Conflict of Interest ?

I got seriously triggered with my husband yesterday. I need to work through my thoughts and I’m sure this is going to prove a lengthy process of contemplation.

Some background –

Both of my parents were given up for adoption in the 1930s. Their circumstances were somewhat different and somewhat similar. My mom’s genetic biological parents were married but at 4 mos pregnant after 4 mos of marriage for reasons I’ll never really have reliable answers to (but a few theories given what I have learned), her husband left her. He didn’t divorce her for 3 years, so there is that as well. With no husband in sight, she was sent to Virginia from Memphis TN to give birth and I would assume expected to leave the baby there but she did not. Instead, after her return to Memphis with my infant mom in tow, she became a victim of Georgia Tann.

My dad’s mom was unwed. She had an affair with a much older married man. Then, she went to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers to give birth. After about 2 or 3 months, she was released with my dad still in her custody. It appears my dad’s father never even knew he existed. When my grandmother found no support for her and the baby with her cousin, she returned to the Salvation Army seeking employment and was transferred with my dad still in tow to one of their homes in El Paso Texas.

My mom’s adoptive parents relocated to El Paso Texas and in high school, my adoptee mom met my adoptee dad. Probably during the summer after my dad’s graduation from high school before entering a university my parents had sex and my teenage mom discovered by Autumn that she was pregnant. My dad’s adoptive parents supported him marrying her and quitting his hopes of a university degree to go to work and support his new family. I’m pretty certain my mom’s adoptive parents, had they had a chance, would have sent her off to have and give me up. Thankfully that didn’t happen to me.

So the truth I cannot deny is that had my parents NOT been adopted and had they both not ended up in El Paso TX and attended the same high school where they met at a party through mutual friends, I would not exist at all. I owe my very existence in this life to ~gasp~ adoption. I think I once described this situation as imperfectly perfect.

Until about 5 years ago, when I was able to uncover the identities of all 4 of my original grandparents (something that both of my parents died still not knowing), I thought adoption was the most natural thing in the world and that my parents were orphans. I had no idea there were people I was actually genetically biologically related to living out lives as unaware of me as I was of them. I knew nothing about the mental and emotional impacts of the trauma of my parents being separated from their mothers may have caused. I’ve learned a LOT about that since then – as this blog very frequently shares. To be honest, I now would prefer to see vulnerable women supported, so that they could raise their own babies.

So what is my conflict of interest ? My husband’s desire that my writing add some revenue to our family. Of course, I would love for that to happen as well. I have developed a negative attitude toward Christian Evangelical saviorism as it applies to adoption. My husband wants me to make my next book oriented towards Evangelical Christians (I have just finish a revision of my parents’ adoption stories for the 3rd time and will go about trying to obtain a literary agent for that work).

What !?! I accused him of asking me to betray my values for monetary reasons. He spoke of “witnessing.” That stayed with me all afternoon. I reflected on the kind of people my adoptive grandparents were. 3 of the 4 were religious. My dad’s were fundamentalist in the extreme. When one church wasn’t as strictly interpreted per the bible as they wanted, they changed churches to a stricter one. My mom’s adoptive father has been described as morally ethical but not religious. I see that same characteristic in my husband. My mom’s mother however had a surprisingly enlightened spirituality – especially when I consider what I have heard of her own very bible religious mother (to the extent of neglecting home and family). This grandmother’s spirituality was not far different than my own (which was what surprised me when I discovered it). My husband has a negative perspective on religion in general and believes vulnerable people are exploited by it. So I could not believe that HE would suggest such a thing to me. He admits that he is a bit like Mr Krabs in the SpongeBob episodes – all about the money (only really he is incredibly down to Earth, he just worries about supporting this family as he ages).

Yet, aside from the last 5 years of having it banged into my consciousness through my favorite adoption triad group, where the voices of adult adoptees are given preference and describe all that is wrong with adoption and foster care in general, what is it that I actually know from my own experience ?

My parents each felt differently about their adoptions. My dad never spoke to me of his but cautioned my mom against her efforts at locating her birth mother – who had already died by the time she was actively seeking that. One of the last things she wrote to me before she died was an explanation regarding why she couldn’t complete a family tree at Ancestry.com – “it just wasn’t real, because I was adopted but I’m glad I was.” Though I cannot say that she truly was “glad.” She didn’t know any other life.

