Sour Grapes

From my all things adoption group – an adoptee after reaching maturity should not have to deal with this in her adoptive mother but I have seen such bad behavior before in one of my adoptee relative’s adoptive mother as well. So sad.

How do you help someone you love, who is on the fence and struggling, come out of the adoption fog ? Or do you even try ? The person I am talking about is going to be my daughter-in-law in less than a month. We have become close and she is great. She is only 20 years old. I’ll call her T.

T expressed to me that she was curious but scared to reach out to her birth mother. She eventually did so behind her adoptive mom’s back. Her adoptive dad has passed. She said her birth mother was very nice and she told T that she tried to make contact many times throughout the years but that the adoptive parents would block her and change their numbers. T told me she didn’t know who to believe because her adoptive mom said this was a lie. T asked me why would her adoptive mom lie and so, she tended to believe her adoptive mom over her birth mom. I gently asked her to think about who would be more motivated to lie about this.

Anyway when her adoptive mom found out that T was contacting her birth mom, she had a complete emotional breakdown and made T feel so bad. She even said maybe it was a big mistake even adopting her blah blah blah.

I met her adoptive mom last week at the bridal shower and she told me that she was totally fine with T meeting her birth mom but she would not let the birth mom emotionally abuse her with lies.

T has since blocked the birth mom on social media and says she is scared and creeped out. These situations have shoved her way back into the adoption fog. I’m so sad for her because I know that this is important for her mental health. She deals with a lot of anxiety and often struggles with her adoptive mom. T was adopted with 2 her biological sisters who also are struggling with anxiety and mental health.

What can I do with the most love to help her ? She has some leads on her biological dad but now says she is even more creeped out by him. Someone told her he may or may not have shot someone in the past. I wonder who she got that idea from?? Eye roll.

She is definitely afraid of getting in trouble with her adoptive mom (who is paying for the wedding). Her adoptive mom also helped her get a car, after T went back into the adoption fog in submission. Another Eye roll.

My own comment is simply – why do adoptive mothers behave this way once their adoptee is a grown person ? Clearly exerting financial leverage (I saw my mom’s adoptive mother do that with her). They had the child all to themselves all the child’s life. I saw this during a loved one’s (adoptee) wedding. Previously, I would never have thought that woman could be that way but . . . adoptive parents it seems also have their own triggers.

Sad Christmas

From my all things adoption group –

I just asked my biological mother (who I have a non-relationship with, as she refuses one) for just the name of my biological father. She was less than kind. I have done the DNA stuff, that is how I found her. But no one on my paternal side seems to have done that. It appears that a name is too much to ask of her. If you are not an adoptee, can you even imagine that pain?

Some responses –

From an adoptee – My birth mum won’t tell me where my dad is and I know she knows because “she isn’t surprised he’s decided he wants nothing to do with me.” It hurts. Is there no way of seeing if social media platforms might have any info? It’s a long shot but it might be worth it. I know they are shite to deal with and it brings more trauma but maybe they will be able to help.

From an adoptive mother – Two of my adult adoptee kids met the same stone wall. It is infuriating.

Another adoptee – my birth mother is a grade a b*tch who lies and manipulates everyone around her – so I empathize greatly.

And when there are other children ? Mine is the same and she has even convinced the children she kept that I am the problem. The previous adoptee added – same but 3 of them are adults and 2 are low contact with her and recently in contact with me. The things she said about me were just so completely off the wall false that I’m probably going to be mad about it a long time. It was the catalyst for me though and I blocked her across all platforms including email so she’d have to really dig to even contact me now. Plus this PS –  just in case you need to hear it – you are not the problem. She is the problem.

One birth mother notes – I will never understand a mother keeping that info away from their child. I’m sorry, it’s not too much to ask.

I had this thought as well – Is there a chance she might not truly know? From an adoptive mother who adopted through foster care – I fear my daughter is going to go through this in the future too, as her birth mother never identified her dad before termination took place. I pray all the time that she is going to be in a better place when my daughter turns 18 and will reveal that information to her. I hope yours does also. In our situation, there were several men who were tested before termination. I’m not sure if she was unsure or just playing games.

And sadly, this kind of thing does happen in families – As a birth mom, unless it was rape, (which she should tell you), there’s no reason for her to not tell you. I will always be honest when my son asks me and tell him who his father is. My cousin that has Ancestry found me and asked me who his father could be, I had to basically tell him that his birth mom probably was raped because this particular uncle was that kind of person. (She will not tell him who his dad was)

One suggestion from a woman who was fostered from birth and considers herself a forced adoptee at the age of 10 – Do both Ancestry & 23andme – My mother never would tell me either, but my genetic father lied & gave her a fake name, so in a way I am glad I never fixated on a name… DNA doesn’t lie.

