Why It Happens

Birthmom here – I am looking for a little encouragement from anyone who has experienced open adoption and that had a good experience. I unfortunately did not join any groups like this one where adoptee voices are prioritized while pregnant and did move forward with the adoption, and I grieve every single day.

I had a small handful of friends encourage me to keep my baby with me, but the majority of friends and family told me that they thought adoption was the right thing to do and that I was making a good choice. It sounded nice, but it was so hurtful to feel like I wasn’t good enough for my baby. And I love him so much, I didn’t want to make a “selfish” choice and keep him with me when there was another family that would be better for him.

Now that I read all of these posts from mature adoptees and I’m heartbroken that I didn’t believe in myself and that I gave him away. When I was pregnant and in financial hardship, feeling alone and emotional – I only wanted to do the right thing. And I felt so little confidence in myself, and hearing those other voices saying that “adoption is love” and “adoption is selfless”, made me feel like I’d be selfish for wanting to keep my baby because I’d put him into a life of struggle and financial insecurity.

So I broke my own heart and put myself last. I live with a deep pain and a regret that will last the rest of my days. I love my mom, and I’ve told her how hurtful it was when I was pregnant to hear her tell me that she thought I did the right thing by choosing adoption. She says she would have supported me either way – but I know that if I kept my baby with me, it would have been with minimal support to prove her point – that I am not enough and to punish me for getting pregnant when I couldn’t support myself and my 17 year old son.

My 17 year old (who was 15 during the time I was pregnant) encouraged me to go through with adoption because he said that life was hard with it being just the 2 of us. And that the baby deserved more and deserved to have both a mom and a dad. Having my son tell me these things was also hurtful because I feel like I’m a great mom to him, but if he thinks these things, then he added on to those feelings like I wasn’t good enough.

My baby is now 10 months old and we have an open adoption. I’m hoping that he grows up feeling loved and secure. I have a great relationship with his adoptive parents and I really love who and how they are, but I do miss him everyday. I can’t change the past or the decision I made, though I wish I could. My true wish is that he was still with me. I wish I stumbled across a group like this one before I made that permanent decision. But I didn’t. The only thing I can do now is move forward with life as it is and hope that everything will turn out ok.

To Walk A Fine Line

Today’s story is about finding one’s way in unusual situations without any role models or rules to guide you.

My husband and I divorced about 25 yrs ago and he basically disappeared and didn’t keep visitation or support our 4 children. About 15 yrs ago he just showed up with a 1 yr old, said he wanted to introduce his baby to his other siblings (our 4 were about grown by then). The baby was a sweet heart and well all adored him, met the mother and she was a sweetheart too.

Both of the parents were dealing with addiction issues and the baby ended up staying with me and my 2 children who were still living at home at the time. Once the baby was old enough for Prekindergarten, I went to court and got guardianship but wanted both parents to have extensive visitation rights. At first the dad, my ex, visited often. The mom kinda came and went depending on her own issues. However the visits kept getting less and less.

Neither has visited in the past 9 yrs. I send the mom updates on her Facebook messenger but she has never responded. I’ve always struggled with what to tell him. I usually just say, “your mom and dad loved you very much but sometimes adults just have issues that takes them away from the things they love and hopefully one day they’ll be able to get it all straightened out.”

He is 16 now and has social media and can reach out to them and I make sure to tell him every so often that he can reach out to them any time and I’ll help in anyway he feels comfortable with or I’ll refrain from being involved at all, if he’s more comfortable with that.

I’ve never adopted him nor terminated their parental rights and the first visitation order we did years ago still stands. I’ve fielded questions for years from people who said, “Why don’t you adopt?”, but it just never felt “right” for me to cut off their parental rights (even if at times I didn’t feel they deserved them).

He has called me mom for years, he asked if he could when he was about 5, I told him he could call me whatever he felt comfortable with. I’ve spent the last 14 yrs second guessing myself and I’m sure I’ve done stuff wrong and surely he has trauma. I just try to be honest without criticism toward his parents, although his older siblings will sometimes let a mouth full fly about their (and his) dad.

