An adoptee writes – “My birthday was a few days ago, and with Mother’s Day this weekend, there are a lot of complicated emotions flying around.”
Some background from the adoptee – I was adopted at birth by my aunt (my genetic mom’s sister) and uncle, and moved several states away. I was given a new name, new Birth Certificate, the whole works. My adoptive parents had been trying for a baby, and since my original mom didn’t have the resources (job, place of her own) they asked to adopt me. A month after I was born, my adoptive parents ended up pregnant with my brother. My sister followed a year later. I do not look like anyone in my adoptive family and I never felt like I fit in or belonged. I was treated way differently than my siblings. My adoptive mother passed away when I was 19. Since then, I’ve had a mediocre relationship with my adoptive dad, barely there communication with my brother, and my sister won’t acknowledge my existence.
I was a rebellious, angry teen, and my issues carried over into adulthood. I caused my family a lot of pain, but had no idea that any of my issues were likely caused by trauma. That said, I take responsibility for my decisions, own up to them, and have repaired relationships where possible. Still, I have lived most of my life filled with shame and thinking I am defective and a bad person regarding some of the choices I’ve made.
After years of therapy for depression and anxiety, a wonderful therapist suggested that my lifelong issues could be a result of adoption trauma. I brushed her off, saying “My adoption happened a long time ago. I’ve dealt with it. I’m fine.” And she gently replied, “No, I don’t think you are.” And so it was, that I started coming out of the fog five years ago, right around the time I turned 40.
I have always known who my mother was, but never got to know her and have only met her three times. The first was when I was 3. She visited with her new husband so that she could come clean about her “past.” The second was when I was 15. I was in the throes of angsty adolescence and started having issues around my identity. The whole purpose of my visit was to talk to her openly about my adoption, but…although her husband knew I was her daughter, she would not acknowledge that I was his sister to my half brother, who was 10 years old at the time. I had to tiptoe around for a week while he called me “cousin.” More shame. The last time I saw her was at my adoptive mother’s funeral, almost 26 years ago. We talk here and there, mostly on Facebook, but I literally don’t feel anything for her. She still talks of giving me up as being “the best thing” for me, without acknowledging the harm. I realize she was in an impossible situation, but just to have her see me, acknowledge the hurt I experienced and continue to deal with, would mean so much.
This St Patrick’s Day, I am happily feeling my roots. It is something I was denied by both of my parents being adopted, until I was able to discover them thanks to my own efforts, when I was already well into my own 6th decade. The “advice from a flower” in the graphic above certainly suits the experiences of some adoptees necessitating that they grow through adversity.
My dad’s name was changed from his birth name, Arthur Martin, to Patrick (plus more than one adoptive father’s name for his middle, as his adoptive mother divorced an abusive alcoholic and later married a WWII veteran, who adopted my dad for the second time in his life at the age of 8). Turns out that my dad’s grandmother was full blooded Irish. My dad’s adoptive parents were poor and I remember stories of him almost starving to death as a youth in New Mexico while they staked a prospector’s claim near Magdalena New Mexico hoping to strike it rich – they did fail.
St Patrick’s Day always reminded me that my dad’s birthday would be on the following day. He also liked to drink beer but not the green kind LOL. Lately, I listen to the calm, relaxing music of Tim Janis while do my 6 blood pressure checks. If I can totally quiet my mind (not always possible but good practice), I can get my blood pressure down. Today I chose his Celtic Country offering with images from Ireland and flute music. I managed to get my blood pressure down 14 points over the 6 readings.
We used to go to a neighbor’s house for Corned Beef and Cabbage on St Patrick’s Day. She made the best and her parents came from County Cork so it was in her genes. She was a tiny elf like lady but often drank too much (maybe a cultural tendency) and was not patient with the arrival of our oldest son as he became a toddler, so we quit attending. After her husband ended up in a nursing home, we hiked up to their house. It was located up the perennial creek that flows by our own home and so we arrived to visit her, staunchly holding down their home base next to a lake.
We don’t eat beef anymore and potatoes are strictly a no-no given my blood sugar issues. Sigh. We won’t really be doing anything to celebrate “the” day this year (though quietly in my own way, I am). Even so, as I listened to Tim Janis’ music, I was able to feel deep into my Irish roots. What a wonderful feeling it is to know I have very old and deep roots. It will always be wrong in my own heart’s understandings that adoptees are robbed of this knowledge. There can be no good excuse and many adoptees are working to change that issue.
