Adoptee Birthdays

How one adoptee has described her feelings about these.

I do not celebrate my birthday.

So for every one of my friends I said no thank you, blew off, or straight up just ignored when they asked to take me for a drink on my birthday, sorry.

For everyone that I didn’t text back, no hard feelings.

I do appreciate you being happy that I’m around, and staying around for another year. It was nice to hear from you. Even if I didn’t answer you.

Birthdays are hard on us adopted kids/orphans/foster kids. Adoption is the only type of loss where the victim is expected to feel happy, grateful and indebted to someone about it. To be thankful for it. For adoptees our birthday is a day that we were separated from our entire biological family. It’s the anniversary of an abandonment. It’s the marker of the altering of our birth certificate and totally erasure of all of our family medical history.

It’s not great. Especially for those of us adopted through the INCREDIBLY UNETHICAL private infant adoption industry in the United States.

Many private infant adoptees who are my generation and the one below me are the age where we are coming out of the “adoptee fog” and realizing that the pretty stories and ideas we have been sold our whole lives about adoption are not true. I guess we knew it the whole time, but it’s very hard to pinpoint those feelings, and we are REALLY afraid to express them. Because many of us (myself included) have had really great adoptive families.

I love my family. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t lose my family.

It’s hard for us to express our real feelings about our own stories, and continually be met with opinions how wholly beautiful adoption is, how they just know that our lives would have been hard and terrible if we stayed with our birth families, ignoring and denying the trauma and loss associated with our birth stories and telling us that we should be so thankful.

Because if adoption is always so beautiful…

Why do people lie about it and hide it?

Why doesn’t everyone just give up a baby to a queer couple, or an infertile couple?

Why are records kept from the very people they pertain to?

Why do white babies cost more than black babies?

Why don’t you want to talk about this side of it?

I know that some of the things we feel, and some of the truths about private infant adoption is hard for people to hear. But if you/they actually cared about kids…. Then they’d want to hear it… and fix it.

I am not anti adoption. There will always be truly necessary adoption. But what adoption has become in this country, a multibillion dollar business, needs to be fixed. We can’t continue to treat these kids like a commodity, doing things like trying to re-home them on Facebook like a puppy you can’t potty train. What would happen if you tried to do that with a biological child? Would it be the same? Does it ever happen? These children should have rights. I turned 36 on Friday and I don’t have access to my own birth certificate. The government has it. But I can’t get it. Doesn’t that seem weird? Or wrong?

There’s a reason you can hear your mother’s voice and heartbeat when she is pregnant with you. It’s so when you’re born, you know who mom is. So when you hear it for 9 months and then never hear it again….It hurts your heart and it changes your brain. No matter how good the rest of your life turns out to be. And it can make your birthday a hard day.

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.