Bottom Line – It Is About The Child

Foster care and adoption is not about YOU as a foster/adoptive parent. It’s about the child, always was, always will be. That said, defining “wellbeing” gets very tricky.

“Neglect” is the official reason given when children are removed from their parents. Defining that turns out to be biased and difficult. First the question, then some of the answers.

1) What type of neglect gets children removed from parents?

Cleanliness, Lack of Nourishment, Irresponsibility

Depression, Addiction, Domestic Violence, Illness, Lack of Basic Child Care

Perceived neglect, whether the behavior is truly neglectful or appearances just don’t meet the ‘standard’.

Concerns regarding a parent’s mental health.

2) Why do you think that neglect occurs?

Poverty

Lack of resources, predominantly. Occasionally, lack of concern, and sometimes, inability (due to substance abuse, mental health, mental capacity- all tied into lack of resources).

Poor mental health may contribute to poor housekeeping. One woman admitted reaching a point where she questioned – “why am I keeping my house as neat as a pin, always on top of the kids, stressing them out to be clean, when the only people in the house are us?”

3) Is there anything that could help avoid neglect happening?

Financial Resource Support, Increasing the Parental Skill Set

Young women with kids need options for jobs that are compatible with being parents.

Family needs to go back to being family, actually bothering and being there for each other. If you have friends with kids, visit them and offer to help them out, if they are struggling – you can either help tidy or you could play with their children, so that they are occupied allowing the parent time to clean.

When poverty is not the source of neglect, children are rarely taken out of the home. One woman shared – my parents were negligent hoarders who didn’t meet a lot of my fundamental needs. But they had good jobs and to be honest, I turned out fine. I would NOT have fared better by being taken away from them. That is true for most kids who are placed in foster care.

Every so often you hear of cases where a small child was left home alone, or wandered off while a parent was sleeping. I think sometimes these instances of neglect happen in desperation for parents who have no options for childcare or can’t afford it. I remember a case of a toddler who was missing 3 days. He decided to try to go through the forest to his grandma’s house. He had been playing outside and his mother had fallen asleep. They did NOT take that child away from his parents.

Always An Adoptee

Advice from an adoptee – If/when your adopted child says anything that you deem “negative” about their adoption, instead of just throwing around frequently used adoption phrases – please please please consider the long term affect of hearing some of these phrases

1. “Would you have rather stayed in the orphanage/on the streets, been aborted, would you rather have died?”

Yes, sometimes. Adoption is complex and complicated. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here instead of enduring nights of sadness, depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive questions, all the unknowns, the mental health problems .. I will never stop being an adoptee. It affects EVERYTHING in my life

2. “God/We saved you from your biological family.”

Let us decide that. What was I saved from? I do not know. There are many things adoption has NOT protected me from. So please let me decide in what ways I was saved. It may shift and change. Also, please don’t say negative things about our biological families. Give us the FACTS that you know and allow us to decide where to place them in our hearts and lives. Y’all don’t get to decide if our biological families are good or bad. Many things I was told about my biological family ended up being racist, unkind, untrue, and problematic.

3. “You were chosen”

Maybe. Kinda. But often, not exactly. My adoptive parents chose me between 2 babies. I was laying beside another baby and they chose me. But if they had decided “no, she’s not for us” they would have found another baby – easily. Adoptees often feel like replacements. We know a lot of our parents wanted A BABY – not necessarily “us” specifically. We have to process that – please allow us the space and time to do so

4. “They loved you so much they decided to give you up.”

No. What about desperation? Survival? Poverty? Lack of resources? Addiction? Death? Would you give up your child because you loved them? I was not given up out of love but I was raised to believe so. It made me feel awful about myself and my biological sister (she was not “given up”). Does loving someone mean sending them away forever? Would my adoptive parents do the same because they loved me?

5. “Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you are not dead/alone/orphaned/poor/etc. You are so lucky to have a loving, stable family.”

STOP telling us how to feel and what aspects of our lives to feel good about. Especially in response to something we have said, please don’t.

Please Imagine losing your mom at a young age and when you tell someone, they say “Wow but you should be so grateful that you still have…” or “You are so lucky that you have a family that loves you!”

