The Cost Of Hidden Stress

The trauma that afflicts many adoptees occurred pre-language and so the source of it’s effects can seem mysterious but the impacts are very real. Today, I learned about this man – LINK>Dr Gabor Mate. It seemed to fit what I am posting so often in this blog that I thought I would make today’s about him.

For example, one of his books is titled When The Body Says No – “disease can be the body’s way of saying no to what the mind cannot or will not acknowledge.” Dr Mate also believes that “The essential condition for healthy development is the child’s relationship with nurturing adults.” And yet, time and again, I read from adoptees that their adoptive parents were really not prepared to be the kind of parents this subset of our population needed. Under Topics, he has many articles related to LINK>Trauma.

During the pandemic, in April 2021, Dr Mate hosted an online event with Zara Phillips. She is the author of LINK>Somebody’s Daughter, subtitled A Moving Journey of Discovery, Recovery and Adoption. The event information noted that adoptees and children who are fostered are over-represented in the prison system, addiction clinics and are 4 times more likely than their peers to attempt suicide. This talk considered why that would be and what, if anything adoptees and their caregivers can do about it. For many, when we talk about adoption, we talk about placing children in need, into loving homes to parents that want them. The assumption behind these conversations is that love will overcome all challenges and obstacles. What we don’t talk about, or rarely, is that the adoption in the new home comes about because another home has ended, or perhaps not even begun. We forget that all adoption is formed from loss. Love is essential but it is not enough. They discussed what it means to carry the trauma of being relinquished. How adoption is not a one-time event but has a lifelong impact. They considered how unresolved trauma can lead to addiction and suicidal thinking. Also what, if anything, an adoptee (and those that support them) can do to heal and recover.

Often adoptive parents think that their love will be enough but time and again that is proven wrong when it comes to adopted children. Dr Mate brings up the myth of the blank slate baby which Georgia Tann used to highlight in selling babies.

There is a LOT at Dr Mate’s website. I believe much that is there could prove helpful to the people who read and follow my blog. Absolutely, he is about how to heal.

Often It Isn’t Intentional

Short again on time today. Seems to happen too often in this holiday season. Learned about a new “adoptee related” Facebook page today – The Healing Adoptee. Sharing some wise insight from there today.

There are lots of ways that humans experience loss. Most humans are allowed to grieve those losses. Those of us on the adoptee side of adoption have generally not been allowed to grieve the loss that we experienced in infancy and childhood.

Ungrieved loss causes trauma. When a person experiences trauma they develop coping mechanisms which generally are not healthy. One of these coping mechanisms is deflection. When we hear something that we don’t like the idea of (our self) having done (that) we will think, “No, I didn’t do that.” I know that I don’t like hearing that I hurt somebody else because it causes a loss to my sense of self respect, and how I want to present myself to the world at large.

When we use deflection immediately upon hearing that we caused somebody else pain it causes that person more pain, And then they lose respect for us. Me personally, I prefer to be respected by other people. Therefore when I was told recently, that I caused someone pain I took a few deep breaths and accepted that my words had been hurtful to that person, whether I intended those words to hurt or not. Having decided to use a coping skill of deep breathing instead of a coping mechanism, deflection, I saved my self-respect by not continuing to hurt the person that I had been having the conversation with.

I apologized for unintentionally using unhelpful coping mechanisms in my conversation with her. It would be nice to see the online adoptee circles benefit from taking a moment to stop when we feel as though someone else’s pain is triggering our grief, take some deep breath, recenter and move forward with the intention of being gentle with one another, by not maintaining the use of the deflection coping mechanisms.

Russia Stealing Ukrainian Children

Yevhen Mezhevyi with his children

This has troubled me for some time. Today, I learned about this story in Vanity Fair. I have been troubled about what Russia is doing with the people of Ukraine for some time. Here’s the story LINK> “Dad, You Have to Come—Or We Will Be Adopted!”: One Ukrainian Family’s Harrowing Wartime Saga. The subtitle is “Three children survived the siege of Mariupol, forced relocation, their father’s horrific detainment, and their own exile—to Russia.” by Iryna Lopatina via The Reckoning Project.

