Using Detachment To Make Space

Adoption trauma refers to the shock and pain of being permanently and abruptly separated from biological family members and can affect both the birth parent and the child who is being adopted, given the circumstances of the separation. We now know that a child’s attachment to her mother starts in the womb, so even a child adopted at birth can experience severe attachment disruption later on in life. A friend was recently expounding on attachment and it seemed like some worthy thoughts to put in this blog.

She writes – Had a conversation recently with a loved one about loss, trauma, wounds, living in a bubble where the sense of belonging is not clear. When we lose loved ones, for example, due to death or breakups, when we are rejected, or misunderstandings separate you from people who are important to you – places where there is lack of warmth, lack of connection, a kind of coldness and cruelty that is hard to put in words and if you do put into words, you look weak – it is embarrassing, humiliating – further you go into the wound, building a fence around you made of loss, confusion, distorted or loss in sense of purpose, aloneness, pain, trauma, rejection, grief, loss of control. You can create narratives that preach positivity and strength but the heart is wounded, the heart has a stab pain, bleeding your life away, whispers in your inner ear of why you are not good enough – if only you were this or that..then maybe it would be alright. What can you do? A silent rage covers the wound, like a thin skin to help you function. A fight for your life that feel a fight in a dark room with no light in sight.

Then the idea “don’t be attached” sounds like more abuse, more alone, squeezing the heart tighter, as if trying to end what you are, your life. “Don’t be attached” feels like more of a stab. Abandoning yourself, your hopes. Hearing the word detachment can feel shattering. ..that as bad as you feel, now, don’t be attached.

Don’t be attached doesn’t mean withdraw from love, hope, from what you care or cared about. Particularly not withdrawing from the part of you that hurts. Not being attached is to draw closer to the hurt parts, abandoned parts, wounded parts. Not being attached is separating your self from the *story*, situations, to change the focus from the situation to the wounds to learn from them what you need to, to take time to transform into a newer version of yourself that has yet to be embraced and has navigated billions of hurts and disappointments, sometimes flat out rejections and absolute betrayals and abandonments, some that go very deep. The deep wound can cause even the lightest slights to feel exaggerated. We become sensitive to how the wind is blowing. We haven’t embraced our pain fully enough to heal. Everything that brings that pain to the surface or creates those feelings, it is a chance to embrace the wounded part, look at it, reason through, let others off the hook for a time, look at yourself, the wound, be alone with yourself, giving yourself time to heal. Otherwise, we might not sense when we are in relationships with people that abandon, hurt, reject – – because we haven’t yet developed a healthy one with the wounds we carry – using that as proof over and again that we are not worthy of more or pursue it, or even how…where.

Detachment is a short term method to make space to see yourself differently, to tend to your wounds properly, to love yourself rightly, to see things thorough and to come to terms once and for all – help yourself, gently, so we can evolve beyond the wounds.

**I do also consider there possibly being a radical process to detachment. A leap – as if off a cliff into a void, another world – where if you could do it – as if die to what you are – you would open to a world you had no idea is there, that you have only been seeing your thoughts and hardly reflecting anything at all but those thoughts – not reality. I imagine a Remembering, a rejoining with something exciting and pure. Personally, I find the idea and concept curious, the thought intriguing, and at times dwell on getting beyond idea and thoughts and wonder if there is another world..maybe a real world, reflected from a free conscience, a surprise, beyond *your* mind.

She ends it with this advice – Think about that then turn and say something silly and reveal your human flaws and personal prejudices. Even though your mind is there, inching in miles toward a leap.

Never The Priority

From an Adoptee:

Do other adoptees feel as though they have never been a priority ? I struggle to explain it. Often it feels like I am just in the background of the lives of the people I love. Sometimes it feels like I am a tool they use to make their lives better. It rarely feels like people choose to be in my life for me. I can’t be the only one.

And she is NOT.

From another adoptee –  I feel like a ghost, an echo, invisible. It’s as if I am tolerated, even enjoyed sometimes, but not sought out or after. It is hard to explain.

And another – My whole life is basically me being used in one way or another. Even my closest friends mostly only call me when there’s a problem for me to solve. I guess that’s what I get for learning how to be the problem solver, because I learned early that I have only myself to rely on, while others have loving family to support them.

Yet another – Totally get that feeling. I’m in my 30s and still struggling. Except the way I’ve always felt with my family, my in laws, and definitely my biological family is the black sheep of every family. I really don’t feel like I belong anywhere.

