What If ?

Sunday contemplative question –

What if, in order to adopt, you were the ones who had to join the child’s family of origin instead of vice versa. Would you still do it? If in order to “build your family” you’d have to lose your first one, would you still do it? If there was a good chance, if it was probable you’d never see your current family again, would you still do it? If you had to join a family with different customs, nationality, country, ethnicity, color… Would you still do it?

Many might argue that babies are too young and mentally undeveloped to remember their families. A baby does spend 9 months intimately involved with their mother. I recently read that oral memory traditions are from female biology, an epigenetic transgenerational process embedded with tacit knowledge, knowing without being taught.

Spiritual Godmothers

When I was a child, we had godmothers. It was actually a religious thing, associated with the infant baptisms that were part of being raised Episcopalian. I never really knew my godparents. I got a gift or two early in my life but when I was old enough to actually know I received it and from whom.

However, today being Mother’s Day, it occurred to me that adoptive mothers are like godmothers who are present all the time. One could also put step-mothers in that category if the were the “good” kind and not the evil kind. For some people, aunts or even mother-in-laws are like godmothers (mine certainly was and treated me like a daughter the many years, decades really, we were together).

While the wound that adoptees suffer in being separated from their gestational mother is serious and primal, and while much not appreciative nor grateful can be said about any woman who takes a child in that they did not give birth to, I think that on a day like today, when mothering in general is celebrated, it is fair to take a step back from reform interests, just for today to acknowledge “god” mothers. These are mothers sent to us by the spiritual heart of Life itself to assist us in one way or another. Foster mothers fit into this category as well.

The all-pervading, all embracing, unchanging, and unceasing Love that evolves, supports, nurtures, protects, and provides space for its children to reach maturity. Some religions have made the effort to move away from concepts of a male god or they conceive a wholeness of the duality mother/father god. During my later adult years, for some extended period of time I entered into a practice called the Gaia Minute. In doing this practice, twice a day, I came to think of the Earth herself as my mother, the Sun as my father. Larger than the human entities that provided for us during our childhoods and for some time beyond that, indeed while we were made of these, this continues to be true throughout our human incarnation.

Sadly, some children lose their mother so early, they have no clear memories of her physically. That certainly happened to my paternal grandmother, who’s own mother died when she was only 3 mos old. That certainly happens to adoptees who are given to adoptive parents within hours or days of birth.

The maternal nurturing energy of the feminine is not bound by birth, nor even by gender (my husband is surprisingly nurturing as a human being). Our spiritual godmothers, however we obtain them, whenever we obtain them, help birth our soul’s journey by their grace. They encouraged us when we were down, they were they for us when our heart and soul ached (my own human mother could sense me in distress when I was in a different room).

The Divine Feminine of mothering energy is there to remind us that we are never alone in this thing called Life. Happy Mother’s Day to each and every person who has ever fulfilled that calling to serve another human being with the energy of Love, compassion, nurturing, safety, provision and presence.

There was something complete and nebulous

Which existed before the Heaven and Earth,

Silent, invisible

Unchanging, standing as One,

Unceasing, ever-revolving,

Able to be the Mother of the World.

~ Tao Te Ching

Are Mothers Ever Strangers ?

How is it a woman whom grows HER baby in HER body for 40 weeks, shares DNA, blood supply, HER body nourishes and GROWS HER baby, she then births HER baby, breastfeeds HER baby the first 4 days of life and hands HER baby off to strangers and a year later she is a supposed STRANGER TO HER BABY??? Are mothers ever really strangers?????

There was a story where a woman had a baby. Like 6 months later she passed away. But she was an organ donor. She donated her heart. They put the baby on the recipient’s chest and the baby remembered her heart beat. I think a face may be strange but baby’s do remember their mom’s heart beat

My biological mom is a complete stranger to me – even after meeting her and seeing her a handful of times over the years. It’s also extremely weird and uncomfortable seeing her and her family in public.

I was raised by my biological mother. We have no bond or attachment, I wish her health and happiness but really just like I do for everybody else.

I did not breastfeed (though I wanted to), but my first visit with my son was two weeks after I left the hospital without him. He was always better with me…didn’t cry, or fuss, etc. When he was six months old, the adoptive parent got angry with me (it was actually the adoptive mother) and withheld visits for three months. Birth father got involved and they agreed to stop withholding visits (though they did this repeatedly throughout my child’s life), and I went to see him with the birth father. He didn’t want anything to do with me. I knew in my heart that there was something else going on, so I asked birth father to wait in the living room and I took him to his bedroom, where he came alive and couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. It was the presence of birth father he objected to. Me, he remembered. Still, each time they withheld visits, or moved to a different state, I had to re-establish my relationship with him. He never forgot who I was, though. And I always sent him cards and gifts on our special holidays, no matter where they lived. They did, at least, give those to him, as far as I know. I haven’t seen him since his high school graduation in 2016, but I just finished putting together his Easter box (formerly known as a basket)…later than usual because my mother in law passed away, but full of t-shirts and childhood favorites like action figures. They didn’t have Baby Yoda when he was little.

