Greg Louganis Adoptee

Greg Louganis and his biological father, Fouvale Lutu, in 2017

I learned about this adoptee from a favorite adoptee blogger, Tony Corsentino, in a recent blog LINK>Beautiful Man. I personally LOVE reunion stories.

I’ll admit I really didn’t know anything about Louganis’ Olympic career. In 2017, People magazine wrote about his reunion with his paternal family – LINK>How He Found His Birth Father by Patrick Gomez. Louganis told People – “I needed to know I wasn’t a throw-away child.” Like many adoptees (my mom included) being adopted filled him with questions about his birth parents. Being told his biological parents had been young when he was born and had no choice in giving him up for adoption, he says “helped ease the question of whether I was loved.”

Louganis’s birth parents met in Hawaii, but his biological mother moved to San Diego while pregnant and Louganis entered the foster care system at birth. At 9 months, he was adopted by Southern California-based Frances and Peter Louganis, who were unable to have biological children. The couple had also adopted a daughter two years before and were always open with their kids about their family history. 

Among his biggest fans was Fouvale Lutu, who for years had quietly followed his son’s life from afar. When an endorsement event for Speedo brought Louganis to Honolulu in 1984, Lutu decided it was time to meet his first-born son. “One of the hosts came up to me and said, ‘Your father’s here.’ And I said, ‘My father’s in San Diego,’ ” recalls Louganis. Then he said, ‘No. Your biological father.’ “

“It was interesting because as the years progressed,” Louganis says, “I saw a lot of similar traits in him that I saw in myself.” He adds, “when I did the DNA testing and found out how we were connected, it validated everything that I knew in my heart.” Through the DNA test, he also discovered the identity of his birth mother. 

Back to Tony Corsentino, his adoptive parents extolled Louganis as a role model for him. This caused him to realize he had resented Greg Louganis as a child. In maturity, he realized that his parents’ tokenizing of Louganis as what adoptees can achieve was mixed in with his resentment. Then, he realized that he would have needed to be able to theorize his adoption in terms that separated his own self and his questions and needs as an adoptee, from his adoptive parents, their motives and their needs as adopters. The idea of adoptee-in-reunion erasing everything that does not support the dominant conception of adoption as child welfare through family creation. The very idea of finding and reclaiming one’s roots.

A bit more about erasure from Tony – the term is a cultural project requiring many interconnecting parts: laws, institutions, ideas. Denial of citizenship to intercountry adoptees is one manifestation of it. Also, adopting children out of their communities; punitive, draconian terminations of parental rights through our systems of family policing; sealing of birth records. More broadly still: ideas of adoption as child rescue, and the presumption of adoptee gratitude, function to enmesh everyone in the project of erasure. Against such a polymorphous force, resistance takes correspondingly many forms. Greg Louganis’s willingness to talk about his reunion and his reassertion of his ancestral identity through inscribing and adorning his body with native tattoos are potent acts of anti-erasure, no matter how personal their meaning for him.

I love reunion stories because I had to make a determined effort to reclaim my original roots for my own self.

Almost Aborted ?

This story got my attention – LINK>My Family Oversimplified My Brother’s Adoption Story by Carrie McKean in The Atlantic. She writes –

My brother arrived in my life like the rain always did: after fervent prayer and petitioning. With the matter-of-factness of a child suddenly convinced of her cosmic power, I greeted God with a new request: “Can I have a little brother or sister?” True story from this blog author – before our sons were conceived, I prayed for my husband to want children. The rest is obvious (though I never told him about those prayers).

Then, our old family doctor in a neighboring town, a man familiar with my mom’s longing for another baby, asked if my parents would like to adopt a newborn boy. It was to be a private, closed adoption, as requested by the infant’s birth mother, who faced an unexpected pregnancy in a rigidly conservative and nosy town.

In truth, I don’t think my parents ever knew much about the circumstances leading to my brother’s adoption. They never met William’s mother, so the doctor was the only narrator, which left plenty of room to fill in the story’s gaps with details that suited them.  

