Fertilization or Implantation

It didn’t take long for the concerns over the Supreme Court overturning Roe v Wade to leap over into In-Vitro Fertilization. Some states, including Louisiana, are already contemplating laws that would define a fertilized egg as having the same rights as a live child which will definitely have the same chilling effect on IVF clinics as the escalation of anti-abortion laws at the state level has had on clinics that perform abortions.

The Catholic Churches inconsistency regarding when life begins hasn’t helped matters. Among Catholics it is NOT clear – does life begin at fertilization or at implantation ? One Catholic said, “It’s actually not disputed. For example: the official stance of the Catholic Church is that life begins at IMPLANTATION, not fertilization. Additionally, you can’t turn a pregnancy test positive without implantation. So again, many would consider ‘conception’ to mean successful implantation.”

In 2006, under Pope Benedict (before the current Pope Francis), it was affirmed during an international congress on scientific aspects and bioethical considerations of The Human Embryo Before Implantation that embryos are “sacred and inviolable” even before they become implanted in a mother’s uterus. The Pope said the Church had always proclaimed the “sacred and inviolable character of every human life, from its conception to its natural end.” adding, “This moral judgment is valid from the start of the life of an embryo, even before it is implanted in the maternal womb.”

In 2021, Washington’s Cardinal Wilton Gregory spoke at the National Press Club, during which he fielded questions about President Joe Biden’s support for abortion. “The Catholic Church teaches and has taught that life — human life — begins at conception. So the president is not demonstrating Catholic teaching in that,” Gregory said. “Catholics should take care not to believe the myths and lies that are produced by those influential individuals and institutions that want to confuse people about the true nature of abortion or who wish to exploit the bodies and lives of unborn children. For example, the myth that ‘pregnancy begins at implantation’ is a deception that has caused misunderstandings for decades.”

Another Catholic noted – Our vicar general was very confident that when the church says “conception” they are referring to implantation, per his actual priesthood teachings. But, that most Catholics assume conception means fertilization, but that isn’t correct. My discussions on this topic with him were in 2010 for reference. I know the pope said prior to that that it’s before implantation, but the actual documented definition in church literature is apparently implantation.

At the end of the day, this is splitting hairs and I’m pro-choice. But, it’s clear even the church can’t figure out a cohesive stance, and none of this is dogma anyway. Also, just because “life” begins at conception it’s doesn’t address the bodily autonomy issue (the Church doesn’t support forced organ donation to save another adults life, but they are ok with a pregnant person being forced to give up their body?).

I don’t know anyone who would say they are trying to “conceive” and mean that they are just trying to fertilize an egg. For all practical purposes, fertilization alone just isn’t conception. And these old white men can believe otherwise, but if my egg is fertilized but doesn’t implant, I would never say I conceived because I wouldn’t even know the egg was fertilized, unless I went through IVF anyway.

Leaving aside religious arguments, Wired had an article by Sarah Zhang in 2015 titled – Why Science Can’t Say When a Baby’s Life Begins with a subtitle – If anything, science has only complicated the personhood debate. The article notes – When life begins is, of course, the central disagreement that fuels the controversy over abortion. 

In the 19th century, abortion in Britain was legal—until the quickening. The “quickening” was the first time a woman felt her baby’s kick, it was the moment the baby came alive, the moment it got a soul. Ultrasound imaging made quickening, a concept that had been around since at least Aristotle, a relic. In a 2012 vice presidential debate, Paul Ryan explained that after seeing their unborn daughter on ultrasound, they nicknamed her “Bean.” My husband jokes about our youngest son being “LumpT” before he was born. Ryan actually sponsored a bill for fetal personhood, giving full legal rights to a zygote after fertilization.

After fertilization, must come implantation. The fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube and attaches to the mother’s uterus. “There’s an incredibly high rate of fertilized eggs that don’t implant,” says Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB-GYN in Washington, DC. Estimates run from 50 to 80 percent, and even some implanted embryos spontaneously abort later on. The woman might never know she was pregnant.

Clearly, the controversies and debates are not going away any time soon. It is going to be very messy for some time to come.

Colorblind Idealism

There seems to have been an evolution among some citizens in the United States to realize that racially colorblindness isn’t really the answer to racism. In the evolution of adoption and in an attempt to get some children in foster care placed in stable homes, transracial adoption was seen as the answer. As some of these adoptees have reached adulthood, they are increasingly speaking out about why growing up black in a predominantly white community and school has proven challenging, even difficult for them.

