What’s Done Is Done

I think that I need to add some context.  What I seek is to promote reform in the methods of securing for children who need that, a loving and stable home.  It is not my intent to pass judgement on anyone who has adopted a child and is raising that child.  What is done is done.

I would hope that any prospective adoptive parents reading this blog would pause in their headlong rush to acquire someone else’s rightful baby.  One suggestion would be to read The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier.  Actually that is good advice for people who have already adopted and would like to understand their adopted child better.  She says of her book – it is written for the adoptees, birth and adoptive parents as a bridge to understanding their child(ren) and to promote the healing process for all of them.  Rearing an adopted child is different from rearing one’s biological child.

Ms Verrier is the mother of two daughters – one adopted and one she gave birth to.  She also has a master’s degree in clinical psychology and is in private practice counseling members of the triad.  I learned about her by being in a private Facebook group of adoptees, original mothers and adoptive parents.  I have learned a lot from them, especially about the effects of adoption as adult adoptees begin to wake up and speak loudly about their experiences.  I know how it feels not to raise my own precious daughter, so I have a sense of what birth mothers feel and that pain of separation as well.  Navigating the complexes of interacting with a second mother who is more mother to my daughter than I am.  It is not an easy path.

I am not an adoptee myself.

My parents were both adoptees, both of my sisters are birth mothers who surrendered a child to adoption and one of my sister’s lost her child in court proceedings.  So there is a lot of observation of life experience to cause my interest in ALL things adoption.  I have read many books and articles and I listen to the wounded in the private group.  Two years ago, I would NOT have said a word against adoption.  Today, I realize how lucky I am that I was not given up when my teenage, unwed mother discovered I was growing within her.

It has been a journey in which my perspectives on adoption have changed radically in only about two years time.  There is no going back for me and I cannot promote or cheer on adoption as it is mostly practiced today.  I know too much now.  No more unicorns and rainbows and I have woken up from my own kind of adoption fog.

So here is where I am at regarding FUTURE loving homes for the children that need it.

Guardianship (kinship if possible), no name changes, no birth certificate alterations, total transparency in an age appropriate manner as to the child’s biological/genetic family and full access to the complete medical histories of their parents. Reform is needed. Making MORE adoptions possible is NOT what I support at all. Loving homes – yes – non-abusive circumstances – absolutely !!

I also support ALL mothers who want to raise their children being financially supported at least until the child(ren) reach maturity.  That would have certainly helped me and at least one of my two sisters remain in our childrens’ lives as we expected when they were born.  If we can obscenely support rich people and corporations and huge military budgets, we could actually support families. That our society does NOT is a travesty with mental health and self-esteem impacts.

Lacking Permanency

After I learned who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted and died knowing effectively nothing about their own familial roots), I began to learn about the impacts of adoption.  I read a really good book on this subject – The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier (definitely highly recommended for anyone else who is interested in understanding).  I also joined a group about adoption that is all about facing the realities.  Member of the whole triad of original parents, adoptees and adoptive parents belong to this group and I have learned a lot about the issues from the diversity.

From letters written by my adoptive grandmother in the late 1930s to the Tennessee Children’s Home staff – Fanny Elrod and Georgia Tann – there are indications that my mom had been upset the whole time she was being taken by my adoptive grandmother by train from Memphis to Nogales Arizona as a 7 mos old infant and that she may have been drugged by a doctor upon arrival there to calm her down.

Though letters from my adoptive grandmother in the early years of my mom’s life indicate that she was over the moon happy with my mom as her adopted child, I know that my mom never felt she lived up to my grandmother’s high standards.  I understand this personally as she was a phenomenal woman and I had my own run-ins with her opinions about me that were deeply hurtful.

My grandmother grew up not far from me in Missouri.  Her mom was lazy by my grandmother’s accounts – only interested in her bible and not in her household – and both her mother and sister were fat (confirmed in photographs of the whole family together).  My grandmother maintained a very trim figure all her life to match the trim figures of her sisters-in-law and worked hard at that by denying herself fattening foods to maintain her figure.  She criticized me once in a public place quite loudly for taking a dinner roll and putting butter on it.  I didn’t even speak to her for a whole 24 hours I was so upset.

Adoptees do not feel special because someone chose to adopt them.  They always feel at risk of being rejected and abandoned all over again if they don’t live up to their adoptive parents’ expectations.  For that reason they become people pleasers as my own mom definitely was.  She was described very positively after she died by the people who knew her but I wonder now – at what price internally did she accomplish that high regard ?

Unintended Consequences

The narrative around adoption is often described as Unicorns and Rainbows by adult adoptees.  That is because the stories that hopeful adoptive couples buy into are not the reality they are likely to live when they take another woman’s child as their own.

They honestly believe they are doing a good thing and being a beneficial presence in the life of a blank slate baby.  It is an uninformed perspective.  Every adoption has some degree of trauma at its core.  If the adoptee was an infant, newly born when the adoption occurred, that trauma is not even conscious nor can it be verbalized.  It is buried deep in the core of that developing fetus during the time it was connected to the original mother.  That bonding has only recently begun to be more fully understood but it is at the root of much that later is seen as challenging behavior.

One outcome I didn’t see coming as I uncovered the identities of my original grandparents (both of my own parents were adoptees) was that I would go on to learn about all of the inconvenient truths around the process of adoption as it was practiced at the time my own parents were adopted (both spent 6-8 months with their original mothers before the separation occurred – I can only imagine the upset when they were torn away from her).

I also learned about the time period called the Baby Scoop Era – which began with the end of World War II and continued into the 1970s.  From 1945 to 1973, it is estimated that up to 4 million parents in the United States placed children for adoption, with 2 million during the 1960s alone.  That is a staggering number of adoptees that have grown into mature adults.  Each with some degree of wounding from the process.

Because adoption was experienced as a normal occurrence in my childhood family, both of my sisters would go on to give up their own children to adoption shortly after birth.  A pattern of mother/child separations plagued my sisters and I.  Beyond adoption, in one way or another, two more of our children were raised by someone other than ourselves.

I have learned so much but if you who are reading this are considering becoming an adoptive parent yourself, please read first The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier and inform yourself honestly about what you are contemplating.  She is the mother of two daughters – one adopted and one she birthed.  She has a degree in clinical psychology and has a good depth of experience from which to inform your decision.