Sometimes I feel that he may think I don’t love him as a son because I didn’t adopt him. It’s just hard knowing what was right. He has a maternal uncle who he sees regularly and he gets to see all his maternal family at Christmas, birthdays, holidays , etc. But unfortunately his mom is not in contact with her family at all, so he still doesn’t see her.

I’d take any advice/ideas on how to make sure I’m not adding to his trauma.

One response was this –

I think you did everything perfectly. I would somehow bring up that you love him as a son though and that you just didn’t want to erase his past. Mention if he feels the need when he’s older, you two can discuss it then. If he is an adult and still wishes to be adopted by you, then it was his choice and that’s what matters most, giving him a voice, and loving him.

The Pain of Family Feuds

I’ll let this story from my all things adoption group speak for itself.

I’m an adoptee that was adopted by my maternal grandparents at birth, my birth mom has always been in my life at different times and in different ways, our relationship now is very rocky, and I never saw much of my dad growing up.

When I was 6, my grandparents cut off all contact with my dad’s family. For years they told me that it wasn’t safe, or that they had no interest in seeing me, which wasn’t true – my grandparents actively threw out letters and cards from them.

I used to beg to see my family, when I was a young teen I started sneaking out to see my aunt, then my grandparents found out. I was grounded and stopped from leaving the house. I grew up remembering and loving these people who lived literally two miles away but missing out on a childhood with them.

I grew up with no racial mirrors and felt like I did something wrong to these people that I had fun memories with as a kid. One time I saw my aunt across a store and begged my grandma to say hi, but my grandma dragged me out of the store and said it wasn’t safe.

4 years ago, I reunified with my dad’s family locally and have an amazing relationship with them, and flew to California to see my uncle and meet my cousins for the first time, and eventually flew to New York. I was greeted with open arms, but it doesn’t make up for the 20 year gap of not having these people in my life. These are people I should’ve grown up with!

My aunt lives close to me and we talk, but I feel like a stranger in her house. I feel like I don’t belong here. My uncle is in town to visit with his kids, and I’ve been here all day, and decided to stay the night…for the first time at 28 years old, I’m spending the night with my aunt – something that most kids did growing up.

It’s 3 AM and I’m laying on her couch, unable to sleep because I don’t feel like I belong here, even though they treat me like we were never apart. I don’t know what the point of this post is…it’s just complicated, not many people understand my complex adoption trauma or seem to think that it’s somehow “less” because I was adopted by my grandparents, I should just shut up and be grateful for that.

I still feel like I’m in the fog. My grandparents have both died, and I have a hard time wrapping my thoughts and emotions around the trauma that two people I loved very much even so caused. I’m just trying to live with it.

It’s Not Better, Only Different

Today’s story

I don’t have a bad adoption story. But, it was hard, really hard, because I always missed my mother. Then, I relinquished my daughter at age 19, the exact same age my mother was when she relinquished me.

Just recently, after a lifetime of searching, I located my mother. It was beautiful and painful and healing and heartbreaking all at the same time, because we fit. And, she’s a lovely, kind, intelligent, woman of faith. She would’ve been a wonderful mother! 

To realize this is devastating. I was told it was a “better life” when, in reality, it would’ve just been different. I missed her every day. I spent the first 45 years of my life believing adoption was something brave and beautiful, even when it separated me from my mother and then again later from my own daughter. I realized the decisions that were made FOR me as an infant, and, even worse, the decisions I made FOR my daughter were, in fact, a tragic mistake. We were told it was a “selfless decision”; that my mother ‘loved me so much” she gave me away.

Love=Abandonment

You can read the entire essay here – Dear Adoption, I’m Trying to Unravel the Mess You Made

Love What Matters

A friend wrote me yesterday after she saw my blog about her whole hearted love for her adopted grandchildren. I don’t doubt she does. I never doubted that my grandparents – all 4 of them – who adopted both of my parents, loved me as much as any grandparent ever could have. I can’t judge fairly my parents relationship with their adoptive parents. Certainly, it was our reality. And without a doubt I would not even exist had my parents not been adopted.

