It Is True

So an older adoptee wrote this – I can personally attest that “coming out of the fog” is a true concept. (In fact, as the child of two adoptees, I can now admit I was in the fog too !!)

The thing is, as an adoptee, you really don’t know what you’re missing compared to people who have not experienced the kind of life-threatening trauma that being adopted is. Though not all adoptees have similar reactions to life’s rejections and notice that feeling of something that is not there, that something “missing,” whether acknowledged or not, is real.

Many adoptees have attachment issues. Some are not able to form an attachment with the adoptive parents or may attach (cling to) too much and are not able to let go of the caregiver when it is appropriate to do so.

When an adult adoptee experiences the breaking up from a romantic relationship, if they are someone who has difficulty letting go, the situation can be devastating. It may take the person a very long time – if ever – to recover.

These experiences have the ability to take an adoptee right back emotionally to the first time they were deserted, abandoned in their perception, by the original mother and this event happened to them before they even had the words to describe what they were feeling. So, even later in life, within the context of adult relationships, these situations can leave the adoptee feeling that same kind of unexpressed feeling. The pain is often excruciating.

Whereas an adoptee’s close friend experiences the breaking up of a romantic relationship, it may be that only a month or so later, that friend is out dating again. It is relatively easy for them to move on with their life. Yet, if this happens to an adoptee, they are often stuck and don’t really understand why they cannot let go.

This rejection/abandonment wound may account for the higher incidence of suicides that happen among adoptees as young adults and even more mature adults. This is certainly common for those who were infant adoptions. Even for adoptees who were adopted at an older age, though they have a similar experience of separation and abandonment/rejection trauma, at least they have some language with which to express their feelings and a therapist may be able to help them more easily express and understand their feelings.

True, actually “coming out of the fog” (the belief that adoption is unicorns and rainbows, flowers and sunshine) may or may not ever happen for any single adoptee. It takes a lot of work and understanding for the adoptee to realize they have these feelings and the process of getting to that point can be so painful, the adoptee may become paralyzed and not able to move further forward, at some point in that process.

And here is a note from the adoptee who started these thoughts that are my blog today – If you are an adoptive parent, no matter how you try, you can not normalize the experience of having been separated from the person’s original mother for them.

Unbelievable But

From the PostSecret App comes the story of a woman hired to be a baby-sitter. When the baby-sitter sees the adopted daughter’s photo, she realizes it is the same photo she gave to the adoptive parents when she gave up the baby to adoption. Now what ?

One woman says, as an adoptive mom I’d be more worried about the original mother finding the situation emotionally hard, if she doesn’t say anything about her true relationship. What a thing to go through alone! That being said, if I was her I’d probably it a secret and run with it, so that I could see my child. If they didn’t know who she is, it obviously isn’t an open adoption.

Another says, there was such a torrent of ignorant comments on that post. It was hard to follow or know is where to post thoughts of my own. So mostly, I just liked the adoptees’ posts and tried to support them. I did comment where it felt helpful. You adoptees are super brave – and it was great to see so many voices out there giving the alternative narrative in some of the threads. (It had been mentioned that many commenters said to adoptees “sorry you had a bad childhood but most adoptees had good ones.”)

One adoptee said – “I think she should’ve excused herself and then, explained to them why. Plus let them know she won’t bother them, etc.” When asked to explain her comment, she admitted that she is ALSO a birth mom. “As a birth mom I would feel guilty and would need to say something and hope everything worked out and the adoptive parents were accepting or at least not angry. As an adoptee, if I found out my birth mom was purposely deceptive (knowing and not saying something is deceptive), my opinion of her would not be great. And my experience as an adoptee wasn’t great – lived with a very narcissistic adoptive mom. So I just think honesty would go along further than lying in this case.

Another adoptee said – She should just make herself known. As an adoptee I would give anything to know who my birth parents are.

Another adoptive mom said –  I think this is such an incredible opportunity that sadly is likely to turn into a disaster. I would give anything to have my son’s real mom that involved in his life. What an amazing gift! I just wish we could get the adoptive parents in this group to realize how valuable this would be.

