Not Good Enough

Today’s story –

I am a adoptee. Here is the issue, My daughter just had my first granddaughter on Sunday and she is absolutely perfect. But the problem is this, I now am living in daily fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of something happening, fear my daughter won’t need me anymore, fear I won’t bond or connect with the baby. I feel like I’m going crazy . Like today she told me to come over and then a little while later she said I could go home.. not in a mean way.. just wanted time with the dad… well, I didn’t let it show in front of her but I literally got in the car and balled my eyes out and then had a panic attack, feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t see her again, that she didn’t need me or want me around… I know all of that is completely crazy but my mind won’t let me accept that. Is this normal for adoptees?, is this even normal for non adoptees? What can I do to get through this??

The first comment was – I am donor-conceived and my mother is not, but her own parents were absent/abusive. My mother is like this but she doesn’t have the courage or self-awareness to say it out loud. You did great by not putting this on your daughter’s shoulders.

The next one was – I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I’m not an adoptee but I do have an adult daughter and sometimes it’s hard when it seems like they don’t need you. But they do and they reach out when they do. We raise them to be independent but it hurts when we did it too well. She’s definitely going to need you.

Here is the next one – I’m not an adoptee and I’m answering because you asked if it’s normal for non-adoptees. I have TOTALLY had these exact feelings with my oldest; however I’m from a trauma background and have zero relationship with my bio mother – I think it may be normal for anyone coming from a trauma background. What I did was just be honest with my daughter and told her that I’m sure it was from my background and that I didn’t want her to feel responsible for my feelings but I wanted to be sure it was me and not true – we talk a lot and have a fabulous relationship. I have these feelings SO MUCH LESS NOW because she reassured me I had nothing to worry about – she accepts my worries and I accept that she is a private person and just has me around less than I originally thought would happen – I hope that helps you. And congratulations grandma!

Then there was this – That’s a totally a trauma reaction. The level of emotional response is way out of balance with the request.. and you know it… which only makes you feel even crazier, right?

So I’m gonna say something major in you baby adoptee brain has been triggered by the birth (sooo normal! ) and you now have a wonderful opportunity to find that wound and heal it. And it sounds like very expected abandonment stuff.. not being worthy of what you now see in the mother-child bond. The baby in you is crying for that experience and mourning you didn’t have it. Let your baby self cry it out and at the same time, mother yourself and know that you are worthy and deserved what your grandchild has. An adoption competent trauma informed therapist can help!

Then she adds – I used to believe that I had done enough work that I was always going to be in control.. and then, I lost my mind one day in the middle of the SPCA over a kitten. Like I became this crying, hysterical, screaming Karen .. and that is not me! That’s the day I learned that no matter how much you think you have healed.. sometimes the weirdest thing worms it’s way in! And boom.. you’re a sniveling mess lying on the kitchen floor.

Yet another shares this – My mother spent several years in an orphanage as a child and she is like this—if I reschedule a coffee date or something like that she feels abandoned and devastated. It breaks my heart. I love her so much and never want to cause her pain. I know therapy has helped her some.

A second woman confirmed – It is a trauma based response. I experienced the same sort of thing when my daughter got pregnant with my grandson. I was terrified and an emotional wreck thinking I wouldn’t have a relationship with the baby when it was born. Everything triggered me and despite my daughter reassuring me she wanted me involved – internally I felt it would all dissolve because of course, as an adoptee how do we trust we will be loved, included, not rejected ? I now have a wonderful relationship with my grandson and he is the joy in my life. I still feel that fear sometimes but I have gotten more confident that we can get past the bumps and not every bump means the end a relationship and bond.

Another woman shared – I am not a adoptee, my biological dad left and my biological mom got me and my sisters out of foster care. (Just for back ground) I just had a baby 6 months ago and my mom felt the same way. She was raised by her grandparents because her parents didn’t want her and couldn’t provide for her or my uncle. I think it’s definitely a trauma based thing, but I can tell you from the other side, I would cry for my mom at night when things got hard. I never once thought I could do it without her but also telling her was hard. Your child needs you always, a baby doesn’t change that.

