Poetry For April

April is poetry month. My friend, Ande Stanley (a late discovery adoptee) wrote a poem for her The Adoption Files WordPress blog that I think a lot of adoptees could relate to, and so I share.

My parents (both adoptees) wanted their ashes scattered on Elephant Butte Lake in New Mexico. We had to be careful because it is not recommended. Most likely against the law. The first time, my daughter and I went out with my dad to scatter my mom’s ashes. That was a wild and crazy ride for both of us in his boat with my dad !!

When my dad died only 4 months later, my aunt (my dad’s half sister by his second adoptive father), my middle sister and her daughter, as well as me and my daughter went to scatter his ashes also on the lake, as that was his wish, but we did not take my dad’s boat out that time. We just stood on a dock near their last residence. Some official came along because we didn’t have a permit to take our car into lake property (it is a state park). My sister was hiding the cremation box under her jacket. LOL We did get the deed done. My aunt took the photo below. Maybe I should not go into the story of how the crematorium stole my parents rings . . . always make certain you get them back is all I can say.

Feb 9 2016, Ash Day

I Am Right Here

On my maternal side – I was able to visit the graves of both of my maternal grandparents, one half-aunt and one set of great grandparents too (but I did not talk to the “greats” at their grave – still have some very difficult feelings towards my great-grandfather for being unwilling to take my grandmother and mother back in when my grandmother was pregnant and her husband had returned to Arkansas. Believe me, I have done my best to come up with all kinds of kinder theories about why but still . . . I will always feel in my heart that he was the cause of my mom being adopted . . . I am certain of those feelings about him.)

I Am Right Here

Looking into the darkness, I call out “where are you?”
The darkness does not call back.
Instead I hear nothing so I wait, knowing that when my words reach you there may be a reply “I am right here”
I keep walking not able to see in front of me.
Again I call out “are you there?” but nothing comes back to me.
So I continue with hands outstretched in front of me walking in darkness and feeling my way through space.
Black empty space that feels every part of my vision.
Waving my hand in front of my face I cannot see what is in front of me.
So I continue walking through the darkness.
“Is someone out there?” I say.
I can hear faint words now, it sounds like someone screaming “come this way?”
I keep walking straight ahead toward the sound.
It gets louder and I start hearing footsteps coming closer.
“Is it you?” I call loudly
“Is it Who?” I hear back
“You?” I say to the voice
I continue walking toward the sounds and keep talking to it.
“I have been lost without you,” I say.
“Who has been lost without me?” the voice asks.
“Me, I have, but where are you, I can’t see you?”
“Just keep moving forward,” it says.
“I am trying to but I keep getting lost,” I say sadly.
No more footsteps are heard.
Suddenly light begins to invade the space and standing in front of me is the one I have been looking for my whole life.
They reach their hand out to mine,
“I am right here and have been the whole time.”
~ Brandy Ford

Choosing To Take That Risk

An adoptee offers a word of warning – to any hopeful adoptive parent who now wants to adopt, even though they already have biological kids:

Biological and adopted kids *should not be mixed*. Period.

Even if *you* believe you can treat your biological and adopted child equally (which is pretty fu****g rare), you cannot control how your biological child will treat their adopted sibling.

As somebody who has been treated absolutely *horrifically* by my adoptive mom’s biological kids, this has actually been the worst trauma of all, when it comes to my adoption.

And if you’re about to say “that isn’t always the case,” just stop for a second and consider these 2 things:

1. I don’t need to hear your “not all” bs, when I’m discussing the outright abuse I have experienced at the hands of my siblings, acquired by having been adopted.

2. If there is even a *miniscule* chance that your adopted child could experience what I have, and you wanna go through with it anyways, then you are selfish and careless. Imagine knowing that there is a possibility that your biological child may abuse or mistreat your adopted child, and you still chose to take that risk with a child’s life ?

And just today, I learned this statistic – even among biological siblings, sibling abuse is 5 times more common than spousal or parental abuse – it is actually the most common form of domestic abuse. And yet, adoptees also have an added layer of mental/emotional trauma due to having been relinquished by their original parents. The obvious difference between having been actually born to and having been brought into a family from different parents and circumstances is real and should not be dismissed.

