The What If Of It All

Michele Dawson Haber

Today, I was first attracted to a blog by this woman, Michele Dawson Haber, in which she shares imaging her father talking to her while making coffee. “What’s this? Why so many steps? Do you know the coffee we drank in the old days was just botz (mud) at the bottom of our cups? A life like yours, with such complicated coffee—Michal*, it makes me happy that you’re not struggling as I did.” *Michal (מיכל) is her Hebrew name.

I come from a long line of coffee drinkers. The pot was always prepared for the timer to begin the brewing before any inhabitants of the house woke and wanted a cup. After my mom died, I spent several quiet treasured morning drinking coffee with my dad out on their deck as we watched the dawn turn into sunrise. When I returned to my parents’ house following my dad’s death, as I walked through their kitchen, I heard him clearly say in my mind, “You miss your old dad, don’t you ?” Exactly as he would have said it in life. I admitted that I did miss him already. With my mom’s passing, . . . oh, I heard her a lot say “You’re doing really well.” many times while sitting on the toilet in the bathroom where she died in her jacuzzi tub. So much that I finally had to let her know – “enough, I don’t need to hear this any more” – and it stopped.

Yet, what really touched my heart was Michele’s piece in May 2021 in Salon about her mother’s letters – “It’s my mom’s fault I stole her letters.” I found letters like that among my parents things as I cleared out their residence after their deaths only 4 months apart. I wish I had read Michele’s piece before getting rid of my parents’ love letters to each other that my mom treasured enough to keep for over 50 years. Just before I began that work, I had read a piece by a woman who’s mother had destroyed her love letters from her father. The mother had said these were private between your father and I – and for that reason only, I let the letters go after having coincidentally read only one but a very relevant one – as though my mom reached out from beyond the grave to make certain I at least saw that one.

Michele writes in her personal essay for Salon – “I felt guilt wash over me. The debates with my two sisters over whether it was ethical to steal her letters replayed in my mind. In the end, we decided that the information in those letters belonged not only to our mother, but also to me and my older sister.” But I had not and so chose a different course based upon someone else’s story. Michele goes on to say, “the question of privacy continued to gnaw at me. I knew that if I had asked my mother 20 or even 10 years ago for permission to read the letters she would have said, ‘Are you kidding? No way. What’s in those letters is none of your business.’ And so I did what I always do when faced with a conundrum: I researched. In her book The Secret Life of Families (subtitled How Secrets Shape Our Relationships and When and How to Tell the Truth), Dr. Evan Imber-Black distinguished secrecy from privacy. A secret, she wrote, is information withheld that “impacts another’s life choices, decision-making capacity and well-being.” Conversely, if a piece of information is truly private, then knowing it has no impact on another’s physical or emotional health. 

Michele goes on to share, “In my fantasy argument with my mother, I would say that her secrecy about my biological father did impact my well-being, that depriving me of my genetic heritage handicapped my ability to shape a strong identity.” I agree with her reasoning on this one.

I had read one note (not even a letter) from my mom to a friend, stressing about how my father might react to learning she was pregnant. She had conceived me out of wedlock as a 16 yr old Junior in high school. My dad had just started at the U of NM at Las Cruces and it appears they wrote each other almost every day, though mostly these were the letters she received from my dad, except the note I read. I remember when I figured out that I had been conceived out of wedlock and how in my heart (though only for a few months) I turned against my mom because of that. I didn’t want her to touch me, such as take my hand. Hopefully, she thought only that I was asserting some independence because I was growing up. It was just all those “nice girls don’t do that” lectures she had given me. As a grown woman now, I know that she didn’t want me to make the same mistake. I hastened to get married with a month yet to graduating from high school even though I was not pregnant. My parents supported me and we had the fully formal church wedding and reception in my parents’ back yard. I suspect my parents were afraid I might turn up pregnant like my mom did and so did not discourage me from a marriage that lasted long enough to conceive a child 4 months after I married and then ended in divorce when she was only 3 years old.

Finding that letter further softened my feelings about my conception because I could clearly feel my mom’s emotions and concerns before my dad knew he would become a father. Anyway, this long story shorter. I didn’t keep the letters but sent them to the local landfill along with other items my mom had kept from their many journeys – souvenir booklets and the like. Reading Michele’s story makes me regret that all over again, and I have felt that regret before.