I will admit that at this point in my journey through life I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about adoptions – especially domestic infant adoptions from an unwed mother. I do understand that drug addiction results in children being removed from the parents and because I have experienced a spouse with a serious drug addiction, most likely accompanied by alcoholism, I do understand. I do believe that as a society, we could do a much better job of supporting people so that they might recover from addiction (not all will and that too is a reality) and to preserve their families intact but we don’t and that probably won’t dramatically improve in my lifetime.

I accept that adoption is unlikely to go away in my lifetime. I can continue to highlight those issues that I believe need reform, as I continue to learn more about the situation overall. I will admit I don’t KNOW all either. I do know that EVERY adoptee, whether they are aware of it or not, has some degree of separation wound. A feeling of abandonment and/or rejection. It is unavoidable. Sadly, some children are harmed and/or wounded by the parents who conceived them and/or the mother who gestated and birthed them. I won’t argue about that with anyone.

So this is simply an effort to clarify where I stand on the related issues.

Please Be Mindful

Please be mindful of what you say about an adoptee’s birth parents and extended birth family – regardless the circumstances or how you personally feel. Remember that this person shares genes and inheritable aspects with that family of origin.

From an adoptee – As a child I internalized the messages about how I was so much better off adopted, that I was convinced my mother must have been a very evil person. I thought perhaps a witch or a prostitute and would tell everyone this. I was secretly petrified I would be just like her. (Note: she’s not, she was a vulnerable woman who was not supported to keep me.)

Of course, it is known that children have no filters or sense of decorum and will often repeat the perspectives of adults around them – thus comes this sad recollection. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 5 years old and a classmate told me I was adopted because my biological mom didn’t love me. It was so hurtful and it took me a long time to get past it.

The same advice applies to one parent or family bashing the other parent or family. Regardless of whether these are biological, foster families, adoptive family. All of these are part of a child’s history and life experience and when you do this, you are saying in effect that a part of the child is equally bad.

4 Fathers ?

Sam Wise (Sean Astin)

I don’t often follow Facebook teasers and I hate when they are a long slog and this one was but I couldn’t resist. I was a fan of Patty Duke’s growing up. I never knew about her son until now and I didn’t know he played Sam Wise in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy but I am also a fan of that story, wherever I find a version of it.

Back in the day before inexpensive DNA testing, Patty Duke became pregnant and never really knew for certain who her son’s father was. In the 1990s, he had a DNA test done. There were 3 likely possibilities – John Astin, Desi Arnaz Jr or Michael Tell (the one finally proven).

Sean Astin explains it this way. “If you want to know who I am, John Astin is my father, [and] Michael Tell is my biological father.” Sean has maintained good relationships with all three of the men who had been in the running as candidates for his biological dad’s identity. He says that “Desi is like my godfather. I have such a powerful love bond with this man. He’s a gorgeous human being.”

John Astin says of Sean, “We’re very close. We have a good time together.” 

But why did I say 4 ? Patty married Michael Pearce just a year after her divorce from John in 1985. Sean would have been 15 years old at that time. So, he formed a relationship with his new stepfather, who he refers to as Papa Mike.

I guess I was drawn to this story, not only because I am fond of both celebrities involved but because until very recently, my paternal grandfather was also a mystery (though to be fair, my paternal grandmother always did know who my dad’s actual biological father was – even though that man never knew about my dad. It was quite a surprise to my biological, genetic paternal grandfather’s relatives when I turned up. Thankfully, DNA testing has been the “proof”).

Glad I Was

I’m not adopted but both my mom and dad were.

Many times, adoptees will say, “I am glad I was adopted.”

