I didn’t hate motherhood but circumstances robbed me of it with my first child. She ended up being raised by her dad and a step-mother, after I left her temporarily in the care of her paternal grandmother. This morning I was reading an edited extract from Undo Motherhood by Diana Karklin. Stories from women all over the planet about how motherhood was not a welcomed event in their lives.
At the time I left my daughter, it didn’t feel like it was because I didn’t love being her mother, I always did love that but was I committed to it ? Reading these stories today, I wonder at my lack of maturity and sense of responsibility at the time. I think I always expected to do something like my own mother did – get married and immediately have children, while going to work everyday to contribute to the family income. I was also into “having a good time” and all that meant as someone in their early 20s – whether in a marriage or not.
Even so, it’s strange that I married. During my senior year in high school, that had not been my plan. I was going to share an apartment with my best friend. The first time I went out with the man who I would marry and have a child with, I told my mom when I came back from that date that it was never going to work out. Then, he showed me a ring and asked me to marry him and so, I did.
I still think marriage isn’t a good bargain for a woman, even though I then married a second time and had two sons with the man who is my husband today. If anything happens that takes him from me and leaves me yet living, I cannot imagine marrying again. We have now been married a long time and so, this time it worked out but with a bump or two along the way – yet the marriage has been able to endure.
Reading the article in The Guardian today – “The women who wish they weren’t mothers: ‘An unwanted pregnancy lasts a lifetime’ “ – has given me pause in reflecting on my own life. Also today, in the Science of Mind magazine which shares the philosophy of a man named Ernest Holmes who created a practice based upon the philosophies of the world and developments in science, I was also given more pause to reflect on romantic love.
The author, Rev Dr Jim Lockard, reflected on what it means to be human and to have a spiritual nature. Our biological selves seek to procreate, as does all life. Our emotional selves seek connection and to give and receive love with a special other to experience a deep feeling of fulfillment. Our intellectual selves seek to find a partner to share our human experiences and to create a family structure. Our spiritual selves seek to link to another to experience the joining of spiritual identities in relationship.
Clearly on many levels, having children fulfills a lot of those aspects and qualities of life, as much or sometimes more than a romantic partner can. Just as The Guardian piece made clear – it is often our cultures that have set rules and expectations about our adult lives. Even as the rigidity of narrow gender definitions have been rapidly changing, with the overturn of Roe v Wade, many women feel they are being pushed back into another time that they thought was in the past. They may be forced into giving birth, due to whatever reason and circumstance, even though they aren’t craving to fulfill the duties of motherhood. Children do best when they are intended and wanted. When they are not – wounding and trauma are the result. Just as an unwanted pregnancy lasts a lifetime, regardless of how long that initial romantic relationship endures, or even how that one night stand or rape has become imprinted on a woman’s soul, what happens to that child lasts a lifetime as well.
The nature of falling in love is a mixture of biological urges, emotional longings, rational explanations and spiritual connections. To fall in love is to exist in instability and the projection of our unconscious expectations onto another person. Our sense of rational choice is diminished. Many women wake up one day to realize that they fell in love with someone their ego was imagining and not a reality the other person was able to actually be – long term. A man is often free to walk away, leaving a woman forced to carry the burden of their children for at least 2 decades – truly for both the mother’s and the children’s lifetimes. Whether a father does or not is never guaranteed.
At the bottom of this blog, I’ll link the Adoption & Addiction, Remembered Not Recalled video by Paul Sunderland but first, for those who don’t want to watch for almost an hour, I share a few snippets.
The issue of adoption is all about divided attention, it’s all about 2 sets of families. It’s all about the conflicting feelings of wanting to belong, yet fearing belonging. (As the child of two adoptees, I’m certain this has filtered down into my own soul. I have never felt that I added up to be as much as the golden people I surround myself with – whether in social online networking communities or in my writer’s guild up in St Louis – those are just two examples but it probably goes back into my childhood as well.)
Adoption is a pretty weird word because it’s about the only condition that doesn’t really describe what has happened. Talking about adoption is a denial of relinquishment. The relinquishment wounds can be seen as a developmental post-traumatic stress disorder.