This comment came up in a discussion about how adoptive parents change the name of their adoptee when the adoption is finalized. One woman commented – “Nothing wrong with that, we started using his new name too to get him used to it. New life, new name.” She was quickly corrected – “I need you to fucking not. Adoption isn’t a “new life”, it’s a continuation of the life they are already living. This comment is insensitive at best.” This one had started new childcare job. She is a domestic infant adoptee. One child in her class is in the process of being adopted and that X is their legal name and Y is the name the adoptive parents have chosen to change it to. This child isn’t an infant, so the childcare workers are basically having to train the child to respond to a new name.
I will admit, I did a little sleuthing into the one who made the insensitive comment but could find nothing definite except that she is relatively new in the all things adoption group. There are some interesting photos but nothing certain as to her status in adoptionland but her comment seems to indicate an adoption there.
Lacking that, I looked for some context and found this recent (Oct 2022) article in The Atlantic LINK>Adoption Is Not a Fairy-Tale Ending, with the subtitle – It’s a complicated beginning. While maybe not perfectly what I was looking for, I did see how it begins – In America, popular narratives about adoption tend to focus on happy endings. Poor mothers who were predestined to give their children away for a “better life”; unwanted kids turned into chosen ones; made-for-television reunions years later. Since childhood, these story lines about the industry of infant adoptions had gradually seeped into my subconscious from movies, books, and the news.
The author, Erika Hayasaki, notes – researching a book on identical twins raised in radically different circumstances, the reality of adoption is far more complicated than some might think—and, as many adoptees and scholars have argued, deserving of a more clear-eyed appraisal across American culture. Her book, Somewhere Sisters, chronicles identical twins Isabella and Hà were born in Vietnam in 1998, and their mother struggled to care for them. Isabella (born Loan) was adopted by a wealthy, white American family that gave her a new name and raised her in the suburbs of Chicago. Hà was adopted by a biological aunt and her partner, and grew up in a rural village in Vietnam with sporadic electricity and frequent monsoons.
Twins have always fascinated me. I was born a Gemini and have always wondered what happened to my twin. When I was a child, my 13 month younger sister and I were often dressed alike and sometimes people thought we were twins. When my daughter was preschool age, she used to claim we were twins. I suppose I’ve had at least two surrogate twins in my life. I digress.
The author discovered that when reunions with birth families do happen, they aren’t always happy; they can be painful, confusing, or traumatic. Adoptees who are parents, lawyers, educators, or activists are challenging the rosy image of adoption that stubbornly persists in our culture. Children are not offered up for adoption in a vacuum. Many of them “are available because of certain, very strategic political policies.” Often the reasons for removing children from their parents comes under the heading of “neglect.” Throughout adoption history, this broad category has encompassed homelessness, poor hygiene, absent parents, and drug abuse in some instances, or simply leaving a child with caregivers outside the nuclear family.
A happily ever story after adoption often comes at the cost of forsaking everything that came before. The process, known in the adoptee community as coming out of the fog, refers to when an adoptee starts to see beyond the narrative about fate and question their true feelings about the adoption system, and how it has impacted their relationships, personalities, and identity formation. As the child of two adoptees, I also had my moment of coming out of the fog because adoption had seemed like the most natural thing to me until I was over 50, both of my parents had died and I began to discover my families true origins.
For me, coming out of the fog was, and continues to be, a process that involves simultaneously holding my adoptive grandparent’s love and good intentions in my heart’s memories alongside all the ways that adoption robbed me of what, for most people, is almost an unconsidered common reality. There are all of these contradictory realities within one’s experience of belonging to a family created by adoptions. The duality of that space can be hard for those without such a background to reasonably understand.
Marilyn Monroe’s mother went into a mental hospital and left her to orphanages and foster care. In My Story, Monroe wrote that she recalled seeing her mother “screaming and laughing” as she was forcibly taken to a State Hospital.
At age 11, Norma Jeane was declared a ward of the state. She lived in a total of 11 foster homes throughout her youth; when there was no foster home available, she sometimes ended up at the Hollygrove Orphanage in Los Angeles. As if moving from one foster home to another wasn’t difficult enough, Norma Jeane recalled being treated harshly in several of them. Even worse, she was abused including sexually in at least three of her foster care placements.