Both of my sisters gave up a child to adoption. I cannot honestly say that my niece or my nephew would have been better off being raised by my sisters. They are good solid people – both of them – now married in their own adulthoods.

So the question is – can I find a way to target a Christian Evangelical audience, who is going to adopt anyway – regardless of how much I might preach to them about all of the impacts of trauma in this child they desperately want for whatever reason (I do believe there is a bit of missionary purpose in those desires) – and gently prepare them for reality and hope this brings about better outcomes for the adoptee ? Honor fully my evolved values in the effort ?

Increasing The Supply

I did think this – immediately. That banning abortion is meant to increase the number of babies available for adoption. Actually, I’ve thought this for some years as I have learned more about the traumatic impacts of separating children from their biological parents and have generally turned against the practice, even though but for adoption, I would not exist.

When I was doing my own family roots journey, I contacted the Salvation Army in El Paso TX because I knew my dad had been adopted from there. They told me that they closed their home for unwed mothers after Roe v Wade because they had no clients to serve. Very revealing. Three out of nine justices on the Supreme Court have adopted children. Adoptive parents are very influential when it comes to laws related to adoption as they are the ones who have the money. They are the ones who wish to keep an adopted person’s information away from them and hidden away in a sealed file.

An adoptee friend of mine who didn’t even know she was adopted into well into her adulthood as that had been hidden from her, a family secret, wrote – “Domestic supply of infants?” I guess they want to restart the supply chain, no matter how wrong that may be, how harmful to parents, family, the person who ends up being funneled into the system. She added –

Note there are no safeguards being proposed for the people who will be forced into that system. No additional funds for sex Ed, contraception. No requirements for men to take greater responsibility, no requirements for prospective adoptive parents to undergo evaluations, education and ongoing therapy. No after adoption services. No additional services for people forced to give birth. No aftercare services for people who lose their children to adoption. No acknowledgment of the fact that the majority of states will be erasing the children’s identities and severing them from family and community. No. Just an acknowledgment that there isn’t enough supply to meet demand.

Marketing Matters

Barbara Corcoran

We don’t watch commercial TV. I read about this in my all things adoption group the other day. Someone in my adoption group posted about this, so I went to the linked article. He wrote –  My wife and I sometimes watch Shark Tank, and in one of the episodes, Barbara Corcoran mentions having an adopted daughter. I looked up more, and saw this article in INC, an excerpt –

“Attracting moms who wanted to give you their baby was exactly the same as writing a good real estate ad,” says Corcoran. “You needed a great top line, and my top line I used in every Pennysaver in the Catholic states was ‘I want your child to ski in the winter and spend summers at the beach.’ Sort of like the baby version of ‘views and lots of light,’ ” she says, laughing. “It’s all sales. I think I had 27 moms who wanted me to take their babies–and it’s not easy getting a baby in America.”

“You do what you gotta do,” says Corcoran. “It’s called sales.” Understandably, this does not sit well with adoptees. No one wants to think of anyone treating them like a marketable commodity.

It is rather well known at this time that there is only 1 “available for adoption” infant for every 40 couples wanting to adopt one. This is what drives all these Republican states to enact such strict abortion laws because as the Salvation Army told me when I was on my journey to discover my two adoptee parents’ original birth stories, after Roe v Wade, the Salvation Army had to close all of their homes for unwed mothers because they had none to serve.

It was not Corcoran’s ad writing skills that brought her 11 yr old daughter, Katie, to her. Corcoran’s adoption attorney called her one day and said she had found a birth mother who wanted to put her infant girl up for adoption–and needed an answer immediately. Corcoran said yes on the spot. “In the end, it was a relief to let it go. To let fate take charge,” she says. And this from a woman with a take-charge personality.