And this – Only after I found out I was adopted did I start feeling like this. I question so many aspects of my life thanks to my adoptive mother and her controlling ways, I got so sick and tired of people defending her, saying she did it because she didn’t want to hurt me. As much as I hate to speak ill of the dead and given how much I loved her, (she died when I was 11, I didn’t learn the truth until I was 17) I can’t help but resent her and sometimes hate her because I feel like I was some sort of possession or weapon to be used against my biological mother. It’s a long and painful story to be honest, my family is pretty damn toxic, maybe I’ll be able to put it all into words one day, but right now…I just feel too much anger and resentment to be able to do so.

Another example –  I never felt like I wasn’t a priority to my adoptive parents with to their own biological children, I wasn’t accepted. I’m older now and it’s even more apparent the last 15 years. My adoptive parents adopted 5 kids in total and their biological children didn’t want anything to do with any of us. Always shunned us out. Even now, they never want us around their kids etc. It’s sad. I think they were jealous in some way. But I always felt like I did something wrong or I wasn’t good enough. Rejection trauma hurts.

This response is all too common (my mom was like that and passed it down to us girls) – I think my insecure attachment led to this. I am such a people pleaser and I tend to hide my emotions, so I’m not ‘a burden’. I’m deep down scared that if I act in or feel a way that others don’t approve of, people with leave me. With therapy, it’s gotten a lot better but my first instinct will probably always be to fawn. Another agreed – I think part of it is my people pleasing nature, I let people walk all over me and put my own stuff aside.

As the child of two adoptee parents, who now knows what my parents didn’t, who our original families were, this has been my experience too and on some level I understand – I don’t share life history with these people, it feels more like an accident of my parents’ birth – “I am a part of 4 different families. After finding my biologicals, I still don’t “fit” anywhere. It’s not at all a negative reunion story, I just don’t fully belong,” and that includes my adoptive relations. It has been the surprising downside of learning our truth.

Another adoptee perspective – I rarely even prioritize myself. I find more value in those around me than myself and feel I’m wasting time when I focus on me. I end up thinking that’s probably how others view me too. I’m also not sure what being a priority would look/feel like… I question if I’d recognize it or accept it, even if it were happening.

It is so universal, the wounds are deep and it never seems to get better – Even when I can look at how someone is treating me and can logically tell that I’m valued and a priority, I still don’t feel it. For me I think that it comes from feeling like an outsider in my family, I’m always waiting for the rejection.

I feel like I have to be super helpful just to get recognition that I’m a good person. It’s screwed up. I don’t feel good enough or worthy, even though I know I am… I still do these things to feel noticed and wanted.

Finally this admission – I am a reunited adoptee, very much integrated into my birth family. I was raised the youngest of four adopted children in a family that contentiously broke up when I was three. I was left out so many times in adopted family and am now having the experience of feeling excluded from something in my birth family. It has totally triggered my abandonment issues. The fact that I generally feel left out and am often alone, in general, with friends and family. Once again, I turn to forgiving others for not being who I wanted them to be and forgiving myself for wanting them to be people they are not. It’s tiring though. 

Changing Identity

Difference 100% Mindset

“You can’t go back and change the beginning,
but you can start where you are and change the ending.”
~ C S Lewis

How Changing My Self-Identification Saved My Life

Growing up adopted by a white American family and living in a predominantly white community was difficult for me because I never felt like I fit in, or belonged. I faced racism and bullying pretty much as long as I can remember. I was led to believe I was ugly, unwanted, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness. I was like a chameleon almost my entire life, an expert at not standing out, not making any waves, always shying away from confrontation and always making up stories about who I was. I was a master at being “unseen.” Until I hit a roadblock about 5 years ago. I began to experience inner turmoil, depression, anxiety – all results of my identity crisis.

I felt stuck mentally, and physically, I was immobilized. I was unable to go to work, be social with friends and family, and I wasn’t able to take care of things like food shopping, laundry, or any sort of self care. The only thing I could handle doing was going to therapy so that’s what I did. Obviously, I wanted to find a way to feel unstuck and begin to get my life back together. But I knew that because I didn’t know my whole story, I had made one up in my own head.

This story I was telling myself was that I was unlovable, unworthy of happiness, and broken. That was the old story I kept playing over and over in my mind. That story wasn’t completely accurate, it wasn’t empowering, it does not serve me in any useful way now, and it definitely did not have to stop me from living my best life. In order to get my life back and be the person I wanted to be, I had to become really self aware of why my old self identity was holding me back in life.