Recently The Washington Post had an article by Rachel Hatzipanagos that focuses on transracial adoptees – I know my parents love me, but they don’t love my people. A few years ago, there was a Medium piece – The Myth of Colorblindness by Rosa Perez-Isiah.

For adoptees, their adoptive parents couldn’t see and rarely talked about the racism they experienced. Classmates’ racist comments about their hair and eyes were dismissed as harmless curiosity. America’s racial dynamics were explained in the language of “colorblind” idealism. 

In her Medium piece, Perez-Isiah says – Colorblindness is the belief that we don’t see color or race, that we see people and that we are all the same. These beliefs are widely held by well intentioned people, including educators and school leaders. These are idealistic beliefs and there are a number of issues with this ideology. Colorblindness negates our diversity, race and culture because we all see color and we all have biases. When we identify as colorblind, we are suppressing our authentic views and in the process, perpetuating systemic racism. Race matters and it has impacts on opportunities, education and actual income (as well as its future potential). Colorblindness oppresses people of color. When you fail to see color, you fail to acknowledge the current narrative, a system of injustice for many non-white people.

Cross-cultural adoptions have been debated for decades. In 1972, the National Association of Black Social Workers took a strong stand against the adoption of Black children by White parents. Several years later, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to address the wave of Native American children being separated from their tribes and placed with White families.

The growth in transracial adoptions from foster care in recent years has far outpaced the growth in same-race adoptions and transracial adoption is now 28% of all domestic adoptions in the United States. More recently, the national conversation about systemic racism (driven by George Floyd’s death in 2020) has cast a new light on interracial adoption and prompted transracial families to confront the unspoken cultural divides in their own homes.

For adoptees, there is a transracial adoption paradox. Growing up, they experience many of the privileges that come with Whiteness because of their adoptive parents. When they then enter the school system or move out of the family home to live independently as adults later in life, they’re confronted with the reality of being perceived and treated as a racial minority. Not so subtle is the experience of white students putting their pencils in the hair of a Black student and marveling at the way the texture makes them stay in place.

When adoption agencies take on a color-evasive approach with hopeful prospective adoptive parents, they signal to these white parents that race does not need to be a significant factor in their decision-making. Then, by extension, it is no surprise that these adoptive parents might not think that the race of their adoptees is a significant factor in raising their child. Often these parents naively hope their support will make up for racial difference, even when they acknowledge there are challenges in raising a child of a different race.

From a transracial adoptee – “I believe that a lot of people think that adoption is this beautiful, magical, straightforward process. And also when they think of adoption, that they are centering around this “White savior” image and focusing on adoptive parents more than adoptees. And/or birth, biological parents — those two seem to get left out of the narrative a lot. I also believe that adoption from a birth mother, birth parent perspective can be very intense, very complex, very emotional. And I believe that we need to lean in and listen to adoptees and birth parents more.”

Today, many adoptees have their DNA tested, either at Ancestry or 23 and Me. For an adoptee that was raised white, it can be an amazing experience to discover their father is Black and see somebody that looks like them, finally a true racial mirror. One mixed race adoptee notes – “I think a lot of White people think that they have a good handle on race … and have what they would call a ‘colorblind’ kind of mentality. But I don’t think they understand that when you say the word ‘colorblind,’ what I hear is ‘I see you as White’.”

Another transracial adoptee suggests – “I think first acknowledging that your child is not White is, like, a huge step for a lot of White adoptive parents is to, like, see outside. Because a lot of parents see their child as, this is just your kid. They don’t see them in racialized terms. But in seeing them in that colorblind way, you are not protecting them. You are not preparing them to grow up and be an adult.”

Adoption is a trauma. Every adoptee has a different response to their trauma. Often it takes therapy to understand what was experienced as a pre-verbal infant and more importantly, how it continues affecting the adult adoptee. Therapy can help an adoptee get over feeling defective simply because they were given up for adoption. It can require learning that babies are placed for adoption for a number of reasons and that none of those reasons have to do with the baby or the value of that baby regardless of their skin color. The adoptee, not the adoptive parents, needs to be the center of their own life and story. Much of the narrative around adoption centers on the adoptive parents and frames their actions as selflessness and saving a child.

