Secrecy v. Privacy

I belong to a group that almost 20 years ago divided into a “tell/don’t tell” perspective. I often wonder how that has worked out for the don’t tell group. And if it has served, at what point might their offspring do a inexpensive DNA test and thereby learn the truth – that they were lied to their entire childhood. I’m glad we never thought to go in that direction.

My blog today is inspired by an article in Psychology Today LINK> Secrecy v. Privacy in Donor Conception Families, subtitled Walking the fine line between privacy and secrecy is inherent in donor families. Some of the differences – Privacy is the choice to not be seen, while secrecy is based in fear, shame, or embarrassment. Privacy involves setting comfortable and healthy boundaries. Carrying a family secret is a heavy burden. Donor families based in honesty and transparency have more meaningful and deep relationships.

In that group I mentioned, we each recognized a right to privacy for each other and honoring their right to privacy demonstrated our respect for their choice and was a foundation for trust among us. Withholding information for fear of the consequences implies a negative kind of secrecy. Secrets require a lot of emotional energy and are a heavy burden to carry. Secrecy undermines trust and is therefore harmful within relationships. Privacy, which includes creating healthy boundaries is generally beneficial. Learning when and how to create boundaries is a good lesson to teach one’s children, especially in this age where information seems to flow so readily and once out there, can’t be taken back.

The stigma of infertility is still very present in society and is often the reason why a couple may not want to be open about how they were able to conceive their children. Yet there is also a sense of social responsibility that has mattered to me from the beginning. Women are generally NOT fertile beyond a certain expiration date. When someone conceives at such an advanced age as I did (46 and 49), that could give the wrong impression to another younger woman that they have more time in which to begin their family desire fulfillment than they probably do. There are always exceptions to anything age related but that is a general rule. Much harder to conceive after the age of 40. I conceived very easily in my 20s.

Many children not told the truth about their origin – whether it was adoption, a donor facilitated conception or an illicit affair – still feel that there was something being withheld from them. When they discover the truth, they often feel anger. Even with the more modern openness, such origin stories are still not the norm. Many who are aware of their status may have little opportunity to talk about it to others who understand. Some may not have the language to speak about their experience.

I have given my children the gift of 23 and Me testing and accounts. Both their egg donor and their genetic father are there. This has led to questions from relatives of the donor to one of my sons. My advice to him as tell them to ask their donor about whatever they are curious about. When one donates genetic material, they must be aware that questions may arise in the future. It is only natural. Still, it was my perspective it is up to her as to what or how much she wishes to tell one of HER own relations about the circumstances. Having the 23 and Me channel gives my sons a method of privately communicating with their donor. I also frequently show them photos of her and her other children, so they are more aware of these persons with which they are genetically related. Distance prevents closer, in person relationships at this time, though they have met her in person more than once. I have an interestingly close, psychic and emotionally connected, relationship with my sons. My belief is that it comes from a combination of carrying them in my womb and breastfeeding them for over a year plus being in their lives pretty much 24/7 for most of their childhood (though there have been brief absences for valid reasons).

Closing An Open Is Common

Don’t believe the promises. Today’s story.

At 16 years old, I found out that my father and stepmother had given a child up for adoption. I believe that happened about 8-10 years prior to my finding out. I’m 39 and so, I think, she’s 31 now, according to a people search but it may not even be her.

It was supposed to be an open adoption but the adoptive parents quickly stopped that. They made it impossible to see and or contact her (I only recently learned this part). So I know who adopted her and a general idea of where they live(d). I don’t know anything more than that except that they’re deeply religious, like very hypocritically so.

Around the time that she was 16, and it still wasn’t legal for me to try and initiate contact, I found her on Facebook. I made a public post expressing my desire to meet and get to know my sister. I also PMd her, saying “I can’t tell you who I am directly but I hope you read my public post”.

Well, her adoptive father saw it and wrote back. I cannot remember exactly what he said but after that, contact was abruptly cut. (Not sure if it was me or him who did it – it was so long ago.)