My old identity was someone who was broken, unlovable, and unworthy of happiness.

The person I wanted to be was free, confident, healthy, happy, lovable, successful…and a badass!

So what was the secret to making my transformation? It was 100% mindset.

I had to literally imagine my old self was dying in order for me to allow the change to happen. I didn’t wait until I got my dream job, got my social life back, or find someone to love me to be happy. The actions and behaviors I took were as if I was already that person I always wanted to be. I learned to take small steps, enjoy my journey, be grateful, and be happy along the way. I visualized my new self every single day. I am confident. I am healthy. I am loved. I am happy. I am worthy. I am a mf badass!!

I am sharing my story with you because someone out there may resonate with it. If that’s you, then just remember you can do it because YOU ARE WORTH IT!! Have an amazing day and remember, you have the power to change your identity anytime you want, starting now. Thank you for reading this and letting me be completely honest and vulnerable.

My Past Does Not Dictate My Future

I was very sad to learn that this kind of governmental judgement takes place.

“I was adopted into a foster home in the 80’s. My babies were just taken from me and are being adopted out. I keep hearing how they will be fine and have great lives and how they won’t experience the same life I have had.”

The first commenter acknowledged – “Sadly Child Protective Services does think that if you grew up in the system, you will not be good enough to be a parent.”

Yet another put forth a different perspective –

I am a former foster care youth that aged out of the system and became a foster parent. It is a lot of hard work to be a parent, especially a parent with trauma. It is something I am aware of and ‘show up and work on every day!’ But that doesn’t mean that we will not be good enough to be good parents or can’t be good parents. Does it mean we have to work harder and be aware that we have trauma that a lot of people don’t?! Yes! But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t incapable, it just means we actively work every day to be different then the generations before us! Child Protective Services asked me very extensively about my past and trauma, and I had to prove in a lot of ways how I have worked on it and that I am aware of it and continue to be aware of it. And work on my trauma and triggers as they arise. Now that doesn’t mean that former foster care youth and other people with trauma aren’t at higher risk for having Child Protective Services involved or their children removed. Because unfortunately, many of the kids I grew up with in the foster system are still in some way involved in the system or dead, it is a hard trauma to break out of. But honestly I feel like a lot of that, comes from the fact that everyone in my life, told me I would never be any better than my parents, or better then my genetics. We need to start telling these children with trauma that our pasts do not dictate our futures, we get to control them. We get to be better. And we need to help them do that. Before their inner voice turns into this message of ‘I’ll never be good enough, so why try to be better?’.

It is a tough world out there for a lot of people. Not every one has the same experience. Here is one that turned out “better” than “worse,” and still . . .

After finding my biological family and meeting my sisters, I definitely had the better life (theirs was full of switching homes, being raised by different people, drugs and addictions, and poverty). I was raised as an only child and had college paid for by my adoptive parents – up to my masters degree. They also helped me and my husband buy our house. Does adoption still affect me? Heck yeah it does. I have horrific abandonment issues, anxiety and depression.

This experience is also VERY COMMON among adoptees –

I was adopted at birth. My adoptive parents were great, and I didn’t deal with a lot of the issues I’ve seen mentioned by other adoptees (favoritism, neglect, abuse, doing the bare minimum, etc) I love them very much and consider them my parents. I would imagine my childhood is what most adoptive parents think they will provide, and birth moms think they’re giving their child up to.

But I still have always had this very deep sense of not belonging or fitting in anywhere. Feeling that everyone will leave me, I can never be good enough. I don’t ever feel “home”. I always thought there was something wrong with me, and despite my best intentions or efforts I still just couldn’t do it “right”.

And I do agree with this person –

I was adopted into an amazing family, always loved and cared for. Had a good life and am a privileged adult. I have a good relationship with my biological family too. However, I despise adoption. It affected me in negative ways regardless of my “good” adoptive family and upbringing. It also has the ability to greatly affect our children and future generations. The trauma gets passed down. Nothing about adoption is ok. It should be a crime to separate families simply because there is money to be made from a demand greater than a supply. We need to overhaul our system so that adoption is nearly non-existent, like it is in other countries.

The outcomes are always unique and individual. No need to not all or even so –

I was adopted within a year of my birth. I had crappy adoptive parents. My life became significantly better after I was kicked out. I worked extremely hard to pay my way through college and live on my own. Life got even better when they stopped talking to me permanently. My biological kids are amazing and so is my marriage. However, I still sit and wait, expecting it to all fall apart. I don’t feel deserving.

