What Is Safe ?

Disclaimer – Not the twins in today’s story

I have twin girls, their biological father raped me. That’s how I became pregnant. He’s been fighting for shared custody. The courts are wondering how I would feel about my girls having supervised visitation with him once a month with a 3rd party. I am trying to put my daughters needs above my own. They do have his DNA. I’m worried that if I don’t allow visitation, I will be stripping my daughters from their blood, but at the same time I’ll be putting them at risk of abuse from a man who abused me. I’m unsure what to do, I know my gut is telling me to keep my young children away from him at all costs but reading some of the experiences of adoptees causes me not to want to cause them trauma by being kept away from their biological family member. We have court on Monday to decide what should happen. I’m trying to think on both sides but honestly my trauma (Former Foster Care Youth) is pushing me very far one way and I’m not sure what the best decision for the children is. Currently I have 100% custody and placement. This wouldn’t change. He would just have court ordered supervised visitation once a month organized by Child Protective Services.

Some comments – DNA matters yes but not like this. Trauma aside he is a sexually violent human being and should go nowhere near those girls or you ever again.

One says this – All children have a right to their story. Of course, this truth will come out much later but it should be in a therapeutic way. Given that I would say in court – “No. I want my children to always trust that I will keep them safe and away from abusive people. I cannot agree to send them into the arms of a dangerous man. I want to be healthy for my children and I would like you to stop asking me to send my children to my abuser.”

Another recommended – You do have a dilemma going forward. I’d reach out to a professional regarding the children. A therapist with experience in the area of rape/trauma/absent parent.

One speaks from experience – As a child of incest and rape I lived daily with my abusers. Your having to be around him is traumatic for you and the fact that he has that history, I do not agree with him being around minor children. I can’t even believe a court system would allow this. These children deserve to be kids. When they’re old enough to understand how they came into this world, it should be solely their choice regarding whether to pursue a relationship.

Someone else writes – Keep them away from him if at all possible. Sometimes abusive men try to obtain custody of the children as a way to further humiliate or abuse the mother. Sometimes they fight for full custody, just to dump the parental responsibilities onto the mother. It’s just a game with them and getting their rights on paper. It’s not about the mother/child bond that’s certain.

Yet another writes – Keep them away. I’m big on family preservation and father’s rights but no child should ever be around a rapist. Please protect your girls.

Yet another shares from experience – A family member of mine found out this is how they were conceived. They have connected with their siblings from their sperm donor (some do refer to a father with whom they have no connection this way), and have a good relationship. They only met the guy once. That was enough. I would say, be honest with your children – when they are older but protect them in their youth.

Someone asks – Did he serve time for your rape? if no..nothing has changed. To which the woman responds – 6 months probation.

Another suggestion – Would put your mind at ease more or help, if there was a relative you were comfortable with supervising contact (one of his siblings, grandparents on that side, a cousin)? Someone who can represent the father’s side of the family and reassure the judge that you want the girls to know their heritage but still need to protect them from him? Also, is there any risk to him moving forward from supervised visits? If so, not sure that’s a risk you would want to take. For example, if he did 5 years of supervised visits with no issues, wouldn’t he ask for more time and unsupervised? He would have a length of time and proof that he is capable of parenting and that’s not something I would want to risk. So also something to consider now.

And this one is definitely a cautionary tale – I’m a former foster care youth and adoptee. My biological father raped my first mother. She kept me from him for years, then later encouraged a relationship with him. He raped me, too. Obviously, that can’t happen with a truly supervised visitation. However, he will keep pushing for more, asking for more, and could eventually get unsupervised. This is an instance where keeping your child safe from a biological parent is *actually* a valid concern and not just a made up worry.

Another cautionary tale – I was forced to allow visits with my rapist and my son is now in a psych facility because of the trauma.

Yet another noted – He will use your daughters. As bait for his next victims, or as his victims, as a screen to convince the world that he’s a respectable guy, or as tools to destroy your sense of safety and well being. Any man who will not respect your body won’t respect any female body.

Someone else writes that they are a former foster care youth and incest survivor. Their father is a rapist. My thought is nooooooooo – keep that man away from your babies, he’s not a safe person.

An adoptee adds – No. He’s an actual verified REAL safety concern. Keep him FAR away from your babies. I know it’s hard because you want to truly do what’s best for them and not what your own personal trauma tells you to do (and that makes you second guess yourself)… But you’re doing the right thing in keeping them safe.

Maybe all of this is enough – never trust anyone who has been inclined to rape a woman.