A woman who gave her baby up for adoption writes – I feel like that about my daughter and she’s 31. (Found her when she was 18.) I am in therapy and am working on it. I think the important thing to realize is that these are thought distortions. They are your mind’s way of protecting itself, but this time it went out of control…. Like emotional keloids.

An adoptee writes – This is trauma talking! Trauma lies. It’s the brain telling you your trauma will repeat itself. My therapist has me do several things to combat this. One is I talk back to myself, out loud, as if I’m defending young Andrea or sometimes a friend. It feels really silly but we’re so hard on ourselves, so defending a child or a friend is so much easier! Another activity is to write down all those worst case scenarios and plan them out. What would you actually do if it happened? Then it might not feel so realistic and you’ll feel some measure of being in-control again. Also, my brain demands proof that it’s lying or it won’t shut up.

Why So Fragile ?

I belong to an all things adoption Facebook group. So birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adoptees are all member and there is also the former foster young and issues of foster care which are tangent to adoption if one understands how the system works or fails to, all too often.

Yesterday, I learned that the majority of members are actually adoptive parents. Many have spoken out how considering the thoughts and feelings of adoptees has changed their perspective on what they have involved themselves in. No one is saying that anyone should undo what has already been done. The group only encourages doing it better.

Some adoptive parents are so fragile that hearing the truth will actually drive them right out of this group. Sometimes the group is accused of being hateful and cruel but adoptees carry wounds, many times wounds so deep and unconscious within them, they don’t know they are there. Others have worked long and hard, sometimes through therapy to open up those places that were hurt and if not heal, at least begin to understand them.

Truth is adoption is a bad practice and many adoptive parents adopted children believing they were doing a good deed in the world. It hurts to hear that maybe you were wrong about that, or that you lack some really important knowledge about the impacts of adoption that only an adoptee can provide to you as the one who experienced it.

At the root of many adoptions is an infertile couple. In the most enlightened situations, the couple embarks upon a journey to find peace with the reality. The couple will seek some way other than raising children to find fulfillment in their lives. Infertility is a health issue and it should be discussed openly, to remove the stigma. Everyone does not need to have children. The world has plenty of people to support already. One could look at it as doing their part to create a balance in global population.

If as a society, we can teach the public that couples don’t need adoption to “fix” their infertility, then maybe society can put a real effort behind supporting families so that they can stay together.  A random discussion about infertility almost always leads to advice that includes alternative methods of creating a family – like adoption, surrogacy, etc – many of which harm other people. We can’t change a narrative when people are being continuously convinced to seek alternative methods to have kids. The alternatives discussed are never about remaining childless.

Being infertile is not a death sentence. In some instances, the message becomes panic stricken, desperate – which encourages the listener to say, “well, just adopt”. That fuels the “must have a child to parent” flurry. Hearing an enlightened couple share their journey of infertility with a composed and educated message can begin the process of stopping the “I HAVE TO HAVE A BABY” narrative.

The couple needs to “process” their reality – the harsh reality – to gain the emotional balance needed to meet the next phase of their life’s journey with compassion and self love. Generally, we are not called upon to be the social educator of the world. Our real job is to care for our self, so we are the best self for whatever life will bring next for us.

Some From Foster to Adopt Thoughts

The image is NOT the person who’s thoughts I will share today but it is not uncommon that people who foster end up adopting one of their foster care children. And so, here’s the story for today.

I’m a foster parent and have adopted from foster care. I’ve been in this (adoption related) group for a bit and I have been trying to learn and listen to all of you. I absolutely hate the toxic positivity and saviorism in the adoption world and the lack of understanding about trauma and the systemic issues that cause removals and adoptions that can largely be prevented. This needs to stop. However, I’m not understanding what you would suggest current foster parents do?

We didn’t go into foster care in order to adopt, we went into it to prevent family separations. We have always been active in helping the parents, in anyway that we can, get their kids back and keep a relationship with them. We have only adopted in cases that were extremely abusive and dangerous to the kids.

I don’t understand what your solution for these kids would be besides adoption? Kids that themselves have chosen not to continue a relationship with their family. Kids that say they want a new family. I see people in this group say to do permanent guardianship, but how is that not treating them as less than your other kids? Not letting them call you mom/dad if they want and not legally being a member of the family.

My kids were old enough to understand what happened and they asked for us to adopt them. They wanted to heal and have a safe and stable family. I’m in no way a savior or a hero or anything close to that for adopting. I just want to be there for these kids. I’m open minded, I want to hear from the adopted adults on their thoughts, which is why I joined this group. I want to do what’s best for them now and for their future and I have no desire to erase their history or original family from them.

So in response, not in regard to this specific situation, but from the big picture point of view came these important perspectives –

The solution is actually really simple. Address the reasons kids end up in care. Neglect is the number one reason and usually stems from addiction. So, tackle addiction with better programs that work that are not just accessible to the rich. Better social supports so families are not struggling. We need to reduce removals.

Guardianship has been practiced forever. Families have raised kids not their own since the dawn of time. It does not require legally severing a child’s identity. It does not require falsifying documentation. You can love and care for a child without that. They don’t need your last name to feel loved and cared for. It’s literally just paperwork. Adoption is not necessary.

A good adoption story (they exist, in fact, it can be said that both of my parents who were adopted, had good lives) does not make children being removed from their parents ok. Families need to be helped BEFORE they get to a point of their kids being removed. As a society, we need to truly care about family preservation.  Society needs to wake up enough to stop seeing adoption and foster care as something that saves children. Until that awareness becomes common, nothing about foster care or adoption will change.

Adoptees may never feel a sense of belonging to their adoptive family because it’s not their family. That may be hard for people who believe in adoption to accept but it is the obvious reality. If there were less foster/adoptive homes, the system would have to change. A change in what qualifies for removal, a change in what it takes to get kids home. All the money now wasted on foster homes could go back into social programs to help families.

If you want to help families, get out of the foster system if you are a part of it. Start working with local shelters and other organizations that help struggling families avoid Child Protective Services. Join programs that help foster youth aging out. Be an ally to parents caught up in the system. It’s a warped system that profits off of the destruction of families.  It is also that simple.

Normal, Not Cured

Today’s story comes from a woman who was in foster care as a youth.

I live a perfectly regular life. I have a career, kids, a loving husband. I go on vacations, I read, I cook, I attend PTA meetings. I go to parties, concerts, weddings. I don’t talk about my foster care experiences that you may have seen were bad in real life. Very few know I was a foster kid. Heck, you might take your kid in to see me and wouldn’t know my foster care experiences. I’m just a normal person in real life.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I still struggle. I still attend therapy to cope with my experiences so many of which were negative. I still have nightmares and triggers. I’m not cured. My trauma is with me for life. I’ve learned how to cope and can wake up without it being the first thing on my mind. I know myself well enough to know when I’m triggered. I’ve learned how to put on a fake smile to hide my pain.

So please remember this, stop putting former foster youth and adoptees in a box and pitting them against each other. You want to believe all of the negative perspectives from former foster youth and adoptees are only online and the ones who had positive good experiences aren’t online but out there enjoying life. No, all of them are just living their life.

There are many adoptees and former foster youth who aren’t online and they’re struggling in real life. Many former foster youth in real life are trying to heal and many are fighting for a better system. Your own foster or adopted child might be struggling right now. You might not know because you want to believe they don’t hurt. All of the good adoptees and former foster youth are out living life and the negative ones are online in your mind. This is simply not true. You just want to believe it’s true.

Also, please stop putting individual experiences in the negative or positive box. If a former foster youth or adoptee says their experiences were negative or positive – that’s their right – it is their lived experience. You don’t get the right to define someone else’s experience.

If anything we all need to listen to the difficult, uncomfortable bad stories, more than the good. The bad story is what may have gotten you a child to raise in the first place. The bad stories are much more common than you want to believe. Sadly, the overwhelming evidence is that the bad stuff is way too common.

The Wounds and Heartbreak of Adoption

In truth, we have to integrate our wounds into our understanding of who we are and what we are really capable of so that we can be whole human beings.  Only from there can we begin the process of healing the brokenness, the broken-heartedness within ourselves that is then the foundation for beginning to heal that in our larger society.
~ Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, Radical Dharma

Many adoptees seek a reunion with their original families to heal the woundedness and heartbreak of being abandoned (the adoptees’ perspective) by their original parents. If it goes well, it goes a long way toward healing those wounds. If it goes badly, the wound becomes further infected unless the adoptee can somehow reflect upon the disappointing experience to find wholeness within their own self.

