Not The Same

Someone was asking adoptees if it’s OK to identify as “half adopted.” They were raised by their biological mom but their biological dad was absent. Then they were later legally adopted by mom’s next husband.

She goes on to note – The amount of tone deaf, “Of course, you were adopted” by non-adopted people and one adopted person was really irritating. They have their own loss and trauma, but they had their mother and only learned their father’s name when they were already in their teens.

The responses in my all things adoption group were interesting and somewhat surprising. The points chosen seem valid. I think what might be different is the degree of trauma that accompanies an infant or young child being separated from their mother.

If you were legally adopted, you’re an adoptee. I was adopted twice (blogger’s note – so was my adoptee dad) and not raised by birth parents, but it feels weird to tell someone who was legally adopted that they can’t call themselves adopted.

The person who was adopted gets to identity however they want to, in my opinion. Your identity is valid.

They were adopted, so they could decide – adoptee, half adoptee or not as an adoptee. It is their choice.

Half of their stuff was still changed. They are still not involved with the family of half of them.

Step-parent adoption or kinship adoption –  I do see them as different than a stranger adopting an infant. (Same as the point I made above – less trauma effects in these situations.) Another one added – I’m a kinship adoptee (adopted by maternal grandma) and I identify as a kinship adoptee.

Yet another response – Step parent adoptions are in no way equal to full adoptees. In most cases, step parent adoptees got to stay with their biological mother – therefore not experiencing the “primal wound’ trauma that connects so many adoptees or the trauma of being completely separated from your biological family.

Sure they are “technically” adopted – but not at all in the same way.

The issue arises when they try to say they’ve experienced the trauma discussed by full adoptees or try to say they are privileged voices in spaces where they really are not because they don’t have that shared life experience. Some of these “half” adoptees have even misrepresented themselves in order to dupe hopeful adoptive parents and profit financially as “consultants” or the like.

It really bugs me when those who were adopted by a step parent try to say they are “adoptees” in the same way that I am. Because they just aren’t. Full stop. I’m pretty surprised by the other responses here so far actually.

And a last valid point – Part of me wants to know to what purpose, to what end? A lot of people are just trying to find their identity, to explain some of their trauma responses, to understand how to describe their situation to other people.

But if the purpose is that they want to come into adoptee spaces and converse about adoption as a privileged voice to elevate their own opinions–which has happened before in the adoptee community on TikTok–they most likely will be schooled on that before too long.

I see it as a facet of adoption just like any other. There is a LOT of intersectionality here. People can be adoptees but not infant adoptees, or transracial adoptees, or late-discovery adoptees, all of which come with unique sets of issues. No two experiences will be identical. I recognize I cannot speak for transracial adoptees, for example, and so, I know not to minimize their experiences by pretending mine is just like theirs. I don’t have x, y, or z issues.

Glad I Was

1997 with my adoptee parents, apologies for the blurry quality

With Thanksgiving on my mind, I was remembering an email from my mom in which she told me she had to stop doing a family tree on Ancestry because it just wasn’t “real.” Both of my parents were adopted. Then, she added “glad I was” but that never really seemed genuine to me and the more I’ve learned about adoption and the trauma of separating a baby from its mother, the more I doubt she sincerely was grateful that it had happened, yet that was the reality and there was no way to change that. In a weird way though, I learned to be grateful that both of my parents had been adopted because otherwise, I would not exist and I am grateful for the life I have lived.

Learning my parents’ origin stories (they both died clueless), which was also my own ancestors’ stories brought with it a deep sense of gratitude for me, that I had not been given up for adoption when my mom discovered she was pregnant with me. By the ways of that time in history (early 1950s), she should have been sent away to have and give me up, only to return to her high school in time to graduate (she was a junior at the time of my conception and birth). The photo I have at the top of my blog are the pictures I now have of each of my original grandmothers holding one or the other of my parents as infants.

I continue to be grateful that I grew up with the parents who conceived me and then raised me throughout my childhood. I’ve heard many adoptees say that having biological, genetic children of their own made them fully aware of what being adopted had taken from them. At least, my parents had each other. I do continue to credit my dad’s adoptive parents with preserving me in our family. They were also a source of financial support for my parents during my earliest years. First, giving them space in their own home and me a dresser drawer bassinet. Then, an apartment in their multi-family building until my dad had saved up enough and was earning enough working shifts (and sometimes two shifts in a row) at an oil refinery to buy a house for our family.