Always An Adoptee

Advice from an adoptee – If/when your adopted child says anything that you deem “negative” about their adoption, instead of just throwing around frequently used adoption phrases – please please please consider the long term affect of hearing some of these phrases

1. “Would you have rather stayed in the orphanage/on the streets, been aborted, would you rather have died?”

Yes, sometimes. Adoption is complex and complicated. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here instead of enduring nights of sadness, depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive questions, all the unknowns, the mental health problems .. I will never stop being an adoptee. It affects EVERYTHING in my life

2. “God/We saved you from your biological family.”

Let us decide that. What was I saved from? I do not know. There are many things adoption has NOT protected me from. So please let me decide in what ways I was saved. It may shift and change. Also, please don’t say negative things about our biological families. Give us the FACTS that you know and allow us to decide where to place them in our hearts and lives. Y’all don’t get to decide if our biological families are good or bad. Many things I was told about my biological family ended up being racist, unkind, untrue, and problematic.

3. “You were chosen”

Maybe. Kinda. But often, not exactly. My adoptive parents chose me between 2 babies. I was laying beside another baby and they chose me. But if they had decided “no, she’s not for us” they would have found another baby – easily. Adoptees often feel like replacements. We know a lot of our parents wanted A BABY – not necessarily “us” specifically. We have to process that – please allow us the space and time to do so

4. “They loved you so much they decided to give you up.”

No. What about desperation? Survival? Poverty? Lack of resources? Addiction? Death? Would you give up your child because you loved them? I was not given up out of love but I was raised to believe so. It made me feel awful about myself and my biological sister (she was not “given up”). Does loving someone mean sending them away forever? Would my adoptive parents do the same because they loved me?

5. “Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful you are not dead/alone/orphaned/poor/etc. You are so lucky to have a loving, stable family.”

STOP telling us how to feel and what aspects of our lives to feel good about. Especially in response to something we have said, please don’t.

Please Imagine losing your mom at a young age and when you tell someone, they say “Wow but you should be so grateful that you still have…” or “You are so lucky that you have a family that loves you!”

How about “I am sorry for your losses and pain. How can I help without overstepping?”

There are days I would rather be dead than adopted. Days when I miss my biological family. Days that I want to return to a place I barely remember. Those are not the times to dismiss an adoptee’s feelings. Imagine how you’d feel hearing these responses.

Spiritual Godmothers

When I was a child, we had godmothers. It was actually a religious thing, associated with the infant baptisms that were part of being raised Episcopalian. I never really knew my godparents. I got a gift or two early in my life but when I was old enough to actually know I received it and from whom.

However, today being Mother’s Day, it occurred to me that adoptive mothers are like godmothers who are present all the time. One could also put step-mothers in that category if the were the “good” kind and not the evil kind. For some people, aunts or even mother-in-laws are like godmothers (mine certainly was and treated me like a daughter the many years, decades really, we were together).

While the wound that adoptees suffer in being separated from their gestational mother is serious and primal, and while much not appreciative nor grateful can be said about any woman who takes a child in that they did not give birth to, I think that on a day like today, when mothering in general is celebrated, it is fair to take a step back from reform interests, just for today to acknowledge “god” mothers. These are mothers sent to us by the spiritual heart of Life itself to assist us in one way or another. Foster mothers fit into this category as well.

The all-pervading, all embracing, unchanging, and unceasing Love that evolves, supports, nurtures, protects, and provides space for its children to reach maturity. Some religions have made the effort to move away from concepts of a male god or they conceive a wholeness of the duality mother/father god. During my later adult years, for some extended period of time I entered into a practice called the Gaia Minute. In doing this practice, twice a day, I came to think of the Earth herself as my mother, the Sun as my father. Larger than the human entities that provided for us during our childhoods and for some time beyond that, indeed while we were made of these, this continues to be true throughout our human incarnation.

Sadly, some children lose their mother so early, they have no clear memories of her physically. That certainly happened to my paternal grandmother, who’s own mother died when she was only 3 mos old. That certainly happens to adoptees who are given to adoptive parents within hours or days of birth.

The maternal nurturing energy of the feminine is not bound by birth, nor even by gender (my husband is surprisingly nurturing as a human being). Our spiritual godmothers, however we obtain them, whenever we obtain them, help birth our soul’s journey by their grace. They encouraged us when we were down, they were they for us when our heart and soul ached (my own human mother could sense me in distress when I was in a different room).

The Divine Feminine of mothering energy is there to remind us that we are never alone in this thing called Life. Happy Mother’s Day to each and every person who has ever fulfilled that calling to serve another human being with the energy of Love, compassion, nurturing, safety, provision and presence.

