I Think It Will Always Be Sad

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.

Before Surrendering to Adoption

Along with other reform efforts, this idea really appeals to me. A mom who is thinking about placing her child for adoption, should have real unbiased counseling beforehand. Especially if the mom is a teen or young adult. A mom shouldn’t feel pressured to place. She should know her rights. This is her baby. She doesn’t owe anyone her baby.

If she does decide to place she needs to know everything. Especially about open adoption not being legally enforceable. This is rarely, if ever, mentioned to the mom. She doesn’t have to sign at the 72 or 48 hour mark. She can change her mind anytime. She can take her time. She can take her baby home, if she chooses to.

This is what happens all too often. An expectant mom is thinking about adoption but she isn’t really sure yet that she wants to give up her child. At the same time, there are hopeful adoptive parents getting their hopes up and the agency, who has a profit motive in the game, puts a lot of pressure on the young mom to place. Especially, when it comes to teens whose brains are still maturing. The brain doesn’t finish developing until 25-30 years old.

I think requiring expectant mothers to go through unbiased counseling would help the expectant mother make a choice without the interference of money motivated bias. Some of the language used with these young women suggests to them that they have nothing to offer their baby. These young women are told that not placing their child is a selfish decision. She may be further encouraged by dreams she had at the time she conceived of going to college and becoming successful in a profession. She is told that if she doesn’t surrender her child, she’ll fail in life.

She may also be suggested as a heroine, making a couple’s dream of becoming parents come true. Furthermore, if she decides not to places and so changes her mind – she will be breaking the hearts of some hopeful adoptive parents who have so very much more to offer her child than she does.

Young, expectant mothers should NOT have that kind of pressure put upon them. Real unbiased counseling can help these young women weigh their options more honestly and accurately. The sessions would allow the expectant mother to explore ALL if her feelings about pregnancy and not only dwell on her doubts and fears.

Sure, adoption agencies offer provide a kind of counseling. But really ? One cannot judge it to be un-baised when money is the motivator for the agency. The expectant mother has a “product” to offer and adoption is presented as the only fair, reasonable and practical choice she truly has.

Chosen ? Special ? Really ?

In my adoption group, one woman wrote –

How are adoptees “chosen” and “special” and “soooo wanted” when hopeful adoptive parents would literally pick ANY baby under the sun?

Partially prompted by A Million Little Things when their adoption agency offers a replacement baby the *same day* they learn the natural mom they had bought decided to parent.

I only watched one episode. The natural mom decides to keep her baby, hopeful adoptive parents are upset, next thing the adoption agency calls saying another woman is in labor and they got “bumped to the front of the line” which sounds like a McDonald’s drive-through lane that dispenses babies. Thankfully, the woman says no… for that episode…

This same woman goes on to explain –

I’m French and was relinquished at birth. I went to an orphanage, for 2 months the birth mom has the right to come back for her baby, and nothing can happen, then legal initiates. I was legally free around 6 months by then they put me in a family that had paid $0 (adoption is always free) and vetted by social services for months.

Now they provide even more help for birth moms to parent, so the number of babies like me is only 700 per year, which discourages adoption as a way around fertility. That would be around 3,500 babies for the whole US, 50 per state.

And instead of foster homes we have a paid social worker taking kids in his home with a stipend on top of salary going to the kid’s needs. It doesn’t prevent hopeful adoptive parents from shopping for a kid abroad and is far from perfect but there is no commercialization of domestic babies, and even surrogacy is illegal.

An adoptive parent shared her perspective –

I am an adoptive parent that is still constantly learning and working through my own insecurities, I believe it all stems from the “meant to be” or “God’s plan” narrative that many/most adoptive parents feed into.

Like any disrupted match (in the eyes of the adoptive parent) is just not the child God has waiting for you. The one that worked out was the one all along. When one really thinks about it, it’s like the adoptee stated – any baby will do and becomes “chosen”. This group has helped me see the issues and concerns with this way of thinking. I am still always reading and learning though.