In 2014, I experienced the last Thanksgiving with my parents. I knew their health was declining but I still expected to have yet another Thanksgiving with them in 2015. However, my mother passed away in late September and my father only 4 months later. They had been high school sweethearts and had been married over 50 years. My dad just didn’t find life worth continuing on with after his wife died. I knew that in the days after her death but then he sucked it up and tried. One morning, he simply didn’t wake up. He died peacefully with a bit of a smile on his face. I think he must have seen my mom waiting for him to join her.

That last Thanksgiving with my parents

Sharing Some Thoughts

Adoptee Julian Washio-Collette

From Dear Adoption

I complied choicelessly when you took me from my mother’s authorized 10 minute embrace the day after I was born, such was your generosity. I did not resist when you placed me into the hands of strangers who fostered me, and then did it again two months later when I met my adopters for the first time. Why did everyone smell and sound and feel so strange? You gave no reply. 

You did not ask for my consent when you changed my name and falsified my birth records and hid my family from me. But I went along with your interventions, as a child must. Why, though, did you put me with a couple who would soon despise one another? Did you not see that coming? Oh, but I endured the divorce like a champ, buttoned my lip. Always your faithful servant. I must say, you almost broke me when my adoptive mother then decided she didn’t want me anymore and relinquished me when I was nine years old. But I endured. I always endure.

Being adopted a second time as an older child was pretty awful. Tough love from dear adoption. Tough it out. You changed my name and falsified my birth records again, and now two families were hidden from me by force of law. Wow, that was hard. I mean, the impressions I retain of my first family are strong and enduring but you did succeed in stealing their names and their identities from me. Did you really think, though, that I could forget the people I knew at nine years old? Well, I tried. God knows I tried. 

Remember the time when my second adopters unknowingly took me to my old neighborhood, where I lived with my first adoptive mother who I am supposed to forget? You sure put me in some unique and challenging circumstances. Builds character, I guess. Is that what I should call you? Character builder? Anyway, we went into an ice cream shop. I was in my own world, really, trying to puzzle things out, or just leave the real world behind. I was fantasizing about having the superpower of being able to disappear, to make myself invisible, when some old friends from my old elementary school walked in. Talk about awkward! You said the first nine years of my life never really happened. What was I to do? They noticed me, called me by my old name. I froze. I was trying to be faithful to you! You told me to forget my past but you neglected to tell me that it might sneak up on me again like this. I had to wing it, which is a lot to ask of a child. Too much, really. So I just stood there, mute, numb. You really should have given me an instruction manual for such anomalies. My new adopters weren’t much help, either. They were as mute and numb on the car ride home as I was. Pretend nothing happened. Hey! That would make a great motto for you, don’t you think? Dear Adoption: Pretend Nothing Happened.

I do say, as compliant as I am, I have to question your judgment. How could you have put me with yet another couple who would come to despise one another? Was that on purpose? I guess you must have had some high expectations for building my character! Well, there was another divorce but I was used to that by then. Getting thrown out of my house…wait, was that my house? Well, whosever house that was, being forcibly made houseless at sixteen was a bit of a curveball but, hey, I’m made of tough stuff. You made sure of that!

I walked away from my adopters’ home for good with a large plastic garbage bag of clothes and other belongings slung over my back. It was the middle of the night. I had nowhere to go. You cut me to pieces and left me bereft of family, of friendship, of kindness. You shaped me to be so utterly alone. You placed an impossible burden of forgetting on my shoulders and forced me into roles and relationships that didn’t fit, that were disposable. And you disposed of me. I should call you mother! You broke me down and scrubbed me clean so that you could create me according to your own image. Surely, as I walked into that uncertain night, I had no mother but you. I slipped my hand into your cold, ghostly grip. Now it’s just the two of us, you whispered, as you wrapped me in privation and ushered me into the world.

Julian Washio-Collette leads a mostly quiet life with his wife, Lisa, in a cabin tucked away behind a monastery in the glorious coastal wilderness of Big Sur, California. He blogs occasionally.

Stuff Happens And It Goes Horribly Wrong

Today’s story is so long, I will NOT try to convey it all. If I do this well, I can summarize it to make the relevant point.