An important piece for adoption reform is for counselors to address with any expectant mother – why she has red flags around the father. All adoptees need better family medical history information than most have had – certainly my parents had none. 

One responder noted – It’s emotional immaturity. She won’t process her actions and own any of it, therefore she won’t give you the information and she doesn’t even see why that may be damaging to you because she’s so hung up on herself. The truth is that she may not know, but even that – she’s unwilling to share. It wouldn’t bring you any answers but it also wouldn’t add to the pain she’s caused by straight up caring only about herself.

And finally another adoptee who was in foster care – I found my birth mother 20 years ago. My father has been difficult to locate though I know his full name. I actually informally met my half sister on my dad’s side through 23 and Me. I have sent her a request to chat but so far nothing.  It would be cool to meet the man. It’s apparent he doesn’t want to meet me. He could simply contact my mother.

Limited

Mindy Stern

I discovered Mindy Stern today and have maxed out my “free” member-only stories on Medium for the month looking at her essays. They are definitely worth reading. She speaks truth about what it is like being an adoptee. That the experience is not better, only different. You can find links to her Medium essays at LINK>The Mindy Stern. If you want insights straight from an adoptee voice, go there.

I don’t know how much my mom tried to talk to her adoptive mother about her adoption. At most, I know that my adoptive grandmother did her best to reassure my mom that she was not one of those babies that Georgia Tann had stolen and sold after the scandal broke. That is about as much as my mom ever told me about it. I do know that my mom went to her grave believing her adoption was inappropriate. I know that the state of Tennessee refused to budge and give her the adoption file that had been closed and sealed. The one I now have completely. I now have contact with genetic relatives though it will always be problematic because I didn’t grow up with them and it leaves a gulf of experience that a late discovery that I am “one of them” never quit seems to bridge. I know my mom gave up trying to do a family tree at Ancestry because in the language of genetic connection that is what DNA is all about, the adoptive families weren’t real and she eventually resigned herself that it was pointless to continue. Just a few of the sorrows and sadness felt by one adoptee and I was fortunate as her daughter to be trusted with her truest feelings about it all but even those were only expressed in a limited way. There is no other way to say it. Adoption robs an adoptee of so much.

I was able to relate to so much in Mindy’s essay – LINK>Don’t Make Us Choose. Because my adoptee parents (both were adoptees) were never able to unravel their own origin stories, adoption limited us as their children from hearing much of anything about them or how my own parents felt. What I know now is what I had to find and reveal to my own self after they died.

The essay describes Mindy’s visit to her adoptive mother at the hospital after emergency heart surgery. The nurse asks her – where did you get your height? – because she is 5’6″ – her adoptive mother is 4’8″. All her life, her adoptive parents expected her to lie and pretend. She says, “pretending was implicit in our contract. Intended or not, their silence told me lying about my identity was acceptable, even encouraged.”

Mindy asks her readers to “Imagine what it feels like to worry if answering a basic question about your height will hurt your mother’s feelings. Consider the pain of pretending. The charade begins the moment our records are sealed, birth certificates amended, names changed. They build every closed adoption on lies, and adoptive parents who don’t proudly celebrate their child’s differences conspire with the pretense.”

Similar to my adoptee father, her dad never knew about her until she found him. Her birth mother took the secret of her to the grave. My dad’s father never knew about him. They look very much alike, just like my mom looks very much like her birth mother. Adoption robs the adoptee of genetic mirrors. They never know where this physical or innate trait (like a love of fishing in my dad) came from. The truth in my dad’s case was both nature and nurture. His original father spent his life involved with fishing, my dads’ adoptive parents loved to go fishing. Yet Mindy explains that her adoptive mother kept a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding Mindy’s original parents.

When Mindy does try to touch that place with her adoptive mother, the tears begin. So, Mindy says “I’m not a sadist so I go along with the policy. She won’t ask, I won’t tell, and our relationship will stay limited and distant and my god that is such a shame.”

I have struggled with that need to choose – my parents’ adoption and now knowing the truth they never did – has forced me to confront it, second hand. Who do I love – my adoptive relatives or the ones that came through the birth of my parents to their original parents? I have almost worked through it well enough to be able to love them all equally. Mindy describes a snippet of conversation with her adoptive mother when she touches that place.