At a local crisis-pregnancy-center fundraising event, when her brother was already a teenager, her father called her brother up to the stage and announced – “His birth mom wanted to get an abortion, but the doctor wouldn’t do it.” It was the perfect fairy tale for the occasion, featuring a thwarted villain, clear protagonists, and a satisfying resolution. She writes that she joined in the applause. We were the heroes. We’d saved him. We would save them all, if we could.

She admits that – For most of my adulthood, I haven’t thought much about the fact that my brother was adopted. But in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I find myself considering his entry into my life yet again. Watching the gleeful moods of many in the pro-life community post-Roe, I see glimpses of my past. Believing that your brother was “almost aborted” has a way of crystallizing one’s convictions. Growing up in a conservative evangelical community, I was taught that morality was black-and-white. It was an orderly worldview with no room for messy complications; those were hidden behind closed doors. 

She goes on to share – People like me were “single-issue voters,” and the voter guide in my church bulletin told me which politicians were pro-life. Just like so many within the pro-life movement today, we were blinded by our convictions to the uniquely complicating circumstances and considerations in each unwanted pregnancy. 

In the middle of the extremes of a polarized country, the majority of Americans believe that at the least, abortion should be legal in some circumstances and illegal in others. Many lawmakers seem more interested in pleasing a vocal base than they are in having nuanced and thoughtful policy discussions. No person should be reduced to a political pawn. When it comes to aborted or not – we can’t objectively weigh the life we have against the one we don’t. Even in my case, I can’t weigh what my life might have been like had I been given up for adoption because I was not.

Regarding her brother’s adoption, she recognizes regarding his birth mother that – It is possible that adoption was her Plan A, despite the story we grew up hearing. Or maybe she wanted to keep her baby, but her parents pressured her into a different decision. In my own family, my mother pressured my sister to give up my niece. My youngest sister was always going to give my nephew up for adoption. Both were true of the birth mothers in my own family.

The story’s author says – These days, considering that my brother’s mother might have bravely endured a set of circumstances she never wanted because she had no other choice sends my emotions spinning wildly. I move through anger, indignation, and sorrow for the circumstances she faced, for the personal agency she might have been denied, for the losses my brother and she have always had to live with, for the persistent grief that comes from severing a primal relationship. But the spinning can stop in only one place: gratitude for the abortion she did not receive, for the brother that I have. For the family that we’ve made.

Adoption tends to run in families – I know it has in my family – abundantly. The author adopted her youngest daughter. At the age of 10, this girl has begun to grapple more and more with the fact that she doesn’t look like the rest of her family. Her adoptive mother notes – “For weeks, she’d been dissecting our family tree and figuring out how everyone fit together.”

One day this daughter said to the author’s adopted brother – “You’re not my real uncle,” she said, keeping her voice falsely nonchalant and tossing her head so that her long black hair fell to cover half her face. “Because you’re not my mom’s real brother.” He quickly glanced up and caught the author’s eye. They both heard what she was saying between the lines about herself and her place in their family. The author realized that her brother knew better than she ever could, what this daughter was feeling, so she stayed quiet and let him respond. 

“Hey,” his voice softened as he leaned over to gently bump her shoulder with his. She didn’t budge. He playfully kicked her cheetah-print Converse with his mud-caked work boot and she finally looked up to catch his eye. “I’m here, aren’t I? Doesn’t get more real than that.” I looked up at the sky and blinked back tears. His voice, gentled by his West Texas drawl and infinitely tender heart, landed like rain on the brittle places.

Of course, as this girl matures, there will be more questions. It is good that there is another adoptee in the family that she will grow up close to as those questions demand answers.

