A Miscarriage of Justice

The origination of many adoptions is the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage. One miscarriage leads to another miscarriage – that of taking a woman’s baby for one’s own self. It is often an act of trying to overcome honest grief and sorrow by inflicting a lifetime of grief and sorrow on another woman. Our society condones this behavior by creating mythic stories that adoptees often call the rainbows and unicorns narrative of how wonderful adoption is. In truth it is not more wonderful than the realistic slings and arrows of everyday life and for some (the adoptee and the birth mother) wounds to carry forever. Some eventually experience a reunion with one another and while these are mostly happy stories (but not always), there is no way to make up for decades of life going on with different trajectories for each person.

If this society was a just one, we could be taking care of our mothers and our children instead of allowing money to drive the exchange of human beings to fulfill the thwarted desires of the people with the financial means to purchase a baby. Oh I know, most adoptive parents don’t view it that way. I know most adoption agencies and facilitators don’t want to view themselves from a perspective that they are baby sellers in it to make a profit. It is so easy for people to delude themselves with feel good stories.

I don’t have a lot of optimism that the profit motivated adoption industry will end any time soon. I am only heartened that some of us keep trying to make the point that children belong with the people who conceived them. Children need to grow up within the genetic, biological familial roots from which they emerged. Yes, sometimes parents die. This has happened to my own grandmothers – both of them – and we’ve lost more than one mom in my little mom’s group that has existed a bit more than 17 years now. We’ve also lost a couple of fathers too.

Orphans do deserve care within a family structure but there is no need to change a child’s original identity or name in order to provide for them. Some parents in our modern society get messed up – with drugs, with violence, with the criminal justice system. These people need intensive restoration into functioning members of our society. It is complicated and not a quick fix. I’ll readily admit that.

Secondary Infertility

Thinking about my birthday as the day I separated from my mother understandably led me to think that my mom was separated from her mother twice – when she was born and at approx 6 mos old when she was taken by Georgia Tann for adoption. My grandmother tried to get my mom back 4 days after the papers were signed but was blocked in her efforts by the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. My maternal grandmother never had another child, though she doted immensely on her two nieces. I’m certain that she must of thought of my mom when she was with them. Though they called her Aunt Lou and even though I have seen in a communication post-surrender from my grandmother to Georgia Tann pleading for the photograph taken the last time she was with my mom (which I happily now possess), she signed her name Elizabeth.

However on my mom’s birth certificate she is named as Lizzie Lou Stark and she appears by that name in many of my mom’s adoption file papers, she seems to have dropped Lizzie and simply went by Lou. I’ve always called her by the double name – Lizzie Lou – and I am told she was a fun person. But she never had another child.

In learning about all things adoption (huge interest since there are 4 adoptions in my immediate birth family – both of my parents, a niece and a nephew were all adopted), I have learned that secondary infertility after relinquishing a baby is not all that uncommon.

Secondary Infertility and Birth Mothers by Isabel Andrews – Abstract in Psychoanalytic Inquiry (there is a paywall if you care to read further) –

Relinquishing a child has had lifelong consequences for women and for adoptees. This article explores a little-discussed aspect—secondary infertility, birth mothers who did not have other children. To my knowledge, this is the first study to research the incidence of secondary infertility and its impact on the women concerned. I discovered that between 13–20% of birth mothers do not go on to have other children. For a few, this is a conscious decision; however, for the majority there was either no known reason for infertility or their life circumstances foisted it on them, i.e., lack of suitable partner. Relinquishing their child has meant losing their only opportunity to parent a birth child, and that has bought tremendous anguish. Women considering relinquishing a child need to be made aware that secondary infertility is a real and present possibility.

The Declassified Adoptee wrote a blog about it that you can read – Should Secondary Infertility Rates of Birth Mothers be Disclosed in Adoption Counseling? – in which she refers to the article I linked above. The blogger writes – “Andrews was extremely respectful to mothers and recognized the deep loss that many of these mothers feel and expressed it eloquently in her article.”

Nancy Verrier who’s book The Primal Wound I have read, is referenced with this note – Andrews read that 40-60% of mothers who have lost children to adoption did not go on to have other children – that prompted Andrews to conduct this study.  She too found that 40-60% of the original mothers seeking support from Adoption Jigsaw did not go on to have other children and wanted to determine if this percentage was accurate.  She conducted a study that recorded (1) secondary infertility of original mothers seeking support from Adoption Jigsaw (2) secondary infertility reported from data recorded during the search and reunions conducted through Adoption Jigsaw and (3) information that was returned on questionnaires sent out to original mothers.

Andrews feels that in society, original mothers may not necessarily be regarded as being “mother” to the children they relinquished for adoption which may cause a more profound feeling of loss if they have not experienced motherhood and parenting by having more children. My mom’s cousins when I was finally able to communicate with them did indicate a knowledge that my grandmother had given up a child for adoption. It is true she signed the surrender papers. However, reading between the lines in the approx 100 pages I received as her file, it is clear my grandmother was exploited for her desperation caused by poverty and a lack of familial support to offset that.

Losing a baby is one of life’s greatest traumas; losing a baby to adoption is just as traumatic, if not more so.  When a baby dies, the parents receive enormous support, love, and understanding,  A funeral is held, cards, flowers, and visits recognize their devastation.  When a mother or couple lose a baby to adoption, particularly in the past, there is no recognition of birth, and thus none of loss” (Andrews, 2010, p. 91).

