23 & Me Does It Again

Today’s story from an adoptee (not me) –

Just found some family members through 23 and me, and posted about it to a moms group that I’m in. One of these moms is cautioning me that it might be too upsetting for them to find out about me. I thought that group was supposed to be there for support for me? I guess that can’t really happen anywhere except among fellow adoptees have been told their whole life that their very existence might bother someone. I’m so done with that. My existence is amazing and wonderful and if it bothers anyone else that’s not my fault. I am treading lightly and my note to them was very sweet and sensitive I think. If they have signed up for 23 and me that, they know what might come. They don’t have to have their family tree public.

I am shaking and feel like crying now honestly. I’m so done with people lecturing me about how important everyone else’s feelings are. Wasn’t that what my whole life was about? Shame and secrets? Wasn’t that what caused the 20 years of connecting with my birth mom to be partly wonderful and partly stressful? I wasn’t even invited to her own memorial service. My own birth mom that I was close to, I thought, for 20 years. Connection and truth should not be traumatizing. If it is, the trauma was caused by other people and there is healing that is possible. That’s the energy and vibe I feel and I’m not going to march into somebody’s house screaming who I am, either literally or energetically.

I do have concern about how they will emotionally feel and let them decide how and when to talk to other family members if they ever do. Or not. That’s their choice as well. But I do think I have a right to know who I am and I’m very excited to at least know the names of some of my relatives in my ancestry a lot more.

Thank you for having this group (an all things adoption and foster care and not of the rainbows and unicorns sunshine always variety on Facebook) because I know that the adoptees feelings and experience is centered and of primary importance. They always talk about adoption helping the baby so much and how grateful we are supposed to be. We’re supposed to be grateful for being told our whole lives that we should be careful how everyone feels? And worship only the adoptive parents in this triad? Nope. Everyone in this experience deserves their feelings and thoughts to be fully 100% honored. There is no competition. I’m just sick of people making this like a competition for feelings.

Trying to focus to get ready to go to a job interview now and it’s pretty challenging with all of this on my mind but mostly I am very excited. (Oh, and I might’ve actually gone to school with one of my 2nd cousins….!)

You Might Be Adopted If

Believe it or not, it happens . . .  a person can live decades and not know that they were adopted.  Some stories . . .

You are at your Dad’s funeral, when two of his sisters corner you. They want you to return an heirloom that came to you from your grandma, “so it can  stay in the family.”  Huh ?

Your uncle’s wife wants your Mom’s mother’s and sisters’ jewelry for her daughter because “she’s actually a family member.”  Wow.

A sister tells you to return a picture of her grandma because the woman wasn’t your “real” grandma.  Ouch.

They leave your name off the obituary.  Or at your grandfather’s funeral your grandmother’s 3 sons (who he adopted) are asked to sit behind the other family members because “they aren’t his real kids.”

One woman at the age of 48 reveals, “I was at my uncle’s funeral when my cousin’s husband wandered up to me and said, ‘I’ve been wanting to meet you, because we’re both adopted.’ It was a huge shock – how could it not be ? On the other hand, I had an instant explanation as to why I’d always felt like a square peg in a round hole, when it came to my family.  I once said to my mother, ‘I’ve always felt like I was found on a doorstep.’ She got terribly upset.  I later learned that she had confided in my cousin’s husband because he’s a minister. She had assumed he’d keep it a secret.”

And maybe not funny but I actually thought my dad (who was adopted) had been left on the doorstep of the Salvation Army by a Mexican woman because his mother’s name was Dolores and he was adopted in El Paso TX.  Oh, the stories we make up when we don’t know the truth.  It really isn’t right.

Another woman at the age of 36, right in the middle of a divorce with her house being repossessed, was going back to a university for advanced education and so, she was asked to bring in her birth certificate.  Under pressure, her mom gave her a piece of paper and she took this to the university office. The administrator looked at her and said, “This isn’t your birth certificate.” The shocked expression on her face must have said it all.  The administrator explained, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s your adoption certificate.”  The woman says, “I felt sick. My whole life had been a lie.”

One man found out he was adopted at the age of 60 when this happened –

“My wife and I were in a local garden center when I spotted the daughter of my mom’s next-door neighbor. She was with a little girl, who she introduced as one of her three grandchildren. The other two, she explained, were adopted from Vietnam. She turned to the girl and said, ‘This man was adopted too.’  My wife and I looked around to see who she was talking about. She felt awful – she thought I knew. It turned out she still remembered going in the taxi with her mom and my mom to pick up a five-month-old baby – me – from the Salvation Army all those years ago.”

Okay, just one more for today.

This man was 39 when he found out.  He tells the story this way –

“The thing I remember most about the day I found out that my mother didn’t give birth to me, was this feeling of standing with my back to the edge of a cliff because everything behind me – everything I’d known to be true – felt as if it was a lie and I literally didn’t know who I was.”

“It even made me question the right to have my father’s war medals. As the eldest of five children, I’d been in possession of them. I took them out of the drawer by my bed that night and felt it was wrong for me to have them, because he wasn’t my real dad.”  (My dad has his adoptive father’s war medals too.  When my dad died, I gave them to his biological daughter, who we considered our aunt.)

Continuing this man’s story, “I don’t think my parents ever intended to tell me. My mother says it’s because I was a sensitive child and they didn’t want to upset me. When I asked her why she still didn’t tell me in adulthood, she said she gave my father, who had died when I was 21, a deathbed promise to keep the secret. I think the real reason was a fear that I would abandon her in favor of my birth family. Even when my mother did finally tell me I was adopted, the first thing she asked me was never to make contact with my birth mother.”

Secrets have an inconvenient way of outing themselves as these stories prove.  Don’t do it.  Don’t pretend a lie because the one you are lying too will be hurt more by the deception than by the honest truth.

Three Identical Strangers

In the 1960s, a research project into identical siblings, placing them separately for adoption into different classes (poor, middle and wealthy), was done for the purpose of determining the impact of financial resources on their outcomes.  Back in the 1930s to 1950, Georgia Tann had a similar thought – taking babies from poor families and placing them into wealthier homes would lead to better outcomes for the children.

My mom was one of those babies.  She was adopted in 1937.  Both of her parents were very poor and struggling to survive the Great Depression but they were exploited by threats from Georgia Tann that her close relationship with the Juvenile Court judge in Memphis would support any removal of children she suggested.  Sadly.

So, in the 1980s, when these young men were 19 years old and began attending college, they discovered that they had been separated after birth into different adoptive families.  Even the adoptive parents didn’t know there were other genetically identical siblings.  The triplets accidentally found each other when two of them enrolled at the same college and found the third when he saw the story on the news. After the three siblings reunited, they became media darlings for awhile and even met their original biological parents.

It is not entirely a happy story and a suicide trigger warning is justified.  The two surviving triplets carry the DNA, the history, the pain, and the heart of their deceased brother. As the three boys entered adulthood each of them dealt with mental illness and psychiatric care.

The carelessness of the adoption agency that gave the boys away turns out to be something far crueler and more deviously deliberate than possibly imaginable. It is a shockingly true story but not unlike other psychological research from that era. Ethics were just not on the radar yet. People were treated like lab rats.

One woman, now much older, who was involved with the research study is blasé about the whole thing saying it was exciting to mess with people’s lives and noting what’s done is done.

The children who were the study subjects involved will not have access to the findings until 2065, by which time they will likely not be still alive.  This is because our own government funded this study.

This program does show how strong genetics truly are.  Being separated at birth results in life long trauma. All adoption agencies exist to make money. The program suggests that some of the adoptive parents would have happily taken all three boys, if they had known the truth, at the time.

One of the scientists involved in the study interviewed for the program kept laughing, saying inappropriate things, none of what happened was funny.  He said there’s probably at least four people (probably many more) who have no idea they are twins or that they were part of a study.

Currently one of the brothers practices law, the other sells insurance and investments. One of the two is (or soon will be) divorced.  These kinds of mental health and relationship impacts are quite common among adoptees.

Which leaves me with two questions (I have not seen, only have read about this program) – Is science worth keeping secrets and being immoral to accomplish unbiased research ? And how much of who we are is Nature and how much Nurture ? (That second one I’ve been looking at for 20 years.)

Who’s Right Is It ?

It is a sad truth that adoptees are often treated as second class citizens and denied their basic human right to know the details of their identity.

Today, I read about an adoptee struggling with her original mother’s insistence on keeping the original father’s identity a secret from her.  In the course of having DNA testing, she located some cousins and has now identified her father.  Stalking him online, she has relieved herself of a serious concern.  As an adoptee, the extreme secrecy made her worry that there was something wrong with her DNA. She wondered if her conception might be related to incest and this concern caused her to worry about having children.

The original mother seems to be a difficult relationship.  For one thing, she thinks this daughter should thank her for giving birth to her. The nun who facilitated the adoption, has commented to this woman that her mother’s life would have been easier if she’d chosen abortion. The time frame was after Roe v Wade.  I remember hearing from my nephew’s adoptive mother that my youngest sister who gave him up for adoption once wrote them when the boy was in his teens, she expressed being hurt that they did not thank her for what she had done for them.  They were quite mystified by this.

Yet, this woman knows that according to her original mother, that the mother has been tormented by what she did in surrendering this child to adoption for 22 years.  This is really not surprising.  When it comes to our children, surrender or abortion, can cause lifelong regrets for one reason or another.  It is always fraught.

Where it has gotten weird and where the relationship between mother and daughter has broken down is the mother’s refusal to reveal the father (she said it was a one night stand and because my nephew’s conception was a similar event, I know these things do happen).  Even when offered extreme “protections” such as being asked if this mother would put the name of the woman’s original father in a safe deposit box, give the key to an attorney and sign a contract with her that she could only access it in the case that she was incapacitated and the woman needed this information for a life and death medical reason for herself or her family – the original mother simply said, “No”.

Her mother’s repeated statements that she loves her ring hollow, even insulting, when this mother appears to be willing to literally let her daughter die before divulging the name of her original father. Oh, the harm secrets do.  It seems the woman came from a wealthy family who never was told about the birth of this daughter.

The original mother became a bit unglued – she accused her daughter of trying to get her family’s money (she claims that she doesn’t need or want it), of trying to get her thrown in jail for perjuring herself regarding knowing who the original father is, which would rob her of raising her sons (the woman notes – we’re well beyond the statute of limitations, and of course I’m not trying to get her thrown in jail), and has told the nun who facilitated the adoption (and who seems to be mediating the complications even now), that this woman withheld her personal medical history from her mother so she can’t give it to her sons (yet, the woman did give her mother a detailed medical history), among other things.

Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for her after a happy childhood with adoptive parents that never lied to her and gave her love and a family life.  She has been able to discover that her original father is a normal, healthy person with a normal-looking healthy family (including half brothers related to her).  She feels like a huge weight of uncertainty has now been lifted from her shoulders. Even so, she is extremely hesitant to contact him.

And she is sickened by being someone’s dirty secret. She feels she would be complicit in the lie if she allows who her father is to remain a secret. Yes, being an adoptee is painful, traumatic and never easy.  Just in case you thought walking away from an unwanted pregnancy would free you. It never does.

Secrets

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

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

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

An adoption on this basis is set up on lies.

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Liar’s Club

It never ceases to amaze me how I end up reading books with no idea they are relevant to my interests here and then, near the end of the book, something happens and I’m like Wow !!

I don’t believe that what I will share with you would in any way spoil a reading of Mary Karr’s book. There is a mother/child separation and reunion story that occurs near the end of this book.

She writes – “Those were my mother’s demons, then, two small children, whom she longed for and felt ashamed for having lost. ‘It was like a big black hole just swallowed me up. Or like the hole was inside me, and been swallowing me up all those years without my even noticing. I just collapsed into it. What’s the word the physicists use? Imploded. I imploded’.”

“Mother did what seemed at the time the Right Thing, though had she Thought, she may have Thought Twice about how Right the Right Thing would wind up being, for surely it drove her mad. She tore up the papers giving her sole custody of the two minor children, Tex and Belinda.”

After she found a husband willing to take them, they were too big, “They didn’t want to come.”

And why hadn’t her mother told her subsequent daughters about the marriage and the lost children ? “It’s one of the more pathetic sentences a sixty-year-old woman can be caught uttering, ‘I thought you wouldn’t like me anymore’.”

Her sister hired a detective and they found those kids. They were damn eager to be found and within weeks arrived at her Mother’s house, bright and fresh-faced and curious as all get-out.

Karr tells her story with spunky narration that never fails to stay in a deep love for her admittedly flawed parents. Their flaws never seem to be a lack of love for these their children but more personal in nature, though impacting their ability to parent well. I do highly recommend her story. It is riveting and even scary at times. There is one significant sexual abuse episode that could be triggering for certain readers.

The Truth Matters

It surprises me that in this time of connectivity telling the truth isn’t simply understood to be the only option.  Today, I was reading about a very complicated situation.  So, the woman was a single mom who worked multiple jobs most of her adult life.  She gave birth to a son at age 18 and he is now 11.  Happily, she is now married to a wonderful man who is a high school teacher.  Simple and common enough.

Here’s where it gets complicated.  She is now sharing custody of her best friend’s child with the child’s mother, while the mom sorts out some things going on in her life.  Her friend is pushing this woman to adopt her son but to her credit, this woman isn’t certain that is what the woman really wants.  So they agreed on a temporary custody situation with generous visitation for twelve months.  The plan is to revisit the situation then.  The little boy will be one year old in two weeks.

Another complication is that due to the Coronavirus, the woman is currently quarantined.  Therefore, the little boy is in the custody of his mom at the moment.  That could be a good thing.

From there, the situation becomes even more unusual. There is yet another child in her life.  He is two months old, and the youngest. She has had custody of him since he was born and the couple is in process of adopting him.