Since Yevhen Mezhevyi (39 years old) was released from the Olenivka prison camp after a lengthy filtration process, he has been intensely focused on the lives and safety of his three kids. Their story is one of many tales of family separation, loss, trauma, and, in their case, relocation to another country. Since the end of June, the family has been living in one of the rooms of a small, rented apartment in Riga Latvia.

Back on April 7 2022, Russian allied soldiers came to the bunker where the Mezhevyis’ had been sheltering. They made it sound like it was a voluntary evacuation; but in fact, the four of them, along with a group of fellow displaced Mariupol residents, were being forced from the building. There the family was separated. The children were told that her father might not return for five to seven years. The children decided to initiate their own independent search.

The DPR military asked Yevhen about alleged links to the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian National Guard unit with roots in Mariupol. He was sent to Olenivka prison camp in eastern Ukraine. In July, an explosion in a room designated for Ukrainian POWs would killed more than 50 detainees, many of them from Azovstal, and injuring an estimated 130. By mid-May (at which point he had not seen his children for more than a month), Yevhen and other prisoners were assigned a new task. They were forced to begin preparing rooms for an estimated 2,700 people—captured members of the Ukrainian military who had left Azovstal.

In total, Yevhen Mezhevyi spent 45 days in the prison camp. On May 26, a security guard approached him and told him he was free to go. He made his way to the DOC to pick up his documents where he was told that his children’s birth certificates were the only documents missing. When he asked why, she answered, “Your children flew to the Moscow region today, five in the morning.” A week after his children’s arrival on Russian soil, they were finally allowed to receive a call from their father in Ukraine. They were relieved to be in contact with him for the first time in almost 60 days.

The children’s stay was due to end June 27, at which point they were scheduled to be brought back to Donetsk so that their father could pick them up. But then they were told he couldn’t pick them up and they would be taken to a foster home or shelter. His son said that it was better to go to an orphanage than a foster family. The son was able to call his dad and said to him “you have five days to come and pick us up, or we will be adopted!”

After receiving his son’s call, he felt he had to go to Russia immediately, find his kids, and bring them home. When he arrived where his children were being kept they asked him to tell them how everything happened, how and why the children ended up alone, and where their mother was (they were divorced and he had sole custody).

It took about half a day to do all the paperwork required for the children to be officially handed over. The Mezhevyis stayed in Moscow for a few more days with the volunteer who had hosted them. It soon became apparent that because of the fighting in Ukraine, repatriating to Mariupol was not an option. So they made plans to seek refuge for the foreseeable future in Latvia, which was taking in families displaced by the invasion. On June 22, they arrived by bus in the Latvian capital, Riga, where they have been living ever since.

Ukrainian authorities have confirmed the deportation or forced displacement of more than 7,000 children—5,100 of whose names have been submitted to international agencies in hopes that their representatives can begin to locate them in the Russian Federation or in temporarily occupied parts of Ukraine. Russian officials, meanwhile, have made reference to as many 2.8 million Ukrainian citizens, including over 440,000 children that have been transported to the Russian Federation, though the government has not provided certified lists with the names of the minors or details about their families and hometowns.

Mary Ellen Gambutti

Thanks to my friend Ande Stanley, a late discovery adoptee, who’s own effort in the cause she has titled LINK> The Adoption Files, I learned about this author, LINK> Mary Ellen Gambutti, today. In looking more closely at Ms Gambutti, I discovered this site LINK> Memoir Magazine, which I may look into submitting to some time in the near future. She has written several books and has a few blogs available on her author page at Amazon.

I Must Have Wandered is described as a memoir told through prose, and the letters, fragments, and photos of her infant relinquishment at birth in post-World War II South Carolina. Her adoptive parents were native New Yorkers, who happened to be stationed in the state at the time. Common in that time period – hers was a closed adoption. She reflects on the primal loss experienced by many adoptees. In her case, there were also the separations caused by a transient military lifestyle. The book includes her coming of age in the turbulent ’60s and the barriers to truth that many adoptees find, due to their sealed birth records. Add into the mix a culture of secrecy, which is often the adoption experience. Just as often, adoption includes a hefty dose of religious fervor. It is sadly a common enough story but universal in adoptionland and yet always highlighted by individual details. Like many adoptees, this woman’s genetic heritage was obliterated by her adoption, and then similarly to my own roots discovery journey, her quest for identity includes some degree of reunion. 