Another adoptee added –

As an adoptee I never felt chosen or special I felt sadness and confusion. When we were forced to adopt our foster baby we didn’t do any celebration and we didn’t announce it on Facebook etc. we didn’t start a Go Fund Me or beg for money on TikTok or share his journey. Only immediate family know.

Thank god it’s an open adoption and for the first year it was much like a divorced couple but the last year since his mom got married and has a new baby, visits and time with her have been less and less – at her request. My hope is once she settles into a new normal, she will spend more time with him. But I’ve never used those words with him.

And this came from South Africa –

I totally agree an adopted child should never be burdened with the “chosen”, “special” etc narrative. I had a domestic infant adoption with a private social worker. At the time I adopted, I tried to make sure I did NOT “choose” a specific child. The first child I was matched with luckily went home with his aunt. I was so happy for that child.

I was then matched with a different child, and again I tried to keep my heart from attaching to this specific child, in case his parents were able to parent. I was trying to keep in mind that what is best for the child is their family. I felt I was trying to offer a home for a child who needed it, and not attach and try to hold on to a child that could go to their family.

So many hopeful adoptive parents mourn the parents changing their mind – but surely that is the ideal situation.

Finally, this question – what birth mother actually doesn’t “want” her baby?

And this response – they exist but they are FEW and FAR between. The narrative of the droves and droves of unwanted babies in the US that are languishing away for help really burns me. (And I was one of those few, actual unwanted babies).

So what do adoptees actually feel ? We are not chosen. Quite the opposite. We’re discarded.

Limited Perspectives

I was thinking yesterday evening that the same mindset causes both adoptions and abortions. It is the limited perspective of the pregnant woman about what she believes she is capable of. In my adoption group there comes occasionally a pregnant woman who is trying to decide whether or not to surrender her baby to adoption. Not all adoptees say they are happy their mother didn’t abort them. It is a sad commentary on the experience of some adoptees and others feel they had a good enough life and accept that their mothers did the best they could in that moment for the higher good of all concerned.

So in the adoption group, when a pregnant mother shows up and hasn’t made a decision, the group always recommends several courses of action to her. The main one is – don’t decide right away. Don’t allow prospective adoptive parents to be at the hospital with you. Don’t sign the papers in advance. Spend some time with your infant. You can always make that choice – weeks, months later. Hopefully not years later when it may be even more traumatic. Give your infant some time with you. In these modern times, there are groups who will try to help you with the necessaries, at least in the short term.

I was reflecting recently on the fact that each of my parents were with their original mothers for about 6 to 8 months as infants. I take some comfort in knowing they had that forward development time not separated from the woman who gave birth to them. All a baby knows at birth is that mother who birthed them. I do know my dad’s mom breastfed him. I don’t know about my mom’s mom. Certainly once she was taken to Porter-Leath orphanage in Memphis, she would have been fed a bottle of formula (what was considered a formula at the time).

Most of the women who chose adoption or abortion do not believe they are capable of raising a child. Society’s willingness to financially help such women does not have a good track record. When I ran out of birth control while driving an 18-wheel truck cross county and quickly became pregnant, I knew that if I went through with that pregnancy, my partner was not going to be there for me. He said as much but he left my decisions up to me, if it can be called solely my decision under the circumstances. I already had struggled to raise my daughter following a divorce when I received no child support. Her father and a step-mother were raising her by this point. I chose an abortion. It was early in the pregnancy, the procedure was safe and legal and I’ve not regretted not being tied to that family by a child. I have struggled with the morality of it thanks to the vocal efforts of the Pro-Life contingent but it is a done deal.

As I have learned more about the subconscious trauma of babies being separated from their mothers for adoption, I am also glad I didn’t inflict that on my unrealized baby. I already had done enough damage to my daughter, though at the time I thought her circumstances were better than they were. Both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption. One always knew she was going to do that and went about it rather methodically. The other explored abortion but was too far along. She tried to get government assistance but was rejected because she was living with our parents and their financial resources were the grounds upon which she was denied (which I will always judge as very wrong of the system). Our mother, an adoptee herself, coerced my sister into choosing adoption. My parents were unwilling to take on the financial responsibility that potentially would have fallen upon them. We’ll never know what the alternatives would have yielded.

