Adoptee Birthdays

How one adoptee has described her feelings about these.

I do not celebrate my birthday.

So for every one of my friends I said no thank you, blew off, or straight up just ignored when they asked to take me for a drink on my birthday, sorry.

For everyone that I didn’t text back, no hard feelings.

I do appreciate you being happy that I’m around, and staying around for another year. It was nice to hear from you. Even if I didn’t answer you.

Birthdays are hard on us adopted kids/orphans/foster kids. Adoption is the only type of loss where the victim is expected to feel happy, grateful and indebted to someone about it. To be thankful for it. For adoptees our birthday is a day that we were separated from our entire biological family. It’s the anniversary of an abandonment. It’s the marker of the altering of our birth certificate and totally erasure of all of our family medical history.

It’s not great. Especially for those of us adopted through the INCREDIBLY UNETHICAL private infant adoption industry in the United States.

Many private infant adoptees who are my generation and the one below me are the age where we are coming out of the “adoptee fog” and realizing that the pretty stories and ideas we have been sold our whole lives about adoption are not true. I guess we knew it the whole time, but it’s very hard to pinpoint those feelings, and we are REALLY afraid to express them. Because many of us (myself included) have had really great adoptive families.

I love my family. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t lose my family.

It’s hard for us to express our real feelings about our own stories, and continually be met with opinions how wholly beautiful adoption is, how they just know that our lives would have been hard and terrible if we stayed with our birth families, ignoring and denying the trauma and loss associated with our birth stories and telling us that we should be so thankful.

Because if adoption is always so beautiful…

Why do people lie about it and hide it?

Why doesn’t everyone just give up a baby to a queer couple, or an infertile couple?

Why are records kept from the very people they pertain to?

Why do white babies cost more than black babies?

Why don’t you want to talk about this side of it?

I know that some of the things we feel, and some of the truths about private infant adoption is hard for people to hear. But if you/they actually cared about kids…. Then they’d want to hear it… and fix it.

I am not anti adoption. There will always be truly necessary adoption. But what adoption has become in this country, a multibillion dollar business, needs to be fixed. We can’t continue to treat these kids like a commodity, doing things like trying to re-home them on Facebook like a puppy you can’t potty train. What would happen if you tried to do that with a biological child? Would it be the same? Does it ever happen? These children should have rights. I turned 36 on Friday and I don’t have access to my own birth certificate. The government has it. But I can’t get it. Doesn’t that seem weird? Or wrong?

There’s a reason you can hear your mother’s voice and heartbeat when she is pregnant with you. It’s so when you’re born, you know who mom is. So when you hear it for 9 months and then never hear it again….It hurts your heart and it changes your brain. No matter how good the rest of your life turns out to be. And it can make your birthday a hard day.

Tolerance

After seeing this, I went looking for some background on Christianity and LGBTQ issues. I found this – Cultural backlash: Is LGBTQ progress an attack on Christianity? – from Washington University in St Louis Missouri. PS – FD is Foster Daughter. From that linked article –

“Many Christians have come to see themselves as being on the losing side of the culture wars,” said Clara L Wilkins, principal investigator and associate professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences. “Christians may perceive that an America where same sex marriage is legal is one in which they have lost their sway and are now victimized.

“This is especially common among conservative Christians, who also are more likely to believe that Christianity is a defining feature of being American. As a result, they see themselves as being at odds with LGBTQ individuals, who are perceived as having increasing social influence.”

The root causes and consequences of “zero-sum beliefs” or ZSBs— these are a belief that social gains for one group necessarily involves losses for the other – are most common among conservative Christians, and are shaped by their understandings of Christian values, the Bible and in response to religious institutions.

Christians saw the decrease of LGBTQ bias as corresponding to more bias against Christians. ZSBs are driven by symbolic threats, not realistic threats. White Christians are concerned recent social changes threaten their social influence, namely their ability to instill and enforce their notions of Christian values upon broader society — not realistic threats, such as loss of livelihood. Simply reminding white Christians about a changing cultural climate in which their influence is waning was sufficient to increase their perception of Christians’ victimization and perceived conflict with LGBTQ people. “The church is a strong moral authority with the potential to shape norms and attitudes toward sexual minorities like court rulings have shifted attitudes on same sex marriage,” the study authors wrote.

Momentous changes such as the Biden Administration’s appointment of Pete Buttigieg as the first openly gay secretary in the presidential Cabinet and Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender federal official as well as the electoral win of Delaware Sen Sarah McBride (the first openly transgender person in that role) have sparked outrage by opponents. They argue that the growing acceptance of LGBTQ individuals impedes the ability of Christians to practice their faith — as if gains for one group necessarily involved losses for the other.

While the number of white evangelical Christians has decreased significantly in recent years — from 23% in 2006 to 14% in 2020, their political influence continues to grow. Mass media has enabled white evangelicals to disseminate their messages of Christian nationalism, culture wars and cultural grievances and political conservatism to a far-reaching constituency. The Human Rights Campaign predicted that this will be a record-setting year for anti-LGBTQ legislation with as many as 250 bills introduced in state legislatures in 2021 alone.

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.

The Wild Track

I often review books in this blog related to adoption or foster care that I have actually read. I’ve not read this one but will share bits and pieces from a review of this book in The Guardian. I’ve pretty much completed my related reading for now. There is an unlimited number of related books and I’ve moved on to other reading interests such as racial inequality (have pretty much completed that one) and now mental illness with an unusual emphasis on spirituality (now that’s something I can and have really gotten into to!!).