An adoptee may ask –

When do I get good enough so that my despair goes away ?

Who will love me enough when they see who I really am ?

The shadows and vague memories of what happened to me are hard to sit with. Why do I keep running everyone away ?

Will I suffocate in the silence of my lack of identity, my lack of knowing the origins of my birth ?

What use does crying my tears really do for this pain in my heart ?

Systems of power and abuse depend upon not acknowledging the suffering they cause.  The rainbows and unicorns version of all the good adoption does fails to acknowledge the suffering that the adoptee experiences and the suffering the mother who gives up her child carries the rest of her lifetime.  Often that suffering is so painful, the mother will reject her child, who is only seeking to reconnect with her, because the mother fears being rejected by her child, when her child knows the reality of the mother that gave birth to her.

It is a horrendous cycle of unending suffering in many cases.  My heart breaks for the reality.  And I really don’t have answers, only empathy and compassion for the entire situation.

Am I capable of enduring suffering, facing martyrdom ?
And alone ?
Again the long loneliness to be faced.
~ Dorothy Day

Appearances Matter

A woman has guardianship of 6 year old twin girls.  Their mother is incarcerated but they have some contact.  The father is dead.  Recently, one of the girls said –  “I don’t look like you (taking about her hair). I want my hair to look like yours, and my eyes are different than yours.”  All are Caucasian.  The little girl is fair with blue eyes.  The Guardian has olive skin and dark hair.  She wanted to know the best ways to address this concern.

One adoptee that responded was harsh but truthful.  “None of what you said was validating. You even called your phrases platitudes! All you did was list the reasons she’s not allowed to feel as she does. Regardless of what emotion they express regarding their losses, your response should be, ‘You’re right’.”

“I would have wanted to hear that I had every right to be sad that I don’t look like my caregiver. Then I would have wanted my caregiver to grieve with me.  Many of us adoptees began processing our grief and are STILL processing our grief in our 40s 50s 60s and beyond. What a difference it would have made if the adults in our lives could have put words to that grief, acknowledged our losses, and helped us process those feelings in a healthy way.”

Another said – Here’s the thing: Kids are smart. They know when you’re offering them platitudes, when you’re repeating the things you’re “supposed” to say. Worst of all, they know when those things you’re “supposed” to say don’t resonate with them because you received them from other people who are like you.

Tell them the truth: We look like the people whose genetic material we inherited. Therefore, we look like our biological (and not our adoptive) families. One day, when they have children (if they have children), their children will look like them because that’s how nature designed people to work.

Like all organic things, we take our appearance and our genetic composition from the people who formed us organically. Adoption is not organic, and therefore these children will not look like the people caring for them.  Because love doesn’t make you a parent. Genetics do.

My image of the book cover came from an adoptive mother’s suggestion, though she added – It didn’t seem to impress my daughter, but some kids might like it. We talked about it a lot. She really wanted us to look alike. She is Asian, I am Caucasian with blond hair, so we are very different. We had some matching outfits that she loved, but finally she straight up asked if we could have the same color hair, so I had it dyed a dark brown for quite a while. That seemed to do the trick for her. I’m not sure if she grew out of it or if it met her needs, but she’s a teen now and it doesn’t come up anymore. She’s fairly open about her needs and concerns, so if it was still a thing for her, I think she would tell me.

Many adoptive parents are quick to brush their own discomfort aside and attempt to distract the adoptee from it. Adoptive parents, please develop the courage to face the depth of loss adoptees experience and sit with them in it awhile. Doing so will bring healing and healthy relationships so much sooner.

Temporary Assistance

What could go wrong ?  We’re family.  One of us needs help temporarily.  An older family member is willing . . . but the outcome is not what we expected.