There was something complete and nebulous

Which existed before the Heaven and Earth,

Silent, invisible

Unchanging, standing as One,

Unceasing, ever-revolving,

Able to be the Mother of the World.

~ Tao Te Ching

Common Adoption Issue Books For Kids

Someone mentioned a book about a rabbit couple who adopted a squirrel and then take the squirrel to meet the other squirrels. Living in a rural area, rabbits and squirrels are everywhere. I searched but could not find it. There are some books that I did find that do not God or glorify adoption.

Pink Flamingo by Jane Porter is not about adoption per se. It is about a Lion raised by Flamingos. He meets his Lion family and ends up being the best parts of both the lions and the flamingos. Descriptions of the book say is about learning to be yourself, even if that means you are different from those around you. And truly, adoptees very often DO feel different from the rest of the family they have been embedded in.

The Mulberry Bird by Anne Braff Braff Brodzinsky seems to touch on some of the issues that tear apart some mothers and their child and end in adoption. The mother bird is looking after her baby bird in the forest, when a huge storm scatters her nest. Try as she might, she just can’t give him the protection he needs. She faces a choice: continue to struggle on her own, or give her precious baby bird to another family who can care for him in their strong, secure nest. The book addresses common issues in adoption such as the enduring force of a birth parent’s love and contact post-adoption to the importance of nurturing an adopted child in his or her new environment. It is a timeless and enduring tale of sacrifice, wisdom and love.

While not about reunion per se, a school assignment to complete a family tree can be painful for a child who was adopted. Lucy’s Family Tree by Karen Halvorsen Schreck tells the story of when Lucy comes home from school with a family tree assignment. She asks her parents to write her a note to excuse her from the task. Lucy’s adoption from Mexico makes her feel as though her family is too “different,” but her parents gently and wisely challenge Lucy to think some more about it. By the conclusion, Lucy feels better about her situation and has devised a way to create a family tree that honors both her birth parents and the parents who are raising her. 

It is fairly common for adoptees to fantasized about their original parents. In Oliver, A Story About Adoption by Lois Wickstrom that issue is addressed. Oliver gets angry at his parents when he is sent to his room for playing in a tree that was too young to be climbed. Oh, if only he still lived with his birthparents! What could he do if he were with them? Be a scientist? Or a trapeze artist? Do other people wish for other parents when they are angry with their own? The adoptive parents let Oliver know that when they were children and got angry at their parents, they fantasized that they were adopted and that their natural parents were more fun to be with.

Jazzy is a transracial adoptee who is the heroine of her own story. In Jazzy’s Quest – Adopted and Amazing by Carrie Goldman and Juliet Bond issues of identity, the challenge of fitting in and seeking an answer to the question of special vs different are validated. Jazzy, loved and supported by both her birth and adoptive families but still struggles. Where do interests and talents actually come from ? Your adoptive family, your birth family or truly, from somewhere deep inside yourself.

What Child Is This ?

The Christmas story, is to me, a story of mothers. It is the story of a man caring for a pregnant woman and finding her a comfortable place to birth her baby. It is about protecting the mother and child from political danger and about immigrants. Christians make it about much more than that but to me, that is really what the Christmas story is about.

It is about a Census that required the pregnant woman to ride a long distance on a donkey to be counted in the birthplace of the man. It is about a town so crowded there was no room in a decent inn. It is about being forced to birth a child in a stable full of animals.

It is about hearts drawn to the baby and the wonder of birth that keeps the human race going – whether lowly shepherds sensing a significant event or kings traveling with expensive gifts from afar. It is about the Star of illumination shining for all to see.

It is about a narcistic and power hungry king who feared a little child could unseat him from his throne and so proceeded to kill many young children trying to protect his own self. The grief in the mothers of these children (if they weren’t killed along with them trying to stop the slaughter) had to be enormous.

What child is this ? It is every child. Every child should have their own mother who gave birth to them and then raises them with love in her heart. Every family should be supported and helped with the challenges of parenting and providing for the basic needs of their family.

These are what this season reminds me about.

The Family Preservation Project

Ever since I first heard the words “family preservation”, I have loved this concept.  I suppose because my family was fragmented by adoption – both parents were adoptees and both of my sisters gave up babies for adoption.  I often wonder what it would have been like for our family to have remained intact – parents with children – but then I would not exist, my sisters would not exist and they couldn’t have given up their babies to adoption.  Still, I do like the concept of family preservation and all of the efforts in these modern times to keep mothers and their babies together and if there is a dad present, him too.

So why the elephants ?  The Family Preservation Project‘s website answers that for me.

