Single Moms and Parenting

One of the most important “missions” in my all things adoption group is to support and encourage single moms to attempt to parent their baby rather than reflexively giving the baby up of adoption. Fortunately, that is more acceptable during the last couple of decades for a woman to be a single mom, than it would have been earlier in our collective history.

Several questions were asked of those who had made the choice to keep and parent their baby –

What is/would be/would have been the deciding factor in choosing to parent your child?

Of course, finances are a huge issue. But is money enough?

Better enforcement of revocation periods?

More/better emotional support?

Believing you are worthy enough to deserve your child?

Safe and affordable housing?

Yes, all of this helps. But what is the single factor that would be enough to tip the scales one way or the other?

Some of the responses –

Family and friends helping and being involved and better mental health care.

As someone who parented: A job that paid $15/hr that was full time during daycare hours. Literally that was all I needed. The most basic thing we should be fighting for: the right to be fairly compensated for our work. For me it was a labor rights issue, 100%. Why are jobs like this so hard to come by? The flip side would be: affordable childcare that matched the hours of your job.

Another one shared this was an issue for her as well. My exact problem right now. I’m unemployed, single mom of 4 kids and while I qualify for daycare, I can’t find one near me that has space for all my kids and is open for reasonable hours. 90% of daycares I find close at 5:30pm. My experience is service industry and retail. These jobs usually have varying work schedules and very low pay.

Yet another issue –  I am a single mom raising my 4 children. The 2 fathers claimed the kids on their taxes and collected all the stimulus money. It took me 2yrs to get my tax return back because I had to file a paper return.. And I don’t know if I will get any of the stimulus money. The child support orders are ridiculously low. $600 a month for all 4 kids, IF I even get the payments. It’s rough.

This one found it a struggle but felt lucky as well – I was extremely lucky that the owner of our daycare knew the father of my child because his mother worked there years ago, so she gave me the toddler rate instead of the infant rate. She knew he wasn’t contributing. I was also extremely lucky to have found a mobile home for under $1,000/mo because the landlord was just an all around good guy who didn’t want to take advantage of single people and seniors. My job was a $24,000/yr salary, which meant that my paychecks were static and not variable, which made it easier to budget. I didn’t have much left over at the end of the month, but I managed to save $25 a month until I felt certain we were not going to be homeless again. Literally the bare minimum, but I spent most of my working life living on or below that and I was amazed by how little it took to change everything. We did great on this. She added – I agree that daycare should be subsidized and paid for by the government the same way school is. It doesn’t make sense to have you starting out paying the equivalent of a college tuition just so you can work.

It’s the myth – that adoption means everyone’s happy and doing well.

One shared why she didn’t go through with adoption and credits our all things adoption group as well – When he was born and that was it for me. I wasn’t letting go. And I would do anything and I mean ANYTHING in the world to make it possible. So for me it was that. However. I had a daughter that was going through cancer treatment, I didn’t feel it was fair to her. Those feelings washed away when I had him, I knew in my heart she needed him too. I definitely needed the support of my family. At the hospital I cried all night, My sister woke up and asked me if I was okay and I said “I cant just give him away, I can’t let him go” she said “then don’t “. And called all my family and they made it possible to bring him home providing all of the necessities we needed. Had I felt I had this support before the hospital in keeping him, I would not considered adoption all the way up to giving birth to him at the hospital. Honestly I still would have kept him after his birth at the hospital. I was definitely in mama bear mode. He’s 3 now and I update about every year in this group. Had I not been here, who knows if I would have gotten talked into letting him go by the hopeful adoptive parents -or not. But she definitely tried. She went on to share that her daughter was completely surprised. She said “you finally got me my very OWN BABY?!” She thought he was for her lol I love seeing them together, they are so cute.

