Today’s story (not directly my own but another mother’s – I was also made desperate by a lack of financial resources with my own young daughter and so I have a lot of empathy for these situations).
Here’s the other person’s experience – I was that young mother capable of parenting but due to a lack of resources, such as housing and just generally not being as monetarily stable as the prospective adoptive parents (foster parents after a child protective services intervention) it was never a question of IF I acted properly with my child, the only question was – who could provide more for him ?
She notes that it is so important to help women who are struggling similarly. I had people that had helped me along the way but I always wonder, what IF ? There are definitely pressures to sign a Termination of Parental Rights. It’s disgusting tactic used with young vulnerable mothers. Especially true with those who are actually capable of parenting. I wish I had some magic resource to help other women in that situation and make their lives easier. I’m glad that some of these mothers have a truly supportive person in their corner. Even if it is just the belief in a struggling young mother’s ability to be a good mother. That means more than she will ever be able to say to you.
Her story continues, in my own situation, I was so beat up and torn down by child protective services, that I eventually thought maybe I wasn’t what was best for my child. It was excruciating and tore my world apart.
Never think something like this could never happen to good people because every day it does. We do not support families in this society as much as we should.
Many adoptees don’t even realize that they are carrying unhealed trauma with them throughout their lives. Because for infants who were adopted, this trauma occurred during a per-verbal stage of their lives, they lacked words to describe what their emotions were saying to them. Both of my parents were adopted when they were less than one year old. My mom was adopted after having been placed temporarily in Porter Leath orphanage as my desperate maternal grandmother tried mightily to find a way to support the two of them with Georgia Tann circling them like a vulture. My dad was adopted after the Salvation Army coerced my paternal grandmother into relinquishing him. So both of my parents were carrying unhealed trauma throughout their lives.
The various ways people anesthetize themselves . . . is a wail from the deep. I once listened to Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss on cd. I gained a lot of insight into my own compulsive eating experiences listening to her. I see how clothing our bodies in excess weight is a protective device. Both of my parents were more or less overweight their entire lives. I am told that my father was still breastfeeding with his original mother when he was taken for adoption. My mother struggled with her body image due to an adoptive mother who was obsessed by eating and weight issues. I have one memorable experience of that with my adoptive grandmother when she took me to England and embarrassed me dining at The Dorchester in London when I reached for a warm dinner role. I didn’t talk to her for almost 24 hours but gave it up in favor of not ruining our whole experience there together.
My mom was passive and secretive about eating. Some of that behavior certainly filtered down to me. My dad struggled with some drunken experiences, one that I didn’t even learn about until after he died, when my sister and I found a letter from him about spending a night in jail for DWI and praying not to lose his job and family over it. But after he was “saved”, he didn’t stop drinking – though he was never a violent alcoholic – and able to work even double shifts and nights at an oil refinery.
Joel Chambers writes about The Lifelong Challenges of Adoptees at the LINK> Search Angels website – Adoptees face more traumas, and more challenges, than many other people, and it affects their lives in ways that we are just beginning to understand. He has also written a post, speaking at great length about how addiction, in all of its various forms, is all too common among adoptees. These have experiences such as grief and loss, self-esteem and identity issues, substance abuse and addiction, mental health, and challenges to the types of relationships that they can form with their adoptive families. Adoptees also deal with feelings of grief, separation, and loss for their biological parents and birth families, even if they never knew them.
A healing I didn’t even know I needed started in the Autumn of 2017, when I began learning what my parents never knew – who my original grandparents were. Then, it was only natural that I really begin learning about this thing called adoption. My daughter once said to me – “it seems like you are on a mission.” True, guilty as charged.
It is surprising how often this happens and it is never intended but . . .
First the question, then the answers –
So a couple adopts a child because they believe they will never be able to have a biological, genetic child. Then, surprise – the adoptive parents actually discover they have conceived. What effects do their having an adopted and then a biological child have on that first child who was adopted ? Question for adoptees, is there anything that your adoptive parents could have done to make it better for you ? Is there anything they did specifically that was harmful to you in relation to the new sibling ?
