The Pain of Adoption

It’s my 68th birthday and besides the usual busyness amongst so much sorrow and reasons for global level concern, I’m a bit short on time too. So sharing this worthy blog from my adoptee friend, Ande

I have been asked if I think losing a parent is the same as being adopted. No, it is not. Plenary adoption is the legal loss of identity, history, family.

Being adopted also does not mean you won’t then lose one of your Adoptive parents. Many of us do. Some to death, like I did. Others to divorce or the end of a relationship. Then, if we are able to find out who our parents are, many of us discover that they are dead, or emotionally unavailable.

People who, while still children, have lost a parent to death know that this is a pain other do not understand. The only people I have ever met who understand what that was like for me, are people who also had a parent die.

But it’s not the same as the pain of adoption.

I have lived for almost forty years with a person whose father walked away when he was a small child. I know from talking with and observing him that this loss has had a profound impact on his life. I do not in any way want to invalidate that loss. It is real, and it is painful.

It’s just not, the same. Adoption is another layer of trauma that non-adoptees do not understand. Please grant us the same respect you wish for us to show your lived experience.

I’m Okay But

“I still think if I was given the choice to be aborted or grow up adopted, I’d choose abortion.” Those are the words of one adoptee.

The pain of having to live under the lies of adoption was just so great that never being born still seems like the better option. I loved my parents. I am forever grateful for the care and love they gave me with the best of intention. I knew they loved me but I knew they were also lying to me and that confused me. I’m grateful to be alive today but it’s not always been that way.

Now I know the TRUTH and I’m free to be me. And I think it’s marvelous. I just might be a superhero and neurodiversity is my superpower. Level up????

Many adoptees, but not all of course, feel the same way . . . Don’t believe it. Overturning Roe v Wade and creating more babies for hopeful adoptive parents will shatter the lives of those adoptees by the trauma they experience in the process.

It’s A Small World After All

I am constantly amazed at how many people have some connection to adoption or foster care. It isn’t much talked about. I am proud of an all things adoption group I belong to on Facebook because they do some really good work.

Some examples –

We (as a group) helped mom financially with legal fees to revoke consent and get her daughter home. Because of this, several members of this group had to testify in court. We were accused of “child trafficking” and only helping get “O” home, so we could “sell her.” Clearly, DSS and the judge thankfully could see through that BS and “O” was returned home to her mother. Months later, the hopeful adoptive parents are still periodically calling Dept of Social Services DSS. They even created a TikTok and Instagram to slander her parents – months after she went home to her original family.

Every single mom with or without agency involvement has had Child Protective Services CPS called – out of spite. Hopeful adoptive parents HAPs have even told CPS “if you remove the baby, I’ll take her/him.”

Moms have received numerous text messages, phone calls, emails etc from HAPs. When mom blocks them, HAP’s family members continue the harassment.

The online adoption community is a small, small world. We’ve had HAPs find out that we have assisted moms with legal fees, baby registries and it is used against them because “they can’t afford” a baby. Obviously, when a mom has planned adoption for 9 months – she only has days or even less to get everything her baby needs. This is why we do baby registries. It’s also why we now do them anonymously. We will not let it be used against a mom because she simply doesn’t have everything her baby needs, when CPS comes knocking. And they always do, thanks to spiteful HAPs.

Shaming mom online because she has ruined their entire life, comparing their loss to a stillbirth. Yet, they miraculously recover, when the next baby comes along. Because the truth is – any baby will do.

Not only are some of the things above, what the community I am a part of has done but also what we have seen. When a hopeful adoptive parent enters the community, they often don’t stay long because this community’s mission is original family preservation. No rah rah rahs for the whole industry of adoption – though it is acknowledged that sometimes adoption cannot be avoided. Many HAP leave this community angry. Adoptees and former foster care youth are privileged voices in the community and speak their trauma and pain and what it is like to come out of the fog of believing adoption is a beautiful thing. I was in that fog when I first arrived there and quickly learned my place and then, by reading and considering the point of view there, they won me over to their side of the mission – hence this blog.