Here is one story from the Daily Mail, “The magic red sweater that turned ‘Norma Jeane, string bean’ into Marilyn Monroe” –
She told of being whipped by one foster mother for having touched ‘the bad part’ of her body. Another more serious incident occurred when she was eight. One evening a lodger she called Mr. Kimmel (Marilyn said later that this was not his real name) asked her to come into his room and locked the door behind her. He put his arms around her. She kicked and struggled. He did what he wanted, telling her to be a good girl. (In a later interview Marilyn stated that the abuse involved fondling). When he let her out, he handed her a coin and told her to buy herself an ice cream. She threw the coin in his face and ran to tell her foster mother what happened, but the woman wouldn’t listen.
“Shame on you,” her foster mother said. “Mr. Kimmel’s my star boarder.” Norma Jeane went to her room and cried all night. Marilyn said she felt dirty and took baths for days after it happened to feel clean. Such repeated attempts to feel clean through showers or baths are typical behavior for victims of assault. Marilyn also said she began to stutter after the incident and reverted to it at times of stress. When she told one interviewer about the abuse, she began stuttering. The evidence points to the fact that she was an abused child whose early sexualization led to her inappropriate behavior as an adult.
One of the reasons she chose to marry at 16 was simply to escape her foster care takers. She never knew who her father was. After getting married at 16, she later divorced and became a new persona. She went from Norma Jeane Baker to Marilyn Monroe in order to fit in, be accepted, and wanted…what she never wanted was to become a sex object.
Not many seem to have recognized that she was dealing with abandonment trauma her entire life. She overdosed at the age of 36. According to an article at a site called Vigilant Citizen, behind Monroe’s photogenic smile was a fragile individual who was exploited and subjected to mind control by powerful handlers. Through trauma and psychological programming, Monroe a became high-level puppet of society’s elite, even becoming JFK’s paramour.
One “conspiracy theory” asserts – “Some children live in foster homes, or with adopted parents, or in orphanages, or with caretakers and guardians. Because these children are at the mercy of the non-related adults, these types of children frequently are sold to become mind-controlled slaves of the intelligence agencies.” ~ Fritz Springmeier, The Illuminati Formula to Create a Mind Control Slave. Not saying that I believe conspiracy theories but often there are some facts that are foundational to them.
Industry insiders convinced Norma Jeane to undergo aesthetic surgery, to change her name to Marilyn Monroe and to change her hair color to platinum blonde. Monroe’s sensual, “dumb blond” persona allowed her to land roles in several movies, which began a clear culture shift in Hollywood.
Sharing a story from Georgia Public Broadcasting. It is not perfect (having their original parents able to care for and raise them) but it is the best possible outcome for these siblings, allowing them to grow up together with each other.
Her wish list for Christmas includes items typical of a 10-year-old girl, such as a cooking set and fake nails. But at the bottom, in larger letters, is a request:
That wish not only came true for the girl Monday, but Angela and Elliott Turbeville of Columbus also adopted five of her brothers — all in a joyful surprise. The Turbevilles surprised the children on December 20th with the news they would be going to court that afternoon to finalize the adoption. The Turbevilles creatively broke the news to the six children, ages 7-14, at their Green Island Hills home this week, before the two-year effort to go from foster to adoptive parents culminated in a courtroom.
When they awoke Monday morning, the kids got ready for school like usual. Outside, relatives started arriving for the surprise that would keep the children from going to school that day. Isabella, one of the Turbeville’s biological children and a Columbus State University student, brought 120 donuts. Elliott emerged from the garage to greet her. Then he took out his phone and started recording the scene as Isabella walked to the front door.
When one of the children opened the door, the others followed and saw on the front lawn a sign the Turbevilles had arranged to be put up overnight.
IT’S ADOPTION DAY
Wide-eyed and mouths agape, the kids soaked in the significance. One of them asked, “We’re adopted?” Angela answered, “Today, we’re going to court to be adopted.” The children shouted, “Yaaaaaaaaay!” After the bevy of family hugs, the 13-year-old boy sasid, “Coming right before Christmas, this is like the perfect time. … I’m just amazed and excited because we’ve been waiting for this a long time.”
