Sad Stories

Not just sometimes, many times, I hate what adoption does to families.  So today, yet another sad story of a mother separated from her child.  An open adoption agreement that turns into a lie.  This happens too often to not be expected going in but the ones who go in trust the agreement until it is broken – and many times it is.

A woman became pregnant at the age of 18 and was 19 when her daughter was born.  I can relate, that is what happened to me although I was married first – thankfully – it could have turned out differently . . .

She chose adoption because she really didn’t believe that she had another choice. She had never heard of an open adoption. The family she chose was the first and only family she looked at. They sounded great to her.  They were also adopted and had relationships with their biological parents. She believed that, if anyone could relate to anything her daughter might feel growing up, these people could. Upon meeting them, she was offered an open adoption.

So things were going great for 3 years. The agreement was for 2 visits a year. Aware that her vulnerability could risk a rupture, she was cautious in her behavior at these visits.  She didn’t want to over step her authority or make the adoptive parents uncomfortable. She never referred to her own daughter as that around them or in direct communication with them.

It appeared that all was well until the little girl turned 3.  A visit was scheduled and 2 hours before she was due to arrive, the adoptive parents asked if they could reschedule the visit to take place a few weeks later.  The woman waited 2 months for a date.  Finally, she tried calling them. The number was no longer in service.  I have encountered variations on this story more times than I might hope to believe happens.

Her adoption worker, from that day on, always said she had no idea where they were and hadn’t heard from them. Fast forward 14 years.  Her daughter turned 17 in April.  The original mother found her daughter on Facebook and sent a friend request. She didn’t really think it through and admits that maybe it was selfish of her but she understandably just wanted to see her daughter’s face and know she was okay.  When my own adoptee mom was searching, she said to me that as a mother herself, she would want to know what became of her child.  Unfortunately, by then, my maternal grandmother had already died.

Back to this sad story, the woman was immediately blocked.  The adoptive mother messaged her asking her not to reach out to her daughter again, at least not until she is an adult.  This woman is willing to respect their wishes, sadly to me adding, “she is THEIR daughter”. The adoptive mother claimed in receiving the friend request, the daughter thought that her original mother was a stalker.  The adoptive mother claims the daughter knows she is adopted and about her original mother.  She said the girl doesn’t have any questions and doesn’t want to know anything more.  She just wants things to go back to normal.

The whole exchange does not feel entirely believable to this woman.  The turnaround of 15 minutes was too fast.

This woman went on to give birth to a son who is 12 years old (he is 5 years younger than his sister). When the woman did speak to the adoptive mother, the adoptive mother shifted the blame, saying this woman was the cause of contact ending because it was too hard for the original mother to bear.  Yet the adoptive mother knew the original mother had had a son and believed this woman was now happy with her life as it had become.

The rub is – the only way they would have known that was by being in contact with adoption worker. All those years of the adoption worker saying she didn’t know where they were, it was a lie.

Little Fires Everywhere

Because we live in an economically depressed and sparsely populated location, “good” internet is almost impossible to get and we pay a huge premium for the satellite access we do have.  Therefore, we don’t do streaming entertainments.  We don’t do commercial TV either but depend on Netflix dvd by mail or the few quality dvds we have bought over the years.

Little Fires Everywhere seems to be making a stir, especially in my private adoption group.  There seems to be some relevancy and some triggering hardship to watching the show.

One said – “This show really pushes that thought of which mother are you? And if you can’t see the white, middle or upper class privilege you lead and have compared to many families who the system victimizes, then you also haven’t come to terms with what role you had in the adoption piece, trauma to the child or that the system is biased.”

She goes on to remark – “It also was hard to watch Episode 4 if you are battling the bond of a natural mother with the attachment of a foster mother or hopeful adoptive parent. And when a biological mother hasn’t built an attachment – due to being absent – then which is better ? It helps force that questioning. And many would say – meet in the middle of an open adoption, but is that really best ? It also shows how deeply money has changed things in the legal battles for children. I firmly believe many natural parents lose that battle because of poor legal involvement from their attorneys. The natural parents don’t know enough about how to navigate the system and the attorneys are too overloaded to get to know the case specifics better.”

She concludes with – “It has been really powerful to hold the mirror up to friends and also demonstrate how we define a ‘good’ mother doesn’t always fit. Both women think they are good mothers but end up offering comfort to one another’s children too. We all need different things.”