Not sure how much later but I found out my current (and new) stepmom had found her and even friended her on Facebook. I seized my moment and sent her a friend request and a message explaining who I was. I do not remember the exact details but we did text a few times and the last time we spoke I was telling her she might be an aunt (I never did go through with that pregnancy unfortunately – I was 24ish at the time). If memory serves me accurately, she mentioned me to either her adoptive mom or dad. Then, I suddenly lost contact again (my guess is they made her cut contact with me). I never was able to contact her again and she didn’t contact me.

Fast forward to the present day, I am truly heartbroken. I want to know what happened so long ago. Does she even want to know me or know that she’s an aunt to two crazy kids ? I don’t know what crap her adoptive parents have put in her head about me. I want so much to approach her adoptive “father” and demand to know the truth.

What’s fucked up is that her entire childhood she grew up one street behind our father (out in the country, so actually a good 5 miles apart). Her adoptive father owns a local HVAC business and I know where it is.

What should I do next ? As far as I can tell, I cannot find a Facebook or number. The only address I can find is that people search one, which may not even be her. I don’t want to just roll up unannounced. My only option is to approach her adoptive father and I am admittedly extremely terrified. I’m 100% positive he’s followed me over the years (my various social medias) and hates me, as I’m clearly pro LGBTQ+ and an atheist. Everything he stands against, as a Orange clown voting douche canoe (LOL). Anyway…

I’m lost. He could either be all “I’ve been waiting for this, here’s her info” or a big old FU “you’ll never meet her” and the anxiety is killing me because I fear I will absolutely curse him out and make a major scene, if he denies me.

Do I have any right to try and establish contact ? I don’t want to push anything on her but judging by the past he’s going to be a major roadblock – he always has been. I don’t know how to approach this.

A response (and I really like the humor in this one) – If she’s 31, you have the exact same legal right to meet her, as you do any other legal adult. She may choose to ignore you – due to the influence, manipulation or other coercion by her adoptive family. My unethical life pro tip (I have used this successfully, though never in an adoption scenario) is to approach dad*. Your name is <most common girl name of your generation, region> and you went to high school with Sister. You’ve just moved back to this area and you remember her as so kind and she taught you about Jesus and you’re looking to reconnect. Could he please pass on your phone number to her? *If he knows what you look like, or you don’t look like you could have gone to high school with her, have a friend do this instead.

Another suggestion was this – I would send her a letter, but if she still lives with her adoptive parents and they know your name, then I would actually put a different name on the return address. It may even be a good idea to use a different return address. if possible. One where the adoptive parents wouldn’t be able to search it and see you or your parents name connected to it. Maybe even get a PO box.

In your letter, explain the situation exactly as you remember it, making sure that she knows that you only found out about her years after the adoption took place. Let her know that you’ve always had a desire to meet and know her. Just be honest and share your feelings. Let her know that you’ll respect whatever she decides but that you fear her adoptive parents have been making the decisions regarding allowing contact with you. However, maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s actually been her decision all along. Let her know, you’ll respect her wishes but you just wanted to reach out to make sure that neither of you were missing out on a much wanted relationship.

And of course, do a DNA test !! It certainly helped me in my own family genetic roots discovery journey.

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.

Only Wanting Confirmation

This adoptee’s experience is not unusual.

Today I’m feeling more riled up than “normal” about the way I’m feeling pulled to keep my mouth shut about adoption trauma and the fact that you can have a “good” adoption and still be traumatized — because I have MANY friends and family members who are adoptive parents who hate for me to stir the pot.

I know this is pretty typical behavior for me – “don’t stir the pot, don’t make anyone else uncomfortable, stick with the narrative they want to hear….” And yet, I have pulled away from all these people since they adopted their children because “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” and I don’t think they want to have a constructive dialogue.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone here – how do you deal with those in your circles who have adopted children and only ask your (adoptee) perspective to hear what they want to hear?

One international adoptee had this to say – I literally don’t care and I’m really honest. I can’t fake it. I try to phrase it in a respectful way but I just speak my truth and they can think what they want.

Another admits – I’m at the point where I say what I think and let the chips fall where they may. The truth is too important to hide.

An adoptee from a domestic infant adoption uses avoidance when possible – I try to avoid the conversation because it is still so triggering for me – if someone tries to pull me in, I speak my mind. I try to be concise but honest. I try not to overextend myself emotionally, but not saying anything feels worse sometimes.