One of those biological kids admits – Even though I love love love my adopted siblings and dote on them as much as possible, it does not erase the resentment. I resent them for “taking” my parents away and they resent us for being born to the family. They will NEVER know I resent them and even my parents don’t, but mixing adopted kids with biological kids is brutal on both sides. Then, goes on to give some additional context – 1) my siblings are far too young to have any idea & 2) I don’t feel upset that I’m not adopted. I do have a completely normal jealousy, at times, that they take attention away from me, since they’re the center of attention for the whole family. And I recognize that there will be obvious friction between me and the younger siblings, though it is not there at this present moment. In the future? Absolutely. And tries to clarify this – the resentment is towards my parents, the jealousy is towards my adopted siblings. Very different feelings. I never said the suffering on both sides was equal. Mine is typical sibling jealousy. My adopted siblings have a deep rooted trauma and a robbing of their history. I am working through it. I was already 19, when my younger adopted siblings moved in. My work is understanding that my parents don’t love/care about them more. They are simply young and traumatized. They require more care than I do. I am learning to understand the truth that I don’t need my parents as much as I often feel I do. I have an anxious attachment style with rejection sensitivity, a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life, so I am learning how that affects the way I feel about my parents.

So, the honest truth is – a HUGE percentage of adoptive parents WILL show favoritism towards their biological child, over their adopted child, whether they mean to or not. And the extended family treats them differently as well.

This, from experience – I would go as far to say, even if the adoptive parents have grown biological children. I freely tell people that I was adopted from foster care. I don’t normally share that when my adoptive parents died, their will left me in the custody of their eldest son and his family. Truth is, none of their three adult children ever agreed their parents should adopt me. When they died, I was kicked out of their son’s house and was told “nice to know you, you’re on your own now.” Adoption has so many layers that no one thinks about. And every time a hopeful adoptive parent or adoptee still in “the fog” (believing in the feel good narratives about adoption) counters a trauma or negative experience with their own beliefs, it not only insults and minimizes the pain they are responding to, but also minimizes the INFINITE number of situations they couldn’t possibly know about. Please stop pushing back against people with the lived experience who are trying to prevent even more trauma, by sharing your own limited experiences.

No One Is Owed A Child

Saying I can’t have a child, so I am adopting, is not hoping. It is deciding that because you can’t carry a child, you will just take one from another woman. Your hope to gain a child is a hope that another family will lose one.  In order for a child to be able to be adopted, they will be separated from their parents. Adoptee’s loss, adopter’s gain.

There is a difference between hoping to become pregnant and feeling entitled to someone else’s child.

One adoptee notes – I didn’t need a home. My mother needed assistance. My adoption could have been easily prevented, if somebody would have helped her, instead of helping themselves to me. Hopeful adoptive parents are and will continue to be the problem feeding the system with money which it lives on, instead of actually helping with a family’s preservation.

Every person who prays for the opportunity to adopt a child is essentially praying for a vulnerable mother to make a very terrible decision to give up their child or for the parents to make a mistake that causes their children to be removed. People should pray that children never need to be adopted. Society needs to start helping families, especially financially, instead of trying to separate them.

Where do you get your massive savior complex ? ie I’m taking this child because I deserve a child, and I’m also fully convinced that I’m saving it from a Bad Life.

Having a child is NOT a human right, it is a biological drive. If you can’t have one, just taking somebody else’s, is not going to supply you with what you think it will.

“Family status” is a category protected from discrimination – you can’t exclude people from housing because they have children. It’s important that people have a right to conceive and birth a child, if they so choose and not face discriminatory policy as a result. It does not and should not mean that should you be unable to do that on your own, that you can buy someone else’s kid.

A right to make a choice about conceiving or not is a reproductive right – not the right to a baby. Nobody has a right to anyone else’s baby/child. Fair Housing does provide some protection for families with children. There is just no right to a baby/child, if a person is infertile. If a person is infertile, that is just their reality.

A lot of adoptive parents with buyer’s remorse say that they felt a pressure or obligation to society to have kids. Which directly feeds into people who feel entitled to children to fill a societal need. I’ve actually been asked in job interviews why I won’t adopt.

A child is a human with their own rights. There are parental rights because a child can’t make all their own decisions but those aren’t a thing until there is a child.

Ask yourself – How would you handle it, if a family member lost their parental rights ?

I hope you would be there for them and this includes caring for their child. Not adopting their child but being a support for that family member, to do whatever it takes to have their parental rights restored. I’m not a legal expert but I would hope that last part about restoration is always possible.

Fairy Tales

Today’s story – I have been trying to become a mom for four years. I have had four miscarriages, five IVF cycles and more surgeries than I care to count, and I just keep getting older. As I come to grips with the likelihood that my husband and I may not be able to have biological children, I thought that adoption could be a beautiful way to have a family, but I definitely don’t want anyone to be exploited or hurt as a result.

An honest response – I am sorry for your loss suffering from infertility. I’m sorry the adoption industry preys upon your grief and got your hopes up about adoption being some kind of beautiful alternative to having your own child. I’m certain you didn’t mean to be self-centered about it. You’re just trying to work through it. You have been told adoption could soothe your pain.