The Elephant is symbolic of the community this page would like to build. Elephants are a matriarchal society; that is, one that is led by a head cow, who presides over her herd of females. Each herd is made up of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. They are guided by the oldest and largest female of the herd. This herd sticks closely together, rejoicing at the birth of a calf and mourning at the death of a member.

The Family Preservation Project is not a community that necessarily excludes men, but one that celebrates femininity and the intimate connections made by women through motherhood.

FP365 is a family preservation movement and it is global. Their mission is to empower vulnerable, expectant mothers and prevent family separation. fp365 is dedicated to building a strong foundation of advocates willing to provide local support, networking and community involvement.  Additionally, they believe a critical piece of education and awareness is found by exploring the layers of lived experience. As we listen to those voices we will shift the current cultural narrative which promotes separation by adoption to one which celebrates the preservation of family. 

In the adoption community I belong to, the women have a mission to encourage expectant mothers to keep their baby and not rush into adoption.  They often mention Saving Our Sisters (SOS) as a resource.

SOS supports all members of expectant families considering adoption. We are committed to helping them make fully informed decisions based on information that so many other families have learned too late. We are dedicated to ensuring that they avoid applying a permanent solution to a temporary crisis based on partial or misinformation.

SOS is dedicated to direct action and education regarding the preservation of biological families whenever possible. This may include assisting expectant and new parents by locating resources, explaining the long and short term effects of adoption separation on everyone in the natural family, explaining the lifelong effects of trauma their infant will suffer if exposed to maternal separation, and connecting them with a local support person and mentor.

SOS welcomes volunteers, donations, and donors to join us in empowering and preserving families by preventing unnecessary adoptions and advocating for fair and ethical adoption laws, policies and practices.

If you want to learn more about how elephant families are like human families you can read the Elephants Without Borders pdf.  Throughout time, elephants have had a curious effect on people, creating a sense of reverence and respect. Of course, their massive size and immense strength is enough to demand it. But elephants and humans have much in common, including their intelligence.

Both elephants and humans love, protect, and nurture family members and educate the young with the skills and knowledge they need to survive. Like humans, elephants are not born with natural survival instincts and need to be taught these by their mothers and other female guardians. Lessons include how and where to feed, to use tools, what to be aware of and to understand their place in their social structure. (Much more at my link above.)

 

Denying The Father

I came across a question posted by a pregnant woman.  The baby she is carrying will be a daughter.  She asked, “Is it unethical to leave a potentially dangerous father off of a newborn’s birth certificate ?”

The immediate response was honest – Every person has a right to know their true identity.  In fact, among adoptees this is a significant and primary issue.

Someone suggested the expectant mother put him on the birth certificate but terminate his rights.  This expectant mother offered – He’s never done anything to me so far except be an asshole but he has a felony charge that is relevant to the situation.  I spoke to a lawyer and he said he’d give it a 50/50 chance that a judge would allow termination of rights without a stepfather around to adopt. And the father would have to willingly be there and declare he wants to terminate rights.

Doesn’t seem fair but this is the reality we as women often have to cope with.

Then came this caution – The reality is, if he’s on the birth certificate and you file for public assistance, he’ll be charged child support.  That system is crappy and may share your address. Don’t let people pressure you into any move with your abuser you’re not comfortable with.

Someone offered what seems to be a rational alternative – She can always establish paternity later. All she has to do is file for child support and give his name and the state will take care of finding him and doing paternity test. You can’t take him off birth certificate once he’s on but you can establish paternity and get child support without him on birth certificate.

And I do believe this is an important consideration – Not putting his name on the birth certificate makes it harder for him to just take her. That would be proof that the child is indeed his daughter and does have legal rights, unless you go through the court to have it documented in the way you wish. Not putting his name he would have to go through court for paternity and visitation.

It does appear that the father is aware.  In fact, the expectant mother says he wants to co-parent and she wants only full custody and that any visitation be supervised.

My sympathy and compassion go to the expectant mother wanting to protect her daughter.  She says she does intend for her child to know ALL of her family.  At this time, this is not an adoption issue but it is a family separation issue.

Somehow Adoption Continues

Catch me if you can.  Has the effort to adopt hit a pause button given the current circumstances ?  It seems it has not.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, our daily lives have all been affected in a way that none of us were anticipating just a few weeks ago. So you might think that now isn’t the ideal time to consider adoption.  The for profit adoption industry does not think so.

One adoption blog seems to be saying “now is actually a great time to begin or reinvigorate your adoption plans. Difficult times bring a greater need for adoptive parents.  Adoptions have increased in the past few weeks because women want more for their children and babies. They are turning to adoption during the coronavirus.”