How about “I am sorry for your losses and pain. How can I help without overstepping?”

There are days I would rather be dead than adopted. Days when I miss my biological family. Days that I want to return to a place I barely remember. Those are not the times to dismiss an adoptee’s feelings. Imagine how you’d feel hearing these responses.

A Miscarriage of Justice

The origination of many adoptions is the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage. One miscarriage leads to another miscarriage – that of taking a woman’s baby for one’s own self. It is often an act of trying to overcome honest grief and sorrow by inflicting a lifetime of grief and sorrow on another woman. Our society condones this behavior by creating mythic stories that adoptees often call the rainbows and unicorns narrative of how wonderful adoption is. In truth it is not more wonderful than the realistic slings and arrows of everyday life and for some (the adoptee and the birth mother) wounds to carry forever. Some eventually experience a reunion with one another and while these are mostly happy stories (but not always), there is no way to make up for decades of life going on with different trajectories for each person.

If this society was a just one, we could be taking care of our mothers and our children instead of allowing money to drive the exchange of human beings to fulfill the thwarted desires of the people with the financial means to purchase a baby. Oh I know, most adoptive parents don’t view it that way. I know most adoption agencies and facilitators don’t want to view themselves from a perspective that they are baby sellers in it to make a profit. It is so easy for people to delude themselves with feel good stories.

I don’t have a lot of optimism that the profit motivated adoption industry will end any time soon. I am only heartened that some of us keep trying to make the point that children belong with the people who conceived them. Children need to grow up within the genetic, biological familial roots from which they emerged. Yes, sometimes parents die. This has happened to my own grandmothers – both of them – and we’ve lost more than one mom in my little mom’s group that has existed a bit more than 17 years now. We’ve also lost a couple of fathers too.

Orphans do deserve care within a family structure but there is no need to change a child’s original identity or name in order to provide for them. Some parents in our modern society get messed up – with drugs, with violence, with the criminal justice system. These people need intensive restoration into functioning members of our society. It is complicated and not a quick fix. I’ll readily admit that.

Your Baby Never Comes Back

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this book here before. The cover is certainly familiar but it has come back up for me today. Someone who has read it says – It focuses on international adoption and Christian international adoption in particular rather than a more general look at adoption. But it’s a very interesting deep dive into that corner. You would particularly be fascinated, I think, by the way this myth of “millions of orphans” was created.

The New Republic published an article by Kathryn Joyce back in 2015 titled – “Do You Understand That Your Baby Goes Away and Never Comes Back?” Now you know where the title of my blog today comes from. The byline is – “Adoption is embraced in the Marshall Islands, but in the Ozarks, it means something very different. The tragic consequences of cultural misunderstanding.” Guess what ? I do live in the Ozarks. I may have even read this article back in my early days of becoming aware of all things related to adoption.

Springdale Arkansas is home to a large Marshallese population. The Koshiba’s lost their child in a method similar to some of Georgia Tann’s techniques. After a draining all-nighter in labor, an unfamiliar woman shows up in the hospital room with relinquishment papers. The father signs them without reading them deeply and the mother is still too groggy but signs them too. Barely making it with 3 children already, the couple had hoped to receive a big enough tax refund to fly the mother’s sister in from the Marshall Islands for childcare that would allow for both husband and wife to work and provide for their family.

So in March 2014, the mother pregnant once again, the couple had decided to place their unborn baby for adoption. They already had three children to care for, and both had other children from previous relationships living with extended family. The stories that circulated among the Marshallese in Springdale made U.S. adoption sound not dissimilar to customs back home: The adoptive parents would call and send pictures regularly; the biological parents would have the right to reclaim their children if need be; and the children would return to their birth parents when they turned 18. They’d also heard that Marshallese women who placed their babies for adoption in the United States were paid around $10,000.

The hurried nature of the exchange at the hospital left the parents without contact information about the adoptive parents so they could check on their baby from time to time. When the adoption agency would not cooperate with her wishes, the mother called the police. She says the police called the adoption attorney. That is when the mother first learned that she wasn’t entitled to any information. It turns out, she “willingly” entered into a closed adoption. Closed adoption is the default form of adoption in Arkansas. Adoption records are sealed; no identifying information about either birth or adoptive parents is shared and the parties can only contact each other through their agency or attorney. 

The article is long but worth reading. I’ll let you decide if that is something you wish to pursue.

Judging The Past By Present Values

Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw
~ photo by Carlos Osorio for the Toronto Star, 2012

As a Gemini, twins have always fascinated me. I have wondered if I once had a twin in utero who vanished. Having gone through assisted reproductive medical interventions, I know this happens. It happened with my older son when my pregnancy originally appeared to be twins. I really didn’t want the challenge but in my mom’s group we have several pairs of twins and one set of triplets. The father of the man I am married to was a twin. Both my father in law and his twin brother are now deceased.

The less than common occurrence of multiple births has my attention this morning after watching the documentary – Three Identical Strangers. The story tells how these men were separated at 6 mos and adopted out with strategic intent by the clinical psychiatrist, Peter Neubauer, through the cooperation of the Louise Wise adoption agency. Psychology Today did an article entitled The Truth About “Three Identical Strangers.” The article explains – Dr Viola Bernard was the chief psychiatric consultant to the Wise agency. In the late 1950s (before Dr Peter Neubauer was involved), Dr Bernard created a policy of separating identical twins when they were adopted. Dr Bernard’s intentions are described as benign. In a memo subsequently recovered, she expresses her hope that “early mothering would be less burdened and divided and the child’s developing individuality would be facilitated” by this separation. It wasn’t only the Wise agency but many other agencies that also practiced the separation of twins at the time of adoption.

The conclusion by Dr Lois Oppenheim in the Psychology Today article is – The basic premise of the film, that the triplets’ separation was a heartless scheme undertaken at the expense of the children’s well-being to enable a scientific study, is fiction. The filmmakers could have created a documentary about the complexities of the twin study, its origins and context, and the changing standards of ethical norms and lessons learned. This might have been less dramatic, but it would have made an important contribution to our understanding of gene research and parenting.

Yet, the practice of separating identical or even non-identical siblings in the adoption industry continues and the study and research of such persons continues to this day. Regarding my photo above of Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw, the story in The Toronto Star by Amy Dempsey tells us that the 12-year-olds were separated as babies in China but reunited after the two separate Ontario couples adopted them. When their separate/different adoptive parents made the startling discovery that their two daughters were identical twins, they vowed to raise the girls as sisters. Their situation is highly unusual: Lily and Gillian are two of only a handful of twin pairs – mostly Chinese children adopted by North American parents – who are being raised, knowing they are siblings but separately apart. For scientific researchers, the girls are yet another opportunity to study the effects of nature vs nurture in real-time. As for their families – strangers thrown together by the most unusual of circumstances – their situation explores a new kind of blended family, with unique and fascinating joys and challenges.

The Toronto Star goes beyond the story of the twin Chinese girls to note that in the late 1970s, scientists at the Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research began studying what was then a new category of multiples — adopted twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults. Dr Thomas Bouchard’s landmark paper was titled “Minnesota Study of Identical Twins Reared Apart.” The study shook the scientific community by demonstrating, across a number of traits, that twins raised apart are as similar as twins raised together. The study’s evidence of genetic influence in traits such as personality (50 per cent heritable) and intelligence (70 per cent heritable) overturned conventional ideas about parenting and teaching. And findings of genetic influence on physiological characteristics have led to new ways of fighting and preventing disease.

While I was yet pregnant with my oldest son, I chose to read a book titled Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy which had just come out in the year before. So my interest is long standing and it is little wonder that the issues continue to capture my interest. For centuries, the self-sacrificing mother who places her child’s needs and desires above her own has defined womanhood. Designed by nature for the task of rearing offspring, women are “naturally” tender, selfless and compassionate where their progeny are concerned. Those who reject childbearing or fail to nurture their offspring directly are typed as pathological, “unnatural” women. In traditional Darwinian evolutionary biology, the female of any species has evolved to produce and nurture the species; one could say it is her only role. Feminist treatises have long argued against the necessary conflation of “woman” with “mother,” and classics such as Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born have cogently argued that such altruistic maternity is a cultural construct and not a biological given.

From a review (link above) of Hrdy’s book Mother Nature – US anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy strides into the minefield, examining motherhood across cultures, historical periods, evolutionary tracts and biological species to better understand human maternity. Hrdy’s book resides in that rare space between academic disciplines (she is a professor emerita at the University of California-Davis and she has been schooled in anthropology, primatology, evolutionary theory, history and feminism). Her work can be situated somewhere between specialist treatise and popular biological science. Hrdy’s unique placement enables her to combine the best of Darwinian evolutionary biology with feminist cultural theory, without falling into the political entrapments of either camp.

Heartening for me, as a biological/genetic mother who lost physical (but not legal) custody of her daughter when she was only 3 years old, I am reminded in this review of Hrdy’s book that stay-at-home mothers are rare in the historical and evolutionary archives; community caregiving is an age-old model of childrearing. Throughout history in primate and human communities, mothering techniques involve “allomothers”: the delegation of child caretaking to other members (male and female) of the community. “Mothers have worked for as long as our species has existed, and they have depended on others to help them rear their children,” Hrdy writes. That means I was not the abject failure I believed my self to be for over 60 years but just another kind of mother. Motherhood today often includes women who have jobs and incomes of their own. Hrdy sees this as an evolutionary process to ensure long and safe lives for these mother’s child(ren). A lack of financial resources most certainly drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother, while I took a risk to see if I could earn some decent money driving an 18-wheel truck. There never was the intention to permanently abandon my child to other people. Thankfully, as adults we are happily close enough at heart and I believe love one another as fully as any mom could hope for. It is actually the lack of financial resources that is at cause for most adoptions.

In “60 Years On, Twin/Triplet Study Still Raises Questions” – an interview of Dr Leon Hoffman by Elizabeth Hlavinka for Medpage Today looks at the ethics of that study, which began in 1960 (the documents from which are sealed in the archives at Yale University until 2065). This tells me that Peter Neubauer, who died in 2008, eventually had his own qualms about the ethics of what he had perpetrated, though he is judged to have mostly been concerned with confidentiality issues that (until open adoptions began) were the rule in commercial closed adoptions (the effects of which continue to obstruct and vex adult adoptees to this day – change comes slowly). My blog today takes it title from an observation by Dr Hoffman – that the problem with a lot of “exposés” is that we judge the past by our present values.  That is an important point. He also notes that at the time of the Neubauer project, there was a prevailing belief that twins would be better off separated, if they were going to be adopted. That twins were more difficult for the mother and that it would be easier for the mother to take care of one child instead of two children. I understand. In our mom’s group, those with twins often hired au pairs to assist them in those early days.

In this interview, Dr Hoffman notes – I always tell parents of kids that I see, “How much is genetic and how much is environment?” and I always say, “It’s 100% of both,” because those two are always interacting with one another. More and more data has shown that genetic variations get very much affected by the environment. I believe this is also evident in the story about the triplets. They even admit that during that time of their own high publicity, they amplified their similarities because that is what people were curious about. It is clear that they each had unique personalities that do seem to have been affected by their adoptive parents and the differing environmental situations they were raised in. As aging adults, the two surviving individuals have very different surface appearances while retaining many similarities.

Since I have looked at mother/child separations now for several years and am against the practice of adoption generally and in favor of family preservation, I was emotionally triggered last night by thinking about the amplifying effect of separation trauma (which IS mentioned by the triplets in their documentary) as yet another separation wound for babies who grew into their humanity in the same womb. Fortunately for the children in my mom’s group, they don’t have either of those added traumas. “The twin relationship, particularly with (identical) twins, is probably the closest of human social ties,” says Nancy Segal, who is herself a twin. This is why it’s so important for multiples to grow up together. Segal, now a psychology professor at California State University, has found about 15 more sets of adopted twin children being raised by different families, most of them Chinese girls. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to China’s one-child policy, which led to the abandonment of thousands of female babies. Though China’s official adoption rules state that twins should be placed together, pairs like Lily and Gillian prove things don’t always happen that way.

I found one other article that I’m not going to say very much about. You can read the story – Stories of Twins Separated at Birth by Pamela Prindle Fierro at the VeryWell Family website. There are the two sisters – Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman. They found each other through Facebook and YouTube. They had been raised on different continents. The article includes information about the “Jim Twins” – James Arthur Springer and James Edward Lewis who found each other at the age of 39 in 1979. And there are actually MORE stories at this link.

The important thing to learn is that every action taken, that affects another human being, has the possibility of unintended consequences and that there is always the need for a fully informed consent in the interest of human well-being. An issue with adoptees is that due to their young age, they are never able to give informed consent and therefore, their rights are never considered. This is an issue with many adoptees who feel they are treated like second-class citizens with important basic human rights withheld from them – identity and medical issues foremost. An evolving issue with donor conceptions is similar. The human being conceived in that manner had no ability to consent to the method of their conception. Realistically, none of us consents (in a human sense, but I believe we do in non-physical prior to birth as I believe we are eternal souls).

Foster Care Reality Check

Sadly, that Rose Garden we were NOT promised at birth is a nightmare for some children and their families. Today, in my all things adoption group that includes foster care former youth and related issues – this question was asked.

Foster Parents: What do you provide that biological families don’t? No specifics!

This was a balanced and complete perspective, I believe –

If the biological parents didn’t have to worry about finances, they would have been able to provide stable housing and access to food, which they were not able to provide. However beyond those two things, there is a lot the biological parents would not have been able to provide, even if given access to a stipend – emotional safety from emotional abuse – safety from physical and sexual abuse – access to mental health care, due to understanding and education, not due to lack of medical insurance or transportation – medical care for the same reason as above – appropriate attention to emotional needs, affection and secure attachment – a model for healthy adult behaviors (as in, an adult who does not actively impose sex onto children) – acceptance of LGBT status – home environment that caters to their emotional and mental health needs – access to extracurriculars that promote mental and physical health such as sports – space to develop individuality without fear of rejection. There are also things the biological parents can provide that a foster parent will never be able to provide: a genetic mirror – the comfort of being in a “normal” family – never having to explain one’s adoption status / history, awkward conversations one can be forced into – insecurities a foster child or adoptee may feel if the parent has or conceives biological kids at some later date – not feeling like one is a charity case or having to feel like they are required to be insanely grateful all the time – missing their biological parents is a really big issue, regardless of any history they caused the removal from those parents – grieving a loss that the foster parent will never be able to fill for that child.

And there was push-back on this and other similar responses – “I can tell you all are foster parents…so many child protective services buzz words…security, safety, stability etc…I know the original poster asked for no specifics ,so you don’t have to tell me, but you all should be questioning whether you provide anything actually concrete or are you blowing sunshine up the behind by inflating what you offer ?”

Foster care is troublesome as is the reason it exists. This is enough from me today.

Adoption-Related Complex Trauma

Also called Cumulative Trauma – The research is definitive. Adopted kids are not only traumatized by the original separation from their parents, they may also have been traumatized by the events that led to them being put up for adoption. In addition to that, foster care itself is considered an adverse childhood experience.

I recently wrote a blog titled “It’s Simply NOT the Same.” Though the traumas may originate similarly, the outcomes are not the same because just like any other person, no two adoptees are exactly alike. That should not prevent any of us from trying to understand that adoptees carry wounds, even if the adoptee is unaware that the wounds are deep within them.

It is not uncommon for an adopted person and/or the adoptive family to seek mental health services due to the effect of the adoptee experiencing traumatic events. Unfortunately, for psychology and psychiatry clinicians, adoption related training is rare. In my all things adoption group, the advice is often to seek out an adoption competent therapist for good reason.

“What does an adopted baby know ? She knows her mother, she knows her loss, sadness and hurt, she knows that those who hold her today may be gone tomorrow and that she will be the only one left to pick up the pieces that no one seems to think are broken.”
~ Karl Stenske, 2012

The reasons a child is put up for adoption or relinquished are many – an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, often compounded or driven by a lack of financial resources (poverty) or no familial support to care for a child. Becoming a single parent may simply seem too daunting to an unwed expectant mother. Sadly, for some, a chronic/terminal illness or certain diseases may lead the mother to believe she cannot provide proper care for her baby. Certainly, prolonged substance addiction and/or severe mental health issues (which may be related to addiction) can cause parental rights to be forcefully terminated by child welfare authorities. Adoptees who come out of the child welfare system (legal termination of parental rights by a court of law) cannot legally be returned to their birth families due to safety or other reasons that are considered serious.

Adoption is not always a success. Disruptions and dissolutions do sometimes occur.

Disruptions can happen after the adoption has been finalized when the adoptive parents then experience difficulties with their adopted child. The adoptive parents may have difficulty finding support and the resources they require to deal with the issues that come up.

Risk factors leading to a higher rate of disruptions are: older age when adopted, existing emotional and behavioral issues, having a strong attachment to their birth mother, having been a victim of pre-adoption sexual abuse, suffering from a lack of social support from relatives causing the adoption to occur, unrealistic expectations surrounding the adoption and the child on the part of hopeful adoptive parents, and a lack of adequate preparation and ongoing support for the adoptive family prior to and after the placement.

A devastating occurrence is a dissolution or breakdown. This applies to an adoption in which the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the adoptive child is severed, either voluntary or involuntarily. Usually this will result in the entry or re-entry of the child into the foster care system, or less commonly a second chance adoption, or even the private transfer of the child from the adoptive parents to a non-vetted receiving parent.

Adoption has been subject to both positive and negative assumptions related to the practice and this is of no surprise to anyone who has studied the practice of adoption for a period of time.

There are 6 main assumptions about the practice of adoption –

[1] Adoption is a joyous event for all involved – known as the Unicorns and Rainbows Fantasy in adoption centric communities; [2] adoption parallels genetic birth experience and a biological family life – which close observation and mixed families (who have both biological and adopted children often belie); [3] once adopted, all of the child’s problems disappear and there will be no additional challenges – rarely true – and often attachment or bonding fail to occur; [4] creating a family through adoption is “false,” only biological families are “real” – this goes too far in making a case because many adults create chosen families – the truth is as regards children, family is those persons we grow up with – believing we are related to them – in my case, both of my parents were adopted and all of my “relations” growing up were non-genetic and non-biological but I have a life history with them and continue to have contact with aunts, an uncle and cousins I obtained through my parents’ adoptions; [5] the adoptive life is better than the biological life the child had or would have had – never a known assumption – more accurately, the adoptee’s life is different than that child would have had, if they had not been adopted; and, [6] closed adoptions are in the best interest of the child – this one was promoted with the intention of shielding adoptive parents from original parents who regretted the surrender, from the child who might yearn for their original family and often in some cases to shield a person operating unscrupulously, such as the baby thief Georgia Tann who sold ill-gotten children. Popular media has reinforced both the positive and the negative messages about adoption and many myths and stereotypes regarding adoptive families and birth parents are believed in society as a whole.

The term “adoption-related complex trauma” is rarely used in discussing symptoms and behaviors. It is more common to see terms such as “developmental trauma” or “complex trauma” to describe the psychological effects found within the adopted population.

The terms complex trauma and complex post-traumatic stress disorder have been used to describe the experience of multiple and/or chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an personal nature such as sexual, physical, verbal abuse or of a societal nature such as war or community violence. These exposures often have occurred within the child’s caregiving environment and may include physical, emotional and/or other forms of neglect and maltreatment that begin early in childhood. In the case of infant adoptions, the trauma is non-verbal but stored in the body of that baby – not conscious but recorded.

Some of this content has been sourced from a long dissertation titled Treatment Considerations For Adoption-related Complex Trauma. Anyone interested is encouraged to read more at the link.

Dear Adopted Child

Dear Adopted Child,

I see so many letters addressed to birth parents and hopeful/ adoptive parents. Again you’re left out. The most import part of this equation and yet you’re continuously left out.

I really fucked up, I went against nature, I altered your brain chemistry, and I’d go as far to say committed and act against humanity. Yet I am the one likely to get sympathy. While you internally struggle. People will mourn for me and chastise you for being “ungrateful.”

