Guilty For Being Honest

AITA

I had to google the meaning when I came across this today. It is easy enough to find so I won’t repeat it.

The adoptee story today is about a transracial adoptee who has the unique physical characteristic of having blue eyes which is unexpected given her nationality. Her adoptive mother also has blue eyes and this causes some understandable misconceptions but she will always offer the explanation if it seems relevant.

It is amazing how often people see into other people what they want to see. My sons do not have my DNA and they know the whole story about how and why they don’t. We’ve often had strangers remark that one of my sons favors my husband and the other favors me but the truth is that they genuinely can and do favor their dad in some way or other but neither is a carbon copy of him. The funniest one I get when I am with my sons is about being their grandmother. Since I am ALSO a grandmother, that is what I answer, while correcting the misconception, saying that I AM their mother. I carried them in my womb, I nursed them at my breast and I have been here for them 24/7 all of their lives (they are now 18 and 21).

So this adoptee’s very young cousin said he wished he had his mom’s eye color like this adoptee got her adoptive mother’s eye color. She told him honestly that the woman who gave birth to her didn’t have that color of eyes either. That it was just a coincidence. Her cousin asked further questions and she answered honestly. That she had come from a different country and that is why she looks different from him and from her adoptive family. She explained that their DNA was different. He was young enough that after her explanation, he just went back to playing with his Legos because he was satisfied.

Later, her aunt (this cousin’s mother) expressed her disapproval to the adoptee. She said that the adoptee didn’t have to tell the boy that she was not her mother’s “real” daughter. The adoptee affirmed that she didn’t say it that way. The aunt was unhappy that the adoptee would admit to other people that her unusual eye color (blue) didn’t come from her adoptive mother. That separating herself that way from the rest of the family was hurtful to all of them.

This story reminds me of the Toni Morrison novel – The Bluest Eye – that I read (it is a very sad and disturbing story). This adoptee says that her adoptive father used to sing Elton John’s song Blue Eyes to her. The adoptee said AITA for saying I’m adopted ? I didn’t know this song until today.

Not A Celebration

One adoptee’s story –

I was 1 year old, when my mother was convinced to give up her rights to parent me. I was 2 years old, when I was ripped away from my father who asked everyone for help, even social services. After that, I spent 3 years as a medically complex ADHD autistic child (without even a diagnosis of autism until I was 30!) I was bounced between 6 foster care homes before I was adopted at age 5.

I didn’t want to bang that gavel but the judge, the social worker and the woman who raised me – all made it seem like such a party, a good thing, a reward even.

Fast forward 25 years.

My dad’s parents passed in 2020 and 2021. My parents have been gone for over a decade. The woman who raised me passed in May of this year.

I have never EVER felt more unloved, unwanted, and alone.

I’m not included in anyone’s end of life plans, not provided for, not even mentioned.

Because of adoption, my own and my birth mom’s, I will never know her side of the family. I’ve tried everything, Ancestry, Genome Link, I’ve tried it all. Even asked for assistance from angels in the search groups. There’s nothing.

I have two children, who I cling to for dear life. But I have no family outside of them.

Adoption is trauma. Now with the overturning of Roe v Wade, there will be many more generations of adoptees with trauma to come, maybe for decades.

It Is True

So an older adoptee wrote this – I can personally attest that “coming out of the fog” is a true concept. (In fact, as the child of two adoptees, I can now admit I was in the fog too !!)

The thing is, as an adoptee, you really don’t know what you’re missing compared to people who have not experienced the kind of life-threatening trauma that being adopted is. Though not all adoptees have similar reactions to life’s rejections and notice that feeling of something that is not there, that something “missing,” whether acknowledged or not, is real.

Many adoptees have attachment issues. Some are not able to form an attachment with the adoptive parents or may attach (cling to) too much and are not able to let go of the caregiver when it is appropriate to do so.

When an adult adoptee experiences the breaking up from a romantic relationship, if they are someone who has difficulty letting go, the situation can be devastating. It may take the person a very long time – if ever – to recover.

These experiences have the ability to take an adoptee right back emotionally to the first time they were deserted, abandoned in their perception, by the original mother and this event happened to them before they even had the words to describe what they were feeling. So, even later in life, within the context of adult relationships, these situations can leave the adoptee feeling that same kind of unexpressed feeling. The pain is often excruciating.

Whereas an adoptee’s close friend experiences the breaking up of a romantic relationship, it may be that only a month or so later, that friend is out dating again. It is relatively easy for them to move on with their life. Yet, if this happens to an adoptee, they are often stuck and don’t really understand why they cannot let go.

This rejection/abandonment wound may account for the higher incidence of suicides that happen among adoptees as young adults and even more mature adults. This is certainly common for those who were infant adoptions. Even for adoptees who were adopted at an older age, though they have a similar experience of separation and abandonment/rejection trauma, at least they have some language with which to express their feelings and a therapist may be able to help them more easily express and understand their feelings.