It is slightly different from a birth mother’s perspective – I had family before I placed my son that had adopted and some now that are looking to adopt. I get told that every time that I need to respect the practice of adoption. WELL, I still say how traumatic it is and how they need to stop talking for their adopted children. I’ve been banned from gatherings and everyone just says I picked the wrong adopters and all kinds of other dismissive stuff. I will always hate adoption -period – and will always listen to what the adoptees in the family have to say for themselves.

From a trans-racial adoptee –  I walk a fine line, personally and professionally. If people ask for my opinion or experience, I answer honestly while keeping my audience in mind. I have resources to suggest in case they ask.

Finally . . .

Here’s the thing – we (as a society) KNOW that the biological mother is crucial to proper human development. Humans start bonding in utero. We aren’t born blank slates. Human infants don’t begin to see themselves as a separate entity until starting around 6 months. Before that time, the baby sees themselves as part of her still. She* (and ONLY HER) is the baby’s nervous system. Her repeated comforting gestures makes the infant feel safe in a way a stranger can’t. She’s that baby’s EVERYTHING. The world is scary, big and loud to babies. Turning to the only familiar person for comfort is the way infants learn what is truly scary, and more importantly, what’s not. It’s how humans learn to control our emotions and self soothe. There has been enough research on human development to know that the biological mother (most importantly), biological father and extended biological family are vital to the child’s healthy development and developing a good self image for themselves. Modern science can tell us exactly what is needed for healthy infant development, and why – despite the lack of research done directly related to adoptees – we adoptees and many other people already know adoption flies in the face of everything necessary for proper child development. Humans aren’t interchangeable. Everyone knows that. It’s crazy how there is such a disconnect, when it comes to adoptees. Like science has PROVEN that humans need certain things in infancy and childhood to grow into healthy adults. Do people glorifying adoption think “except adoptees”?? Why don’t adoptees need those things? Many seem to want to believe that adoptees will be just fine without them. Better than fine, in fact, LUCKY! It makes NO logical sense to an adoptee.

Where does this disconnect happen? Do they really think we’re not human beings, so we don’t need what every human being needs?? Or do they all just have an image in their head that our biological families are always drug addled, wretched abusers who abandoned us without a second thought? The more likely is that second explanation. And if that’s true, why do they have to hard press so hard, exploiting vulnerable mothers, and make it impossible for them to change their minds? Literally that is the way the laws are. Adoptees are treated like they are in the witness protection program from their own natural families. Adoptees are supposed to believe they were super unwanted and no one could “force” their natural parents to actually parent them. NONE of that makes logical sense. They get furious if asked to realize the scope of the damage they’ve done.

Guilty For Being Honest

AITA

I had to google the meaning when I came across this today. It is easy enough to find so I won’t repeat it.

The adoptee story today is about a transracial adoptee who has the unique physical characteristic of having blue eyes which is unexpected given her nationality. Her adoptive mother also has blue eyes and this causes some understandable misconceptions but she will always offer the explanation if it seems relevant.

It is amazing how often people see into other people what they want to see. My sons do not have my DNA and they know the whole story about how and why they don’t. We’ve often had strangers remark that one of my sons favors my husband and the other favors me but the truth is that they genuinely can and do favor their dad in some way or other but neither is a carbon copy of him. The funniest one I get when I am with my sons is about being their grandmother. Since I am ALSO a grandmother, that is what I answer, while correcting the misconception, saying that I AM their mother. I carried them in my womb, I nursed them at my breast and I have been here for them 24/7 all of their lives (they are now 18 and 21).

So this adoptee’s very young cousin said he wished he had his mom’s eye color like this adoptee got her adoptive mother’s eye color. She told him honestly that the woman who gave birth to her didn’t have that color of eyes either. That it was just a coincidence. Her cousin asked further questions and she answered honestly. That she had come from a different country and that is why she looks different from him and from her adoptive family. She explained that their DNA was different. He was young enough that after her explanation, he just went back to playing with his Legos because he was satisfied.

Later, her aunt (this cousin’s mother) expressed her disapproval to the adoptee. She said that the adoptee didn’t have to tell the boy that she was not her mother’s “real” daughter. The adoptee affirmed that she didn’t say it that way. The aunt was unhappy that the adoptee would admit to other people that her unusual eye color (blue) didn’t come from her adoptive mother. That separating herself that way from the rest of the family was hurtful to all of them.