Christmas Gift Inequalities

Unless someone is a foster parent who also has biological children of their own, they may not be familiar with this problem. Today’s issue – How do you handle the uneven balance of gifts? My fosters will actually end up with a ton of gifts as their biological family and the agency, even my own family and myself will all be buying for them. I was thinking I wouldn’t buy my fosters as many presents as my biological children because the agency will be filling their wish lists? But what if the agency doesn’t come through? Or what if my foster teens notice I only bought them say 2 presents, while my biologicals got 5? What has worked for your family? What has been your experiences?

One respondent suggested this – Let them have more – they already have less. I let them open agency gifts and such at the parent visitation (if applicable) or as they arrive with the worker. Then the gifts from me are opened at Xmas with all of us together that morning.

Someone else said –  I understand her concern. Fostering impacts everyone in the family, especially the biological kids and uneven amounts of gifts could cause hurt feelings.

Another suggested – I’d guess it evens out with your biological children’s extended family vs foster children’s biological family ? As in, you get everyone equal presents for Christmas morning and the rest fills itself in ?

Maybe this explanation adds a bit more clarity – It is about understanding the reality of adoption and foster care. One thing that is reality is that biological children and foster care children are often treated differently, usually to the detriment of the children in foster care. This question assumes that a biological child is equal to a foster care child, therefore the number or type of gifts should be ‘equal’. There is no equality in foster care.

Another suggestion went like this – Let the agency know that you don’t need any presents from them because you’ll be doing your job fulfilling the wish lists for the children. Just to note – your biological kids haven’t experienced the trauma of being removed from their family and having to spend Christmas without them, so if we want to play tit for tat… you could always send your kids to another family to spend Christmas, so that they understand their situation better.

Also, just to note that yesterday I learned a new detail about my mom’s paternal family. His first wife died while pregnant at the beginning of a new year. The two girls (my mom’s older half-sisters) were put into foster care for a short time. I had not known that detail before but my heart aches, considering the trauma of having lost their mother, to then be separated from their father and older brothers. They were very poor and I can believe there was ample concern about his ability under those circumstances to care for young girls. Thankfully, he did find other ways to care for ALL of his children after their mother’s death by involving extended family.

This from experience – The kids in foster care in my home got more gifts than my biological son. The foster care kids didn’t get to be with their families for the holidays, a few extra gifts does not hold a candle to that loss. If it had come up with my biological son, it would have been an opportunity to talk about compassion and gratitude.

I really liked this answer from an adoptee – Everything is complicated when there are younger biological and foster care kids in the same house. Maybe try not putting so much importance on gifts and doing something together as people instead. I’d love to remember a happy Christmas seeing lights and drinking cocoa, instead of tenseness around a tree centered on who can get what.

A former foster care youth provided her direct experience – We would get a box of smellys (toiletries), a selection box of candy and some socks or something equally small in value. There is no need to be concerned about extravagant gifts from the state.

A former social worker, foster parent shared this – Communication is key. My social workers keep me posted about what has been donated, so I know what to buy or not to buy. You could ask that items not be wrapped, so you can see for yourself and make sure everyone feels equally excited and there’s no hurt feelings the day of. When the social workers ask for the wishlist, I’m also intentional about putting more affordable wishes on the list, while I purchase the “big” items or clothing that is specific to the foster child’s style in order to make sure they get things they really want. We were gifted some really amazing presents from a church for our foster son last year, so there’s the chance they could get doubles – if you don’t know what’s going to be donated until closer to Christmas day. The earlier you receive the donations the better you can plan accordingly to ensure that all foster children receive equal gifts along with your biological children. For example, children may receive different donations from the people that took on their wishlist that are more expensive than a child whose list was bought by a family with less resources. Our extended family is consistent at buying both our biological and foster children equal gifts but not all extended families do. I always give my relatives specific items that aren’t repeated on other wishlists, when they ask for what the kids would like.

Speak Your Truth

I got a blog notification from LINK> Tony Corsentino, an adoptee that I now am glad to be able to read thoughts from. He notes people whose lives begin with severance and secrecy need to speak their truth. He goes on to say that secrecy in adoption makes one’s story into contested property, where truthseeking, not to mention truth speaking, can be received as betrayal.