Much that she describes in this interview is familiar to me, as my husband and I have spent 30+ years in business together as entrepreneurs. It takes a high degrees of confidence and a tolerance for risk. For us, we have always had to know when to severely tighten our belts financially until things got better. So far, they always have. Though age is now weighing heavily on us, as my husband recently turned 70 and “technically” is retired from our business, which only means he is no longer taking a salary, not that he isn’t working all the time to bring some kind of income into our lives. We still have two dependents (one is almost 18 and the other is 21) and are not kicking either of our sons out of the house – these two houses on our farm are one each for each boy – rent free – as long as they want to live here. We really don’t mind. Who knows how long the 4 of us have together ? None of us is guaranteed a future regardless.

This how it was for my husband and I, we were forced into bootstrapping. It took us pretty far but we never really knew how to take that to the next step. “The best way to fund any company is bootstrapping. You spend your money smartly, because you don’t have enough. Every dime I had, I had to think about best use. It’s real money. It’s hard-earned money. It is born out of enormous hard work. That’s the kind of money you don’t lose so fast,” Barbara Corcoran says.

Booth Girls

This looks interesting to me (I have not read this recently published book). My paternal grandmother gave birth as an unwed mother in a San Diego home in 1935. It was called the Door of Hope. After her release with my father some months after his birth, she tried to seek refuge with her cousin who lived nearby. I am guessing it didn’t go well. My grandmother returned to the Salvation Army home seeking employment and was accepted. She traveled by train to El Paso TX with my dad in tow to another home for unwed mothers where she became a helper. When I discovered a cousin, thanks to 23 and Me, with the same grandmother, she expressed surprise the Salvation Army “owned” my dad at the time of his adoption. The family story was a nice couple took my dad because my grandmother could not financially support him. I will always believe that the Salvation Army coerced my grandmother into relinquishing him. Thanks to breadcrumbs she left for us in her photo albums retained by her daughter, the next youngest child after my dad, I was able to identify who my paternal grandfather was.

About the book shown above –

In 1961, my mother delivered her first daughter, my half-sister, at the Salvation Army Booth Memorial Hospital in St. Paul. Booth was a home for “unwed mothers” and so, like most of the other young women in residence, my mother surrendered her baby for adoption. She kept the whole experience a secret until 1994, when my sister found my mother. After my mother died in 2009, I set out to learn more about her experiences as Booth girl in hopes of understanding my own as an adoptive mother. Based on oral history interviews, archival research, family history, and memoir, Booth Girls is a story about mothering through the losses and gains of adoption.

~ Kim Heikkila, author

There is an informative video posted, “Mother’s Day” watchable at Vimeo, available at Heikkila’s website (because of it’s privacy settings I cannot embed it her but I do recommend watching it !!).

My Adoption Files Interview

Adoptee Parents

Though the podcast has been live since Feb 6th, I was only able to finish listening to my interview yesterday. I had gotten through the first 41 mins previously. Life is busy and it is long and so I do forgive anyone who doesn’t want to listen to me talk about my experience of being the child of two adoptees for an hour and a half approx. Though my satellite quality of transmission is inconsistent, it seemed to me that somehow the audio zoom file was able not to lose words but after a disruption continued where it would have been anyway. I am happy to say I was not embarrassed when I listened to it. Though most listeners would not notice my only big blub – giving the wrong part of my dad’s birth name as it relates to his father’s actual name – I can accept that as mistakes go, it wasn’t significant to the quality of listening to my interview by Ande Stanley of The Adoption Files.

For those who don’t want to listen to such a long interview, I’ll try to hit on the key or more significant points.

Though both of my parents were mid-1930s adoptees, their individual responses to having been adopted could not have been different. My mom always felt like her adoption had been, in her effort to be polite, inappropriate. She knew a bit about Georgia Tann and from what she knew and from a weird quirk in what she did NOT know (having been born in Virginia but having been adopted still technically an infant in the first year of her life from Memphis TN, how did she get there ?) she had crafted a story to explain what she was never going to be allowed to know.

I say that because she did try to get her adoption file in the early 1990s from the state of Tennessee who rejected both her initial and subsequent appeal because they could not determine the status of alive or dead for her father (who had actually been dead for 30 years by that time). Basically for $180 dollars she had the privilege of being told the mother she sincerely wish to reassure as to her outcome as an adopted child had been dead for several years. It broke her heart.