“Mom, you get how fucked up this is, right? It’s like telling a gay child you accept them but not allowing their partner to come to dinner.”

“I’m afraid it makes you… regret your life.”

“They (her reunion with genetic family) give me something you can’t, you give me something they can’t. Neither of you replaces the other.” And I appreciate her words because they express the paradox of adoption so well. She notes that after that the server arrived and placed our food down. Her mother changed the subject. Mindy says, “We were done. That was the best she could do. At least she listened.”

Her essay ends on a decidedly happy note and I encourage you to read it for a smile today.

A Near Miss

Almost every Thursday (though I sometimes have weeks long gaps or skip a week), I query literary agents for representation of my third revision of my family’s adoption story. I do not intend to revise it again and if I do not succeed, I’ll simply print a copy for my daughter and for my family of today and be done with it. I do not intend to be pessimistic but at this point, I simply go through the motions like it is my “job” – and in a very real way it is. My husband has taken over most of our businesses functions to leave me plenty of time to write and he remains more hopeful about a positive outcome than I do.

Yesterday, I got the quickest rejection yet – like in minutes. Sharlene Martin of LINK> Martin Literary Management sent me this email – “I’m sorry but I recently did Jane Blasio’s book, Taken at Birth, and this would present a conflict of interest for me.” I didn’t know that of course, just sort of got lucky in choosing her (one of the challenges is deciding which literary agent to query). So, I looked into the author and saw that her book was published in July 2021. That is the closest I’ve ever come to finding a literary agent interested in the topic. I don’t know whether to feel encouraged or not at this point.

I was already aware of the story of the Hicks Clinic in McCaysville Georgia before yesterday evening. Dr Hicks was the Georgia Tann of Memphis Tennessee’s compatriot – with similar practices but in a different state, each seeking to grab their share of a lucrative exploitation of babies and hopeful adoptive parents. Adoptive homes are often an expression of secrecy, lies and shame. Everyone living there is living a false reality. Sadly, adoption is often not much different than human trafficking.

LINK> Jane Blasio is not the only adoptee to uncover the truth of their childhood as an adult. It can be quite unsettling for the person who discovers their parents were not the ones they were born to. These adoptees are often referred to as Late Discovery. Dr Thomas Jugarthy Hicks would tell his expectant patient that their newborn child had died at birth and then, sell their baby out the back door of his clinic to the hopeful adoptive parents.

Jane’s own story is that, at the age of six, she learned she was adopted. At fourteen, she first saw her birth certificate. This led her to begin piecing together the true details of her origins. It took decades of personal investigation to discover the truth. Along the way, she identified and reunited other victims of the Hicks Clinic human trafficking scheme. She became an expert in illicit adoptions, telling her story to every major news network that would have her. Her book is a remarkable account of one woman’s tireless quest for truth, justice, and resolution. 

I first roughed out my family’s adoption story in November of 2017 using the NaNoWriMo effort to jumpstart it with 50,000 words and the title Lost Chances: Frances Irene Moore’s Georgia Tann Story. In 2021, I submitted a short version of 8,431 words titled With Luck and Persistence (my completed manuscript is 87,815 words) to the Jeffrey E Smith Editor’s Prize with The Missouri Review. This year I am doing a very brief version, less than 1,500 words, for the True Family Stories contest with the Kingdom Writer’s Guild titled Surprised by the Miracle. The prize is nothing to get excited about but my husband long ago suggested I write a version for Christians, so this is that – where I won’t make an issue against adoption – I’ll only focus on the miracle that I didn’t end up adopted as well. All this to say, I can’t say I won’t re-write it in some form again but I won’t revise the long manuscript again or try to shop it if this effort ultimately fails. I still think I have a good story but the challenge is getting anyone else to believe that.

Utterly Disgusting Attitude

This adoptive mother thinks she has it all figured out but adoptees and many biological mothers are NOT buying it. This is why open adoptions close and is used as a marketing tool. This comment is very disrespectful towards birth moms. Many do think about their children. They grieve. They feel loss too. Keeping birth parents away will not prevent the child from feelings of abandonment.

