Sharing Some Thoughts

Adoptee Julian Washio-Collette

From Dear Adoption

I complied choicelessly when you took me from my mother’s authorized 10 minute embrace the day after I was born, such was your generosity. I did not resist when you placed me into the hands of strangers who fostered me, and then did it again two months later when I met my adopters for the first time. Why did everyone smell and sound and feel so strange? You gave no reply. 

You did not ask for my consent when you changed my name and falsified my birth records and hid my family from me. But I went along with your interventions, as a child must. Why, though, did you put me with a couple who would soon despise one another? Did you not see that coming? Oh, but I endured the divorce like a champ, buttoned my lip. Always your faithful servant. I must say, you almost broke me when my adoptive mother then decided she didn’t want me anymore and relinquished me when I was nine years old. But I endured. I always endure.

Being adopted a second time as an older child was pretty awful. Tough love from dear adoption. Tough it out. You changed my name and falsified my birth records again, and now two families were hidden from me by force of law. Wow, that was hard. I mean, the impressions I retain of my first family are strong and enduring but you did succeed in stealing their names and their identities from me. Did you really think, though, that I could forget the people I knew at nine years old? Well, I tried. God knows I tried. 

Remember the time when my second adopters unknowingly took me to my old neighborhood, where I lived with my first adoptive mother who I am supposed to forget? You sure put me in some unique and challenging circumstances. Builds character, I guess. Is that what I should call you? Character builder? Anyway, we went into an ice cream shop. I was in my own world, really, trying to puzzle things out, or just leave the real world behind. I was fantasizing about having the superpower of being able to disappear, to make myself invisible, when some old friends from my old elementary school walked in. Talk about awkward! You said the first nine years of my life never really happened. What was I to do? They noticed me, called me by my old name. I froze. I was trying to be faithful to you! You told me to forget my past but you neglected to tell me that it might sneak up on me again like this. I had to wing it, which is a lot to ask of a child. Too much, really. So I just stood there, mute, numb. You really should have given me an instruction manual for such anomalies. My new adopters weren’t much help, either. They were as mute and numb on the car ride home as I was. Pretend nothing happened. Hey! That would make a great motto for you, don’t you think? Dear Adoption: Pretend Nothing Happened.

I do say, as compliant as I am, I have to question your judgment. How could you have put me with yet another couple who would come to despise one another? Was that on purpose? I guess you must have had some high expectations for building my character! Well, there was another divorce but I was used to that by then. Getting thrown out of my house…wait, was that my house? Well, whosever house that was, being forcibly made houseless at sixteen was a bit of a curveball but, hey, I’m made of tough stuff. You made sure of that!

I walked away from my adopters’ home for good with a large plastic garbage bag of clothes and other belongings slung over my back. It was the middle of the night. I had nowhere to go. You cut me to pieces and left me bereft of family, of friendship, of kindness. You shaped me to be so utterly alone. You placed an impossible burden of forgetting on my shoulders and forced me into roles and relationships that didn’t fit, that were disposable. And you disposed of me. I should call you mother! You broke me down and scrubbed me clean so that you could create me according to your own image. Surely, as I walked into that uncertain night, I had no mother but you. I slipped my hand into your cold, ghostly grip. Now it’s just the two of us, you whispered, as you wrapped me in privation and ushered me into the world.

Julian Washio-Collette leads a mostly quiet life with his wife, Lisa, in a cabin tucked away behind a monastery in the glorious coastal wilderness of Big Sur, California. He blogs occasionally.

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.

 

Second Choice

“Trigger Warning – Miscarriage”

I have a fear of a baby I adopt growing up feeling like my second choice…I have had five miscarriages in a row, most second trimester where I had to birth a baby that was no longer alive. We want a baby so badly, and I think, if God allows us to adopt, that I will look back on this time as “the broken road, that led me to our child” but (if I’m honest) I would give anything to birth a live baby instead. Is it wrong to adopt, when you still wish you could carry and deliver your baby ? I don’t want my possible future child to feel like they were a second choice (but isn’t that how most moms usually come into adoption?) I want a live baby so much.

As one begins to learn about how adoptees feel and think, one learns that there is no getting beyond this if the adoptive mother experienced miscarriages or infertility first. The adoptee will always know deep down in their heart that they were a second choice regarding motherhood.

For hopeful adoptive parents who have experienced miscarriage or infertility, it is always recommended that they seek counseling first before moving on to trying to adopt, to at least resolve these issues clearly within their own selves. This will not prevent an adoptee from feeling this however.

Religious beliefs are too often tied in with adoption and the necessity of raising children. I’m not surprised that one commenter quickly asked – Why is it God ? (“if God allows us to adopt”) So many of these people are the first ones to tell others that whatever bad thing happened to you, wouldn’t have happened, if you’d made better choices or how God gave us freedom of choice, so take responsibility for our own actions – yet when it comes to something many Christians want -suddenly, it’s all about God’s will and God making it happen. I don’t know, maybe that’s so if it all goes to shit, they can blame that on God too, or say they were confused ?

Taking that a step further ? So odd when someone makes those miscarriages “God’s way to make them suffer, so they end up with someone else’s baby that they will always resent the reason for.” People twist situations to suit their beliefs and biases. To be clear, it’s wrong to adopt, when you have your own trauma consuming you. Deal with that first.