Gambutti also wrote a book of essays titled Permanent Home. One reviewer wrote that this book blends early childhood memories into what reads like a vision or a dream. Detailed is the trauma and loss many adoptees realize when they learn the circumstances that surrounded their birth. Her search is not supported by her adoptive family and trigger warning – there is abuse. Never-the-less a reviewer says the book is not a downer but reality. Common to the experience of many adoptees is missing health history and not looking like anyone else in their family.

 

He Did Not Give Birth

There is some push back on calling him the “birth” father. After all, he didn’t give birth. Often, the father isn’t actually known or is misrepresented by the woman giving birth. I know of situations where these kinds of circumstances exist.

Birth father has commonly be used to refer to a man who’s child is being or has been placed with an adoptive family. The actual man is certainly the genetic father. Some adoptees will derogatively refer to him as their sperm donor and that is accurate too. Others refer to him as their biodad. More than one will say simply that he should be referred to simply as “dad.”

Throughout history, men have had the easy path in human reproduction. Their contribution takes almost no time at all, whereas a woman must devote as much as 9 months of her life for a completely new human being to emerge into the world. Technically, what is referred to as a birth father is one who pays no child support. Often an adoption is finalized without the birth father’s knowledge or consent. If you are not married to the mother of your child at the time of birth, you are considered a ‘putative father,’ meaning reputed to be.  Often a genetic father denies he fathered a child until forced to do a paternity test which proves the truth (or not) of the situation.

And realistically this – being called birth father or bio father does not diminish what you as the birth mother have gone through. And this came up repeatedly – it really is up to the child what they chose to call their father. Also, the birth mother who started this was reminded that she needs to be very careful whenever she expresses disagreement because her relationship with her child could be snatched away, at any time – for any reason, that the adoptive parents see fit to do that. Don’t risk it over this because if she gets cut off her child will experience yet another loss. She does not get to be a gatekeeper regarding her child’s relationships. Her issues with her child’s father shouldn’t become her child’s issues. It doesn’t matter when his relationship with his child started because at least he has one now.

Adoptee Margot Tenenbaum

I watched a Wes Anderson movie titled The Royal Tenenbaums. The rest of my family chose not to. What really got my attention was the character of Margo Tenenbaum played by Gwyneth Paltrow. The character as written and her behavioral traits mirror what I have read from so many adoptees.

Paltrow as Margot

I knew someone had to have written about it. I found it at a site called LINK> Very Troubled Child from where the image above was found. The creator, Alberto Favaretto creates unique travel bags, he writes – “Margot Tenenbaum was adopted at age two. Her father had always noted this when introducing her. She was a playwright, and won a Braverman Grant of $50,000 in the ninth grade. She and her brother Richie ran away from home one winter and camped out in the African wing of the Public Archives. They shared a sleeping bag and survived on crackers and root beer.”

Another WordPress blog, LINK> Film Genres, shares Margot’s failed reunion with her biological family this way – “Margot’s lack of a father figure comes about mostly from her adopted father’s refusal to accept her as one of his own children. Each time she was introduced to anyone by her father, he always referred to her as “my adopted daughter.” Margot snuck away from home at the age of fourteen to find her biological father, only to have him “castrate” her in a sense by cutting her finger off when chopping wood. She sought out for her biological father and he essentially cuts her off with the removal of her finger. The removal of her finger created a gap that she can be seen as constantly searching for something to fill with.”

In Vogue, Christian Allaire wrote just over a year ago – LINK> What Makes Margot Tenenbaum’s Style So Good, Even 20 Years Later – Margot is an outsider. That’s only underscored by her fashion sense: She’s decidedly more fashion-forward than the rest of the Tenenbaums. But her looks, while distinctive, are never overstyled. In one scene, she’s smoking in the bathroom while painting her toes and wearing a tight, nude slip dress. You get the sense that she does this very thing—in the same exact outfit—every single day. “She was known for her extreme secrecy,” says the narrator. “None of the Tenenbaums knew she was a smoker, which she had been since the age of 12.” Margot has an air of mystery to her, and her chic, demure wardrobe only adds to this.

