Kept In The Dark

It’s hard to believe that adoptive parents agreeing to an open adoption would do this but apparently they will. Today’s story.

I just found out that my bio family was reaching out to me for years giving me gift and letters – which I didn’t receive. I went my whole life feeling rejected by my biological family, so I never searched. In May, I started my search. I found my family and I’m so happy and excited. Only to find out, I was wanted the whole time and my adoption was supposed to be “open.” I’m 27 now and I’m so upset that I went so long feeling like I wasn’t wanted. I feel like I’ve lost so much time with my biological family. I also haven’t told my family that I know this information now. I’m not sure if it’s even worth mentioning, since they were keeping me from them this whole time? I’m meeting my aunt and cousin in a few weeks and I’m so excited.

She adds this – My biological family sent me gifts my whole life and most recently they sent me a letter to reconnect when I turned 21…my adoptive parent just told me about this letter 2 months ago… I didn’t look for them only because I felt rejected by them. Had I known, I would have started looking for them when I turned 18.

One suggestion to this woman was to bring her lifetime’s photo albums. Make copies of the photos to leave with her aunt and cousin. This is an incredibly thoughtful gift in a situation like this. I remember when I met my cousin. We are related through our maternal grandfather. During her afternoon with me, she went through every one of the many photo albums her deceased mother had left her (her mother was my deceased mother’s half-sibling). I used my phone to photograph all of the photos she thought significant enough to tell me something about. By the time the afternoon was over, I felt as though I had lived the decades within this branch of my family that I had missed. Oh, the stories. I wish I had been recording everything she told me !!

From another side of this equation – I’m a birth mom who has tried keeping in contact with my kids (aged 13,12,11 now) within our open adoption but the adoptive parents haven’t ever followed their own guidelines that we agreed to, even from year one. There has been 0 responses from them in 3 years period. I still write every month and have asked how to send gifts and such with no reply. Your story makes me hopeful that, when the time is right (they turn 18), I’ll be able to reach out and have some sort of relationship with my children. It also makes me sad to realize they might be feeling the same rejection you have, when that is so definitely not the case.

Someone suggested to her that she keep copies of her letters – so they can read her words when there is a reunion.

Here’s another example – a similar thing happened with me and my daughter… They did give her the gifts I sent the few times I could emotionally pull myself together enough to do it. They never, ever sent the photos and letters they were supposed to, unless I hounded the social worker to hound them (clearly an emotionally exhausting and traumatizing effort. To top it off, my daughter was told and still believes that they sent me pictures and letters. Every year, they went through the motions of preparing these things, often with my daughter’s help, but never bothered to mail them to me – Ever.

Some honesty about reunions from an adoptee – Reunion is one of the hardest things I’ve had to navigate as the cognitive dissonance of mixed opposing emotions is a complex beast with no real resolution. Regarding your adoptive family, my advice is do not share with them if you feel you are emotionally not in a place to handle the response. Wait until you can have that difficult conversation whilst keeping yourself safe. This may take some time. (I told mine after the reunion.) I didn’t bring gifts when meeting my biological family, but I did take photos of me at different ages, and a loooong list of questions. The best advice I was given was to start the relationship the way I intend to continue it. Emotional openness and honesty are what I value most, as unmet or misinterpreted expectations can be kryptonite to such new fragile bonds. Remember, it’s your life and they are YOUR family, and we don’t owe anyone else anything.

Another birth mother horror story – I reunited with my son when he was 27. I found out that NONE of the letters I wrote him were forwarded (I can’t say whether it was his adoptive parents, my own mother or the agency at fault). His adoptive parents even disposed of the only gift I was ever able to give him – a small teddy bear that I sent with him to his adoptive home. I was livid when I found out he didn’t have or even recall the teddy bear and texted his adoptive mother myself. I refused to involve our son in this, but we had a semi-open adoption. I got letters and photos for the first 5 years. In those letters, she mentioned the teddy bear often, and the bear was stationed on his dresser in early photos – like it was important. Now, she recalls none of this, and even when I sent her the picture as a “reminder,” she gaslighted the entire exchange. I tried to reach out a few times after that, as it seemed important to our son, but eventually got brushed off enough that I gave up. She really made it evident that I wasn’t worth her time, even though I met her for dinner once thinking that it would be a good thing for our son. In retrospect, it was just a 3 hour grilling session to gauge my intentions and the dynamics between me and our son since our reunion. I would say tread cautiously and remember that there may be many people playing puppet with your truths. I will never know who decided that my son wouldn’t get my letters. I was a minor and trusted my mother to forward them to the agency, as they played middle man. I often wonder if my mother actually did. Were my letters screened like an inmate and deemed inappropriate. (I wasn’t the typical rainbow birthmom…I expressed my grief, love and regret often). Did these letter ever make it to their final destination, at which point the adoptive mother nixed them? I’ll never know, just as you may never know. I’ve accepted that I will never know the entire truth as to why my letters never reached him.

