Choosing To Take That Risk

An adoptee offers a word of warning – to any hopeful adoptive parent who now wants to adopt, even though they already have biological kids:

Biological and adopted kids *should not be mixed*. Period.

Even if *you* believe you can treat your biological and adopted child equally (which is pretty fu****g rare), you cannot control how your biological child will treat their adopted sibling.

As somebody who has been treated absolutely *horrifically* by my adoptive mom’s biological kids, this has actually been the worst trauma of all, when it comes to my adoption.

And if you’re about to say “that isn’t always the case,” just stop for a second and consider these 2 things:

1. I don’t need to hear your “not all” bs, when I’m discussing the outright abuse I have experienced at the hands of my siblings, acquired by having been adopted.

2. If there is even a *miniscule* chance that your adopted child could experience what I have, and you wanna go through with it anyways, then you are selfish and careless. Imagine knowing that there is a possibility that your biological child may abuse or mistreat your adopted child, and you still chose to take that risk with a child’s life ?

And just today, I learned this statistic – even among biological siblings, sibling abuse is 5 times more common than spousal or parental abuse – it is actually the most common form of domestic abuse. And yet, adoptees also have an added layer of mental/emotional trauma due to having been relinquished by their original parents. The obvious difference between having been actually born to and having been brought into a family from different parents and circumstances is real and should not be dismissed.

One of those biological kids admits – Even though I love love love my adopted siblings and dote on them as much as possible, it does not erase the resentment. I resent them for “taking” my parents away and they resent us for being born to the family. They will NEVER know I resent them and even my parents don’t, but mixing adopted kids with biological kids is brutal on both sides. Then, goes on to give some additional context – 1) my siblings are far too young to have any idea & 2) I don’t feel upset that I’m not adopted. I do have a completely normal jealousy, at times, that they take attention away from me, since they’re the center of attention for the whole family. And I recognize that there will be obvious friction between me and the younger siblings, though it is not there at this present moment. In the future? Absolutely. And tries to clarify this – the resentment is towards my parents, the jealousy is towards my adopted siblings. Very different feelings. I never said the suffering on both sides was equal. Mine is typical sibling jealousy. My adopted siblings have a deep rooted trauma and a robbing of their history. I am working through it. I was already 19, when my younger adopted siblings moved in. My work is understanding that my parents don’t love/care about them more. They are simply young and traumatized. They require more care than I do. I am learning to understand the truth that I don’t need my parents as much as I often feel I do. I have an anxious attachment style with rejection sensitivity, a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life, so I am learning how that affects the way I feel about my parents.

So, the honest truth is – a HUGE percentage of adoptive parents WILL show favoritism towards their biological child, over their adopted child, whether they mean to or not. And the extended family treats them differently as well.

This, from experience – I would go as far to say, even if the adoptive parents have grown biological children. I freely tell people that I was adopted from foster care. I don’t normally share that when my adoptive parents died, their will left me in the custody of their eldest son and his family. Truth is, none of their three adult children ever agreed their parents should adopt me. When they died, I was kicked out of their son’s house and was told “nice to know you, you’re on your own now.” Adoption has so many layers that no one thinks about. And every time a hopeful adoptive parent or adoptee still in “the fog” (believing in the feel good narratives about adoption) counters a trauma or negative experience with their own beliefs, it not only insults and minimizes the pain they are responding to, but also minimizes the INFINITE number of situations they couldn’t possibly know about. Please stop pushing back against people with the lived experience who are trying to prevent even more trauma, by sharing your own limited experiences.

Using Bio in Reference to Family

When one spends time within the larger adoption community (this includes original family, adoptees and former foster youth as well as adoptive and foster parents) the precise use of language sometimes becomes an issue. For my own self, I am entirely willing to learn to use the most appropriate language while giving a large tolerance to the words anyone else uses because we are all doing our best to improve and reform circumstances that have historically not been in the best interests of the child who ends up adopted or in foster care. That is really the most important issue – the well-being of our children overall.

Some of the adoptees or former foster youth have had reunions with their original family that have not gone well at all, only heaping more heartbreak and rejection on already wounded souls. Some had really crappy experiences with their adoptive or foster care families. Life can be incredibly hard at times for a lot of people. I try to always remember that and I too fail to be compassionate and sympathetic enough at times. We all do. Rather than beat ourselves up over our mistakes in judgement and actions, we really can only try to do better in the next instant – every instant after every instant. Life is for evolving ourselves and through our efforts to make ourselves a better human being overall, we evolve our families, our communities, our countries and our planet. It is an on-going process that never ends.

Whatever we call our parents, it can only be whatever feels right to each of us personally. I think every one of my own children has called me by my familiar first name of Debbie at some time or other and it has never truly bothered me. It does get complicated when adoption is in one’s family history. I called my mom’s adoptive parents – Grandmother D and Grandfather D – they were very formal people. I called my dad’s adoptive parents – Granny and Granddaddy. They were very humble, salt of the earth kinds of people.

