Fairy Tales

Today’s story – I have been trying to become a mom for four years. I have had four miscarriages, five IVF cycles and more surgeries than I care to count, and I just keep getting older. As I come to grips with the likelihood that my husband and I may not be able to have biological children, I thought that adoption could be a beautiful way to have a family, but I definitely don’t want anyone to be exploited or hurt as a result.

An honest response – I am sorry for your loss suffering from infertility. I’m sorry the adoption industry preys upon your grief and got your hopes up about adoption being some kind of beautiful alternative to having your own child. I’m certain you didn’t mean to be self-centered about it. You’re just trying to work through it. You have been told adoption could soothe your pain.

Unfortunately the sweet serendipitous miracle situation you hope for is the same as 40+ other couples desire. You all want a guilt free, uncomplicated scenario. That’s the fairy tale the adoption industry would like to sell you. But it is inherently extremely complicated and painful for children who are used this way. There is no way around it. Obtaining a stranger’s kid will not fix the hole left in your heart from infertility. I’m so sorry.

It Is About More Than That

In my all things adoption group, a woman writes –

Let’s talk about “playing the victim”. I see this come up a lot in this group when adoptees and former fostercare youth are talking about their trauma. I can only speak for myself, but I’d like to explain why this is so bothersome.

This is a group about the realities of adoption. Our conversations are often about adoption. I talk about my adoption trauma a lot in this group. Why? Because it’s relevant to the conversation. The conversations I have in this group are not reflective of the conversations I have elsewhere in my life. This group is only a sliver of my life.

I have trauma from being adopted. I suffer from mental illness. I’ve been diagnosed with BPD (* see below). I don’t blame all of my struggles on being adopted. I can’t say for certain that it is the root of all my problems. But I also can’t separate it. I was relinquished as a newborn. This trauma has always been here. It is a part of the other problems. It is a part of me. But it’s not all of me.

* Note – BPD – Borderline Personality Disorder is a condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. This means that people who experience BPD feel emotions intensely and for extended periods of time, and it is harder for them to return to a stable baseline after an emotionally triggering event.

I have trauma from being adopted but I have privilege in other areas of my life. I’m very fortunate to be where I am today. I’ve met many roadblocks as a result of being an adoptee, but I’ve overcome many of them. I’ve made mistakes and suffered the consequences of those mistakes, but I own them. I don’t blame others for my actions.

Being adopted comes with trauma. Being adopted has legal implications that can make things difficult. In a group about facing the realities of adoption, I don’t think it’s “playing the victim” to acknowledge the hard things. You have no idea how anyone has lived their life. We are simply sharing experiences that are relevant to the purpose of this group.

What Would You Expect Me To Do?

Overheard somewhere in America – “What are people supposed to do who can’t have kids biologically? Suffer and never adopt a baby?”

Uh, yes, that is not a reason to adopt. They should go to therapy and learn to manage their grief. Then, they will not be suffering anymore.

Your infertility isn’t an excuse to cause another human trauma and grief. You should find a way to pour your desire into kids without taking them away from their parents.

Adopt a dog or other pet if you want to love and take care of something.

DWI – Deal With It.

Figure out who you are without kids. Plenty of people don’t procreate. Find other things to enjoy. Travel. Etc. 

Understand that a baby, yours or someone else’s, isn’t the solution to your problems.

This societal narrative that people have to have kids to be fulfilled needs to change. There are infinite ways one can find fulfillment!

Wanting a child is a natural desire. But taking a child away from the biological mother and brushing away its name and environment is trauma. Adoption is not an option.

The beginning and end of you as a person doesn’t come down to your reproductive organs. 

Society as a whole needs to unpack the stigma around not having children. For EVERYONE, including fertile people who simply don’t want to procreate, including people who wanted kids but couldn’t have them. We shouldn’t attach so much grief to not having children. You don’t have kids? Find another purpose. Find other passions.

There are the parents who say you’re selfish for not giving them grandchildren. The random strangers in public saying you make such a cute couple. 

Literally – no one has ever died because they didn’t have a child. If your happiness is dependent on another person or on that baby you wish you could have, that’s a major problem. No one else can truly bring you happiness, you have to find that within your own self. Your self worth is not determined by others. If you think it is, that’s not mentally or emotionally healthy.

This really comes down to the mythical elevation of the 2 parent nuclear family with children as the only acceptable family structure and the breakdown of the village/extended family connections. We need to make room for everyone at the table, special friends, aunties, uncles, cousins. The next deeper question is, if I am not part of a family unit with children, what is my place in society? Do I get to be part of a family? That’s real inclusiveness.

Parenting is not a right.