No one ever informed her that just a few years later, by the end of the 1990s, she would have been given her adoption file as Tennessee changed the law of closed and sealed adoption records for the victims of Georgia Tann (who bought and sold babies for 30 years). That is why for less money ($150) I received over 100 pages of her adoption file (which thankfully was intact though minimally inaccurate – deliberately) plus 4 black and white negatives of photos taken the last time my maternal grandmother held her baby.

Had my mom been given her adoption file, it would have cleared up misunderstandings caused by a lack of information and given her a lot of peace. She would have seen how hard her original mother fought to keep her and the obstacles against her. She would have seen how over the moon her adoptive mother was to have received her (though in life they had a difficult relationship). Though not stolen, her mother had been exploited. More importantly, my mom could have reconnected with her genetic, biological family and learned a lot of first hand impressions and lived experience regarding both of her parents.

Closed, sealed adoption records continue to be an issue that turns adoptees into second class citizens in these United States. I encountered this in Virginia, Arizona and California. I believe the main impediment is money – who has it and who stands to gain from keeping adoptees from their own valuable personal information. These parties are the adoptive parents, the adoption agencies and the legal system including adoption attorneys. They are the ones with the money to hire lobbyists to impress upon legislators the need to keep secret adoptees records. It is a big money business.

My dad was never interested in knowing his origins. I tend to believe he was afraid of what he would find out as he didn’t much like my mom searching and warned her against opening a can of worms. For $100, the Salvation Army gave me one paragraph of information, which even so gave me something important – my dad’s full name at birth and that the Salvation Army had hired and transferred my paternal grandmother from Ocean Beach CA (near San Diego) to El Paso TX with my dad in tow. I do believe they coerced her into giving him up. They had legal custody at the time he was adopted. Also, my dad was adopted twice due to his adoptive mother’s divorce and remarriage. Therefore, he experienced a name change at the age of 8 (he also was originally adopted as a infant less than one year of age).

The aspect of my story that seemed to interest Ande the most was how being the child of adoptees had affected me personally. Adoption does not only affect the adoptee but their children as well and even more so when both of the parents are adoptees. There was only a black hole of familial and medical history information beyond my two parents. Just as my mom had made up a story of being stolen from the hospital in which she was born and transported to Memphis, I had made up a story that my dad was left in a basket on the doorstep of the Salvation Army in El Paso TX by an unwed Mexican national mother because her child was mixed race with a white American father.

I readily admit that I got lucky in my own attempt to learn the truth of my parents’ adoptions. Nothing we believed due to our lack of true information has proven to be true but the truth is definitely preferable. Not all efforts at learning an adoptee’s origins are as productive or end as happily as mine with acceptance by my genetic biological relations. Persistence and determination are important. And getting one’s DNA tested can make all the difference. I had mine tested at both Ancestry and 23 and Me. Also noted in the interview however, without actual names, just finding DNA matches does not yield very much useful information as my own story shows.

In case you missed the link at the beginning of this blog (and there is so much more there than I can reasonably write for today) here it is – https://anchor.fm/ande-stanley/episodes/Interview-with-Deborah-Hart-Yemm-e1djv8e.

The Stories We Tell

I do beg to differ with Mr Twain. When you don’t know, you make up stories to fill in the gaps. Before I knew the truth of my adoptee parent’s origins – I thought both of my parents must be mixed race – my mom was black and white and my dad was Mexican and white. Neither one of those turns out to be true.

My mom wouldn’t explain how she could have been born in Virginia but adopted at 6 months old in Memphis. She did know that Georgia Tann was in the baby stealing and selling market. My mom died still not knowing the truth because Tennessee couldn’t provide whether her dad was alive when she wanted her file (though he had already been dead 30 years by that time).

My mom’s story went this way. She was born to illiterate parents in Virginia. A nurse at the hospital was in cahoots with Georgia Tann. She gave my mom’s parents papers to sign that they couldn’t read. She said the nursery was too crowded and so they needed to move my mom. When her mother was released and went to retrieve her – she was gone. In my mom’s polite language with the Tennessee officials (though she believed firmly she had been stolen), she referred to her adoption as inappropriate.