When I learned who my parents actual original parents were – in my heart, they did take the place of my adoptive grandparents because they are truly the genetic, biological ones. However, I never use a “grandparent” identifier with them. It is their names that I use – Lizzie Lou, JC, Delores and Rasmus (though he preferred Martin, I like the more Danish version personally). So though, when I think of grandparents now (having only learned of them after the age of 60, after they were long deceased and I will never know them but second hand through other descendants of theirs), I think of the original ones but I never use the childhood identifiers for them.

There has long been a raging controversy over the use of the word “birth” to denote the parents who conceived and birthed children who were later surrendered either voluntarily or involuntarily (forcefully taken). Here is one perspective on that issue –

I personally loathe the term ‘birth mother’ and prefer ‘bio’ to differentiate between adoptive parents and family I’m related to by biology. I don’t understand why Lee Campbell (founder of Concerned United Birthparents) insists that ‘birth’ is not offensive but ‘bio’ is. Biology denotes DNA; genetically unrelated surrogates can give birth, so it’s not an inclusive term, as far as I can see. Anyway, as an adoptee—the only person among ANY of my family who had NO CHOICE—I’ll use whatever term I please. I adore my maternal biological family, including my late momma, whom I didn’t get to know past infancy. I feel far more connected to her than I ever did to my adoptive mother. I have three living maternal uncles and we are CRAZY about each other. We don’t use qualifiers referring to each other, but in cases when clarification is needed, I specify with ‘bio’.

Some of the push related to language was actually influenced by the adoptive parents when the whole industry was going through radical change in the 1970s. Social workers started to push positive adoption language. You had adoptive families complaining about the previous terms: they didn’t like natural mother because then they were unnatural. They didn’t like real because that made them unreal.

Many original mothers and their offspring do dislike the term “birth” because a woman who has given birth to a child is much more than just a woman who gave birth. There is a bond formed in the womb and all the conditions and circumstances that occur during gestation that will forever be a part of any human being and of course, there is the genetics as well.

Here is another perspective from a former foster youth who has adopted a child out of foster care – I always refer to my own parents as my biological parents. I honestly don’t have much relationship with either of my parents. I have learned through the years they are truly incapable of having a safe parent/child relationship. And honestly they are simply my biology. Nothing more. As an adoptive parent, I have learned and respect my daughter’s mom and family and refer to her mom when speaking to her as simply – her mom. In posts on the internet I try to always use first family. I will add that I only use first family in areas of the internet when needing to differentiate. In real life, it is simply family, mom, dad, grandmother, etc and no one has ever been confused over whether I was talking about adoptive or her first family.

Another one added – I call my son’s Mom, his Mom. His first family, his family. I can’t handle the terms that make the moms less than.

I totally agree.

And many of these women really don’t like “tummy mom.”

There is also another kind of family where the adoptive parent is actually “kin” related to the adoptee. I know one of these kinds of situations rather well. So one who is a former foster youth wrote –

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4

I will call my bio parents whatever I want. They are not my “real” parents, because neither of them raised me. It is incredibly offensive when people ask “your adoptive (kinship) mom, or your real mom?” No. My kinship mom IS my
“real” mom. Our relationship is far from perfect. My raising was far from perfect. But she’s the only person who I’ve ever felt comfortable enough regarding our relationship to call “mom”, and I’ll continue to do so.  I hate the phrase “real mom.” My mom is my mom.  Period.

In my own case, my biological, genetically related daughter was not raised by me after the age of 3. She ended up being raised by her dad and step-mother.  My daughter considers my ex-husband’s wife her mom. I accept that. I carry enough conflicted emotions for not raising her – regardless of the reasons that came to pass. But I do acknowledge that her step-mother was the one that was there when my daughter was sick, in trouble or needed a compassionate heart to listen to whatever. I do have a decently good adult relationship with my daughter. I am grateful for that much.

Misplaced Priorities

I could sound like a broken record stuck on repeat but here goes anyway.

Society’s first priority should be the support of and encouragement for natural families.  I was reading today about how many churches have programs to assist those persons who provide foster care or are adopting a child with all kinds of useful items.  Why don’t we do this for struggling families ?  Particularly now with the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic, when people are being evicted, worried about feeding their families due to a loss of income or expecting the electricity, gas and/or water to be cut off anytime.  It is bad enough that looking for one’s weekly grocery items feels like living in a third world country instead of what we had thought of the United States as – a first world country – but it seems we have lost that standing to greed and corruption at the top of the government and among the wealthiest citizens.