Another woman shared – Not feeling good enough and finances were the primary reasons I placed. Instead of receiving encouragement, my past traumas were used against me as evidence that I wasn’t “ready.” I was made to feel like if I parented I was doomed to ruin my child’s life. The single one thing that would have tipped the scales for me though would have been honest information about the trauma adoption causes adoptees. I was VERY concerned about my daughter’s emotional well being. I was promised that my daughter would be unaffected as long as she was placed by three months. I DIRECTLY asked about the emotional consequences of adoption on my daughter and I was told there are none. I was told adoptees have no more problems than anyone else and most are “grateful” to have been given a “better” life. I really wish that some one would have told me that all first time moms are scared. That it would be hard but it was doable. The one single sentence that could have convinced me to parent though is “Adoptees are 4x times likely to commit suicide than non-adoptees.” I had struggled a lot with suicide before than. If I knew that adoption would could cause my daughter to feel suicidal like I felt, there’s no way I would have placed. I could have never intentionally done that to my daughter.

The response to this by the woman who first asked the questions was this – I didn’t ask this question to feel validated, but your answer has made me feel so validated. Because adoptees are always told to shut up and be grateful, and to stop being bitter and angry. For the most part, I refuse to speak to prospective adopters because they’re so full of themselves that they insult and demean me in order to preserve their fantasies. And how can you know what to believe when the people in power tell convenient lies? They benefit from you believing the lies. You’ve made me grateful (genuinely, not being snarky) that this group has given me the chance to tell expecting moms that if I had had a choice, I would have grown up in poverty with my mom. I would have endured whatever deprivation necessary, just to have my mom. Everyone else acts like I’m living in some stupid fantasy world. Thank you for telling me that what I want and would have wanted has validity, and that it would have aligned with what you wanted.

And closing with this one – I never would have considered adoption if I’d had an adult that was willing to help and support me at the time. I got pregnant as a minor and the only people who reacted supportively were other minors, and I was already living on the street, so it didn’t seem like navigating being a parent would be possible for me. I stopped responding to the agency after my school’s social worker started helping me set up appointments and apply for assistance and I found someone with an empty spare bedroom. She helped transfer me to another school nearby that had a parenting program for teen mothers where I was able to catch up and graduate on time. All I really needed was one adult to vaguely care in my direction.

Adoption Vows

In there never ending quest to make adopting a child a celebration, here is what one couple is doing –

With adoption day on the horizon, my husband and I plan to recite a modified version of (see image above) to our daughter at her court hearing. Changing “I” to “We” and making a few personalized adjustments for her. Adoption vows . . . loving it. What else did you do to make it a special day ?

The person in my all things adoption group who shared this writes – I want to compose a response that she will hear! Because this is complete bs! What about the kids who end up not fitting in and get ” rehomed” or sent away to group homes… they where made all the same ” promises” and now look where they are. How should I word it where she will hear me or do I even waste the time? She is clearly caught up in the unicorn and rainbow effects.

The first response is – The whole point of vows is that they’re made between consenting adults, who also have a right to break that consent. Adoptees can’t consent. Decisions are made for them. And they can’t easily dissolve the relationship, even as adults.

Another comment – The whole thing is yuck…but especially the “Til death do us part” which could be super triggering for any kiddo but especially those with loss. Not only that but often if an adopted parent dies, the adopted children are no longer seen or treated as family by the remaining family members.

This was confirmed by one adoptee’s experience – The only member of my adoptive family who still treats me like family is my dad. The rest of them turned their backs on me after my mom died.

Another also shares – all I have of my adoptive family is one cousin in California. She was my mom’s very best and favorite cousin. I love her guts but the rest literally told me I was not family and good as killed my mom with my “drama,” whatever that means.

So here was one suggestion –

If you want her to (maybe) hear you it’s important to try to prevent her becoming defensive, so I would keep it semi-validating. Like

Wow !! I can see how much you love her through your excitement! As an adopted person, I want to open up to you a little and be clear I do it to support – not upset. But I’m sure you’ll understand, you seem really open minded. Adoption represents a huge loss. Even if our biological parents are terribly troubled, dead, uninterested, in prison…this is the death of something every human wants – to be be loved by, raised by, and important to their own parents. At the same time, no child wants to hurt the feelings of the adults they now must count on, who they are often silently trying to prove their worth to. I say this to encourage you to remember that in your approach. These marriage vow style things make sense to you, since you are only gaining, not losing, and you get choices. I would suggest having a private, special day where you say to your daughter that you love her, are so happy to have her, but also to validate that it’s ok for her to feel a lot of conflicting emotions. That you accept and love her whole story. Take pictures but don’t share them anywhere and only with her when she’s old enough. Let her be the one to do it, if that is her choice. Adoption is more like a divorce than a marriage. I hope this makes sense. Best of luck.