Unfortunately the sweet serendipitous miracle situation you hope for is the same as 40+ other couples desire. You all want a guilt free, uncomplicated scenario. That’s the fairy tale the adoption industry would like to sell you. But it is inherently extremely complicated and painful for children who are used this way. There is no way around it. Obtaining a stranger’s kid will not fix the hole left in your heart from infertility. I’m so sorry.

One Huge Lifelong Question

Certainly, my mom yearned to find her original mother and I believe that both of my original grandmothers wished to find their children (both of my parents were adoptees), surrendered to adoption, once again in their lifetimes. It did not happen. All of these 6 people died without ever finding one another again.

Sharing today some excerpts from a blog by Linda Hoye titled “Where Is She? An Adoptee’s Lifelong Question.

Where is she?

No more the sound of her familiar heartbeat that lulled me to sleep and that my own synchronized with. Instead, a cacophony of strange voices and hospital sounds startles my newborn senses. Unfamiliar arms lower me into an isolette. I am alone and don’t know where I begin or end. Someone props something on a pillow beside me and touches my lips with a rubber nipple. Substitutionary sustenance. I drink. I sleep.

Then, one day, I’m dressed and wrapped and put into the arms of someone who smells of something other than this strange and lonely place. She is gentle and holds me so close I can feel her heartbeat. Days and weeks pass. I drink and sleep and grow used to her and learn to relax when she holds me while I drink from a rubber nipple until I’m milk drunk and fall asleep in her arms. But I don’t stop wondering.

Where is she?

On another day, after I’ve grown accustomed to the cuddling and playing and the belly laughs she draws from me, she is no longer there when I wake up. Instead, I look up into the soft misty eyes of another woman. The smile on her round face looks like love. She caresses my cheek and holds me so close I can hear her heartbeat. This happened with the other one too. I wonder where she is and how long this one will stay. There’s another face beside hers—a man—looking down at me and smiling too. But still, the bigger question remains:

Where is she?

A half-century later I kneel at her grave and place my hands flat on the ground. Oh, here she is. But, by now I’m too late.

And this was me too – at least at the graves of my maternal, biological, genetic relatives. Too late too meet any of them in person. Hopefully, my words as I sat down at their graves and uttered my words were heard by them in whatever that place is that they have gone. Someday, may I also visit my paternal relatives graves.

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.

Parallels – Adoption & Abduction

A chart created by The Bumbling Adoptee on Facebook caught my attention – “the loss and trauma associated with infant abduction and infant adoption run parallel.”

The author shows in graphic form the vast differences regarding societal expectations in each situation as regards the outcomes. The similarities are in the loss of the child’s original family and the fact that the child is then raised by genetic strangers.

Within adoption – most of the time the child’s original name is changed. Some are not even told they were adopted, only to discover it later in life with a heavy emotional cost. Many adoptees will never be able to find out anything about who their original family was.

A lack of important medical information is a major issue for a lot of adoptees – it was for my parents (mom and dad were both adoptees) and has been for me as their child too.

It is now being acknowledged more frequently, though sometimes minimized by profit motivated interests, that there is trauma whenever a child is separated from their original family.

In the case of adoptions by one race of another race, there is often a loss of culture and native language.

The child never had a choice but was thrust into the situation.

How is an infant abduction viewed differently in society ?

Their original identity will always be considered their real identity. The law will side against the abductor. There will be an attempt to reunify the child with their original family. It is seen by society as a tragedy instead of a blessing or even God’s plan. The child is considered a victim.

In adoption, the outcome is far different with loyalty to the adoptive parents expected along with gratitude. Often society does not acknowledge the trauma that the adoptee experienced.

To simply this – An abducted child is expected to retain fond memories of, and long for reunification with, their “real” families of birth, and reject the abductor raising them, while adoptees are expected to bond unquestioningly to non-related strangers, and in some cases are expected or encouraged to abandon any thoughts or talk of seeking out their roots.

A longer article is available from The Huffington Post – Adoption and Abduction: Legal Differences, Emotional Similarities by Mirah Riben.

It’s A Small World After All

I am constantly amazed at how many people have some connection to adoption or foster care. It isn’t much talked about. I am proud of an all things adoption group I belong to on Facebook because they do some really good work.

Some examples –

We (as a group) helped mom financially with legal fees to revoke consent and get her daughter home. Because of this, several members of this group had to testify in court. We were accused of “child trafficking” and only helping get “O” home, so we could “sell her.” Clearly, DSS and the judge thankfully could see through that BS and “O” was returned home to her mother. Months later, the hopeful adoptive parents are still periodically calling Dept of Social Services DSS. They even created a TikTok and Instagram to slander her parents – months after she went home to her original family.

Every single mom with or without agency involvement has had Child Protective Services CPS called – out of spite. Hopeful adoptive parents HAPs have even told CPS “if you remove the baby, I’ll take her/him.”

