That Pesky Uncertainty Thing

Many hopeful adoptive parents experience the uncertainty of whether that unwed young mother they have matched up with to take her newborn after birth will back out. And some do experience that outcome after spending tons of money on baby stuff in anticipation. Many of these are angry. Why are your family’s hopes so high that another family must fail to satisfy their hopes ? Me. Me. Me. My family. My family.

Because newborns are a scarce commodity bringing in huge profits for adoption agencies and lawyers, the field is competitive and the effort expensive. Here’s one example of the perspective of a whole family of hopeful adopters.

First comment on the above – Your family needs to change their expectations, and their expectations are not your responsibility. Its NOT your baby. Even if you get the placement. If Dad steps up that would be the BEST thing for that baby ♡ if dad can’t and you get the placement then that’s great that you are so well prepared and your heart and your families hearts are so open for that baby! ♡

It should be the reality that the father has to be PROVEN UNFIT before that child is taken into care. The father should NOT have to prove he is FIT to get his own child back! The child shouldn’t be with the woman complaining AT ALL, if there is a dad coming forward. I don’t care what his legal record is, as long as he isn’t a child abuser.

The hopeful adoptive mother is already feeling this way, before she has the baby ? What about the father ? He has to get a lawyer to even get this child back-during FORMATIVE BONDING MOMENTS that no amount of money can bring back. She gets those moments – but why? WHY!?

If there are concerns the father can’t parent, then society should support him with the resources they would have sent the foster parents – parenting classes, therapy, any assistance for supplies/etc. There should be no need for him to have to fight for HIS baby, the fact this is even a thing is appalling, and sadly, this is not a one off circumstance.

One adoptee shared this sad story – My poor sister had her 3rd child stolen out of her arms in the hospital and had to go to court postpartum (like that is on any woman’s to do list after delivering a baby and should be bonding) to get her baby back. The effects of this on her mental and emotional health was awful to watch-and triggering (cuz you know, she didn’t have the support she needed already). I was an adult by this time and had been removed/adopted into another states system and seeing them steal my nieces and nephew and have our family have to deal with all the lies of the courts again, well it just sent many of us into dark holes for many years.

Another comment – Personally, I don’t believe that anybody should get into fostering with the sole intention of potentially adopting a child. From everything that I learned in my classes and have read, the goal should always be to have a child return to their biological family if possible. In the event that is not a reality, then bringing a child into your life is the most beautiful thing that you can do for them. I’m a little concerned that this person may have been one of those people who is only interested in fostering newborns/babies…because they hope to adopt one.

Sharing the attitudes, language and culture surrounding the adoption industry are a primary purpose of my own in conveying information like this.

Parentification

This was a new term for me and came out of one of the stories I read recently conveyed by a foster parent. Here’s the story –

I am currently fostering a 14 year old. They were removed because of trauma from a family member who is not their mom but who still lives with their mom. Mom refuses to ask this person to leave or to move into a different apartment, but is otherwise doing what is asked of her to work towards reunification. Today this kid told me they really want to be reunified, which makes perfect sense. I’m worried because this seems unlikely unless mom starts believing them and takes steps to cut their perpetrator out of her life. How do I support them? If you were in their shoes, what would you want from a foster caregiver? I’m also worried because many of the reasons this kid states for wanting to reunify are to care for their mom. It’s not my place to make the judgment calls, but it seems from the outside like a case of parentification. Add to this that I’ve heard this child talk about how much they wish they had been given the opportunity that their peers had to “just be a kid”.

So what is parentification ? Parentification is when the roles are reversed between a child and a parent, a toxic family dynamic that is rarely talked about and is even accepted as the norm in some cultures. However, research has found that it can have far-reaching negative psychological impacts. It is a functional and/or emotional role reversal in which the child sacrifices his or her own needs for attention, comfort, and guidance in order to accommodate and care for the logistical and emotional needs of a parent and/or sibling.