This story reminds me of the Toni Morrison novel – The Bluest Eye – that I read (it is a very sad and disturbing story). This adoptee says that her adoptive father used to sing Elton John’s song Blue Eyes to her. The adoptee said AITA for saying I’m adopted ? I didn’t know this song until today.

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

Betrayal After Betrayal

Today’s story courtesy of the LINK> Huffington Post – My Dad Hid My Sister From Me For Decades. Then I Learned That Wasn’t Our Only Family Secret by Sarah Leibov. I share excerpts. You can read the whole story at the link.

Her dad had impregnated his girlfriend long before he met her mom and she was placed for adoption. The truth was revealed because the woman was coming to Chicago where the author lived and not only her mother (who had divorced her father 20 years ago) and her brother (who also knew about this secret sister) thought Sarah might want to meet her.

Her brother knew because he was going through their dad’s briefcase seven years ago and discovered letters from this woman and began corresponding with her. The mother discovered the secret when she asked who sent an email she saw on her son’s computer.

Sarah describes her reaction to the shock of learning about this sister. I only noticed that I was crying when people passing me on the street gave me sympathetic looks. I sat down on the curb, shaking. I was in shock, but another part of me was relieved. Intuitively, I’d always felt that my father was hiding something from me. Hearing the news validated the fear I’d buried inside for years. I was confused as to why he had kept this secret. My parents had divorced and married other partners when I was young, and I’d already had every kind of sibling imaginable ― my brother, a stepsister from my mother’s next marriage, and three half siblings from my father’s second marriage. Why would he keep quiet about this one? I didn’t know why my brother had never confronted my father, or shared the news with me. It was betrayal after betrayal.

She didn’t want to meet her father’s hidden daughter behind his back, or hide it from him, as he had from her. She called her brother and told him, “Call Dad now, and tell him what you know, or I will.” The next day, her father asked Sarah and her brother to meet him at a deli she’d never heard of. She thinks he thought she wouldn’t make a scene in an unfamiliar public setting, but admits, “I upset his plan. Tears flowed down my face as I ignored inquisitive looks from people trying to enjoy their matzo ball soup.”

Her father told them that when his girlfriend discovered that she was pregnant, she told him that she was moving to another state and planned to place the baby for adoption. Two decades later, the hidden sister gained access to her adoption papers and reached out to both her birth parents. Their father had then started corresponding with her and even met with her several times over the years.

Sarah writes about their first meeting – My fiancé and I met my new sister at a restaurant the following evening. My father was right ― she was lovely, kind and unassuming. I noticed that we both had inherited my father’s dark eyes and curly hair. She seemed a bit nervous and just as intent on making a good impression as I was. In her warm presence, all my envy disappeared.

And in the years since, we have bonded over our mutual interests in music and meditation, both on the phone and in person. I am very fond of her, but it’s so much more than that. I admire her political activism and ideals. She is a health care worker, and I’ve never heard her blame anyone for the difficulties she has endured. She lives with an easy, open acceptance that is challenging for me.

The hidden sister turned out not to be the only secret in their family. Turns out that her maternal grandfather had an affair during his marriage to her grandmother. Her mother and this half-sister (discovered thanks to Ancestry.com) were born only a few months apart, but on opposite sides of the country. When asked if her father had ever traveled to the East Coast, her mother explained that he was a traveling salesman. “We hear that a lot,” the geneticist told her mother.

Upon learning about this, Sarah was angry at her grandfather for deceiving her mother, similar to how she had been angry at her father for withholding a sister from her. It was frustrating that because the grandfather was deceased they couldn’t get answers from him. I know the feeling. I would love to know why my maternal grandfather appears to have abandoned my maternal grandmother and the baby that was my adoptee mother.

When she saw how overjoyed her mother was to have discovered a sister so late in her life, Sarah’s perspectives changed. It wasn’t their actions that were reprehensible, their decisions to hide what happened had caused pain.

She ends her essay with this – “Enough time has been stolen from me and now its my responsibility to recover what has been lost.” I understand. Building relationships with people who didn’t know you existed for over 60 years isn’t easy. I simply keep trying to stay connected with my “new” genetic family.