One last perspective –

I was adopted at birth and have felt “lost” my whole life – empty – and have struggled. I’ve never felt complete and have always had bonding issues even with my own children. It’s like I love mentally but emotionally it’s a struggle to feel. If that makes sense. I’ve went through years of counseling, when I was in my 40s. I’ve worked my DNA, so I know who all my people are. I have a good relationship with my birth dad and some biological siblings and I now feel complete. But the love side of me, the connection…. I still don’t have it and probably never will.

I have often described my own adoptee parents (yes, both were adopted) as “good” parents but strangely detached. I blame adoption for that.

My Parents Didn’t Want Me

From an adoptee –

The adopted child will never feel like they weren’t abandoned, will never feel good enough, will never feel fully part of your world. We are told to be grateful when all we feel is pain, so are we grateful for pain ? This sets up expectations within every single future relationship we will ever have. It never goes away. We have to learn how to deal with it and cope in a world that doesn’t recognize or understand the pain of “my parents didn’t want me”.

Of course, I can’t or wouldn’t pretend to speak for EVERY adopted person but I’ve seen this so often that I know it is an all too common feeling – especially if the adopted person was never given any context as the foundation for having been adopted.

Feelings of loss and rejection are often accompanied by a damaged sense of self esteem. There is an understandable tendency to think that “something must be wrong with me for my birth parents to have give me away.” It must be understood that these feelings and thoughts are unrelated to the amount of love and support received from the adoptive parents and family.

Adoption trauma refers to the shock and pain of being permanently and abruptly separated from biological family members and can affect both the birth parent and the child who is being adopted, given the circumstances of the separation. The level of emotional and mental difficulty, as well as the long-term impact of adoption trauma, varies depending on the child’s age, maturity level, and other circumstances involved in the adoption.

The person who has been adopted, even if now living in a loving and stable home, has lost their birth parents as well as a sense of being biologically linked to other family members. The individual’s sense of loss may not be acknowledged or may be downplayed. 

Feeling abandoned early in life can lead to attachment issues in adults who have been adopted. Those early social experiences, including loss and rejection, create individual differences in security, which shape relational attitudes and behaviors. Being adopted may be associated with a sense of having been rejected or abandoned by birth parents, and of ‘‘not belonging.’’ Adoption may be linked with perceptions that the individual is unworthy of love and attention or that other people are unavailable, uncaring, and rejecting.

Adult adoptees often feel hurt that their birth parents did not or could not raise them. Hurt that their sense of self was harder to obtain. Hurt that they, to this day, feel different or outcast. Both happiness and sadness can be felt together. Asking an adoptee if he or she is “happy” with his or her adoption journey is a double-edged sword, for adoption is not possible without loss. And with loss comes sadness. They may feel angry that they do not know the truth of their identity.

Many adoptees find it difficult to express the hurt and loss they feel, for fear of upsetting their adoptive parents. While this emotional withholding is unintentional, it creates feelings of isolation. Feelings that often continue into adulthood. Sometimes, love and loneliness go hand in hand. Being loved is wondrous, but it doesn’t prevent loneliness.

A reluctance to discuss the adoption reinforces the idea that adoption is some really negative condition. Therefore, either the birth parents were horrible, unfeeling people, or that the adoptee was somehow so undesirable that the birth parents could not bear to keep him/her. An adoptee is often told that only the adoption agency/adoptive parents saved the child’s life by rescuing him/her. Given the alternative between a self-concept of being undesirable or a projected concept of birth parents as unloving and unfit, most individuals choose the latter.

For a baby being adopted, there is no getting around the fact that this infant must make an abrupt shift in bonding, whether it happens at birth, at three days, or at six months. How that is interpreted to the child, and by the child, and for the rest of his/her life, matters. Tt is ludicrous to say that adoptees have no different issues in life than do those who are not adopted, whether adopted at birth or sometime later, such as through the foster care system. It is not correct or helpful to portray adoptees as “lucky” to be adopted by wonderful adoptive parents. This puts an incredible burden on the adoptee to feel grateful to the adoptive parents, and/or the adoption system, It is a burden not put upon non-adopted people.

The idea that the adoptee was abandoned and rejected by birth parents and rescued by adoptive parents reinforces expectations and perceptions concerning all parties in an adoption, adoptees, adoptive parents, and too often in the industry, discounts the birth parents’ feelings and continued existence. Is it possible to find a more positive way of dealing with life’s experiences, including being adopted, having to relinquish a child, losing a pregnancy, adopting a child, or having a relationship not turn out the way we had hoped ? As a society, we continue to search for the appropriate balance regarding these kinds of experiences.