Being adopted, instead of fostered, strengthens the sense of security the children feel. We’ve been through a lot of stuff that shouldn’t have happened,” he said. “Our parents should have taken care of us. But now, we have these parents that actually take care of us and feed us every day.” He smiled and continued, “They put me in my place when I’m in trouble.” Then he paused and added, “They just do everything right.” He noted the frustration the siblings shared when they were split in different foster homes and the gratitude they have for the Turbevilles to adopt them all together. “This is really rare,” he said. “They took this chance getting all of us. I thank them — and I thank God — for this.”
Seeing the children revel in the surprise, Angela said, “I’m just happy the day is finally here and that everybody will have the same last name.” Angela reflected on the legal hurdles they had to leap over to reach this moment, and emphasized that they still are working to adopt the seventh sibling. “I feel like I’m almost at the end of a marathon,” she said. Elliott said he was holding back his emotions until the adoption would be finalized later that day. “I’m just happy to see how surprised they were and how happy they are,” he said.
The family rode downtown in a chauffeured party bus for the adoption hearing in a 10th-floor courtroom at the Government Center, with Superior Court Judge Maureen Gottfried presiding. About two dozen relatives and friends were in the gallery.
“This is just a really, really, happy, happy day,” Gottfried told them. “I’m so glad that all of y’all are here to celebrate because this is really a celebration of a bad situation turning great.” About 10 minutes later, after Tom Tebeau, the Turbevilles’ lawyer, presented his clients and their case to the court, Gottfried approved the adoption. “These kids,” Gottfried said, “y’all are getting what you deserve as children, to be able to be raised in a happy house and taken care of, loving each other, loving your parents and just having everything be great. So I’m very thrilled to be able to sign off on all these.”
Angela and Elliott are relieved the legal process delivered the result they sought. “It’s a dream come true to be able to adopt children,” Angela said. “I hate it that they were in foster care, but at least we get to give them a good life. … They’re safe, and they’re happy, and we’re their parents.”
The back story – Angela is a former elementary school teacher and tutor. Elliott is an associate director at Pratt & Whitney. Both are in their 40s. After raising three biological children, their bodies wouldn’t allow them to have more kids, but their hearts and minds yearned for them. They considered other options, such as in vitro fertilization, but fostering and eventually adoption better fit their mindset. They became certified foster parents in 2019.
“There’s just thousands of kids in that need,” Elliott said. “So we figured, instead of going through all of that with her body and trying to make more of our own, why not just help kids already out there and need help?” That October, they received a call from Hope Foster Care, the child placing agency of the Methodist Home for Children & Youth: Would they foster four siblings? They figured they had raised three children, so this would be just one more. Then Angela was noticed one of the boys has the same birthdate of Elliott’s deceased mother. It was like a sign to her that this was the right thing to do. Elliott said, “She likes those coincidences.” I am like that too – my mom called these Godincidences.
That week, they learned the four children had three siblings in a foster home 2-3 hours away. After a period of Saturday visits over the next few months, Hope Foster Care asked whether the Turbevilles would take in the other three siblings as well. They agreed, but Angela asked for 30 days to get the house ready. That meant rearranging rooms and buying bunkbeds. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic started in spring 2020 and the Turbervilles hunkered down in their house with their seven foster children. “Luckily, I was a schoolteacher, so I did homeschool,” Angela said.
That gave Angela time to help the children who were below grade level catch up. “The oldest boy is now almost at grade level (eighth grade) in most subjects,” he said. “He came to me on a kindergarten/first-grade reading level 2½ years ago.” Now, all the children in school are on the honor roll. “They’re smart,” Angela said. “They understand where they came from. They understand where they are. … Their mom was a foster child, so we’re trying to break that cycle. My goal is to get them educated, keep them out of jail and be productive citizens.”
When the seventh-grade boy came home last month with a gift card for having the highest math test score in his grade, he told Angela he wanted to use it for the family to buy groceries for Thanksgiving. “That was a big deal for him,” she said.
The Turbevilles gained the children’s trust by striking the fine balance between providing them a structured yet compassionate home, where promises are kept, Elliott said. “A lot of it is routine and being open and honest and setting clear expectations and just making them feel safe,” he said. “… They came from an environment that they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from.”