Truth was my maternal grandmother was exploited by Georgia Tann in her desperate financial situation. She was married. I have a story about my maternal grandfather. His first wife died almost 9 months pregnant in the dead of winter with the baby still in her womb. I have thought consciously or not, he was concerned because he was WPA, the children from his deceased wife were in Arkansas, his job in Memphis had ended and he went back to Arkansas. He was insecure as to his living conditions there and so didn’t take my grandmother at 4 mos pregnant, also due to deliver in the dead of winter with him. My cousin who has the same grandfather does not believe he was the kind of man to abandon his family that way. I can’t know – no one left living to tell me. My mom didn’t feel close to him and maybe that is because her own mother felt abandoned.

My dad was adopted from the Salvation Army. When his adoptive parents died, he found a letter copy to the Texas requesting the altered birth certificate that mentioned his mother’s name as Delores. Growing up on the Mexican border in El Paso TX, until I finally knew better, my story about my dad was that his mother was Mexican and his father white. Her family would not accept a mixed race baby so she took him into El Paso and left him on the doorstep of the Salvation Army with a note to please take care of her baby. Understandable given the circumstances but still not true.

This is a common experience for people with adoption in their family histories. Making up stories to fill in the gaps. Knowing the truth is preferable – even if the story was a very pretty and exciting one (as some I’ve heard about are).

Adoption IS Trauma

Today’s adoptee story –

Through writing this story, I became *very* angry with my biological mother for the first time since I met her almost ten years ago now.

I’ve always known I was adopted (at birth, through Catholic Charities, not “private” adoption but also not a foster care adoption.). I had great adoptive parents, who I know loved me (but didn’t always). There were no biological children in the family. My sister was adopted at four years old (when I was six) from foster care.

Blogger’s note – adoptive parents often adopt another child to be a sibling to the first one they adopted. This was true for my mom – the Jill for the Jack they already had – as her adoptive mother actually wrote in a letter to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. This was true for my dad – who’s adoptive mother went back to The Salvation Army home for unwed mothers in El Paso TX to get a brother for him.

I always, always, always felt alone. I’d cry, when I was very young, and curl up on the couch and sob “I want to go home, why can’t you just let me go home.” I’d never known another home, but that was what I always wanted when I was very small, was to “go home.”

I always believed I was something different than my peers. I found it hard to make friends. I had no sense of my own identity. I spent my entire childhood longing for my blood kin. When I grew up and finally found them, only my mother and her younger son (who wants nothing to do with me) were alive. My older sister, my father, my older brother, all gone.

Blogger’s note – it is interesting that as a child I never connected the dots that my parents being adoptees made me “different”. I never thought about the fact that my parents were “different” from the parents of my school peers, that their parents were not also adopted, though subconsciously I knew this because I could not say to anyone what my cultural identity was (Danish, Scottish are what I have learned, along with Irish and English).

Even now, in my early forties, a part of me feels like there’s something about me not worthy of being wanted by them, not worthy of knowing them (the biological, genetic family).

I’d have rather been aborted.

Blogger’s note -This is true for many, not all adoptees, but in my all things adoption group, I’ve seen this written many times.

Great adoptive family or not, this life is not what I deserved. My biological mother doesn’t regret her choice. And part of me hates her for that, now that I’ve had some time to really process everything that’s happened since we met.

This is not a life I would wish on any person.

Adoption IS trauma.

Realizing the Value of DNA Testing

Getting the results of my own DNA tests (both Ancestry and 23 and Me) did NOT bring surprise results to me – in that I knew BOTH of my parents were adoptees at the time I did the tests. What was I hoping for ? Answers to my cultural identity. A question that had plagued me since public school. What are we ? I asked my mom. We’re Americans, she answered. No, I said, what ELSE are we ? We don’t know because we were adopted, she answered.

And I did get insight into what I had yearned to know from childhood. Yet, my DNA tests did something for me that I did not anticipate. As actual genetic, biological relations were found at the two platforms, my DNA test proved to these that I actually was related to them. Me, someone they never knew existed. Though to be honest, I never knew they existed either. Building relationships with people who have decades of history with my original families (the families my parents were conceived as part of) and none involving me is slow and not earth-shattering but soul warming never-the-less.