One Black adoptee admits –  I longed, and continue to long, to understand why I needed to be adopted, why I needed to be shipped across the country, why I couldn’t stay in the South, why I couldn’t stay with Black families, why I couldn’t have stayed with at least my biological extended family.” And though I am white and my mother was white too, this is a universal need in adoptees. My mom’s genetic, biological family was in the rural South and she was taken by train from Memphis to Nogales Arizona by her adoptive mother. For a long time, my mother believed she had been born in Memphis, a belief her adoptive mother was also led to believe by Georgia Tann, until birth certificate alterations made clear my mom had been born in Virginia which just made my mom believe she must have been stolen from her mother because things like that happened with Georgia Tann’s adoption practices.

Sadly, the saviorism of white adoptive parents is just so prevalent. Unfortunately, there is a deep-seated belief that white people can take care of Black people better. I have been learning a lot about this in overall society by reading White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad.

I end today’s blog back where I started with the issue of colorblindness – Why is the colorblind narrative popular? The Medium piece notes – it is easier to identify as colorblind than acknowledge differences that make us uncomfortable. This is easier for people to handle, especially in schools where we may lack the information and guidance to have difficult conversations about race. Another reason is simply not knowing…you don’t know what you don’t know. Many people also repeat what they’ve been taught and fail to reflect or question those beliefs. In the end, we don’t realize how harmful the myth of colorblindness can be.

Adoption is a challenging situation regardless – add in racial differences and it becomes doubly so. It takes courage and practice to shift from a colorblind to a color BRAVE ideology.

Anti-Natalism

I have seen adoptees state that they wish they had been aborted. I had not heard of Anti-Natalism but apparently it is a thing. Back when I was concerned about over-population, I could have understood this concept better. With the pandemic, it appears the planet is going to experience a huge die off before it is all over.

So I discovered this concept today when someone in my all things adoption group posted – How do you all deal with anti natalism? How would you prefer people not adopted to deal with that discussion when it does come up? One of the number one things these people seem to say is adopt, even if you can have kids, because there’s too many people and it’s horrible if you procreate while others don’t have a home. This has been frequently debunked as a myth. Poverty is the number one cause of children being separated from their original parents. In the case of both of my parents, that was certainly the issue – not whether their mothers would have rather kept and raised them.

Back in 2019, The Guardian had an article (I wish I’d never been born: the rise of the anti-natalists) about this with subtitle – Adherents view life not as a gift and a miracle, but a harm and an imposition. And their notion that having children may be a bad idea seems to be gaining mainstream popularity.

The basic tenet of anti-natalism is simple but, for most of us, profoundly counterintuitive: that life, even under the best of circumstances, is not a gift or a miracle, but rather a harm and an imposition. According to this logic, the question of whether to have a child is not just a personal choice but an ethical one – and the correct answer is always no.

In my all things adoption group, the first comment was – infant adoption is a for-profit industry and feeds into producing babies as a commodity, so also contributes to over population. Adopting or (even better) providing guardianship for teens with a Termination of Parental Rights background who are currently in in foster care would be much more ethical.

In another’s perspective – They’re applying an argument that makes sense for animals to humans, because they don’t see the difference. With pets, if more people adopt from shelters, then that saves lives, and puts puppy mills out of business. (In the Missouri Ozarks where I live – puppy mills are a hot issue.) And someone else quickly noted –  even in the dog world, this isn’t true. It’s a lot more complicated than that. I’d agree.

Another explained – I’m an adoptee and childfree by choice. It’s astounding how many people throw adoption round as a solution to infertility. There needs to be so much more education done around why this is wrong and support given to people to make their own choices…eg not everyone has to want or have children.

Another one found the argument confusing –  how do anti-natalism and adoption go hand in hand with the argument that you shouldn’t pro create. You should take someone else’s baby instead ? How does that solve the problem ? How is that any more ethical ?

Someone else explained – Anti Natalists are against people giving birth or choosing to make a baby in general. This does come across sometimes as not wanting children at all, but it doesn’t always go hand in hand. It reaches into adoption because it doesn’t automatically mean they dislike children or don’t want them, but rather that they tend to think it’s unethical to create life in a distressful world/ the earth is dying/there’s too many kids without parents/ why create something that will suffer/overpopulation/ other reasons I can’t remember at the moment, so they adopt rather than creating their own, if they do want to become parents.

Here’s the truth – adoption isn’t the answer for anti-natalism. Adoption is trauma regardless the intent. So if they’re about being ethical, I think they should do a little little more research on adoption trauma before they push that agenda.