My biological mom is definitely a stranger, she doesn’t know me, she’s not part of my life or my children’s lives. I don’t have a mom.

My biological mother is and will always be a stranger, she never had any intention of knowing me despite having the chance to rectify that during reunion. Not every “mother” wants to be a mother to all of their children. I really hate the idea that all biological parents are supposedly wonderful caring human beings, some of them are simply trash.

In my experience, no. My mom was never a stranger. I felt recognition to the depth of my being when we met face to face. I am literally made of her.

My biological mother feels like a stranger to me. She does not feel that I am a stranger to her. It’s a very uncomfortable dynamic.

The above received this reply – I expect that is what my son is probably going through now. Does it make you uncomfortable when she sends you cards, gifts or money? I have not stopped this with my son, and maybe he is too kind to tell me to stop.

Which received this clarification – I may not be the best person to ask. Everything my birth mother does makes me uncomfortable but that has more to do with the way she has behaved during my adult life than anything. She sent me 30 roses on my 30th birthday and I literally felt nauseated. It didn’t have to be that way though. I did not feel that way when we first met. I think my advice would be to make sure that you’re dealing with your own trauma and not putting it on your son. My birth mothers emotional needs from our relationship were so great that there was no room for me to have any needs or boundaries. Her need for me to heal her felt smothering. I couldn’t do that for her and it wasn’t my responsibility to try. Otherwise, I think it probably would have been nice to get cards and gifts. My birth father has been respectful of boundaries from the start and genuinely cared about my well-being and I love getting gifts from him. I think the fact that you’re even asking the question is a sign that you’re looking out for his needs and being respectful! I don’t mean to minimize the trauma or suggest that you should just be able to get over it in any way. Just that it’s worth working thru with a therapist on your own so that your relationship with your son isn’t the only place you’re looking for healing.

I think there’s definitely something to the idea that some birth mothers may feel more connected to the adoptee than vice versa. When we met I had spent most of my 22 years not really thinking about her, while she had thought of me every day, carried me for 9 months, gone thru labor, etc. From the start, it felt like there was just so much more emotion on her side than mine. I was mildly curious about my DNA but happy with my life. She felt her life was ruined and needed me to fill this huge hole in her heart. It’s a challenging dynamic.

I just want my surrendered son to be…well. We were very close until he got to be around sixteen. I have been thinking of him every minute of every day for all of his life, and I know it cannot be the same for him, so I have been doing my best with guesswork about boundaries. I suppose it is good for him that he lives so far away from me.

Not a stranger but an associate really. I’m made of her but we don’t have that bond since we were separated a week after I was born. We’ve been in reunion for 10 years but I don’t feel like I know her. Still a mystery.

My husband was abandoned by his mom at a young age and she is definitely a stranger to him. He saw her a few times growing up. He also had a very unsuccessful reunion.

Meeting my biological mom was actually what ripped me out of the adoptee fog. I was expecting to have this “knowing” of her. I wasn’t prepared for how much of a stranger she felt like. I didn’t recognize myself in her at all. It shut me down in our reunion for several years, while I went through deep identity work and trauma healing. The second meeting we had was two years ago when I flew to her and was able to meet my extended family. I started to recognize myself in them. Then we were leaving the family farm, when I noticed our shadows side by side as we walked. We have an identical walk. It finally clicked in and my body and spirit remembered her .I really feel that I had to bury my unconscious memories of her in order to survive as a child. I had to give into the fantasy that is adoption. It was so buried inside of me, but it was there waiting for me to do the healing work needed to remember.

Stranger and “legal stranger” are much different…or should be.

My birth mother is definitely a stranger, and probably will stay that way cause she doesn’t really seem interested in building a relationship. I’m just a dirty little secret from her past that she hoped to leave in the past.

I am no longer a secret! Biological half-siblings and I are connected via Ancestry and my biological mother knows it. And still she refuses a relationship. To which another adoptee noted – Mine doesn’t want my half-sisters to know about me, yet but I’m hoping if I keep in touch, she’ll change her mind. I really want a relationship with them at least.