Desperate times seem to increase desperation.  Somehow we lose the sense that this is all temporary.  The uncertainty causes us to question our ability to meet the challenge and survive.

This adoption agency wants to encourage more adoptions, even in the midst of this crisis, it appears that they have sensed this as a marketing opportunity.  They note – “with the world in turmoil and with financial situations uncertain, we find that more women are contacting us, looking for a stable, loving family to adopt their baby. They love their child enough to do what is best for them. They know they need a family stable enough to weather the storm. A family that will be able to protect and care for their child no matter the circumstances.”

Well fear does this to people but the decision to surrender your child is a permanent solution.  It actually reflects a lack of trust that the future will be better and that we will all get through this somehow.  It causes a young woman to doubt herself as capable.  This is a sad state of affairs.

It is true that people are generally stressed now.  That should not make it a good time to take advantage of a woman in a state of hyped up fear.  One expectant mother shared what she is going through right now –

“Some family friends of mine are giving their (unsolicited) opinion that I should seriously consider adoption since I am currently unemployed and it is not realistic for me to get a job amidst the virus, being pregnant and having had asthma as a kid. They seem to think I need to make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and give her ‘a good life’. If the only people who can give a child a good life are the few that can properly afford to adopt, then huge demographics of people are morally wrong for having children apparently. Including the people who said I should place her. I was so upset that I was crying yesterday, just for being told that.”

Let’s have more compassion people.

The Child Of Separation

Family separation has taken on a new meaning in the current government administration.  Many of my friends and myself included are horrified at the barbaric and cruel images of what is being done as we witness these.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote – “Every happiness is the child of a separation, it did not think it could survive.”  I think in the context I am considering, one could not equate happiness with separation.

Family separation means something different in my life.  It means my parents being taken away from their mothers.  It means families so broken they cannot be put back together again.  There is so much damage done when any baby is taken away from the mother who’s womb that child developed within.

Activists and reformers within the adoption world are hoping to see the common place separations end.  We seek stronger safety nets for mothers with children with no judgement applied.  It is not about how hard the mother works or how well she does trying to provide for her children but about the children themselves.  Seeing that children grow up in safe spaces with loving relatives with enough to eat and enough usable clothing to wear.  With a roof over their heads to protect them from the environment.

This is really not so much to ask of society and especially the wealthier members of our society – that we each accept a responsibility to the future generations of human beings on this planet.

Recent advances in the science of brain development offer us an unprecedented opportunity to solve some of society’s most challenging problems, from widening disparities in school achievement and economic productivity to costly health problems across the lifespan. Understanding how the experiences children have starting at birth, even prenatally, affect lifelong outcomes—combined with new knowledge about the core capabilities adults need to thrive as parents and in the workplace—provides a strong foundation upon which reforms can be created.

Not all stress is bad, but the unremitting, severe stress that is a defining feature of life for millions of children and families experiencing deep poverty, community violence, substance abuse, and/or mental illness can cause long-lasting problems for children and the adults who care for them. Reducing the pile-up of potential sources of stress will protect children directly (i.e., their stress response is triggered less frequently and powerfully) and indirectly (i.e., the adults they depend upon are better able to protect and support them, thereby preventing lasting harm). When parents can meet their families’ essential needs stress can be reduced rather than amplified.  Families are better able to support a healthy development in their children.

What Will The Future Bring ?

I’m not good at predicting the future.  Sometimes I misread my intuitions.  Even so I trust a kind of momentum and tendency in Life to bring about whatever my heart desires the most as well as protect me from my fears and misunderstandings.

I’ve been writing this blog daily for almost a year now.  It amazes me that I usually find something to say.  Certainly, my journey over the last two years has been remarkable.  Not everyone affected by the erasing of their personal history is able to make the progress I have.  My compassionate sympathy for all of those who like my own mom have been rejected when they have made the attempt.

What made the difference for my own self ?  I believe it has been a combination of undeserved luck and persistence not to give up.  Doors have opened in almost miraculous ways at times that I did not see ever coming into my own reality.

What kind of advice can I give others ?  One is to educate yourself as close to reality as possible for stories and delusions do not serve the individual or collective good.  Another is to be gently persistent.  Furthermore, if someone becomes upset with you, try your best to understand where they are and allow them to work through their own wounds and traumas at their own personal speed and willingness to accept.

I am grateful for all the progress I have made so far.  I have no idea where I will find myself next on this journey but I do have some hopes, goals and dreams.  I wish you all the best of good fortune and protection for your vulnerable parts as we journey together into the next new decade and the next yet best to be and hopefully with not too many hurts and disappointments.