Adding Insult To Injury

We are living through uncertain times.  Many people feel un-moored from their usual sources of confidence that all will be well.  Children who have been adopted or are in foster care find their worlds upended.  Lacking consistency, routine, and an overall feeling of stability and security as their personal worlds are being shaken up again by the Coronavirus and the efforts to contain the spread of that infection.

Schools have closed and public community events through which diverse people usually bond are cancelled.  Instead of joining together in common experience we are forced to isolate ourselves from one another.  At least we have modern technology to keep us connected while maintaining a safe distance from one another but life is not routine or what we would conventionally expect as we wake up each day.

For those parents who still have jobs to go to while their children are alone at home, the struggle can be significant.

One of the responsibilities that foster parents face is transporting the children in their home to visitations with their birth parents and biological family members. Often times, visitations take place at child welfare offices, while other times, visitations may occur at public places, such as parks, restaurants, churches, and other public venues. Visitations are important as they help to maintain the relationship between both child and adult. Along with this, many foster parents have very strong relationships with the birth parents and during visitations, trust is built and children can grow and develop in a healthy fashion, as a result.

Yet, those public spaces are now closed to most of us in most locations throughout the United States.  And coming out of the usual wintertime season of colds and flu can complicate things because many of us have all had one thing or another since Thanksgiving and our immunity is generally low.  Essential services such as therapy sessions, drug counseling, and even court appearances have also been affected by Covid 19.

All families face difficulty at this time in our collective history and families with the additional challenges of trauma and regulations face an additional burden on top of the difficulties they face every day.  All families are concerned, and confused, looking for answers and receiving little guidance.  There is no school, foster care related visits are being cancelled, church services are cancelled, and generally all children are now isolated from the friends they depend upon in their everyday lives.  The challenge in an era of social distancing is physical, and tangible, but can’t be solved by throwing dollars at it.

Stay safe, be well.  Come together – though at a distance.  Keep the efforts to slow the spread of this virus going until the assurance that it is once again safe to have greater contact with our fellow human beings becomes more certain.  Patience is necessary and flexibility too.

Does Gender Make A Difference ?

My dad as a toddler.  I believe this photo may have been taken at the Salvation Army home in El Paso Texas at least a couple of years after my dad was adopted.  His original mother was probably still working there at this time.  This photo came from her own album, even though he was adopted at 8 months of age.  I do know that my Granny went back to them to adopt a baby brother for my dad and so this may have been when she went there to get my Uncle Buddy.

The look on his face leads me to reflect on what it might possibly mean.  His original mother was fond of taking photographs and so it may be that she actually took this photo.  Did he recognize her now ?  There is no way to know really.

What I do know is that my mom and my dad, both adoptees, responded to that fact of their very lives differently.  It never seemed to matter much to my dad.  His adoptive mother was the prime source of security for him and the reason he was adopted.  She actually kicked my dad’s first adoptive father out of the house for abusive behavior.  My nephew says my Granny (what we called this woman growing up) said he was hurting one of the boys and she threw him out the window.  Whatever the truth was, she was that feisty, and he died young because his liver was too damaged by alcohol.

My dad was actually adopted twice.  At the age of 8, he was adopted again by my Granny’s new husband and he was a good man and they stayed married until death did part them.

When my mom wanted to search for her original family, my dad warned her against it saying she might be opening up a can of worms.  I believe that statement represents his thoughts about his own adoption.  Preparing for this blog, I went looking to see if gender makes a difference in one’s feelings about having been adopted.  At least one story I found seems to indicate as much.  He said, “I still do not wish to find my biological parents, but I am thankful every day for the love and the sacrifice they made for me,” even though he now has biological children of his own.

Maybe it is because mothers have a different kind of relationship with their children than fathers do.  My mom once explained her effort to find her mother this way, “As a mother, I would want to know what happened to my child.”  My mom really seemed to have zero interest in her father.

 

The Eternal Mother

~ artist, Mark Missman

More than Mother’s Day, the holiday season celebrates the hope of humanity in two symbolic persons – a mother and her baby.  A quiet calm image of nurturing and the infinite possibilities represented in any single person.

