being educated and I failed to educate myself in regard what may possibly be the most important aspect of adoption. Don’t be like me. Don’t fuck this up. Make sure your kids and their siblings if they have been separated by adoption have legal rights to remain in contact with each other. Please. Don’t put your kids and their siblings in the situation my stupidity put mine in.

The truth is the best intentions in adoption often fall through. Adoptive parents can just say “it is not in best interests of our child” and get judge and court order to close contact. A common tactic is to move so far away, it’s no longer feasible to have physical contact. Even in the case of agreed to open adoptions, the intentions are often not followed through. Then, there is the less visible problem – if an adoptive parent does not want contact, the child is placed into an impossible situation. The child has to choose between loyalty to their adoptive parents or to their separated siblings – it’s a no win situation. When I became a non-custodial mother and my daughter was older, I provided her with a calling card so that she could call me at no charge, when doing so was not going to complicate her life with a step-mother and half and step siblings. She was in control.

These kids are human beings and should have the right to maintain contact with their siblings, at the very least, after adoption. It is increasingly known that genetic connections are better for the child than the loss of them.

Another woman shares her experiences –

I have played this game for 25 years with my daughter’s adoptive parents. I would suggest not pushing back at them at full force. The more you push the more they will close down. Tt’s not about twiddling your thumbs ….. it’s about playing the long game. Sigh. And I understand this as regards my daughter. It was very hard to be an absentee mother but now that she is in her mid-forties and her step-mother died quite a few years ago now, I am grateful I have managed to retain a good relationship, a loving relationship, with her. She often mourns her mom who died. I would never ever criticize the woman who raised her. That is totally misguided for anyone caught on the outside.

Reform work currently taking place in the state of Ohio seeks to establish the lawful connection for siblings in foster care. There is more work that needs to be done, so that the right to maintaining a connection isn’t terminated, if an adoption occurs.

Here is the view from a person who became separated – I read my sibling agreement contract. I was supposed to see three of my older siblings (the ones I lived in the house with before foster care) 3 times a year. I have no clue how it fell apart, but I never saw my siblings again – until I found my biological family at 17. We were all able to get together once last year after 15 years apart. Then again, I read the open adoption contract too and that also fell apart. I was supposed to know my family but it seems like nobody cared enough.

Making Lemonade

So the worst has already happened and circumstances, situations, etc have separated a mother and her child.  Now what ?

Family reunification recognizes a shared genetic connection and shared family history.

Though I spent over 60 years in total ignorance of my family’s true origins and heritage, learning about it now has made all of the difference in my sense of wholeness.

It may be that some children will be better supported by “substitute” parents than their original parents are able to accomplish.  I will not deny that.  But for, I would not even exist.  That is a fact I can’t get around and so even though I’ve become very informed about the effects and impacts of adoption on any adoptee, I still know that it is the reality within my family and the outcomes have thankfully been good for each of those children who ended up with adoptive parents.

I now have aunts and cousins who share that genetic connection with me.  While I can’t ever know the family history first hand, these have been able to share with me details of family characteristics over time.  It is better than having nothing.