After my dad died, I learned from my cousin, who’s father was my mom’s adoptive brother, that it was possible to get the adoption file that the state of Tennessee had denied my mom in the early 1990s. It is a pity they didn’t let her have that because it would have brought her so much peace. My own journey to rediscover my original grandparents (both of my parents were adopted) only took me about year after my dad’s death; and then, I knew who ALL 4 of them were and something about my ancestors. What I didn’t expect was gaining cousins and an aunt. Even though I am very happy to now have family that I am biologically and genetically related to – I will also admit how difficult it is to create relationships with people who have decades of history lived that I was not any part of. Thankfully, they have all been kind in acknowledging me (and sometimes the DNA makes it difficult for them not to).

Do read the links above to Michele’s stories. I’ve made this blog long enough that I am not going to include any more excerpts beyond the coffee bit and some of her thoughts about personal letters.

The Era Of Sealed Records Continues

It is not some long ago issue. For many adoptees, their personal history, their adoption file and their original birth certificates are withheld from them even today in maybe half these United States. It is true that there has been progress made in some states. I believe New York was the most recent.

So today, I read the heartbreaking account below of yet another adoptee struggling with this, just as my mom did (however, she was denied because her mom was dead and her father’s status could not be determined – thankfully, I received her full file in 2017 from the state of Tennessee – if only she could have had the peace of mind her file would have brought her but she was also dead by the time I was able to obtain it on her behalf as her descendent).

Here’s that other adoptees’ sad tale –

I had to friend request my biological mother again. We were friends before when we first connected, but I unfriended her after writing her a long message unleashing my pent-up anger and hurt over my adoption. Anyway, the state of Florida says that if I want a copy of my original birth certificate, I need this woman to write a note permitting the courts to unseal my records. So, I have to expose myself to more trauma and talk to someone I don’t want to talk to, so I can have the factual account of my birth. I am so tired of laws that hurt adoptees and protect biological parents. It’s bullshit.

One response was this – It’s a human rights violation, considering these people signed away any legal rights they had to us, so they are legal strangers to us. They have as much to do with us as a neighbor, a store clerk or a real estate agent. Yet we are still beholden to them, when laws that separated us, make us ask their permission in the ultimate of hypocrisy.

Another adoptee shares –

I was born in the “blackout” period for Massachusetts adoptees. I think it was from 1974 through 2008. If you were born in that time frame, you need to convince a judge there is a “good reason” to give you your original vital records information. I don’t know what that is but I really don’t want my adoptive parents finding out I’m even poking yet, I’d rather have them on my side first.

And yet another from my own home state – I was adopted in Missouri. I had to have written permission from one of my adoptive parents to get my information. My adoptive dad wrote the letter for me. If he had died before the letter was written, I would not have been able to get any information.

And I agree with this adoptive parent – I have always felt that the Amended Birth Certificate was a lie and an awful thing to do to a child who has every right to that document. Blog writer’s note – For both of my parents, their birth certificates were total fabrications. How can it be a good thing to grow a life upon a lie ?

No adult should have to get any other adult’s permission to obtain their own records.

Someone else writes – I’m confused about how this protects natural parents. It seems like it’s just a difficult-to-impossible side quest to make it less likely that any adoptee will find their natural family, all to benefit adopters who fear reunion, in the guise of “protecting the birth mother’s privacy”.

Exactly !! The stated reason for the secrecy has always been to protect the privacy of the original parents but that rings hollow and it has been abundantly proven that the reason is to protect the adoptive parents from dealing with adoptee/original parent intrusions.

The Disappointments

I can only be grateful at the good fortune I have experienced in becoming whole. Whole in the sense that after over 60 years of life, I finally know who my original grandparents were and have some contact with their genetic descendants.

It doesn’t go that well for everyone touched by adoption. It certainly did not go that way for my own mom. She so yearned to let her own original mom know that she was okay, to connect with her. When she tried to get her adoption file from the state of Tennessee, she was denied on a technicality based upon a lack of effort on their part to determine the status of her father (who had been dead for 30 years by that time). My mom was heartbroken to learn her original mother had died. Finally, in 2017, I paid the fee I was asked to pay and got the entire file. It is a shame my mom was denied this for it would have brought her so much peace.

So today, there is this story from an adoptee – She had received her original birth certificate and was applying to receive her entire case file. It seems there is a no contact order from her original mom. The adoptee intends to respect that wish. The original mother was informed that her child was looking for her. She was asked if she wanted to provide any additional information. The answer was, no, not at this time, keep the file open. But 5 years later, the original mother placed a no contact on the file. This is, of course, a huge disappointment.