Silenced Women

When I saw this graphic, it went straight to my heart like an arrow. My grandmothers, forced by circumstances to give up their first born, and in two cases only child (which includes a grandfather who never was given the benefit to know he had a son), to go on with their lives as though nothing happened.

I don’t think I’ll ever truly 100% get over it and I probably should not because adoption is still a thing that drives mothers and their babies apart. I now have an unflinching awareness of what it means to be adopted.

At almost 70 years old now, having to live through a full 6 decades before I knew the truths of my origins, I do fell as though I was born to re-connect the broken threads of my family’s beginnings, that I have somehow managed to fulfill my destiny in having been born at all.

In learning about my family’s ancestors, I also discovered what a miracle it was that in the mid-1950s, I was not given up for adoption, with my parents forced to suffer the same fate their own parents encountered. My teenage mother and my father only having just started on his university studies – both interrupted when I decided to take up residence in my mother’s womb.

My grandparents could not tell their own stories of loss that hurts for a lifetime because no one would have been sympathetic regarding their plight but for adult adoptees today, there is a growing awareness of the trauma and pain of being cut off from one’s roots and some are even choosing to attempt parenting when they had thought to give up their child and they are finding a lot of support in society all around them.

May the reform of attitudes continue to take over the dominant narrative that adoption saves babies and children from a worse fate.

Kept – An Adoption Journal

This is causing some noise. They say of this journaling tool that it “has all the same heart and soul and the only change we made to this adoption version was to the pregnancy page. We now call that ‘The Beginning’ and have the prompts ‘how we found out about you,’ ‘how we told our loved ones about you,’ and ‘how we met’.”

On their Facebook page, one man writes – you obviously haven’t talked to any adult adoptees about this book. So many of us would have told you that your company name has a very obvious meaning to us. Also treating us as if our story began with adoption is effectively an erasure of our origins.

The company owner of Kept replied – Thank you for your phone call today. I really appreciate your willingness to engage and help us learn about the adoptee experience. As we talked about, we had only consulted with adoptive parents on what they would love to record from their child’s life. And we had a huge misstep with not consulting with adult adoptees on this product. A lot would have been caught. The heart was to record memories from when the adoptee was adopted into their adoptive family, but we didn’t realize how starting here would be harmful and insensitive. Thanks for your willingness to keep the conversation going with us. We really appreciate it.

Another one wrote – I’m speechless. Did you talk to a single adopted person? I’m an adoptee, a Licensed Professional Counselor who counsels adoptees, an author of adoption resources, and an adoptee civil rights advocate who led the multiyear effort to pass a 2021 landmark adoptee rights bill in Connecticut. I understand Kept is your company name, but it is beyond tone deaf, insulting and egregiously ignorant to publish a journal to document an adoptee’s life under such a name. You have seriously mis-stepped here, not only regarding adoptees but adoptive parents. I’d withdraw this product until you have consulted with adoptees (and at least some birth/first mothers) and LISTENED TO THEM.

And again, the company owner had to humbly reply – We didn’t. We should have consulted with people with exactly your experience. We should have listened to learned so much more before we launched this product. I’m dumbfounded about my own tone-deafness with the language of our brand name and how it would cause hurt related to this product. It was just a huge, unintentional, albeit hurtful misstep. We do have the product on hold until we’ve consulted with enough adoptees and can see a way forward. We are listening. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

The response from the adoptee above was this – Thank you for listening and responding. As you have abruptly discovered, there is a great deal of pain and anger in the adoptee community about how our experience has been unseen or actively silenced. I believe you are actually in a position to help adoptees, as well as adoptive and birth/first parents, given your desire to find a way to help parents hold the life stories of their children.

Yet another adoptee bluntly wrote – It’s obvious you didn’t talk to a single adult Adoptee. “Kept” is an awful name for an adoption journal. If I had been kept, I would have grown up with my biological family. Perhaps “Bought” would be a more appropriate title. After-all most of these adoptive parents dropped thousands purchasing their newborn babies.

Repeatedly, the company owner has to apologize with basically the same message over and over again.

Here is another adoptee’s response – As an adoptee this is highly insensitive. Adopted children have a very traumatic start to life, this leads to developmental trauma which affects them through to adulthood. Their life doesn’t begin when they are adopted. So much happens prior. Adoption should be for a child to keep them safe. Their journey should be honoured. The name kept is disgusting. Adoption happens because we were given away, point blank period. Please do some research and educate yourself because you are doing a disservice to every single adopted child.

Not crystal clear about the problem yet ? Here’s another – Calling a book “kept” that’s meant for an adoptee is really tone deaf. An adoptee is given away, relinquished, sold. That’s nice that you talked to some of your friends who have adopted, and some adoptive parents but did you ever talk to an adult adoptee about this? Did you ever consult what kind of information the person who the book is ultimately for might want to know when they’re older? Their journey, our journey, my journey, stared with my natural family. I have a history with them too. Every adoptee has a first family. Do better. Talk to adult adoptees when making a book for them.

And another – Just here to echo the comments of others. As an adoptee, I find using your brand/company name for this type of product incredibly tone deaf and insensitive. We are not kept. We are people who have endured trauma after trauma. Please pull this from your line and research deeper. Consult with those this actually affects.

And another – It’s obvious this journal was made for kept people — that is, people who were *not* adopted. Adopted people are quite literally *not* kept. We are given away. “Kept” is a term which refers to those who were *not* given away. The only person who could possibly think this is tasteful is one who *was* kept. Please listen to the voices of adult adoptees. We know adoption better than the people you know who have adopted.

And this – I am glad that you are now intending to speak with adopted people, but I am really disappointed that you had to be told/asked to do that. If someone wrote a book about Black people, or people who had Jewish heritage, or people who were refugees from a war, without speaking to these people or at least researching their experiences, it would be incredibly offensive and wrong. As is this. To which she added later as a reply – I am impressed, though, that you are now considering it; and have acknowledged your action’s impacts; often adopted people are dismissed or bullied when they speak of their experiences and viewpoints, or show society how damaging its actions are, so thank you for that.

Then this one made me smile – It works for me. Adoptees are “kept” in return for their services: replacement placeholder for the real child adopters can’t have/to fuel a savior syndrome/virtue signaling tool/to carry on the line of genetic strangers/to look after adopters in their old age/to provide a generic childhood so someone can acquire the title of ‘mother’ or ‘father’…Kept: having the expression of principles, ideas, etc., controlled, dominated, or determined by one whose money provides support.

Someone is working on something called “Kept” about women who were kept by their teen moms and comparing them side by side with stories of women who were relinquished for domestic infant adoption. In adoptionland, “kept” people are those who are NOT adopted.

The company prides itself on using the colors of nature for its baby memory books. One commenter wrote – This is APPALLING.I was not kept. I was TAKEN. Who the hell thought this was a good idea??? And ‘fog’ as one of the colors? You have got to be kidding.

Why One Woman Chooses To Foster A Child

Here’s an insight into just one woman’s reasons and situation –

Hi! I’m a kinship adoptive mom, domestic infant adoption mom, foster teen adoption mom, and current foster parent. I also went through 30 years of trauma with an abusive parent and should have been removed – but it was never reported… It’s a journey, but I am healing. I truly believe the trauma/pain I have gone through has helped me be a better parent and be able to better relate to our kids.

This was in answer to a suggestion that the standards for being a foster parents should include a college degree. This woman did not feel that would necessarily lead to better outcomes. So, she said – Maybe instead of a college degree, it could be specifically initial and ongoing intensive trauma training? I don’t feel that we got nearly enough training – even though it was a lot. I’ve had to read many books and listen to a ton of podcasts to help me understand/help with trauma in our kids. I love the emphasis on doing whatever we can to help with family preservation – I do that now and have in the past with each of our kids as well. I think the drug tests/psych tests make sense. Sad to think it may be needed.

I work full time (I have my own company) and that pays for all of our bills as well as extra things like vacations etc. (note I do not have a college degree). I really enjoy working outside the home, and feel I am a better mom (just speaking for myself) not being there 24/7. We do pay for childcare for our youngest, and the other kids are old enough to be home alone when needed. I will say I have a very supportive and domestic spouse – which helps everything run semi-smooth. 

We use the reimbursement we receive (we get monthly payments for 2 out of our 4 kids) towards strictly expenses for the kids (not our utility bills/mortgage etc).

That said, I realize some kids need extra care (young, or high needs) and caregivers getting paid for the job (and not having another career) might make better sense. Just depends.

I’ve been learning a lot from hearing the different perspectives in a group that looks at the realities of adoption and foster care. May each one of you find healing, love and purpose for the pain you’ve been through.

A Sad Reality

Adoptees are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than non-adoptees are. Why is that ? Maybe because being adopted is not all unicorns and rainbows.

So today comes this sad story.

I work in animal rescue because I couldn’t handle working for the Department of Children and Families. It’s a corrupt system.

Today I took a phone call that really got to me and started a small debate between others in the office at the time.

The caller said a 26 year old adoptee had killed herself and left four cats behind. One cat was found dead with her. One cat a friend took and the other two the rescue I work in is taking. We learned these animals were without food for sometime. Meaning no one had checked up on her.

I was told the adoptive mom was a bad alcoholic, adoptive father is a prominent well known doctor. That the 26 year old suffered years of mental health issues. I told the caller we would take in the two two cats no questions asked and no surrender fee. When the caller asked me why… I responded that as an adoptee myself….

My heart breaks for any adoptee who was this upset and hurting to take her own life in front of pets who she saved and loved. I said most adoptees have trauma and pain and it seldom gets better even with the best therapy! She thanked me and I’ll meet the lady Friday with the two cats.

When I got off the phone the two other people in the office told me I cannot generalize adoptive people that way. That many adoptive people are happy! I’m like no… I’m an adoptee and while my life on the outside may look perfect and my own children are …. I cry daily and have struggled my entire life. In my teens, I wanted to die! So I told them unless they were an adoptee nothing that they could tell me would change my view!

The truth is that the lived experience of many adoptees makes those who have not experienced it, uncomfortable.

October 30th is Adoptee Remembrance Day.

A Lifetime Of Regret

The Maiden of Sorrow painting by Tyler Robbins

In a discussion about a same-sex couple (two females) who wanted a family and were seeking perspectives on donor conceived vs adoption, a woman who gave up her baby at birth was strongly defending her choice as best for the child. This kind of denial is not uncommon. Truth is that many women who surrender their child at birth spend the rest of their lifetime in sorrow. Not even getting into the trauma that EVERY baby suffers at a preverbal, subconscious level due to that separation. Today’s story is from a woman who surrendered her child.

I’m a Birth mother. When I placed my daughter for adoption I lost the only good thing in my life. She was my joy. My reason for living.

I spent the next decade deeply suicidal and one of the things I heard a lot from people was that “suicide is selfish because it takes one person’s pain and passes it on to ten others.” These days I can’t help but think how much this statement applies to adoption too.

When I hear hopeful adoptive parents talk about the anguish infertility caused them and how they’re pursuing adoption now because they NEED to be a mother, I wonder if they realize they’re doing exactly this. They are trying to take away their pain of not having a baby by passing that pain onto the birth mother, father, child, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins instead.

I have spent years in agony over the loss of my daughter, crying and begging god to change what happened. I’ve watched others get pregnant and wondered why they were worthy of motherhood and I wasn’t. I’ve felt the need to be a mother because I was a mother. But I am a mother without a child now.

The future which hopeful adoptive parents were unwilling to live (a life without children) has become my reality instead. Do hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted realize – they are transferring their pain onto others, when they accept somebody else’s baby to fulfill their dreams ? What makes the pain spread through suicide so obviously selfish but the pain spread through adoption so widely acceptable ?

The first response was empathetic – you’re making perfect sense. Except the pain that leads people to suicide and the pain of having a child and losing it are both astronomically greater than any pain felt by never having children. So that makes adoption exceptionally selfish. I’m sorry for the pain you have been through. You did not deserve any of it. Saying a prayer for you.

It is frequently said in my all things adoption group that adoption is a permanent decision to a temporary solution. Society really needs to wake up to the harm of commercializing babies for profit and support struggling mothers and/or families better so children do not need to be taken from the family they were born into.

There are some adoptive mothers who finally realize that their infertility was at least psychologically caused by feeling their own mothers didn’t love them, even though there may have also been a physical component. If a woman is not whole in mind and emotions, any child brought into this life will have flawed parenting. There is also often a religious component to adoption. Some feel that God is punishing them with infertility and though some kind of twisted logic believe that adopting a child will get them back God’s good graces. So many don’t want to heal, they refuse to even admit they need to. And it’s their children and their children’s true mothers who carry the burden of their lack of awareness regarding their true issues.

Regarding a relinquishment of one’s babies and suicide came this comment –

I am an adoptee. My Mom died by suicide because her pain was too much to bear from losing two children to adoption.

I have been saying much of the same thing in regards to suicide. It’s not selfish or cowardly or a crime. I have also been saying that hopeful adoptive parents or those who have already adopted are transferring their pain. Most do not heal before adopting. Adoptive parents are wrongly revered by our society. Nobody thinks to question them or ask them anything. Sadly, adoption is usually option B and adoptive parents do not heal nor research the topic before getting their wallets out.

Fact is – adoption is big business. A for profit business. So if there were no adoptive parents, the money to be made selling babies would decrease. Sadly, adoption is socially acceptable, romanticized, sensationalized and is thought by many to be beautiful, rainbows etc. Adoptive parents are viewed as heroes and altruistic.

Suicide is stigmatized and people are afraid to discuss it and truly do not understand it. Our society has a hard time sitting in discomfort and looking at other people’s pain. That is why suicide is quickly labeled as selfish. In reality, society is selfish for not asking why the pain was so heavy. Even the words used around suicide make it seem like a crime or a choice. (committed suicide, killed oneself, took their own life). We are the selfish ones. We need to be talking about this. Not to mention the high suicide attempt rates and suicides among adoptees, as well as their original moms. Nobody is going to physically die because they can’t have a baby but many adoptees and moms are dying from the grief, trauma and loss that is the truth of adoption and family separation.

Every day, my effort here is to change the narrative about who adoptees are, about their stories, about the importance of keeping families together. Mine is one small voice but those who share my perspectives are legion. So the effort at reform begins with changing the narrative – adoption is NOT a “selfless” act but a “selfish” act. There is so much pain in adoption. I wish more people were aware of (and cared about!!!) the devastating consequences.

The Uncertainty Inherent

Today’s story is about a birth mother who’s daughter, put up for adoption, has rejected contact with her 25 years later thanks to the Dear Therapist article in The Atlantic.

My daughter gave a child up for adoption about 25 years ago. She already had one child, and although I offered to help her raise both children, she felt it wouldn’t be fair to us or to the baby, so she gave her up to a very nice couple, whom we both interviewed and liked. The couple has kept in touch with us both over the years, sending pictures and updates on their daughter.

My daughter always felt that in time the child would want to get in touch with her, and in fact, her adoptive parents have encouraged this, but the girl has always said she didn’t want to. This is very painful for my daughter. Can you give us an idea as to why the young woman might not want to meet her birth mother, or offer any explanation that would make my daughter feel less rejected? She has even tried contacting her on Facebook, and the response was that Facebook was not an appropriate place to discuss this relationship. But no reciprocal contact has ever been made.

Blog Author’s note – It’s tough being a vulnerable, under supported, financially struggling birth mother. I get it. In my own family, the two children put up for adoption have since reconnected with this but that does not un-do all the years of living lives separated into other families. Even for my own self, I’ve re-connected with my actually genetic, biological relatives but it doesn’t make up for not knowing each other for decades. It is better to know who they are, it’s just tough building a relationship after so much time has gone by. So I am interested in this response.

Answer from the therapist –

I’m glad you’re curious about why the woman your daughter put up for adoption 25 years ago might not want to meet her birth mother. I say this because you write about your daughter’s pain and feeling of rejection, but I’m not sure that your daughter has a good sense of how her adopted child might feel—not only about this meeting, but about the circumstances that led to the adoption and her life since then.

Something to consider: Adopted children don’t get to choose whether or not they are adopted, or what family they’ll end up in. Adults make these choices for them. Given their lack of choice in what happened, making their own decisions about how to handle their experiences later on matters greatly.

Of course, different adoptees will make different decisions, for all kinds of reasons. But too often, adults try to dictate how they should feel and what they should do with regard to their birth parents. Sometimes it goes something like “You shouldn’t try to find your birth parents; after all, your mom and dad will be so hurt.” Other times it might be “Don’t search for your birth parents, because it might disrupt their lives or that of their families. They chose a closed adoption for a reason.” Or: “You should definitely search for them, because you’ll regret it later if you don’t.” Or: “How can you refuse to meet your birth parents? Don’t you realize how lucky you are that they’ve reached out and you have the opportunity to know them?” None of this, of course, respects the feelings of the person who was adopted.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be much regard for your daughter’s biological child’s wants or needs—your perspective seems to be all about your daughter’s desire for this relationship. In fact, there’s so little regard for this young woman’s feelings that your daughter, despite knowing that her biological child has consistently said she’s not interested in meeting, reached out to her on Facebook.

As for why someone who was adopted may not want to meet her birth mother, the reasons are as varied as the individuals involved. Some adopted children feel angry or abandoned by the birth parents, especially if there are other siblings who stayed with one or both biological parents, as is the case here. (This may feel like being the “unwanted child.”) Some adoptees don’t have those feelings—they are living a perfectly happy life—but there’s fear of the emotional turmoil such a meeting might bring. It could raise new questions of what might have been; it could reveal information that the adoptee would rather not have known; it could start a relationship that doesn’t work out, resulting in a loss that could be quite painful on top of whatever feelings of loss the adoptee already has.

I’ve also heard from some adoptees who have met their biological parents that they found the experience disappointing. Despite imagining that they’d have a lot in common with their biological parents, upon meeting they felt as though these people were aliens with different interests, worldviews, personalities, and values—leaving them with a sense of emptiness. Some have told me that they would have preferred to maintain whatever fantasy they had of their biological parents rather than be faced with the much starker reality.

All of this is to say: A lot can go wrong, so it makes sense that some adoptees would choose not to be in contact with their biological parents. But whatever this young woman’s reasons, she doesn’t owe your daughter an explanation. It’s not her job to meet your daughter’s emotional needs.

Instead, gaining a better understanding of what those emotional needs are might help your daughter feel less pain about not meeting her biological daughter. I imagine that she has a lot of complicated feelings about the adoption that perhaps she doesn’t fully understand, and talking to a therapist about them might not only lessen the intensity of the longing but also help her consider what she’s asking of her biological daughter and why.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that your daughter’s biological child may feel differently about reaching out at another juncture in her life. She may have some questions about the family’s medical history one day, or decide that she wants the experience of seeing her biological mother face-to-face. If that time does come, it will be important to focus on her needs. There’s a difference between a phone conversation and a meeting, and between a meeting and embarking on a relationship. The less this woman worries that her biological family might want more from her than she’s willing to give—which is likely how she feels now—the more open she might become one day to making contact. But even if she doesn’t, the most loving thing you can do for her is to honor her choice.

Emotional Toll

In the all things adoption group I belong to, adoptee voices are considered privileged. They are the ones who know what being adopted feels like. Sometimes adoptive parents or hopeful prospective adoptive parents come into the group. They struggle with the anger and pain that adoptees in the group express. There are also former foster youth who share their experiences and current foster care parents or hopeful to become foster parents come into the group as well.

Adoptees often express the emotional toll of trying to share their lived experiences with these other group members. Some who are not adoptees cannot take what they are reading and leave or become angry and disbelieving – surely they are the exception ?

If you ever encounter a “woke” adoptee (adoptees often express how it feels to have emerged from what they call the adoption fog when they believed the unicorns and rainbows version of adoption that the industry puts forth in pursuit of the profits they make facilitating adoptions), believe them when they express their struggles with feelings of abandonment, rejection, not belonging in the family they’ve been adopted into. Though most birth parents welcome a reunion with their “lost” child, not all of them do. These are more than sad for the adoptee experiences being abandoned and rejected all over again.