He says the nearly universal expectation is that adopted people are grateful for their adoption—grateful to their adoptive families, grateful for a system that rescues infants and children from perilous circumstances, from abusive homes, from orphanhood. That expectation imputes a form of dependence to adopted people: that of being beholden to their adopters, and to the system that placed them in their adopters’ families.

Speaking one’s truth is an act of self-emancipation.

Often when an adopted person speaks of being adopted as a less than positive experience, their truth is labeled a “poor adoption experience.” The implication is that questioning the justification for severing a child from their original family must come out of the aftermath of a traumatic experience.

When the question is one of rights, the justification for denying people control over their bodies, it is the point. Storytelling is essential to moral argument. He goes on to note – this is true of adopted people who recount their experiences with adoption. I do not know whether to call my own adoption experience “positive” or “negative” overall. I was taken from my mother and given to people who did and do love and care for me. That’s a “positive,” surely.

Regarding his own search, he says “I did not find my birth parents until the fifth decade of my life.” In my own roots search, I was well into my sixties before I knew anything about my genetic and biological origins as regards my original grandparents. My own parents died knowing nothing beyond their names at birth and some sketchy information about one or both parents’ names.  

So, Tony notes – “I have reflected on all those factors—the barriers adopted people face in trying to reclaim their original identities, their sense of their place in the world, their cultural and ethnic roots, their family health histories—and I see no compelling moral justification for those barriers’ existence. Certainly no justification for the lack of support for adopted people who wish to overcome those barriers.” I agree. During my own search, it was like repeating dashing my head against a concrete wall.

The reason why individual trauma and harm matter in the stories adoptees tell is it forces other people to ask themselves whether it really had to be that way. Adoption is the legally sanctioned erasure of the child’s original identity.

Adoptees tell their stories because they believe that they have insights about adoption that non-adopted people will at least find intelligible. Even while acknowledging that it is impossible for people who have not lived severed aka adopted lives to truly understand. As the stories pile up, one has to admit that the harms are not all in one adoptee’s head but are a universal experience among them as a whole.

Not Under But In

One of those platitudes that many adoptees totally hate. This is something insecure adoptive parents say to make themselves feel better.

Another one of those is this one – I was waiting for and hoping for a child for a long, long time and that when I saw my child I knew in that instant that this was the child I have been longing for. To which someone noted – what you just said is extremely gross, predatory and disgusting. Another said, your comment proves once again that whichever child is on offer would be the one that the adoptive parent longed for… and the solution to their sadness.

This one went on to note – We are interchangeable, all the horror we went through, losing our families, losing our names and heritage — it was all something we should be happy and grateful for — our hearts should be full because the adoptive parents got their wish for a child, we are their child as soon as they could lay claim to us.

An adoptee says – The other mottos I despise is that the child is part of God’s plan or a child that is born to a different mother, but was really meant for their adoptive parent. 

Just one last important note for today as I am short on time. From an adoptive mother – I have a seven year old who, although she clearly does love me very much, will still make comments occasionally like- you stole me from my mom, I miss my mom (prior to my fortunately finding her original mother), that’s not my real last name. She came up with these statements all on her own at SEVEN. All of that was before we found her original mother and built the relationship between them that they now have. She doesn’t know any other adoptees, so it isn’t like someone is telling her to have those feelings. So no matter what you think you are doing for your adopted child, they will still grow up to have the same feelings as so many adult adoptees often express. The sooner you, as an adoptive parent, accept this and deal with your own emotions around it, the better you will be able to help your adopted child.

One Story For Today

New Orleans – 2005 – Katrina

Quick take – from an adoptee of a closed adoption: This is complicated. It’s painful, it’s bittersweet. I am thankful for the outcome of a very shitty situations. I am NOT thankful all 3 parties involved suffered in various was. I AM thankful for a good childhood and for love. It DOESN’T remove the grief and pain.