Another with such a disappointment – 20 yrs ago my biological mom did the same thing when I wanted my file. I recently found her via Ancestry. I have had communications with 2 of the 6 half siblings but not her. She will be 90 next month. I continue to pray she has a change of heart. Having a connection with her siblings is wonderful but only my biological mom can truly provide me with the information that my heart years for regarding the 1st chapter of my life.

In my case, my biological mom’s “secret” was exposed to my half siblings about 20 yrs ago. Turns out her sister had had a little too much to drink and told her nieces and nephew (who are my half siblings) at a family gathering, about me (secrets do have this tendency to out themselves). The half siblings never mentioned it to my biological mom because they were uncertain her husband knew of my existence. They knew nothing else though, not even my sex. They did not want to cause her marital problems. Her spouse passed away around the time I found her via Ancestry. That was almost 2 yrs ago now. I have met one of my half siblings in person. There are a total of 5 daughters and one son that are my half siblings. A couple of the girls are supposedly working on our mom to let go of the shame of being an unwed mother. I have no real way of knowing if that is true or if they are protecting her due to her age, trying to be respectful of this situation. I know the son is adamantly against troubling her with it. He lives with her, which makes it even tougher to have a breakthrough. Thus I may never know…

Another person shared this – “My grandfather is a vile person, however we found my mom’s adopted sibling three years ago and mom has now met every family member but him. I would personally reach out to others. I’ve loved getting to know my aunt.” I can relate to this. Getting to know my truly biological/genetic family has meant every thing to having a fully formed sense of self. I believe my maternal grandmother’s father was cruel – not to take in my grandmother and mom – which forced her exploitation by Georgia Tann. I wonder often, did he ever regret that ? I’ll never know but I have been told that just as I expected – he was a hard man.

Here is another “no contact” but finding other relatives story – My husband is also adopted (I’m adopted). He found his mom and she asked him to never contact her again. He was devastated. But he reached out and found his uncle, who absolutely does want a relationship. He’s found other family members, as well. I’m sad about it, too. His adoptive mom died when he was a teenager, so I never got to meet her. I’d like to meet his biological mom. She has a grandson now. But she doesn’t want to meet him either. That’s her choice. There really is not much we can do about that.

Finally, this sad outcome – My mom will never talk to me because her sense of reality is horribly off. My half brother and aunt do talk to me though! It’s the greatest gift I could have hoped for – after she started pretending I was dead.

Adoptees should have the human right to know about their own self. This really should supersede an original parent’s desire for no contact. She can have privacy (no contact) but should not be allowed anonymity. As an adoptee, you are entitled to know about your genetic makeup and medical history. We all should be.

Sadly, Many women live and die without ever shedding any of the oppression of the patriarchy. As you can imagine they’re more likely to be married to men who are committed to it, abusive, and demeaning. You don’t have to abide and can do anything you like – I would just suggest to a disappointed adoptee – it’s not a rejection of you – even if it feels that way.

However, knowing it in your mind and feeling it in your heart can be 2 very different things. I believe with all my heart, if these afflicted persons could overcome those feelings, they would personally be better off.

Oversharing In The Classroom

I am frequently surprised how common some connection to adoption is. If you were an adoptee, how would YOU have felt if your teacher in school openly shared with the classroom information about her “adoption journey” as it is ongoing? How would hearing details about “matching” and “failed adoptions have affected you!? How would a “slideshow” announcing the birth of teacher’s adopted child affect you?

These questions were put to my all things adoption group – and adoptees and former foster youth were asked to be the only responders (and not parents who had given a child up for adoption, adoptive parents or foster caregivers).

Some replies –

I would have been so uncomfortable but wouldn’t have known how to voice that as a student. Even now as an adult who is coming into my power, I still shake like a leaf when I speak my truth about the trauma of adoption.

My 5th grade teacher adopted a boy they were fostering. It wasn’t infant adoption with that whole journey, but we all certainly knew this boy. He was always in her classroom during lunch or after school. As I was only 10, I guess it solidified a lot of the propaganda I was fed my whole life. I liked it because I felt like I related to it? I didn’t know any other adoptees at the time. But I was a child! As an adult out of the fog, looking back, I feel very uncomfortable about it. I’m not sure how else to say it.