There is a mom with 2 children at home ages 9 and 3. There is a 15 month old boy at the center of a custody battle. He was NOT removed by child welfare authorities. The circumstances of the pregnancy are complicated. This child’s father is a married man with a wife and newborn (she was pregnant at the same time this woman was). Paternity was assessed during the pregnancy which led to her separation from the older children’s father.

All of this turmoil, left the expectant mother vulnerable to a coercive adoption agency that stands to make $35,000 if the adoption can be finalized. The biological father will not relinquish, which is the obstacle for the hopeful adoptive parents who have had custody of the boy almost continuously since birth.

Though heroic for a husband faced with these circumstances, he came to the hospital when she went into labor.  The baby arrived at a time that there was NO hospital staff in the room. Her husband caught baby, otherwise he would have ended up on the floor.  Her daughter was instantly in love with the baby and wanted to hold him every second. The biological father, while remaining with his wife and newborn, offered to financially support the mother.

She is dealing with so many emotional issues, she has been on anti-depressants the whole pregnancy. Her therapist asked her what is she going to do about her situation ? She tells him she is thinking about adoption because she doesn’t feel she can raise another baby without help. He wants her to call and talk to 2 agencies before their next session. She admits that she was clueless and had NOOOO idea about adoption or agency red flags etc.

So she meets with a social worker (who actually was the Director of the agency). For the first time, she felt like she was able to share her story without the other person judging her or making her feel worse for what she had done. Talking to her felt like such a relief. So, they agree that she’ll contact their available families and see if any are comfortable with her situation. At the time, there were only 2 families waiting and 1 was not comfortable with her situation.

So, she looks at the profile of this couple, and she sees how important family is to them. She cries reading about their issues and many attempts to carry a pregnancy, even with adopted eggs. It makes her even feel so guilty. Here she is with an unplanned pregnancy, and not even science can help this couple. 3 weeks later, they meet for the first time over dinner.  Long story shorter, that couple leaves the hospital with her baby and she goes home without him.

However . . . bear with me, I am trying to get to the heart of this story as it stands now.

She made it very clear that first night that she was going to be very involved in her son’s life. Openness was a must and the couple agreed to it. I cannot relate how many “open” adoptions go bad once the adoption is finalized. No expectant mother relinquishing custody of her newborn should ever rely upon it. It is never legally enforceable and the adoption parents will have all of the leverage. They treated her like an outsider, like she was no more than a surrogate.

When her son was 1 week old, the social worker insisted that the hopeful adoptive parents allow her to visit. By that weekend, she told her social worker that she wanted to regain custody of her son and she didn’t want to proceed with the adoption. The hopeful adoptive parents begged her not to take him away but later that day, she picked her son up from the agency and brought him home.  Her son’s biological father was saying he would leave his wife and come back
to help her raise the baby. Then admitted he couldn’t do it. Conflicted parents all the way around.

She was coerced into signing the termination of parental rights by the hopeful adoptive parents, when she decided again to give up the idea she could raise the baby based on her current circumstances. Yet, there was a sticking point when a letter from her psychiatrist was required to prove that she was mentally capable of understanding the adoption plan. The psychiatrist refused – twice. So often an agency will exploit the post-partum period of a new mother. She wants her baby back now and she is fighting to achieve that. The biological father won’t consent, so that is in her favor. She’s concerned about causing trauma for her son by uprooting him.

The most reassuring, personal experience response was this – “As a child that was with the same caregiver from birth to 2 years and then moved.  That experience was not horribly traumatic for me. The trauma for me was losing my mother in the first place. I don’t call what I had a transition because it was less than a handful of quick visits. I have zero recollection of the family I spent those 2 years with. The bond is not your child to the hopeful adoptive parents, it is the hopeful adoptive parents who are bonded to your child.  Please don’t let anyone’s words about trauma change your course. There may be a slight adjustment period – or none – since your son will be back with the person who’s loss initially was experienced as trauma. Mother/child separation is the true wound. My suggestion is listen to those that have lived it, not those speculating about its effects.”

So this has been today’s cautionary tale.  The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mothers to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets for the rest of her life giving her baby up too quickly. It is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem.

 

The all things adoption group I belong to always counsels expectant mother to try raising their newborn babies for an extended period of time. The hormones and emotions are wacked out and many a natural mother regrets giving her baby up too quickly for the rest of h