The word adoption is a cover-up. When we think about the adoption triangle, we think about the 3 parties in adoption. The adopted child, there are the birth or natural parents and there is the adoptive parent(s). Sunderland’s focus in his lecture is mostly about the adopted child. And as the title of his lecture suggests, his lecture is also about the apparent addition of addiction to that adopted child.
(And I do believe it is in struggling with an abandonment that one is lead into addiction. As an aside, we watched the 2008 Will Smith movie Hancock last night. He is an alcoholic and it seems to me that his alcoholism is due to similar issues of not knowing who one is at the core and feeling abandoned but not knowing by who.)
Back to the Sunderland lecture, he says that when he encounters birth parents in a treatment setting they usually say, “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about what happened.”
Adoptees are massively over-represented in treatment. And that leads to a question, Why is that ?
He has met quite a few adoptive parents, particularly as cross-cultural adoptions have been so popular. It is clear that many are feeling like, this is just not what we signed up to do.
Sunderland’s perspective is that there are NO adoptions without trauma. What he is talking about in his lecture is an enormous grief. A baby who has been waiting 9 months to meet somebody that they are not going to meet. It is about a mother who cannot live with having her child because society has told her that she cannot do it. Relinquishment goes against her biology.
And very often, the adoptive parents come into adoption carrying their own enormous grief due to having been unable to have a child of their own, naturally. One of the problems that Sunderland has with the word adoption is that it covers up the adoptive parents own grief.
So often, an adoptee will be told that they were chosen but the reality is that child has entered into a family that does not genetically fit them and given an impossible job description. They are forced to be someone that they can never actually be to fix the wound that the adoptive parents have. Infertility is an enormous disappointment for a couple and adoption tries to cover that up.
For an adoptee, the issue of abandonment is life threatening. There is nothing worse than to be separated from the one person (your mother) who you needed most at the beginning of your life. This is preverbal – it can’t be recalled – however, it IS remembered.
The word adoption tries to suggest that it is going to be a happily ever after situation. The human brain begins working before it is entirely built and experience is what programs the brain. If the beginning is a trauma and separation, then this is the experience that is wiring the neurons in the brain of the infant. For an adoptee there is a constant desire to attach accompanied by the conflicting sense that it isn’t safe to do so. There is no pre-trauma personality in an adoptee because there is no normal to compare this experience to as there would be for other traumatic events (war, car accidents, etc).
Being born prematurely and placed into an incubator is another kind of relinquishment when the infant leaves that containing environment. If a child is placed into foster care, that is also a relinquishment. Each change of foster family is yet another in a series of relinquishments. And second chance adoptions, where an adopted child is given back, is another relinquishment. In some cross-cultural adoptive situations, the child is born into such poverty, they are separated from the mother into an orphanage.
The bonding of an infant with their human mother actually begins 2 months before birth, while in utero, as proven by multiple experiments. Adoptees will often share that they have heard stories that they cried and cried. And I think of the mention of that in my mom’s adoption file via a letter from her adoptive mother to the Tennessee Children’s Home about the train trip upsetting my mom but that the doctor had her settled down now (and I always think – they drugged her, though it is not said directly). And I can understand now that my mom was relinquished twice because her mother took her to Porter Leath Orphanage in desperation for TEMPORARY care while she tried to get on her feet because her lawfully married husband had abandoned her and did not respond to a letter that the Juvenile Court in Memphis had written to him about his obligations.
Sunderland speaks about the stability of a child being dependent on a mother being able to know herself (which certainly was a black hole, actually for both of my parents, that I had until I was well over 60 years old and began to discover my own adoptee parents origin stories). People who are adopted and end up in treatment, often present themselves as fairly well put together.
Sunderland speaks of “love addiction” as needing to have the positive regard of a significant other. Addiction is genetically proposed and environmentally disposed. The hormonal aspects of having been relinquished are similar to living one’s life on red alert. In an adoption, there is a slow loss of self. A belief that they cannot be them self and get along with the people with whom they have been placed. The hormonal aspects affect sleep and stomach issues (and certainly my mom had her share of gastrointestinal issues throughout her entire life). Real difficulties managing moods (I think of my dad’s underlying seething anger that occasionally popped out).