True, actually “coming out of the fog” (the belief that adoption is unicorns and rainbows, flowers and sunshine) may or may not ever happen for any single adoptee. It takes a lot of work and understanding for the adoptee to realize they have these feelings and the process of getting to that point can be so painful, the adoptee may become paralyzed and not able to move further forward, at some point in that process.

And here is a note from the adoptee who started these thoughts that are my blog today – If you are an adoptive parent, no matter how you try, you can not normalize the experience of having been separated from the person’s original mother for them.

Never Too Young To Grieve

Today’s blog is courtesy of a Facebook post by Stacey Jackson Gagnon.

Have you seen a newborn grieve loss?

How about a 6 month old?

I didn’t recognize grief. Through all the years and all the foster babies that came through my home, I didn’t see it.

I never realized that a mother is not interchangeable; you cannot just change a known mother with an unknown one.

I guess I thought these babies were coming from such horrible circumstances, that they wouldn’t understand the loss; because in my mind, my home was a gain. They were gaining safety, love, attention,…I now understand that foster care and adoption begin with loss; the loss of the known.

I used to think that a foster baby coming into my home would not remember.

I was wrong.

While in the womb the child knows not any difference between mother and self; they are one. They are tasting, smelling, touching, hearing and seeing within the womb.

Upon birth, a separation occurs and what had once been a unified, indistinguishable source of life, is now separated. And suddenly there are things that prohibit the attention and care that had once been always present and never-ending. So the baby learns to express a need for this attention and care; they learn to cry. And the mother responds, and she is known…the baby knows her smell, her sound, her touch, her taste. All is remembered and well.

But then imagine, this mother is suddenly gone. It is now someone else’s face and eyes; someone else’s touch, smell and routine. The mother is gone and replaced by someone who is unknown.

All is not well. Where has the known mother gone? Why has she left me with this unknown?

I was the unknown mother and I didn’t recognize the grief.

I wish I had understood that every foster baby coming into my home was experiencing grief. No matter the circumstance of their removal, they were experiencing loss.

Grief is a normal response to the greatest loss.

I was an unknown mother. Every baby I held still remembered the known mother. Grief was not assuaged by my home, my family, my deeds, or my words…it was instead held in the space of shared daily moments.

And slowly over time I became known too. Babies remember.

The Adoptee’s Hero’s Journey

I’ve been aware of Joseph Campbell’s concept known as The Hero’s Journey for a long time and have seen it referenced in a variety of situations. As I was reading yet another perspective on this, an insight came to me. An adoptee’s search for their original parents (and if successful, even a reunion) is actually a kind of Hero’s Journey. Duh.

The hero’s journey is one of separation, initiation and return. It is a healing descent into the underworld (the unknown outcome) to recover something missing or lost, to restore a vital balance.

Its theme is that when faced with a kind of death struggle against titanic supernatural forces, the self can be triumphant. The self is reborn into a higher level of consciousness, maintaining access to the lower lever when appropriate. Because this lower level is transcended, a more powerful self can operate upon it in a way that appears magical to those still below.

So from my perspective, the titanic supernatural forces are the standard adoption narrative. When one comes out of the adoption fog (a belief in the story that separating mothers from their babies is somehow better for the baby than allowing the mother to raise her own child, bonded to her in the womb and wanting only her love), the woke person somehow touched by adoption somewhere in their life (not necessarily an adoptee themselves, as in my case), finds it is no longer possible to go back to the old perspective. It is possible however to go back to or continue to have an appreciation of the family one acquired by adoption, even though it would be unrealistic to expect those person’s acquired as “relatives” due to adoption to understand the new, higher level of understanding one has gained during their own journey.

“A more powerful self can operate upon it in a way that appears magical to those still below,” or even to someone such as myself, who accomplished identifying my own 4 original grandparents in only one year’s time and making new family genetic connections to an aunt and some cousins. Sometimes, I can hardly believe I did this. My own parents lived almost 80 years without accomplishing that for themselves (though my mom gave it a good, hard try). My parents died clueless and knowing what I know now, more’s the pity that they were robbed of the knowledge. I can only hope there is an afterlife and that both of my parents have reunited with their own natural parents there.

For me, a little success and the encouragement to go further from family and friends certainly helped to motivate me to stay on a determined course that did succeed.

You can read more about The Hero’s (or Heroine’s) Journey in this link.

Who Is Really To Blame ?

Most infants develop secure emotional attachments to their caregivers at an early age. This is often not the case for adoptees. Many infants show a healthy anxiety when their caregiver is absent, and they show relief when they’re reunited. Adoptees often do not respond that way and are labeled as having a disorder.