The children had been asking the Turbevilles for two years to adopt them, Angela said. This past spring, the Turbevilles learned the juvenile court in Floyd County had terminated the parental rights of the biological mother and fathers for the six oldest siblings, allowing them to start the adoption process. In addition to taking on a new last name, some of the children also chose to change their first name or middle name to something connected to the Turbeville family.
“It’s just confirmation that we’ve doing the right thing for these kids,” Elliott said. “… Every kid deserves a chance. … There’s just so much angst and bad stuff out there. If we can carve out a little area and make them better, make us better as a result and let them go out and make the world a better place as well, I know that sounds kind of cheeky, but it’s just the general idea of doing something good instead of just sitting back and watching all the bad happen.”
The timing of the adoption process culminating five days before Christmas is a coincidence, the Turbevilles said — but a delightful one. “It’s a Christmas to remember,” Elliott said.
Their caseworker, Caytlin Merritt of Hope Foster Care, called this case remarkable. She praised the Turbevilles for their patience with the children and for being fierce advocates when it comes to “going above and beyond” to fulfill their needs. “Not only have they welcomed these kids into their home and love them, but now they’re opening their hearts to them forever. That’s a huge commitment and sacrifice on their part, and they have just been all-in from day one. … It’s just a joy and a pleasure to have been a witness to that and support them.”
Beyond the number of children the Turbevilles adopted, what makes their case even more special, Merritt said, is their willingness to take in older children and keep siblings together. “There are not many foster homes currently able to take more than two children at a time and even fewer that are willing to take in teens,” Merritt said. “This means that siblings are often separated and may be placed in different counties, sometimes hours from each other. We want to do everything we can to keep teens in foster families, not group homes, and to keep sibling groups together.”
I work with this guy who’s sister lost her 4 kids. Of those 4, he and his mom have 3 of them. When the children went into Child Protective Services care, the baby was not given to the grandma but to a foster family, a lesbian couple.
I was talking with my coworker yesterday and he said they just went to the baby’s second birthday party. Apparently, they have a good relationship with the couple. He told me they’re about to adopt his nephew and change the baby’s whole name. He said one of the wives comes from a similar situation and her adoptive family changed her name and she was glad they did because she hated her original name. So they’re changing his name, so that he doesn’t grow up hating his name like she did.
I told my coworker, the little boy will likely grow up hating his name because they changed it. I also told him that changing the little boy’s name means his original birth certificate will be closed and sealed. Doing this is destroying a part of that little boy.
My coworker said he doesn’t like it either but understands why they want to do it.
Each of my parents was born with a meaningful name indicating family and personal relationships given to them by the woman who gave birth to them. In the kind of inside joke that only two adoptees could share, my dad sometimes called my mom by the name she was born under – Frances Irene.
It appears that the Frances may have come from a family that helped my grandmother when she first returned to Memphis with her two month old daughter. She probably had some connection to them before she gave birth to my mom in Virginia. When investigating my mom’s circumstances before adoption, Georgia Tann noted some vague family relationship between my grandmother and this family. I’ve been unable to track that back through Ancestry in order to prove it.
It appears my maternal grandmother was sent away from Tennessee to give birth by her father, after her lawfully wedded husband returned to Arkansas where his mother was caring for two daughters given him by his deceased first wife. Why he left her 4 mos pregnant or why he didn’t come back when informed she was in Memphis with the baby, I can never know though my heart yearns to.
Irene was the name of my maternal grandmother’s own mother who died when my grandmother was only 11 years old leaving her the woman of the house in charge of caring for her four siblings, two girls and two boys, the youngest only about a year old.
My mom’s name was changed to Julie Sue. My grandmother adopted a boy and then a girl through Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, Memphis branch. She stated in a letter to the society’s administrator that she wanted a Jill to go with her Jack. My mom’s adoptive brother was named John. So my adoptive grandmother was subtle about that heartfelt intention of hers when re-naming her children
When a person is adopted, their name is often changed by the couple that adopts them. Sometimes their date of birth and even the geographic location where they were born may be altered on the new birth certificate created for the adoptee showing the adoptive couple as their parents, as though these people gave birth to them.
