Funeral Anxiety

Today’s story (not my own) –

I’m an adoptee who didn’t find out I was adopted until I was 24…I turned 40 in May (major trauma obviously, but that’s for another time). I’ve met my birth mother, maternal grandmother, birth father, and a couple (not all) of my siblings. Novel made short, my birth grandma died last Thursday. Her celebration of life is set for next Friday and I am struggling really fucking hard as to what to do.

Yes, I knew (?) and loved her. I THINK I want to be there. But I also don’t want to be the proverbial long lost child/grandchild/sibling who comes waltzing in. I have so much guilt, I’ve carried it since I first met my birth mom (another long story). It’s such a tricky relationship, on all sides, and I hate this. I wish more than anything I had someone to just tell me what to do; to hop on that flight and do this, or to stay home as I am so sick and conflicted already that it wouldn’t be well for my mental health. My birth mother has always made me feel horribly guilty. My adopted mother does the same. So I just kind of keep all of the moms at arms length for the sake of my mental health. My Granny was different. I only saw her a literal handful of times, but she was strong and kind and she validated me. Now that she’s gone, I don’t know what I want anymore.

It’s just weird. It’s a weird place. Being adopted is weird period, and I mostly despise it.

One response from another adoptee – I wouldn’t want to miss it and regret it. Family events are hard for me because biological family is all gathering, and it is a painful reminder of all the family events I was not a part of. You aren’t obligated to stay. If you feel it’s too much to handle, you could leave at any time. I’d check into nearby coffee shops/diner/regular shops that are in walking distance in case I needed an early escape. I didn’t know my maternal grandma for long but I did spend her last moments with her in the hospital. I am glad I did.

Someone else suggested exit strategies – Opps-forgot my sweater in the car. (5 min break). Tylenol is in the car too. How forgetful. Sigh. Need some caffeine to stop this headache. (Walk to coffee shop, 20 min break) Oh no, I cleared the day but work really needs me to resolve an issue. Can we catch up in a couple of hours over dinner? Also, if it would be helpful, bring a support person who can just listen to you (and serve as a buffer if you need one).

Another adoptee points out that funerals are for the living. Do what’s going to bring YOU peace and screw what anyone else thinks. Don’t overcomplicate your decision with the intricacies of your relationships with your birth family. Either you want to be there for YOU or you don’t. I hope you find peace in whatever decision you make.

Another asked – Would you regret it if you stayed home? Would you later look back and think you should’ve gone? Go with the option that leaves you little to no regret. You deserve to be there, this is your family and I’m sure you’re very wanted. The original poster answered – I’m truly not sure if I would regret it. She’s already been cremated, so I could always go on my own time, alone, and save myself some chaos. It’s just a tricky relationship with my birth mother …odd at best. I’m putting it very nicely, too.  I don’t like feeling manipulated.  It’s been rocky, and then some.

Abandonment is a Perception

Perception matters. As we go through our own “adult” stuff and often have to make hard choices, we are not always aware of how our children are perceiving what we had to do. My marriage at 19 ended in divorce after the birth of our daughter a few years later. Eventually, I then left my daughter with her paternal grandmother (about the age of 3), but she eventually ended up with her dad and a step-mother. I made attempts to stay in contact and reassure her always that it never was about her directly but my own problems. Fortunately, we are close today as adults raising children (my grandchildren and two sons I have now from a subsequent marriage who’s ages are close to that of my grandchildren). I have faced that as a child her perception was understandably about having been abandoned, even though it was never my intention to never to have her under my own roof again during her childhood.

Today, I read about a woman with somewhat similar concerns. She left her child’s father when her daughter was only a year and a half old. She gave her mother legal guardianship of her daughter as she was going through a really rough time in her life. It’s shameful and it’s tough to face these kinds of reality. Finally, this woman met someone with whom she has been able to create a whole and loving family with her daughter and a subsequent baby brother from her new relationship. This daughter is now 9 years old and there are understandably “issues”.

Her daughter has ADHD and a fiery personality. Also some mood and behavioral problems exasperated by her abandonment trauma. She tends to be self-centered (normal) and melodramatic (from me). She can be very mean and unforgiving at times. She easily gets stuck on feelings of being left out or forgotten, even while we’re actively spending time with her.

One response suggested – Behavior is communication. Give each other grace. You are not the choices you made.

Another offered a perspective which I find valid – She has emotions that she is shoving down because she does not know how to deal with them. A huge part of healing childhood trauma is to grieve the losses that caused the trauma. For her, it was not having you or her father in her life for those years. My suggestion is that you start working on grieving your losses, and be open and honest with her about it (age appropriately). Let her see that you are in denial, angry, bargaining, sad, and finally accepting of what happened. That will give her permission to explore those feelings that she has inside of herself. I would also suggest a trauma/grief informed counselor. 