 The short one – I have two brothers that are biological to my adoptive parents. This effects me everyday. I ask birth mom, why me ? I wonder what might have changed her so that she could have been a better mother to me ?
 The longer, more detailed perspective – Stop pretending biological and non-biological children are the same. Educate yourselves and take the burden off the child. I was adopted as an infant. My adoptive mother became pregnant 5 months after my adoption was finalized. My “sister” was always the much preferred, longed-for first choice. With her birth, I was superseded. I will admit that I was “a difficult child” (due to an un-recognized infant trauma. My “sister” was easy (with her natural parent/child connection). I grew up with a front row seat view of what a healthy, biological connection looks like. The way human evolution intended it to be.
What my adoptive parents did do right was treat us outwardly and monetarily the same. We both had the same opportunities and resources. What was chronically neglected were my unseen needs, which were instead passed off as troublesome personality traits. So, although my adoptive parents KNEW I had “problems,” they did nothing to address those. What I wish they had done is what they would have done if their biological daughter was chronically ill: move heaven and earth to help her and thoroughly educate themselves on her issues.
I wish they had understood the different needs of a non-biological child and not burden themselves with the expectation I would ‘heal’ simply through therapy, while they themselves did nothing. Instead I wish they would have proactively learned how to be effective, gentle, therapeutic caregivers to a child living with early grief and loss among genetic strangers. I wish they would have gone the extra mile for me that my “sister” did not need from them.
I found this movie uncomfortable but sadly, it is all too true of many modern American women. I’ve written before about the value of grandmothers in the raising of children and this movie was partly about that. However, what was sad and depressing was the poor choice in men that the main character, Deb, consistently made.
First, it was an affair with a married man. I wish I could say that this was an uncommon situation but I remember more than one in my early 20s after I was first divorced from the father of my oldest child, my precious daughter. This woman also has a precious daughter, unfortunately, she goes missing without a trace after leaving her 1 year old son in her mother’s care to go out for the night. I never felt at fault for the man’s behavior. He was going to do, what he was going to do, regardless of who he did it with.
So at the beginning of this movie, Deb is having an affair with a married man. Later on, she has a live in partner who dominates and then, physically abuses her. After he leaves and she spends a significant amount of time focused on getting some advanced education and a better paying job and receives a great deal of respect for what she accomplishes for her workers in her management role there. Then, she seems to have found happiness with yet another man who appears to be of a higher quality than all of the others before him. She eventually catches him cheating on her, just as the first man she was with cheated on his own wife.
Sigh. I give her endurance and persistence to improve to be a credit of having a supportive family – her mother and sister, who is in a stable marriage, live right across the street from her in a middle class suburban neighborhood. They are the stabilizing factor in both this woman’s and her maturing grandson’s lives. Yet, if they had not been there, it is likely the boy would have ended up in foster care. His good outcome can be seen as a direct outcome of that family support, rather than if he had been permanently severed from the family he was born into, even though in this story his mother never returns into any of their lives (though I hoped until the very end of this movie that she would).
My dad used to say all of his daughters always brought home sick puppies. I can see, if my own life had not taken a better turn when I met my husband – with whom I will celebrate 34 years of marriage this month, my life may not have been happier single on the path I was on before meeting him. The only redeeming factor for me was discovering the value of applying metaphysics to my basic needs and discovering how much personal influence I actually have over the outcomes of my own life. We all can exercise personal empowerment over the circumstances and situations of our own lives.
I went looking for a topic for today’s blog and found this story by Stephanie Drenka. She writes that – “I was struck by the pervasiveness of adoptive parent-focused stories. Where were the adoptee perspectives ?” The photo is from when when she was reunited with her biological mother, two sisters, and a brother.