I would have felt very awkward. It seems so very personal to share with people at school. Especially children. They aren’t in a position to understand or put into context what any of that means. I would also feel that it was attention seeking behavior. It’s just someone playing at being a hero. No thanks.

Would have made me f**king uncomfortable as a kid, and it makes me furious as an adult. Don’t freaking normalize the act of switching babies from one family to another. We need kids growing up with a better understanding of how damaging our current way of dealing with family disfunction is. If this was one of my kids teachers I would demand it stop.

I would still keep my own adoption a secret. And I would feel terrorized.

I was very much “in the fog” for my entire childhood and most of adulthood so I wouldn’t have noticed anything problematic about it. I wanted to be like other kids so much that I probably would have been kind of glad to see someone else in my daily life was affected by adoption too, as it would mean I would be less singled out as having an alternative family structure.

I have to say I find the failed adoption thing the weirdest part, then and now. I was always assured that adoption was permanent and they wouldn’t have it any other way so I’m sure that probably would have made me feel …uncomfortable? Normalizing the process of ….deciding you don’t want that child after all. That is what they mean by failed adoption, right?

Someone else thought that last one wasn’t what was meant in this particular situation (though sadly such a think as second chance adoptions actually do happen in reality). So the counter response was – I have to imagine by failed adoption they mean the baby’s natural parents decided not to go through with the adoption. Which is always disturbing. Hopeful adoptive parents act like that was something bad that someone did to them, or they were “tricked” or that someone took their baby away.

I would have been so upset and not even known why because that’s pretty much how triggering worked when I was a kid. I can look back and connect all the dots now, but not then. I would have been a mess. It would have manifested into days and maybe weeks of negative behavior to myself and to others.

This makes my stomach churn now. I can imagine it would have affected me similarly at the time but I wouldn’t have known exactly why.

I remember being 11 or 12 years old, when the a teacher started talking to me about Child Protective Services and my potential removal. I know it’s not the same but I heavily didn’t want to associate home life and school life. Because it’s their personal thing, OK mention it once I hear you, but it would have me outright avoiding their class, probably with some defiance, if it were repetitive. I don’t know if I would have even had the language then to express my feelings.

If you doubt adoptees suffer trauma, consider what the above adoptees have said consistently.

Not Good Enough

Today’s story –

I am a adoptee. Here is the issue, My daughter just had my first granddaughter on Sunday and she is absolutely perfect. But the problem is this, I now am living in daily fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of something happening, fear my daughter won’t need me anymore, fear I won’t bond or connect with the baby. I feel like I’m going crazy . Like today she told me to come over and then a little while later she said I could go home.. not in a mean way.. just wanted time with the dad… well, I didn’t let it show in front of her but I literally got in the car and balled my eyes out and then had a panic attack, feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t see her again, that she didn’t need me or want me around… I know all of that is completely crazy but my mind won’t let me accept that. Is this normal for adoptees?, is this even normal for non adoptees? What can I do to get through this??

The first comment was – I am donor-conceived and my mother is not, but her own parents were absent/abusive. My mother is like this but she doesn’t have the courage or self-awareness to say it out loud. You did great by not putting this on your daughter’s shoulders.

The next one was – I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I’m not an adoptee but I do have an adult daughter and sometimes it’s hard when it seems like they don’t need you. But they do and they reach out when they do. We raise them to be independent but it hurts when we did it too well. She’s definitely going to need you.

Here is the next one – I’m not an adoptee and I’m answering because you asked if it’s normal for non-adoptees. I have TOTALLY had these exact feelings with my oldest; however I’m from a trauma background and have zero relationship with my bio mother – I think it may be normal for anyone coming from a trauma background. What I did was just be honest with my daughter and told her that I’m sure it was from my background and that I didn’t want her to feel responsible for my feelings but I wanted to be sure it was me and not true – we talk a lot and have a fabulous relationship. I have these feelings SO MUCH LESS NOW because she reassured me I had nothing to worry about – she accepts my worries and I accept that she is a private person and just has me around less than I originally thought would happen – I hope that helps you. And congratulations grandma!

Then there was this – That’s a totally a trauma reaction. The level of emotional response is way out of balance with the request.. and you know it… which only makes you feel even crazier, right?

So I’m gonna say something major in you baby adoptee brain has been triggered by the birth (sooo normal! ) and you now have a wonderful opportunity to find that wound and heal it. And it sounds like very expected abandonment stuff.. not being worthy of what you now see in the mother-child bond. The baby in you is crying for that experience and mourning you didn’t have it. Let your baby self cry it out and at the same time, mother yourself and know that you are worthy and deserved what your grandchild has. An adoption competent trauma informed therapist can help!