You were part of your daughter’s wounding, you can play a major part in her healing too. It all starts with the parent healing as an adult. Learning what triggers us, so we can be the calm, consistent adults that our kids need because our calm becomes their calm, our ability to regulate our emotions becomes their ability.

More than one recommended LINK> Trust Based Relational Intervention – which I have seen and mentioned before. TBRI is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.

Someone else suggested mediation. Sometimes a safe person who’s not her parent can help her better understand/hear what you may be trying to communicate (and vice versa). And her suggestion came from personal experience – “I’ve had mediations done with both my and my mother’s therapist, and each time seemed to help shed some light on new aspects of a topic being discussed with our respective therapists.”

And an acknowledgement that I also understand personally – The mere fact that you care so deeply, is absolutely everything. DO NOT ever give up on that. Parenting is so hard, even without the added guilt you carry. All you can do is wake up and do the best you can do for that day.

Finally this from someone who’s been there (and hits me in the guilt place for I have done this too) – I wish my mom had owned her hand in my trauma WITHOUT excuses or trying to push blame onto others. I wish she would have validated my experiences. I wish she would have created and protected a safe space for me to understand and unpack all of the feelings and thoughts I had, preferably with a therapist. I wish she would have spent time one on one with me doing things I cared about, getting to know me deeper. I wish she wouldn’t have told me how hard XYZ was for her, I didn’t care, it wasn’t a competition, I was the helpless child. Even if my mom’s choices were between bad and worse, she was an adult who had brought me with her to that point. I wanted a mom who wanted to BE my mom.

She added – Your bit you wrote about your daughter feeling left out or forgotten hit me like a ton of bricks. That feeling is something I am working on to this day. I felt so out of place with my mom, stepdad, and new baby brother. I knew I was forgettable and honestly with a new baby – replaceable. They felt like a whole little family and I was just the chump she had to come back and get so I could tag along. (blogger’s note – though I never was able to bring my daughter back into my own life fulltime – we did have visits – I did go on to have 2 sons who I have been raising. This caused me to consider how that might feel to her – even though she is an adult with children of her own.)

One more – Focus on being your best self today and in the future. That’s how you can make it up to them, they’re often incredibly wise about this stuff. This way of thinking encourages you to reach a point of acceptance and decide… everyone’s alive, healthy, and you can’t change the past. I think that’s what I would say to my own parents, just sin no more and I don’t want to dwell in the past. (Though there may be times when the wounds bubble back up.)

My own last insight – life is messy, complicated and sometimes very very difficult. We can only acknowledge where we have failed but instead of continually beating ourselves up over that – move forward with being the best person we have managed to be at this time.

Most Were Unnecessary

The fact is most adoptions are unnecessary.

Answers to the questions that statement raises. Babies are highly in demand and sought after. There are 40 waiting hopeful adoptive parents to every ONE expectant mother/baby. From a business sense it is purely Supply and Demand. This is why domestic infant costs so much. This is why some wait YEARS for a baby. These babies aren’t “in need.” They won’t age out of foster care. They won’t grow up with “nowhere to go.” Adopting these babies isn’t helping anyone except the adoptive parent. Domestic infant adoption is 100% selfish. Most of these adoptions are unnecessary. Most of these mothers relinquish their babies for FINANCIAL reasons. If they had more money/support/resources they would keep their child.

The woman who simply doesn’t want her baby is RARE. These babies don’t need to be adopted because they have a mom and family. The family needs support to stay together. Most newborns are placed bc of TEMPORARY situations. Adoption in the US is a major industry. There isn’t a shortage of children to adopt. There is a massive shortage of babies/toddlers to adopt.

There is definitely a false but virally advertised dichotomy between abortion and adoption. One does not prevent the other. Making abortion illegal, doesn’t mean you’ll get your baby. Forcing a poor woman to give birth so that a wealthy infertile woman can have a baby makes women into breeding stock. It further traumatizes poor families, poor communities and in the case of trans racial domestic infant adoption a recognized form of cultural genocide.

The majority of adoptions are Euro-ethnic INFANTS. Children under the age of 6 years old are the MOST likely to be adopted in the United States and most of those infants are adopted through private adoption (by which I mean not through the state agencies). Some actually place the number of people hoping to adopt vs the number of infants available for adoption as high as 100/1. Some of those people hoping to adopt may decide for whatever reason to adopt darker-skinned infants and a handful may choose to adopt an older child at a later time.