I am pretty certain I came as a surprise to some of these – especially on my dad’s paternal line. His father’s family was located in Denmark. Several of his father’s siblings as well as his father immigrated to the United States. Unfortunately, his father never knew he had a son. More’s the pity. My dad did look remarkably like his own father and they shared an interest in boats, the ocean and fishing. They would have made wonderful friends as father and son. So, that family has been the most amazed at my existence. I originally found my grandfather’s step-granddaughter who told me quite a bit about him. And only recently, I now have email contact with one of his nephews in Denmark, who has told me something about my grandfather’s early life in that country before immigrating.

With my other 3 grandparent family lines, there was some awareness of my parent’s existence. One of the first that I met shared the same maternal grandfather with me. His daughters (my mom’s half-siblings) were aware of her existence. My cousin said to me upon my emergence into her life, My mom always wondered about your mom and wanted to have an opportunity to meet her. Sadly, I barely missed this half-aunt of mine. She died only months before I began my own search into my roots after BOTH of my parents had died only 4 months apart.

Next came cousins and an aunt on my dad’s maternal line. 23 and Me outed my cousin and she wrote me in excitement, Delores or Dolores Hempstead/Barnes is my grandmother. The aunt is her mother and she was living only 90 miles away from my dad at the time he died. He never spoke to me about being adopted except that one time after his adoptive father died and my dad was going through some papers and marveled that his original surname was Hempstead. My mom did tell me that he was not supportive of her own effort to search, warning her that she might be opening up a can of worms. That has informed me somewhat about his perspective – that the people who adopted him were his parents – end of story. We did know that my granny “got” him at the Salvation Army. There is so much more to that story that I have now been able to learn and I will always believe that the Salvation Army coerced her into surrendering him to adoption as she was unwed. I’m told she regretted losing him the rest of her life. One cousin lead me to another cousin who had the breadcrumb clue that my paternal grandmother left as to my dad’s father’s identity. A few photos and some notes written on the back of these.

Though the initial focus of my adoption related searches was my mom’s Stark family line, that one took me the longest to finally connect with the children of my grandmother’s youngest brother, who I also just missed as he had died not all that long before. I did learn early on from a woman “related by marriage” who was also a genealogist that my Stark family was Scottish. She belonged to the church across the street from the cemetery where my grandmother, her second husband and her parents are all buried. My maternal grandmother was a victim of Georgia Tann and the baby stealing and selling scandal of the Memphis Branch of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. My mom knew some of this background information, believed that she had been inappropriately adopted (her words for what happened to separate her from her mother) and actually tried to get her adoption file (the one I now have the complete file of, including photos of my grandmother and baby mom) but was denied it by the state of Tennessee. These second cousins (as they are my age but would be genetically my mom’s cousins) had close and fond relationships with my maternal grandmother. They gave me the warm kinds of intimate details about the kind of person she was – what my heart had yearned to know since I began my own journey.

I believe I have fulfilled my destiny to reconnect the broken threads of our family’s origins – the reason I managed to be preserved with the parents who first conceived me out of wedlock (my mom still in high school, my dad had only just started at an out of town university – high school sweethearts they had been. They did marry and remained married until death did part them).

Until I began learning more about the traumas of being adopted, it was the most natural thing in the world to me. So natural, that both of my sisters actually each gave up a baby to adoption. Thankfully, I’ve met and have contact with both of these wonderful, valuable persons – my niece and nephew. It’s impossible to know how their lives might have been different if my sisters had kept them. If my parents had never been surrendered for adoption – the miracle of it all for me personally is – I simply would not have existed. I love my life and for having one at all and with my original parents, I am grateful. So, I am also grateful I wasn’t given up for adoption – it would have been the most normal thing in the world to have happened to me.

Busting The Myth

It’s painful to realize you have been lied to by the adoption agency you turned to in a moment of desperation. Even my own self, in leaving my daughter with her paternal grandmother for temporary care, that turned into her dad raising her and then a remarriage for him to a woman with a daughter (they then had a daughter together), could be perceived as abandonment as well. I have admitted to my daughter that there are similarities in her experience growing up with that which adoptees experience in being separated from their natural mother. At the time, I thought one parent as good as the other (even though I didn’t intend for her dad to get her). I really intended to recover her but it did not work out that way and to this day I struggle with what I did in ignorance.