I reached out to the agency, I allowed them to strip your birth father of his rights, and I chose your parents. I allowed the opinions of strangers to seep in and convince me that I was not good enough. I knew in my gut that I was making the wrong decision, that this didn’t feel right. I selfishly thought of myself. How could I possibly be a single mother of two if your father left me? How could I provide the life you should have? As if the quality of life is measured in what physical possessions one owns. At the end of the day I selfishly said I was putting you first, when really cowardly I was putting myself.

When we found out your gender, I felt ecstatic and devastated. A girl, what I had always wanted. Yet I couldn’t find the courage to keep. I knew it was wrong when your adoptive parents did a gender reveal. I chose not to speak up, as if offending them would suddenly make myself undesirable. I broke down at home and doctors appointments. Instead of viewing that as a sign that I was making the wrong choice I got prescribed anti depressants.

At your birth I asked your adoptive parents to be there. When I checked in I begrudgingly asked if the hospital had my adoption plan. There were so many times I could of said no. I could of not chose this path to take. I let them whisk you away after birth, I let your adoptive parents keep you in their room. I could’ve demanded you be brought back to me, thrown a fit that this wasn’t right or acceptable. I chose to selfishly crumple into myself, to say that our pain was worth it so two strangers could be happy. I didn’t advocate for us, for you.

I signed the paperwork, I didn’t make a peep during my revocation period, I congratulated your adoptive parents on the down fall of our family. I let them strip you of your names. I let you become a legal stranger to us.

Nothing can undo what I’ve done, or the choices I made. At the end of the day I’ve caused your pain. Your trauma was hand delivered to you by me. I’m sorry.

I can’t rectify this wrong, nothing I say or do can fully heal it. I can promise I won’t leave you again, and that everyday I’m learning, I’m listening to grown adoptees so I can be the me you will need.

With Regrets,

The Furious First Mom

Abandonment Part 2

In you haven’t already read the previous blog – Abandonment Part 1 – you will need that context to fully understand today’s follow-up.

So after sharing her backstory, the woman’s story I shared added these questions.

Am I delusional for wanting to adopt ? Is adoption really that bad? How can I help my daughter ? I know her situation is different than an adoptee but some of the feelings seem to be the same. Do I continue to push for a relationship with her dad’s side of the family, when they don’t seem to want to be involved ? I’m ok with continuing to push but sometimes it seems it hurts my daughter more.

Now for some selected responses (there were 109, indicating a “hot” topic in my adoption community) –

The very first one totally surprised me. Consider looking into uterine transplantation so you and your husband can have your own child which is what you really want…there are several programs out there…. To which, the woman actually admitted that she was already researching that. Who knew ?

The next one is one I had thought of myself as I read this woman’s story – Help your daughter before you even consider adding a stranger’s child to your family dynamic. Beyond that, the thought occurred to me that that daughter who it is said wants a sibling, will soon be mature enough to leave the house. If this couple adopts an infant or young toddler, the adoptee will be there “alone” for many years, unless they adopt more than one (and I’m not in favor of adoption – just to be clear).

Along these same lines of thinking came the next response – Don’t you think bringing in another child would add to your daughters issues ? Can you and your marriage handle two traumatized children ? I’d stop thinking of adding a child until you get your other child in a healthy mental state.

And back to a core issue –

My first thought is to continue to foster a relationship with your daughter’s paternal family….but, accept that it may not be what you want it to be at this time. Guide your daughter to this acceptance too. Their lack of reaching out is disappointing….do you know why they have become so resistant to contact ? When you reach out to them, do they respond ? The biological dad appears to be entwined with a woman who is controlling and dismissive. He made a choice and it is disappointing. You and your daughter can be upset with him….and hope one day he might change his mind about contact. Both can be true. His lack of effort for contact appears to be about his lack of control and maturity to deal with challenging issues.

The last thought I’ll share is from the same woman as above but it really appeals to me and at the end, I’ll share why.