From the adoptive mother – I kinda feel like some groups in the adoption triad lean towards having relationships with biological relatives. Not every time though. I felt in our situation, it is toxic. So I joined several groups… I honestly don’t think it’s the best decision in like 90 percent of these situations. It seems like everyone wants to sugar coat the biological parents. The fact is they couldn’t/didn’t want to get their crap together for their children…. We did!!! I decided to do some research and joined groups that I didn’t fit in…Like I am in a “I regret my adoption, birth parents group” and “Adoptees who didn’t find out they were adopted until they were adults” and even a “I regret my abortion group.” I think it’s the best thing I have ever done and it has truly been an eye opener to see ALL sides. I joined the abortion group after seeing several women in the “I regret my adoption” group say that, because their ADULT biological children didn’t want anything to do with them, they wish they had just aborted them.

Anyway, I’ve come to understand a few things. My adopted daughter will not have any type of relationship with her biological mom, because that is when trauma happens. They are too young to understand why someone can’t be around, so they feel unloved. My daughter knows she’s adopted but doesn’t know what it means. She’s 4 years old. I am telling her things like her name changed to our name, she wasn’t in my belly. I won’t lie ever to her. I keep a record of why she doesn’t get to see her biological mom (her dad passed away).

When she is old enough to be told the 100 percent truth, it will not be a shock, and like I said I will never lie to her. If I feel like the time isn’t right for a question she asks, I’ll just say that I will tell her that part when she’s a little older. Most adoptee’s end up hating their biological parents the most…. Then, they are mad that they were lied to by their adoptive parents….and they do want to know some history, and they like to have their old records (I made sure I have my daughter’s original birth certificate and social security card). I had to change her social security number because someone in her biological family was using her old number…

Most adoptees are mad at their adoptive parents for sharing pictures with the biological parents. Most wish they weren’t lied to but had the chance to have a stable childhood, where they didn’t even know they were abandoned…. They wish they had the chance to grow up in a healthy environment, instead of the adoptive parents taking care and caring so much about the biological parents who abandoned them. Adoptive parents feel guilty but shouldn’t… it isn’t the adoptive parents fault that the biological parents don’t want to be there. We cannot force them and popping in and out isn’t healthy. There needs to be boundaries. Most adoptive parents are empaths (that’s what brought them to adoption), we almost feel the birth parents pain of losing a child, but the fact is, most of the birth parents aren’t even thinking of these kids 99.9 percent of the time and have never been empaths or they would have taken care of their children.

I’ll never make my daughter feel unloved by anyone!! She won’t have to deal with all of the adults problems in her childhood, she will have a happy one!! So that’s my plan… lol

Anyway, good luck! Go join some groups. Several groups. They are all different and definitely seek all sides of each group. Every situation is different and just never make ANY person feel like someone doesn’t love them or they weren’t wanted. Keeping that biological family away in most cases insures that they WONT feel abandoned. We all want what’s best for OUR kids and all we can do is our best.

A few thoughts from the “other” side – “well, doesn’t she have it all figured out ?”

Being abandoned, makes us feel abandoned. Adult adoptees who found out later in life, prove this. They say they always felt like they didn’t belong, like they weren’t loved or couldn’t feel loved, even when it was shown – like a big piece of them was missing. It didn’t matter that nobody bothered to tell them there was a piece missing, they knew it.

And the empath stuff – I just CAN NOT. I feel like she read somewhere that adoptive mothers lean toward narcissism, and she’s just trying to say the opposite and have that take hold as a public opinion. This lady seems like a piece of work. I feel bad for her adoptee, because it’s sounds like mommy has it all figured out how to just side step her child’s experience of being traumatized at all. I’m honestly in awe of this person’s audacity. Just wow.

Hard To Believe But True

To keep the knowledge of this from an adoptee is so unconscionable. Even in the 1930s, when my parents were adopted, they always knew they were. Since I now know more about my original grandparents, my grandmothers would have always made great mothers to my parents. It was simply two factors – the times for my dad’s unwed mother and Georgia Tann’s machinations for my maternal married grandmother (though her husband appeared to have deserted her and there is no one left alive who could answer what my heart wants to know about why).

From an adoptee – How could you not tell your kid but then tell other people??? Like wtf. There’s something incredibly wrong with that picture.

From another adoptee – (BTW the child is already 8 years old) – that would be where I would have to ask for a conference with the adoptive parents. I could not knowingly and wrongfully withhold such information from a child and still be able to look them in the face daily. Idk if said child could remain in my class, although I’d want to be a support for the child. What a horrible situation for a teacher, especially if also an adoptee, but what a horrible bunch of bullshit for that child. School aged is beyond old enough to have already had those conversations. I’m not happy with these adoptive parents AT ALL.

