When It Is Family

A woman’s sister writes – My sister asked me to care for her baby. The mom signed the form to terminate her parental rights, when her baby was only 2 days old. She had been in a car accident during pregnancy and lost her job. She is now financially stable, has her life together (her baby is only 5 months old now) and wants me to discontinue my adoption process regarding her baby.

The problem is – we don’t want to give her baby back. Is there anything legal – my sister, the baby’s biological mom – can do ? We’re so close to finalizing the adoption, all that is left is the home study. What do we tell our child, when she’s older, about why we refused to give her back to her original mom ?

Just goes to prove, that just because we are siblings born into the same family, once we are adults, all bets are off. I’ve seen it many times in many situations.

One commenter said – I truly can not fathom doing something so obviously horrible and disgusting. The fact that this woman is aware that what she’s doing is wrong because she wants to know what to tell the child (once they get older), well, it just makes it even worse. How incredibly selfish. That poor baby !

Important points not to miss – this women is the mother’s sister ! The baby’s Aunt ! In MANY families …. family members do HELP family members in crisis, to care for their children. Often via a parent-placed, joint custody with the more stable family having primary physical custody. The best thing about this is that there is no need to change the baby’s birth certificate. Any sister could raise her sister’s child appropriately, while calling herself Auntie. In some Indigenous cultures, it is not unusual for a primary caregiver to be called “Auntie” when that person is not the child’s actual mother. A term of endearment for the care given.

An overwhelmed pregnant women in crisis. with poverty related issues of housing, employment, transportation, food and daycare insecurity …. such a woman is easily manipulated into thinking she is not enough. Then in this particular case, add the huge factor of her physical injuries ….

This woman never offered her sister the option of providing temporary care. It was adoption or no help at all. That makes it very easy to see how this situation developed.

Most infants placed in foster care will remain there an average of 15 months with maybe 2 – six month extensions. That this Mom got herself back together in under 6 months is phenomenal. She has maintained contact with her infant and is now in a position to parent her child. Ethically this is a No-Brainer. This woman should definitely reunify her niece with her original mom. Need to tell other children why ? Family helps family. OK, someday you can tell the child that you did miss her living with you but you don’t regret doing the right thing at the time.

5 months is only the blink of an eye in this child’s life. Transitioning this baby as soon as possible back to the child’s original mother is important. Time is of the essence. Do the right thing !!

So often a pregnant woman in temporary crisis is pushed into a permanent solution – and then things get better. Most adult adoptees will counsel such a woman to sincerely try parenting her child first, before surrendering the child to adoption. Many times, this leads to a happy ending for mother and child.

Surrogates – Mother Infant Separation

I have wondered about this myself. A women in my all things adoption group asks the question for me and gets lots of answers.

I was adopted and I have trauma from my biological mom as well as some from the foster care system and then after getting adopted as well. I have seen a lot of people in this group mention the trauma a newborn baby automatically has when taken from the mother to be placed with a different family. I am wondering about surrogates then? If a new born baby is instantly traumatized due to the mother putting the child up for adoption, would that not be the same for a woman that is being a surrogate for another – couple or single individual ? For women who are unable to conceive, the choice seems to be either to adopt or have a surrogate. For women who can’t conceive, should they not also be allowed to be mothers ?

First response – No one dies from remaining childless. It’s selfish to intentionally create a child born into trauma. It sometimes takes as many as 3 women to make a baby. 1. One to pay for that because a woman she cares about wants a baby. 2. The biological donors and 3. The surrogate. What a boggling circumstance for the resulting child to wrap their mind around. People should just accept their infertility. The reality is that most of these women only want babies. Truth is that babies aren’t “in need” of someone else to mother them. They are in high demand and sought after by many.

Next perspective – No one is “owed” a baby or parenthood. It’s not a fatal condition if one never becomes a parent. However, if people want to be parents, there are legally free children in the foster care system. Children who need parents – though the best outcome is that they are never adopted but cared for under permanent guardianship – people to act in the role that parents would. Truth is – no one “needs” an infant.

Finally, onto the actual question – “There’s also a lot that’s ethically wrong with surrogacy beyond the babies trauma, which I think is the biggest issue. Jennifer Lahl has written and speaks out against it.” So I went looking and have linked her name to an article. She writes – “Gestational surrogacy involves impregnating a surrogate mother by implanting embryos created from the eggs of the intended mother or egg donor, and the sperm of the intended father or sperm donor. Women and newborns often do not survive gestational pregnancies, and those who do are often affected physically and psychologically.” I’m not certain about the do not survive part but that is what she wrote. You can read the rest of her article at the link in her name here.

And then a counter argument and I’m not saying this one isn’t as biased as the one above. “Couple Speaks Out Against Jennifer Lahl” courtesy of The Surrogacy Law Center. “Lahl explores the issue of third-party reproduction, focusing on several women whose experiences point to what she sees as flaws in the surrogacy process. She argues that surrogacy has become a baby-buying operation that allows wealthy couples to exploit vulnerable women, often those of lesser means.” ~ Susan Donaldson James of ABC News

Jenn and Brad Nixon of Chesterfield County in VA did their best to defeat infertility for 7 years. The Nixon’s chose to use a surrogate, or gestational carrier, after they learned Jenn’s heart problems would make it dangerous for her to get pregnant. Infertility is a disease affecting more than 7 million Americans. While Lahl highlights how affluent couples are using and exploiting surrogate services, objections to her perspective are raised by couples who have experienced infertility and are not in a wealthy income bracket.