Another woman points out – there is a good chance because of the trauma that the birth mom went through, she may be mentally unstable. What if some idiot is telling her to keep quiet and be happy you get to see the child? What if she decides one day she can’t take this situation anymore and wants more and try’s to kidnap the child? This is quite an unpredictable situation.

Another adoptee says honestly, I would have loved for my mom to have come into my life as a child. I always missed her.

One more, and I’ll close today’s blog –

I am the daughter of an adoptee. I have an aunt who is also an adoptee. My grandma (mom’s adoptive mom) raised me and was also a foster parent. My first reaction was ‘awwww how sweet and perfect’… and then, once I thought a bit, ‘I really hope that mom has support, that has got to be such a roller coaster of emotions’… then ‘wait a minute that means it was a closed adoption *sigh*’… and then just best wishes that she’s able to disclose her identity to the adoptive parents and that they are supportive and that everything will work out, even though I’m guessing that might be a fairytale… 


A Common Enough Story

I’m having a really hard time with my feelings.  I am in a reunion with my son who was given up for adoption.  Here is a recap of my story.
I was 15 years old when I had him.  My parents forced me to give him up for adoption, after a visit to an abortion clinic told us it was too late.  My parents pulled me out of school.  I was basically hidden away until I gave birth to him.
I was so happy when I was pregnant with him but I had nowhere else to go.  I was terrified of making my parents angry.  So, I cried and cried after leaving the hospital without him. All these years and I continued to think about him every day, but never about his adopted parents. I had to grieve for him at such a young age.  I was never in therapy, was never asked how I was feeling about it all.  I was just expected to act like it never happened (how is that even possible?).  I was always searching for him.  Then the miracle, he found me in May.
We have spoken every single day since reconnecting.  I struggle with my own emotions when he talks about his adoptive mom.  Of course, it is natural that he does and probably natural that it is hard for me to hear it.  On his own initiative, he started referring to her in our conversations as his “parent”. I never asked him to do that. I did admit to him that this was something I personally had to work through and that I would never want him to be uncomfortable talking about anything with me.
Truth is, it’s not getting easier. It’s getting harder. Today he asked my opinion about something.  After I told him my answer, he came back with, “well my parent….”.  Honestly, it broke me.  It isn’t unexpected that her view might be the opposite of mine.  And, honestly, it wasn’t even in anything important.  I am ashamed because I feel like I’m completely upset over nothing really.  I now realize that these incidences make me feel those feelings I felt when I surrendered him – like I have been discarded.
It probably isn’t surprising that he views me as a friend. He doesn’t seem like an emotional person.  At the age of 23, he still lives at home, has never really had a job, his adoptive parents coddle him (in my opinion) because they pay for everything, and he isn’t going to school.
I want to handle myself in these situations better. It really is so hard for me to control my emotions. I don’t want to make this sad story only about myself.  And I really don’t want to project my feelings towards his adoptive parents onto him. I feel like I need help.  I don’t want to hurt him or his feelings. I need to know how to accept the fact that just being in his life now is really a blessing.  Whatever that is going to be like.
How can I respond or communicate better with my son?
I thought this advice was from experience and practical –
I am an adoptee and an original mom (meaning she gave up a child for adoption). He’s been raised. That’s over. Stop trying to compete with his adoptive parents and simply be his friend. In time that friendship may grow into a true mother /son relationship.  Give it time.  Adoptees often have trust issues, abandonment issues, identity issues, etc. so please don’t add to anything he is already struggling with. Work through your issues as an original mom separately – not through your relationship with him. (I don’t even want to touch upon my own issues because it’s still terrifying for me too).  I do understand.

When There Is Another Mother

Cinderella and her Step Mother

Step-mothers have an enduring place in the societal imagination and like natural mothers they come in all types from loving and kind to cruel and indifferent.

I often relate to original mothers who have lost a child to adoption.  In my case, I lost custody unofficially to my husband when he remarried a woman with a child and they proceeded to have another child.  Because my daughter grew up for the most part away from me, I suffered every bit as much as any mother who has lost awareness of her child’s day to day life.  I am grateful that I continue to have my daughter’s presence in my life though it is mostly at a distance and that for the most part our relationship is a good one with no more than the usual number of bumps along the road of our life’s path and unfolding.