Then she adds – I used to believe that I had done enough work that I was always going to be in control.. and then, I lost my mind one day in the middle of the SPCA over a kitten. Like I became this crying, hysterical, screaming Karen .. and that is not me! That’s the day I learned that no matter how much you think you have healed.. sometimes the weirdest thing worms it’s way in! And boom.. you’re a sniveling mess lying on the kitchen floor.

Yet another shares this – My mother spent several years in an orphanage as a child and she is like this—if I reschedule a coffee date or something like that she feels abandoned and devastated. It breaks my heart. I love her so much and never want to cause her pain. I know therapy has helped her some.

A second woman confirmed – It is a trauma based response. I experienced the same sort of thing when my daughter got pregnant with my grandson. I was terrified and an emotional wreck thinking I wouldn’t have a relationship with the baby when it was born. Everything triggered me and despite my daughter reassuring me she wanted me involved – internally I felt it would all dissolve because of course, as an adoptee how do we trust we will be loved, included, not rejected ? I now have a wonderful relationship with my grandson and he is the joy in my life. I still feel that fear sometimes but I have gotten more confident that we can get past the bumps and not every bump means the end a relationship and bond.

Another woman shared – I am not a adoptee, my biological dad left and my biological mom got me and my sisters out of foster care. (Just for back ground) I just had a baby 6 months ago and my mom felt the same way. She was raised by her grandparents because her parents didn’t want her and couldn’t provide for her or my uncle. I think it’s definitely a trauma based thing, but I can tell you from the other side, I would cry for my mom at night when things got hard. I never once thought I could do it without her but also telling her was hard. Your child needs you always, a baby doesn’t change that.

A woman who gave her baby up for adoption writes – I feel like that about my daughter and she’s 31. (Found her when she was 18.) I am in therapy and am working on it. I think the important thing to realize is that these are thought distortions. They are your mind’s way of protecting itself, but this time it went out of control…. Like emotional keloids.

An adoptee writes – This is trauma talking! Trauma lies. It’s the brain telling you your trauma will repeat itself. My therapist has me do several things to combat this. One is I talk back to myself, out loud, as if I’m defending young Andrea or sometimes a friend. It feels really silly but we’re so hard on ourselves, so defending a child or a friend is so much easier! Another activity is to write down all those worst case scenarios and plan them out. What would you actually do if it happened? Then it might not feel so realistic and you’ll feel some measure of being in-control again. Also, my brain demands proof that it’s lying or it won’t shut up.

If Others Are Uncomfortable

It seems to depend upon what your life experience has given your perspective. An adoptive parent writes – My 6 year old’s story is a rough one for both she and her mommy. We have shared her story with her with the help of a therapist because we want her to feel empowered and never feel like she has to hold any kind of shame. As she is getting older, she has begun to just kind of drop her story to friends of hers and their parents and I can often tell that people are caught off guard and at times seem uncomfortable. Is it better for us to let her share as she feels comfortable or, should we teach her to guard her truth?

From adoptees come these responses –

Never make her guard her truth, always let her define her story.

and

I kind of don’t care if others are uncomfortable. That’s their problem. Feeling like we have to hide to make others comfortable creates shame in my opinion.

Then, from a professional –

I  work in the field of mental health/sex offenders/criminal justice/substance abuse. I think an age appropriate discussion about disclosing appropriately, and over sharing to people she doesn’t really know, is definitely warranted. While it’s her story, her ideas of boundaries are just being formed at 6, and people who endure trauma can often overshare as a coping mechanism, something that she may battle throughout the rest of her life. She should start practicing healthy boundaries now. I personally struggle with this, and often have to remind myself that every conversation I have with others isn’t a therapy session. I’d definitely bring this up with her therapist to help her work on boundaries; if she doesn’t have one, you might consider getting one to help her navigate her past trauma in healthy ways.

In response, another woman asks – what consequences are you worried about as she shares her story as she feels comfortable ? I’m asking about consequences to her, not related to people around her being uncomfortable.

To which the professional responds – what someone wants to share at 6, isn’t necessarily what someone wants to share at 16, or 36, etc. I’m not saying that because it’s shameful, because it’s not, but it can be harder to gauge at that age who is safe to disclose private information to.