However – his original parents live with her.  They have unrestricted access to the boy and can see him whenever they want. They are for some reason very clear that they just don’t want to be his parents.  To that end, they also want her to pretend that she birthed him.  Again, to her credit, she isn’t okay with this. The parents do want to remain in his life as family.  They don’t want her to tell him they are his parents.

It is the reality that secrets rarely remain secret.  They have this nasty tendency to out themselves at some point.  Every adoptee will tell you one of the worst things about adoption is being expected to live a lie.  To not know who your parents are or important details about your life.  To have your name and birth certificate changed.

I would have thought society was moving beyond that but apparently not.

What’s In A Name ?

It may be true that a name is only that – a name – and not the person.  Of all the suggestions for reform in the process of adoption, I can clearly see that changing a child’s name at the time of adoption is wrong.  It is taking from the child their true identity.

Now, it does happen, as it did happen with my youngest sister’s son that the true father was not who was named on the birth certificate.  I do know she was able to coerce the poor man, who had some financial means, to pay a great deal of the costs of her developing an adoption plan for her son.  She gave him this man’s last name at birth and named that man on the birth certificate as his father.

It came to pass as this young man began to mature that he became interested in knowing more about his actual father.  DNA testing seemed to indicate that who had been named could not possibly be who fathered him.  A search for the true father began.

At first I believed that my sister simply did not know for certain who the father was and so chose the one most like to be financially supportive of her effort to provide for her baby.  It turns out that with the revelation of the true father, my sister actually did know.  Maybe, since this man was a colleague of our father’s and since my sister was devoted to our father, she simply did not want our father to know . . .

That is my kindest interpretation.  What I do know is at about 6 months, although she had relinquished her son to an adoptive couple shortly after his birth, she sent a photo after birth and a letter to the real father informing him.  So it cannot be said that she did not know.  What’s really unforgivable is that the true father DID want to raise his son and his wife was supportive of bringing that baby into their lives.  They planned to fight for custody of the child and so informed my sister.

Then the cruelest thing happened on Father’s Day, my sister called the true father to inform him that the baby and his adoptive parents had been killed in a car accident ending all attempts to seek custody.

This young man is a fine person and given what I know about my sister’s life after giving birth to him, I’m glad she didn’t raise him.  The first adoptive father left the family due to having an affair.  Eventually, the mother remarried and my nephew thought so much of the man, he had his surname changed yet again to match the new father.

Also, what amazes me is that in my own adoptee father’s life, his mother had to put her abusive alcoholic husband out.  Therefore, when my dad was already 8 years old, he was adopted a second time by the new husband.  My paternal adoptive grandfather was a good man and he stayed with my Granny until death did them part.

Secrets And Adoption

I heard an interview with the author on the radio yesterday and this is a story of adoption and the secrets that often are kept to protect the adoptive mother.  Like my own self, the author is the natural daughter of the adoptee.

In 1929, a little girl was kidnapped, snatched off a beach in England. Five anguished days of searching ensue, and then she turns up in a neighboring village perfectly fine, wearing a red dress instead of the blue one she’d had on when she disappeared. She was only 3. She had no memory of it. And she didn’t even learn of it until she was well into middle age.

Her parents knew exactly who kidnapped her, and they knew why. And they never told. When she was 13, she was on a little country bus – little green country bus going through her very, very flat landscape from school to home one afternoon – short journey. Front of the bus is a woman in black. This woman comes down the aisle of the bus towards her and says, your grandmother wants to see you. And my mother didn’t have a grandmother, so she immediately knew something terrible was wrong. Everybody on the bus except her knew who the grandmother was. And the woman in black had in her hand when she said these words a tiny, little sepia Brownie camera image of my mother.

She goes home to her mother, and her mother says nothing and summons the father. And eventually, there’s a scene and – the mother and father sitting opposite my mother. And they just tell her that they took her in as if a kind of kindness – that she was a sort of waif or a stray and, you know, it was a charitable act. So she immediately began to feel that nobody wanted her.

My book is a campaign against collective silence.  And why ?  I think that they were protecting one particular person – my mother’s adopted mother.  Had they not all been so kind to her and protected her, she might have felt shame.  I think that it damaged my mom in ways she can’t even see. You know, there were traits that she has – she’s incredibly socially anxious. I know why.

 

Motherhood Rights

What about women who do NOT want to know the children they gave up for adoption, do they have the right to not have their identities revealed ?

No, you have a child, you owe them an identity, you owe them at least this – their place in the chain of life.

Does such a mother have a right to be free of the trauma of confrontation ?

I don’t believe a confrontation would be traumatic.

No right to that privacy.  Once you are a mother, you are a mother – even if you don’t raise that child.  The issue in reform is when the rights of the original mother infringe on the rights of an adoptee.