In discovering who my original grandparents were (both of my parents were adoptees), I never expected to learn so much about the impacts of adoption or the deep often unconscious wounds that are left behind when we separate a child from their natural mother.

For nine months, the fetus nestles in the cozy warmth of it’s mother’s womb.  As close to her as her very breath, hearing her heartbeat, feeling her emotions and sharing the culinary tastes she prefers.  It is now known that the baby is not fully developed at the time of its birth.

For at least the next year, that bond between mother and infant will be a core and deep sense of security, of love, of responsiveness and gentle care that will have a profound effect on that child’s well-being throughout their life.

We owe every single mother the support and encouragement to raise the child conceived within her womb and help her create the next best yet to be human being as we continue to evolve into better and better, more caring always, kinder human beings.

May we all know someday that it is so.

When You Don’t Control The Narrative

When adoptees are little, it is natural to fixate on matters such as birth and death, and to even try to appeal to and please the adoptive parents by talking about the adoption in a fairytale way (as a safety mechanism for survival; trying to be always in good graces, and assure one’s self that everything is fine, because your identity and sense of security are fragile).  Adoptees suffer complicated emotions like grief, loss, and triggers in isolation.

Some adoptees believe their feelings are always wrong.  They are expected to think about everyone’s feelings but their own. No wonder so many adoptees are people pleasers (which enforces the ‘good complaint adoptee’ persona as a necessary expression and explains why so many adoptees are afraid of speaking out – fearing rejection by the larger society).  It can leave them with a lot of issues related to control because they feel like their life story isn’t their own. Everyone else is defining it for them.  Personally, I tend to rebel at being forced to do anything that isn’t my own idea to begin with.

Imagine the adoptee then.  Effectively kidnapped at a very young age, many on their first day on Earth.  It’s no wonder some infants who have been separated from their mother and placed with complete strangers scream for quite a long time.  There is evidence in my mom’s adoption file that she required sedating medication to calm down.  So sad.

If they are nothing else, adoptees are survivors – IF they make it to adulthood, even a little bit intact – though many exhibit behaviors that are self-harming.  Many become victims of an effect similar to Stockholm Syndrome.  This is a condition which causes hostages to display a psychological cooperation with their captors during captivity.  Sadly, adoptive parents are a variety of captors.  Adoptees must exhibit a fierce loyalty to their adoptive parents because their very survival is at stake.

Worth a few minutes to watch – Blake Gibbins, an adoptee, telling it like it is.  “Kidnappers with pretty stories.”  https://youtu.be/kvBHlrLuats

 

There Can Be No Denying

Becoming adopted will never be a natural circumstance.  There is a loss of security and certainty in having been adopted that cannot be prevented.  For whatever reason, an adoptee has been torn away from those who gave themselves to that life.

There cannot be other than a sense of abandonment and rejection.  And not knowing the reasons and causes only makes it worse.  That is why closed adoptions are not good and yet, there are fears attached to open adoptions as well.  A fear of intrusion and difficult people making difficult demands and confusion as to who holds the authority over one’s life.

Life is a hard school.  There’s no denying that.  Adoptees have to contend with some harsh realities, no matter how much those people who do care about them try to minimize the effects.

Some will crumble under the reality and some will find within their own self a strength that requires no one else.  Some will find the way to make the most of a bad situation and some will fight and struggle against what is all the days of their life.

While every person born faces challenges, those faced by adoptees are an added layer of complication that only they can meet and must meet in their own personal efforts to somehow rise above.

Death Is Even Harder

Facing the death of loved ones is difficult for many people.  I remember the first dead bodies that I saw as a public schoolchild.  Two friends died while yet school age and my uncle died when I was a senior in high school.  My young sons saw dead bodies at a very young age as their paternal grandparents died at home.  We have also taken them to local visitations.  It is good to view death as a natural part of life.

For the adoptee, especially while yet a child, death can trigger pre-verbal memories of abandonment.  There was a first mother who gave you away to an adoption agency and then went away. The adoptive parents came and got you. Death can really drive home to an adopted child that their first mother has gone away and never came back.