One response was this from experience – my parents put me in foster care briefly when I was suicidal from the pressure of being a “good kid” and experiencing their abuse. I wanted to go back to them to protect my brother. I feel for the teen. I would have this child in therapy now to begin processing those emotions of responsibility. I’m 24 and still struggle with guilt that my brother may have suffered when I was gone or what would have happened if I’d stayed gone. My mom would’ve likely lost her mind. She did – when I went to college. My best advice is therapy for the child while in your care, and perhaps talk to a therapist about how you could best talk to their mom about her removing that person in the home. My mom chose my dad over me often, so I feel for the teen.

Another one shared – Unfortunately this might be something that never fully goes away. I was like this, the eldest child who took care of the family from a very young age and getting rid of that guilt and the “needing to take care of them feeling” has been very very resistant to therapy. I think the best you can do is just try to be empathetic, don’t make them feel like they’re acting too old or whatever (mine did that and it really fucked with my head) just be kind and remind them they can relax and do things for themselves, even if they don’t listen.

This one touched my heart, because I am the oldest as well. I was not in an awful situation but I have always felt a sense of responsibility for my two sisters. Our parents died only 4 months apart (high school sweethearts married for over 50 years). From the first day I returned to my family after my mom died first, I found myself having to take over financial responsibility for my sisters that my mom had been financially providing, making me in effect “the mom”. Then, after our dad died too, I had to ask the court to appoint someone to assist my youngest sister with her finances. She is likely a paranoid schizophrenic with very weird ideas about the way money functions. The court agreed to appoint a conservator. My sister and I have struggled. What had been a really good relationship before was destroyed when our mom died. Our mom had a poor relationship with my sister for over a decade and my sister’s feelings about that transferred to me when my mom died and I had to take over the family finances.

Also this interesting perspective – I cared for a teen relative of mine last year similar situation. As soon as she could legally, she returned to mom and the abuser to care for her siblings again and her mom. This is what she had been taught was the only way to get attention, love etc from mom. The best way we found to help her was to enroll her in a group for teens about healthy relationships at our local Domestic Violence shelter. She also did therapy with someone she selected and equine psychotherapy which helped her with attachment a lot. While she was here, we focused on just reminding her of our unconditional love and building trust in our relationship. Even though she went back, it didn’t take long for all of that to help her see how to set boundaries with mom, identify unsafe situations with abuser and start to come out of some of the fog. It’s still complicated but she isn’t engrained and I see her setting more healthy boundaries. We (and her dad) are still safe people she can come too and does. It took about 6 months of us just watching from a distance and being supportive regardless. In your situation, maybe focus on staying neutral and asking for a CASA or Guardian ad Litem to help with the other side of the coin. Having a mentor also really helped my relative. It was someone closer to her age that she could confide in and she is still actively talking to that person now. Maybe your foster youth could use a mentor because they aren’t a therapist but can be a sounding board. Also a lifeline if the youth returns and ‘adults’ get cut off from that person. (I say adults because the mentors we have had are usually 25 or younger and parents don’t see them like they do a 40 year old caseworker).

Even When Trying To Do The Right Thing

Adoption can be a tricky needle to thread, even when one is trying their best to do the right thing. Today, I bring you the story of an adoptive mother who is trying her best to do what’s best for the children she is raising.

My husband and are the adoptive parents of two children (domestic), placed with us at birth after their original moms chose us from our profiles. The adoptions were supposed to be “semi-open,” in that we exchanged letters and other communications through the agency only, and didn’t share our last names or the towns in which we live. This was the policy of the agency, and it was the moms who chose the agency.

I naively assumed this process was driven by the mom’s wishes (we did not “choose” the agency… our first placement was very sudden and via a connection that our home study social worker had at the agency).

After the first year with our eldest child, communicating through the agency, we took the lead from his mom and stopped using the agency as middle man (and also shared last names and the specific location where we live). We now correspond regularly and directly with her, and take her lead for the amount of contact she wants. We would do more, but also we respect her choice regarding how much contact we have. If and when our son has more questions or wants more contact, we will facilitate that.

For our younger son, the agency told us after 6 months to stop sending letters and pictures for his mom because she had moved and they did not have a forwarding address for her. I assumed this was her choice too, so while it made me sad for our son, I stopped sending the letters. Now I am not so sure about any of this. I have a handful of reasons to believe that the agency was very badly administered and evidence that, at best, they were sloppy with record keeping and filing. I do not trust that it was his mom who declined contact. What I am sure of is – it’s my responsibility to know as much about our child’s first family as possible, and to share what I know as/when our child asks for it.