It is definitely a paradox – Our original mothers will always be our first profound human connection. Very familiar, yet as an adoptee she is a stranger. It’s hard to explain to someone not touched by adoption.

Sometimes They Die

I think one of the sadder things that happen in adoption is when the possibility of any kind of reunion ends because the other party has died. In my own family, I can think of 2 instances.

In the early 1990s, before Tennessee decided to relent and let the victims of Georgia Tann’s baby stealing and selling scandal have the closed adoption files the state was charged with protecting, my mom tried to get hers. She was unsuccessful but the state did tell her that her original mother had already died. She had said to me as she embarked on her own effort that as a mother herself, she would have wanted to know what became of her child. My mom was devastated that she would never be able to connect with the woman who gestated and birthed her.

After my dad died 4 months after I lost my mom, I began my own search effort as the child of two adoptees. When I learned who my dad’s original mother was and connected with some cousins who shared my grandmother with me, I discovered that at the time of my dad’s death, he had a half sibling living only 90 miles away who could have told him so much about his mother.

When in my own search, I discovered my mom’s original father’s family, I learned that her half-sister had only died a few months before I arrived. Thankfully, her daughter spent a wonderful afternoon with me and her mother’s numerous family albums to trigger lots of stories of what the family had been doing throughout my long absence from the biological, genetic relations.

Both of my parents could have had relationships with genetic, biological family during their lifetimes, if closed and sealed adoptions records had not kept them apart – which has always been the only reason these records have been closed and sealed and birth names changed to mask the original identities.

So this morning I read several others in similar straits caused by adoption –

“I just heard that my birth mother passed away yesterday. She denied my existence to her son, my half brother that I now have a passing relationship with. Have known her name forever and never had the courage to reach out. My chances are gone now. Feeling double sadnesses tonight. I pray you are at peace now.”

“My birth mom wants nothing to do with me, I just hope to meet her before one of us passes.”

“I met my birth mother but it wasn’t really that good. I bonded with one sister and birth mother passed before we could try and have a decent relationship.”

“My birth mother is 84. I am doubting things will ever change to reunite us before she passes.”

“When I finally looked for my birth mom, she had passed away.”

“The power of secrets and shame can be heartbreaking.”

“As a birth mother, this is one of my biggest fears – that I will die before she decides its time to see me. I have reached out to her but she hasn’t acknowledged me.” 

Always Connected

Birth moms never lose their connection, even when the baby has been adopted.

The perspective of many adoptive moms is that they have paid tens of thousands of dollars to have their own baby – the birth mom never mattered in their own calculations.

Inside their savior minds, the baby is now theirs. Adoptive moms tend to make everything about themselves including the adoption. When this graphic appeared in an adoption group, the adoptive moms criticized it as being disrespectful of them. It is also the truth – about every baby ever born of a mother (which all of them are at this time in our civilization – thankfully, we are not Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – yet.

In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World written in 1932 there is a scene at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre’s Embryo Store, where embryos gestate ectogenetically under dim, red light: “The sultry darkness . . . was visible and crimson, like the darkness of closed eyes on a summer’s afternoon. The bulging flanks of row on receding row and tier above tier of bottles glinted with innumerable rubies, and among the rubies moved the dim red spectres of men and women with purple eyes and all the symptoms of lupus. The hum and rattle of machinery faintly stirred the air.”

Embryos need to develop, a process that for each is best carried on under dim light. But the representations of embryo culture in Brave New World extend the comparison, for they reveal a heavy dependence on a variety of visualization technologies, from microscopy to cinematography. Thus the tour of the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre features “the yellow barrels of the microscopes” lit by the winter sun; the Director’s description of how fertilized ova are transferred, in their embryonic culture solution, “onto the specially warmed slides of the microscopes,” where they are “inspected for abnormalities”; and a description of how x-rays are then used to trigger the process of embryo budding, or “bokanovskification,” which produces up to 96 identical embryos.

Thankfully, we continue to develop inside our mother’s wombs. One can only wonder what human beings devoid of that human connection during development as a fetus would be like but one thing is certain – in such a “brave new world” no mother would have to relinquish her infant to a stranger and any couple who wanted to adopt would have a ready supply but I for one am not willing to go to that world. I hope we never do.

One adoptive mom (bless her clear sighted heart for knowing this much) wrote – I just don’t understand what is so difficult of a concept for adoptive parents to grasp that a human being can love more than one person. Why is it such a big threat for a child to know and love their freaking parents! And how in the hell could this saying be disrespectful? It is TRUE. And just because they(we) are now raising the child does not deem them(us) worthy of more love or any kind of additional respect!