Just a personal note – when my dad was 8 years old, he was adopted a second time when his adoptive mother remarried and his first name was changed from Thomas to Gale. Thomas was his first adoptive father’s first name. Gale was his new adoptive father’s first name. A completely understandable decision. Fortunately for my dad, he was always known by his middle name Patrick.

An adoptee who is also an adoptive mother writes – I am also a behavioral interventionist. This would be a “HUGE” trigger for me mentally. I couldn’t imagine looking into that poor innocent face knowing she is probably struggling internally (even without her knowing it) and then, knowing what she will face later on when she learns the truth. It would be very hard for me to navigate without yelling from the rooftops at the parents – what you are doing to this child is so wrong and mentally abusive. Even more so, that they are sharing this information with everyone else (savior complex, most likely or just narcissistic) but the child. Does your employer know you are an adoptee? I do a lot of advocating for adoptees and foster care youth in my district.

Someone else commented –  Imagine everybody knowing your story but you. I hope they are setting aside a sizable amount of money for this child’s therapy because OMFG.

Another writes – And at what age does this go on until ? Where is that child’s human rights. They have no right to deprive that child of their roots. It’s seldom done to protect the child, it’s to protect the adopters from the reality that this child has another family and help them play out their fantasy. It’s disgusting and should be illegal.

From one adoptee’s experience – I was in a similar situation. I didn’t find out until I was 9. It shattered my view on pretty much everything. I feel badly for those children; finding out your life is a lie part way through childhood is just…heavy. The worst part about having a family that is secretive about adoption is that once I did know, I was told I still needed to lie about it because not everyone in the family knew. I shared it with my cousins of a similar age once and got laughed at by them because they didn’t believe me. It got me in terrible trouble with my adoptive parents for telling them. Those kids have a rough road ahead. An entire early childhood predicated on lies is no way to live.

I’m Okay But

“I still think if I was given the choice to be aborted or grow up adopted, I’d choose abortion.” Those are the words of one adoptee.

The pain of having to live under the lies of adoption was just so great that never being born still seems like the better option. I loved my parents. I am forever grateful for the care and love they gave me with the best of intention. I knew they loved me but I knew they were also lying to me and that confused me. I’m grateful to be alive today but it’s not always been that way.

Now I know the TRUTH and I’m free to be me. And I think it’s marvelous. I just might be a superhero and neurodiversity is my superpower. Level up????

Many adoptees, but not all of course, feel the same way . . . Don’t believe it. Overturning Roe v Wade and creating more babies for hopeful adoptive parents will shatter the lives of those adoptees by the trauma they experience in the process.

Shame

We feel shame when we violate the social norms we believe in. At such moments we feel humiliated, exposed and small and are unable to look another person straight in the eye. We want to sink into the ground and disappear. Shame makes us direct our focus inward and view our entire self in a negative light.

I came upon the powerful graphic above yesterday and felt there was more that I could personally say about it. On my Facebook profile page yesterday, I shared – I have owned up to this before. I had an abortion at the age of 23 or so – mid 1970s. I am glad it was safe and legal. I was not being reckless. I was driving an 18-wheeler with a partner. Our dispatcher didn’t get us home to where my pharmacy was in time and I ended up pregnant. Neither he nor his family were the kind of people I would be glad to have been tied to through a child today. At the time, I had breakthrough bleeding. My ex-SIL and ex-BIL had a child with serious birth defects. I just felt the pregnancy was not progressing normally. Also, to be honest – I didn’t want to commit my life to 7 more months of going it alone with no financial support. I’ve never regretted it but pro-Life propaganda has definitely haunted me. In writing this, I searched my memory for all of the reasons why I chose that course of action.

The mothers and women in my family, and to whom I am genetically related, chose other courses of action. Back in the 1930s, the mothers of both of my own parents, chose to carry their pregnancies, spent the first few precious months with their babies, and one way or another lost that first child to adoption. I wrote, and it was true, “I didn’t want to commit my life to 7 more months of going it alone with no financial support.” In some people’s minds I was simply being selfish and I will accept that judgment, though in truth I have no regrets about doing what I did and for the reasons I did it at the time.

Yet, I felt enough shame for having chosen a different path (both of my sisters carried unplanned pregnancies to term but also gave their babies up for adoption) that it was a long time before I admitted to anyone what I did earlier in life. It was my private decision which no one but the circumstances influenced. Maybe influenced in no small measure by the legality and safety of the choice at the time. Only as Roe v Wade has come under increasing opposition have I started sharing my own story of what it was like to have made that choice and my gratitude that I had it available to my own self when I felt I needed that.