This current pregnancy (in which surrender is being considered) may be a mother’s only opportunity to parent and it is unethical, as is so often done in counseling, to tell her she is guaranteed to be able to parent other children in the future. (Amanda Woolston, June 26 2010, in her blog)

Believe It Or Not – I Do

Today’s story –

I wanted to share a little story as I believe we retain memories from when we were in the womb and I’m tired of people saying infants don’t experience trauma being separated from their mom or that we were too young to remember. I’m a domestic infant adoption. I was adopted before I was born and it was finalized 3 months after. My mom never saw me or held me outside her body. They wouldn’t let her because they were afraid she’d change her mind. When I was a kid, I tried to get everyone to call me Storm. I wanted to change my name. I felt, deeply, that I was Storm. Nobody would call me that, and some made fun of me, so I stopped, but I still called myself that on the inside. Fast forward many years. I met my biological mom when I was 21. I immediately recognized her and even recognized her smell. I asked her if she’d named me. She said yes, I named you Stormy.

Here’s my personal version. On my mom’s original birth certificate that I received with her adoption file from the state of Tennessee, her mom’s name is listed as Lizzie Lou Stark (her maiden name which is common on birth certificates, she was married, her married surname was Moore). I have referred to my original maternal grandmother as Lizzie Lou ever since I knew her name. Finally, met some of my mom’s maternal line cousins (my mom died in 2015 knowing nothing except that her parents were Mr & Mrs J C Moore – not a lot to go on, so common and vague), they refer to her as Aunt Lou. Well, my middle sister, born 13 mos after me was named Lou Anne. There was a sister in law of my dad’s adoptive mother we called Aunt Anne as children. But the “Lou” part ? My husband has theorized that as my mom wasn’t separated from her mother until she was about 8 months old and was physically present with her until she was 6 months old, deep in my mom’s infant memory was the name “Lou”. Therefore, this story this morning made me smile and I read it to my husband.

Another adoptee shares – I have a similar story, though not nearly as amazing because I wasn’t adopted until I was 13 months old. But I wasn’t talking yet, and in 1978, my parents were told I’d have no memories of my first year of life. Once I could speak, I asked what had happened to my dog, and about my yellow house with a fence. Both of those memories were accurate I found out when I found my biological family. Also, anytime I pretended to be someone else with my friends, I picked a name similar to Nicole. It turns out my first name was Tiffany Nicole, and I was called Nikki.

And one more for Foster Care Awareness Month – I was put in a temporary foster home from birth to two months when I was placed with my adoptive parents. From the time I could speak, every baby doll I ever had I named Amy. I found out at age 20 that my name in foster care was Amy.

Is It Really Possible ?

A discussion in an adoptee’s group caught my attention yesterday but it wasn’t the first time I have pondered this coincidence (which I don’t actually believe is one).

A woman noted that on her first Christmas in her new adoptive home she was given a doll.  She named her doll Carol.  Decades later she learned her natural mother’s name was Carol.  Her adoptive family said it was only a coincidence because she was so very young could not have known.  The good ol’ blank slate theory.

My mom died never knowing her natural mother’s name (she only knew her parents were Mr & Mrs J C Moore which hardly told us anything at all !).  My husband and I have theorized that she named my sister LOU Anne because she had heard her mother’s name while in the womb since we know that fetuses in the womb can hear.

My grandmother signed her name on my mom’s original birth certificate “Lizzie Lou” and in letters to Georgia Tann after losing my mom to that master manipulator and in a divorce from my mom’s natural father, her first name is listed as Elizabeth.

However, imagine my wonder in coming into contact with my mom’s cousins (the children of my grandmother’s youngest brother) and hearing them refer to my grandmother as Aunt Lou !!

Not only that but the first time I saw a photo of my grandmother I thought she looked a lot like my sister Louanne.  I believe.

Ownership

“Naming is claiming – go for it!!!”

There’s power in a name, naming and claiming a child for yourself.  So many adoptive parents, re-name the child they adopt, and thereby seek to make it something the child was not born as – their own.

Tied like charms to a ribbon are thorny bits of memory…perhaps pre-verbal.  A sense that one had been someone else “before” adoption.

There’s far too much power given to adoptive parents over a child.  When they endow you with a name of their own choosing, you become their property.

An adoptee was always who they were born as.  No one thought to ask their permission before they changed the child’s birth certificate to create a false identity for them because they were simply too young to ask.

Of all the reforms I have been learning about from the adoptees themselves, not changing the names they were born with or re-doing their birth certificates to take ownership of them, like one would with the title to a car, would be a respectful and considerate decision.

If they want to change what the world calls them when they are old enough to understand the power that is their own name, then that is their choice, not someone else’s.

What Does DNA Have To Do With It

My Great Aunt Deborah

In describing the Mystic Aspect in her book The Primal Wound, author Nancy Newton Verrier speaks of the unconscious connection between an adoptee and his or her biological family.

In her book, she shares two stories of adoptees where the naming of some child turns out to be the same as a name chosen by the adoptee for another person.

I was named Deborah, the name of my own father’s original aunt who died at age 3 (she was run over by a car). When my own daughter was very young, a woman I worked with lost her young son the same way. I put the fear into my daughter to protect her until she was old enough not to need such a protection.  Was I unconsciously reacting to some memory in my own DNA ?

My parents named my sister who was born 13 mos after me “Lou” Anne.  My mom’s natural mother’s name was Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lou.  When I found him, her nephew referred to her as Aunt Lou.

BTW, my parents did NOT know any of these names as relevant to their original families because they actually died knowing little to nothing about their own origins.

Obviously, I’m a believer that memory becomes encoded in our very DNA !!