From Brain Mass, Sociology, Family & Childhood, LINK> Character Analysis of Margot. Margot was adopted at age two. This is the foundation of her identity issues. My response will always come back to this foundational issue in Margot’s existence. Margot may feel as though she is not really a part of the family and just an attachment piece to the family when she is continually reminded publicly that she is adopted. This act will intensify feelings of rejection and low self-esteem. As a child, she appears to be in desperate want of nurturing. This lack of acknowledgement intensifies the obscure feelings she may be experiencing due to her being adopted. Adoption does influence a child’s development. The specific issues that a child will experience when he/she has knowledge that he/she is adopted are: separation, loss, anger, grief, and identity. Between the ages of 7 and 12, the adopted child experiences the “full emotional impact” of being . . . (more at a paywall there).

Enough for today’s blog. I just recognized how richly the adoptee character of Margot in this movie was developed. I’ve had so much exposure within a group that prioritizes the voices of adoptees. where I have spent a lot of time the last few years, since my adoptee parents died and I started on my own genetic, adoption influenced, roots journey.

Not Under But In

One of those platitudes that many adoptees totally hate. This is something insecure adoptive parents say to make themselves feel better.

Another one of those is this one – I was waiting for and hoping for a child for a long, long time and that when I saw my child I knew in that instant that this was the child I have been longing for. To which someone noted – what you just said is extremely gross, predatory and disgusting. Another said, your comment proves once again that whichever child is on offer would be the one that the adoptive parent longed for… and the solution to their sadness.

This one went on to note – We are interchangeable, all the horror we went through, losing our families, losing our names and heritage — it was all something we should be happy and grateful for — our hearts should be full because the adoptive parents got their wish for a child, we are their child as soon as they could lay claim to us.

An adoptee says – The other mottos I despise is that the child is part of God’s plan or a child that is born to a different mother, but was really meant for their adoptive parent. 

Just one last important note for today as I am short on time. From an adoptive mother – I have a seven year old who, although she clearly does love me very much, will still make comments occasionally like- you stole me from my mom, I miss my mom (prior to my fortunately finding her original mother), that’s not my real last name. She came up with these statements all on her own at SEVEN. All of that was before we found her original mother and built the relationship between them that they now have. She doesn’t know any other adoptees, so it isn’t like someone is telling her to have those feelings. So no matter what you think you are doing for your adopted child, they will still grow up to have the same feelings as so many adult adoptees often express. The sooner you, as an adoptive parent, accept this and deal with your own emotions around it, the better you will be able to help your adopted child.

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.

Recognize Your Worth

Many adoptees don’t even realize that they are carrying unhealed trauma with them throughout their lives. Because for infants who were adopted, this trauma occurred during a per-verbal stage of their lives, they lacked words to describe what their emotions were saying to them. Both of my parents were adopted when they were less than one year old. My mom was adopted after having been placed temporarily in Porter Leath orphanage as my desperate maternal grandmother tried mightily to find a way to support the two of them with Georgia Tann circling them like a vulture. My dad was adopted after the Salvation Army coerced my paternal grandmother into relinquishing him. So both of my parents were carrying unhealed trauma throughout their lives.

The various ways people anesthetize themselves . . . is a wail from the deep. I once listened to Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss on cd. I gained a lot of insight into my own compulsive eating experiences listening to her. I see how clothing our bodies in excess weight is a protective device. Both of my parents were more or less overweight their entire lives. I am told that my father was still breastfeeding with his original mother when he was taken for adoption. My mother struggled with her body image due to an adoptive mother who was obsessed by eating and weight issues. I have one memorable experience of that with my adoptive grandmother when she took me to England and embarrassed me dining at The Dorchester in London when I reached for a warm dinner role. I didn’t talk to her for almost 24 hours but gave it up in favor of not ruining our whole experience there together.

Your Blogger at The Dorchester

My mom was passive and secretive about eating. Some of that behavior certainly filtered down to me. My dad struggled with some drunken experiences, one that I didn’t even learn about until after he died, when my sister and I found a letter from him about spending a night in jail for DWI and praying not to lose his job and family over it. But after he was “saved”, he didn’t stop drinking – though he was never a violent alcoholic – and able to work even double shifts and nights at an oil refinery.