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Conflict of Interest ?

I got seriously triggered with my husband yesterday. I need to work through my thoughts and I’m sure this is going to prove a lengthy process of contemplation.

Some background –

Both of my parents were given up for adoption in the 1930s. Their circumstances were somewhat different and somewhat similar. My mom’s genetic biological parents were married but at 4 mos pregnant after 4 mos of marriage for reasons I’ll never really have reliable answers to (but a few theories given what I have learned), her husband left her. He didn’t divorce her for 3 years, so there is that as well. With no husband in sight, she was sent to Virginia from Memphis TN to give birth and I would assume expected to leave the baby there but she did not. Instead, after her return to Memphis with my infant mom in tow, she became a victim of Georgia Tann.

My dad’s mom was unwed. She had an affair with a much older married man. Then, she went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers to give birth. After about 2 or 3 months, she was released with my dad still in her custody. It appears my dad’s father never even knew he existed. When my grandmother found no support for her and the baby with her cousin, she returned to the Salvation Army seeking employment and was transferred with my dad still in tow to one of their homes in El Paso Texas.

My mom’s adoptive parents relocated to El Paso Texas and in high school, my adoptee mom met my adoptee dad. Probably during the summer after my dad’s graduation from high school before entering a university my parents had sex and my teenage mom discovered by Autumn that she was pregnant. My dad’s adoptive parents supported him marrying her and quitting his hopes of a university degree to go to work and support his new family. I’m pretty certain my mom’s adoptive parents, had they had a chance, would have sent her off to have and give me up. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

So the truth I cannot deny is that had my parents NOT been adopted and had they both not ended up in El Paso TX and attended the same high school where they met at a party through mutual friends, I would not exist at all. I owe my very existence in this life to ~gasp~ adoption. I think I once described this situation as imperfectly perfect.

Until about 5 years ago, when I was able to uncover the identities of all 4 of my original grandparents (something that both of my parents died still not knowing), I thought adoption was the most natural thing in the world and that my parents were orphans. I had no idea there were people I was actually genetically biologically related to living out lives as unaware of me as I was of them. I knew nothing about the mental and emotional impacts of the trauma of my parents being separated from their mothers may have caused. I’ve learned a LOT about that since then – as this blog very frequently shares. To be honest, I now would prefer to see vulnerable women supported, so that they could raise their own babies.

So what is my conflict of interest ? My husband’s desire that my writing add some revenue to our family. Of course, I would love for that to happen as well. I have developed a negative attitude toward Christian Evangelical saviorism as it applies to adoption. My husband wants me to make my next book oriented towards Evangelical Christians (I have just finish a revision of my parents’ adoption stories for the 3rd time and will go about trying to obtain a literary agent for that work).

What !?! I accused him of asking me to betray my values for monetary reasons. He spoke of “witnessing.” That stayed with me all afternoon. I reflected on the kind of people my adoptive grandparents were. 3 of the 4 were religious. My dad’s were fundamentalist in the extreme. When one church wasn’t as strictly interpreted per the bible as they wanted, they changed churches to a stricter one. My mom’s adoptive father has been described as morally ethical but not religious. I see that same characteristic in my husband. My mom’s mother however had a surprisingly enlightened spirituality – especially when I consider what I have heard of her own very bible religious mother (to the extent of neglecting home and family). This grandmother’s spirituality was not far different than my own (which was what surprised me when I discovered it). My husband has a negative perspective on religion in general and believes vulnerable people are exploited by it. So I could not believe that HE would suggest such a thing to me. He admits that he is a bit like Mr Krabs in the SpongeBob episodes – all about the money (only really he is incredibly down to Earth, he just worries about supporting this family as he ages).

Yet, aside from the last 5 years of having it banged into my consciousness through my favorite adoption triad group, where the voices of adult adoptees are given preference and describe all that is wrong with adoption and foster care in general, what is it that I actually know from my own experience ?

My parents each felt differently about their adoptions. My dad never spoke to me of his but cautioned my mom against her efforts at locating her birth mother – who had already died by the time she was actively seeking that. One of the last things she wrote to me before she died was an explanation regarding why she couldn’t complete a family tree at Ancestry.com – “it just wasn’t real, because I was adopted but I’m glad I was.” Though I cannot say that she truly was “glad.” She didn’t know any other life.