BACKSTORY/ CONTEXT: I was adopted at 2 weeks old, in a closed adoption. My family never hid it. We would have a small cake every year. They would ALWAYS tell me how much my birth mother loved me. They would tell me how thankful they are to have me as a daughter. They never made me feel bad for asking questions they couldn’t always answer or verbalizing thoughts about her and her situation. which I did, ALOT. Lol Our extended family didn’t treat me differently. Of course, my parents and I had our very rough moments. No one’s perfect.

I still had emotional problems, which I found out later in life were related to adoption trauma. It was hard. It had permeated every aspect of my existence. Its confusing and painful, It still hurts.

Katrina hit 8-9 months before I could legally search for her. I was distraught for the people but for personal reasons too… The hospital I was born in, the agency. The city, my only tangible connection to her was UTTERLY DESTROYED. Were my files lost?? Did she still live there? Was she ok? Was she trapped on a roof? Is she dead? It was maddening to know answers may have been swept away in raging flood waters. I had waited my Whole Life for them.

I’ve since reconnected my my birth mom and learned the circumstances that lead to her giving me up. And OMG it tears me up inside knowing what she went through, why she didn’t keep me. All the pain and trauma she experienced. SO MUCH TRAUMA. It breaks my heart. I have ALOT OF ANGER about her treatment by many people.

Knowing that my adopted parents struggled to start a family and for 15 years they watched their siblings and friends have So Many Kids makes me sad.

I grieve the loss of biological connection. So much about how I am now makes much more sense. I talk like my birth mom. Have similar random things in life that we and my birth family share. Mu adoptive parents tried their best but didn’t really have the understanding or tools to deal with the sad things.

It is true that some adoptive parents are utter nightmares and should never have been parents.

I am thankful for WHO I ended up with. That my birth mom’s huge gamble of relinquishing her daughter for a better life worked just like she hoped. I am SO appreciative to have 3 parents who love me.

A lot of adoptive parents play the saint, throw it in their kid’s face. Feel entitled to being what THEY willingly and actively went in search of becoming. That behavior is NOT ok.

Blogger’s note – I feel guilty for lucking out (that I didn’t end up adopted when my unwed, teenage mother turned up pregnant because in my family adoption was so very normal – both parents were adoptees, so their parents were all adoptive parents). At this point in my own adoption discovery journey, I never really hope to hear that other adoptees had good experiences but I am thankful when they have had a good experience. But that’s not why I am here. I’m mostly here to deal with the hard topics and help reform continue to emerge. When the story I come across is a happy story, I’m glad to not be only a downer.

As humans, we ALL seek validation. It’s natural. With that said, tread carefully when you learn someone was adopted. Maybe let them give you THEIR perspective first before you ask what could be uncomfortable questions.

No Win Situation

An unwed mother is pregnant with her 2nd child, due in early February, and the dad has no plans to be involved. She has a 5-year-old that she had the same heartfelt struggle with making this decision. She has spent almost every day of his life, wondering if he would’ve been better off if she’d just put him up for adoption. That is what she wanted to before his dad stepped in and said he wanted to keep him. She has limited to no support from her family and friends.

Where she is now . . . “The only consensus I managed to come to is that I’d be traumatizing my baby if I put it for adoption, but if I don’t have support, I’m going to ruin the baby anyway. So many of those adoptees have such a jaded, negative view of their birth families for putting them up for adoption, but they also resent their adoptive families for ‘stealing’ them, so I’m right back to square one of no matter what I choose, I’m evil and ruining my baby’s life.”

From an adoptee – I’m an adoptee of a closed adoption. A DNA test for Ancestry revealed my birth parents. If I were you, I wouldn’t adopt and as an adoptee, I regret being adopted. I don’t necessarily think my birth parents ruined my life by not keeping me because I don’t know what my life would have been with them. Having another baby won’t ruin your life. It won’t ruin your son’s. You can get your mental health back either way, because either way it’s going to take work and probably therapy. I just wouldn’t make the decision out of fear that you’re not capable because I think that’s when we get into decisions we regret.