The point is that in my adoption group, time and again, I’ve seen a variety of outcomes. In some the young mother does wait and finds resources and decides without regret and great joy to try and parent her baby. Some make some other arrangements, either for temporary help or for an open adoption, that fail in some manner and it becomes a legal battle to get their child back or to know how the child is developing when as often happens, the adoptive parents renege on the open part.

It is said in a song – you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. And I think generally speaking whatever we get, actually is what we needed, because the reality is, that is what we got. Hasty decisions can lead to a lifetime of regrets. I’ve seen that too in women who relinquished their child. I’ve been told that was the case for both of my own original grandmothers. Both remarried. One went on to have other children.

Good Intentions, Broken Promises

I can’t even begin to count all of the sad stories I have read about open adoptions that don’t stay open. So many original mothers, who surrendered their baby for one reason or another, with expectations of continued contact, at the least photos and updates, who discover too late that they’ve been dismissed by the adoptive parents.

Here’s today’s story –

Her son is 4 and a half. She gave him up for adoption at birth to what she believed were the perfect adoptive parents. They promised her they’d keep her updated with pictures, texts, phone calls, etc. She just wanted to remain a part of her son’s life at a distance. She didn’t want to steal their thunder. She just wanted to know something about her son as he grows up but always intended to respect the adoptive parent’s relationship. The adoptive parents agreed to that expectation of the original mother.

They knew her situation, which was that she was single mom with 3 children to support. She had zero family to help her. She simply couldn’t afford another baby. Her son’s father (she also has a daughter by him) is from India. She knew he’d never be a part of his son’s life, as he isn’t even involved with his daughter.

Within a month of giving them her son, they stopped all communication. They won’t respond to any of her texts.

She is beside herself and doesn’t know what to do. She signed 50 pages of documents at the hospital, in a tiny room with 15 other people present as witnessed. They rushed her to sign the papers without giving her any time to read what she was signing first. They even had a taxi waiting outside for her and told her she needed to hurry up. She doesn’t have no clue what she signed.

She is at a loss as to what she can do now. Her son will be 5 in May. He has black hair, black eyes and beautiful golden skin. He doesn’t look anything like his adoptive parents, so it is likely he’s going to ask questions. She doesn’t want to step on any toes or ruin anyone’s relationship.

She just wants them to keep up their end of the deal. She admits that giving him up was the hardest decision she ever made. She only wants to be able to see his pictures. See how he’s doing in pre-Kindergarten. She just wants to know her son is alright.

She adds – “I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink. I don’t party. I’m a trauma bay RN and at the time, single mom struggling to feed my 3 kids and keep a home for them. I refused an abortion. I wanted my son to live a good life and accomplish something. I’m now engaged to a wonderful man that knows my struggle.”

This is a cautionary tale for any woman who is pregnant and contemplating giving her baby up for adoption because she has a set of prospective adoptive parents promising they will keep her updated. I’ve seen too many of these stories of the adoptive parents then closing communication. This woman ends her story with “How I wish I could go back in time and change my decision.”

Abandonment Part 1

Abandonment is a common, often unconscious, trauma issue in adoptees. However, there are many variations. When parents divorce and when one or both of the original parents of a child re-marry, it is not uncommon that the parental relationship of either the mother or the father suffers. More often it is the father, in my case in the mid-1970s, I was the absentee parent though I never thought of myself as having abandoned my precious daughter, she may have had experiences of that because at times I was not accessible to contact due to the partner I was living with.

Today’s story isn’t my own but another one where the abandonment behavior was even more extreme and where the original mother is considering adoption because her daughter wants a sibling (and many times after my divorce, my daughter did express to me the same desire for a sibling). In her case, her dad remarried a woman with a daughter from another marriage and then they had a daughter together. A yours, mine and ours family. Quite a bit later in time, I conceived and gave birth to two sons with my current, second husband. Here’s that story from a woman who has joined my adoption community.