Another reunion story from an adoptee – I reunited with my Dad’s family when I was about 28/29. I brought things because I was traveling. I found out that I was wanted by his family and it’s a lot to unpack. Give yourself grace. I would say tell your adoptive family but maybe give yourself some time to process everything you want to say, so you can be in a safe place emotionally to handle their reactions. If they don’t react well, you will be strong enough in that moment to respond however you need to.

From a perspective of fairness, I will add this one from an adoptive parent – I want to be able to do better as an adoptive mom and not cause our child this pain some day. I want this child to have a connection with her roots and biological family but how can we get to a place were we can feel relaxed about the safety of this child and all the trauma she has already endured from her biological family? Her mom just asked to be able to write letters but I haven’t given her an answer, all I can think about is – all the emotions that will be stirred up and all the trauma and feelings this child has had to endure through 5 years of therapy. How can we allow this child to have contact with her biological family, when the fear is so big that she will be hurt again?

And the response to that one ?

Know your place and it isn’t first! As an adoptee I can tell you – iF my adoptive parents had hid ONE thing about my adoption EVER, no matter how much I loved them, I would have removed them from my life! As a adoptive parent, it’s not your job to be a savior, decide what information you wish to share or not share. You cannot love away an adoptee’s trauma, pain, and hurt! We adoptees all have first families and need age appropriate knowledge. I counted, in your one paragraph post the words“ I, my, we” used nine times. Nine! Biological family and roots was used four times. And not once in a positive manner!! Repeat not once did you say anything positive about your daughter’s DNA family. Mom was used once and her wishes you’ve tossed to the curb. Then you used “our daughter.” NO, she came from someone else’s body, sperm, and DNA. Your savior complex is screaming loud and clear. Now please understand I am also a biological mother and an adoptive mother and your way of thinking is wrong. You need to read The Primal Wound, The Body Keeps Score, and Being Adopted, the Lifelong Search for Self. They are not easy reads but you are now raising an adoptee. You need to unpack everything you believe about adoption, understand your fears and fragile thoughts come from being a second mother, and no, an adoptive parent is NEVER a savior.

 

Adoption Ad During the Super Bowl

Toyota featured the story of Jessica Long, 13 time Paralympic Gold Medalist. Born in Siberia and due to a rare condition, had to have her legs amputated, Jessica Long has inspired people with her story.

Toyota tells through a reenactment how her adoptive mother found out that she would need to have her legs amputated.

“Mrs. Long. We found a baby girl for your adoption,” says a woman on the phone with Long’s onscreen mother. “But there are some things you need to know. She’s in Siberia and she was born with a rare condition.”

“Her legs will need to be amputated,” the woman adds as the scenes play out floating in water while Long swims. “Her legs will need to be amputated. I know this is difficult to hear. Her life, it won’t be easy.”

The commercial then shifts to Long winning a race as her mother watches from the kitchen table.

“It might not be easy, but it’ll be amazing,” Long’s mom says. “I can’t wait to meet her.”

The commercial voiceover then adds, “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.”

During an interview with People magazine back in 2016, the swimmer said – “Winning gold medals is incredible and obviously it’s what I want to do, but there’s something so special about having a little girl who has just lost her leg from cancer come up and tell me I’m her hero.”

Clearly, it is her physical disability that informs Jessica’s identity much more than the fact of her adoption.

“It took me years to realize that if I act ashamed and I try to hide them people kind of react the same way,” she added. “But if I wear my shorts or a cute summer dress and I show off my legs and I’m willing to talk about it, people are engaged and they want to know about my story.”

The renowned athlete was adopted by Americans from a Russian orphanage at 13 months old. At 18 months old, her legs were amputated below the knees. In total, she’s won 29 gold medals, 8 silver medals and 4 bronze ones.

As a blogger, the only question that I had was whether any pro-adoption group helped fund the commercial or suggested the idea to Toyota. Just a hint of cynicism but otherwise, I love the story of overcoming life’s realities with determination. However, there may be no connection with that kind of organization.

In 2013, Jessica Long traveled with her younger sister to meet her birth parents, who were teenagers when Long was born Tatiana Olegovna Kirillova. It was a three-day journey to her Russian adoption center and then an 18-hour train ride to what would have been her Siberian hometown. “Long Way Home” (the story of her journey) premiered on primetime during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia.

Jessica says this about her adoption – “When I first see my Russian family, I want them to know that I’m not angry with them, that I’m not upset that they gave me up for adoption,” Long said in the film, before a tearful, hug-filled reunion. “I think that was really brave, and I don’t know what I would have done if I was in her situation, at 16 and having this disabled baby that they knew that they couldn’t take care of. I want to tell her that when I see her that, if anything, I have so much love for her, my mom, because she gave me life.”

And I’ve learned a bit more of Jessica’s adoption back story – her teenaged parents were persuaded to give her up, with doctors telling the mother that she was “still young” and would be able “to give birth to a normal child.” This is disgusting. This is why so many kids end up in ‘orphanages’, not because they don’t have parents, but because of lack of support, ablism and/or poverty. And even sadder is this, her mother said, “Of course I was against leaving her in the hospital but because of the circumstances we had to do so. In my heart I did want to take her home, and thought I would take her back later.” This belief that their child will return to them someday is a common occurrence in international adoptions.

There is of course, some questionable motivation when a car company wanting to sell more cars uses these kinds of themes. For those closest to the situations, it is absolutely a triggering commercial – hit notes on adoption, orphans, and a special needs person. At the same time, it is a perfect little story wrapped in a bow, delectable, and very palatable for the masses who gobble it up. General society and adoptive parents as well as the hopeful adoptive parents always love a “poor little orphan finds a home” story.

There is also a hashtag, #ToyotaWeDisApprove, trending on Twitter.

 

Is Gotcha Day Offensive ?

Personally, I have always found this disturbing.  I really can’t believe an adoptive parent thinks like this but it does seem to be a common thing.  I wonder how the child might feel growing up knowing their own birthday wasn’t important.

“We celebrate our children’s Gotcha Day not birthday. The birthdate is the day they were born not when their life began. Gotcha day is what we celebrate and acknowledge as their new birthday. It’s when we became a family, their family. That’s when they were born into our family. Gotcha day is their birth into our family and as their parents. The moment all of our struggle was worth it and forgotten, similar to when a woman gives birth. All the pain washes away, when you finally meet your child”.

One adoptive parent said, “I understand that most people who have not adopted a child simply do not know that their questions may be rude or offensive or not the politically correct adoptive term.”

Families celebrate this day in many different ways and it can vary from a large party type celebration to a minor recognition to nothing at all.  Adoption comes from a place of loss and brokenness.  It also carries with it heavy emotions for everyone involved.

The term “gotcha” is too casual for the arrival of a child into the family. It can be insensitive to all parties involved in the adoption process.

One adoptive parent prefers to use the term Finalization Day but would be equally comfortable with Adoption Day.  Still, she prefers finalization as it’s more specific to what the day actually is.  She also admits that over time this may evolve and change.

As she explains her reasoning, she shares that she and her husband talked about it and put a lot of thought into it.  They arrived at the decision to mark “Finalization Day” on their calendar and to consider it a celebration of the day that their family became whole and complete.

As a somewhat enlightened adoptive parent (I would not say completely enlightened but adoption is going through a definite reform in perspective that is painfully slow for some of us but progress never-the-less) she acknowledges that it is very, very important to always honor her son’s birth family and his story.  However, it’s also not something she wishes to focus on all the time. It’s a PART of who he is and she sincerely hopes it does NOT define him.  Only time and maturity will prove whether that is true or not.

While he’s the original mother’s son and always will be, he’s also their son and their other children’s brother.  It is understandable that she would want him to never feel singled out or like he’s any less loved or less part of their family.

She goes on to admit that it is a very delicate balance. And every adoptive child and adult will feel differently about their adoption journey and story. Each adoptees’ story is special and unique and it’s not a “one size fits all” situation.  Adult adoptees go many directions in how they feel regarding their adoption. That’s honest.

It seems that her hope is that he’ll never, ever want to think or talk about adoption. Maybe he’ll just want to BE and not think deeper about how he came to be who he is. Not consider himself an “adoptee.”  That is probably wishful thinking but oh well.

She goes on to also explain that all of their children have adoption as part of their personal story. They have all been touched by it and are walking this path together.  She acknowledges that as they grow up, they all may have their own thoughts, feelings and questions.  To her credit, she always wants to be an open book with them and readily share anything – at ANY time of the year – that they might want to know.

Oversharing

I have been reticent until recent years to share some things that I consider privacy sensitive.  Our perspectives on where the boundaries are can change over time.

It is a topic in adoption related groups that the balance is difficult to determine.  There are adoptive parents who upon meeting you will immediately share with you that their children are adopted and have trauma histories.  Realize you only just met and they don’t really know you or you them.  That is considered in poor taste now within our modern society.

An enlightened adoptive parent may wish to be aware of not owning their adopted child.  The adoptive parent may take care not to ignore the original family.  At the same time, the adoptive parent may be concerned that they don’t stigmatize their child by making an issue of the child’s adoption.

One balance can be to remain open to discussing adoption while not initiating the conversation.  The context in which it comes up matters.

It appears that oversharing is often related to wanting to be acknowledged for doing a “good deed”.  Saving a child’s life – is often NOT the truth – no matter how much the adoptive parent would like to believe that.  Adoptive parents have often not accepted their role in separating a mother and child.

Adoptive Parents in some groups want to be quick to point out that the behavior they’re asking for help managing is NOT A RESULT OF THEIR PARENTING.  Some Pro-Life adoptive parents overshare to burnish their credentials – I saved this child from abortion by convincing her mother to give her up to me instead.  You get the idea . . .

Before you overshare, ask yourself – Why does anyone need to know ?  There may be times.  Just be selective and consider whether sharing will eventually cause some kind of problem in the future.