So often, when unwed expectant mothers come into my all things adoption group seeking insight, it is almost universal that they don’t feel capable of parenting. It is most likely true in all of these cases that those who do decide to parent still have a difficult and challenging situation to navigate. With some mothers, the group goes the extra mile to supply things the mother will need once she has her baby, if she decides to parent. These women often come back when the baby is older saying how grateful they are to have been encouraged to keep their babies.

This group also sometimes helps a parent who has become embroiled in a custody situation where adoptive or foster parents want to keep the baby they managed to get. The legal process is daunting, fraught with challenges and no certainty of being won. Better to at least give parenting a try. Worst case, there is always the option to surrender to adoption . . .

My favorite saying in life is from the Lemony Snicket movie – A Series of Unfortunate Events. I can’t find what I remember anywhere but it comes down to no matter how dark or bad things look, there is always a way out of that situation. It has often inspired me to hold the line until I see the way has proven to be so . . .

Baudelaire Kids from Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events

Like A Sick Joke

Some adoptive parents want to celebrate what is generally a sad day for most adoptees. I read this comment from one adoptee – People are just out of touch with reality. Why would an adoptive parent send treats to school, so their adopted child can celebrate “Gotcha Day,” even after the child has beg them not to ?

From a mother who surrendered a child to adoption and also adopted one – This poor child. I never use that term with my daughter and honestly that is because I know the pain and trauma of being coerced into giving my baby away. In my home, we acknowledge the pain and trauma of adoption, the reasoning behind her adoption (ours was private with acquaintances) and I’m happy to give her compassion and hugs and a lot of love. I also am happy that the people who adopted my daughter never celebrated the “gotcha” day. That would be extremely painful for me as well.

On a website titled LINK> Considering Adoption, I found an article titled The Controversy of ‘Gotcha Day’.

How do you feel right now after seeing “Happy Gotcha Day” in my blog photo ? The debate is contentious, and it can get heated.  Reactions vary wildly across the adoption community. For some, the language is highly problematic. For others, the entire concept is an issue. Still others have only good feelings about “gotcha day” and celebrate it annually with their children.

The goal in my blog today, is not to ignite a fiery debate, but rather to share a better understanding of the positions some hold. Gotcha Day is believed to be a celebration of the day a family adopted a child. Some families decide to mark this anniversary on the day of placement; others celebrate on the day the adoption was finalized in court. The name of this day and even the existence of the celebration has become a point of controversy for several different reasons. Let’s look at the most common positions.

The language we use when we discuss adoption must be sensitive and respectful. We’re talking about an adoptive family, the original mother and the adoptee. We have to choose our words carefully to ensure we respect the full dignity and autonomy of everyone involved in the process. Language that commodifies the adoption process is a problem. Adoption is not buying children. Children are not the product.

“The most basic aspect of it — its name — is also the disturbing aspect of it… There is also the fact that G-Day, like re-homing, has its origins in the pet rescue lexicon because it implies caught or trapped. Is this really what we want to model?” ~ author Mirah Riben

The other side of every adoption story is that an adoptee “lost everything” connected to their family of origin. From Sophie, who was born in China and adopted by an American family when she was 5 years old: “It’s been said that adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where everyone expects the victims be grateful and appreciative… Gotcha day feels like a day of fake smiles if we don’t acknowledge that it’s also about loss, not just gain.” Having a celebration intentionally denies that loss.

Adoption is acknowledged to involve loss at some level for every adoptee. The felt impact is understandably different for each. There are often confusing questions about heritage and identity for many adoptees. It is important to allow space for both any joy in general and any felt loss when it comes to an adoptee’s day of having become adopted.

Every person is inherently, and without qualification, deserving of respect. Each member of the adoption triad is living a unique story. Each has their own struggles and challenges.

One adoptee shares – I hate the phrase gotcha day. It feels patronizing and inhumane. It’s also not ok if the child is embarrassed or doesn’t want to. My adoptive parents celebrated my Adoption Birthday. Kids were jealous of me that I had 2 birthdays. I just laughed and rolled my eyes – No one wants to be adopted. I enjoyed my 2 “birthdays” and knew that other people really didn’t understand. Gotcha days and whether the adoptee consents are huge issues.

Another adoptee admits – I HATE “Gotcha-day” if you want to celebrate the day you became a family, I think that’s great, but should be family, you should discuss adoption and how the process went (similar to a mom who tells her child about their birth). It should not be a day to praise these “wonderful” people for taking in this child that “no one wanted”. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be gotcha day. That’s what they say at the animal shelter !!!

Yet another said bluntly – I was forced to have this. It embarrassed me and I hated it.

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.

Not All Misses The Point

Within a large adoption community discussion space, one often sees the push back from some that their adoption experience was not so bad. When I first went into that community, I was definitely in “the fog” of believing adoption was a good thing, or at least natural. Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption – no wonder – but I have learned so much in the 4-1/2 years since I began to learn about my original grandparents that my perspectives, I believe, are not only more realistic but better informed. I owe a lot of credit to that adoption community that I continue to be a part of.

This morning I did several google searches looking for content to add to the text graphic above. Hard to find anything under “not all,” oppression vs protection, etc. But finally I did find one that seems to bridge both points of view – I Am Grateful To Be Adopted—and Yet, Adoption Is Still Traumatic by Theodora Blanchfield at Very Well Mind, <LINK>. I was also surprised to see a blog from Missing Mom from last year show up in a search.

I think this article also reflects something my adoptee mom said to me at the end of her life – she never could really totally sort out her mixed feelings about having been “inappropriately” adopted (as she termed it) as well as being denied her own adoption file by the state of Tennessee or any possibility of a reunion with her original natural mother (who it turns out was married but separated from my mom’s father and therefore, exploited by Georgia Tann). She said something like, “you know, because I was adopted” (related to trying to create a family tree at Ancestry and how it “just didn’t feel real to her”) and quickly adding “glad I was.” Yet, it didn’t feel genuine.

Like Theodora, my mom grew up in privilege (my mom’s adoptive father was a banker and her mother a socialite). Yet, Theodora writes –

“I have dealt with severe depression, and my psychiatrist monitors me for signs of bipolar because of genetic susceptibility combined with that attachment trauma. I’ve been in inpatient treatment for six weeks, I’ve attempted suicide twice (adoptees are four times as likely to attempt suicide as non-adoptees and deal with mental health issues at a higher rate than non-adoptees). I receive monthly ketamine infusions for my treatment-resistant depression.”

I am aware my mom, admitted to me, she had at least once contemplated suicide. I know that she was frequently under the care of a psychiatrist and was sometimes prescribed Lithium (a mood stabilizer that is approved for the treatment of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Bipolar disorder involves episodes of depression and/or mania).

Theodora notes – Adoption narratives, like many other things on social media, paint things much more black and white than they actually are for many people. Anti-adoption advocates paint adoption as akin to human trafficking; adoptive parents and adoptee advocates paint adoption like it’s a fairy tale with a happy-ever-after ending. But what if it’s somewhere in between? 

She goes on to describe many other unpleasant effects that she believes ARE related to the trauma of having been adopted. She adds “Privilege doesn’t negate not knowing where you came from or erase that always-wondering what’s nurture and what’s nature—something you’ve probably never thought about if you’re not adopted.”

She adds, “Telling an adoptee that you ‘don’t think of them as adopted’ is a knife that cuts both ways. It’s meant to be an olive branch, but it also discounts that it is my reality, that I was separated at birth from the woman with whom I share DNA who carried me for nine months. It invalidates the reality of the complexity of all those feelings bubbling up just below the surface, pushing them down until that soda bottle bursts, spilling out years of repressed emotions.”