I’m a 38 year old married woman with 2 children. 20 year old female stepdaughter and 14 year old bio daughter who is not my husbands. I had a hysterectomy 4 years ago and was devastated. My hubby and I don’t have any children together. I was invited to join this group because we have seriously been considering adopting. I wanted to learn as much as possible before starting the path.

Here’s my realization and questions. My 14 year old is amazing. Her bio dad and I had a great relationship until he met his now wife. Once she came into the picture his relationship with his daughter started to change. He saw her less and less, skipped visits, ignored me, etc.. then one day when she was 9 he served me papers and wanted to sever his custody. I was shocked. I didn’t understand. His daughter loves him. We never had any issues, I didn’t even ask him to ever pay a dime in child support. I have only just wanted them to have a relationship. There was no talking to him or his wife. They made up their minds. I refused to sign off.

They wanted my hubby to adopt my daughter and even though my hubby would do it in a heartbeat I refused. I wanted my daughter to be able to go to him one day and have the right to know why he gave her up. So I have full legal and physical custody and he has waived all visitation. I told my beautiful 9 year old girl that her daddy just needs a break from being a dad. That he has a lot of work and I’m sure he will see her soon. Yes I lied. I was hoping he’d come to his senses. So far he hasn’t.

During this time I have really tried to foster a relationship between his parents and my daughter. Also his sister and her kids. I WANT my daughter to have a relationship with her family. They really don’t know why he did this other than to say that his wife doesn’t want kids, did not like that her husband and I were on friendly terms (I am happily married, just wanted a good relationship with my ex for the sake of my daughter), and gave him an ultimatum… his daughter or her. He chose wrong.

Over the years the relationship with his parents has gotten strained. I have to be the one to reach out to them. They always mail birthday and Christmas gifts but don’t ever ask to see her. I offer to drive her to their house and pick her up, really everything to keep peace and give her a good relationship with them. She’s 14 now and hasn’t seen her dad since she was 9. She does know the truth behind his abandonment now.

We have been through YEARS of therapy. A suicide attempt, partial hospitalization, etc… she has a lot of issues in regards to this. We work on it every day and let her know how much we love her and that she is not worthless. She just doesn’t know/understand why her dad would do this to her.

Anyway, that’s my back story. So here is my other situation. I want to adopt. I want to be able to give a loving home to a child who may not have one currently. I’m not delusional in thinking that adopting is this sunshine and rainbows situation where there wouldn’t be trauma and issues. Seeing how my daughter has suffered with abandonment I have some insight.

Yes, I know it would be different because my daughter still has one bio parent where an adopted child possibly wouldn’t. I’m also completely open to having an open adoption where the child would have a relationship with their parents. I’m not going to lie to you all and say there isn’t a selfish component here. Yes, I DO want a child. I have grieved over the loss of being able to have any more children biologically. I just feel that we have a lot of love and support to offer.

I am going to leave it here for today and not go into her questions or the responses because this is long enough.

The Reluctant Birth Mother

So sharing with you today the tale of two women.  One gave birth to the little girl – the other adopted her.  I’ll let the adoptive mother speak here –

I am looking for advice. My daughter is 8 months old. Without sharing too much of her story, her birth mother initially preferred a closed adoption, however, after getting to know each other she was willing to let it be open. She initially didn’t want her daughter to know that she was her birth mother, she just wants to be a “family friend.” I cannot and will not lie to our daughter. Her birth mother and I haven’t spoken about this again, but as our daughter gets older, this will need to be addressed (sooner rather than later). Suggestions on how to address this with her mother?

Her birth mother has gradually decreased our communication from a few times a week to now monthly. I continue to send her text updates every 2 weeks and regularly share photos/videos to our privately shared album. She is no longer responding to any texts and only comments in the album maybe once a month. She rarely, if ever, answers my questions to her regarding her life, family, health etc.