I work with sex offenders, so I’m paranoid. Let’s say the child mentions to an adult in their life (who happens to be an undiscovered sexual predator) that they’ve previously been victimized, sexually. Sex Offenders are opportunistic, and may see the child as a viable option for future abuse. This isn’t something that’s rare. Survivors are often revictimized. The original comment didn’t say this was the specific scenario, I’m just pointing out why it may be a concern.

Another woman affirms this perspective by sharing – My therapist told me about over sharing my child abuse and my past domestic violent relationship and how it can definitely make you a target for people that look for vulnerable people. They’ll take your trauma and use it against you when the time is right. My Domestic Violence Survivors class also told me this. I was over sharing at 21 as a way to cope, to see if people were like me or had sympathy.

And yet another – Yeah as a survivor of serious childhood abuse and former over sharer, learning that I could choose what to share and who with was a big piece of recovery. And some people can have some really fucked up and dehumanizing reactions to hearing someone else’s pain, reactions I wouldn’t wish on a little kid. They sucked enough as an adolescent and young adult.

These situations are not rare, here’s another – Oversharing can go from awkward at best to seriously dangerous really fast and in ways that can’t be taken back. Oversharing has showed up in my life as a fawning trauma response. I didn’t learn how to think critically about what kinds of things I was actually disclosing to people until I was in my 20s and I feel like thinking about it in age appropriate ways at age 6 could have been a huge advantage in life.

And one more example –  A young woman I know really well shared her abuse story with potential boyfriends because it was important for her to be accepted and she attracted some pretty yucky pedophiles who got off on just hearing her story.

And to balance things out, here is another adoptive parent’s perspective –

Our daughter likes to share her story on her terms as she chooses. Sometimes she shares a lot, sometimes only pieces (like “I have two moms and two dads” and nothing else). I always tell her it’s her story, and she can share what she chooses. If people don’t understand and ask questions, she can answer or say “I don’t care to share that part.”

None of us owe other people parts of ourselves. We gift to others the chance to know parts of us, and those gifts, depending on how they are received, may or may not lead to more sharing. Our daughter is carrying a heavy load and will have to navigate a challenging life as a result of her adoption. I decided (based on hearing so much from adoptees) to learn how to make her feel empowered by owning her story since so much has been taken from her. This sharing can at least belong to her and be on her terms.

PS. If she shares in a school environment, like an “About Me” project, I inform the teacher ahead of time that I will be attending class to help support her if there are difficult questions. Nothing has ever come up, but our daughter has appreciated me having her back.

Glitter Birthmoms

This is a new term for me this morning but I will admit I struggle with this now. At one time, I wouldn’t have but I have learned too much related to all things adoption to go along with the denial or self soothing perspectives that the adoption industry puts forth and way too many mothers who surrender a baby to adoption absorb and then believe it. These birthmoms speak about adoption as some win/win scenario.

Someone asked the obvious question – What are glitter birth moms? And here was the response – Someone who is glad they adopted out their child and doesn’t regret it.

One woman talked about the ones she sees that are proudly proclaiming their child is in a closed adoption for their own “privacy” but are also Extremely Online, using their full name and photo, IDing themselves as biological moms. Uh, that’s not really how privacy works but they’ll find that out when the adoptee does DNA and matches with close relatives. (And this does happen increasingly these days – in fact DNA and matching has revealed to me my adoptee parents’ – both were – genetic families).

Just recently, I saw one like this from a Christian agency and the woman has gone into counseling unwed mothers to surrender after getting a degree in some social work area. I just couldn’t . . . Here is how someone describes a similar situation – The ones whose stories adoption agencies/adoptive parents trot out in adoption circles to reinforce the narratives they want. They usually talk about how young they were or what obstacles they had, how they picked the adoptive parents (blogger’s note – and I actually supported my youngest sister during a pregnancy where she sent me the profiles to give her a second opinion but that was before I learned all I have learned), what wonderful people the adoptive parents are, how they have thrived since then, sometimes how their child is doing, and saying they know they “made the right decision.” They paint adoption as “giving my child a better life than I could offer.” All of this is very typical.

One adoptee said about such women – my guess is denial and a way to deal with guilt, they can safely live in the fog. I hate the way adoption is always about the parents, adopted or biological.