Yet while much has been said here and maybe the answer is buried in almost 170 comments and linked responses to them, my heart already knows. Separating an infant from a gestational carrier is no different than separating an infant any time from the mother in who’s womb that baby developed. The least damaging case I know of was of a mother carrying a baby for her daughter. There will still be separation but the grandmother can be expected to remain in the baby’s life throughout at least their childhood and that might mitigate the effects significantly.

That story (which I once wrote about in this blog) is about a 51-year-old grandmother from Illinois who gave birth to her own granddaughter through surrogacy, when her daughter couldn’t conceive. Julie Loving, 51, was the gestational carrier for her daughter, Breanna Lockwood, who delivered a baby girl named Briar Juliette Lockwood. This has inspired a few other instances of grandparent surrogacy, I see.

Julie Loving with Breanna Lockwood and baby

And just adding this perspective because I think it is realistic – I don’t think the whole world must outlaw something because it creates trauma. There are traumatic things happening everywhere. BUT we can help children grow to be happier people – IF we acknowledge that trauma, respect it, be open to talking about it and hopefully maybe healing it. (And being open to the fact that it may never heal). Not all people will eventually be in touch with their trauma. Some will be and some can heal. Some will be and CAN’T heal. Life is a gamble. You will set yourself up for trouble – if you can’t even talk about it or acknowledge it exists.

Is It OK ?

Is it appropriate ? I adopted my daughter thru foster care. I never met her mom or any of her family. I found them on social media and really want to reach out. Is that inappropriate? My circle is against it. They don’t understand the trauma associated with adoption. I know she has aunts and lots of cousins but I know almost nothing else. I won’t pretend they don’t exist. They are a part of her story and eventually my daughter will probably want to know about them.

About that circle of friends ? They don’t understand what and how it will effect your adopted daughter.

Additional information – this child is 2 years old. Some perspectives. If she’s very young, reach out to a few of the adults and go from there.

If she’s old enough to understand what’s happening, then she should be in charge of this decision. In that case, she may be ready right now, she may not be, or she may want to just look at their accounts for a while, before reaching out. Make certain, it’s her decision if she’s older.

This one could have been my adoptee dad’s perspective, if he had had the possibility – I found my birth parents through social media. I wish I hadn’t reached out but I did and the interaction was fine. Be careful, sometimes it’s better not knowing …

In response to that, someone else asks – do you think this adoptive parent can act as a buffer to mitigate any difficult feelings that may arise as a result of contacting the first family? I had a lot of hard feelings when I met my biological dad and his family, but not knowing was worse.

The response was – no, I don’t think even Jesus Christ himself could mitigate those feelings. I go back and forth about knowing and not knowing. Not knowing was hard, but knowing and having to face the reality of my genetics is harder. My first people are selfish and the reason I was relinquished was so they could party and have no responsibility. My male first person is wealthy, has always been and they had the means to care for me. They told me they just didn’t want to parent. Those feelings I hold towards them do not taint my thoughts on this particular question.

Adoptee Reunions do not always succeed in happy endings as this comment shares – sometimes I wish I would have just watched my birth parents and my birth siblings lives on social media from afar and never reached out. Our reunion eventually went south and it sucks. They made our reunion about them and refused to respect my trauma and my boundaries.

There was this emphatic response – Not inappropriate – please do! You can’t be sure how they’ll respond but at least trying is the best thing you can do for your adopted daughter

Before Surrendering to Adoption

Along with other reform efforts, this idea really appeals to me. A mom who is thinking about placing her child for adoption, should have real unbiased counseling beforehand. Especially if the mom is a teen or young adult. A mom shouldn’t feel pressured to place. She should know her rights. This is her baby. She doesn’t owe anyone her baby.

If she does decide to place she needs to know everything. Especially about open adoption not being legally enforceable. This is rarely, if ever, mentioned to the mom. She doesn’t have to sign at the 72 or 48 hour mark. She can change her mind anytime. She can take her time. She can take her baby home, if she chooses to.

This is what happens all too often. An expectant mom is thinking about adoption but she isn’t really sure yet that she wants to give up her child. At the same time, there are hopeful adoptive parents getting their hopes up and the agency, who has a profit motive in the game, puts a lot of pressure on the young mom to place. Especially, when it comes to teens whose brains are still maturing. The brain doesn’t finish developing until 25-30 years old.

I think requiring expectant mothers to go through unbiased counseling would help the expectant mother make a choice without the interference of money motivated bias. Some of the language used with these young women suggests to them that they have nothing to offer their baby. These young women are told that not placing their child is a selfish decision. She may be further encouraged by dreams she had at the time she conceived of going to college and becoming successful in a profession. She is told that if she doesn’t surrender her child, she’ll fail in life.

She may also be suggested as a heroine, making a couple’s dream of becoming parents come true. Furthermore, if she decides not to places and so changes her mind – she will be breaking the hearts of some hopeful adoptive parents who have so very much more to offer her child than she does.

Young, expectant mothers should NOT have that kind of pressure put upon them. Real unbiased counseling can help these young women weigh their options more honestly and accurately. The sessions would allow the expectant mother to explore ALL if her feelings about pregnancy and not only dwell on her doubts and fears.

Sure, adoption agencies offer provide a kind of counseling. But really ? One cannot judge it to be un-baised when money is the motivator for the agency. The expectant mother has a “product” to offer and adoption is presented as the only fair, reasonable and practical choice she truly has.

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.