I KNOW that she loves our daughter and that she is grieving. Her birth mother really is a wonderful soul and I believe she thought, in her circumstances, she was doing the best thing she could for her daughter. I also know that she is trying and struggling to care for herself and get herself back on her feet. Since she initially preferred a closed adoption, I am afraid if I give her too much space, she will stop responding completely. (I thought over time, her and I’s (and my husband) relationship would get closer and then better communication, and I had hoped visits, would follow).

My questions are –

What do I do? I have so many questions for my daughter. I want to be able to give her a “family tree” of her birth family. I want her to have visits and memories/pictures with/of them. I care very much about her birth mothers mental and physical health and am worried of pushing her too much too fast. Any suggestions on moving towards more regular communication and a more open relationship? Am I being impatient and need to give it more time? I’m afraid of looking back and thinking “I should have tried harder then”. Or, am I completely in the wrong here and need to follow her lead instead?

To some, this first bit of advice may seem extreme but when one considers the goal of family preservation it makes a lot of sense.  Adoptive parents are significantly more financially strong than the original parents which is often the main reason babies are surrendered.  Here it is – What if you invited her to live with you and get on her feet? Honestly, her daughter should be with her, and your role should be as a god parent, and letting her have the resources to stabilize will help her parent her daughter.

Another woman bluntly explains – Every communication may be horribly painful and fraught to her, this isn’t a casual friendship. You have her child.

And regarding semantics –  I suggest you use “lost a child to adoption”, instead of “placed.”

The adoptive mother is attempting to get a lot of information out of the birth mother which so far she does not answer.  In response to this effort by the adoptive mother, she is told – do not ask her questions! None of your business! Her business is her daughter. Your job is to facilitate contact however mom desires…and, it will change and vary for her lifetime!

And in an honest assessment – you can not force anyone to communicate or share anything and I don’t feel you’re giving adequate enough time for her to even begin to process anything ! (Again note – this child is only 8 months old !!)  You need to take a step back and stop trying to force anything before you ruin the chance of her daughter knowing her at all in any capacity – that’s how people push away! Keep putting in effort to show mom you’re willing when SHE IS READY – even if she decides not to! Still her choice !

Yet another woman added – I read your post as desperate to control, but not selfish per se–at this point it seems to me that you are trying to create a reality for your daughter that you see as ideal. There isn’t an ideal in this situation. You can’t create the ideal. You can forge a real relationship with the mom based on respect and care and awareness of pain and even unspoken boundaries.

The bottom line advice to the adoptive mother about the reality of the birth mother is this – time & space, she needs to grieve.

Taking Off Rose Colored Glasses

Today’s story –

Four years ago, my husband and I became foster parents. Our first “placement” (geeeze I hate that term), turned into an adoption. Our son, now 4 1/2, will be meeting his biological mom for the first time in December when she is released from prison. We have constant contact with her via phone calls and emails, as well as visits with grandparents every few months. My question is, what can we be doing to make her transition home easier-for her, and for him? He calls her by name, and knows that she is his tummy momma who grew him and gave him life and love, but he really hasn’t asked many questions beyond that. I’d love to have some feedback, so we can do our very best to navigate this the best way possible. I am far from a perfect parent, but this is obviously something that I don’t want to mess up.

PS – until recently, I viewed foster care and adoption through rose colored glasses, but that is no longer the case. My eyes and my heart are now open to the hard parts of adoption. 

Immediately was this response – as a birth mom. Drop the tummy momma crap. We are humans, we weren’t incubators.

The woman understood immediately and said – Thank you all so much for your honesty. “Tummy mommy” will stop immediately. You’re so right, that’s an awful way to refer to her.   I am doing my best to dig deep, not for me, for them. I don’t want to mess this up with any of my own bullshit feelings. They’ve been through enough.

A compassionate response came next – Offer her acceptance for any and all emotions she may experience. Work your way from there. Allow him to be around her as much as she and him are comfortable. Encourage playtime/movie time whatever he likes. Be understanding above all else. These are extremely difficult emotions for his mom just as much for him so offer as much kindness as possible.   This is never easy and remember she is in pain and your son IS traumatized at some level because of losing her. That is a fact and you as an adoptive mother HAVE to make peace with it.