Another adoptee shares this –

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I don’t **know** this is how my birth mom is for a fact… but at least on the surface she fits the bill on
paper;

She had me at 16, before her 17th birthday

& Because she placed me for adoption

(and that she escaped the stigma,
as she didn’t show and no one knew she was pregnant)

She was able to easily graduate high school

Get her bachelor degree

Married the “love of her life”

And have two well behaved sons at the appropriate time deemed by society

She is a pillar of her community, a kindergarten teacher

She is head of PTA and very active at fighting for kids rights and services in her community (ironically)

It hurts more because I was always
fed the narrative “she did this for me” “she wanted you to have a better life”

No.

It was always about her

She wanted a better life

She wanted to escape stigma

It was never about me

Another adoptee shares – My “unfit” biological parents both went on to have more children and raised them in stable, loving families, unlike the adoptive one I got. Like we always say, placing your child or adoption is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and nothing to be proud of. My biological parents can insist they did it out of love for me all they want but all I would ever hear is “we couldn’t be bothered to get our shit together in time to keep you in the family but look at all these lucky siblings we did do that for!”

And this was an important piece of advice – Please don’t start framing adoptees as either having a “negative experience” or “bitter and abandoned.” This will only silence your child and make them feel they cannot share complex feelings. The best thing I ever did for my daughter was tell her she had every right to feel however she wants over a situation she had no control or say over. Its quite possible for adoptees to love their parents but find parts of their adoption traumatic or challenging. For Example my daughter mourns not growing up with her siblings I get to raise. That doesn’t make her bitter or negative – its a completely normal response to an abnormal situation.

Someone shares this, which I alluded to above about a Christian agency – There are glitter birth moms who make a career out of it, by becoming an “adoption professional” and are paid by agencies to speak at events, promote adoption to other expectant mothers, etc. I follow them closely. It has a two fold impact – not only is the birth Mum able to turn their relinquishment into an income stream but it continually reinforces to them that they made the right choice. And this is far easier to live with than being open to considering the alternative. I have seen one of them do a complete change – she was actually featured in national articles supporting adoption. I’m not exactly sure what happened – whether the openness reduced, the reality of what she had done started to sink in as her child got older, however I have seen her talk about how her she has really struggled with her mental health. She hasn’t come out and owned her past but I have seen her commenting against adoption now.

And this very honest assessment that has some balance integrated into it – I don’t know if I’m considered a glitter birth mom, I don’t regret placing my daughter given the circumstances of my life at that time and the circumstances of her current life. However, I wouldn’t preach that it’s the greatest thing ever either. I just feel it was the best choice out of the ones I had at that time. I didn’t do it all for her, yes she was definitely a consideration but I’ll admit my choice was selfish too.

That’s part of why when I see women being praised when they are considering adoption that it irks me so much. It’s not selfless and brave and giving some couple a chance at parenthood. It’s hard, and emotional and traumatic for everyone and people don’t want to hear that. My daughter is 9 and it breaks my heart a little. She told me she never wants to be pregnant and have biological children. She wants to adopt children like she was and I wonder if this is her way of reacting to her trauma. I see her often, I’m pregnant with her little brother and first biological sibling, and she’s so in love with him but I worry how she’ll feel when he’s here, the relationship that they could have had, if she hadn’t been placed.

Lastly, in the realm of Welfare Queens exploiting a system, I need to include this sadly misguided perspective on it all – There is a glitter birthmom in my life. She was a former foster youth who aged out and has been having children since then. Her oldest is 24 and she is pregnant with #12? now. She has raised none and actually believes she is doing good by giving infertile families babies and encourages her biological children to do the same with her own grand babies.  I believe it is a survival narrative. She knows how to get housing and WIC and medical care and all sorts of benefits. She does not see the impact of her decisions on her children – even those who have been vocal with her about it. And the trauma of knowing they have siblings all over the country that they may never meet. It is a sad cycle being repeated by the next generation.

Can We Just Pretend ?

What to do for this little boy ?

Ok here is my question – I adopted our kiddo when he was 4. He has always known he’s adopted, he’s always been excited and proud of it. He introduces himself as adopted. He has a long story but basically he came to us with the termination of parental rights and two failed adoptions. Lots of trauma and 17 placements.

He’s now almost 7 and in 1st grade. So here’s what’s up…all of a sudden he wants us to pretend he’s not adopted. To not talk about it and let him pretend he came from us. He wants us to make up a birth story. We don’t have biological kiddos, so it’s not like he’s hearing other birth stories here. The kids all vocalize adoption and biological families. His mother is deceased and his biological family hasn’t been open to any contact.