If you think about serotonin, it is a soothing hormone. Addiction is usually an effort to self soothe. Eating sugar is one such effort to self soothe. Both of my parents were seriously diabetic and myself to some extent (though I am trying to manage my own sugar issues without ending up on insulin). Serotonin also manages shame and let’s you know you are okay but if your levels are low, the answer is “I’m not okay.”
Some people are not given up at birth and that was certainly true with both of my parents who spent 6-8 months with their original mothers before being adopted. People who diet and then give up on themselves, often multiple times. The chemicals in the brains of adoptees who have early psychological wounds are very different from other people without this personal background.
Adoptees have a tendency towards catastrophic thinking, always expecting the worst. The original wound of being separated from their mother was a life-threatening one. Shame is an unacknowledged aspect that is the understanding that I am not good enough, the bad baby (I’m unworthy, unlovable, there is something flawed in me) because if I was given up by my mother, I don’t have value. People pleasing arises from this feeling. How do I need to be to be accepted ?
Being extremely self-reliant (if you want something done, do it yourself) is also an outcome. It is interesting to note that both of my parents’ mothers had early abandonment or separation wounds from their own mothers caused by the deaths of their mothers. My dad’s mother had the worst one as her mother died when she was only 3 mos old. When she discovered that she was pregnant by a married man that she was not married to, she simply handled it herself and he never knew. With my mom’s mother, she was in her pre-teens and had to become “mom” to her 4 siblings.
Shame and anxiety are at the root of all addictions. There is an attempt to manage anxiety by managing the externals out there. Addictions are attempts to put anxieties elsewhere and explain the inexplicable. And there is the belief that somehow it is your own fault. Up until about the age of 10, infants and children believe that everything that happens to them, happened because of them.
In life, it’s not so much what happens to you as how secure you were with your early attachments. Roots, the secure base. Without these, one is less resilient. Adaption is a better word for what is done, not adoption. Adoptees end up with two minds. Real difficulties making decisions. The limbic system – fight, flight or freeze – is what kicks in with the catastrophic thinking. It is the part of the brain that developed before the frontal cortex. If you have an attachment wound, you never learned how to become a separate person. Any successful relationship exists in separateness, not in trying to adapt yourself to be accepted by that other person. The erotic exists in the space between the two. The real challenge for an adopted person is to actually BE their own self.
Please be mindful of what you say about an adoptee’s birth parents and extended birth family – regardless the circumstances or how you personally feel. Remember that this person shares genes and inheritable aspects with that family of origin.
From an adoptee – As a child I internalized the messages about how I was so much better off adopted, that I was convinced my mother must have been a very evil person. I thought perhaps a witch or a prostitute and would tell everyone this. I was secretly petrified I would be just like her. (Note: she’s not, she was a vulnerable woman who was not supported to keep me.)
Of course, it is known that children have no filters or sense of decorum and will often repeat the perspectives of adults around them – thus comes this sad recollection. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 5 years old and a classmate told me I was adopted because my biological mom didn’t love me. It was so hurtful and it took me a long time to get past it.
The same advice applies to one parent or family bashing the other parent or family. Regardless of whether these are biological, foster families, adoptive family. All of these are part of a child’s history and life experience and when you do this, you are saying in effect that a part of the child is equally bad.
When one spends time within the larger adoption community (this includes original family, adoptees and former foster youth as well as adoptive and foster parents) the precise use of language sometimes becomes an issue. For my own self, I am entirely willing to learn to use the most appropriate language while giving a large tolerance to the words anyone else uses because we are all doing our best to improve and reform circumstances that have historically not been in the best interests of the child who ends up adopted or in foster care. That is really the most important issue – the well-being of our children overall.