She notes that “abandonment issues do not end in adulthood. Though I haven’t experienced divorce, I can imagine it might be similar. If a woman’s husband leaves her, even after remarries the perfect guy, she may always deal with a persistent fear that he will leave her as well. Fear of abandonment is real, and has to be acknowledged in order to resolve it.”
I have personally witnessed this issue playing out in a loved one and it had not been resolved previously. It came out at a very inopportune time but never-the-less had to be dealt with in its extremity.
Stephanie notes – Even the most well-adapted adoptee still faces moments where the trauma resurfaces. For me, that meant small things like every time a doctor would ask me for my family medical history or now, post-reunification, not knowing when I will be able to meet my biological sister’s new baby boy. And adds – I won’t go into the trauma experienced by birth mothers and families, because that is not my story to tell. Suffice it to say, from my personal reunification experience, adoptees are not the only ones who struggle with the aftermath of adoption.
She says – I love my (adoptive) mom and dad to the moon and back. They are my role models, biggest supporters, and best friends. I feel blessed to have them in my life– but please don’t presume to tell me that I was “lucky” to be adopted. Like many adoptees, my parents told me that I was special. While meant with good intention, being chosen is a burden. It puts pressure on us to be perfect and grateful. It can be incredibly emotionally taxing and negatively effects your self esteem in the moments where you can’t live up to that perfect picture. These expectations can prolong mental illness without treatment, because it may seem like asking for help is being ungrateful.
Choosing to adopt is an expensive proposition and as Stephanie notes – one mostly related to white privilege. I agree with her stated perspective – Can you imagine if the money people spent on adoption services went instead to supporting single mothers or low-income parents? Or what if adoption profits were used to benefit adoptees themselves in the form of post-adoption services like counseling, genetic testing, mental health treatment, or birth family search costs?
She ends her own essay with this – The truth about adoption is that there is no Truth. Adoption is many different things for many different people. It is love, loss, grief, abuse, hope, despair. It can sometimes be celebrated, but should always be examined through a critical and compassionate lens.
“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ~ C S Lewis
How Changing My Self-Identification Saved My Life
Growing up adopted by a white American family and living in a predominantly white community was difficult for me because I never felt like I fit in, or belonged. I faced racism and bullying pretty much as long as I can remember. I was led to believe I was ugly, unwanted, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness. I was like a chameleon almost my entire life, an expert at not standing out, not making any waves, always shying away from confrontation and always making up stories about who I was. I was a master at being “unseen.” Until I hit a roadblock about 5 years ago. I began to experience inner turmoil, depression, anxiety – all results of my identity crisis.
I felt stuck mentally, and physically, I was immobilized. I was unable to go to work, be social with friends and family, and I wasn’t able to take care of things like food shopping, laundry, or any sort of self care. The only thing I could handle doing was going to therapy so that’s what I did. Obviously, I wanted to find a way to feel unstuck and begin to get my life back together. But I knew that because I didn’t know my whole story, I had made one up in my own head.
This story I was telling myself was that I was unlovable, unworthy of happiness, and broken. That was the old story I kept playing over and over in my mind. That story wasn’t completely accurate, it wasn’t empowering, it does not serve me in any useful way now, and it definitely did not have to stop me from living my best life. In order to get my life back and be the person I wanted to be, I had to become really self aware of why my old self identity was holding me back in life.
My old identity was someone who was broken, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness.
The person I wanted to be was free, confident, healthy, happy, lovable, successful…and a badass!
So what was the secret to making my transformation? It was 100% mindset.
I had to literally imagine my old self was dying in order for me to allow the change to happen. I didn’t wait until I got my dream job, got my social life back, or find someone to love me to be happy. The actions and behaviors I took were as if I was already that person I always wanted to be. I learned to take small steps, enjoy my journey, be grateful, and be happy along the way. I visualized my new self every single day. I am confident. I am healthy. I am loved. I am happy. I am worthy. I am a mf badass!!