The Guardian had an article about the book of the same name by Celeste Ng that is the foundation for the series.  I may just chose this for my next learning to write well reading selection.  The subtitle is – “A burning house sparks tensions within an all-too-perfect suburban community in a story exploring race, identity and family secrets.”

You can read The Guardian review of the book here – https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/18/little-fires-everywhere-celeste-ng-review

Why Adoptees Wish They Had Been Aborted

This is not the first time and it probably will not be the last time.  For those of us who are grateful we have a life (and I am one of those), it can be hard to read that adoptees way too often wish they had been aborted and not given up for adoption.  It flies against every happily ever after story you may have ever heard about how wonderful it is to finally create your family thanks to a woman losing her child.  It is not wonderful for that woman nor is it wonderful for that child.

Today, I read one such comment – “I literally would have rather been aborted than adopted. Fuck adoption. It did nothing good for me and only led to years of self hate.”

Another said to a mom who just gave a newborn up for adoption – “Your kept children will be 50 and still talking about the one you gave away.”  This is probably true.  When I found my dad’s genetic family, they said as much.  They knew about him.  Wanted to know him and said his mother NEVER got over giving him up.

One woman gave her daughter up for adoption 14 yrs ago.  She admits it was the hardest thing that she had to ever had to do in her life.  The story gets worse.  Back then the agencies only offered a 5 year open adoption, not an 18 year one.   Guess what ?  the adoptive parents vanished without a trace after 8 years. This mother has’t seen or heard anything from them. She asserts – “I will find her one day.”  Then admits that she has other offspring who are already “looking” for their lost sibling.

Fact is – whether they were family friends before your pregnancy or not, once they have your child, you are pretty much disposable.  Sadly.

And the fact is, most friendships, or even family relationships, aren’t strong enough to stand up to the power imbalance of adoption. It’s like the sword of Damocles hanging over your head.

Yes, there is a decided power imbalance between a desperate pregnant soon to be mother with no access to resources and the people with the money (the adoptive parents, the adoption agencies, the lawyers, the social workers).  The deck is stacked against you and you will need to face this directly, before you take that permanent step.

If you are lucky, someday your child will find you and like my own mom wanted to do, let you know that she survived and is okay.  Worst case, your child will hate you for how her life turned out and wish she had been aborted instead.

 

Why Did You Adopt ?

My husband and I made a conscious decision not to adopt when we had been trying unsuccessfully to conceive.  I believe our main concern was that uncertainty factor.  We decided that we preferred to start “fresh” using an alternative form of medicine (obviously the main response to the question in the survey above).

Many adoptive parents are driven by altruistic reasons – it is not because of infertility – but they truly would like to be there in a positive way for a child who they believe needs them.  It is a form of rescuer or savior motivation.

DIA is not through an agency but is a disclosed identified party adoption aka an open adoption.  The inconvenient truth is that regardless of the type of adoption –  agencies are manipulative, hopeful adoptive parents are clueless and often blinded by their own wants, expectant mothers are coerced into giving up their babies because they are led to the false belief it will be better for their infant, and infants experience tremendous trauma when they are separated from their original mother. The whole system of adoption is sadly a mess.

Hopeful adoptive parents usually have good intentions, even if they are blinded to more selfish and personally oriented reasons for adopting.   Wanting to be a parent and acting on that is a selfish decision via adoption, regardless of how you get there.  These adoptive parents may have more than they need for just their own selves.  They want to share from their abundance because for some people sharing feels good.

Many original mothers were  forced. One example that I read about – she was told either she place her son for adoption or they were going to report her to Child Protective Services – she was in extreme poverty, she did not have a job, she was depressed, unmarried and her my son was originally conceived through a man no longer in the picture. She was told she wasn’t good enough to raise her own son and that he deserved better.

It is important to change the narrative about adoption – it is not a beautiful circumstance. It is damaging and painful and should only happen in the very rarest of circumstances, and then it should be within the family, if possible (and honestly, it usually is possible).  I am pro-reunification.  It is important that the pain of separation is not permanent if at all possible.  My perspectives on adoption, I will admit, have gone 180 and mostly against.  There are exceptions, of course, and good ones.

Don’t Adopt

So for years you have been trying to conceive and after several miscarriages, you have decided there is only one way to get that baby you have been dreaming of – adopt one.  Just don’t do it.

I am the child of two adoptees and both of my sisters gave up children to adoption and for the last few years I have really gotten an education about what adoption does to people.  I belong to a group which discusses the reality of adoption among all the members of the triad – the original parents, the adoptees and the adoptive parents and the bottom line understanding is – please just don’t do it.