Another noted – Usually people who are childfree by choice are very pro-abortion.  The foundation of the philosophy is that humans already born take precedence over the unborn or not yet conceived. That there is a finite amount of space/resources and we are close to exceeding or have already, thus births/continuous growth should be avoided.

The bottom line was – If you think it’s horrible to procreate, then don’t. But don’t traumatize children and families, so you can still fulfill YOUR dream of a family. If you really strongly believe it’s awful to have biological kids, no one is forcing you. But don’t look for a way out – that’s just as selfish, if not more so.

Maternal Grief

There is more than one way to “lose” a child. Certainly, the most obvious is the most permanent. Today, many adoptees are going through reunions with their biological families. That gives hope that the kind of loss that is giving a child up to adoption may not be a permanent one. That said, one can never regain the years the locusts have consumed. The bible promises a restoration but the reality is, those years can never fundamentally be retrieved. They are forever lost.

Adoption is, in its idealized form, is suppose to be about finding homes for children that need them, not about finding children for parents that want them. That perfect world is a place we all know we do not live in. There is nothing inherently wrong about wanting to be a parent, but it can become wrong depending on how you go about becoming a parent. Once they have achieved their goal, adoptive parents might desire to remain ignorant regarding the real loss involved for the other participants in their own path to parenthood. 

Surrendering a child can really hurt emotionally, in a way that is completely indescribable and that words could never do justice regarding, if one attempts to convey it to any other person who has not had direct experience with it.  Relinquishment can never be undone and all a birthparent can do is continue live their life throughout the time knowing that someone else is raising their child.

Hear it described by the most honest and real, courageous and brilliant adopted persons and you will learn that many of the feelings they have for having been adopted do not express feelings of gratitude, or contentment, but of loss and primal rejection, as well as confusion, anger, many unanswered questions and often unsatisfactory love, truth be told regarding the adoptive parents who settled for second best.

These unfulfilled adoptive parents also grieve – the child they wanted to have – compared to the child they settled for. All around a disagreeable situation. Adoption & Child Welfare Services were expected to bring in a revenue of 14 Billion Dollars during 2015. Even the banking and insurance industry has more regulations applied to them than adoption and some of the things they do to try and make money at all costs is unethical. Adoption is the largest, mostly unregulated, industry in the US allowed to do business.

It is human nature that if you put few regulations in the way and add to that large sums of money to be made from taking part in the industry, it is a situation that asks to be corrupted. A lobby group with a deceiving name, The National Council for Adoption (and an even more disturbing game) is paid for by the adoption agencies, pro-life groups, and given federal tax funds and grants – all to promote adoption. 

The goal is to separate families not protected by money or the Godly union of marriage in favor of giving their child to a legally married, heterosexual, Christian couple. Many mothers have truthfully lost their children to adoption and they suffer in isolation what can only be described as a very real diagnosis of “birthmother grief”. These are women who are and could have been good parents. These children were in no danger of being bumped around in foster care for years. There was no threat of them being abused.

Maybe they would have had a few first years of lean times, maybe it would have been hard but they would have parented. There is a huge difference between child protection and child surrender. Child surrender is voluntary, it is often not really necessary, but made out to be beneficial. The real “good” of the child is questionable depending on your personal interpretation of what is “better”. Often fraught with myths, and misinformation that sway the participants involved for the benefit of the adoption agency and, often, the desires of their paying clients (the perspective adoptive parents). It is finding children to fit the needs of the industry which is based entirely on transferring the parental rights from one party to another for a profit.

Adoption adds a whole bunch of baggage to any adoptee’s life. They had adoptive parents that tried their best, made mistakes, and loved them lots. The fact is though, that if a child does not need to be separated from their original family – experts agree it is a person’s birthright to be with their original family. There are enough adoptees and natural parents searching for each other that we cannot humanly deny that it is not a primal and necessary urge in many cases. It’s not a whim, not a phase, nor a sign if immaturity, nor selfishness, nor of poor adoptive parenting, or anything else might we believe. Adoptees may have the reality of having two sets of parents, adoptive and birth parents, but they need to know and have relationships with their original, biological families – regardless of how good the adoptive family was. It is also clear by how many birthmothers never quit searching for their child that being reunited is also a unrequited need in most maternal hearts.

A Deep Evolutionary, Hormonal Need

A couple of questions were asked of adoptive parents in an all things adoption group I belong to –

Does being an adoptive parent feel the way you thought it would before you adopted ?