I am sharing my story with you because someone out there may resonate with it. If that’s you, then just remember you can do it because YOU ARE WORTH IT!! Have an amazing day and remember, you have the power to change your identity anytime you want, starting now. Thank you for reading this and letting me be completely honest and vulnerable.
I will admit that I didn’t know who this woman was nor did I ever watch Full House. That said, today I learned that she was adopted and has now spoken out about her adoptive family. I read that Full House portrayed the perfect life, the perfect kids, as well as the most perfect parents one could hope for. Jodie Sweetin played the adorably sarcastic Stephanie Tanner on the much-beloved family sitcom. She also starred in some Hallmark movies. Years later, after Jodie was all grown up, she reprised her role on the Netflix revival series Fuller House.
At the time of Jodie’s birth, both of her biological parents were incarcerated. Her original mother was a struggling addict. Her father was killed in a prison riot before Jodie ever had the chance to meet him. Recently, she made an appearance on Olivia Jade’s ‘Conversations’ podcast and opened up a lot about her life. “My dad, Sam, my adopted dad, his ex-wife who he had three adult kids with when they adopted me, she was my biological father’s aunt,” Jodie explained.
Janice was his second wife and they were hoping to start a family but were having troubles with conception. Because of her original parents’ circumstances, Jodie was in dire need of a family and Sam and Janice wanted a child of their own and so, fates aligned and roughly one year later, the adoption was finalized.
The adoption began fostering feelings of hurt and rejection. In her younger years, she used to think “‘Oh, something was wrong with me.’ There’s this point in your life where you finally kind of realize what happened,” Sweetin said. “That it no longer becomes something about you, that it’s like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t wanted.’ ”
Intrafamily adoptions are incredibly common and even preferred. An intrafamily adoption is a specific type of adoption that allows a family member to adopt a child. This is a streamlined kind of adoption. “People don’t really talk about it, because I think there’s this weird sense of shame, if there’s an interfamily adoption,” Jodie said.
Having resolved some of her emotions around adoption, currently Sweetin says, “They actually made the healthiest decision for me by allowing me to be adopted by another family that could provide better.”
I was very sad to learn that this kind of governmental judgement takes place.
“I was adopted into a foster home in the 80’s. My babies were just taken from me and are being adopted out. I keep hearing how they will be fine and have great lives and how they won’t experience the same life I have had.”
The first commenter acknowledged – “Sadly Child Protective Services does think that if you grew up in the system, you will not be good enough to be a parent.”
Yet another put forth a different perspective –
I am a former foster care youth that aged out of the system and became a foster parent. It is a lot of hard work to be a parent, especially a parent with trauma. It is something I am aware of and ‘show up and work on every day!’ But that doesn’t mean that we will not be good enough to be good parents or can’t be good parents. Does it mean we have to work harder and be aware that we have trauma that a lot of people don’t?! Yes! But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t incapable, it just means we actively work every day to be different then the generations before us! Child Protective Services asked me very extensively about my past and trauma, and I had to prove in a lot of ways how I have worked on it and that I am aware of it and continue to be aware of it. And work on my trauma and triggers as they arise. Now that doesn’t mean that former foster care youth and other people with trauma aren’t at higher risk for having Child Protective Services involved or their children removed. Because unfortunately, many of the kids I grew up with in the foster system are still in some way involved in the system or dead, it is a hard trauma to break out of. But honestly I feel like a lot of that, comes from the fact that everyone in my life, told me I would never be any better than my parents, or better then my genetics. We need to start telling these children with trauma that our pasts do not dictate our futures, we get to control them. We get to be better. And we need to help them do that. Before their inner voice turns into this message of ‘I’ll never be good enough, so why try to be better?’.
It is a tough world out there for a lot of people. Not every one has the same experience. Here is one that turned out “better” than “worse,” and still . . .