The father of my own conception made it clear he would not stand by me if I chose otherwise but I don’t think that was my major motivation. In reflecting on my statement that I would have had to “go it alone” above, I also know my parents supported one of my sisters throughout the pregnancy and then, remarkable to me now that I know more about adoption in general, my own adoptee mom coerced my sister into giving up the baby she wanted to keep and then, encouraged a lie to me that the baby had died. Intuitively, I knew it had not and concocted fantastical stories about what had actually happened to the baby believing it had been stolen and taken into Mexico (my sister had delivered at a hospital in El Paso TX very near the national border). Because of this, my mom finally admitted her truth regarding the whole situation to me.

Many women bear a cross – maybe they suffer their whole lives knowing their child is out there somewhere out of their own reach. Many of these original mothers suffer a secondary infertility and never have another child. Many struggle as single mothers to keep and raise their child. Our society does nothing to help them. My sister actually sought financial support during her pregnancy but was denied it based upon our parents financial condition. It was not my parents seeking financial support but my sister and not in increase my parents financial condition either.

After I divorced the father of my first child, I had to go to work and that meant child care. When one “family style” child care that she loved at first became a tearful battle, I left work to check on her and discovered through the window of a half door, an older child bullying her and no adults in sight. I pulled her out that day. I often had to go to my mother to beg $20 to make it through to payday. She never denied me but financially it was always difficult. At the time I divorced her father, he told me he would never pay me one cent of child support because I would just party with the money. Such a horrible perception he had of my own integrity and ethics. I didn’t want to spend my life in court fighting him for it even though the judge insisted in awarding me $25/mo “in case” I changed my mind and wanted to seek an increase. I never did. Instead, I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother while I tried to build a financial nest egg for the two of us by seeing if I was capable of driving an 18 wheel truck cross-country.

I always intended to return for her and would have never given her to her father to raise but his mother did that. He remarried a woman with a child and then they had a child together. Unintended consequences of financial desperation. And now, in a sense my story has come full circle, my shame – not even listed above – is that I gave up raising my child for financial reasons. Back when she was in day care, I couldn’t hardly answer the pediatrician’s questions, because she was away from me all day. After her father and step-mother raised her, I struggled to find birthday cards for her that reflected the lack of a daily, physical relationship I had with her. There were no role models for an absentee mother back in the mid-1970s, even though the absentee father was a standard reality.

Shame. Oh yes, I am well acquainted with it. As my daughter knows, I have struggled to find peace with not having “stuck it out,” as my own mother said to me that she would have done, to do the right thing by my daughter. It is a work in process. Recently, I reflected on all the things I did right by her in the brief early years she was physically under my care. I told her, I realize that when I was mother to you, I was a good one. And the abortion ? I atoned for it, by giving up my own genetic connection to have two egg donor conceived sons (same donor both times), that my husband might be able to have the children he desired, even as we both realized I had gotten too old to conceive naturally. Even so, they are now almost 18 and 21 years old. They have proven to me that I can “mother” children 24/7 throughout their own childhoods. At least I have no shame in that. I even breastfed both until they were just over 1 year old. I also have the knowledge that I didn’t put adoption trauma onto the fetus I aborted early in that pregnancy.

Krista Driver NPE

Today’s story comes from an essay in Right To Know. NPE stands for non-paternity event (also known as misattributed paternity, not parent expected, or NPE) is when someone who is presumed to be an individual’s father is not in fact the biological father. This presumption may be on the part of the individual, the parents, or the attending midwife, physician or nurse.

The story that was told to her was that her mother was 15 years old and homeless, living in a van, and making a lot of poor choices as many troubled teens do. She didn’t have adult supervision, and drugs and parties and a little bit of crime-ing seemed like good ideas to her at the time. One winter day, she was arrested for “breaking and entering.” The police found her in a pile of dirty clothes in the back of her mother’s van. Her mother went to juvenile hall and she went to the hospital. They say, she weighed only 2 lbs and diagnosed her as “Failure to Thrive”. The doctor told the social worker, “It will be a miracle if this baby lives through the night”. She acknowledges, “I guess I wasn’t ready to ‘give up’ because I lived to tell the tale.”

After some years in foster care, about the time she turned 4 years old, she was taken into court and her mother was there. When she entered the courtroom, her mother was telling the judge, “They can have her now and then give her back to me when she’s about 10”. He tapped the papers on his desk and said, “I’ve seen enough”. And with that, he ended her mother’s parental rights, and Krista was now eligible to be adopted by her foster family.