If an expectant mother seeks “help” from a Crisis Pregnancy Center, or calls an adoption agency, they will be pressured with coercive tactics such as guilt (“this family has been waiting so long! You’ll be the answer to their prayers! You’re so brave!”) or shame (“this family can provide two parents for your child. How can you give this child everything they need?). All to convince expectant parents to relinquish their child to the adoptive parents, at which point the money comes into the picture as the adoption agency receives a “finder’s fee” for that child.

This is honestly how the process works. I support financially supporting families so that they can remain together. This is known as family preservation. I will continue working to make the adoption of newborn infants less necessary.

Never Their Fault

Sometimes it hurts my caring heart so much to learn the stories of adoptees, especially the ones with clueless adoptive parents who never comprehend their own accountability in the mental health of their adopted child.

This morning I was reading a story about a man who was adopted as an infant and now as a grown man with wife and children is in long term residential treatment following his second suicide attempt. His adoptive parents accept no responsibility and prefer to blame his spouse for this man’s issues – unresolved trauma, low self-esteem, deep abandonment issues, anxious attachment, and other specific but undiagnosed mental health disorders which have included serial infidelity. The adoptive parents lied to him about his being adopted, lied about having his paperwork, lied about keeping it from him and made his biological reunion about their feelings of betrayal. Even so, his wife continues to love and support him and does her best to understand.

Another adoptee with similar adoptive parents notes – the adoptive parents insist that the adoption has nothing to do with anything, it’s all just the adoptee’s bad choices. Even when this one discovered their biological parents and that they had been coerced into surrendering their child to adoption (more common than people with no adoption in their background might believe), these kinds of adoptive parents will tell the adoptee that their biological parents didn’t want them. These kinds of adoptive parents have absolutely no idea how to take accountability. How to apologize. How to admit they weren’t perfect, and simply say sorry. They aren’t capable. Some adoptive parents were told that they never had to tell anybody about their own struggles with infertility. That it was acceptable to lie to their adoptee and the child would never know the truth to be troubled by it. It doesn’t work. Having been made aware of so many of these kinds of stories I am easily able to see the damage too often done. 

There is a kind of therapy that can be helpful to some adoptees developed by Peggy Pace and known as Lifespan Integration Therapy. This kind of therapy is known to clear trauma memory and the defenses against early trauma throughout the body-mind the trauma even when the emotional memories are pre-verbal and is not explicitly remembered. This method has been used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and panic disorders, mood disorders, and eating disorders. It has also been used to heal Dissociative Identity Disorder bringing more coherence to fragmented self systems eventually resulting in a unified wholeness.

A powerful realization can improve one’s overall quality of life, even when one will never completely understand what was done to them. Releasing these memory experiences means no longer holding on to the stress, burdens and overwhelming sense of the wrong done and for which the person was not directly responsible. When one is no longer forced to constantly recall the unpleasant feelings that have caused shame, guilt and anger, choosing to release the core cause as a reality that cannot be changed. Choosing instead to recognize the wisdom contained within the experiences. This effort can allow a person to release any attachment to the feelings associated with what happened and know that it is something that can ever be totally changed. The only thing that can be changed is how one feels about it.

One cannot expect to bring something wonderful into their experience until they have the internal space. That space can be created, by releasing what can never serve them, which can then move the person into a happier future. This is not a denial of wrongs committed against them but a gentle kind of the acceptance of reality.

Utterly Disgusting Attitude

This adoptive mother thinks she has it all figured out but adoptees and many biological mothers are NOT buying it. This is why open adoptions close and is used as a marketing tool. This comment is very disrespectful towards birth moms. Many do think about their children. They grieve. They feel loss too. Keeping birth parents away will not prevent the child from feelings of abandonment.

From the adoptive mother – I kinda feel like some groups in the adoption triad lean towards having relationships with biological relatives. Not every time though. I felt in our situation, it is toxic. So I joined several groups… I honestly don’t think it’s the best decision in like 90 percent of these situations. It seems like everyone wants to sugar coat the biological parents. The fact is they couldn’t/didn’t want to get their crap together for their children…. We did!!! I decided to do some research and joined groups that I didn’t fit in…Like I am in a “I regret my adoption, birth parents group” and “Adoptees who didn’t find out they were adopted until they were adults” and even a “I regret my abortion group.” I think it’s the best thing I have ever done and it has truly been an eye opener to see ALL sides. I joined the abortion group after seeing several women in the “I regret my adoption” group say that, because their ADULT biological children didn’t want anything to do with them, they wish they had just aborted them.