After finding my biological family and meeting my sisters, I definitely had the better life (theirs was full of switching homes, being raised by different people, drugs and addictions, and poverty). I was raised as an only child and had college paid for by my adoptive parents – up to my masters degree. They also helped me and my husband buy our house. Does adoption still affect me? Heck yeah it does. I have horrific abandonment issues, anxiety and depression.
This experience is also VERY COMMON among adoptees –
I was adopted at birth. My adoptive parents were great, and I didn’t deal with a lot of the issues I’ve seen mentioned by other adoptees (favoritism, neglect, abuse, doing the bare minimum, etc) I love them very much and consider them my parents. I would imagine my childhood is what most adoptive parents think they will provide, and birth moms think they’re giving their child up to.
But I still have always had this very deep sense of not belonging or fitting in anywhere. Feeling that everyone will leave me, I can never be good enough. I don’t ever feel “home”. I always thought there was something wrong with me, and despite my best intentions or efforts I still just couldn’t do it “right”.
And I do agree with this person –
I was adopted into an amazing family, always loved and cared for. Had a good life and am a privileged adult. I have a good relationship with my biological family too. However, I despise adoption. It affected me in negative ways regardless of my “good” adoptive family and upbringing. It also has the ability to greatly affect our children and future generations. The trauma gets passed down. Nothing about adoption is ok. It should be a crime to separate families simply because there is money to be made from a demand greater than a supply. We need to overhaul our system so that adoption is nearly non-existent, like it is in other countries.
The outcomes are always unique and individual. No need to not all or even so –
I was adopted within a year of my birth. I had crappy adoptive parents. My life became significantly better after I was kicked out. I worked extremely hard to pay my way through college and live on my own. Life got even better when they stopped talking to me permanently. My biological kids are amazing and so is my marriage. However, I still sit and wait, expecting it to all fall apart. I don’t feel deserving.
One last perspective –
I was adopted at birth and have felt “lost” my whole life – empty – and have struggled. I’ve never felt complete and have always had bonding issues even with my own children. It’s like I love mentally but emotionally it’s a struggle to feel. If that makes sense. I’ve went through years of counseling, when I was in my 40s. I’ve worked my DNA, so I know who all my people are. I have a good relationship with my birth dad and some biological siblings and I now feel complete. But the love side of me, the connection…. I still don’t have it and probably never will.
I have often described my own adoptee parents (yes, both were adopted) as “good” parents but strangely detached. I blame adoption for that.
I discovered that comedian Tiffany Haddish grew up in foster care. Though foster care is NOT part of my personal experience, I have learned a lot about it from my all things adoption group and I once read the personal memoir of a woman – Foster Girl by by Georgette Todd – that is a nightmare of a story but that does have a happy ending – thankfully. Anyway, I went looking for Haddish’s own story of foster care. I owe much of today’s blog to the story in Simplemost.
Haddish spent part of her childhood in foster care. As I often read is recommended if someone really wants to adopt, she has spoken about adopting older children who are in foster care. I had already learned that babies and younger children tend to be adopted out of the system more easily than older kids, and generally, the older a child is, the harder it is for them to get adopted. Haddish would like to help an older child who might otherwise be passed over by other families.
She says, from having spent many years in the foster care system, that she knows firsthand how difficult it can be. “You’re dropped in these strangers’ houses, you don’t know these people, these people don’t know you, you don’t know if they’re gonna hurt you, if they’re gonna be kind, you don’t have a clue what’s going on.”
When Haddish was a child, her mother was in a serious car accident that left her with many injuries and altered her personality, causing her to become erratic and violent — and unable to care for the kids. Haddish, who is the eldest of five, was 12 years old when she and her siblings entered foster care, and she remained in foster care until she she became an adult and was emancipated from the system.