Second Choice

“Trigger Warning – Miscarriage”

I have a fear of a baby I adopt growing up feeling like my second choice…I have had five miscarriages in a row, most second trimester where I had to birth a baby that was no longer alive. We want a baby so badly, and I think, if God allows us to adopt, that I will look back on this time as “the broken road, that led me to our child” but (if I’m honest) I would give anything to birth a live baby instead. Is it wrong to adopt, when you still wish you could carry and deliver your baby ? I don’t want my possible future child to feel like they were a second choice (but isn’t that how most moms usually come into adoption?) I want a live baby so much.

As one begins to learn about how adoptees feel and think, one learns that there is no getting beyond this if the adoptive mother experienced miscarriages or infertility first. The adoptee will always know deep down in their heart that they were a second choice regarding motherhood.

For hopeful adoptive parents who have experienced miscarriage or infertility, it is always recommended that they seek counseling first before moving on to trying to adopt, to at least resolve these issues clearly within their own selves. This will not prevent an adoptee from feeling this however.

Religious beliefs are too often tied in with adoption and the necessity of raising children. I’m not surprised that one commenter quickly asked – Why is it God ? (“if God allows us to adopt”) So many of these people are the first ones to tell others that whatever bad thing happened to you, wouldn’t have happened, if you’d made better choices or how God gave us freedom of choice, so take responsibility for our own actions – yet when it comes to something many Christians want -suddenly, it’s all about God’s will and God making it happen. I don’t know, maybe that’s so if it all goes to shit, they can blame that on God too, or say they were confused ?

Taking that a step further ? So odd when someone makes those miscarriages “God’s way to make them suffer, so they end up with someone else’s baby that they will always resent the reason for.” People twist situations to suit their beliefs and biases. To be clear, it’s wrong to adopt, when you have your own trauma consuming you. Deal with that first.

An acknowledged Christian makes these points – The Bible is in favor of caring for ORPHANS, which has a very limited definition. It doesn’t say to adopt or even to foster. The actual biblical definition of adoption is welcoming a new person into the family of God. Which can be done without actually adopting them. It can definitely be done without the next step of changing their name. The Bible places a high premium on lineage in the first testament. This is a pet peeve for this Christian. When people who have obviously never studied relevant passages to defend their decision to rip families apart, or keep them apart.

I do see the reality in this different perspective –  at least she’s honest about adoption being her second choice. She is not pretending. As an adoptee, I can deal with the truth a lot easier than the lies adoptive parents tell themselves to convince themselves to feel better about it. Then, they project that onto their kids…”we chose you”, “you were our plan all along”. It’s all BS. At least, she is owning her selfishness before, whether she continues to admit it once she adopts, is another matter altogether.

I’m not adopted, so maybe that’s why I feel more pity here than anger. I feel for her because her loss is obviously weighing on her mental state. Even so, she shouldn’t consider adoption until she’s healed her own traumas. I couldn’t imagine giving birth and seeing a lifeless baby. I don’t think I’d want to adopt or try again, personally. It is clear that she REALLY wants to be a mother, but to be a mother is to be selfless. It’s to put your wants in second and sometimes 3rd place, it’s long nights, it’s about the child and I don’t think she’s realized that yet. A child separated from their biological family NEEDS stability and more. This woman doesn’t seem stable.

And I agree with this assessment – she is deep in the trenches of her grief, and should not consider any further action until she seeks help with that. If she was to do the work and heal from her tragic losses – she may even see that she don’t want a baby as bad as she wants the babies she has lost. No baby or child, be it adopted or birthed by her, will fill that deep void.

No Answers

I have a friend with a similar problem to today’s story. Her daughter is not adopted. Her situation is as complex but not as fraught – perhaps. Unless we have the experience our self, we really can’t judge how someone else copes or not with the challenges of their life. I have no answers or even ideas for this one, only empathy and compassion for the whole situation. Though an adoption problem is mentioned at the beginning of this piece, it isn’t clear that the daughter is adopted but she may very well be. Adoptees often (though not all) have relationship issues.

“We dissolved the adoption of our son 5 years ago.”

“We currently have a daughter in a private residential treatment center. She is beginning to own her problems and making an attempt to work on her life, maybe 5% of the time. The staff says they see improvement, we have seen very little, if any, plus her usual tactic is to put forth just enough effort to get you off her back but then regress severely. I have zero faith that the effort they see is going to be genuine, granted she has never had full support 24/7 when she would achieve these moments of trying to cooperate before, so maybe this time is different. Anyway, staff is telling us we need to give her the benefit of the doubt. ‘She is beginning to see that there is a better way to work through her trauma, but doesn’t fully believe she has what it takes. She needs to see you believe in her, that you think she can do it.’ This came after we cut a phone call short because she refused to engage. Kinda like a smack on the wrist.”