Both of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. I cannot honestly say that my niece or my nephew would have been better off being raised by my sisters. They are good solid people – both of them – now married in their own adulthoods.

So the question is – can I find a way to target a Christian Evangelical audience, who is going to adopt anyway – regardless of how much I might preach to them about all of the impacts of trauma in this child they desperately want for whatever reason (I do believe there is a bit of missionary purpose in those desires) – and gently prepare them for reality and hope this brings about better outcomes for the adoptee ? Honor fully my evolved values in the effort ?

Invalidating Adoptee Perceptions

Adoptive parents and even hopeful adoptive parents often say:

“I know many adoptees that don’t feel like their adoption was a bad thing, they are glad they were adopted” or “they don’t have trauma, they are fine” or “adoptees whose lives are fine are not online talking against adoption.”

One of the last emails I got from my adoptee mom before she died, she actually said “glad I was,” meaning adopted. She was lamenting how she just couldn’t finish doing the family trees on Ancestry because she knew the information just wasn’t real – for her or my dad (who was also adopted). So it was not that I believed she actually was “glad” she had been adopted but what else could she say at that point ? Neither my mom nor my dad really knew anything beyond a few names – at most – about their original parents.

I didn’t invalidate her feelings – my dad never expressed his own feelings about adoption to me. After both of my parents died, within one year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were, something about their stories and had some contact with some biological, genetic relations.

So those who are not adoptees, who say these kinds of things probably just miss the signs that are there but not verbalized. I know my mom dearly wanted to make contact with her first mother but the state of Tennessee denied her access (which they then gave me in 2017 – wow it doesn’t seem like 5 years already that I have felt finally “complete”). If she had been so happy about being adopted, she would not have tried so hard to accomplish a reunion.

The thinking described above is problematic because it assumes that adoptees always feel comfortable sharing their true feelings about adoption with adoptive parents. That is rarely the case.

One adoptee admits –  I spent 50 years saying I was fine adopted, never an issue and believed it. I knew I responded to things differently than others, but never equated it to being adopted. It’s very difficult for adoptees to verbalize true emotions. The changes in our brain at separation try to protect us from rejections. It’s all subconscious. I had no idea my lifetime narrative was to protect myself, until I did deep work in therapy that focused on opening those areas of the brain to process the trauma. Life changing. The processing is very hard and easily something you’d try to avoid. Once you do it though, at least for me, it was life changing. I was 50. I get so angry I didn’t do it sooner. I didn’t know I should and clearly neither did my adoptive parents because I always appeared fine to them.

They don’t have the support to speak freely about their own feelings. Instead, they say everything is fine because the trust is broken. Maybe they tried to express these feelings in the past and were rejected or judged. The fear of rejection is so ingrained. It’s just not something most would attempt to do. The adoptee may feel too fearful to tell their adoptive parent or foster parent how they truly feel. They may have received a message that feeling any other way than glad is wrong.

One adoptee says – From the outside my life looks quite successful and there are lots of people who know I’m adopted. I’m absolutely certain that there are those who would point to me as a ‘happy adoptee’. No, you idiot, I don’t know you that well or trust you enough to share my pain and trauma.

To say of any adoptee – “They don’t have trauma, they’re fine.” It’s just so very invalidating. Every adoptee will automatically have trauma, no matter how they were adopted. To me, it’s the equivalent of a racist person saying they have black friends. Just because you have black friends doesn’t mean your ideals are not racist or harmful. Adoptees can grow up having a good life while growing up but they all come into adoption with trauma.

Nancy Verrier writes in The Primal Wound: “As adults, we believe what we want to believe, and we want to believe that a child who is not causing any trouble is well-adjusted. It is important to not be lulled into believing that this child suffers no pain-that ‘my child is not having those problems.’ Adjustment often means shutting down, creating a ‘false self.'”

Which leads another adoptee to say – This was true for me well into adulthood. It was not until I was about 40 that I started processing my adoption and how adoption trauma affected my whole life. Even now, I talk about my adoption trauma to some people, but not others. If hopeful adoptive parents think that adoption trauma only happens to those “with a bad experience,” they will continue on with pursuing adoption; and then, not be able to see and address the trauma in the child for whom they are caring.

