I Try To Stay Humble

Before I began to know who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted) – adoption was the most natural thing in the world. How could it not be ? It was so natural both of my sisters gave up a baby to adoption. So, in only the last 3+ years, my perspective has changed a lot. I see the impacts of adoption has passed down my family line, ultimately robbing all three of my parents daughter’s of the ability to parent. Though I did not give my daughter up for adoption, finding myself unable to support myself and her financially, I allowed her father and step-mother to raise her without intrusion from me. To be honest, I didn’t think I was important as a mother. I thought that a child only needed one or the other parent to be properly cared for. Sadly, decades later, I learned that situation was not as perfect as I had believed. My sister closest to me in age actually lost custody of her first born son to her former in-laws when she divorced their son. He has suffered the most damage of all of our children and is currently estranged from his mother’s family, viewing us all as the source of his ongoing emotional and mental pain. I love him dearly and wish it wasn’t so but it is not in my control nor my sisters.

I realize that not every adoptee has the same experience. We are all individuals with individual life circumstances. Right and Wrong, Better and Worse – such exactness doesn’t exist. Everyone heals in different ways. We all begin where we begin. I began where I was when I started learning some of the hard truths and realities about the adoption industry as it operates for profit in this country. I also know that the adoption practices of the 1930s when my parents were adopted are not the same overall in 2021. There are only a few truly closed adoptions now and many “open” adoptions. I put the “open” into quotation marks because all too often, the woman who gives birth and surrenders her baby for adoption because she doesn’t feel capable of parenting, just as I didn’t feel capable in my early 20s, discovers that the “open” part is unenforceable and the adoptive parents renege on that promise.

Those of us, myself included, have become activists for reforms going forward. Society has not caught up with us yet. Certainly, there are situations where the best interest of the child is to place them in a safe family structure where they can be sufficiently provided for. No one, no matter how ardently they wish for reform, would say otherwise. The best interests of the child NEVER includes robbing them of their identity or knowledge of their origins. In the best of circumstances, I believe, adoptive parents are placeholders for the original parents and extended biological family until their adoptive child reaches maturity. Ideally, that child grows up with a full awareness and exposure to the personalities of their original parents.

Any parent, eventually reaches a point in the maturing of their child, when it is time to allow that child to be totally independent in their life choices, even if they continue to live with their parents and be financially supported by them. It is a gradual process for most of us and some of us are never 100% separated from our parents until they die. Then, regardless, we must be able to stand on our own two feet, live from our own values and make of the life that our parents – whether it was one set with a mother and a father or two sets of mothers and fathers (whether by adoption or due to divorce) – made possible for us as human beings. I do try not to judge but I do try to remain authentic in my own perspectives, values and beliefs. Those I share as honestly as I can in this blog with as much humility as I have the growth and self-development to embody.

Emotional Toll

In the all things adoption group I belong to, adoptee voices are considered privileged. They are the ones who know what being adopted feels like. Sometimes adoptive parents or hopeful prospective adoptive parents come into the group. They struggle with the anger and pain that adoptees in the group express. There are also former foster youth who share their experiences and current foster care parents or hopeful to become foster parents come into the group as well.

Adoptees often express the emotional toll of trying to share their lived experiences with these other group members. Some who are not adoptees cannot take what they are reading and leave or become angry and disbelieving – surely they are the exception ?

If you ever encounter a “woke” adoptee (adoptees often express how it feels to have emerged from what they call the adoption fog when they believed the unicorns and rainbows version of adoption that the industry puts forth in pursuit of the profits they make facilitating adoptions), believe them when they express their struggles with feelings of abandonment, rejection, not belonging in the family they’ve been adopted into. Though most birth parents welcome a reunion with their “lost” child, not all of them do. These are more than sad for the adoptee experiences being abandoned and rejected all over again.

Why Is The Truth Hard to Hear ?

Today’s thoughts –

Relationships between adoptive parents and their biological kids are different than relationships adoptive parents have with their adopted kids. The connection with one’s biological kids is often deeper, biological connections are often stronger.

Many adoptees talk about how they could clearly see those differences in their adoptive families and in the way they were treated. Adoptive parents always defend themselves. “I love all my kids exactly the same. My connection is the same with all of my kids. My kids don’t feel that way and never will.”

There are a multitude of similar comments that have been uttered a thousand times.

If the reader is an adoptive parent – why is that something that’s hard to hear or gets you so defensive ?

No one is saying that adoptive parents don’t love their adopted children, or that they don’t have any connection with them. It’s simply not the same because biological connections matter. Yet an adoptive parent will immediately feel hurt because they don’t believe this is true about them.

For me, loving my biological children has always been natural, easy and effortless. Our bond was amazing the moment I laid eyes on them after birth. I hope my children all feel equally attached to me as their mom.

I suspect that anyone with adopted children has found they have had to work hard to love them with the same kind of overwhelming devotion (and some clearly don’t, as when the child is put back up for a second chance adoption). An adoptive parent must get to know their adopted child during the worst time in their lives. An adoptive parent may have to break some really hard news to them. In my own family, I had to explain to the adoptive mother of my nephew that his mother has a severe mental illness and that she has indicated that if she were in his presence she would not really be all that warm with him. It is very sad and I suspect he struggles now with all the truth that has come his way, including discovering that the man my sister named as his father was not and that the actual father was a co-worker with our dad that my sister seduced. No wonder she wanted to put the evidence of her behavior far away.

Any person who adopts has directly caused trauma. An adoptive parent may find that they did not bond or attach easily to the adopted child in the beginning. It may have taken a lot of work, a lot of therapy, blood, sweat, and tears. As parent and child, they may have had to work through mountains of pain, and will likely have some always. And maybe it is still hard somedays.

You can love them fiercely and they may even get more one on one attention than your biological children most days because they need it.

Yet, if you are being totally honest with yourself, you will admit that your bond with them is not the same as it is with your biological children. The love – while it is there and it is strong – is not the same, your biological connections with those children are strong as hell.

And as difficult as it is for you as an adoptive parent, it’s even more difficult for them. You are not their mom or dad, you never will be. They may have love for you, and maybe you have achieved some bonding, but the truth will always be that if they could go live with their mom/dad or other biological relatives – they absolutely would – without a second thought, simply because biological connections are strong as hell.

As an adoptive parent, if they can be honest with you, then you can know that your connection is strong. If you are able to hear them say that they wish they weren’t adopted sometimes, you are doing a great job. If you can suffer them telling you that they wish they were with their mom, you are humble and real.

They can tell you that even though their biological family treated them badly, they may still wish they lived with them – so they could (potentially) also be with their other siblings (often the case in these families that sibling groups become separated).

Maybe they are able to tell you that they are mad that you didn’t adopt their other siblings and maybe it wasn’t an option available to you at the time.

Most importantly, they know that you will respect and validate everything they say without trying change their minds, and without making excuses. They know that your love for them isn’t fragile and can’t be broken because they are able share feelings that sometimes hurt you feelings or make you feel bad.

Know this, your feelings are your problem. Don’t put them on your adopted child. And admit this, though your love for them, despite it being deep, is different than the love you have for your biological children, you will not deny the facts. Acknowledge that your connections, and bonds are different.

As an adoptive parent, these are things you should do your best to understand. It’s not about you and your image of saintliness out in the world. Your adopted kids know it’s different, don’t try to convince yourself that it’s not.

Trying Not To Judge But

This photo and story got the attention of my adoption group. Scott and Tari Peiffer have 13 children, nine of them adopted as babies. Any parent can appreciate how much work a family that large is.

The intuitive sense the adoption group gets is that this situation is unbalanced and smacks of what they define as savorism. I found a Medium piece by Annie Windholz titled “Unpacking White Saviorism” with the byline “How white and western society’s desire to help can do more harm than good.” The term “white saviorism,” refers to an idea in which a white person, or white culture, rescues people of color from their own situation. White saviorism is deadly to culture, communities and lives. Because it is framed as benevolent and “coming from a good place,” it is generally not critically challenged, and this must change if we want any kind of systemic change in society.

There is such a thing as sharing ideas with humility, and listening and learning from those different from the dominant narrative that we belong to, but if we grew up in American schools- there is no doubt that our education was centered on white and Western voices. Humans internalize subtle messages, and the system of white patriarchal supremacy perpetuates itself with this foundational learning.

The Medium piece linked above goes on to say – A few white women in the group had adopted children who were not the same race as them. We discussed the adoption system in American in our small group. There is a language of “save the baby” in adoption circles. Another woman talked about how some of her relatives were completely supportive when someone adopted a non-white baby, but were not quite so pleased when someone married a person of color. Another woman works at an adoption agency, and she spoke about how adopting a child of color was less expensive than adopting a white baby. Why is this? She said that the agency had a harder time finding adoptive parents for children of color, so the expenses were lowered to help with that process. Is the adoption agency racist? The woman said its not her adoption agency that’s racist, they are merely a part of a racist system- a racist world.

“But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than ‘making a difference.’ There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them,” American-Nigerian writer Teju Cole explains in his article The White Savior Industrial Complex.

“When we ask women of color to take the time to sit down and educate us on the specific issues that they face and how we can be better allies, rather than doing the research ourselves by reading blogs and articles and books by women of color, we are making it about us. When we ask why women of color need to be so divisive and whine that we’re all in this together, we are making it about us. When we decide to swoop in and play the hero without asking what type of help is, in fact, needed, we are still making it about us,” Annie Theriault writes in her article, The White Feminist Savior Complex.

Simply Grateful

With a deep compassion, sympathy and understanding the best I can for all adoptees and all original parents who lost their children, I have no other choice – unless I would deny my very existence – but to be grateful for all that happened.

But for Georgia Tann exploiting my grandmother – for who knows NOW why her husband abandoned her 4 mos pregnant and did not reply to the Juvenile Court regarding his obligations to her and my mom ? – and due to her falling into a trap laid by her own survival desperation (not intending to lose custody of her one and only ever child).  And but for, my dad’s mother ultimately giving in to what was most likely pressure from the Salvation Army to release him to adoption.

But for all of these sorrows and then for the wounds inflicted upon my parents by their separation from mothers who clearly did love them as much as I have loved every child I have born within me, but for – I would not exist.

And because I love life – I am simply grateful – and humbled by the losses that facilitated my birth.