And here’s the sticky part where I don’t know how to balance what is ethical and what is best for our child: While I was not supposed to know his mom’s last name, I learned it in the first week of our child’s life (there was an extended hospital stay, and the hospital revealed it… I didn’t go looking for the last name). When the agency told me to stop sending letters, I easily found our child’s mom and extended family on social media. I feel like the agency should have done this, and not simply accepted the lack of a forwarding address as an indication from the mom that she didn’t want the level of contact stipulated in the adoption agreement. But they did not, and thus I have been checking in on her through social media all these years, collecting whatever information I can for our child. I am now wondering if, because of my suspicions that the agency was negligent, I should reach out to his mom directly and ask her if she wants any contact with us or updates.

What I don’t want to do is violate her privacy or wishes… but also I want as much information for our child as I can gather. Of the two children I’m parenting, he is the one with the most questions about/interest in his first family, and while I care about his mom and her wishes, I don’t feel I actually KNOW them. And, of course, our son is my priority. He’s approaching the age where his questions are becoming much more specific, and I want answers for him.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to get a clear picture of his mom’s true wishes (not her wishes as filtered through the agency’s policy and negligent administration) before he gets to the age where he can find her on his own. While I know I can’t protect him from the traumas of adoption, I can support him, and I don’t think putting him in the position of being blindsided by whatever he finds would be the best way to support him.

The first response to this story came from a woman who surrendered her child to adoption and I do agree with her simple answer – Reach out to her. At this point you have nothing to lose.

There are many many answers and most are encouraging the attempt to make contact. I’ll just share this one from an adoptive parent –  I think you can make contact to verify her wishes, but when she tells you what she wants, respect that. And understand that your son may be blindsided regardless of what you learn now—like everyone, the wishes and life situation of his mom may change by the time he’s older and wants to know more.

Follow your instincts and respect whatever you learn. At least you can say you made the effort and if the effort closes the door, you can then put the question into the mom’s box to answer – when that day comes.

Opportunistic Dependency

In life, one often learns who they must say “no” to, because to say “yes” is never a temporary response but an open door to repeated requests, that eventually cause resentment and regret. Sadly, this is often the case in families. I’ve seen it more than once as I am certain most readers here will have as well. Today’s blog is focused on the story of an adoptee reunion. The young woman is somewhat like my mom was – always knew she was adopted and though she yearned for contact with her mother, was unable to achieve that before she died. From what I have learned from my mom’s cousins about my maternal grandmother, she would not have been like the one in my story below –

I was adopted at birth and raised by a wonderful family. From birth (or old enough to understand) I was told about the adoption and what that meant, it was a closed adoption. I never thought about it much while growing up. I just knew I was adopted and the chances were low I would ever get to know them (birth parents) and I was ok with that. I know others deal with it differently, I didn’t have much of a desire to know the back story.

Fast forward to when I was 27, my husband and I were googling our birthdays and the first post I saw was from an adoption website from a birth mom trying to find her daughter. Low and behold that daughter was me! I was shocked and overwhelmed, and thought it was my duty to reach out to say thank you!

I learned she was only 13 when she had me, others choices were available and she chose life for me. On my first attempt to reach out, she needed more time. She admitted she was on drugs and didn’t want me to know her like that.

A couple years passed by and she reached out again. It has not been a happy 5 years. She constantly pesters me with – can you give me money ?, can you give me shelter ?, can you help me ? And when I kindly say no, she responds with rage. Complete and utter anger. She doesn’t want to know anything about me, just wants to exploit her relationship with me.

I’m a super kind person but I know better than to give her anything monetary. It has reached a point where the relationship is toxic and I don’t want to be a part of it any longer. When I try to break it off, she says she is suicidal and will kill herself if I don’t comply with her requests.

To be honest, I wish I had never opened the reunion box. But I did. Now I don’t know what to do. What if she kills herself ? I would feel so responsible. All of this is so so so hard on me!!! What would you do ? And could you live with that choice for the rest of your life ?

Tomorrow, I’ll share some of the advice she received from sharing her story.