It was also suggested that the couple modify these vows. Then go and make these vows with each other and their preacher. To make a commitment between themselves that these things are true. Lots of adopted kids hear these kinds of promises and yet, their adoptive relationship is later disrupted. This makes good sense to me.

Finally, this is celebrating the girl’s worst day. One adoptee felt this was unbelievably cruel. She also noted how common it is that marriage vows are broken. Adoption disruptions and dissolutions are estimated to occur at approximately 25% for all adoptions in the US.

Just noting, regarding those vows – Autism is not an illness or a tragedy.

Not Good Enough

Today’s story –

I am a adoptee. Here is the issue, My daughter just had my first granddaughter on Sunday and she is absolutely perfect. But the problem is this, I now am living in daily fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of something happening, fear my daughter won’t need me anymore, fear I won’t bond or connect with the baby. I feel like I’m going crazy . Like today she told me to come over and then a little while later she said I could go home.. not in a mean way.. just wanted time with the dad… well, I didn’t let it show in front of her but I literally got in the car and balled my eyes out and then had a panic attack, feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t see her again, that she didn’t need me or want me around… I know all of that is completely crazy but my mind won’t let me accept that. Is this normal for adoptees?, is this even normal for non adoptees? What can I do to get through this??

The first comment was – I am donor-conceived and my mother is not, but her own parents were absent/abusive. My mother is like this but she doesn’t have the courage or self-awareness to say it out loud. You did great by not putting this on your daughter’s shoulders.

The next one was – I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I’m not an adoptee but I do have an adult daughter and sometimes it’s hard when it seems like they don’t need you. But they do and they reach out when they do. We raise them to be independent but it hurts when we did it too well. She’s definitely going to need you.

Here is the next one – I’m not an adoptee and I’m answering because you asked if it’s normal for non-adoptees. I have TOTALLY had these exact feelings with my oldest; however I’m from a trauma background and have zero relationship with my bio mother – I think it may be normal for anyone coming from a trauma background. What I did was just be honest with my daughter and told her that I’m sure it was from my background and that I didn’t want her to feel responsible for my feelings but I wanted to be sure it was me and not true – we talk a lot and have a fabulous relationship. I have these feelings SO MUCH LESS NOW because she reassured me I had nothing to worry about – she accepts my worries and I accept that she is a private person and just has me around less than I originally thought would happen – I hope that helps you. And congratulations grandma!

Then there was this – That’s a totally a trauma reaction. The level of emotional response is way out of balance with the request.. and you know it… which only makes you feel even crazier, right?

So I’m gonna say something major in you baby adoptee brain has been triggered by the birth (sooo normal! ) and you now have a wonderful opportunity to find that wound and heal it. And it sounds like very expected abandonment stuff.. not being worthy of what you now see in the mother-child bond. The baby in you is crying for that experience and mourning you didn’t have it. Let your baby self cry it out and at the same time, mother yourself and know that you are worthy and deserved what your grandchild has. An adoption competent trauma informed therapist can help!

Then she adds – I used to believe that I had done enough work that I was always going to be in control.. and then, I lost my mind one day in the middle of the SPCA over a kitten. Like I became this crying, hysterical, screaming Karen .. and that is not me! That’s the day I learned that no matter how much you think you have healed.. sometimes the weirdest thing worms it’s way in! And boom.. you’re a sniveling mess lying on the kitchen floor.

Yet another shares this – My mother spent several years in an orphanage as a child and she is like this—if I reschedule a coffee date or something like that she feels abandoned and devastated. It breaks my heart. I love her so much and never want to cause her pain. I know therapy has helped her some.