Your first order of business should be to let some time pass before you start thinking about adoption. It is very important that the feelings of loss and grief are given time to take their course. Realize that you may look at a child you adopt and think: What if?, or: I wish… or: would my own child look/behave/be different?  It is important that you work through these questions BEFORE any child is adopted. Seek the help of a therapist.

Then realize this – there are no positives for the baby or their mother in infant adoption. Pregnant women are targeted by agencies so they can make money from selling their babies. It’s an unregulated baby broker business with big money involved.  Among those who know (adoptees who are now mature adults) infant adoption is looked at as terrible because of the unethical practices that come with it.  Beyond that simple fact is the loss of the child’s natural family and true identity.

About the only idea that is acceptable would be adopting children who are in foster care whose parental rights have been legally terminated.  And even in this case the plan should be for an adoptive parent to do everything they can to keep some kind of relationship open for the child with the natural family in any way possible. Guardianship is preferred over adoption but many states won’t allow guardianship as a long term option.

Adopt someone who wants to be adopted, and is old enough (13 or older) to consent to adoption.  Adopt a legally available child from the foster care system.  Do not change their identity in any way.  Be sure you have complete medical records so they can live a more normal life as they mature.  Babies grow up.  The child you adopt will be grown very quickly but the damage you could do will last a lifetime.

 

 

The Role of Midwives

I became interested in midwifery when I became pregnant with my oldest son.  In the early 2000s, it was still illegal to practice midwifery in Missouri.  After I had both of my sons by caeserean to avoid passing on a hepC virus to them, I lost touch with the movement.  It was disappointing with the older boy to accept not birthing him at home using the Bradley method which my husband and I diligently studied.

I do believe that for simple common healthy births, a midwife is a wonderful addition to a family’s experiences.  I did become convinced that midwifes are exceptional people.

In some cases, midwives become involved in births with a mother who is planning to relinquish her baby for adoption.  A midwife may be more compassionate about the grief that separating a baby from its mother will undoubtedly cause.

Unresolved grief will have an impact on the life of any woman who relinquishes her baby.  It appears that mothers involved in an ‘open adoption’ will not suffer as extremely the many adverse effects that mothers who have been involved in closed adoptions do.

A midwife needs to identify and develop the skills needed when caring for a mother planning to relinquish her baby. These include adopting a non-judgmental approach, being an effective listener, offering choices about every aspect of care and offering interventions known to help a bereaved mother.

A midwife should also see to it that prospective adoptive parents are not allowed to be with the mother as she is birthing her child.  They should support a period of time for the mother and baby to bond after birth.  Some women given a private amount of time to be with their baby will decide not to relinquish the baby.  Women should never be coerced into doing so by agreements they made before birth.

These are some of the reforms that could be initiated to lessen the wounds suffered by both mother and child due to adoption.

Hopeful Adoptive Mother

I already knew that trans-national adoption is problematic and a global problem.  I was riveted reading a OLD story in Mother Jones magazine from the Nov/Dec 2007 issue titled – Did I Steal My Daughter ? by Elizabeth Larsen.

She started a journal to document her daughter’s adoption.  In this she writes, “I feel so sad for the pain your birth mother must be in since she is not able to raise you,” I wrote. “But I believe now that I am your ‘real’ mommy.” Reading those words now sparks a flash of shame. Because even though my daughter was, as is required by U.S. immigration law, legally classified as an orphan, she had two Guatemalan parents who were very much alive.

People have been parenting children not born to them since the dawn of time. But adoption as an irrevocable severing of a child’s relationship with her biological family is largely a European and American practice.

“Informal adoption and kinship care have always existed, but our form of formalized adoption by nonrelatives is very, very new,” advises Hollee McGinnis, policy and operations director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research and advocacy organization.

The push toward secrecy and sealed records took hold in the postwar culture, when adoptions were increasingly run by social workers. Confidentiality was thought to shield both mothers and children from the stigma of illegitimacy, and it allowed parents to hide their infertility even from their own children—birth certificates were simply changed to list the adoptive parents.

As more women gained access to contraceptives and legal abortion, and the stigma of unwed pregnancy lessened, fewer American women placed their babies for adoption, and those who did had more power to get what they wanted, including knowing their children’s fate. Today, almost no American woman deciding on adoption seeks anonymity; roughly 90 percent of mothers have met their children’s adoptive parents, and most helped choose them.