In my all things adoption group, one woman writes – and then when your baby is *one week old* and you come out of the fog of the agency telling you it’s the right, selfless thing to do and realize what a terrible, life altering decision you just made – it’s too late and you have to spend the next several years in court and hope your family can lend you around $100,000 for legal fees to get your baby back from the wonderful, brave, selfless adoptive parents that have your kid.

Another wrote – this comes off extremely harsh and unproductive to me because these women do not understand the ramifications of the decisions they’ve made. And that is true for me as well. I was 22 years old at the time I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother. Life altering indeed !!

Someone else said – bottom line is regardless of intentions, the infant brain perceives it as abandonment. I’m fiercely defensive of my momma; I believe that the despicable social mores of the Baby Scoop Era and sheer desperation drove her to surrender me. My baby self was damaged either way. That’s what I believe this graphic is trying to convey.

And I agree. Sheer desperation has caused at least 3 of the 4 adoptions that are part of my childhood family (both of my parents and then each of my sisters gave up a baby). One of my sisters simply thought it the most natural thing in the world – I believe – because our parents were adoptees. Unbelievably, my mom who struggled most with having been adopted, coerced my other sister into doing it.

One noted – Just once, why not talk about how the fathers were nowhere around and went unscathed in everything. To blame a mother who was . . .

In my own parents’ case – first, for my mom, her mother was married but he more or less (whether intentionally or not) abandoned her 4 mos pregnant. After she had given birth, she brought my mom back from Virginia (where she had been sent by her own father out of shame) to Memphis. She tried to reach my mom’s father but got no response. Though there was a major flood occurring on the Mississippi River at the time (1937) and he was in Arkansas where his mother lived and his daughters were. He was WPA fighting the flood there in Arkansas. His granddaughter (who I have met) does not believe he was the kind of man to leave a wife and infant stranded. Georgia Tann got ahold of my mom and exploited my grandmother to obtain a baby to sell. My mom was 7 months old when her adoptive mother picked her up but she did spend some of that time in what was believed to be temporary care at Porter-Leath Orphanage. That was my grandmother’s fatal mistake because the superintendent there alerted Georgia Tann to my mom’s existence.

In my dad’s case, the father was a married man and an un-naturalized immigrant. I don’t believe he ever knew. My paternal grandmother had a hard life. Her own mother died when she was only 3 mos old (the original abandonment if you will). She was a self-reliant woman. I don’t believe either of my grandmothers intended to abandon their children. After giving birth in Ocean Beach, near San Diego California in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers, my grandmother then applied to work for them and was transferred to El Paso Texas. I believe they pressured her to relinquish my dad. He was with her for 8 months.

Finally, here is one person’s experience with being adopted – Abandonment is exactly right. And it directly leads to abandonment and attachment issues later. Even with therapy and understanding what happened and learning coping strategies, I still feel this horrible gnawing black hole inside of me when I feel like someone might leave me. And it can get triggered by such inconsequential things. The worst part is that it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, especially before learning how to lessen the effects on others, because the behaviors I’ve done out of desperation drove the people I was scared of losing away. And sometimes that’s felt deliberate, like it won’t hurt as bad if it was my idea and I left them instead of them leaving me. It hurts just as bad.

Who’s Surname ?

My dad was given his mother’s surname when he was born at an unwed mother’s home run by the Salvation Army in San Diego CA. His father was a married man. It does not appear he even ever knew he had a son. More’s the pity because I believe they would have been great fishing buddies. It was the mid-1930s and so, that is how it was done – if the father was not involved. This would have made it difficult for me to discover who his father was, if I had not found my cousin (we have the same grandmother). Clearly, my grandmother knew who my dad’s father was because of the middle name she gave him and a head shot photo of the man with his name written on the back. Thanks to that photo, I was able to confirm who my dad’s father was. And inexpensive DNA testing also helped !!

Today’s story is a bit different but along similar lines.

I’m an adoptee who is 6 months pregnant. Father and I are no longer in a relationship but on really good terms. I’ll never keep this baby from him. Here is my dilemma. I don’t want this baby to have his last name and he’s insistent on it. He can be listed on the birth certificate and have his paternal rights without having to have his last name. I’m adamant about this. I want her to have my last name as does my 6 year old (with a different father.) Am I wrong? I’m also considering my 6 year old and think it’s best she has the same last name as him.