A second woman confirmed – It is a trauma based response. I experienced the same sort of thing when my daughter got pregnant with my grandson. I was terrified and an emotional wreck thinking I wouldn’t have a relationship with the baby when it was born. Everything triggered me and despite my daughter reassuring me she wanted me involved – internally I felt it would all dissolve because of course, as an adoptee how do we trust we will be loved, included, not rejected ? I now have a wonderful relationship with my grandson and he is the joy in my life. I still feel that fear sometimes but I have gotten more confident that we can get past the bumps and not every bump means the end a relationship and bond.

Another woman shared – I am not a adoptee, my biological dad left and my biological mom got me and my sisters out of foster care. (Just for back ground) I just had a baby 6 months ago and my mom felt the same way. She was raised by her grandparents because her parents didn’t want her and couldn’t provide for her or my uncle. I think it’s definitely a trauma based thing, but I can tell you from the other side, I would cry for my mom at night when things got hard. I never once thought I could do it without her but also telling her was hard. Your child needs you always, a baby doesn’t change that.

A woman who gave her baby up for adoption writes – I feel like that about my daughter and she’s 31. (Found her when she was 18.) I am in therapy and am working on it. I think the important thing to realize is that these are thought distortions. They are your mind’s way of protecting itself, but this time it went out of control…. Like emotional keloids.

An adoptee writes – This is trauma talking! Trauma lies. It’s the brain telling you your trauma will repeat itself. My therapist has me do several things to combat this. One is I talk back to myself, out loud, as if I’m defending young Andrea or sometimes a friend. It feels really silly but we’re so hard on ourselves, so defending a child or a friend is so much easier! Another activity is to write down all those worst case scenarios and plan them out. What would you actually do if it happened? Then it might not feel so realistic and you’ll feel some measure of being in-control again. Also, my brain demands proof that it’s lying or it won’t shut up.

Adoption Or Foster Care

I’ve been reading a book about one girl’s experiences in foster care to better inform myself about a system I have no experience with.  Adoption ?  Though not adopted myself nor have I given up a child to adoption, I have LOTS of experience – both parents were adoptees and both sisters gave up a child to adoption.  I also spend significant time each day within a private Facebook group that includes original parents, adoptees and former foster youth, and adoptive (or hopeful) parents.  I learn a lot there that broadens my perspectives.

Some of the major differences I am understanding – foster care does not alter the child’s identity (doesn’t change their name or birth certificate).  Foster care is less permanent or certain.  The goal in a lot of foster care is eventual reunification of the family unit.  The quality of foster care varies but a bad placement can be gotten out of.  Not all foster parents treat the foster child well nor do they really care about what is happening to the child.  Some actually do it for the money (NOT saying most or all do it for that reason).

Adoption is a PERMANENT solution to what is a temporary problem when talking about an unwed mother or a poverty situation.  Adoption does provide a more certain home environment than foster care does but the double edge sword is that if it is an awful placement, most of the time the child is simply trapped there (I’ve read enough nightmare stories to believe this).  That said, there are also “second chance” adoptions where the adoptive parents want to be rid of a troublesome child.  This is very sad for the child as it sends a debilitating message about the worth of that child.

Most of the time, adoptive parents change the child’s name and to some extent their cultural identity if it is a transracial adoption.  Some adoptive parents hide the date and/or location of the child’s birth to place an obstacle in the way of the parent/child unit reuniting.  Genetic family bonds are broken or permanently lost.  Even when such direct family is recovered later in life, so much life experience and inter-relationship is lost that it is nearly impossible to rebuild.  I understand this as I have been able to learn what my own parents could not – who my original grandparents were.  Along with learning that, I have acquired new family relationships with genetically related aunts and cousins.

I acknowledge that not all children are going to be parented by the people who gave birth to them.  This is a reality.  I would also argue that as a society we do NOT do enough to keep families intact and could do much better.  I would further add that MONEY plays a HUGE role in perpetuating the separation of mothers from their children.  That money could be better spent with less traumatic outcomes on the natural family and its supports.

Judgment of Solomon

It’s a story as old as the bible.  Two women fighting for the love of one child.  It is the child who actually suffers.  Often the original mother will surrender for the good of the child.  It happens when one woman was the first mother and then another woman steps in and the first mother becomes marginalized.  Whether by adoption or divorce, it is hard to live that reality.  I know, I have.