“Her program has periodic 10 day home visits and one is coming up the end of this month. To say I am dreading it, is putting it mildly. She causes chaos and pain at every turn and I am the one stuck with her for the whole 10 days. I am really struggling with the ‘Trust her more,’ issue. I don’t trust her one bit. She has stabbed me in the back, figuratively, so many times over the years when I gave her one bit of trust.”

“It feels to me like my daughter is all that matters, no matter what she does to our family, her siblings suffer too, we are to put that behind us and give her the benefit of the doubt. I have always had issues with healthy boundaries and am actively working on that area. This issue feels like I am to push all that aside because my daughter’s life matters more.”

She posted this in an adoption disruption group. She felt the members would understand her point of view. Many of them have shared stories about their challenges and know all about the trauma and grief these children bring into a family.

The woman goes on to write – “I want to love her, but she makes it incredibly hard to do so. My question is, how do you stay emotionally healthy when you feel as though your needs don’t matter? Are you to ignore your own needs, while giving a child who has destroyed so much, the benefit of the doubt? How do you begin to process it? I crashed emotionally on April 1st because I know this is the month for her next home visit…I can’t keep reacting this way.”

A Disconnect

I’ve been reading about infant development lately in a book titled Healing the Split – Integrating Spirit Into Our Understanding of the Mentally Ill by John E Nelson MD. I often reflect on my own mothering of my daughter at the age of 19. Though the love was never lacking, I was not as good of a mother for her as I might have been, had I know how to be a good mother.

I believe some of that comes of the slight disconnect in my own parents as regards their parenting of us. It is not their fault, they were both adopted. Oh, they were good parents, not abusive, and we knew they loved us but there was something missing in them and it affected their parenting of us.

What was missing in my parents were their natural mothers, who carried them in their wombs and gave birth to them, may have breastfed them. I know that was true with my dad. I don’t have a record of that for my mom. She was taken to an orphanage for temporary care by her own financially desperate mother and put on a formula. My dad was allowed to stay with his mother and continue to nurse for some months as he accompanied her when she was employed by the Salvation Army, through who’s home for unwed mothers she had given birth to him.

I was reflecting on this as I sat out on the deck overlooking the field at my writer’s retreat. I was bundled up in a cozy jacket as the temperature is not more than the mid-30s and drinking warm tea.

I was thinking about how my mom took my bottle from me at 13 months to give to my newborn younger sister. My mom intended no harm, she didn’t know better. We can’t do better than we know how.

So, as I was drinking the warm tea, I imagined mothering myself. I imagined being warm and cozy in the soft embrace of my mother, drinking in the warm, nourishing liquid.

In that moment, I forgave my mom and had to extend that forgiveness to myself. I can acknowledge that I might have done better if I had know how to do better and in realizing that, I can acknowledge that my own mother would have done better had she known how to do better.

My late life sons (born when I was 47 and 50 years old) have benefitted from having a better mother in me. Certainly, I did have previous experience when the first boy was born and I had a huge amount of support from my in-laws who came every day for the first 4 months and only stopped when my husband begged me to ask them to back off.

My husband was always a good and nurturing co-parent as he did not become a father until he was personally ready to commit to that responsibility. When the second boy was born, he doubled down on the attention he gave the older boy, that he suffer less from the loss of attention of his mother, due to a newborn in the house.

It was a situation that I had to rectify when the younger boy was about 2 or 3 and the older one about 6 as he was acting out a lot to get my attention. With sufficient attention from me, that behavior quickly ceased and the younger boy benefitted from having more dad time.

Hindsight doesn’t replace ignorance but ignorance is not willful neglect.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Not to mention the maternal mortality rate in the US. Why do I have to put my body and life at risk. And it’s ESPECIALLY high for women of color.

Forcing women to breed (this word is deliberate) is so disgusting!!! We are not livestock! What happens in any womb except your own should be of exactly zero concern to you!!!

A woman should be allowed to CHOOSE adoption — armed with all of the information she can possibly have at her disposal. She should be allowed to CHOOSE adoption with the support she needs to parent her baby.

It should never be coerced or forced. Adoption agencies have a stake in taking her baby for adoption because they receive money from the adoptive parents for her child. This leads to coercive tactics which entirely remove her choice in the matter.

Or what about a woman whose choice is raising a child in poverty and being told she’s a terrible mother and that the child’s better off with someone else? Not really much of a choice, is it?

So I believe in the CHOICE, but that in order to make any choice about this matter, we must be fully informed on what’s happening and given all options possible. Most women who surrender a child to adoption regret their decision, or wish they had been given the choice to parent.