Ultra-Independence as a Trauma Response

Each of my grandmother’s experienced childhood traumas and both were ultra-independent.  Independence is important but when it becomes a survival mechanism then it is a problem.  It can be detrimental when a person becomes so independent that they fail to ask for help when they really need it.

Ultra-Independence can stem from trauma growing up, possibly in a household where you had to take on a care giver role to your siblings (as my maternal grandmother did – she was 11 years old when her mom died, leaving her to care for 4 younger siblings, the youngest barely a toddler). Or a home where your parents were distant or abusive towards you (as my paternal grandmother experienced with a truly cruel step-mother and a father so grief-stricken by the death of his 3 year old daughter, run over by a car, and his wife a year later and 3 months after my grandmother was born).

There are many other causes – being bullied as a child, a failed love affair, an abusive or narcissistic lover and the death of a loved one are a few of these.

Ultra-Independent people tend to be the rulers of the family and household, they run the show, and take on all the responsibilities and decisions at home because they don’t trust others to make the correct decisions, this results in far too much responsibility on one person that can cause one to become overwhelmed and unable to cope with the pressure anymore.

They can become so used to doing everything for their self, making all the decisions, paying their own bills, fixing all the issues that arise – alone without anyone’s help – that asking for help becomes terrifying. Even admitting that they are not coping is something an Ultra-Independent person will never dream of admitting because that implies that they need others to assist them, which is out of the question.

Ultra-Independent people also tend to take on codependent relationships, as they feel their independence allows them to fix everything and therefore can fix others and it feels safer having someone need them, than a person who will try help them. A normal independent partner scares a Ultra Independent far more than having a codependent that allows them to keep their control.

To an extent Ultra-Independence becomes codependency on one’s self ………. and they will beat themselves up if they cannot fix a situation or do all the things they need done without assistance.  They can become very hard on their own self because they expect to be the super hero all the time. This can result in internal anger and disappointment.  The same kind of anger as they might feel in a co –dependent relationship. These emotions and demands put onto one’s self can eventually lead to stress and burnout.

Credit for much of the content in today’s blog comes from Ultra-Independence is a Trauma response.

 

 

Difficult Relationships In The Moment Of Dying

Even when an adoptee is able to find and attempt a reunion with their biological mother, it doesn’t always go well.  Case in point, a woman who tried to create a relationship about 11 years ago. The woman and her mother talked on the phone for months almost every single day. During that time period, they were supposed to meet multiple times.  The mother always ended up backing out – every single time. The adoptee tried to give her mother the benefit of the doubt, but it hurt more and more every single time this happened.

She found out 2 days ago that her biological mother had been put into a medically induced coma and a decision was made to pull the plug and her mother died. This woman goes on to say – I didn’t really think I would have any feelings in regards to her passing as I didn’t have a relationship with her. Yet, last night I didn’t get much sleep and I’ve been in this fog since I found out. I haven’t cried, but I have been feeling a little bit of regret.”

Then comes the kicker for her – she finds out that her mother put  her and a younger sister (age 19 and was raised by her biological dad, a step mom and somewhat their mutual biological mother) down as her next of kin, which is technically true but can have unintended consequences.  She has learned that they will both have to sign the paperwork for the funeral home to cremate their mother and will be required to make all of the decisions about her services.

She goes on to say – I know nothing about this woman. I’ve hated her for so long that I literally blocked her in every way possible. Why would she put this responsibility on me? It has made me so mad. And I don’t even know if everything has already been paid for or if my little sister and I have to pay for it. I literally can’t afford to pay for anything else right now except my bills. I am seriously at a loss. 

And yet, there comes another woman in similar circumstances with a different experience.  Her biological mother is dying but recently blocked her on Facebook. She is distressed because she won’t even get to say goodbye to her mother. But sympathetically, she acknowledges that she would also be mad if someone tried to make her responsible for her deceased mother’s expenses, especially since her mother won’t even speak to her.

And she goes on to acknowledge – Either way, it’s tough – especially when we are told all our lives that we aren’t rejected – we are loved and wanted and then you grow up and get rejected all over again.

The experience of yet another woman reminds me of my own mom . . .