I was reading the sad story of a woman who was adopted at the age of 4.  Got along well with the adoptive father, not so much with the adoptive mother.  The couple divorced and for whatever reason the girl went with the mom.  This adoptive mother spent years breaking down this poor woman’s confidence by telling her she was going to end up like her birth mother among countless other verbal and emotional jabs at her.

Time passed, she grew up.  In a sense the predictions came true.  She had a son who she breast fed and took care of everyday for 20 months.  Then she had to ask for help.  Her son already knew her as mom.  Now she has a power struggle with her adoptive mom about who actually is the mother of her son.  That is because she went through a rough part of her life and had to ask her adoptive mom to keep her son while she figured things out.

The adoptive mother agreed. Then, less than 3 weeks later, she called the woman and asked if she can give her a certain amount of money per month in return for adopting this woman’s son. She declined.  As an adoptee herself, she said she wasn’t giving him up and that with another 2 weeks, she could be ready for him to come back to living with her.

Only a week later, the adoptive mother called again and said according to her lawyer the woman will be charged with neglect if she doesn’t sign over the rights to her son. Oh, this does remind me of what happened to my maternal grandmother !!

Anyway, fearing she might never see her son again, she consulted with a lawyer at a women’s shelter where she was living and had to face the reality that this was going to happen and it did.  The adoptive mother changed the woman’s son’s name, just like happens so often in adoptions.  While the original mother still has some access to her son, I know, just as the reader probably knows by now – this will not turn out well and the child will be the one who suffers.

What Is Enough ?

My mother doubted her worth as a human and as a mother. She never believed she was good enough. Adoption did that to her. She felt broken and torn.

My mom tried very hard to know her roots. She appealed to the state of Tennessee for her adoption file. Though her father was twenty years older than her mother and her mother had already died, she was denied because the state didn’t really try too hard to determine her father’s status. He had been dead for 30 years, when she made her attempt.

She did an Ancestry DNA test and had a profile, hoping against hope to learn some truth. At least, she had some idea of her ethnicity from that effort.  She tried to complete family trees but since they were based on persons who adopted her and adopted my dad, she quit and said to me, “It just didn’t feel real.”  Of course it didn’t.  From a genealogy perspective – it wasn’t the truth.

I now have the complete story for both – my mom and my dad. I wrote everything up in a limited edition book given to family, so that what I worked so hard to learn would not be lost with me, if I died.

There is no risk-free exposure for the children of adopted parents. I know. The wounds and damage passed down my family line and other children ended up adopted too.

Second Chance

One of the saddest situations in adoptionland is a child that was adopted and the adoptive family seeks to be rid of that child and it does happen.

In one case, an adopted child had been through four failed adoptions. This child had been renamed each time and didn’t even know their real name.

Or a child adopted internationally when they were 2 years old now up for re-adoption at the age of 8-1/2.  The advertisement for this child is full of glowing attributes – why then is the need to be rid of the child ?  It is beyond sad that people adopt without understanding the trauma and wounds that come from separating the child from their original family.

Between 1 and 5 percent of U.S. adoptions get legally dissolved each year. Some children are put up for “second-chance adoptions.”   Second-chance adoptions are children who were already adopted and whose adoptive family no longer wishes to parent them.

Accurate statistics are not available for how commonplace second adoptions are, due to a wide variety of factors that include the closed nature of some adoptions, changed names on Social Security cards and birth certificates, and other paperwork issues.

Legally speaking, adopted children are recognized as no different from biological children. And for this reason, parents who opt to put a child up for re-adoption are doing nothing more legally complicated than any parent who puts a child up for adoption in the first place.

Children who end up in need of adoption a second time have lives that are deeply disrupted and end up with lifelong doubts about their worth.  Most adoptees, even when their first adoption does not end up dissolved, suffer from similar issues.

Adoption is a complicated situation that is fraught with problems.  That is why many adoptees are now speaking out against the process and looking for better alternatives for cases where a child’s welfare requires a more stable situation.