It turned out the name my dad was given at birth was an important clue to his identity. My paternal grandmother named him Arthur Martin. Arthur was the man married to her aunt and she was working at their motel and restaurant at the beach in La Jolla California when she met my paternal grandfather. Unfortunately, he was also a married man. By the time she knew she was pregnant, she probably knew that marital status related to him as well. It appears he never knew he had a son.
Martin was the name of the man who fathered my dad. When I connected with a cousin who lives in Mexico, I discovered that she had my paternal grandmother’s photo albums (a real treasure trove of images). Next to a photo of my grandmother holding my dad in her lap, was the headshot of a man and she wrote his name, Martin Hansen, and boyfriend on the back.
My adoptive grandmother named my dad Thomas Patrick. The Thomas was the man she was married to when she adopted my dad. Since his birthday was only one day off from St Patrick’s Day (and that is why I never forgot his birthday), that may be the only reason for the Patrick part of his name.
However, she divorced that man and re-married and so my dad was adopted twice and his name changed again when he was already 8 years old to Gale Patrick – the Gale being her new husband’s name. It may not have been too confusing for him because he was called Pat all the years I knew him, at least.
In addition to the name changes, an adoptee is dropped into a family they were not born into but must “pretend” their whole lives they are related to. I’ve not cared all that much about names, though I like mine and now that I know about my original grandparents find a “family” connection because my paternal grandmother’s oldest sister was also named Deborah. She was hit and killed by a reckless teenage driver when she was only 3 years old.
The name of a thing does not matter as much as the quality of the thing. ~ Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own identity and individuality. Some might say it is the most important word in the world to that person. … When someone remembers our name after meeting us, we feel respected and more important. It makes a positive and lasting impression on us.
I love hearing my sons say “Mom” and my grandchildren say “Grandma”. My oldest son, now 20 years old, sometimes says Steve or Debbie when referring to us but I see this as a maturity thing. Though most of us will still say Mom or Dad even when we are in our 60s, if we are so lucky to have them still living. Back in my early 20s, my young daughter (preschool age) did also sometimes call me Debbie. The children hear other people refer to us by our given names and that is a factual reality, we do carry the names we are given, unless we change them intentionally.
Adoptees are mostly never allowed to keep their birth given names after adoption. Their names are changed and their birth certificates altered. This is the erasing of an identity.
With foster care, the circumstances can be slightly different, as illustrated by today’s story.
Children ages 5 and 6 have spent 1 year with their current foster family. They have been in foster care for 2.5 years. The Termination of Parental Rights has already happened. The current foster family intends to adopt them.
Now the foster mom is crying that the kids keep calling her and her husband by their first names. They insist on calling their biological parents mom and dad. This is totally understandable as those people are their original, natural mom and dad. However, the foster mom says this hurts both of the foster parents’ feelings. Their reason for wanting to adopt is to grow their family. They want the kids to accept that, after adoption, they are the mom and dad now. They don’t want to be called by their first names going forward. They set an example by calling themselves mommy and daddy. The kids continue to persistently call them by their first names. The foster parents call the original birth parents – biodad or biomom – or even by their first names. Kids remain adamant and keep saying my “real” dad or “real” mom.
And the hurt feelings for the foster parents do not end and this matter to them because they’ve never had kids of their own before. They suffer from infertility and after years of trying, they want to become parents by adopting. They’re adopting to become “parents” not simply babysitters.
It upsets them that the original natural parents hardly made an effort to visit the kids and yet the kids still remember them and call them their parents, mom and dad. The foster parents are seeking to drive a wedge between the kids and their original natural parents by saying “A real parent takes care of you. Does not choose an addiction over you or go to prison.”
The foster parents are seeking to intentionally disrupt the children’s relationship to their original parents because it simply hurts them too much to not be called mommy and daddy by these children. The foster mom has said that it has always been her dream and desire to adopt. She is laying down the law !! She will not be called by her first name after adoption.
The foster parents had a fantasy that by now the kids would be happy to call them mommy and daddy. They believed that since these kids are so young, the kids would easily bond with them as parents by now. That after having been in foster care, these kids would be happy to receive a new mommy and daddy.
It would seem that good quality healthy people would not be obsessed with molding a child to be something they are not, when they are supposedly trying to help that child by adopting them. Why would they insist on erasing the factual family history from an innocent, already traumatized child ? Reasons why reform has become such an important concept in adoption and foster care.