Adoptees often talk about how they feel the need to be people pleasers in order to be accepted (my mom certainly was that way and she passed that trait down to her children). An adoptee is likely to tell their adoptive parents whatever they think those parents want to hear.

Which leads a foster parent to admit that they had experienced this first-hand. She says, When we started fostering, one of my adult adoptee friends was all rainbows and unicorns about it. As our relationship grew deeper and she heard more about how I was supporting the kids’ ability to know their families and saw how we worked for family preservation, instead of keeping the kids with us, she began to tell me her complicated feelings about her own adoption, and how she felt like she couldn’t have those conversations with her adopted family.

In the interest of fairness to people who have already adopted and may think that many of my blogs are too negative. Few people with any depth of knowledge on adoption think all adoption is wrong. I now present this point of view from an adoptive parent –

I work with adoptive families. I make an effort to learn from people who have experienced adoption trauma. I do this so that I can try to help my own kids, and other adoptive families who have already adopted, to see the signs of trauma and do their best to help manage this. Do the best they can for their kids. What is upsetting for me is when the comments say “adoption is a horrible thing”. I have seen some comments that literally say ALL adoptions are awful and should never be done. Using the analogy of dating apps, saying no one should ever use a dating app because someone ended up raped, would be similar. That anyone you meet from a dating app is actually terrible. Anyone who gets married from meeting someone there is in a fog . . .

Note from the blog author – many will say of adoptees who think their adoption was good and only good that they are still in “the fog” and have not woken up – but I laugh at this because I met my husband of over 33 years through an eligibles ad in an entertainment weekly, back in the day before heavy internet usage – my mom was horrified but my parents ended up being grateful we found each other.

continuing from the paragraph before . . . That such persons will eventually realize that they are miserable. I truly hurt for the adoptees who have parents who don’t acknowledge them or have been cruel to them. It is awful and has changed my mind about many aspects of the adoption process in this country. However being an adoptive parent in itself is not a bad thing. I have seen little acknowledgment that there are birth parents who are not going to parent. And some have no family support. Is it better to put those kids into an orphanage than to adopt them into a family who loves them and tries to give them a wonderful family and childhood?

I don’t think so and here’s why. My daughter’s birth parents were on the road when she was born. They had no idea where they would be living. Her birth mom has lived in many states since then. Anyone who adopted her would have been out of state within a week after she was born. But I was told that I screwed up by adopting out of state and I should have moved (multiple times, I guess) to be near her birth mom. Not everything is black and white.

I would love to see adoptees who have had terrible effects from trauma or adoptive families who are unwilling to listen to use their experiences to help other adoptive families learn how to act, be the way they would have wanted their adoptive parents to act. I believe this would be more productive than just telling them they are awful people for wanting to raise a child. My daughter has literally yelled at me for trying to understand the perspectives of adoptees who acknowledge their trauma. I have tried to encourage her to explore the same places that I have, to see if her adoption has had negative effects on her. I really would want to help her work through that. She has seen some of those places. Her opinion is that they are toxic. I continue to expose myself because it’s important for me to know the other side, so I will be able to recognize if my kids are struggling with adoption trauma – even if they don’t see it.

I am only suggesting that it would be a lot more effective, if everything weren’t so black and white in adoptee spaces. I’m still trying to learn what I can but I do think some people can manage trauma of any kind (adoption or otherwise) with little negative effect, especially if they have loving support. I hope that’s what we are all striving for.

And all of that above received this reply, which honestly is my own opinion too, at this point – I do believe there should be no adoptions. None. Zero. I want universal healthcare, good sex education, universal basic income, easy and free abortions. And any child born to parents who are not safe should be cared for by guardians, not adoptive parents. The harm done by having your life legally altered and severed is unnecessarily extreme.

Finally just to drive home the point to end this lengthy blog –

MOST adoptees had absolutely *wonderful* adoptive parents, and that *it didn’t matter* how good their adoptive parents were, or how much of a “positive adoption experience” the adoptee had; every adoptee still has trauma. Their DNA was still literally altered by early childhood trauma. Their identity was altered without their consent. Most adoptees have been denied the very basic right of having access to their own original birth certificate.