Hard Questions

Adoption makes this true.

The questions carry a completely different weight than they did just months ago before we adopted.  A place where my heart screams that he is mine forever but that same heart plummets into a deep ache knowing the gravity of loss he has already faced.  The loss of the mother in whose womb he grew.

He will always know he’s adopted. I tell his story to him every night at bedtime. I ask all the normal questions.

I wonder about the day he will ask about his birth parents. Will there be a constant ringing in his ears to know them? Will he feel the guilt of reassuring us, as the adoptive parents, that the ringing has nothing to do with us?

Will I be able to honestly, deeply, and fully lock arms with him while he searches for answers?

I can wait for the hard questions but know when you start to ask, your worth is immense, your value is priceless, and I will always and forever, be right by your side.

A true story. One worth pondering if you are planning to adopt.  Someday, that child will want to know where they come from and why they are not being raised by the people who conceived them.

Difficult Mother Daughter Relationships

Having been able to obtain my mother’s adoption file, I know how over the moon happy her adoptive mother was when my mom was a baby and a toddler.  Having seen a photo of my mom’s original mother holding her, I also know where our big boned skeletons came from.

When I was growing up, I knew my mom had a difficult relationship with her adoptive mother.  What changed ?  I believe my adoptive grandmother was very hard on my mom due to her body size – not that she was fat.  Later in life, she may have been overweight and she struggled with that and was always dieting, but she was never obese.

I believe part of the explanation is the common issue that many adoptees struggle with – not feeling like they are good enough.  From my mom, I know that she described her adoptive mother as a perfectionist.  Since I knew this woman from childhood, I understand.  She was a perfectionist.  And she was extraordinarily accomplished at a lot of things.

My mom struggled with body image issues.  My grandmother’s own mother and sister were portly.  My grandmother was clearly determined to remain thin her whole life.  I remember when I was in England with her and sitting in a restaurant in our upscale hotel, The Dorchester across the street from Hyde Park in London.  In public view, she loudly admonished me for eating a dinner roll with butter.  I was so humiliated and angry at her that I wouldn’t speak to her until the next morning.  I was decidedly not fat at that age.  My grandmother feared I would become fat.

Mostly, I had a good relationship with my mom.  We had our moments but it would be remarkable if there had been none.  She really wasn’t wrong in those moments.  The issues were my privacy (she opened one of my personal letters) and a disagreement about a choice I made which she would not have (letting my daughter go and live with her father and step-mother when I could not support her financially and he refused to pay child support).

Yet, my mom had a terrible relationship with my youngest sister that came back to haunt me after my mom died and I had to assume control of my birth family’s finances.  My sister transferred those feelings onto me, once accusing me of hating her.  It is painful even now to consider that, for when this sister was homeless and when she was going through an unwed pregnancy, I was the only family member steadfastly at her side (and mostly, that was her choice).

I don’t have any answers to these situations but I do see how, even though they really were “good enough” parents, with both of my parents being adoptees, that a result was what I now describe as having been “weirdly detached”.

Words Matter

I hadn’t fully realized until just the other day what the phrase often encountered in adoption issues – “given away” – indicates.  The truth is most original mothers did NOT give their child away.

Many were coerced in some manner.  My maternal grandmother was definitely pressured by Georgia Tann after falling into a trap.  I’m fairly certain my paternal grandmother was pressured by the Salvation Army.  I know one of my sisters was influenced by our own adoptee mom as unbelievable as that seems now that I know more about the emotional wounds most adoptees suffer to some degree or another, even when they end up in a “good” adoptive family (which I can say about all of the adoptees in my own family).

The truth is, however, in all of these cases the babies were “taken away” from their original mothers for some “reason” or other.  That has a very different connotation from a mother actually, willingly, consciously, wanting to “give away” her baby.

When a child ends up being raised by anyone who is not their original parents, they have been separated from family.  It is true that some children end up abandoned and that is a truly sad state of affairs when it happens.  And some mothers simply do not believe they are good enough, worthy or deserve to have the child they birthed, for whatever reason.

Anyway, I realize better now that words matter.