My mom wrote about her adoption that to me in an email – “Glad I was.” I don’t believe she meant it. She had been denied her adoption file by the state of Tennessee. She believed she had been stolen from her parents and while it turns out that wasn’t exactly true, Georgia Tann did exploit my grandmother – that is clear from my mom’s adoption file that I now possess. My mom was heartbroken when all Tennessee offered her was the news her mother had died several years before. She wanted that reunion. Their excuse was that they could not determine the status of her father. They didn’t try very hard. He had been dead for 30 years when they checked to see if he had a current Arkansas driver’s license.

No 2 adoptees feel the same way about their adoptions. My dad did not have that burning desire that my mom did but I think he was afraid of opening up a potential can of worms (he used those words with my mom when she wanted to search). It’s a pity. He could have met his half-sister living only 90 miles away from him when he died. She could have told him a lot about his mother.

The feelings that an adoptee has are complicated. At times they may be angry. Other times they may feel sad. They may feel blessed. My mom’s adoptive parents were wealthy. Their financial resources afforded her, us as her children and even her grandchildren opportunities we probably would not have had if they had not adopted my mom. I know a bit about my mom’s original parents now (and not as much as I wish I knew). Even so, poverty and humble circumstances would have been my mom’s life had her parents remained together.

My dad’s mom was unwed and she also had a hard life. Really from the age of 3 months when her mother died. She was resilient and self-sufficient. She simply took care of her pregnancy. My dad wasn’t adopted until he was 8 months old. He remained with her all that time but she had him in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers and then later, lacking resources to keep a roof over their heads or food in their bellies, applied for employment with the Salvation Army and traveled from California to El Paso Texas with my dad in tow. I’m fairly certain they pressured her to give him up. She worked there for 5 years.

Only an adoptee can tell you what being adopted was like. My parents never talked about it. I only remember my mom mentioning it to me once when I was a child and wanted to know what nationality we were and she couldn’t answer me. However, when I was in my mid-30s, she wanted to search for her original mother and my dad was not supportive. So, I became her confidant.

No adoptee escapes separation trauma from not being raised by their original mother. Often they are haunted by feelings of abandonment and rejection, desperately seeking love – sometimes in the wrong places. Fortunately for me, my parents found each other and stayed together for over 50 years – from teenage years until death did them part. I can not deny that but for their adoptions, I would simply not exist. I love life and so I am grateful for that much. My adoptive grandparents were all influential in my growing up years.

Like Many, Learning As I Go

Clearly, I did not for see all of the criticism that I was getting myself into but I did note that it was “a difficult topic to discuss in a politically correct manner”, so I did have an inkling. Five women expressed a problem with yesterday’s blog. There were literally hundreds of comments posted on the question thread. My blog yesterday attempted to acknowledge I am the product of a different time than the one I am living in now. I also posted a link to that blog in my all things adoption group. This caused my blog to have 10 times more views than any I have ever written here but no comments were left on the blog itself that I know of today.

Without apologizing for viewing the culture I was raised in positively, and I do continue to raise my own children within the same kind of family structure, I was shocked by the accusations of homophobia made against me within my all things adoption group simply for believing in the value of that culture as applied to child-rearing, a culture that includes both male and female role models. Please note – this does not exclude same sex couples but those do need to include extended family to provide examples of each gender, for a child growing up within that culture.

Needless to say, the increase in young people who refuse to embrace a gender identity (non-binary) is a trend for humanity that I don’t expect to end. It is a good response. Making a significant point about how gender is actually a meaningless distinction except in actual procreation. I completely agree with that stance. I have enough life experience to know that sex is sex, regardless of the forms it takes, though rape is something else entirely and about power over another human being. I am also aware that many young people do not intend to parent or have children. Many of my friends, who are in my same age group, lament not expecting to enjoy having grandchildren. Just as with abortion and now the pandemic, these are circumstances that have pushed back concerns about over-population.

Certainly, my family and my dearest friends include people who identify as gay and they are all loved by me just as any other family member or friend is. I see their humanity and accept them as they present themselves to be. For that, I was told to STOP tokenizing my gay family and friends. You sound like the obviously racist people who say “I can’t be racist, I have a black friend.” That was not my intent but I know, life is like this now. Sometimes we can’t undo perceptions, regardless of where our heart actually is. I accept the impossibility of doing so. Social media is a difficult place to even attempt that.