In foster care, the comedian spent years moving from home to home, with all of her belongings in a trash bag. She shares, “I remember when I got my first suitcase, I felt like I was a traveler, like I had a purpose, like I’m a person, like I’m not garbage. I got this — it’s mine, and my things are in here, and wherever I go I can take this with me and I’m going somewhere.”
Haddish tells her difficult but inspiring stories in her book, “The Last Black Unicorn.” Here is the interview of Tiffany Haddish about her book from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
It’s one thing to pretend when you are a child, quite another when you are a mature adult trying to pretend you are the parent (though actually you are) of your adopted child. An article in The Guardian caught my attention – “Everyone knows you’re not a real mum.”
The parental impostor syndrome some adoptive parents have – that they are faking it, and will never cut it as a parent – is seldom acknowledged. The concept of an impostor syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and not feeling good enough. There are certainly quite a lot of adoptees who have felt they were not good enough in their adoptive parents perspective.
Ranee, 52, lives in south-west London with her husband and their two adopted children. Ranee is of Sri Lankan heritage and her husband’s family are from Mauritius. Because of this, it took a long time for them to be matched with their children as many councils are keen to match the ethnic backgrounds of potential parents and children.
During that time, Ranee and her husband went through a rigorous vetting process, yet when the process was complete and they were a family with children, she felt disoriented by how much she didn’t know. “I remember walking into the playground and thinking, ‘Everyone knows you’re not a real mum,’” she says, upon taking her five-year-old to school for the first time. “It was as if I had a siren above me, or ‘fake’ written on my forehead. Just trying to talk to parents on a playdate, or wondering what other kids would eat was tricky. My children were really picky eaters, and all of this made me think I didn’t know what I was doing.”
She says she had done courses and read books to try to prepare, but nothing quite readied her for the experience of becoming a parent. “I didn’t have any mum friends and I’d gone straight from working to being a stay-at-home mum. I kept thinking, ‘Does everyone feel like this? Is this how it is?’”
Ranee, a food photographer, says now that the adoption is completed, her impostor syndrome has largely gone. “Occasionally it comes back when we’re dealing with school issues, but I now have a network of friends who have also adopted and that has helped me gain some perspective.”
As well as the fact that she and her husband went from a couple to parents of two in one day, Ranee thinks anxiety about whether she was doing things “right” played a big role in feeling like an impostor. “I sometimes felt as if there was a model parent out there, but I learned to lower my expectations, and understood that my children don’t know any different. I now subscribe to ‘good enough’ parenting. I know I will make mistakes and I have to forgive myself and not get het up.
“I used to want to run out of the playground and hide under the bed. But I’ve learned that you just have to set your own standard. Trust that you will be a great parent, and fight your children’s corner. One day you’ll fail, the next day you’ll feel less of a failure, and so on, until it normalizes.” Years later, she says, things look very different. “I have two amazing kids who are teenagers, and I know they will forge their own lives, and I just want them to be happy.”
And parenting it doesn’t get any easier with more children, because each child will have a different personality requiring different methods of parenting. My sons certainly teach me that lesson all the time. One keeps to himself a lot but will eat anything I cook. The other one is socially outgoing but a very picky eater, I say he is a purest. And there’s something about being a parent in your 50s and 60s, you don’t have the physicality of your 20s or 30s.
When I was having lots of challenges with my older child, I realized it was a cry for attention. He had “lost” me to his younger brother who understandably needed nursing and diaper changing. When I realized this, I swapped with my husband when we were out with the family and even at home, spending one-on-one time with the older boy and the problems turned around very quickly.
We think we have to live up to other people’s examples but that can make us feel inadequate. All the parenting books are suggestions but you have to invent your own way of parenting, because every child is unique. Good enough parenting is a good goal. The mistakes we make give our children space to grow into better adults, things to rebel against, and it helps them forge their personality. We love our children but what is more important is to respect them.
Don’t let your self-doubt define you. Enjoy your own parenting style because it allows you to display your authenticity to your children and gives them permission to have their own style.