Some of the adoptees or former foster youth have had reunions with their original family that have not gone well at all, only heaping more heartbreak and rejection on already wounded souls. Some had really crappy experiences with their adoptive or foster care families. Life can be incredibly hard at times for a lot of people. I try to always remember that and I too fail to be compassionate and sympathetic enough at times. We all do. Rather than beat ourselves up over our mistakes in judgement and actions, we really can only try to do better in the next instant – every instant after every instant. Life is for evolving ourselves and through our efforts to make ourselves a better human being overall, we evolve our families, our communities, our countries and our planet. It is an on-going process that never ends.
Whatever we call our parents, it can only be whatever feels right to each of us personally. I think every one of my own children has called me by my familiar first name of Debbie at some time or other and it has never truly bothered me. It does get complicated when adoption is in one’s family history. I called my mom’s adoptive parents – Grandmother D and Grandfather D – they were very formal people. I called my dad’s adoptive parents – Granny and Granddaddy. They were very humble, salt of the earth kinds of people.
When I learned who my parents actual original parents were – in my heart, they did take the place of my adoptive grandparents because they are truly the genetic, biological ones. However, I never use a “grandparent” identifier with them. It is their names that I use – Lizzie Lou, JC, Delores and Rasmus (though he preferred Martin, I like the more Danish version personally). So though, when I think of grandparents now (having only learned of them after the age of 60, after they were long deceased and I will never know them but second hand through other descendants of theirs), I think of the original ones but I never use the childhood identifiers for them.
There has long been a raging controversy over the use of the word “birth” to denote the parents who conceived and birthed children who were later surrendered either voluntarily or involuntarily (forcefully taken). Here is one perspective on that issue –
I personally loathe the term ‘birth mother’ and prefer ‘bio’ to differentiate between adoptive parents and family I’m related to by biology. I don’t understand why Lee Campbell (founder of Concerned United Birthparents) insists that ‘birth’ is not offensive but ‘bio’ is. Biology denotes DNA; genetically unrelated surrogates can give birth, so it’s not an inclusive term, as far as I can see. Anyway, as an adoptee—the only person among ANY of my family who had NO CHOICE—I’ll use whatever term I please. I adore my maternal biological family, including my late momma, whom I didn’t get to know past infancy. I feel far more connected to her than I ever did to my adoptive mother. I have three living maternal uncles and we are CRAZY about each other. We don’t use qualifiers referring to each other, but in cases when clarification is needed, I specify with ‘bio’.
Some of the push related to language was actually influenced by the adoptive parents when the whole industry was going through radical change in the 1970s. Social workers started to push positive adoption language. You had adoptive families complaining about the previous terms: they didn’t like natural mother because then they were unnatural. They didn’t like real because that made them unreal.
Many original mothers and their offspring do dislike the term “birth” because a woman who has given birth to a child is much more than just a woman who gave birth. There is a bond formed in the womb and all the conditions and circumstances that occur during gestation that will forever be a part of any human being and of course, there is the genetics as well.
Here is another perspective from a former foster youth who has adopted a child out of foster care – I always refer to my own parents as my biological parents. I honestly don’t have much relationship with either of my parents. I have learned through the years they are truly incapable of having a safe parent/child relationship. And honestly they are simply my biology. Nothing more. As an adoptive parent, I have learned and respect my daughter’s mom and family and refer to her mom when speaking to her as simply – her mom. In posts on the internet I try to always use first family. I will add that I only use first family in areas of the internet when needing to differentiate. In real life, it is simply family, mom, dad, grandmother, etc and no one has ever been confused over whether I was talking about adoptive or her first family.
Another one added – I call my son’s Mom, his Mom. His first family, his family. I can’t handle the terms that make the moms less than.
I totally agree.
And many of these women really don’t like “tummy mom.”
There is also another kind of family where the adoptive parent is actually “kin” related to the adoptee. I know one of these kinds of situations rather well. So one who is a former foster youth wrote –
I will call my bio parents whatever I want. They are not my “real” parents, because neither of them raised me. It is incredibly offensive when people ask “your adoptive (kinship) mom, or your real mom?” No. My kinship mom IS my “real” mom. Our relationship is far from perfect. My raising was far from perfect. But she’s the only person who I’ve ever felt comfortable enough regarding our relationship to call “mom”, and I’ll continue to do so. I hate the phrase “real mom.” My mom is my mom. Period.