Yes, there are some children who cannot remain with their parents. *Most of the time* those that absolutely *cannot* be with their parents (which is so unbelievably rare), have at least *one* member of their biological family that could raise them. And in the *exceptionally rare* scenario where none of that is possible, adoption STILL isn’t necessary.

If you cannot love a child, care for a child, make that child a part of your home and your family, provide financial physical and emotional support for that child, without having legal *ownership* over that child, then you have absolutely *no right* caring for that child. Full stop. There is no “not all” or “what if” that can change the fact that adoption *is not necessary* to provide care to a child.

Adoption is unethical. There is absolutely *no changing that*. Caring for a child who has no home or safe family is not a bad thing, and literally *nobody* in their right mind would say that (but consider – whether or not there *could* be a safe family for that child, if their original parents were simply provided with good support). And that is NOT all that adoption is.

Many with a depth of knowledge about adoption, would allow that adoption *only* happen for older children (and by older I mean 16+, and even that I honestly hesitate to be okay with, as it’s perfectly possible to adopt an adult). And *only if* that child is ASKING to be adopted, without being prompted in *any way* by either the foster parents or the system itself. And *only if* the child fully 100% understands what adoption means, and has been told explicitly what they will lose by being adopted. *Only then* is adoption even possibly acceptable.

Everyone, please, just stop assuming an adoptee “had a bad experience,” if they speak out against adoption. Many adoptees would be frankly pissed off that you would imply that their *wonderful* and *caring* adoptive parents were bad parents.

I will continue to believe what I now do.

Endthepatriarchy’s Blog Comment

At the end of this comment, the person wrote – “I am truly astonished you have read this entire comment. You must REALLY care. Thank you for reading.” I do – REALLY CARE.

This appeared in response to the blog titled Adoption Is A Selfish Act, which I posted back on Nov 25, 2020.  I write daily so that is going pretty far back.  I am surprised to see that blog had 23 views because I am lucky to get a couple of views on any single day.  I did go back and read it again.

And I did read all of your long comment and found it sincere and thoughtful. 

Your comment went into my spam folder because of your using MY Gazing In The Mirror WordPress website address. This troubled me right away.  How you could even do that is beyond me but obviously it is possible.  BTW that blog has nothing to do with this one except they have the same author.  I attempted to email you to clarify this but it bounced.  It appears to be related to Greenbrier Schools in Greenbrier, Arkansas. My paternal grandfather’s family is deeply rooted in Arkansas.

I was inclined to approve your comment anyway but have decided, to instead address your comments in this new blog, and feel that you may see this one too.  I always try to not only be honest but respectful and considerate of anyone who comments. So that you have hidden yourself makes me sad. Maybe you do not have confidence in yourself enough to present yourself to me honestly.

I will make a few responses but because of all of the above will not show your entire comment.

Certain references to saviorism, which often does drive adoptions – especially on the Evangelical Christian side of religion, seem to have troubled you. I can understand that you feel an emotional objection to that as you state that you are a Christian.

As to overpopulation, at one time I was more worried about that but it is expected to peak at 8 billion in 2040 and then decline. Overpopulation article on Vox.

Regarding “Open Adoption”, unfortunately a lot of good intentions going into such an agreement fall apart – either sooner or later. Most do not succeed in living up to the promises.

The identity issue you dismiss is real and I don’t think it is brought on by being treated differently due to adoption (except in cases of transracial adoption where the difference in race between the adoptive parents and the adoptee stands out). Fact is, babies are born with a name given to them by the conceiving parents and in adoption, most adoptive parents change the child’s name to something different that they like better. My parents (both adoptees) used to tease one another with their birth names – once they had been able to even learn those. An adoptee lives under an “assumed” name much like a criminal on the run might.

What is interesting is that you seem so passionate about these issues – when you admit that you are not adopted and that you don’t even have children yourself nor do you want any. If you could be open with me about who you are, I’d be happy to discuss whatever in more detail with you. As it is, I have written about almost everything to do with adoption or foster care so much – that I’ve probably all said it all before and am always in danger of repeating myself. I wish you well-being and happiness.