Joel Chambers writes about The Lifelong Challenges of Adoptees at the LINK> Search Angels website – Adoptees face more traumas, and more challenges, than many other people, and it affects their lives in ways that we are just beginning to understand. He has also written a post, speaking at great length about how addiction, in all of its various forms, is all too common among adoptees. These have experiences such as grief and loss, self-esteem and identity issues, substance abuse and addiction, mental health, and challenges to the types of relationships that they can form with their adoptive families. Adoptees also deal with feelings of grief, separation, and loss for their biological parents and birth families, even if they never knew them. 

A healing I didn’t even know I needed started in the Autumn of 2017, when I began learning what my parents never knew – who my original grandparents were. Then, it was only natural that I really begin learning about this thing called adoption. My daughter once said to me – “it seems like you are on a mission.” True, guilty as charged.

Like A Sick Joke

Some adoptive parents want to celebrate what is generally a sad day for most adoptees. I read this comment from one adoptee – People are just out of touch with reality. Why would an adoptive parent send treats to school, so their adopted child can celebrate “Gotcha Day,” even after the child has beg them not to ?

From a mother who surrendered a child to adoption and also adopted one – This poor child. I never use that term with my daughter and honestly that is because I know the pain and trauma of being coerced into giving my baby away. In my home, we acknowledge the pain and trauma of adoption, the reasoning behind her adoption (ours was private with acquaintances) and I’m happy to give her compassion and hugs and a lot of love. I also am happy that the people who adopted my daughter never celebrated the “gotcha” day. That would be extremely painful for me as well.

On a website titled LINK> Considering Adoption, I found an article titled The Controversy of ‘Gotcha Day’.

How do you feel right now after seeing “Happy Gotcha Day” in my blog photo ? The debate is contentious, and it can get heated.  Reactions vary wildly across the adoption community. For some, the language is highly problematic. For others, the entire concept is an issue. Still others have only good feelings about “gotcha day” and celebrate it annually with their children.

The goal in my blog today, is not to ignite a fiery debate, but rather to share a better understanding of the positions some hold. Gotcha Day is believed to be a celebration of the day a family adopted a child. Some families decide to mark this anniversary on the day of placement; others celebrate on the day the adoption was finalized in court. The name of this day and even the existence of the celebration has become a point of controversy for several different reasons. Let’s look at the most common positions.

The language we use when we discuss adoption must be sensitive and respectful. We’re talking about an adoptive family, the original mother and the adoptee. We have to choose our words carefully to ensure we respect the full dignity and autonomy of everyone involved in the process. Language that commodifies the adoption process is a problem. Adoption is not buying children. Children are not the product.

“The most basic aspect of it — its name — is also the disturbing aspect of it… There is also the fact that G-Day, like re-homing, has its origins in the pet rescue lexicon because it implies caught or trapped. Is this really what we want to model?” ~ author Mirah Riben

The other side of every adoption story is that an adoptee “lost everything” connected to their family of origin. From Sophie, who was born in China and adopted by an American family when she was 5 years old: “It’s been said that adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where everyone expects the victims be grateful and appreciative… Gotcha day feels like a day of fake smiles if we don’t acknowledge that it’s also about loss, not just gain.” Having a celebration intentionally denies that loss.

Adoption is acknowledged to involve loss at some level for every adoptee. The felt impact is understandably different for each. There are often confusing questions about heritage and identity for many adoptees. It is important to allow space for both any joy in general and any felt loss when it comes to an adoptee’s day of having become adopted.

Every person is inherently, and without qualification, deserving of respect. Each member of the adoption triad is living a unique story. Each has their own struggles and challenges.

One adoptee shares – I hate the phrase gotcha day. It feels patronizing and inhumane. It’s also not ok if the child is embarrassed or doesn’t want to. My adoptive parents celebrated my Adoption Birthday. Kids were jealous of me that I had 2 birthdays. I just laughed and rolled my eyes – No one wants to be adopted. I enjoyed my 2 “birthdays” and knew that other people really didn’t understand. Gotcha days and whether the adoptee consents are huge issues.

Another adoptee admits – I HATE “Gotcha-day” if you want to celebrate the day you became a family, I think that’s great, but should be family, you should discuss adoption and how the process went (similar to a mom who tells her child about their birth). It should not be a day to praise these “wonderful” people for taking in this child that “no one wanted”. And it sure as hell shouldn’t be gotcha day. That’s what they say at the animal shelter !!!

Yet another said bluntly – I was forced to have this. It embarrassed me and I hated it.