A Disconnect

I’ve been reading about infant development lately in a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. I often reflect on my own mothering of my daughter at the age of 19. Though the love was never lacking, I was not as good of a mother for her as I might have been, had I know how to be a good mother.

I believe some of that comes of the slight disconnect in my own parents as regards their parenting of us. It is not their fault, they were both adopted. Oh, they were good parents, not abusive, and we knew they loved us but there was something missing in them and it affected their parenting of us.

What was missing in my parents were their natural mothers, who carried them in their wombs and gave birth to them, may have breastfed them. I know that was true with my dad. I don’t have a record of that for my mom. She was taken to an orphanage for temporary care by her own financially desperate mother and put on a formula. My dad was allowed to stay with his mother and continue to nurse for some months as he accompanied her when she was employed by the Salvation Army, through who’s home for unwed mothers she had given birth to him.

I was reflecting on this as I sat out on the deck overlooking the field at my writer’s retreat. I was bundled up in a cozy jacket as the temperature is not more than the mid-30s and drinking warm tea.

I was thinking about how my mom took my bottle from me at 13 months to give to my newborn younger sister. My mom intended no harm, she didn’t know better. We can’t do better than we know how.

So, as I was drinking the warm tea, I imagined mothering myself. I imagined being warm and cozy in the soft embrace of my mother, drinking in the warm, nourishing liquid.

In that moment, I forgave my mom and had to extend that forgiveness to myself. I can acknowledge that I might have done better if I had know how to do better and in realizing that, I can acknowledge that my own mother would have done better had she known how to do better.

My late life sons (born when I was 47 and 50 years old) have benefitted from having a better mother in me. Certainly, I did have previous experience when the first boy was born and I had a huge amount of support from my in-laws who came every day for the first 4 months and only stopped when my husband begged me to ask them to back off.

My husband was always a good and nurturing co-parent as he did not become a father until he was personally ready to commit to that responsibility. When the second boy was born, he doubled down on the attention he gave the older boy, that he suffer less from the loss of attention of his mother, due to a newborn in the house.

It was a situation that I had to rectify when the younger boy was about 2 or 3 and the older one about 6 as he was acting out a lot to get my attention. With sufficient attention from me, that behavior quickly ceased and the younger boy benefitted from having more dad time.

Hindsight doesn’t replace ignorance but ignorance is not willful neglect.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

When a woman intentionally becomes pregnant and is happy and excited when she finds out that she is, if she is informed at all, she will do everything she can to be a nurturing gestating mother. That includes abstaining from alcoholic consumption.

But what about the unhappy woman who wasn’t trying to get pregnant ? Maybe she was in an abusive relationship, whether married or not. Maybe it was a one night stand with someone she has no desire to tie herself in marriage to. What if she has long medicated her sorrows by drinking too much alcohol ? What if she actually is a full-blown alcoholic ?

And it doesn’t stretch my imaginative capabilities to consider that such a woman as I have just described might give her baby up for adoption. A baby that she maybe never actually wanted anyway. And what happens within the adoptive family as that baby, subjected to too much alcoholic influence in utero, begins to mature. Sadly, this is NOT a rare situation nor are the behavioral aspects unknown in our modern society.

If you are an adoptee and wonder if your life may have been impacted, this woman’s article may be of some usefulness to you. She is an adult adoptee who wrote a doctor for help. “Do I Have Fetal Alcohol Effects?”

How Do You Refer To Her ?

After discovering who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted and died knowing next to nothing about their origins), my next education was in the realities of the adoption experience from a private Facebook group that includes all people related to the circumstance.

Early on, I learned that women who have given up a child to adoption dislike being referred to as the birth mother – as though all they did was give birth – failing to acknowledge that they gave 9 months of their life to the development of that baby – and not understanding as well the bonding that occurs between mother and child during gestation.

Understandably adoptive mothers really don’t want to dwell on the parts they were denied for whatever reason from experiencing.  They are a desire-driven, forward looking bunch.

One such mother replied to a question about her preferences – as a mother of a child lost to adoption I prefer to be referred to as my daughter’s mother – because that is what I am. My daughter can call me whatever she chooses and it varies…she is 50 years old. Let’s be honest…..you, are your child’s adoptive mother. Your child has a mother. If you negate that you are negating a primal aspect of your child’s life! The truth is critical. Do not take ownership of that which is not your truth.

Another one shared – I prefer mother, mom, or natural mom. Birth mother reduces me to my uterus and ability to procreate. It dehumanizes me and intentionally strips me of my actual motherhood all in the name of stroking the egos of adoptive parents.