In my own case, my biological, genetically related daughter was not raised by me after the age of 3. She ended up being raised by her dad and step-mother. My daughter considers my ex-husband’s wife her mom. I accept that. I carry enough conflicted emotions for not raising her – regardless of the reasons that came to pass. But I do acknowledge that her step-mother was the one that was there when my daughter was sick, in trouble or needed a compassionate heart to listen to whatever. I do have a decently good adult relationship with my daughter. I am grateful for that much.
I am a adoptee. Here is the issue, My daughter just had my first granddaughter on Sunday and she is absolutely perfect. But the problem is this, I now am living in daily fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of something happening, fear my daughter won’t need me anymore, fear I won’t bond or connect with the baby. I feel like I’m going crazy . Like today she told me to come over and then a little while later she said I could go home.. not in a mean way.. just wanted time with the dad… well, I didn’t let it show in front of her but I literally got in the car and balled my eyes out and then had a panic attack, feeling like I wasn’t good enough, that I wouldn’t see her again, that she didn’t need me or want me around… I know all of that is completely crazy but my mind won’t let me accept that. Is this normal for adoptees?, is this even normal for non adoptees? What can I do to get through this??
The first comment was – I am donor-conceived and my mother is not, but her own parents were absent/abusive. My mother is like this but she doesn’t have the courage or self-awareness to say it out loud. You did great by not putting this on your daughter’s shoulders.
The next one was – I’m sorry for what you’re going through. I’m not an adoptee but I do have an adult daughter and sometimes it’s hard when it seems like they don’t need you. But they do and they reach out when they do. We raise them to be independent but it hurts when we did it too well. She’s definitely going to need you.
Here is the next one – I’m not an adoptee and I’m answering because you asked if it’s normal for non-adoptees. I have TOTALLY had these exact feelings with my oldest; however I’m from a trauma background and have zero relationship with my bio mother – I think it may be normal for anyone coming from a trauma background. What I did was just be honest with my daughter and told her that I’m sure it was from my background and that I didn’t want her to feel responsible for my feelings but I wanted to be sure it was me and not true – we talk a lot and have a fabulous relationship. I have these feelings SO MUCH LESS NOW because she reassured me I had nothing to worry about – she accepts my worries and I accept that she is a private person and just has me around less than I originally thought would happen – I hope that helps you. And congratulations grandma!
Then there was this – That’s a totally a trauma reaction. The level of emotional response is way out of balance with the request.. and you know it… which only makes you feel even crazier, right?
So I’m gonna say something major in you baby adoptee brain has been triggered by the birth (sooo normal! ) and you now have a wonderful opportunity to find that wound and heal it. And it sounds like very expected abandonment stuff.. not being worthy of what you now see in the mother-child bond. The baby in you is crying for that experience and mourning you didn’t have it. Let your baby self cry it out and at the same time, mother yourself and know that you are worthy and deserved what your grandchild has. An adoption competent trauma informed therapist can help!
Then she adds – I used to believe that I had done enough work that I was always going to be in control.. and then, I lost my mind one day in the middle of the SPCA over a kitten. Like I became this crying, hysterical, screaming Karen .. and that is not me! That’s the day I learned that no matter how much you think you have healed.. sometimes the weirdest thing worms it’s way in! And boom.. you’re a sniveling mess lying on the kitchen floor.
Yet another shares this – My mother spent several years in an orphanage as a child and she is like this—if I reschedule a coffee date or something like that she feels abandoned and devastated. It breaks my heart. I love her so much and never want to cause her pain. I know therapy has helped her some.
A second woman confirmed – It is a trauma based response. I experienced the same sort of thing when my daughter got pregnant with my grandson. I was terrified and an emotional wreck thinking I wouldn’t have a relationship with the baby when it was born. Everything triggered me and despite my daughter reassuring me she wanted me involved – internally I felt it would all dissolve because of course, as an adoptee how do we trust we will be loved, included, not rejected ? I now have a wonderful relationship with my grandson and he is the joy in my life. I still feel that fear sometimes but I have gotten more confident that we can get past the bumps and not every bump means the end a relationship and bond.