Does it fulfill your needs ?

In fairness, the question could be asked of biological/genetic parents as well. So it was that this thoughtful woman attracted my attention with her response –

She says directly that she is not an adoptive parent. She is a grandmother and the mother of 3 adult biological children with some post-divorce estrangement issues. She is the child of narcissistic parents from whom she picked up narcissistic habits that she’s now trying to recognize and eradicate within herself.

She describes herself as “a middle-aged woman coming to terms with my own flaws, strengths, and failures of both commission and omission. The questions shown above are phrased like arrows —bound to pierce anyone who truly is open to them.” She goes on to admit that these are great questions— and horrible questions, too. For sure, necessary— probably for ANY parent, but especially for adoptive parents.

She says honestly, “At each and every stage of motherhood I could have answered Yes and No to the first question. PARENTHOOD overall does not always feel AT ALL the way we think it will, before we experience it. And parenthood itself has plenty of rosy myths associated with it— but obviously NOT the sanctity and saviorism that gilds our culture’s concept of adoption and adoptive parenthood.”

She notes that – “The second question is intended to be an unsettling question— even for biological parents. We’ve got a huge biological imperative to bear children, as a species, so there’s a deep evolutionary, hormonal sense of “need” to procreate for which I don’t think we should be shamed. Many humans get pregnant by accident, or without much thought given to the repercussions of sex.”

Once a living, breathing child exists, that person is NOT AT ALL here to fulfill the parent’s needs. And it doesn’t take very long for that one to be recognized. Even so, we do not always realize that. During the toughest years of parenting, most parents barely have time to breathe, much less analyze the psychological, ethical, and moral framework that their parenting rests upon— and there is always a framework, whether the parent knows it or not.

These penetrating questions are relevant to ALL parents, at any stage of parenting. We all live as the protagonists of our own lives, and thus are prone to centering our stories upon ourselves. Sometimes it’s okay to center yourself in a story. Yet, that is NOT true in terms of your children or perhaps more accurately, they are going to center their own stories on their own lives. This is the great web of interpersonal interconnectivity that binds us all.

So okay, maybe there is no huge profound wisdom in this blog today. Even so, these are really deep questions that are WORTH sitting with, even if they cause some discomfort when thinking about our own answers to them. It is not surprising if they feel hugely uncomfortable when you read them. You may even feel that you have somehow failed as a parent. We are all too self-centered, even when we think we are being self-sacrificing for our children.

Not Every Situation Works Out

It can be heartbreaking. Case in point –

We were matched with an expectant mother 2.5 years ago who chose to parent. We understood and gave her all the things we had for the baby. We checked in on her legitimately a few times to offer help, but she blocked us – which I also understood. This was not a $50,000 agency adoption. She found us on social media. During the time we got to know her, we also got to know her sister who we have remained Facebook friends with. The sister recently reached out to ask how we were doing. In that conversation she shared that soon after her niece was born, her sister got into a bad relationship and started using drugs. Her child was taken by Child Protective Services, the Termination of her Parental Rights by court order occurred and the foster parents adopted the child. The sister was complaining that at first the foster family let them have visits, but they were super uncomfortable, seemed sketchy, and have since blocked contact with the child’s biological family.

I do advocate for moms to keeping and raising their babies. The woman above asked, “but what about situations like this?” and goes on to make a point that there are some moms that do not do well parenting or maybe their circumstances change. That maybe she wasn’t as able to parent though she thought she was.

A really good response to this story acknowledged that the woman telling this story was really trying to learn and wrap their head around breaking out of the whole “rainbow and butterfly” narrative (what adoptees often refer to as the societal adoption myth). I believe you are mature enough to understand that there is always going to be a “not“ situation that falls into a gap. I have a sibling who could perhaps fall into that not all situation… (and in fact this blog author does too.) To answer your question… Yes, there are probably situations involving parents who don’t want to raise their children. Some parents believe the narrative that giving a baby for adoption is better than having an abortion. Some parents, maybe in this particular situation, decided to parent the child because they honestly feel that’s what is in the best interest of their child and it was. Here’s the reality – being in an abusive relationship can change the victim’s mentality. A person trapped in such a relationship can literally become someone you would no longer recognize and someone they never intended to be. So again… Had this child remained with the mother and had she received the kind of support and assistance she needed when she need it including how to get away from her abusive partner, this story would have had a good outcome. There are so many women in situations that really could use help. There are a bunch of places where the system fails to help. And in her case, those failures resulted in the termination of her parental rights. I immediately wonder why this woman’s sister wasn’t contacted to foster this child who is her kin. Why was this sister not encouraged to adopt this child? It’s too late for answers to these questions. I’m just saying there were so many ways in which this one child was failed by a seriously flawed system. The trauma will be huge over the child and her mother’s lifetimes.

What Would You Expect Me To Do?

Overheard somewhere in America – “What are people supposed to do who can’t have kids biologically? Suffer and never adopt a baby?”

Uh, yes, that is not a reason to adopt. They should go to therapy and learn to manage their grief. Then, they will not be suffering anymore.

Your infertility isn’t an excuse to cause another human trauma and grief. You should find a way to pour your desire into kids without taking them away from their parents.

Adopt a dog or other pet if you want to love and take care of something.

DWI – Deal With It.

Figure out who you are without kids. Plenty of people don’t procreate. Find other things to enjoy. Travel. Etc. 

Understand that a baby, yours or someone else’s, isn’t the solution to your problems.

This societal narrative that people have to have kids to be fulfilled needs to change. There are infinite ways one can find fulfillment!

Wanting a child is a natural desire. But taking a child away from the biological mother and brushing away its name and environment is trauma. Adoption is not an option.

The beginning and end of you as a person doesn’t come down to your reproductive organs. 

Society as a whole needs to unpack the stigma around not having children. For EVERYONE, including fertile people who simply don’t want to procreate, including people who wanted kids but couldn’t have them. We shouldn’t attach so much grief to not having children. You don’t have kids? Find another purpose. Find other passions.

There are the parents who say you’re selfish for not giving them grandchildren. The random strangers in public saying you make such a cute couple. 

Literally – no one has ever died because they didn’t have a child. If your happiness is dependent on another person or on that baby you wish you could have, that’s a major problem. No one else can truly bring you happiness, you have to find that within your own self. Your self worth is not determined by others. If you think it is, that’s not mentally or emotionally healthy.

This really comes down to the mythical elevation of the 2 parent nuclear family with children as the only acceptable family structure and the breakdown of the village/extended family connections. We need to make room for everyone at the table, special friends, aunties, uncles, cousins. The next deeper question is, if I am not part of a family unit with children, what is my place in society? Do I get to be part of a family? That’s real inclusiveness.

Parenting is not a right.

Adoption-Related Complex Trauma

Also called Cumulative Trauma – The research is definitive. Adopted kids are not only traumatized by the original separation from their parents, they may also have been traumatized by the events that led to them being put up for adoption. In addition to that, foster care itself is considered an adverse childhood experience.

I recently wrote a blog titled “It’s Simply NOT the Same.” Though the traumas may originate similarly, the outcomes are not the same because just like any other person, no two adoptees are exactly alike. That should not prevent any of us from trying to understand that adoptees carry wounds, even if the adoptee is unaware that the wounds are deep within them.

It is not uncommon for an adopted person and/or the adoptive family to seek mental health services due to the effect of the adoptee experiencing traumatic events. Unfortunately, for psychology and psychiatry clinicians, adoption related training is rare. In my all things adoption group, the advice is often to seek out an adoption competent therapist for good reason.

“What does an adopted baby know ? She knows her mother, she knows her loss, sadness and hurt, she knows that those who hold her today may be gone tomorrow and that she will be the only one left to pick up the pieces that no one seems to think are broken.”
~ Karl Stenske, 2012

The reasons a child is put up for adoption or relinquished are many – an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, often compounded or driven by a lack of financial resources (poverty) or no familial support to care for a child. Becoming a single parent may simply seem too daunting to an unwed expectant mother. Sadly, for some, a chronic/terminal illness or certain diseases may lead the mother to believe she cannot provide proper care for her baby. Certainly, prolonged substance addiction and/or severe mental health issues (which may be related to addiction) can cause parental rights to be forcefully terminated by child welfare authorities. Adoptees who come out of the child welfare system (legal termination of parental rights by a court of law) cannot legally be returned to their birth families due to safety or other reasons that are considered serious.

Adoption is not always a success. Disruptions and dissolutions do sometimes occur.

Disruptions can happen after the adoption has been finalized when the adoptive parents then experience difficulties with their adopted child. The adoptive parents may have difficulty finding support and the resources they require to deal with the issues that come up.

Risk factors leading to a higher rate of disruptions are: older age when adopted, existing emotional and behavioral issues, having a strong attachment to their birth mother, having been a victim of pre-adoption sexual abuse, suffering from a lack of social support from relatives causing the adoption to occur, unrealistic expectations surrounding the adoption and the child on the part of hopeful adoptive parents, and a lack of adequate preparation and ongoing support for the adoptive family prior to and after the placement.

A devastating occurrence is a dissolution or breakdown. This applies to an adoption in which the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and the adoptive child is severed, either voluntary or involuntarily. Usually this will result in the entry or re-entry of the child into the foster care system, or less commonly a second chance adoption, or even the private transfer of the child from the adoptive parents to a non-vetted receiving parent.

Adoption has been subject to both positive and negative assumptions related to the practice and this is of no surprise to anyone who has studied the practice of adoption for a period of time.

There are 6 main assumptions about the practice of adoption –

[1] Adoption is a joyous event for all involved – known as the Unicorns and Rainbows Fantasy in adoption centric communities; [2] adoption parallels genetic birth experience and a biological family life – which close observation and mixed families (who have both biological and adopted children often belie); [3] once adopted, all of the child’s problems disappear and there will be no additional challenges – rarely true – and often attachment or bonding fail to occur; [4] creating a family through adoption is “false,” only biological families are “real” – this goes too far in making a case because many adults create chosen families – the truth is as regards children, family is those persons we grow up with – believing we are related to them – in my case, both of my parents were adopted and all of my “relations” growing up were non-genetic and non-biological but I have a life history with them and continue to have contact with aunts, an uncle and cousins I obtained through my parents’ adoptions; [5] the adoptive life is better than the biological life the child had or would have had – never a known assumption – more accurately, the adoptee’s life is different than that child would have had, if they had not been adopted; and, [6] closed adoptions are in the best interest of the child – this one was promoted with the intention of shielding adoptive parents from original parents who regretted the surrender, from the child who might yearn for their original family and often in some cases to shield a person operating unscrupulously, such as the baby thief Georgia Tann who sold ill-gotten children. Popular media has reinforced both the positive and the negative messages about adoption and many myths and stereotypes regarding adoptive families and birth parents are believed in society as a whole.

The term “adoption-related complex trauma” is rarely used in discussing symptoms and behaviors. It is more common to see terms such as “developmental trauma” or “complex trauma” to describe the psychological effects found within the adopted population.

The terms complex trauma and complex post-traumatic stress disorder have been used to describe the experience of multiple and/or chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an personal nature such as sexual, physical, verbal abuse or of a societal nature such as war or community violence. These exposures often have occurred within the child’s caregiving environment and may include physical, emotional and/or other forms of neglect and maltreatment that begin early in childhood. In the case of infant adoptions, the trauma is non-verbal but stored in the body of that baby – not conscious but recorded.

Some of this content has been sourced from a long dissertation titled Treatment Considerations For Adoption-related Complex Trauma. Anyone interested is encouraged to read more at the link.

Adoptees Know These

The first comment I saw on this image went something like this – Interesting how it’s “aren’t your adoptive parents enough?” AND “don’t you want to meet your REAL family?”

A more interesting one was this story – last year one of my friends’ mothers introduced me to his father and his stepfather by saying this is my husband, and this is my son’s “real” father.. I said “does he have a fake father?” Her face was priceless and she hemmed and hawed trying to clean it up.

In these modern times when effort is made to reform the whole perspective around adoption it can be hard to know what the right way to say something is. Early on, I was advised not to use “birth mother” but simply mother or if an identifier was necessary – natural or original. A mother is a mother and all of them give birth. Someone who doesn’t give birth is not necessarily a “mother” though they may be understood as such, they are more accurately a parent.

Unpacking a few more . . . the I would rather have been aborted comes up more often among adult adoptees than the general public might believe. It is hurtful to be asked, “Why would you ever want to meet someone who gave you up?” Maybe simply to answer the question – why? I know that is the question I had regarding my own parents original parents (both of my parents were adopted). Even though I can’t ask my grandparents direction because they have all died, I have learned enough to form some realistic theories about the reasons.

There are a LOT of adoptees who don’t feel “lucky” to have been adopted. When there is extreme mental damage in a parent, maybe then. Most I have encountered would not refer to themselves as “lucky”.