I know this up close and personal.  When I was struggling to support myself and my young daughter, an opportunity arose to make some significant money but it would require me to travel and it was not a situation that I could pack my toddler daughter along for the ride.  I didn’t even know if I could do that work.  And I didn’t know how long it would last.  I just knew that increasingly my financial situation was becoming a crisis and I had to do something . . .

So, I left her with her paternal grandmother with the intention of that situation being temporary.  Over time, it became permanent but not with the grandmother, with my ex-husband who remarried a woman with a daughter and eventually they had a third child born of their union.  Therefore, even as my circumstances changed, I did not seek to intervene, believing that being in a family with siblings (and I did know that from a young age my daughter had wanted at least one) and which I, as a single mom, could not provide – was the best option for my daughter.  I didn’t know until very recently that the situation was not entirely as good as I once believed.  But she and I survived and remain close – thankfully.

Today, I read about a woman and a similar but different situation –

27 years ago my great aunt was supposed to watch my mother’s sister’s newborn for a few weeks because she was only 16 and unprepared. When she tried to get her baby back, my great aunt basically loaded her with court costs until it was prohibitively expensive for her. We weren’t allowed to tell her adopted daughter that she was adopted. The whole family thinks of my great aunt as a savior because the birth mom’s life didn’t turn out great. I wonder if losing her child is a big part of the why.

The rest of the story –

The girl didn’t find out that she was adopted and who her birth mom actually was until 2 years ago.  Her birth mom was diagnosed with cancer. The mom passed away last year.

We don’t always see where our actions are taking us.  For many adoptees once given up, there is a constant stream of reunions with genetic family that does some of the healing work that tearing a family apart causes.  I do believe we all do the best we know how in the moment we make a decision.  The reality is where things go from there and that is not always foreseeable.

What Causes The Trauma ?

A question was asked – what causes trauma in adoption ?  I think it is valid to ask about that.

One adoptee responded – The separation in itself is traumatic. Example: I was separated from my birth mom right after I was born. She didn’t even get to see me. Now I know when babies are born it takes time til they understand they are a separate person. They still believe that they are A PART of their mother. It’s like someone cutting off a part of your body. And you have no recollection of who or why. Wouldn’t that be traumatising for you?

Another adoptee shared that the trauma came from not being able to understand why the original parents, or at least the mother, didn’t try harder.  Often an adoptee interprets that to mean that somehow they were not good enough, not lovable, defective somehow.  Children especially cannot appreciate the complicated situations many adults must navigate and how they arrive at difficult decisions that may even leave them with a lifetime of sorrow.

This frequently leaves the adoptee believing as they mature that no one could ever love them. They explain it this way – if the person who was naturally supposed to love them the most, as their own flesh and blood, couldn’t find it in themselves to love their own child, then why would anyone else be able to love them ? The concept of love is broken for many adoptees. For many, it is the ultimate betrayal and cannot be explained as anything less than a profound abandonment.

Many adoptees are given the standard narrative that their mother loved them so much and didn’t think she could really give the child the best life and so, she surrendered her child to someone else to raise, believing that would give her child the best possible outcome.  And I think a lot of these mothers have become convinced one way or another that this is the truth of their situation.  I try not to judge.  But personally, I do find this sad.  It arises from a self-deprecating and poor self-esteem that is preyed upon by agencies and lawyers who make money when they can get a child released from their original family to allow a more wealthy couple to technically “buy” that child.  I realize that most adoptive parents do not see it as baby selling and buying.

There is trauma too in this narrative. This teaches an adoptee to equate love with abandonment and betrayal.  The effects can diminish the opportunity to have strong, stable and healthy relationships later in life.  Some will go through several failures (and one does not have to be adopted to have failed romantic relationships, some of it is learning what it is that one needs and what one can give to another person, including when and how to compromise) before they finally find a relationship that can help them heal from such misunderstandings.  Some sadly never heal.

The Sound of Love

It may be hard to imagine what a joy it is for a mother who once relinquished her child to adoption to finally hear their voice decades later.  One such story that reached me today and was conveyed like this –

“I got the call I’ve waited on for almost 31 years. More so the past 2 years.
My Son called me! 💙💗
His voice was like that of someone I’ve always known. He sounded so familiar. Almost a 2 hour phone call.  It was more than I ever imagined.💓

It may have taken a pandemic but it finally happened 🥰

And now I embark on this next rail of this roller coaster that has been my life. At least today I woke with a smile.”