Some infants are not able to develop attachment disorders because they have been separated from the mother who gave birth to them. These babies are unable to bond with their adoptive parents and they struggle to develop any type of emotional attachment throughout their lives.

As they get older, they are often told that they are not grateful enough for having been adopted. Saying they have a disorder seems gentler than admitting they have trauma.

That first separation is where an adoptee first experiences a “CONFUSION” … and it takes hold of the rest of their lives.. if some adoptees have supportive adoptive parents, that’s better than not having that. Too many adoptive parents are seriously narcistic. Yet they somehow make it through adoption screening. If the truth were known, many of these “parents” should never have been allowed anywhere near children. One thinks, maybe when God made them infertile, God actually knew what she was doing. Some adoptive parents are tyrannical and rant and reprimand these children. They didn’t adopt a child for the child’s well-being but for their own gratification. Nothing an adoptee goes through as an adopted child is actually normal. No one should expect normal under the circumstances of an unnatural arrangement.

And where the adoptive parents were good, an adoptee can admit that. Know that they loved the adoptee but always felt like they didn’t belong in that family. The guilt is feeling like these “good people” deserved someone who loved them, the way they loved the adoptee. Guilt is a horrible weight to carry.

Often the original parents, or even more often the single mother, and the adoptee are experiencing a situation where, because our society doesn’t support families so they can stay together, there may not have been a lot of choices. And for the adoptee, they had no choice in the situation. Facing facts, they truth is that there are those who are profiting financially from this suffering that both mother and child have inflicted on them.

In the case of a single mother, if there had been “parents”, it may be that most newborn-adoptions would never have occurred. In the case of my maternal grandmother, she was married but for reasons I will never know, my mom’s father was nowhere to be found in the moment my grandmother needed him to be there for her the most.

Some adoptees were told as they grew up that they were a challenging baby, hard to console and sickly. Some adoptive parents then blame the birthmother and even make off hand remarks about the possibly she was using “substances”, or blaming the doctor for not recognizing whatever may have been a source of being sickly, like perhaps a milk intolerance. In times past, the adoption agency often handed a baby over to the adoptive parents several months old, 4.5 or 6 or 8 months old, without any written instructions about the baby’s routines.

An adoptee is left to deal with the fall-out. There is nothing they can do to change the past but it makes me incredibly sad to think about a baby, only looking for comfort and finding nothing but frustrated, ill prepared parents. This has a huge impact on that child’s life; and the impact can still have both bad and good effects. Like being able to survive less than ideal circumstances is a form of resilience.

When An Adoptee Becomes A Mother

Adoption is a lifelong process, and becoming a parent adds a layer of complexity as it causes adoptees to revisit, or consider for the first time, the losses that go along with adoption.

This can be surprising for adoptees that were comfortable with their family situation for a couple of decades.  I do remember (since both of my parents were adopted) that we had no medical history at the doctor’s office but we knew there was an explanation – adoption.

Adoption can be a delicate subject. The spectrum of the adoptee experience is vast, and the conversation often feels dominated by adoptive parents who have deeply ingrained fears about losing their child or children.  This is why I focus more on the adoptee and the original parents who usually have a diminished voice in society.

Feelings and issues are bound to come up when adoptees become parents themselves. Questions arise about family and cultural histories, medical concerns and the role of identity in the parenting experience. An adoptee frequently wonders, “Who am I, really?”

One adoptee shared this – “If there was a part of me that yearned for something – a hole that was difficult to fill – I didn’t connect that with being adopted. I struggled with anxiety and trust, and that worsened as I grew into adulthood. But I was certain I wanted to have biological kids — to create them, to grow them, to birth them. I didn’t know why I needed that, or why I was lonely and struggled to trust others. I just knew I needed to fill this hole, to find this missing piece.”

I have felt this with each of my three biological children – it is an emotional response when I see my baby for the first time, feeling a definite bond to that child. It is a tidal wave, taller and more powerful than falling in love. When an adoptee experiences this it is much more – like they had missed something their entire life but didn’t realized what it was until that moment.  The adoptee may even wonder if their mother felt something like that for them.  Or if she didn’t.  What did that say about their worthiness to be loved ?  I wonder if my adoptee mother had these sudden realizations.  She is deceased now and I can’t ask her about it.

An adoptee may struggle with how their own original mother could carry them for nine months and then simply let them go – permanently.

For many adoptee moms, this grief is new, something they don’t understand until they become pregnant themselves. New ways of thinking about their adoption often heighten the myriad emotions experienced during pregnancy and birth.

All adoption is rooted in trauma. Being separated from your original family, and from the woman who you grew inside of, is trauma. The baby does miss that heartbeat, that smell, that undeniable bond. For an adoptee during a pregnancy, it may feel quite novel to realize they are about to meet their very first blood relative.  Adoptees often experience an added layer of appreciation and gratitude for as well as an added connection to their children.