The review begins with this insight – wanting to have children and deciding to have children are acts of imagination that border on egotism. To be a child is to be a particular child but to want a child is not to know who that child will be or how to grant it agency. For Margaret Reynolds these issues were unusually complex because she started grappling with them aged 45 when, single after the breakdown of a relationship, she suddenly experienced the urge to be a mother. She was longing for purpose and joy, for a “commitment that tries and shapes the self”. Yet this was not an urge to procreate. She had already undergone the menopause and wasn’t invested in reproducing her DNA.

And I do get this. In my case, I had already procreated when I was 19 years old. A beautiful daughter who has given me two equally beautiful grandchildren. However, my second husband thought he was happy I had “been there and done that” already when we met because he didn’t particularly want children and didn’t feel financially strong enough to have any children, being the responsible kind of guy he was. When I met him, I knew he was the kind of guy I would be willing to have children with. It took him 10 years to decide that he wanted to and like the author of the book I’m highlighting today, I was also 45 years old. Turns out I had gone past easily becoming pregnant like I could when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Enter medical technology into our picture. That wasn’t the path Margaret Reynolds decided on however.

It took Reynolds 5 years to succeed in adopting a child and becoming the mother to a troubled six-year-old daughter is described as a painful pleasure. Actually – troubled or not – being a parent is sometimes that – honestly. The book is actually about the British adoption system and not the American one that I know more about.

To the book’s credit as an adoption related journey, it is an unusually thoughtful take on becoming a mother, enabled by removing babyhood and biology. Though Reynolds begins by desiring a child, the motherhood that results is a gradual, open process, in which she makes herself available as a mother and waits for Lucy to claim her. At first, they don’t hug and kiss. Reynolds just rubs her daughter’s back at night and it’s Lucy who initiates the process of kissing and cuddling, and finds her own way to calling her “Mum”. I found this moving partly because Lucy is given an autonomy that we perhaps all want our mothers to be capable of giving us and should allow to our daughters.

The question of fatherhood is rightly raised here, given Reynolds was setting herself up as a single mother (a fact that, combined with her previous lesbian relationship, prevented her adopting internationally). There is a long literary history of foundlings – it is peculiarly convenient for children to be orphaned at the start of a story. There’s a touching scene where she reads Anne of Green Gables to her daughter, crying alongside Marilla when she realizes what Anne means to her.

One thing that sets this book apart from other adoption related books is that at the end there are two chapters written by her daughter Lucy. Having heard about their early months together from Reynolds, we hear about them from Lucy, learning, shockingly, that she didn’t yet know when she was driven, crying bitterly, to Reynolds’s house from the foster parents she had grown to love, that this was a permanent move. Lucy’s sections are a testament to the joy of finding home and belonging, but also a reminder that the pain of early separations is perpetual. A few days before collecting Lucy, Reynolds had to remind herself that “my happiness is her sadness”. One of the strengths of the adoption system is that it sends potential parents on courses to think through how to parent children who have trauma ready to be reignited at any moment.

Who Is My Mother ?

It is a complicated world we live in.  For many children, one of those complicated things is defining who their mother is.  For decades, since adoption became fashionable, this can be a hard question for a child to answer.  Other children are challenged for other reasons.  When I first told my youngest son his conception story that involves an egg donor, he asked me if she was his mother.  I did my best to explain in age appropriate terms.  At some point, in discussing this reality of my sons’ existence, the older one asked if he was supposed to be grateful.  We answered, no but we are.  When we did 23 and Me and the egg donor was identified as their mother, my youngest son lamented he did not have my genes.  Sometimes reality is complicated.

For an adoptee, this can be a confusing question, especially when the child is very young and the only mother they know is the one that is present with them.  In this modern age, some children have two mothers or in the case of two fathers, may have been born by surrogate.  It is not an easy question for a lot of children to answer.  With divorce being such a common occurrence, many children end up with step mothers.

As the source of nurturing, comforting, sustaining and unconditional love, it is no wonder a child will love their mother.  Yet, for many children defining who the mother is can be confusing.

Even though every human being truly has only one mother, for many children with non-traditional forms of “Mom”, they should NOT have to correct an erroneous identification and say a primary caregiver is not their mom.  This puts the child in too difficult of a situation.  An adult can make it even more confusing for the child by trying to be accurately correct.

With big feelings what’s best is to validate and reflect the child’s feelings, and be a safe person for them to share their thoughts and feelings with.  If you are not the woman who actually carried and birthed that child but are the one who is there for them in that role, day after day, let the child decide what they should call you and deal with the reality that their life is complex.

The Traditional Family – Threatened ?

The polarization of American society is somewhat an effect of evangelical Christianity’s concerns about threats to the traditional family.  It is said that is one reason that over 40% of such families own guns and oppose gun control.  It can also be said that rapid changes in perspectives have been partially the cause of deep divisions in our country’s population.

The election of a black president and support for same sex marriage and protections against discrimination for LGBTQ persons have come too quickly for people who take their marching orders from ministers and the bible.  That may be.  It is true that changes in life are generally occurring at a much more rapid pace than they once did.  That we are inundated with information at a startling and overwhelming rate.

White supremacists and nationalists who ascribe to those kinds of beliefs also worry about the great replacement by people whose skin is another color and which could ultimately affect their privileges in society.

It is and will continue to happen regardless of how uncomfortable it makes some people.

One wonders then at the embrace of adoption so strongly by Christians when it is the method of choice for creating a family by same sex couples who cannot create a family by traditional reproductive methods.  It seems unimaginable to me, how contorted one’s religious beliefs have to be to encompass it all.