A few more details – dad is insistent on it because he is much older, in his late 50’s. He has a married daughter who no longer has his last name. His son has 2 daughters and doesn’t plan on having more children. Mom doesn’t want to have a hyphenated last name because she feels it would cause too much aggravation for the child as she grows up.

One adoptee said – As someone whose parents never married, I’m glad I was given my mom’s last name. I gave my son my last name and his dad didn’t stay around. He wouldn’t have had anyone else in his life with that last name. IF I ever marry I won’t change my name because my son has it.

And of course, today the choice of one’s name is so fluid and open to personal interpretation. The social mores regarding names has changed so much and for the better I believe. Someone else notes that – In the United States, they put mom’s last name on the crib card that they have the baby in at the hospital. You fill out the birth certificate while at the hospital also. You don’t have to say anything out loud if you don’t want to. Just put what YOU decide and leave it at that.

Which reminds me – when I had my daughter (in those days one didn’t know the sex of their baby until it was born), the father and I had not agreed on a name. Later, he announced to me what he told the hospital staff her name was to be without ever consulting me. I hasten to add, I really love her name but the origin of it ?, let us just say I refused to tell her and told her, “ask your dad.”

Another person shares her experience of having her mother’s last name – The only time it was ever annoying was, as a kid, whenever a grown adult would ask me, still a child, why I didn’t have my Dad’s last name. Even then, the name didn’t bother me. People being both nosy and close-minded about it bothered me. And I find nowadays, most people either don’t care, or don’t see a reason to question why a child has whatever last name they have.

I really LOVE this response – The notion that children should be named after the men in the first place is based on the sexist notion that women and children are chattel. Think of all the things named after men in the world and then, tell me a single thing that deserves to be named after a woman more than a child. We’re independent women, and keeping the patriarchal name chain going isn’t necessary anymore.

And then there is this real life example – my daughter, age 13, has her biological dad’s last name…he only sees her a couple times a year, (his choice, he lives 5 min away). My husband of 11 years has raised her and been her “daddy” as long as she can remember…she hates that she has her biological dad’s last name! She is the only one in our home with that last name and she hates it. She has even said she wished, at the least, she had my family’s last name. She has no close people with the same last name. Also, the other thing she is dealing with right now in middle school…she has several older cousins with the same last name, including one girl that is only 1 year older…they both have red hair. So everyone is always assuming they are sisters…which wouldn’t be a big deal, except the other girl doesn’t even acknowledge her, she turns her nose up at her. So my daughter hates it when people assume they are sisters. It makes her uncomfortable. She has been asking for several years if she could change it to match the rest of us, I tell her that she can when she is older.

Someone else notes – You both have strong feelings on the matter, and reasonable points. Even if I think there’s some patriarchy mixed in his feelings. I’m saying, if possible, find a way to compromise or bend in another area so he feels heard and included.

And I smile when I see her next suggestion – Why doesn’t he take your name?

I found this to be the best argument – The baby should have the name of the person who will have more custody, because a lot of times I ran in to issues because my sons have their father’s last name and not mine. Many times I had to bring extra paperwork. So if you will be doing all the paper work ie – doctors, schooling, sports/arts/camp stuff – it should be yours.

Finally, it was also pointed out by someone who handled name changes as one of their tasks at a courthouse – the mother should give the baby her last name. The mass majority of minor child name changes she did over a four year period were because the child was given the father’s last name and then stopped being present in the child’s life, stopped paying child support, etc.

In order to do a name change on a minor (probably in most states), a signed and notarized consent is required from both parents. And if one of the parents is deceased, then signed and notarized consent was required from both of that person’s parents. If consent couldn’t be obtained, then proof of service had to be presented to the Court and then, the Court would have a deputy attempt to serve the parent with notice of a court hearing. Most of the time, the father would show up for the hearing or would send a letter denying consent to the name change. When that happened, the case would be dismissed. It is in you and your child’s best interests for the child to have your last name. If circumstances change between you and the father later on, it will be a lot easier to do a name change because it’s a guarantee all parties will be in favor of it.