An acknowledged Christian makes these points – The Bible is in favor of caring for ORPHANS, which has a very limited definition. It doesn’t say to adopt or even to foster. The actual biblical definition of adoption is welcoming a new person into the family of God. Which can be done without actually adopting them. It can definitely be done without the next step of changing their name. The Bible places a high premium on lineage in the first testament. This is a pet peeve for this Christian. When people who have obviously never studied relevant passages to defend their decision to rip families apart, or keep them apart.

I do see the reality in this different perspective –  at least she’s honest about adoption being her second choice. She is not pretending. As an adoptee, I can deal with the truth a lot easier than the lies adoptive parents tell themselves to convince themselves to feel better about it. Then, they project that onto their kids…”we chose you”, “you were our plan all along”. It’s all BS. At least, she is owning her selfishness before, whether she continues to admit it once she adopts, is another matter altogether.

I’m not adopted, so maybe that’s why I feel more pity here than anger. I feel for her because her loss is obviously weighing on her mental state. Even so, she shouldn’t consider adoption until she’s healed her own traumas. I couldn’t imagine giving birth and seeing a lifeless baby. I don’t think I’d want to adopt or try again, personally. It is clear that she REALLY wants to be a mother, but to be a mother is to be selfless. It’s to put your wants in second and sometimes 3rd place, it’s long nights, it’s about the child and I don’t think she’s realized that yet. A child separated from their biological family NEEDS stability and more. This woman doesn’t seem stable.

And I agree with this assessment – she is deep in the trenches of her grief, and should not consider any further action until she seeks help with that. If she was to do the work and heal from her tragic losses – she may even see that she don’t want a baby as bad as she wants the babies she has lost. No baby or child, be it adopted or birthed by her, will fill that deep void.

What Gives Me The Right ?

This is a tricky issue that I have encountered here on this blog. What gives me the right to talk about issues related to adoption or foster care ? Am I an adoptee ? No. Have I spent time in foster care ? No. I do have a connection to adoption – Yes, I do. Both of my parents were adoptees and both of my sisters have given up a baby to adoption – but these are not the reasons I have become passionate about the subjects I write about in this blog. I am almost 67 yrs old and honestly, until about 3 years ago, I was in what is called “the fog,” not seeing anything to be concerned about when it comes to adoption. And I needed enlightenment and educating.

So I joined a group where the voices (thoughts) of adoptees and former foster youth are “privileged,” meaning given the most deference. However, in the group are adoptive parents, foster carers, hopeful adoptive parents and oddballs like me. And so, I have read and read and read there. I have bought books to inform me from the perspective of adoptees and former foster youth. And I get it and now I care about family preservation. I know that most parents actually DO want to raise their own children and those children want to be raised by their natural parents. Most of the time, children are removed from their parents over issues of poverty or solvable problems. Many an unwed woman who finds herself pregnant ends up convinced and coerced to surrender her baby – often to her lifelong regret. That happened to both of my natural grandmothers.

So the issue came up in my all things adoption group today. The woman identified herself as being a hopeful adoptive parent when she was younger. currently a teacher and someone who would like to become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) when her own kids are a bit older. She admitted that she no other links to adoption. Her question was – Should I stay out of discussions of adoption ? Or should I share opinions that I’ve gained from listening to the members of this group ? When I see posts in other groups or have conversations in real life, I’d like to amplify the voices of adoptees and former foster youth, but I’m wondering if that’s not welcome. She noted in closing – Obviously, you can speak for yourselves on posts like these, but I know it is with emotional labor and at the risk of being gaslighted and all of that.

Someone who tried to speak up was told that she needed a reality check because some adoptees value life and don’t dwell in the past, and that the only trauma is for birth parents who are found years later and have privacy violated. And this is old misinformed thinking. It is the adoption agency line as to why adoptions should be closed and kept secret and it has been proven to be abundantly false by many adoptees who have had successful reunions with their natural parents. Yes, some of these fail or are awkward or come at an inopportune time in a mature adult’s life, especially if they are now married with children from that current spouse. It happens and it is painful and heartbreaking when it does but fear of rejection (which honestly happened to some degree when the child was given up and they know this) is no reason to prevent the effort.

One adoptee shared her own experience – Most first mothers want to be found. Mine was terrified of it but I think she’s glad I found her.

Another one encouraged the effort – Preach it…..pffffftttt on those who fuss ….. remind them that they can not speak for anyone but themselves. The truth will ruffle feathers. That’s ok. I personally don’t mind a dialog about differing view points….but many adoption focused groups don’t want that and delete/block a naysayer.

The one who originally posted the question shared – the adoptive parent I was communicating with felt comfortable speaking on behalf of the child’s birth mother. It bothered me. To which someone else noted – Remind her that it is okay to share her own story but NOT the child’s story! Then it is further revealed –  She also brought up racism her daughter has experienced, so it’s a trans-racial adoption on top of everything. And clear that they are living in a very white neighborhood.

And so, in this particular case, it had become clear that the adoptive mother is wrapped up in some heavy adoption issues. Someone like that becomes so enmeshed, their only recourse is to carry on with adoption speak and in favor of what they created…..a big case of, pretend. That last word is an adoptee’s perspective on what adoption is – someone who pretends to be the parent who birthed you or that they have somehow saved you from a fate worse than death – called saviorism when it is trans-racial adoption.

So, this is partly why I write this blog. To spread some light in the darkness that has been adoption practice for decades as well as share my own personal stories, illustrating one or the other with one or the other. Yes, it has become a cause (family preservation) that I am admittedly passionate about.