She shares, “Doctor visits were always weird because I had to remind them every visit that I was adopted and therefore did not know my family’s medical information. The worst was the school family tree assignments.” LOL, she admits, “I just made stuff up. One year, my family were missionaries in China and lived off bugs in the forest. Another year, my parents were in hiding from the Mexican mafia and we were in the witness protection program. Every year, the stories become more outlandish. And not one adult asked me what was going on with me—maybe because they all knew I was adopted and didn’t want to talk about that because people just didn’t talk about adoption back then.”

She continues her story –

When I was about 12, I saw an Oprah Winfrey show on “Adoptees and Happy Reunions” and I distinctly recall wishing I could have a “happy reunion” with my mother. I mean, I figured enough time had passed so surely she was more mature and sober. There were no computers or internet back then, so I walked down to the library and looked through phone books. I copied down ALL the people with her last name and then I snail-mailed letters to all five of them. One ended up with my birth mother’s grandparents and one with her sister. Naturally, I hadn’t told anyone I was even going to look, so imagine my parent’s surprise when one night my great-grandfather called.

My parents took me to meet my great-grandparents and they were nice enough. He showed me some of the genealogy he had done, and I was instantly fascinated. From that moment on, I’ve loved genealogy and researching ancestry. They told my parents not to allow me to meet my birth mother because “She had a lot of problems and it wouldn’t be good for me to meet her”. So, just like that, the adults in my world decided it wasn’t in my best interests to meet her without even bothering to ask what I wanted or thought.

And this part is sad – It wasn’t until many years later that I fully came face to face with a harsh truth about my great-grandparents. They knew about me when I was born. They knew I was in foster care. They knew Sharon was “trying” to get me back. And yet, they left me there. They didn’t help her. She was 15 and living on the streets. They let their great-grandchild spend the first four years of her life in foster care. Then they met me at age 12. Once. And never called or wrote or anything after that. I will never understand why they made those choices.

Krista chose the field of psychology as her career path. In grad school, she once again had that dang family tree assignment. This time she decided to do it with real people and real information. So, she dug out her biological aunt’s phone number and called her for help. She agreed and they arranged a day for Krista to drive down to San Diego to meet her. On that day, her aunt decided it would be a good day for Krista to meet her biological mom, their mother, and her brothers. She admits – The only problem was that she neglected to tell me. I walked into a family reunion of sorts and I was not prepared. It was very, VERY, overwhelming. I was 21 and I simply did not have the emotional maturity to withstand all the emotions that flew at me and in me and around me. I was stunned into silence.

She describes the moment she saw her mom, Sharon, and they locked eyes. The woman had no idea who Krista was. One of her uncles went over and told her mother. When recognition hit her eyes, so did something else. From where Krista was standing – it looked like shame and guilt and an intense desire to flee. Somehow they bridged the distance and hugged. Her mother kept saying, “you’re so beautiful”. Krista says, “And I felt nothing. And I felt everything. And time stood still. And the past rushed in. It was the most confusing moment of my entire life.”

Her mother told Krista “Michael” was her father. She found him and met with him. He told her he remembered Sharon and a baby, but that he wasn’t her father. Michael was with her the day she got arrested and Krista was taken away. Later he ran into Sharon and she told him the baby died, and he went on with his life. Then, Krista shows up 21 years later claiming to be his daughter. Leaving his house one day he said to her, “I’m not your father, but I will be one if you need one”. She says, he really was a sweet man who had made a lot of mistakes in his past, but he married an amazing woman and had two lovely children. For 26 years, she thought he was her biological father. And after the night she met her mother, Sharon, they did develop a pretty good relationship though their relationship was complicated. 

Eventually, she did an Ancestry DNA test. Michael was right. He isn’t her father. Thomas is. He was 35 and her mother was 15, when Krista was conceived. A lot like the parentage of both of my own adoptee parents. Each was young (though in their 20s, not teenagers) and the fathers were both much older men. Reminds me of the time my husband and I tried to do some match-making for his dad’s twin brother only to discover he was only interested in much younger women. LOL

When Krista asked her mother who Thomas was and she just started crying. She let her mother know she would be willing to speak with her when her mother was ready to tell her the truth. They never spoke again. Sharon died unexpectedly a few months later and took her secrets to her grave. Well, actually, Sharon’s ashes are in Krista’s closet sitting right next to her stuffed monkey George. Sharon was 62 years old. Yet, Krista knows her mother also lied about so many things.