Coming face to face with death can also create fears related to the adoptive parents – will they go away and never come back? There are other kinds of death – What happens then, if one of the adoptive parents does leave because they have filed for divorce ?

Under such circumstances, many families break apart and become dysfunctional. An adoptee may take this kind of loss harder than a non-adoptee would.  If the result of the divorce is leaving and selling the place that was always home, this can also be harder for an adoptee – “I always thought I’d have some place I could call home and now I don’t.”

Loss is often a lifelong difficult place for an adoptee.

A Separate Reality

An adoptee may “know” they belong with their adoptive family but there is this “other element”, this feeling that they ALSO belong somewhere else. A need to know, to be complete inside. Otherwise, never whole. So the adopted person doesn’t actually feel like they belong with the natural parent(s) either – if they end up reunited.

Like one is a broken circle. Like they have this person somewhere inside of them that they have not been allowed to be. Like walking on a fence that one can fall off of at any moment.

Adoptive parents have a certain insecurity. They live in fear that someone is going to take their child away. That is their deepest darkest fear. At the same time, the adoptee always feels like they are going to be rejected.

It is entirely not a “normal” situation and there is no getting around that.

Naturally Reducing The Population

At the end of Real Time with Bill Maher for April 12, 2019, his rant is about population pressures in general and the over population compared to available resources which often drives migration.  Maher noted that 18 to 35 year olds are having less sex than previous cohorts.  That is a good thing.  He advised masturbate don’t procreate.

He noted that more young people remain in their parental homes longer now.  That is not a bad thing either.  I have no expectation regarding my sons leaving our home.  As I approached my senior year in high school, I simply knew my parents expected me to leave and had I not married a month before I graduated, I already had plans to share an apartment with a friend.

When I was in high school, my concern was not getting pregnant out of wedlock and I will admit that I simply got lucky.  Having learned my adoptee parents’ origins stories and realizing my mother was pregnant with me out of wedlock and yet she was not sent off to a home to have and give me up, I got lucky then as well.

Another factor in young people having less physical sex may be the easy availability of pornography on the internet which I have read is more stimulating than the real thing and thus the real thing can prove disappointing.

Whatever the reasons, the current population uses 1.7 times more, almost twice the available resources that the planet has to sustain us long term.  I don’t recommend wantonly killing off large segments of the population (though some elites and political types seem to favor such a solution) but if a lower birth rate could produce less stress upon the planet, I do believe that would be a good thing.

One final thought – many adoptees wish their original mothers had aborted them instead of giving them up.  There is that much trauma associated with the practice.  Considering that the planet is already overpopulated and some of those lives that the pro-life folks have preserved wish they had not been, maybe we all should drop arguments against the availability of safe and medically appropriate abortions.  Just saying . . . one should think about it more deeply.

Leaving Family And Home

Both of my grandmothers found as they came of age that they had to leave their family and home.  Women in a more stable home environment in the 1930s probably would not have made the choice these women did.

My paternal grandmother, Dolores, certainly wasn’t leaving a place where she felt safe and secure. She was looking for one where she could belong and she found that, I believe, with her Aunt Laura and girl cousins – Gertrude and Eunice.

For my maternal grandmother, Lizzie Lou, once she left her family behind in Eads, there seems to have been no going back for her – even after she lost her daughter and husband. She found a new husband but never had any other children.

For each of them, there was no one to fall back on because they both lost their mothers at a young age.  There was nobody to catch them, it wasn’t an option.  They had to be relatively self-reliant.

They Would Abandon You Too

It was important to stay on the adults’ good side.
There was no one else to take care of you,
and if you questioned them too adamantly,
you’d probably get sent to your room without dinner,
or they’d drive a stake through your ankles
and leave you on the hillside above the Mobil station.
~ Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Many adoptees have a lifelong fear of being abandoned – again.  Whether they remember their earliest days or not, it is buried deep within them that someone important once left them behind.

Logical reasons for their adoptive state do not always soothe an adoptee.  After all, if it happened once, it could happen again.