He’s super smart but isn’t able to articulate what created this idea. He just wants it. My question is how to approach this…do we give him this? Do we allow it for however long it lasts, while initially reminding him that he can always take it back? Or do we just apologize that his story is his and he doesn’t have to ever share it with anyone he doesn’t want to but that we can’t just pretend?

I’m at a loss. I want to do what’s right by him and honor his experience but I also don’t want to play along, if it’s harmful down the road. I feel like I will make the wrong decision no matter what I choose.

Someone offered this explanation that makes sense – We had a friend that didn’t want people knowing she was adopted. Said she hated when people would say “oh, she’s adopted”. She just wanted to be like her friends and be a part of the family. Maybe that’s how he is feeling.

Then there was this sad reality (kids really can be cruel) – When I was in high school I had someone make fun of me for being adopted and refer to me as a “dumpster baby” multiple times. I was 15 and shut it down and moved on.  IF that had happened to me when I was 7, I imagine it would have been incredibly damaging and embarrassing for me.

Someone else suggested –  I work with young kids, and I think pretending/role playing is their way of reflecting. In order to understand, “What does it mean to be adopted?” he has to first ask, “Well, what would it be like if I wasn’t adopted? In what ways is it different?” Completely normal child behavior; I’d let it happen.

To which another affirmed –  That’s a great way of thinking about it. Children do think about hypotheticals a lot and that’s discouraged more and more as we age. I think that makes a lot of sense given that he’s 7.

An adoptee suggests –  I would personally ask him if there is a reason he wants to – if someone said something or why ? – and just go with it. I would not tell him he can’t pretend. It may just be his way of coping right now because obviously something is going on in his mind that’s causing him to want this. So I would just ask questions to make sure he’s okay and listen to him and go with it.

And I really, really like this suggestion –  “Sometimes I think of “if” you had been born to me but then, I remember you wouldn’t be the same you, if you had. Your mom, DNA and genetics have made you – you – and I would never want to miss you. You wouldn’t be the same you, if you were born to me.”

Now that is beautifully honest.

Secrets

Even in this day and age, some prospective adoptive couples believe they can have a closed adoption and that their adoptee child will never know that truth.  However, secrets have a way of outing themselves eventually.  These adoptive parents could probably convince themselves that this child is 100% theirs and has no ties to other living human beings but that would be self-delusion.

A couple wrote, after 3 years of marriage it is clear that the husband is incapable of procreating a child of his own. This is the second marriage for the woman and she has a daughter that is 10 years old. It is said that it is this little girl that is motivating a quest to adopt a baby because she wants to be a big sister. Since it has become evident that the husband is incapable of causing a conception, they feel like a piece is missing from their family. They don’t want the adopted child to know that truth.  Therefore, they want a closed adoption.

The 10 year old isn’t going to know this sibling is adopted and can keep the whole thing a secret ?  I don’t think so.  Yet, this couple is so deluded that they are advertising their search on the internet ?  Like, don’t they know, stuff on the net is there eternally ?  Do they really believe these circumstances can be kept private ?

An adoption on this basis is set up on lies.

One adoptive parent admits – How many of us embarked on this journey not knowing much and blossomed and opened our mind to new things after having mentors and people who really cared about helping us learn. In fact many of us yearned for an open adoption and then life had different plans that didn’t allow that to happen? I see a lot of people passing judgement. I do think this couple will have a rude awakening, no secret big or small remains that way for a lifetime, however I hope that they can find the right people to educate them on their journey.

An adoptee shares – It’s hard enough growing up when you know you were adopted! Closed adoption is never, ever the answer, and closed *secret* adoption should be effing illegal. Well, all of it should be illegal but let’s start somewhere!

If there is going to be an adoption at all, then I am all for open adoption and keeping the birth family involved. To me you are not just adopting a child, you are adopting a family. Whether you have a closed adoption or an open one, that child will always have another family. You simply cannot erase that reality and what about DNA testing that is so prevalent now ?  That is how some adoptees that were lied to find out the truth.

Correcting that thought about “adopting a family” – that isn’t accurate and is impossible, even under the most charitable of situations.  The reason those impacted are turning against adoption is that bottom line – it is taking a child away from the family they were born into.

Once again – can’t we just support families ?  Financially, physically, emotionally and mentally.  Whatever they need to stay intact ?  Why is that so hard for society to come to terms with ?

 

Oversharing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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