One suggested way to deal with this is – be mom (your 1st name) and mom (her 1st name).. that will better help him associate who she really is to him – his mom. He will know her, he will sense something familiar about her and she will feel like home to him because they already have that birth connection. She is his mother in a biological way that will never change. Kids aren’t as confused about the duality of multiple moms as we are as adults. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard uncomfortable (for you) things to actually support this relationship.  He’ll get to know her over time and much easier if there aren’t adult issues and expectations on it.

Finally, some important advice – You need to find a genuine love for her beyond her being the person that is the reason you have your child.  Just going through the motions you think you should in terms of open adoptions isn’t enough. It should not be what you think you should do. It should be naturally what you want to do. Coming out of prison is difficult. You are treated like a pariah. Getting a job with a record is hard, getting any help from anyone or any government funded programs is difficult to impossible. Some programs you cannot even apply for if you have a record. Welcome her. Make sure she knows she has an important place in his life. Do NOT talk about boundaries and make her time with your son a top priority.

Please Don’t Make Me Stay

This is how an open adoption can become really tricky.  I read this morning about a situation where the biological child is allowed to sleepover at their original parents home every other weekend.  What is happening is that at the end of the weekend, the child does not want to return to the legally adoptive parents.

Now the adoptive parents are mad and are blaming the biological parents for the situation.  They are insisting that the child choose between the two sets of parents.  If the child does not, they will sever the adoption.

After the adoptive parents insisted on the child being returned early, which the biological parents complied with, now the child is screaming and crying that their biological parents should come and get the child.  That this child doesn’t want to be there anymore.

Not surprising, the adoptive parents are blaming the biological parents for causing the child to behave that way.  They also blame them for now breaking up what had been in their own minds a happy home.

It is clear that they ALL need to go into therapy. The child should be seeing an adoption trauma competent therapist.  The adoptive parents also need to see a therapist to help them understand the child’s behaviors and triggers.  While in therapy, the adoptive parents should also work through their own fears and insecurities.  And the biological parents should be in therapy as well.  It is difficult to explain to their child why they cannot legally come and get her without the adoptive parents permission.

These are the kinds of wounds MOST adoptees are all too familiar with.  Once the child is surrendered (not a decision that child made for their own self) and the adoption is finalized, then the living with this situation begins and for the adoptee, the processing of this reality will consume their entire lifetime.

That is why the adoption group I am a part of is always counseling mothers and/or their partner to try to raise their child before taking this permanent step (and as the case above reveals – can be terminated – which is how some children end up in second adoptions, which just compounds the trauma for the child).

An Inability to Relate

Actually . . . it isn’t that simple or easy in reality.  Today, I read this –

I adopted my daughter at birth. She’s now 3. I wanted an open adoption, but I find it hard to connect with her mom. I had visions of a close relationship and it’s just not happening that way. It feels awkward and uncomfortable. I know she feels it too. She is about 10 years younger than me and we have nothing in common. By now I feel we should be in a better place. To be honest, it’s become something that I find myself avoiding more and more because it’s uncomfortable. I hate that I do that. I push off calling or texting. I am not sure what I’m feeling. I think a lot is guilt. I see how when they are together how perfectly they interact. My daughter loves her. I have been reading in here and trying to self reflect to make sure it’s not my fragility. I do genuinely love that they have a close connection, so I don’t think it’s jealousy.

What it is, is reality.  What is happening is that real maternal bond that deep inside is never severed.  As an adoptive mother, you will never have that same kind of connection.  Yes, you can love a child.  Yes, you can be grateful that your child is able to know the mother who gave birth to them.

You had a fantasy about having this “close relationship” and that is the reason it is “just not happening”.  It was you fantasy and not an achievable reality.  Your presence reminds this child’s mother that you and not she is with the child most of the time.  Your deepest self is acknowledging the guilt you feel at having separated them by seeing how perfectly they naturally interact with one another.

So get real with why this feels so uncomfortable to you.  Get over your own feelings.  The well-being of this little girl should be the only deciding factor in your behavior going forward.