Moms have received numerous text messages, phone calls, emails etc from HAPs. When mom blocks them, HAP’s family members continue the harassment.

The online adoption community is a small, small world. We’ve had HAPs find out that we have assisted moms with legal fees, baby registries and it is used against them because “they can’t afford” a baby. Obviously, when a mom has planned adoption for 9 months – she only has days or even less to get everything her baby needs. This is why we do baby registries. It’s also why we now do them anonymously. We will not let it be used against a mom because she simply doesn’t have everything her baby needs, when CPS comes knocking. And they always do, thanks to spiteful HAPs.

Shaming mom online because she has ruined their entire life, comparing their loss to a stillbirth. Yet, they miraculously recover, when the next baby comes along. Because the truth is – any baby will do.

Not only are some of the things above, what the community I am a part of has done but also what we have seen. When a hopeful adoptive parent enters the community, they often don’t stay long because this community’s mission is original family preservation. No rah rah rahs for the whole industry of adoption – though it is acknowledged that sometimes adoption cannot be avoided. Many HAP leave this community angry. Adoptees and former foster care youth are privileged voices in the community and speak their trauma and pain and what it is like to come out of the fog of believing adoption is a beautiful thing. I was in that fog when I first arrived there and quickly learned my place and then, by reading and considering the point of view there, they won me over to their side of the mission – hence this blog.

You Don’t Want To Parent, What To Do ?

An acquaintance is pregnant and you know they absolutely don’t want to parent that child after it is born but abortion is not option for your acquaintance. As an adoption trauma informed person, what do you suggest to this person ?

Note – decisions about pregnancy can be really complex. All-Options Talkline may be a resource – (888) 493-0092.

Deciding to not parent seems easy because of what our society has ingrained in us, but the reality is birth mothers hurt deeply their whole lives from making that decision, whether they are conscious of it or not. The same with the child, it sounds so easy to adopt out a baby because “they won’t even know” but in fact they have trauma their whole life, whether they are conscious of it or not.

For those pro-Adoption people who are also Pro-Life and believe that outlawing abortion will yield more babies for you to adopt – I have some bad news. According to The Turnaway Study, 91% women who were denied wanted abortions didn’t choose adoption. The vast majority parented their child. 

And the fact is – abortion is safer than common procedures like tonsillectomy and wisdom tooth removal. And it’s certainly much safer than going through childbirth. Far more adoptees than one would think will say “I would rather have been aborted than adopted.” 90% of American women who have abortions have them in the first trimester. I am one of those. I had an abortion in the later 1970s – after already having given birth to a daughter. At the time, she was being raised by her father and a step-mother.

In the study there was an association between abortion and mental health. But it was exactly opposite to what has been said in the popular media. It’s not that receiving an abortion was associated with worse mental health, but in the short run, being denied the abortion was – so higher anxiety, lower self-esteem, lower life satisfaction. For up until the first six months, the women who were denied fared worse. They were forced to come to terms with the fact that they were about to have a baby that they had previously felt that they weren’t able to take care of. 

What are the actual implications of giving up a living, breathing child to adoption ? Adoption is not death, but it is LOSS. The grief and trauma are life long. Birthparents cannot ever escape it. Naming that child? Loving that child? Losing that child? Living the rest of their life without their child? From a birth mother – My son is 11 years old and I have never heard him speak. I don’t know what his voice sounds like. I barely know anything about him, and it all comes through a filter. Is what his APs say actually true? I don’t know. I genuinely have no way to know if my son is being loved and cared for the way he deserves. It’s honestly terrifying. It is definitely more difficult to know the child is still out there. It’s an ambiguous grief that’s hard to understand or explain.

So the answer could be kinship! Why doesn’t anyone ever think, oh yeah, this child has family on the paternal and maternal side? At least, adoptees can then stay in their genetic family. Most adult adoptees will tell you it is better than being given to strangers to be raised. It also allows the mother time to change her perspective on parenting, have lifestyle or relationship changes while remaining in her child’s life.

In fact, I talked to an adoptee recently who didn’t know she was adopted until she was in her 30s. Attempting reunions with her birth parents yielded a mother who wasn’t interested in trying to forge a relationship but on the father’s side – it turned out that there was a paternal grandparent who did want to parent her but the birth mother had blocked it.

At least family members on either side are genetic mirrors for the child to grow up around as well as the ability to hear family stories as they are passed down. History and heritage – both matter. I know. I didn’t have either until after my adoptee parents had died and I began the search to know who my original grandparents were. Not only did I learn about my cultural heritage but I’ve been given priceless family history stories and digital photos that add value to my new sense of wholeness. That real sense of wholeness was not acquired until I was over 60 years old.