It is true that it isn’t possible to change the past and a complication for my own self is that if my parents were not adopted, I would not exist. I do feel lucky that my teenage mother was not sent off to have and give me up. I credit my dad’s adoptive mother for keeping me in the family. If I had been given up, I would still exist and my original parents would still have been the same people but I would have been raised by other parents and my two younger siblings may not have ever been born because our parents may not have married after such a rupture in the family unit.

Everything that happens – matters. An adoptee can feel like they had a good life (as my own mother did) and still want to know about their origins (as my own mother did). My dad seems to have been content with who his parents were and how they treated him (though the first adoptive father turned out to be an alcoholic and was kicked out of the home by my dad’s adoptive mother – she did remarry and my dad was adopted a second time when he was already 8 years old). My dad never seemed to want to know anything about his origins. I have wondered if he was afraid of what he would find out. He told my mom regarding her own desires, “you might open up a can of worms.” That is telling in my own heart.

Many adoptive parents actually do adopt to SAVE some kid from some fate worse than death which they imagine would have been the outcome otherwise. This is called saviorism and is very common among evangelical Christians.

You can interpret the rest however your heart whispers to you.

Accepting Reality

. . . really ought to be accepted.  An adoptive mother writes, “My hearts desire was to be a Mom. If I could have carried and delivered a biological child, my health insurance would have picked up most of the cost. I certainly couldn’t afford to pay the entire hospital bill out of my pocket.”

“I think there are more reasons than just financial ones that an expectant mother considers when deciding to place their child for adoption. I can understand your feelings.”

“There is no insurance to help pay for the process. I certainly couldn’t afford the adoption process out of pocket without fundraising. It does seem like we adoptive parents are ‘buying’ a child. The whole process needs to be revamped. There needs to be more programs to assist hopeful adoptive parents afford the process or lobby government for better adoption credits, funding, etc.”

“We were helped and supported by so many in our family and community. I do feel it is unfair for people to say, ‘don’t adopt if you can’t afford it’.  Some of us have no other choice but to seek outside funding to realize our dreams.”

Infertility – maybe it is God’s will ? Infertility isn’t fair, but it still doesn’t entitle you to someone else’s baby. Dreams of having a baby are a part of life for many people. But not all dreams are possible to realize.  Try getting a puppy. No one is entitled to children. It’s not a need. It’s a want. It’s a BIG want, but it’s still just a want.

If God doesn’t make mistakes, then the mother into who’s womb that baby you want to adopt was placed was the right one to begin with. It’s a shame that struggling mothers need to worry about basic necessities after having a baby. I sincerely wish society would band together to assist struggling expectant mothers rather than prey on their vulnerability when it is time for them to give birth. Adoption is not the natural order of life and should happen only in the rarest of circumstances. It should never, ever happen due to a lack of money or support. We are a failure as a society because this happens.

A difficult to hear but totally reasonable reply to the above could be – “Why is the dream always to get their own baby and not help someone with their baby ? Is it that hard to be a good human? Women that are dealing with a crisis pregnancy should not be shamed into giving that child away simply because they are not as well off as hopeful adoptive parents. Why does someone that has more money deserve to raise that child more than that child’s own mother ? Why don’t we as a society support women so they can parent their children. A struggling mom is deemed at fault because she got pregnant but can’t afford to raise her kid ? Maybe we need a better social system in this country so there isn’t such a class disparity. Fundraising to take someone else’s child away from them when they are struggling financially is disgusting. Hopeful adoptive parents are no more worthy of being a parent than anyone else.”

One woman replied to the above – “Fun fact: My brother and his wife have two biological daughters born almost exactly two years apart. When the second daughter was about 2 months old, they finally received their last hospital bill for the birth of the first daughter two years prior. This was a regular, uncomplicated vaginally delivery with no extended hospital stay and no special care for the baby. Both parents had health insurance through their employers. This idea that adoption is so much more expensive than giving birth to a biological child is a myth. Especially in the US.”

Personally, I really like this reply – “Why don’t men have to have a certain financial reserve in the bank before they have sex ? Why do they have sex with women if they are not able and willing to support a child ? Why have sex if you can’t take care of a baby ? It makes no sense. The responsibility for a child’s conception is NEVER about the man’s responsibility. Ever. And men are the ones who also overwhelmingly push for laws governing a woman’s body. ”

A 69 year old woman who was adopted and then gave up a child as a very young woman admits, “No one comes out of adoption without deep sorrow, the pain of never being good enough lasts a lifetime.”

There are many people who have been touched by adoption that are making an effort every day to make adoption a rare event.