When it would take so little, we fail them. Today’s adoption story of one such event.
I was born on September 5th. I was adopted on January 14th, after my First Mom changed her mind back toward the adoption. I was a private domestic adoption. She was young, she was in need of help that would have been so easy to give ! Literally all she would have needed was financial and childcare help! Yet the only help she was given was pressure to give me away to my adoptive parents.
I am sad for her that it happened. I am guiltily glad for me that it happened. But I am sad for EVERYONE that it happened the way it did. If given the choice, I WOULD choose my adoptive family. But I wish my adoptive parents would have known they could have adopted me without severing all physical and name ties to my birth family. So I’m having to come to terms with the fact that even though my adoptive Mom did everything “right” as far as an open adoption was in the 90s, it wasn’t right enough.
I’m having to come to terms with the fact that my First Mom has a right and a reason to all the anger that she has carried for so long that I brushed off because I didn’t understand. I feel guilty now for how much my words over the years have probably hurt her. Showing frustration with my birth name for example, because my adoptive parents kept it but never used it – so its been a hassle my whole life.
Now I think of my son and how he already knows his name and how it would be getting unofficially changed soon if he was me. And then my son, my son, my son. He was born on September 3rd and the idea that in two weeks I would be handing him over to strangers is breaking my heart.
Before having him “4 months” didn’t seem like a long time at all. It seemed like a blip. But these 4 months have been PACKED with bonding and memories and moments. Part of me wonders now if those 4 months were actually better for me and lessened the trauma somewhat? Or perhaps they made it worse?
I know there’s no baseline, so there’s no way to know BUT I see how happy and stable and easy going my son is and I tend to think that these 4 months with him have laid a solid foundation that at least he has had security and a bond with the woman who carried him for 9 months.
SO I tend to think that I am grateful for those 4 months I had with my First Mom. I wish I could tell her that without her brushing me off and not wanting to discuss the hard things. I wish I could tell my adoptive Mom that for all good intentions and overall desire to honor my First Mom, she was still wrong about so many things and has the potential now to at least help educate others.
Most of all I wish that I could stop thinking about how much my son knows me and my husband and his Grandmas already and how he 100% recognizes and prefers us to anyone else.
Lately, I’ve been reading a book with the title Healing the Split by John Nelson MD. The subtitle is “Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill”. It is a topic of interest to me. I’ve not read very far into the book and it is a lot of pages but it seems worth the time. I give it approx an hour a day but am taking notes, so I don’t go very far but do have lots of time to digest the content.
This caused me to think about how it might apply to adoptees. It cannot be anything but a bit odd to know you were born to someone else – not the parents who are raising you. And that you had a different name at birth but the people who are raising you changed your name. You have no knowledge of genetic relatives, no natural mirror of your self that most people have their whole lives and no family medical history of any quantity or quality to convey to your doctor.
It is known that adoptees in general suffer more mental health effects than the general population and given what I just outlined above, it can come as no surprise that an adoptee might. While genetics always contributes some vulnerabilities in any person, adoptees have slightly more mental health problems – such as depressive symptoms, bipolar disorder, higher neuroticism and loneliness. Researchers into the impacts have found a slightly elevated genetic risk of depression, schizophrenia and neuroticism among adoptees. Personally, I believe this could be the result of conflicted feelings in the gestating mother. Not that I am a scientist or expert in this field.
The adoption of children may be a fundamental method of building families for some couples. However, adoptees often face subsequent adaptive challenges associated with family stress at the time of birth and during the adoption process. How could it be otherwise ? The main factor in these effects is both environmental and genetic.
It is known that psychiatric disorders, which includes depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are, to varying degrees, inheritable. The good news is that adoptees in a study reported being happy and satisfied with their lives. When compared to the general population, the study participants were more likely to be male, to smoke, have less education, attain a lower income, and to experience more stressful life events.
Research found that genetic risk and adoption are both predictors of psychiatric problems. So, importantly both adoption and genetic risk contribute only a small amount to the individual differences in mental health. It does not surprise me that there are many factors that contribute to the development of mental health problems in any individual. It is also not surprising then that adopted children may face both special environmental and genetic risks which lead to adjustment problems and potentially mental illness.