While society has belatedly acknowledged the trauma of American women who were forced to surrender their children, birth families abroad have remained shrouded in mystery, allowing parents and professionals to invent the narrative that best suits them. “Practitioners 20 years ago assumed we were rescued from these horrific nations and would never go back,” says Hollee McGinnis, who was adopted from Korea when she was three and has been in touch with her Korean family for more than a decade.

More in the Mother Jones article if you are so inclined.  Here’s the link – https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2007/10/did-i-steal-my-daughter-tribulations-global-adoption/

Trying To Do Better

Though fraught with its own challenges, Open Adoption is an attempt to do the process better by considering the needs of the adoptee and their original parents with equal compassion to the needs of the adopting couple.

Generally speaking, there will be a higher level of personal interaction among the parties.  This interaction may take the form of letters, e-mails, photos, telephone calls and visits.

Some of the pitfalls that may occur include an abuse of the trust that the original parents have placed on the assurances of the adopting couple.  Interactions may lead to a variety of disappointments.  When the adopting couple has invested in the unborn child, financially and emotionally, the original parents may feel obligated to go through with relinquishing the baby.  If the adopting couple changes their mind shortly before or after the birth, it may place the child in a state of limbo and cause a referral to foster care.

In agreeing to an open adoption, the adopting couple may find the original family has greater expectations than they anticipated in agreeing to the situation.  Within the extended birth family may be individuals who are not conventionally stable which may even be part of the reason the child was surrendered.

Some of the original justifications of closed adoptions have included fears that having duplicate mothers, fathers, grandparents and other extended family would make it more difficult for the child to assimilate into the new family unit.  If contact between the original and adopting families ceases for whatever reason, the adoptee could be left feeling even more rejected than is commonly the experience for adopted children.  There can be social complications for the child among their peers.

Identity and family history are the most important reason for open adoptions.  Denying the child access to that information violates basic human rights.  Adoption will never be the perfect circumstance for any child but trying to do it better does matter.

A Sacred Duty

In discovering my original grandparents, I’ve learned to be a part of both the adoptive and original families.  This may be disconcerting to some of my adoptive family, aunts, an uncle and some cousins but I don’t love them less.  I recognize we share life experiences that I can never actually share with my original family relations no matter how much I learn about our history – and I have learned a lot.

Though I’m not an adoptee, I have experienced some degree of “reunion” and it has been much more than simply restoring a connection that was lost, it is about trying to become acquainted with “new” family members and nurturing relationships that will continue for me until the day I die.

There are reforms taking place within the practice of adoption today that haven’t stabilized but are allowing for more flexibility within the unique family system in which the adoptee is the center.  Whether they opt for an open adoption or not – every adoptive parent needs to be aware that the possibility an adoptee will seek reunion fundamentally exists.

Closed adoption enforces a rigid boundary upon adoptees by automatically excluding the original family from the adoptive family’s boundaries.  That was the case for my adoptee parents.  Thankfully, that has not been the case for my niece and nephew (both given up for adoption by my two sisters).  Not that theirs were open adoptions, they were not.

What changed is their adoptive parents accepted it as a sacred duty to assist these adopted children in discovering their original family members when they were ready to request that for themselves.  Thanking all that is good.

Infertility and Adoption

Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption
by Vanessa McGrady

At this point in my own journey, I know quite a bit about adoptees, their issues and wounds.  I know a bit about birth parents.  I have learned less about the adoptive parent.

Of course, I had four of them – my grandparents – but they weren’t adoptive parents to me, they were my grandparents.  It is interesting though, how now when I think about grandparents, it is the original grandparents that I have come to know, that I think of as “my grandparents”.

The issues related to adoption are complex and diverse.  I’ve seen letters from my mom’s adoptive mother about how happy she was to receive my mom, for her to become her daughter.  I believe it was my dad’s adoptive parents love for him that kept me in the family, instead of being given up for adoption myself.

In the excellent book, The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier, one learns about a lot of the issues.  Nothing I have read yet, touches on the issue of infertility that begins the journey of most adoptive parents, like the book I am reading now – Rock Needs River.  This book covers the issue well.  She also touches on the powerful feelings that an adoptive parent feels towards the child they raise.

I listened to an interview with McGrady today.  Here’s a few takeaways.

“Where do I come from?” and “Where do I belong?”
are questions that confound and comfort us
from the time we are tiny until we take our final breath.

Birth parents are marginalized. The decision not to be a parent.
Feminist parenting – about non-gendered opportunities.
Small aggressions are the things we need to stop.