Not every attempt at a reunion ends happy.  Some mothers are so devastated that they have tried to block out all memories of the unhappy experience.  They do not wish to remember what happened.

And in this time of isolating ourselves an in-person meeting may not be possible but I guarantee that someday this will all be in the past and while life may never look like it did before ever again, a new kind of normal will emerge.

An experience like the one I have shared is healing for both the mother and the adoptee when it goes so beautifully even with the complications of our current moment.  Advice for entering into such a fragile beginning –

Understand your emotions will be very intense, this is normal.
Journal journal journal.
Cry cry cry.
Yet, try with all your might not to burden your child.
Ask for their permission before you do stuff.

Adoptees had no choice regarding what happened to them. If your relinquished child comes back, be grateful for such a blessing.  Always be gentle towards both you and your child.

What Makes It Matter ?

My husband said to me yesterday that even though he did years of research and knows a lot about his lineage, his ancestors don’t really matter all that much to him.  I would hasten to add he only ever cared about the paternal line that carries the surname.  I find it interesting that I focus on my maternal line.  Maybe it is a gender difference.  I don’t really know.

However, this is how I answered him.  You always knew you could know if you wanted to.  Nothing was kept un-accessible to you.  With adoption, we know that we don’t know.  There is a void we can’t get beyond.  I think it is the knowledge that we should be able to know that hurts us.  I told him that most people have the right to know their origins but adoptees are treated like 2nd class citizens with rights removed from them.  I continue to believe this is very wrong.

A friend recently made a starting discovery that her assumed father was not her real father and yesterday she had an interesting discussion on her page.  She shared – “When I was two weeks old I came out of the body and saw the man I was told was my father – and I didn’t like him! I saw the back of his head and I asked, ‘who is this man?’ That was right after I asked, ‘how am I thinking with an adult consciousness at two weeks old?’ ….and for all my life I kept bringing up the fact that it is strange you have to ‘learn’ who your father is.”

The discussion entered a decidedly metaphysical perspective that I do not disagree with.  She went on to admit – “This long-term frustration sometimes eats at you. You HAVE to find the right place for all that has taken place. By working with the truth you put yourself at least back in line with truth. And even though you missed out on what YOU might have chosen, you feel back in line with it.”

A commentor on that thread said, “We sell babies (our most valuable and precious treasures) away to complete strangers! And people cheer for this and view it as a proper solution. Imagine the trauma of that infant (yes, with an “adult consciousness”) trying to work out the confusion of the lost mother? The lost voice and heartbeat and body rhythm and smell that he or she knew as THEIR OWN?  And of course we know our fathers as intimately too! What a missing to be deprived of that!”

This is the inconvenient truth – adoption is SELLING babies.

She added, “Our family bonds are strong, eternal and unbreakable. We are linked in a timeless and beautiful way. I desire a society that KNOWS this. Honors this. Teaches this. Pregnancy and birth is not to be feared or hated. At the moment we live in an opposite world that is deeply out of alignment. It breaks my heart.”

There was more in that discussion, such thoughts as –

I come back to bloodline. It goes further back than your “father” or your “mother,” there are ancestors probably checking on you. You belong to a line of people – so I believe.  There are things in the blood. You do have a different intelligence and inclinations according to what family you are born from.  It is plain to me that your heritage is what you are and a deep and significant part of who you are.  Knowing what is natural to you, what is making you you, what you can draw on, what is TRUE to your origins does matter.

Serious irreparable psychological damage could be done to a child / adult if they don’t know for certain who their biological father or mother is. What’s the first thing adopted kids do when they discover they’ve been adopted. They try to hunt down their biological parentage. It’s like a instinctual drive.  People seek out their biological parents to iron out and get the real story, make a picture that is TRUE, creating images where there is a blank. and I think there can be hopes to heal.

What most stands out to me is how little EVERYONE cares about the child itself. The child’s reality and truth. People seem to think they can draw whatever they want on the child and do what they wish and that child will simply accept it.  Babies and young children are NOT a blank slate.