The money adoptive parents spend to take a child from its natural mother could better be used to help support that mother in caring for her child. Then, the child’s identity doesn’t need to be altered in order to support the needs of the adoptive parents (because that doesn’t provide for the needs of the child or natural parents, only the adoptive parents).

Very few women giving their child up for adoption really have a choice. There is a TON of coercion in adoption, not to mention the mother child separation trauma an adoptee will have to deal with the rest of their lives.

Regarding abortion – a group of cells will not survive outside the human that is hosting them. There’s no killing of any healthy baby, ever, in most abortions. Every person who has a late term abortion (which is the only time it’s possible to kill an actual baby) has it done to protect their own life or save the baby from a horrendous existence. If the woman’s doctor must know the baby will not survive long and will not suffer while dying, or that doctor would not perform a late term abortion. It’s literally not possible to kill something that doesn’t exist.

Here’s one adoptee’s story – I’m not only an adoptee but a former foster youth. I was adopted when I was 3. All my life I’ve never felt a connection with my adoptive mother, like I see my friends have with their moms. When I was younger I think I did (but have no memories from childhood). As I got older, any connection I may have had has faded. Sometimes her presence makes me angry or even how she talks or does things. I feel bad that I feel this way. I do have love for her but I don’t know … I just don’t feel that connection that everyone else does with their mother.

Adoption is generally not a good solution for most of the people involved, even the adoptive parents suffer in many cases.

The Wounds and Heartbreak of Adoption

In truth, we have to integrate our wounds into our understanding of who we are and what we are really capable of so that we can be whole human beings.  Only from there can we begin the process of healing the brokenness, the broken-heartedness within ourselves that is then the foundation for beginning to heal that in our larger society.
~ Rev Angel Kyodo Williams, Radical Dharma

Many adoptees seek a reunion with their original families to heal the woundedness and heartbreak of being abandoned (the adoptees’ perspective) by their original parents. If it goes well, it goes a long way toward healing those wounds. If it goes badly, the wound becomes further infected unless the adoptee can somehow reflect upon the disappointing experience to find wholeness within their own self.

An adoptee may ask –

When do I get good enough so that my despair goes away ?

Who will love me enough when they see who I really am ?

The shadows and vague memories of what happened to me are hard to sit with. Why do I keep running everyone away ?

Will I suffocate in the silence of my lack of identity, my lack of knowing the origins of my birth ?

What use does crying my tears really do for this pain in my heart ?

Systems of power and abuse depend upon not acknowledging the suffering they cause.  The rainbows and unicorns version of all the good adoption does fails to acknowledge the suffering that the adoptee experiences and the suffering the mother who gives up her child carries the rest of her lifetime.  Often that suffering is so painful, the mother will reject her child, who is only seeking to reconnect with her, because the mother fears being rejected by her child, when her child knows the reality of the mother that gave birth to her.

It is a horrendous cycle of unending suffering in many cases.  My heart breaks for the reality.  And I really don’t have answers, only empathy and compassion for the entire situation.

Am I capable of enduring suffering, facing martyrdom ?
And alone ?
Again the long loneliness to be faced.
~ Dorothy Day

Help Rather Than Hinder

So you are preparing to adopt a child.  You may feel uncomfortable, protective, or defensive about the reality of your child’s pre-adoption loss of the first family.

“The moment the subject of the adoptee’s woundedness and loss comes up, it’s like a shield goes up and they can’t hear a word you say,” Jayne Schooler, adoption professional and author.

It’s painful to enter into your child’s suffering.  It’s so much easier to assume that all is well inside your child, especially if she hasn’t manifested any obvious problems.

The first thing your child wants you to know is this: I am a grieving child.  I came to you because of loss—one that was not your fault and that you can’t erase.

Present circumstances can trigger unresolved loss for an adopted child.  They can and do mourn the mother who carried them for nine months in her womb, whose face they never saw, and whose heartbeat was their original source of security.

Most adoptive parents, instead of helping their child to grieve the loss and find closure, deny his past losses and romanticize his adoption.  Denying loss and failing to grieve can keep parents and children at arms’ length instead of in a healthy, invested relationship.

Webster’s defines romanticism as “imbued with or dominated by idealism; fanciful; impractical; unrealistic; starry-eyed, dreamy; head-in-the-clouds; out of touch with reality.”

Could it be that you have unknowingly been an adoption romanticist all these years ?

The best thing you can do to help your child is to grieve your own losses which may have occurred prior to adoption—losses such as infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, or death—and to let yourself feel sad for your child’s losses and your inability to protect him from whatever happened to him prior to joining your family.

Thanks to Sherrie Eldridge for expressing these thoughts that I have excerpted for today’s blog.  You can find her thoughts here – https://sherrieeldridgeadoption.blog/.

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.