 

Our First Union

We seek love, because of that very first union we had with another person – our mother.  Of course, at birth, it was necessary for us to separate physically from her, in order to grow and develop further.  Even after birth, and more importantly still, if we are totally separated from her – taken away from her and given to a complete stranger (as in adoption) to raise us – very deep within us, we know her still.

In the womb, we heard her voice, experienced her emotions, tasted the foods she preferred flavoring the amniotic fluid that cushioned us from the blows of a harsh world.  We were ever intimately connected to all the interior sounds, her heartbeat and other organs functioning.  They say a pregnant woman is a totally different gender from the typical male/female divide.

Though we celebrate our mother’s love in May, the month of February is full of constant reminders of the importance of love.  We send Valentine’s to other people, even children do this as they celebrate the day in school and church.  We remember to tell people we love them.

Yesterday was my own mother’s birthday.  I lost her to death in 2015.  The years fly by so quickly.  Most years on her birthday, I called her up on the telephone and we would talk for a very long time.  During a difficult time in my life, I remember going into the darkened kitchen to cry alone in my deep despair.  Suddenly, she was there.  Her maternal sense knew I needed comforting.

My mom was taken away from her mother after a brief visit.  Her desperate mother was struggling to find a way to support the two of them.  The father (she was married) inexplicably did not answer when her cry of distress through the Juvenile Court in Memphis was issued.  I like to believe he didn’t get the message in time to prevent my mom from being taken from her own mother by exploitation and unbearable pressure (surrender your child or be declared unfit by my good friend the Juvenile Court judge said Georgia Tann, the master baby thief, to my grandmother).

Separating a child from their original mother causes deep wounds.  I grieve that our country cruelly does this to migrant children.  It is an abomination.  Truly.

Honoring My Grandmother

In 1916, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lou Stark was born to James Coleman and Mabel Irene Stark on this date in Eads Tennessee.  It is my understanding that her father was a difficult man and quite old when he began to have children.  Lizzie was the oldest and her nieces and nephews called her Aunt Lou.

It seems that her siblings and my grandmother each escaped their family home as soon as they could.  One can surmise that my grandmother chose the possible opportunities of the big city, Memphis, to her west.  There she would meet an older man who had become both widowed and had lost one of his children not long before.  Most likely he was attached to a big WPA project building a hospital in Memphis.

So they married but his children and the mother to whom he was devoted and who supported him by caring for one or more of his children caused his heart to remain in Arkansas.  For reasons I will never be able to explain, he left her in Memphis four months pregnant.  Whether it was considered an end or a temporary separation can never be known.

What I do know is that my grandmother was sent away to Virginia to give birth to my mom.  Most likely, she was an embarrassment pregnant with no husband in sight in a very conservatively Christian community.  I suspect she was supposed to leave my mom in Virginia but she could not.

I cannot believe she brought my mom back to Memphis with any intention of giving her up for adoption.  Juvenile Court records do show that she reached out for my mom’s father over in Arkansas but he did not respond.  In his defense, there began a Super Flood on the Mississippi River the month my mom was born.  Refugees poured into Memphis from Arkansas who bore some of the worst destruction.  My grandfather was out shoring up levees.

My grandmother found the going difficult in Memphis.  The people who had been supportive of her previously were suffering from charity fatigue.  In desperation, my grandmother sought temporary care for my mom in an amazing citadel of an orphanage with a storied history.  The superintendent there betrayed her to Georgia Tann who was a master at separating children from their natural parents.

After being given a no win choice (surrender your child or be declared unfit – a threat with teeth in it because the Juvenile Court Judge Camille Kelley was good friends with Tann), my grandmother tried to get my mom back 4 days later.  But Tann had a paying customer on her way from Arizona by train to pick my mom up and no way would the baby thief give my mom up.

Such a sad story.  She never had another child . . .

Love Isn’t Always On Time

Since I believe reality is never wrong, I know that my parents conception, birth, adoption, marriage, parenting was all just as it was meant to be.  No one escapes this Life without wounds and some are more wounded than others but we were not promised a rose garden when we agreed to spend some time incarnated upon this planet.

So the romantic relationships and/or marriages that conceived my parents were not wrong.  I do believe my grandparents all loved one another.  The Great Depression and a lack of social safety nets certainly played it’s role in separating my grandparents and in separating their children from them.

In learning about my true, genetic roots, one of my joys has been to discover that every one of my grandparents eventually found a lasting love with someone else.  Every one of them remarried and stayed married until death.

So in a bizarre paradoxical way, I accept that all the sadness and grief were somehow necessary for me to be conceived.  It was also necessary for the souls of my grandparents to learn and grow into better people who could find love and stay married after their early failures.

Love.  It is what we are here to do.