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.

A New Way – Adoption

If I could, this is the “new way” I’d like to see adoption, going forward.

No secrets.

No change to the original birth certificate.

Prospective adoptive parents really should adopt out of the foster care system
and not take young woman’s infant from them.

Always family preservation should be the primary goal. Mothers should be encouraged to keep and raise their babies.

Any adoption that does occur should be centered on the child’s needs.

Lifetime counseling for adoptees should be part of any licensed agency’s business model. Post-adoption issues are real and prevalent.

No intermediaries at reunions.

Do away from the concept of “non-identifying” information. Adoptees have the
right to know the specific details of their origins.

Changing My Perspective

For most of my life the secrets blocked any backward knowledge of our family’s origins.  My parents were both adopted.  It was simply a fact of life.

Now that I know more of the stories that preceded my parents’ adoptions and have informed myself more accurately about the practice itself, my perspectives have changed – for the better, I believe.

During my parents’ own childhoods, I doubt they were much inclined emotionally to go into the secrets that caused their adoptions.  They were dependent on their adoptive parents, after all.

It’s a horrible, scary place.  If they thought carefully, it was hard to rationalize it.  How could a woman, who they had been told all of their young life, loved them so much, that she wanted them to have a better life, and motivated by that, place them into the arms of strangers, who then raised them ?  It doesn’t really add up.

As maturity enters into thought processes, they could not but come to realize the simplicity of the truth – they were taken from their mother’s arms and placed with strangers.  It is not hard to understand how this would throw them for an emotional loop, should they deeply contemplate it at all.

How much more the complicated paradoxes must have weighed upon my mom as she became pregnant with each of her daughters.  The feelings that any mother to be has about her developing baby would have triggered thoughts about her own original mother.

Then, she is cradling that babe in her arms for the first time.  Watching the
precious one sleep . . . can it be any surprise, that an adoptee might wonder “how in the heck did adoption ever happen to me ?”

Teen Mom

Many natural mothers who give up their babies had very inadequate counseling, they are pressured and coerced.  They never feel any worth related to motherhood. They have difficulty experiencing that their child is “real”. She has no opportunity or encouragement to mourn her loss.

Most of these mothers are in some stage of unresolved grief their entire life.  A mother who has surrendered her child cannot undo what has happened.

If a reunion occurs, it brings with it the realization that the mother can never recover those lost years.

Breaking the silence of a secret pregnancy or surrender, means that the wounds have to be opened for everyone.  This is healthy in the long run – secrets are one of the most debilitating aspects of any person’s life.

It is a DOUBLE LOSS when the pregnancy also brings an end to the relationship between the original couple – mother and father.

The source for these perspectives come from the book – The Primal Wound by Nancy Newton Verrier and resonated with me from personal observation in my own family.

Motherhood – Post Adoption

An infertile couple unable to conceive are generally focused on their own needs.  Some have a rescue complex.  They hide their own issues behind a desire to save some poor child from a fate worse than death.

What is rarely talked about are the long-term mental and physical effects upon the original mother from surrendering her baby to others for adoption.

It would only be natural to expect a woman who has carried a baby in her womb for nine whole months to experience some short-term grief.

The reality is that there is often a long-term lasting impact.  How long you ask – 4 years, 25 years, forever ?  Just as every person is different, every mother who loses a child will have differing abilities to put the loss behind her and go on with her life.  Never does she ever truly forget.

So, a relinquishing mother may go on, will certainly have some kind of life but she is generally forced to live a code of silence that carries with it a toxic aftermath of effects upon her physical and mental health continuing throughout her life.

Some mothers feel compelled to search for their child.  These women may be prone to a lowered self-esteem, anxiety and may worry about the well-being of their child.  These women may require more doctor visits and most will attribute their physical and mental problems over the years to the loss of their child to adoption.

Many of these women had parental pressure to surrender their child to adoption.  Certainly, one of my sisters did.  One of my grandmothers may have.  The indications are there – she was married but separated from her husband for some unknown reason.  She was sent away from Tennessee to Virginia to have that baby.  I doubt she was supposed to bring my mother back to Tennessee with her but she did.

I would say that ALWAYS, these women had little or no emotional support during the pregnancy and after the relinquishment.  There would have been few, more likely no, opportunities to talk about their feelings related to the surrender.  There is overall a lack of social support for their depression.

In letters written by natural mothers post-adoption, there is an intensity of feeling and a need to describe the emotional pain they continue to carry within them.

Even when comfortable with their decision to relinquish, as my youngest sister definitely was, very proactive, very concerned about the outcome for her baby – I do not doubt that she still felt a loss, some pain and mourning (even if not consciously aware it was that) and based upon a letter she sent to her son during his teen years, she did have a continuing sense of caring for that long vanished child.

Many wounded mothers live then for decades with shame and a societally enforced silence over their “secret” children because no one really wants to hear about it after a short period of time.  For the mother, there is no end to it except her eventual death.

Secrets

 

I don’t know why they thought they could get away with it.  Maybe because their true identities were a secret they couldn’t reveal to themselves.

My sister had a baby and my parents told me the baby died.  I developed a story because deep in my heart I didn’t believe the story I had been told.  I believed she had been stolen from the hospital.  Not accurate but the fact that she was alive was not wrong.

My mom believed she was stolen and though not in the manner she imagined, she was not far from the truth of the situation.  Her mom fell into a trap and was given a no-win solution – surrender her child who she could not support financially or be declared an un-fit mother by the Juvenile Court Judge who was in cahoots with the notorious Georgia Tann, known for stealing and selling babies.

Eventually, I confronted my mom with the secret of my sister’s baby and she came clean with me.  Why did they tell a lie instead of the truth ?  I was told it was to spare my adoptive paternal grandparents.

But how could that be true ?  I believe they were the ones who kept me in the family when my own unwed mother conceived me.

Sadly, I’m left to consider the weird disconnect of my parents as parents.  Was the truth actually that they didn’t want to end up financially and physically responsible for my sister’s daughter ?

Nevertheless, my mom’s life was “good” as most lives go and so was the life of my niece.

Secrets tend to out themselves eventually.  My parents had to face the truth when my sister’s son married and invited his half-sister to the wedding.  I know it was an uncomfortable moment for my parents.  Lucky for them that most of the attention was focused on the bride and groom instead.