Anyway, I’ve come to understand a few things. My adopted daughter will not have any type of relationship with her biological mom, because that is when trauma happens. They are too young to understand why someone can’t be around, so they feel unloved. My daughter knows she’s adopted but doesn’t know what it means. She’s 4 years old. I am telling her things like her name changed to our name, she wasn’t in my belly. I won’t lie ever to her. I keep a record of why she doesn’t get to see her biological mom (her dad passed away).

When she is old enough to be told the 100 percent truth, it will not be a shock, and like I said I will never lie to her. If I feel like the time isn’t right for a question she asks, I’ll just say that I will tell her that part when she’s a little older. Most adoptee’s end up hating their biological parents the most…. Then, they are mad that they were lied to by their adoptive parents….and they do want to know some history, and they like to have their old records (I made sure I have my daughter’s original birth certificate and social security card). I had to change her social security number because someone in her biological family was using her old number…

Most adoptees are mad at their adoptive parents for sharing pictures with the biological parents. Most wish they weren’t lied to but had the chance to have a stable childhood, where they didn’t even know they were abandoned…. They wish they had the chance to grow up in a healthy environment, instead of the adoptive parents taking care and caring so much about the biological parents who abandoned them. Adoptive parents feel guilty but shouldn’t… it isn’t the adoptive parents fault that the biological parents don’t want to be there. We cannot force them and popping in and out isn’t healthy. There needs to be boundaries. Most adoptive parents are empaths (that’s what brought them to adoption), we almost feel the birth parents pain of losing a child, but the fact is, most of the birth parents aren’t even thinking of these kids 99.9 percent of the time and have never been empaths or they would have taken care of their children.

I’ll never make my daughter feel unloved by anyone!! She won’t have to deal with all of the adults problems in her childhood, she will have a happy one!! So that’s my plan… lol

Anyway, good luck! Go join some groups. Several groups. They are all different and definitely seek all sides of each group. Every situation is different and just never make ANY person feel like someone doesn’t love them or they weren’t wanted. Keeping that biological family away in most cases insures that they WONT feel abandoned. We all want what’s best for OUR kids and all we can do is our best.

A few thoughts from the “other” side – “well, doesn’t she have it all figured out ?”

Being abandoned, makes us feel abandoned. Adult adoptees who found out later in life, prove this. They say they always felt like they didn’t belong, like they weren’t loved or couldn’t feel loved, even when it was shown – like a big piece of them was missing. It didn’t matter that nobody bothered to tell them there was a piece missing, they knew it.

And the empath stuff – I just CAN NOT. I feel like she read somewhere that adoptive mothers lean toward narcissism, and she’s just trying to say the opposite and have that take hold as a public opinion. This lady seems like a piece of work. I feel bad for her adoptee, because it’s sounds like mommy has it all figured out how to just side step her child’s experience of being traumatized at all. I’m honestly in awe of this person’s audacity. Just wow.

Mental Health and Regrets

An expectant mother says “I’m not sure with my mental health I can parent another child.” This is despite the fact, that she is a good parent to her first child and that child isn’t suffering. Does she really think giving away her baby is going to do wonders for her mental health? She may be the happy mommy for a while after doing, this with no regrets. But she can only lie to her self for so long. Eventually, she is likely to wake up and wonder wtf did I do?

One woman replied – I was this mother. I placed my 3rd. I had absolutely NO idea what it would do to me.. it absolutely broke me! I could barely function for almost 2 years. I don’t think people really understand what giving away a child means. Adoption is pushed as sunshine and rainbows in society, so I think we somewhat look at it in a positive light when we are contemplating making that choice. . But no it absolutely will NOT help your mental state in any way.

And she is alone, another one said – Me too. And yet another one said – Same with my third also. Fact is, it is the rare person who won’t realize they exchanged one set of mental health issues for another and this one lasts a lifetime for yourself, the child, other children, etc…Then this, my mental health took a nose dive after adoption. Mentally I always struggled but since then, I have been in and out of behavioral health facilities and have made 3 suicide attempts. Someone else thought – it’s a way to delay the trauma and people should be honest that all you’re doing is delaying it and compounding it later.

On that last note, came this reply – i think that also delays trauma for many in a different way, too sadly. Granted each can choose for themselves but I have supported friends who have chosen this route for a variety of reason and again, they weren’t supported after or informed of just what an emotional roller coaster it can take you on, for a VERY long time.

Now I get that’s not for everyone and some may not be as impacted by it, but my friends who have (and many were moms already) came to me and told me, they wished they had listened to me (because I told them – I’m not sure it’s going to help in the ways that you believe it would help) and many were seriously already struggling (hence not feeling able to add another kid) and they didn’t think they could nose dive further but many have. In fact, one reached out this week to me talking about how 2 years after, she still regrets it and wishes she had listened to me.

I believe support for people who go this route is lacking and very much needed – many are left to deal with it in silence and it’s a dirty secret and they have guilt and shame, which contributes to more issues they have in the long run because they don’t have a proper healing outlet to deal with all the feelings and even physical stuff sometimes after (my one girlfriend ended up with an infection and needed to be hospitalized which compounded the trauma).

Finally, this – If there are reasons causing these feelings they usually stem from trauma and lack of support – and if those were addressed, it would be still hard to parent (cuz lets be real – its hard!!) but when you have a better support system vs a system working against you (like Child Protective Services or whatever). I said to my original mom recently, what happened after Termination of Parental Rights ? She jumped at the judge when he said they weren’t her kids now, they were HIS. She spent the night IN JAIL after losing her kids. 

Hanger Baby

My sister is a hanger baby. My mother was terrified of giving birth after then seven children. When she was pregnant for my sister, she tried to abort her using a hanger. It was one of those secrets of the family.

My sister was born normal but as she grew, she was more street smart than book smart. My mother favored her terribly because of the guilt in what she had attempted to do. She thought she made her stupid.

My mother had three nervous breakdowns, suffered with debilitating alcoholism, and we lived in incredible poverty our whole lives. The only pride we were afforded was knowing we our father was a good catholic who used that at every turn to borrow money using his ten children as collateral.

There were little joyful experiences in my childhood. One friend asked me once to think of my happiest moment when I was a child. I have a photographic memory but could not think of one happy experience. I am sure there were some, but they were usually times that were devoid of trauma, so they were happy in comparison.

I was cursed on my birth by my mother. She delivered me in a drunken stupor.. She hung on to the doorway frame of the wall when they tried to take her to deliver me. She just screamed how much she hated me. I lived my life in galvanized numbness. I don’t think I have been able to fully shake it. I was well in my twenties before I realized that some parents love their children.

People always say they are speaking for the unborn. But they are not. They are speaking for their religious bias. They are speaking for a conditioning to bring babies into the world for some kind of political numbers game. The unborn would be better off if they landed in a place of love for them. It worked out well for my sister being born because of my mother’s guilt, she had an advantage in life.. I was not so lucky.

Every child has the right to be loved. I did not have to endure such a loveless existence. As I grew, I have had many memories bleed through about my past lives. It was not a thing that was in my belief system and yet the memories bled through.

If I had past lives, then I know I have future lives. I have the knowing that all of who I am doesn’t depend on this one lifetime. Nor does it with any fetus. I have had sessions with clients who brushed people’s lives by being their miscarried baby. It was all the interaction they needed to complete the transaction between parent and child.

What I have endured, I would not inflict on an innocent baby. There is the starving, being poor, being unloved and trying to thrive through incredible dysfunction. It is not something I think of everyday but the trauma of being a “have not” in a world of “haves” is the most cruel fate you can thrust on a baby. It would be different if it was merely a material thing. A mother’s love can help a child through any disadvantage. But without the love between a mother and child, the fate of both seems an unnecessary fate.

I know everyone who says they are pro life think they have the most scrupulous vantage point. But if they lived the life of a loveless baby, they may be much more agreeable to allowing there to be a choice. Perhaps they can trust Love to make the best choice for each soul and take their discretion out of the equation.

~ this personal experience was shared my Facebook friend – Jen Ward. Her website is – Jenuinehealing.com

Krista Driver NPE

Today’s story comes from an essay in Right To Know. NPE stands for non-paternity event (also known as misattributed paternity, not parent expected, or NPE) is when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is not in fact the biological father. This presumption may be on the part of the individual, the parents, or the attending midwife, physician or nurse.

The story that was told to her was that her mother was 15 years old and homeless, living in a van, and making a lot of poor choices as many troubled teens do. She didn’t have adult supervision, and drugs and parties and a little bit of crime-ing seemed like good ideas to her at the time. One winter day, she was arrested for “breaking and entering.” The police found her in a pile of dirty clothes in the back of her mother’s van. Her mother went to juvenile hall and she went to the hospital. They say, she weighed only 2 lbs and diagnosed her as “Failure to Thrive”. The doctor told the social worker, “It will be a miracle if this baby lives through the night”. She acknowledges, “I guess I wasn’t ready to ‘give up’ because I lived to tell the tale.”

After some years in foster care, about the time she turned 4 years old, she was taken into court and her mother was there. When she entered the courtroom, her mother was telling the judge, “They can have her now and then give her back to me when she’s about 10”. He tapped the papers on his desk and said, “I’ve seen enough”. And with that, he ended her mother’s parental rights, and Krista was now eligible to be adopted by her foster family.

She shares, “Doctor visits were always weird because I had to remind them every visit that I was adopted and therefore did not know my family’s medical information. The worst was the school family tree assignments.” LOL, she admits, “I just made stuff up. One year, my family were missionaries in China and lived off bugs in the forest. Another year, my parents were in hiding from the Mexican mafia and we were in the witness protection program. Every year, the stories become more outlandish. And not one adult asked me what was going on with me—maybe because they all knew I was adopted and didn’t want to talk about that because people just didn’t talk about adoption back then.”

She continues her story –

When I was about 12, I saw an Oprah Winfrey show on “Adoptees and Happy Reunions” and I distinctly recall wishing I could have a “happy reunion” with my mother. I mean, I figured enough time had passed so surely she was more mature and sober. There were no computers or internet back then, so I walked down to the library and looked through phone books. I copied down ALL the people with her last name and then I snail-mailed letters to all five of them. One ended up with my birth mother’s grandparents and one with her sister. Naturally, I hadn’t told anyone I was even going to look, so imagine my parent’s surprise when one night my great-grandfather called.

My parents took me to meet my great-grandparents and they were nice enough. He showed me some of the genealogy he had done, and I was instantly fascinated. From that moment on, I’ve loved genealogy and researching ancestry. They told my parents not to allow me to meet my birth mother because “She had a lot of problems and it wouldn’t be good for me to meet her”. So, just like that, the adults in my world decided it wasn’t in my best interests to meet her without even bothering to ask what I wanted or thought.

And this part is sad – It wasn’t until many years later that I fully came face to face with a harsh truth about my great-grandparents. They knew about me when I was born. They knew I was in foster care. They knew Sharon was “trying” to get me back. And yet, they left me there. They didn’t help her. She was 15 and living on the streets. They let their great-grandchild spend the first four years of her life in foster care. Then they met me at age 12. Once. And never called or wrote or anything after that. I will never understand why they made those choices.

Krista chose the field of psychology as her career path. In grad school, she once again had that dang family tree assignment. This time she decided to do it with real people and real information. So, she dug out her biological aunt’s phone number and called her for help. She agreed and they arranged a day for Krista to drive down to San Diego to meet her. On that day, her aunt decided it would be a good day for Krista to meet her biological mom, their mother, and her brothers. She admits – The only problem was that she neglected to tell me. I walked into a family reunion of sorts and I was not prepared. It was very, VERY, overwhelming. I was 21 and I simply did not have the emotional maturity to withstand all the emotions that flew at me and in me and around me. I was stunned into silence.

She describes the moment she saw her mom, Sharon, and they locked eyes. The woman had no idea who Krista was. One of her uncles went over and told her mother. When recognition hit her eyes, so did something else. From where Krista was standing – it looked like shame and guilt and an intense desire to flee. Somehow they bridged the distance and hugged. Her mother kept saying, “you’re so beautiful”. Krista says, “And I felt nothing. And I felt everything. And time stood still. And the past rushed in. It was the most confusing moment of my entire life.”

Her mother told Krista “Michael” was her father. She found him and met with him. He told her he remembered Sharon and a baby, but that he wasn’t her father. Michael was with her the day she got arrested and Krista was taken away. Later he ran into Sharon and she told him the baby died, and he went on with his life. Then, Krista shows up 21 years later claiming to be his daughter. Leaving his house one day he said to her, “I’m not your father, but I will be one if you need one”. She says, he really was a sweet man who had made a lot of mistakes in his past, but he married an amazing woman and had two lovely children. For 26 years, she thought he was her biological father. And after the night she met her mother, Sharon, they did develop a pretty good relationship though their relationship was complicated. 

Eventually, she did an Ancestry DNA test. Michael was right. He isn’t her father. Thomas is. He was 35 and her mother was 15, when Krista was conceived. A lot like the parentage of both of my own adoptee parents. Each was young (though in their 20s, not teenagers) and the fathers were both much older men. Reminds me of the time my husband and I tried to do some match-making for his dad’s twin brother only to discover he was only interested in much younger women. LOL

When Krista asked her mother who Thomas was and she just started crying. She let her mother know she would be willing to speak with her when her mother was ready to tell her the truth. They never spoke again. Sharon died unexpectedly a few months later and took her secrets to her grave. Well, actually, Sharon’s ashes are in Krista’s closet sitting right next to her stuffed monkey George. Sharon was 62 years old. Yet, Krista knows her mother also lied about so many things.

She says there were little to no resources here in the US. The UK had quite a bit of data (clinical studies) to pull from. Krista began to formulate a really good sense of how to define what she was feeling and put some contours around her experience. From there, she was able to identify healthy, impactful ways to walk through this NPE landscape. Solo. She didn’t have a single person who could identify with what she was going through.

Krista has turned this into her practice as a therapist. She trains other clinicians who are interested in working with this population. She has opened up virtual support groups for NPE (adult and adolescents), NPE Dads (biological dads), and NPE Wives (those whose husbands discover a child). She also works with people one-on-one and has worked with people from all across the US and from other countries. She is honored to note there will be a major clinical study here in the US (starting in the very near future) that she will be involved in.

She ends her essay with this – With the advent of home DNA kits, it’s not a matter of IF your secrets are revealed, it’s a matter of WHEN. The “recovery” isn’t necessarily linear, but it is survivable. I promise you that.

Whatever Became Of ?

In Life magazine’s – Year in Pictures 1972 – in a Feature titled Whatever became of ? – I read about “Mike” and “Tammy” – twin children found by police in a Long Beach California alley on May 5 1972. As a Gemini, twins fascinate me. After national publicity, the children were identified as Tamara and Brian Woodruff. They had been abandoned by their mother and were placed in foster care. Their mother was placed under psychiatric observation.

I tried to learn more about the twins but understandably, out of privacy concerns, they disappeared from any easy ability on my part to find out. So, I looked into the topic of child abandonment. It is defined as the practice of relinquishing interests and claims over one’s offspring in an illegal way, with the intent of never resuming or reasserting guardianship. An abandoned child is referred to as a foundling (as opposed to a runaway or an orphan). Some of the effects on survivors of abandonment include feelings of guilt about being at fault for being abandoned.

The earlier in life estrangement happens, the more damaging it can be. It can impact personal development, anxiety and depression, and of course the adult relationships people get into. When that person is trying to have a sense of identity, they are dealing with a black hole where their mother should be and a really dysfunctional model of love.

In parenthood, when she holds her baby in her arms, a woman who was “abandoned” as a child might say – “I will never leave you. I will never do to you what was done to me. Mommy will always come back.” And what she is doing is self-consoling through nurturing her child.

One woman says that becoming a mother did end up being one of the most healing parts of her own journey. And much of her anger did disappear as she reflected more on all the things that had broken her mother before she ever broke that woman. She found a lot of compassion for her original mother and the path that woman had to walk through life. Even so, she says something my own mother said to me once, “as a mother myself, I know I’ll never understand the choices you made.” For this woman, in being the mom she always wished she’d had; she found healing.

I will admit this one hits home in a very personal place. So, I didn’t do it illegally. I did not intend to never have her living with me when I dropped her off at her grandmother’s house. Yet I am at fault for lack of foresight.

I struggled financially after my divorce from my daughter’s father who refused to pay child support. I was always an adventurous soul. Would wander off further and for longer than my slightly detached adoptee parents ever seemed to notice.

And so, from financial desperation, after being rejected from a good paying job with the railroad because my ex worked there, I tried TEMPORARILY leaving my daughter with my former mother-in-law, while I tried to earn a bit of money driving an 18-wheel truck.

I didn’t know it then, but that was a point of no return. My daughter would sometimes visit me, even for extended periods of time, but she would never live permanently with me again. I never thought of it at the time as having abandoned her, but I know now that regardless of my intent, I must accept responsibility for whatever emotional harms that may have done to her. I know it did emotional harm to me. I’ve never fully gotten over the outcome or my sense of guilt for it.

Thankfully, my daughter did not eliminate me from her life entirely. I did make real efforts to stay in contact with her throughout most of her childhood. There were periods of time that due to the people I was living with, it became impossible to be contact with her but as soon as it was safe, I did resume contact and she was still young enough, that it reconnected our bond with one another, even if it did not reconnect us full-time under the same roof.

Sadness remains in my mother’s heart regardless. Knowing the legal definition of child abandonment helps but does not heal my personal pain at all that I missed with my daughter.

The What If Of It All

Michele Dawson Haber

Today, I was first attracted to a blog by this woman, Michele Dawson Haber, in which she shares imaging her father talking to her while making coffee. “What’s this? Why so many steps? Do you know the coffee we drank in the old days was just botz (mud) at the bottom of our cups? A life like yours, with such complicated coffee—Michal*, it makes me happy that you’re not struggling as I did.” *Michal (מיכל) is her Hebrew name.

I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. The pot was always prepared for the timer to begin the brewing before any inhabitants of the house woke and wanted a cup. After my mom died, I spent several quiet treasured morning drinking coffee with my dad out on their deck as we watched the dawn turn into sunrise. When I returned to my parents’ house following my dad’s death, as I walked through their kitchen, I heard him clearly say in my mind, “You miss your old dad, don’t you ?” Exactly as he would have said it in life. I admitted that I did miss him already. With my mom’s passing, . . . oh, I heard her a lot say “You’re doing really well.” many times while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom where she died in her jacuzzi tub. So much that I finally had to let her know – “enough, I don’t need to hear this any more” – and it stopped.

Yet, what really touched my heart was Michele’s piece in May 2021 in Salon about her mother’s letters – “It’s my mom’s fault I stole her letters.” I found letters like that among my parents things as I cleared out their residence after their deaths only 4 months apart. I wish I had read Michele’s piece before getting rid of my parents’ love letters to each other that my mom treasured enough to keep for over 50 years. Just before I began that work, I had read a piece by a woman who’s mother had destroyed her love letters from her father. The mother had said these were private between your father and I – and for that reason only, I let the letters go after having coincidentally read only one but a very relevant one – as though my mom reached out from beyond the grave to make certain I at least saw that one.

Michele writes in her personal essay for Salon – “I felt guilt wash over me. The debates with my two sisters over whether it was ethical to steal her letters replayed in my mind. In the end, we decided that the information in those letters belonged not only to our mother, but also to me and my older sister.” But I had not and so chose a different course based upon someone else’s story. Michele goes on to say, “the question of privacy continued to gnaw at me. I knew that if I had asked my mother 20 or even 10 years ago for permission to read the letters she would have said, ‘Are you kidding? No way. What’s in those letters is none of your business.’ And so I did what I always do when faced with a conundrum: I researched. In her book The Secret Life of Families (subtitled How Secrets Shape Our Relationships and When and How to Tell the Truth), Dr. Evan Imber-Black distinguished secrecy from privacy. A secret, she wrote, is information withheld that “impacts another’s life choices, decision-making capacity and well-being.” Conversely, if a piece of information is truly private, then knowing it has no impact on another’s physical or emotional health. 

Michele goes on to share, “In my fantasy argument with my mother, I would say that her secrecy about my biological father did impact my well-being, that depriving me of my genetic heritage handicapped my ability to shape a strong identity.” I agree with her reasoning on this one.

I had read one note (not even a letter) from my mom to a friend, stressing about how my father might react to learning she was pregnant. She had conceived me out of wedlock as a 16 yr old Junior in high school. My dad had just started at the U of NM at Las Cruces and it appears they wrote each other almost every day, though mostly these were the letters she received from my dad, except the note I read. I remember when I figured out that I had been conceived out of wedlock and how in my heart (though only for a few months) I turned against my mom because of that. I didn’t want her to touch me, such as take my hand. Hopefully, she thought only that I was asserting some independence because I was growing up. It was just all those “nice girls don’t do that” lectures she had given me. As a grown woman now, I know that she didn’t want me to make the same mistake. I hastened to get married with a month yet to graduating from high school even though I was not pregnant. My parents supported me and we had the fully formal church wedding and reception in my parents’ back yard. I suspect my parents were afraid I might turn up pregnant like my mom did and so did not discourage me from a marriage that lasted long enough to conceive a child 4 months after I married and then ended in divorce when she was only 3 years old.

Finding that letter further softened my feelings about my conception because I could clearly feel my mom’s emotions and concerns before my dad knew he would become a father. Anyway, this long story shorter. I didn’t keep the letters but sent them to the local landfill along with other items my mom had kept from their many journeys – souvenir booklets and the like. Reading Michele’s story makes me regret that all over again, and I have felt that regret before.

After my dad died, I learned from my cousin, who’s father was my mom’s adoptive brother, that it was possible to get the adoption file that the state of Tennessee had denied my mom in the early 1990s. It is a pity they didn’t let her have that because it would have brought her so much peace. My own journey to rediscover my original grandparents (both of my parents were adopted) only took me about year after my dad’s death; and then, I knew who ALL 4 of them were and something about my ancestors. What I didn’t expect was gaining cousins and an aunt. Even though I am very happy to now have family that I am biologically and genetically related to – I will also admit how difficult it is to create relationships with people who have decades of history lived that I was not any part of. Thankfully, they have all been kind in acknowledging me (and sometimes the DNA makes it difficult for them not to).

Do read the links above to Michele’s stories. I’ve made this blog long enough that I am not going to include any more excerpts beyond the coffee bit and some of her thoughts about personal letters.