I spent years hating my birth mom. She died the month I decided to start looking.  Then my siblings found me to let me know she’d died before I even started. I was not involved in anything and I really didn’t know her. Sometimes I wish I could have been there, or been acknowledged some way. I don’t know what’s worse.

One biological mother who gave up her child to adoption wrote –  if I died, I would put my daughter down as a person on the list.  I would want it to be her choice for once.  She could choose to be a part or just drop her biological mother for good. I just feel like it would be rude not to include her, even though our relationship is bad, I would still want her to have the choice.  I know, kinda crap after the fact but I’m trying not to make any more decisions for her.

Being an adoptee is complicated business, even once the adoptee is grown and a mature adult.  First of all – no one can make you financially responsible in this situation.  Do not sign anything and make the case that you are NOT legally related to this person.

However, this is always true – grief simply is complicated terrain for most people to navigate.  There is nothing you might feel that can be labeled “wrong” … it just is how you feel. Anger is OK. Rage is OK. Sad is OK. Indifferent is OK. Relief is OK. Feeling nothing is OK. And most importantly, remember, none of this is going to be a permanent heartache in your life going forward, though it may always remain a painful memory.

Arrested Development

The loss of a mother creates a significant
developmental challenge for a child.

My maternal grandmother was 11 years old when her mother died and the oldest of 5 children.  I suspect that Lizzie Lou was forced to take on responsibilities not only for herself but for the whole family very quickly.

It is known that in such cases the daughter advances some areas of development quite quickly.

At the same time, it is also known that she may identify with her earlier stage of maturity, the age when her mother was still the guiding light of the family’s life,
as a way of maintaining a relationship with her mother in an effort to deny
the finality of the death.

The result can be an adult who is stuck at an earlier developmental stage.  I don’t know if this happened to my grandmother but my grandfather, I am told, described her as very young – indeed she was 20 years younger.  She was, however, already 20 years old when they married and 21 years old when my mother was born.  Hardly a child, though I understand that maturity is more of an issue than a young person of that age may believe.

Ever since I heard this assessment, that this is what my grandfather said about my grandmother, that she was very young, I have wondered, exactly what did he mean by that ?  I have to consider that maybe she was a “little girl” in emotionally significant ways.  Did she expect too much of him ?  Did she throw temper tantrums ?

I’ll never know why he left her 4 months pregnant after only 4 months of marriage.  I am left simply to consider the possible reasons and I come down on the side of believing there is a “positive” perspective I could apply.

Mother loss is a great equalizer

 

I remember the woman whose mother died not long before my mother and the woman whose mother died after my mom.  I never forget that is what connects us.

“You have to become that person who says –
Don’t worry, you’re doing fine.
You’re doing the best you can.”

I would hear this internally as I tried to adjust to my mother’s sudden departure and the
responsibilities that thrust upon me, especially when I used the toilet in the bathroom where she died in her jacuzzi tub.

She had some kind of blockage at her esophagus and had been prescribed a strong pain medication.  She was scheduled to have a procedure to remove it only a few days after she already had died.  She had passed a heart stress test in preparation for that procedure with flying colors.

But she had a massive heart attack.  My dad was in woulda, coulda, shoulda mode (because he found her there the next morning) until the coroner ruled that he couldn’t have.

Her birthday falls on the last day of this month of January.

“A mother you perceive as really knowing you –
that is who you count on, the one you keep looking for.”

My mother was an adoptee and she yearned for her mother.  By the time the scandal of the agency that she was adopted from (the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis under the supervision of the infamous Georgia Tann) came back into the national consciousness in the early 1990s with dramatic reunions of mothers and their children televised for all to see, not only would the state not give her her adoption records but they told her that her mother had died years before.

She was devastated.  Though her adoptive mother had been over the moon to receive her as an infant, growing up, there were tensions.  Her mother was never “mom” as my own mother was.  She was very formal, somewhat strict and obsessed with body image.  When I saw the photo of my natural maternal grandmother, I saw we came from strong farm stock, even though no one would have judged her “fat”.  Fat is often more of a perception than a reality.

I remember during a troubled period in my own life going into the darkened kitchen at my parents’ house and my mother came looking for me.  Intuitively, she sensed my distress.

“Mother loss is a great equalizer among women.”

~ the quotes centered above are from

Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman