Intentionally Creating an Adoptee

So the topic came up about how a birth mother loses her baby – intentionally surrendering the baby at the hospital to pre-selected adoptive parents who are hovering there through labor, delivery and immediately after the birth – or because the baby has been taken away by child protective services.

The topic first came up from a woman who falls in the latter category and feels despised by just about everyone as a despicable failure.

In this adoption group I belong to, I’ve come to know that the predominant opinion is that adoption in general is a bad thing. That young mothers are convinced by parents, religious authorities and society in general that they are incapable of parenting a baby they have conceived and carried to term. This has created a hugely profitable industry supporting the separating of a baby from its original mother and handing it over to a couple that can afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of calling the original mother’s baby her own.

So the first response, to the sad feelings of the mom who lost her baby due to the intervention of child protective services, comes from an adoptee thus –

I’m way more judgmental of women that carry children to full term knowing that they have no intention of parenting. Like the minute they have the baby it goes to the adoptive parents without a blink. In my mind…they are purposefully creating an Adoptee. I find that despicable. (This is of course a very broad statement that does not apply to every single one.) Mother’s that lose their children to the system did not plan on creating an Adoptee. They had every intention of raising their children. Then something happened between the time of birth and the time of separation. Regardless of the reason for removal…it was never their intention for their children to be parented by strangers. (Again…a very broad statement that does not apply to every case).

Another woman, a mom who lost her child writes –

There’s a stigma that if your rights have been terminated through the system then as a mom, it puts a red X on us. Here’s just a few examples of things that have been said to me – “You obviously didn’t try hard enough.” “If it was my kid, I’d fight til the death.” “You must have done something just really terrible.” A lot of people in society, especially adoptive parents only see a different side of the system. They don’t see how people get there or the months of fighting for your child just to be fought at every turn. It seems as though everything is weaponized against you, not just during, but for years afterwards.

Yet another mother who lost her child adds –

Watching somebody else raise our kids is always hard. Watching somebody who was deemed “better than us” do it is harder. And when that person is abusing them while the child you were PERMITTED to raise is thriving (for the most part) is harder. As mothers of welfare loss, we have to live with the fact our children are in a system known for its abuses. I’m lucky to have contact with mine.

The problem is that society is conditioned to believe that Child Protective Services is infallible and only takes kids when something is severely wrong and their parents give up, correcting that narrative is very hard. Realize just how broken the system is. Most of the time these women forcefully lose their children only due to poverty.

And finally, this perspective from a woman who once wanted to adopt –

Society as a whole has to make these first moms villains to feel better about the systems. Infant adoption is justified by calling birth moms brave, selfless, any other positive attribute you can think of. But since mother’s who lose their children to welfare didn’t just willingly hand over their kids to some family who wanted their kid so badly they are neither of those things. A narrative that these mothers have done horrible things to their children is pushed to continue to justify removal. Until you meet them, join Facebook groups, or otherwise learn the truth you are often under the impression that they simply aren’t safe. In short, they’re “bad” because they “didn’t want the best for their children,” whereas mothers who place are saints.

So, it is true that there’s a huge stigma if a parent lost their child to the foster care system. That parent is judged as having been terrible. People think they didn’t deserve their own kids. That the parent must have harmed them. Termination of Parental Rights and Adoption is justified by demonizing people. Society as a whole doesn’t see anything they don’t want to see. They aren’t willing to see the poverty, lack of resources or that these parents are pushing mightily against a system that’s determined to take their children, often supplying strangers with financial stipends, rather than trying to help the parent achieve their potential with financial support, therapy and basic living resources.

Addiction Is A Sad Reality

The issue of drug addiction is close to my heart because I have seen it’s effects up close and personal.  Losing physical custody of one’s child as a mother never feels like a happy outcome.  Today, I was reading the sad story of a woman who lost 3 of her children when Child Protective Services took them from her due to her addiction.

She was promised by Child Protective Services that her children were going to go into a safe home, a God fearing home, wealthy, and she knew this couple had been the foster parents for the last 2 years she was able to visit her children prior to their adoption.  She signed the adoption papers because she needed to survive the addiction. And she needed to save her children from her own self.  She believed as she recovered that her children were safe. It was a closed adoption and so she lost contact completely.

Somewhat recently she learned that her children were so severely abused by those adoptive parents for a number of years that they were taken back into the foster care system for a subsequent 2 years.  Then they were adopted a second time.  These children are now 20, 18 and 16 years old.  This woman had 2 more children as she was recovering from her addiction and she is raising them.  Though she has tried to reconnect with her older children, they rebuff her efforts.

Some of the things we do in our youth and ignorance will never free of us of the consequences of our choices.  The effects are permanent.  One can understand how these older children might blame this mom for their difficult, even painful, childhoods.  And while, it is sad that there is no happy resolution for this shattered family, it isn’t difficult to understand the damage that has been done.

She asked adoptees for advice on whether she should keep trying to reach out to these older children.  One was brutally honest (as adoptees often are if you are willing to listen).  “As an adoptee we don’t owe anyone anything, not a explanation, not a relationship, not communication not even a hello. You gave up that right. You need to respect their wishes, don’t reach out again, they know how and where they can reach out if they choose to. From what you have said they have lived a horrendous life and they as adults now deserve the right to make the decision to have any contact with you.”

The fact is – adoptees had no say in what happened to them.  They are totally within their rights to take back control when they are old enough to exert it.

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.

In The Fog

When I first started learning about all of the impacts and issues surrounding the practice of adoption, I didn’t know what this concept really was like.  Both of my parents were adopted and both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption, adoption was the most natural thing in my life.  I really didn’t see a problem with it and while this concept more commonly refers to the adoptee who discovers the reality and “wakes up”, what I didn’t expect was that as the child of adoptees, I too was in the fog.  And I have woken up as well and that is the purpose of this blog, to share these new understandings with whoever is moved to come and read these little daily observations.

Learning about adoption trauma can be a big surprise for someone like me.  For the adoptee, this can prove to be a nagging feeling that you didn’t know how to name.  This concept answered your question as to what it was.  For some, their love and/or gratitude for their adoptive parents can make them not want to learn about adoption trauma, even though generally speaking, it affects every adoptee to some degree, whether consciously or unconsciously.

“Happy” may not be the right word to describe coming out of the fog. It’s more accurately about being able to authentically traverse and articulate the variety of effects that adoption had on your life, good or bad, but the bad often does far outweigh the good.  In my case, it is a sorrow that for over 60 years I did not know about my own biological/genetic relatives.  Now I do have some contact but it is like being slightly removed and an outsider no matter how kind they are to me directly.

It can be easy to be judgmental.  Rationally, you may know your original mother was struggling and yet still find it impossible to understand that she could ever give up her children.  In my own life, I lost physical custody of my daughter, even though that was not my intention but that I was struggling financially was the reality.  Seeking to find a way to support us, I left her with her paternal grandmother temporarily.  That decision with the expectation that it was temporary became permanent and I can never get back the years I lost.  My mom told me of her perspective on my situation – she would have just toughed it out.  Maybe true but then she coerced one of my sisters to give up her own child.  I guess my mom’s fog was quite thick.

In the end, I lost my daughter to my ex-husband and a step-mother.  He had refused to pay child support but ended up paying to support our daughter.  I ended up paying a steep price to gain that support.  I have never stopped grieving and have tried to come to terms with it, through accepting that it is simply our reality.  So much damage is done when a mother is separated from her child, no matter why or how.

 

An Abuse Of Power

The problem does not only happen in the United States and abusive Social Workers go back to the very beginning.  A documentary in 2019 depicted social workers’ repeatedly attempting to seize a Maori baby from its mother shortly after birth.

A new report has accused the New Zealand government’s child services agency with inhumane practices over the removal of children from Indigenous families.  There are currently 5 investigations underway.

The report details what families describe as racial profiling, widespread fear among Māori families that their children will be taken away, and abuses of power by social workers. It details incidents in which armed police, with dogs, were sent to seize babies from their families.  It is the first  report in decades actually conducted by the Māori into a system in which Māori are vastly over-represented.

Sadly, these women’s babies have been taken into custody over the degree of cleanliness in their homes, over their past records even though they have changed their behavior, and due to any gang affiliations in their former partners.

The report has also accused the agency of not allowing extended Māori families to care for children – an established cultural practice – when relatives thought that was the best option.

Māori children make up about 65% of children in state care – the Māori people only comprise 16.5% of New Zealand’s population.  Māori leaders hope in their meetings with Jacinda Ardern to now allow Māori communities to now develop their own solutions to care for their children.

Difficult Mother Daughter Relationships

Having been able to obtain my mother’s adoption file, I know how over the moon happy her adoptive mother was when my mom was a baby and a toddler.  Having seen a photo of my mom’s original mother holding her, I also know where our big boned skeletons came from.

When I was growing up, I knew my mom had a difficult relationship with her adoptive mother.  What changed ?  I believe my adoptive grandmother was very hard on my mom due to her body size – not that she was fat.  Later in life, she may have been overweight and she struggled with that and was always dieting, but she was never obese.

I believe part of the explanation is the common issue that many adoptees struggle with – not feeling like they are good enough.  From my mom, I know that she described her adoptive mother as a perfectionist.  Since I knew this woman from childhood, I understand.  She was a perfectionist.  And she was extraordinarily accomplished at a lot of things.

My mom struggled with body image issues.  My grandmother’s own mother and sister were portly.  My grandmother was clearly determined to remain thin her whole life.  I remember when I was in England with her and sitting in a restaurant in our upscale hotel, The Dorchester across the street from Hyde Park in London.  In public view, she loudly admonished me for eating a dinner roll with butter.  I was so humiliated and angry at her that I wouldn’t speak to her until the next morning.  I was decidedly not fat at that age.  My grandmother feared I would become fat.

Mostly, I had a good relationship with my mom.  We had our moments but it would be remarkable if there had been none.  She really wasn’t wrong in those moments.  The issues were my privacy (she opened one of my personal letters) and a disagreement about a choice I made which she would not have (letting my daughter go and live with her father and step-mother when I could not support her financially and he refused to pay child support).

Yet, my mom had a terrible relationship with my youngest sister that came back to haunt me after my mom died and I had to assume control of my birth family’s finances.  My sister transferred those feelings onto me, once accusing me of hating her.  It is painful even now to consider that, for when this sister was homeless and when she was going through an unwed pregnancy, I was the only family member steadfastly at her side (and mostly, that was her choice).

I don’t have any answers to these situations but I do see how, even though they really were “good enough” parents, with both of my parents being adoptees, that a result was what I now describe as having been “weirdly detached”.