Accepting Reality

. . . really ought to be accepted.  An adoptive mother writes, “My hearts desire was to be a Mom. If I could have carried and delivered a biological child, my health insurance would have picked up most of the cost. I certainly couldn’t afford to pay the entire hospital bill out of my pocket.”

“I think there are more reasons than just financial ones that an expectant mother considers when deciding to place their child for adoption. I can understand your feelings.”

“There is no insurance to help pay for the process. I certainly couldn’t afford the adoption process out of pocket without fundraising. It does seem like we adoptive parents are ‘buying’ a child. The whole process needs to be revamped. There needs to be more programs to assist hopeful adoptive parents afford the process or lobby government for better adoption credits, funding, etc.”

“We were helped and supported by so many in our family and community. I do feel it is unfair for people to say, ‘don’t adopt if you can’t afford it’.  Some of us have no other choice but to seek outside funding to realize our dreams.”

Infertility – maybe it is God’s will ? Infertility isn’t fair, but it still doesn’t entitle you to someone else’s baby. Dreams of having a baby are a part of life for many people. But not all dreams are possible to realize.  Try getting a puppy. No one is entitled to children. It’s not a need. It’s a want. It’s a BIG want, but it’s still just a want.

If God doesn’t make mistakes, then the mother into who’s womb that baby you want to adopt was placed was the right one to begin with. It’s a shame that struggling mothers need to worry about basic necessities after having a baby. I sincerely wish society would band together to assist struggling expectant mothers rather than prey on their vulnerability when it is time for them to give birth. Adoption is not the natural order of life and should happen only in the rarest of circumstances. It should never, ever happen due to a lack of money or support. We are a failure as a society because this happens.

A difficult to hear but totally reasonable reply to the above could be – “Why is the dream always to get their own baby and not help someone with their baby ? Is it that hard to be a good human? Women that are dealing with a crisis pregnancy should not be shamed into giving that child away simply because they are not as well off as hopeful adoptive parents. Why does someone that has more money deserve to raise that child more than that child’s own mother ? Why don’t we as a society support women so they can parent their children. A struggling mom is deemed at fault because she got pregnant but can’t afford to raise her kid ? Maybe we need a better social system in this country so there isn’t such a class disparity. Fundraising to take someone else’s child away from them when they are struggling financially is disgusting. Hopeful adoptive parents are no more worthy of being a parent than anyone else.”

One woman replied to the above – “Fun fact: My brother and his wife have two biological daughters born almost exactly two years apart. When the second daughter was about 2 months old, they finally received their last hospital bill for the birth of the first daughter two years prior. This was a regular, uncomplicated vaginally delivery with no extended hospital stay and no special care for the baby. Both parents had health insurance through their employers. This idea that adoption is so much more expensive than giving birth to a biological child is a myth. Especially in the US.”

Personally, I really like this reply – “Why don’t men have to have a certain financial reserve in the bank before they have sex ? Why do they have sex with women if they are not able and willing to support a child ? Why have sex if you can’t take care of a baby ? It makes no sense. The responsibility for a child’s conception is NEVER about the man’s responsibility. Ever. And men are the ones who also overwhelmingly push for laws governing a woman’s body. ”

A 69 year old woman who was adopted and then gave up a child as a very young woman admits, “No one comes out of adoption without deep sorrow, the pain of never being good enough lasts a lifetime.”

There are many people who have been touched by adoption that are making an effort every day to make adoption a rare event.

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.

 

Torn Apart

I was really out of it when my daughter was born. Thankfully, though I had a c-section with each of my sons, I was at least awake from the very first moments they drew a breath.

The feeling of becoming a mother was amazing. I’m certain it was the same for both of my original grandmothers who had months with each of my parents before their first born child was taken from them. I’m certain my own mother experienced the same amazing effect – a kind of euphoria that comes with giving birth to a new human being.

Everything changes for a woman when she becomes a mother. Everything is taken away when she loses her child. I struggled for years to come to terms with not raising my daughter. I don’t know if I have fully overcome the feeling of not being there for her as she was growing up. For years, I could not find a commercial birthday card that could express what our actual relationship was like.

I continue to progress in tiny steps but I don’t think I will ever forgive myself, even if I know all the reasons why. So, I can only imagine the pain my grandmothers felt or my sister feels. It is like not feeling worthy of having one’s own child. It is horrible.