It was also said of this blog that on the whole the writing was disjointed and convoluted making it difficult to discern its intentions.

So I will make clear – my intention regarding the adoption related values most important to me – that were raised by this question that was asked – What are your thoughts about the Buttigieg’s impending adoption?

Adoption causes trauma by separating a baby from its gestational mother. Surrogacy does the same thing.

I support family preservation. This includes financial and emotional support, so that mothers can raise their own children. If a child does need the care of people who they are not born of, for all of the reasons usually given including abuse or neglect, this can be provided without changing their name and parentage from that shown on their original birth certificate. Birth identity matters.

In the case of the Buttigiegs their intention is to remain anonymous. I doubt that is going to succeed in the long run, though actual results will be the proof. The press will turn over every stone they try to set in order to reveal the child’s origins.

In a Washington Post article it was written – “The couple, who have been married for three years, had been trying to adopt for a year, taking part in parenting workshops. They were on lists that would allow them to receive a baby who had been abandoned or surrendered at short notice and also were seeking to be matched with a prospective mother.”

So to be clear, I like the former mayor, now cabinet member, Pete Buttigieg well enough, what little I actually know about him. But the language used in the couple’s announcement included lots of red flags for anyone interested in adoption reform. And the fact that they’re pursuing domestic infant adoption is precisely what I object to the most.

Research indicates that children with same sex parents have strengths and unique challenges. I found this article in an attempt to add some reality to my own thinking – “Same Sex Parents and Their Children“. It notes that between 1 and 9 million children in the United States have at least one parent who is lesbian or gay. There are approximately 594,000 same-sex partner households, according to the 2000 Census, and there are children living in approximately 27 percent of those households.

Adoptees definitely have unique traumas and I do have concerns about this particular couple’s ability create a totally positive outcome, from the trauma they will cause by the adoption of a baby. I would have the same concerns regardless of the sexual orientation of an adoptee’s parents.

Who’s Real ?

It’s a conundrum, a confusing and difficult problem or question. I understand it personally. When I finally learned who my original grandparents were and met relatives who were genetically and biologically related to me, my adoptive family receded into the background.

As a child, I had grandparents who adopted my parents when they were young. They are the only grandparents I knew growing up and going through old family letters from the early 1980s that I need to finally let go of, I see how they were my personal cheerleaders as I left one kind of life I had been living and began the long and slow process of making a different kind of life for myself. I am grateful for their love and concern.

I have aunts who became more significant again in my own life after my parents died. I am grateful for their love and support.

Those of us impacted by adoption often struggle to describe our relationships with two sets of relatives. Sometimes the word “real” is used to describe those that family DNA type websites would consider as being accurately related to us. It gets cumbersome to try and define “real” from “acquired”.

The topic came up yet again in my all things adoption group. I thought this was a good response – “Everyone is real. It’s kind of a given.” Direct and to the point. Even so, it can be confusing to people who don’t know your personal family history.

We aren’t exactly playing along with our adoptive relatives but for an adoptee, the person is often too well aware that their name and their birth certificate have been falsified to change their identity – from the one they were born with to being in effect the possession of the people who adopted them. This was often done to prevent the original parents and the adoptees from ever finding each other, though with the tools available today (inexpensive DNA testing and matching websites) reunions are taking place constantly.

One adoptee admits – I had a hard time with “real” as a kid growing up. When people found out that I was adopted I was always asked, “Do you know your real parents?” “Do you have any real brothers or sisters?” “Do your adoptive parents have any real kids?” People seemed to use that word in place of biological and to my kid-brain, it felt like I was somehow less of a person because I wasn’t my adopters “real” kid.

Add to this that adoptees often honestly do feel that they don’t belong in the family they are being raised within. And quite honestly, that feeling is accurate, even though it is their reality.