When I was on a path of discovering who my original grandparents were, a big breakthrough was learning that my dad’s unwed mother had subsequently married and what her married name was.  I learned that thanks to finding a copy of a will on Ancestry.com that was her step-mothers.  It was clear between the lines that there was some kind of rupture in the relationship of the step-mother with her husband’s children by a previous wife who died when my grandmother was only 3 mos old.

When I discovered a cousin with the same grandmother thanks to 23 and Me DNA testing, she told me stories she had heard about my grandmother’s life with her step-mother.  How the step-mother would tie her to a tree in a lightning storm either to scare my grandmother into being compliant or in the hope the tree would get struck and eliminate the life of my grandmother.  Who can know now?  But it was traumatic for my grandmother.  Also that her step-mother put her to work in a rayon mill, barely a teen, in Asheville N Carolina when they migrated there from Oyster Bay Long Island.  Her step-mother would take the money she earned to assist the family’s financial support and while that is not unusual in itself for a family in poverty, it was still yet another area of conflict between them.  So my grandmother “divorced” her family in effect by refusing to return to N Carolina and instead stayed in La Jolla California with her aunt.  It was there that she met the father of my dad.

I was reading this morning about step-parent groups are as mean and nasty to original parents as some foster/adoptive parent groups.  I suppose it is a type of insecurity that would drive someone to bash the child’s original parent, want to erase the child’s original parents and want the child to replace those with the step, foster or adoptive parent by insisting the child call them mom or dad.  My daughter tells me that her step-mother always insisted my daughter maintain a relationship with me.  I can only guess regarding some of the less than happy thoughts my daughter may have had about me from time to time but as I said, I am thankful for the relationship I still have with my daughter.  Her step-mother died some years ago.  My daughter still honors her memory.  At the same time, I feel less competition, if that is the proper word for it.  I have tried to heal my own wounds around the situation.

One step-mother admitted that she hates it when her step child calls her by her given name. She has to explain to other people hearing that, why her step daughter doesn’t call her mom and is personally embarrassed. She thinks it’s disrespectful of her step daughter because this step-mother accepted her step daughter as her own child. She considers her step daughter her daughter.  I think the most hurtful thing that ever reached my own ears related to my daughter’s step-mother is that she told my daughter that I gave birth to her so that the step-mother could have her instead.  Not an exact quote but close enough.

Regarding these online groups, one woman said of the mommy groups and step parent groups that they can be awful. The entitlement. The control issues. When you marry someone with kids, the kids have parents already. You’re accepting the ex and the child or children. It is very important to never bash the ex partner who is also the child’s parent or have unrealistic expectations about how your step-child relates to you. You came into the child’s life uninvited.

Much the same applies to adoptive and foster parents as relates to a child’s original parents.  Many wounds come from this negativity in an effort to build up one’s own ego.

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.

How Do You Refer To Her ?

After discovering who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adopted and died knowing next to nothing about their origins), my next education was in the realities of the adoption experience from a private Facebook group that includes all people related to the circumstance.

Early on, I learned that women who have given up a child to adoption dislike being referred to as the birth mother – as though all they did was give birth – failing to acknowledge that they gave 9 months of their life to the development of that baby – and not understanding as well the bonding that occurs between mother and child during gestation.

Understandably adoptive mothers really don’t want to dwell on the parts they were denied for whatever reason from experiencing.  They are a desire-driven, forward looking bunch.

One such mother replied to a question about her preferences – as a mother of a child lost to adoption I prefer to be referred to as my daughter’s mother – because that is what I am. My daughter can call me whatever she chooses and it varies…she is 50 years old. Let’s be honest…..you, are your child’s adoptive mother. Your child has a mother. If you negate that you are negating a primal aspect of your child’s life! The truth is critical. Do not take ownership of that which is not your truth.

Another one shared – I prefer mother, mom, or natural mom. Birth mother reduces me to my uterus and ability to procreate. It dehumanizes me and intentionally strips me of my actual motherhood all in the name of stroking the egos of adoptive parents.

Yet another one added this – I like bio mom. Biology means a lot to me. But I don’t get offended by any of the other terms or names.

Sadly, another one shared – My daughter was adopted without my consent, we have direct contact once a year. The adoptive parents and social workers have always pushed the term ‘tummy mummy’ which I personally find very patronising and hurtful, I’d prefer natural mum over anything else.

Finally, there was this – I’m a mother, pure and simple. Of course, I lost my children to Child Protective Services, and it was in no way voluntary. As an adoptee, as well, I *far* prefer the term first or original mother over natural or birth mother. Both of my mothers are my “real” mothers. Both are my mother. “Birth” implies that my original mother was a brood, and “natural” implies that my relationship with my adoptive family isn’t natural. For me, it is. Being on both sides of this, I would argue that the feelings of the adopted person should be paramount to the feelings of the biological parent.

If you would like to know more about the history behind this issue, you can read about it here – The Origin of the Word “Birthmother”.

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

Owning The Truth

Regarding adoption, as one dives deeply into the practice, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that either you are OK taking someone else’s child – regardless of the pain it causes them – or you’re not OK with that.

At some level, it really is that simple. Some people can do that and function and some can’t fathom the thought.

Many adoptive parents make excuses. What if this ? Or what if that ?  Or I did this ?  Or I did that ?

Or even more honest and direct, if not me, what would happen to that child otherwise ?

But there are some adoptive parents who recognize and own their personal motives – I wanted kids and couldn’t have my own. It was about my need to experience motherhood.

It doesn’t make it a positive thing for the original mother or the adoptee but owning it is something.  Many adoptive parents can’t bring themselves to accept that truth.

In case you misunderstand this – no one, absolutely no one, is advocating that children should ever remain in truly abusive situations. No one!

Reform

Late last night I waded into a lengthy thread in a private group here at Facebook related to adoption.  More specifically, they are on a mission to mostly, if not completely, end adoption.  The most compelling and highlighted “voices” are those of adoptees with the mothers who lost a child to adoption given the next highest priority.  Adoptive Parents (or those who hope to) can find themselves under heavy fire and not all of them can cope with that.

I do believe the voices in this group speak honestly a perspective that really needs to be seriously considered.

Other than financial inheritance questions which primarily affect wealthy adoptive parents and the children they adopt (I am familiar with that from my own family’s dynamics), there really is NO good argument for ever adopting a child.

There are alternatives – taking in a foster care child who really needs a home and providing for it (not adopting it and accordingly to my understanding, foster care is generally considered temporary and reunification with the natural family is the goal).  Another alternative is guardianship and NOT changing the child’s identity at all (no name change, falsified identity, birth certificate tampering).  When the child (who generally has no say in the adoption process) becomes an adult, then they can decide what kind of formal or informal relationships they want going forward.

One other suggestion would be for a couple who believes they want to adopt to basically become a kind of loving aunt and uncle to a mother and her child.  Provide the support that the mother’s own family and society may not be willing to give to her.

Though not all adoptees admit to being harmed by having been adopted, the majority have wounds, may be in therapy or commit suicide at a higher rate than the general population.

ALL adoptions require the separation of a child from its natural mother and all children would chose the natural mother if financial support and mental health requirements could be met to allow them to stay together.

The Unknown

From an adoptee – “It’s not as easy as everyone thinks, growing up and never knowing the truth about yourself.”

And it isn’t easy for the child of two adoptees because the feeling is the same – there is an emptiness, a void, a gap in the family history story and it hurts somehow in some deep place that is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t felt this.

Having gotten my mother’s adoption file from the state of Tennessee, due to her having been adopted through the Tennessee Children’s Home Society – Memphis branch – under the direction of Georgia Tann (who would have been indicted on criminal charges had she not died first), it was clear that my maternal grandmother never intended to lose my mom.

When my mom tried to get that adoption file herself in 1990 (and was rejected by the state of Tennessee), she said – as a mom, I would have wanted to know what happened to my child.  My mom yearned for a reunion she would never have, since her mom died in 1984.  My mom was devastated.

I also believe her mom always hoped my mom would find her.  Though her given name was Elizabeth and it shows up in the adoption file and later in the divorce papers from my maternal grandfather 3 years later, she reverted to the name on my mom’s birth registration in Virginia – “Lizzie Lou” – and even her gravestone bears that name.