She says there were little to no resources here in the US. The UK had quite a bit of data (clinical studies) to pull from. Krista began to formulate a really good sense of how to define what she was feeling and put some contours around her experience. From there, she was able to identify healthy, impactful ways to walk through this NPE landscape. Solo. She didn’t have a single person who could identify with what she was going through.

Krista has turned this into her practice as a therapist. She trains other clinicians who are interested in working with this population. She has opened up virtual support groups for NPE (adult and adolescents), NPE Dads (biological dads), and NPE Wives (those whose husbands discover a child). She also works with people one-on-one and has worked with people from all across the US and from other countries. She is honored to note there will be a major clinical study here in the US (starting in the very near future) that she will be involved in.

She ends her essay with this – With the advent of home DNA kits, it’s not a matter of IF your secrets are revealed, it’s a matter of WHEN. The “recovery” isn’t necessarily linear, but it is survivable. I promise you that.

A Product Of A Product

I read an interesting thread this morning that I thought reveals some really important perspectives and so, I share this.

Things I find odd: in the decades following discovery, none of my adoptive family asked about or acknowledged the existence of my half-siblings.

Nor did they either ask how I felt about being lied to for over thirty years; lies they participated in telling. I don’t say this to shame them. I am not even naming them here. As children, they were emotionally abused in that they were told to lie to a family member, every single day. They should not have been asked to do that. I don’t fault them for remaining silent prior to my accidental discovery of my adoption. What I find completely baffling is the continued silence.

What does that say about the nature of love, respect, compassion and connection that adoption supposedly creates? You may say; most adoptees know, so your experience is an anomaly. If so, there are thousands and thousands of anomalies running around these days. There are STILL adoptive parents posting on social media who say they haven’t told the adoptee, don’t know when or if they will. In transracial adoptions, adoptive parents can’t avoid the truth of adoption, but many make a practice of dodging questions, fabricating stories, joking about the adoptee’s pain. And I add, knowing a good number in the donor conception contingent of family creating, there were many who did not ever intend to tell their children. Of course, that was in the days before inexpensive DNA testing. Oops.

I guess odd is not a strong enough word. Cruel, maybe?

There were 4 children in my family; two of those were adopted. First a biological, genetic daughter, then the adoptee girl – me – and an adoptee boy, then a biological, genetic son. My adoptee brother died when I was 13. He was 12. The oldest daughter always knew. The youngest son learnt in high school. Yep; both of those were told to lie. Apparently it was important for them to tell other friends and acquaintances that I was not their “real” sister. I, however, was never told.

What a way to set family relationships up to fail. The refusal to engage with me now “post-discovery” reveals how deep that failure goes and it does increase the pain that I felt as an adoptee to an almost unendurable level.

In their defense, I don’t think they ever learned, nor knew how to learn, how to engage emotionally in a healthy way, not just with me but with others. Some of this was the result of being raised by adult children of alcoholics and a great deal of death and dysfunction occurred in the course of our upbringing. How much of that dysfunction can be attributed to being taught to lie ? It could not have helped the circumstances.

This brings on additional sharings of a similar nature.

Thanks to a friend recognizing my now ex husband was a functional alcoholic, I got into Al-Anon. I was also fortunate to find a couple adoptee support groups at that same time and found that there is a lot of overlap!! Dysfunction doesn’t discriminate. The ex was the son of a violent alcoholic. I dated men who had drug or alcohol issues. My adoptive parents were the youngest in their pre-Depression era families and we’re definitely not what we would refer to as “healthy” today. Add adoption to the mix…

My adoptive mom’s dad was a violent alcoholic. My adoptive dad’s dad was more of a gentle alcoholic, I think. They came out of hard times. Add the pressures of infertility during a time when women’s primary role was parenthood ? So much pain and suffering.

You are right about silence being cruel. Speaking as a first mom… losing my baby to adoption at 17 years old … I was told I would go on with my life, as if nothing had happened. My family never spoke to me about it. It’s traumatizing and cruel to pretend it never happened. I’m sorry that any of us are here having this discussion but we must talk about it, if we are to heal. I was in the adoptee fog for 43 years… & now 12+ years in reunion… I won’t be silenced any longer.

And by sharing such personal thoughts about personal situations, maybe some who encounter people living with such pain will be a little kinder. Until you walk a mile in my shoes . . . seems to fit. Always give the benefit of the doubt and consider the kindest possible explanation for whatever seems “off” is also good advice.