Adopting? No. Your focus needs to be on your daughter and supporting her during this time to adulthood. Once she is independent and on solid footing you could revisit foster/adopt. Whenever I read about a teen struggling with emotional stuff I turn to horses. I suggest you investigate therapeutic equine programs in your region. It has been shown that being around horses (caring for them, riding, therapy with them) can be a positive in a teens life. Furthermore, it is a confidence builder!!!!! Handling and riding a 1000 lb animal is exhilarating and mood boosting….offers a child new adventure….promotes focus and maturity….and helps balance brain chemicals. If not therapeutic horse program….find something she enjoys with a passion & go after it with gusto – it will give her joy and purpose and conversation, and balance the difficult emotional stuff her paternal family offers.

My youngest sister was a lifelong horsewoman. It may have been working with horses that actually pushed her decline into mental illness (most likely paranoid schizophrenic though it is obvious to me now that the vulnerability and even a few brief psychotic episodes may have occurred earlier in her life, I’ve also been told that she was sexually exploited by an older man at the horseback riding stables she frequented, so there is that too). Anyway, eventually, she was placed in a locked facility for observation but our parents were of the mind they lacked the financial resources to keep her there.

When she was scheduled to come out, I tried calling many such places. She was so good at caring for horses and I thought perhaps we could get her employment with access to a therapist but no one was willing to take on the liability – sadly. I had thought that getting her away from people and the craziness of society and putting her with horses might bring her back out of it. Now, she has been in that state for over a decade and admitting that the life she believes she lives as a secret agent is a delusion is probably no longer possible for her to accept. I will always worry and care about her.

Some Wounds Don’t Heal

Knowing what I know about adoption, I’m now against this whole thing and because of what happened, it would just be way too personal. And what happened ?, you ask. I’ll share the story of selfish points of view.

A somewhat distant cousin had wanted to adopt my oldest child when I found out I was pregnant in high school though I did not take her up on her offer. Fast forward to 2 years ago, I was again pregnant with my third child. At that time, I was highly considering adoption. I asked this cousin – knowing shes always wanted to adopt – what would happen if she adopted my baby. I was simply exploring my options. I explained to her that the only reason I was considering giving him up was because I felt like mentally and financially I couldn’t take care of 3 kids. Which was a correct assessment on my part at the time.

Allow me to explain my conditions related to a surrender –

I want to be a part of his life. I would still consider myself his mom. My motivation is for him to have a better chance. And here was her reply –

If she did adopt him – I would not be his mom. He wouldn’t know anything about me other than I was related family. I wouldn’t get visitations or special calls and pictures. I’d only see him at family reunions (get real, in my 24 years in this family, we’ve only had 1 reunion on that side and I was a kid when it happened). She said that other than that, my contact would be seeing her Facebook posts, and occasional text updates, but he would be her child and I would (in her words) “in fact no longer be his mother”. I politely said thank you but that doesn’t work for me.

She messaged me a few more times telling me to let her know if I changed my mind and how badly she “wanted this opportunity.” I kept my baby.

Since then there have been moments in spending time with my aunt (my cousin’s mom), that this has been brought up and I’m told about how much it hurt my cousin that I didn’t let her adopt my son. That “it hurt her deeply and was wrong.” Blah blah blah.

I answer, “How do you think I would have felt having to get rid of my baby? I would have been suicidal.”

Fast forward again –

My cousin has finally adopted the baby she always wanted. She is now having a baby shower, inviting everyone in my family (my aunt, cousins and step-grandma). They are all mad at me that I’m refusing to go and “celebrate this with her and her new baby.”

Back to the beginning, she says, “Knowing what I know about adoption, I’m now against this whole thing and because of what happened, it would just be way too personal.”

When one really begins to read what grown adoptees say for themselves about their experience of having been adopted and when one reads deeply some of the therapists that work with adoptees to heal their trauma, one understands why this young mother feels the way she feels. I belong to an adoption group with all aspects of the practice represented – adoptees, former foster youth, original mothers, adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents. This group works actively to encourage young pregnant women to keep and parent their child. Often they even supply resources for her to do so. Society should be actively trying to keep families together instead of tearing them apart. And there are reforms being promoted for dealing with the circumstances of the tragic few that have no family to go to.