Yet another one added this – I like bio mom. Biology means a lot to me. But I don’t get offended by any of the other terms or names.

Sadly, another one shared – My daughter was adopted without my consent, we have direct contact once a year. The adoptive parents and social workers have always pushed the term ‘tummy mummy’ which I personally find very patronising and hurtful, I’d prefer natural mum over anything else.

Finally, there was this – I’m a mother, pure and simple. Of course, I lost my children to Child Protective Services, and it was in no way voluntary. As an adoptee, as well, I *far* prefer the term first or original mother over natural or birth mother. Both of my mothers are my “real” mothers. Both are my mother. “Birth” implies that my original mother was a brood, and “natural” implies that my relationship with my adoptive family isn’t natural. For me, it is. Being on both sides of this, I would argue that the feelings of the adopted person should be paramount to the feelings of the biological parent.

If you would like to know more about the history behind this issue, you can read about it here – The Origin of the Word “Birthmother”.

It’s Not The Same

From personal experience, I believe the biology matters more than the genetics.  The bonding that occurs when a baby grows in the mother’s womb, is kept close to her after emerging in birth and nurses at her breast for an extended number of months.   The love I experienced at the moment of each of my three children’s birth was instantaneous and overwhelming.  Unmistakable.

Certainly, children are usually easy to love.  The innocence and purity of their new lives unsullied by the travails of life’s circumstances.

An adopted child is never really “yours”.  That is a mistaken concept.  An adopted child is one you care for and in the best circumstances care for equally as you would care for a child that issued forth from your body but what is lost is not replaceable.

You may not love your adopted child “less” than biological children if these are also present in your home but the quality of love is different, it is not the same.

Most adoptive parents are afraid to admit this truth because they’re afraid people will judge them and think it means they love their adoptive kids less.   Deep down they know it’s not the same at all. They are lying to themselves to keep up the farce. It will never be the same love. It can’t be. And they can’t deal with admitting that.

Love ebbs and flows in all loving relationships, even between parents and biological children. You never stop loving your children.  My mom struggled with the challenges of my youngest sister all their lives.  My sister believed, even after our mom had died, that our mom hated her.  I know that is not the truth.  However, from my perspective on the outside witnessing, my mom didn’t accept my sister was the way she is.  My mom was always trying to make her what my mom would have preferred her to be like.  That was the source of the tension and conflict between them.  But love – I definitely know my mom did not stop loving my sister.

The connection between a biological mother and the child she gestates is different than adopting a child who’s life began elsewhere. In truth, it has nothing to do with loving them or not.  It has everything to do with hormones and biology.

So, biology does matter. It doesn’t mean an adoptive parent will treat their adopted children differently, or love them less but it’s not the same because biology does matter. You will never have the same relationship with your adopted children, that you have with your biological children. That’s the effect that biology has.  The bond is special and it simply can’t be recreated through adoption.

The Saddest Moment

 

One of the saddest things was a video of a brand new baby being presented to a woman, everyone in tears of happiness, excitedly saying, “the mother just signed away all rights!” I mean this is a video of the saddest moment of that baby’s life, and they truly don’t seem to have any awareness of that.

There sometimes seems to be a real disconnect.  Adoptive parents in their ecstatic joy totally clueless about what is being done to the mother who just gave birth and what will be a lifelong sorrow not only for her but for that child as well.

It has become well-known that a fetus bonds with the woman carrying it in her womb during the 9 months of gestation.  When it leaves the womb, this baby still knows its mother.  A newborn infant is not a blank slate with no awareness or memories.  That is what people thought for a long time and the well-meaning lie that was fed to prospective adoptive parents.

Georgia Tann who was involved in my own mother’s adoption in 1937 believed this and told her clients this was the reality but we now know that the baby knows differently.  In desperation as she tried to work through the difficulties of obtaining financial resources as an abandoned mother (she was married, but her husband had left her, and her father refused to help her and my mom), my grandmother turned to the Porter-Leath Orphanage for TEMPORARY care of my mom.  In doing this, she was being a responsible mother.

In doing this, she fell into a trap whereby she lost custody of my mother.  After being pressured, exploited and coerced to give up her very valuable little white blond baby girl to the Tennessee Children’s Home, my grandmother was allowed one last visit with my mom who had not seen her own mother for some days/weeks.

The joy expressed in my little mother’s body at seeing her mother is something real to behold as she was only about 8 months old at that time.  Throughout her life, my mom never stopped longing for the woman who gave birth to her.  When she tried to make contact, she was told her mother had died some years before.  My mom was devastated and heart-broken.