Okay, enough of my political rant but really ?  Check out this wish list recently posted by a church for new foster parents to help them “get by” –

Lots of food of all kinds.  For example, gift cards to restaurants, fast dinners like Bertoli pasta bags, frozen pizzas, PF Chang’s frozen dinners or even ready to eat, hot meals delivered throughout the first two weeks. Lots of requests for babysitting options such as volunteers that can come and watch the kids while you run errands, provide the freedom for a date night out, or a day of rest or time to enjoy adult activities, maybe even just take a nap or be quiet for an hour.  A full house deep clean from a local cleaning company or maid service.  Car detailing, “movie night” (dvd or Redbox code, popcorn, candies/snacks), board games, amazon gift cards and gas cards (for all the appointments).  A deal with a furniture store for a percentage off of bunk beds, dressers, lamps, etc.  Gift cards for lessons to whatever… swim, music, baseball, haircuts, lawncare, homecare/maintenance, bug man, carcare/maintenance, pretty much anything a regular family would need/use.

Notice something ?  A pattern is emerging.  It all about the adults, the parents, and not about the traumatized children placed with them.  And wouldn’t a struggling family be content with less frivolous luxuries ?  The priorities of charitable people need to be reconsidered and revised to help families stay intact, instead of tearing them apart.

Unintended Consequences

We do not always see down the road of our life’s journey far enough to know where our decisions will leave us.  When I left my daughter temporarily with her paternal grandmother, I did not intend for her to be raised by her father and step-mother and to never live with me permanently again.  When my maternal grandmother sought temporary care for my mom at Porter-Leath Orphanage she did not intend to fall into Georgia Tann’s trap and lose my mom.

At first, it was a joy to discover who my original grandparents were.  Both of my parents were adoptees and they each died knowing next to nothing (just a few names) about their origins.  Because of the Georgia Tann scandal, Tennessee turned my mom’s adoption file over to me in October 2017.  Suddenly, doors opened for me all the way down both lines and within a year, I knew who all 4 of my original grandparents were and for the first time in over 60 years of living, not only felt whole but had real genetic relations.

What I was not prepared for was how that would ultimately make me feel.  How do I feel now ?  Like a total outsider.  The people I grew up with are not related to me.  Oh I am glad my parents were treated well.  It may be that their lives were easier for having been adopted.  I loved my grandparents through adoption very much and deeply appreciated aunts, uncle and cousins.  Yet, learning the truth of my origins has unexpectedly diminished all of them for me.

I am full of joy for the genetic relations I have uncovered and they have helped me know my original grandparents’ lives better than I would have otherwise.  I do feel an honest connection to each of them.  However, I have no life experience with these people.  That leaves me feeling again like an outsider.  They are all very kind and welcoming but knowing me is not really a priority in their own lives.  I understand.  I go slowly and attempt to build relationships over time through the sharing of some experiences.  It is so late in life for me that it won’t be huge but it is something.

This is what adoption does to us.  It shatters our families and I had no idea when I embarked on this new journey that I would feel today the way I do.

 

Parenting And Maturity

I’ve been known to say that I think Nature got it wrong to make us so fertile in youth and have that period of reproduction end so early in life.  True, the body ages and there are impacts to that.

Yet, I find that men who are ready to become parents do a better job.  Even when we are ready, as I was at 18, we may not really be mature enough to understand the difficulties of life well enough to avoid unfortunate outcomes.

When I became a mother at 19, I could lay down on the floor and color with crayons in a coloring book with my daughter.  I also did foolish things like partying with her in tow and we are both fortunate she survived my immaturity.

When my husband and I had sons late in life (he was 48 and 52, I was 47 and 50), we definitely had the maturity to put our children’s interest ahead of selfish preferences on our part.  I have seen that my husband has been an excellent father and will drop whatever instantly when one of his sons asks for his attention.

Me, not so much.  I’ll also admit I have had less patience with what seems utterly un-necessary than I did when I was so young.  I have more wisdom too – for which I am grateful.  I do think the hardest thing for me as an older parent has been learning to let go of that instant urge that mothers develop in answering their infants cries and let my sons “wait” a little bit as they get older for gratification of their demands.

Health considerations certainly were not given enough weight when we decided to have children late in life.  It was a shock to realize I will be 70 when my youngest son turns 20.  And my body is changing in the ways that aging brings, though I do my best to maintain the best health I am capable of.

For my second husband, he waited until we had been married 10 years to decide he wanted to have children.  By then, we needed a lot of help and thankfully medical advances gave us enough to succeed.  My husband needed to feel financially secure before he could commit to parenting.  It was in 2001 and 2004 that our sons were born and our business was thriving then.  Along came 2008 and the financial collapse and we’ve yet to recover.  We have tightened our belts as much as we can as we have had to.  We do worry about our future ability to adequately support this still young family (our sons as 15-1/2 and 19).

I suppose we have good management skills and we do about as well as most people in the parenting skills department.