Another woman shared – I am not a adoptee, my biological dad left and my biological mom got me and my sisters out of foster care. (Just for back ground) I just had a baby 6 months ago and my mom felt the same way. She was raised by her grandparents because her parents didn’t want her and couldn’t provide for her or my uncle. I think it’s definitely a trauma based thing, but I can tell you from the other side, I would cry for my mom at night when things got hard. I never once thought I could do it without her but also telling her was hard. Your child needs you always, a baby doesn’t change that.
A woman who gave her baby up for adoption writes – I feel like that about my daughter and she’s 31. (Found her when she was 18.) I am in therapy and am working on it. I think the important thing to realize is that these are thought distortions. They are your mind’s way of protecting itself, but this time it went out of control…. Like emotional keloids.
An adoptee writes – This is trauma talking! Trauma lies. It’s the brain telling you your trauma will repeat itself. My therapist has me do several things to combat this. One is I talk back to myself, out loud, as if I’m defending young Andrea or sometimes a friend. It feels really silly but we’re so hard on ourselves, so defending a child or a friend is so much easier! Another activity is to write down all those worst case scenarios and plan them out. What would you actually do if it happened? Then it might not feel so realistic and you’ll feel some measure of being in-control again. Also, my brain demands proof that it’s lying or it won’t shut up.
I belong to an all things adoption Facebook group. So birth mothers, adoptive mothers and adoptees are all member and there is also the former foster young and issues of foster care which are tangent to adoption if one understands how the system works or fails to, all too often.
Yesterday, I learned that the majority of members are actually adoptive parents. Many have spoken out how considering the thoughts and feelings of adoptees has changed their perspective on what they have involved themselves in. No one is saying that anyone should undo what has already been done. The group only encourages doing it better.
Some adoptive parents are so fragile that hearing the truth will actually drive them right out of this group. Sometimes the group is accused of being hateful and cruel but adoptees carry wounds, many times wounds so deep and unconscious within them, they don’t know they are there. Others have worked long and hard, sometimes through therapy to open up those places that were hurt and if not heal, at least begin to understand them.
Truth is adoption is a bad practice and many adoptive parents adopted children believing they were doing a good deed in the world. It hurts to hear that maybe you were wrong about that, or that you lack some really important knowledge about the impacts of adoption that only an adoptee can provide to you as the one who experienced it.
At the root of many adoptions is an infertile couple. In the most enlightened situations, the couple embarks upon a journey to find peace with the reality. The couple will seek some way other than raising children to find fulfillment in their lives. Infertility is a health issue and it should be discussed openly, to remove the stigma. Everyone does not need to have children. The world has plenty of people to support already. One could look at it as doing their part to create a balance in global population.
If as a society, we can teach the public that couples don’t need adoption to “fix” their infertility, then maybe society can put a real effort behind supporting families so that they can stay together. A random discussion about infertility almost always leads to advice that includes alternative methods of creating a family – like adoption, surrogacy, etc – many of which harm other people. We can’t change a narrative when people are being continuously convinced to seek alternative methods to have kids. The alternatives discussed are never about remaining childless.
Being infertile is not a death sentence. In some instances, the message becomes panic stricken, desperate – which encourages the listener to say, “well, just adopt”. That fuels the “must have a child to parent” flurry. Hearing an enlightened couple share their journey of infertility with a composed and educated message can begin the process of stopping the “I HAVE TO HAVE A BABY” narrative.
The couple needs to “process” their reality – the harsh reality – to gain the emotional balance needed to meet the next phase of their life’s journey with compassion and self love. Generally, we are not called upon to be the social educator of the world. Our real job is to care for our self, so we are the best self for whatever life will bring next for us.
The adoption group that I have been a part of for 3 years and has now closed to new content was often criticized for allowing the negative feelings and experiences of adoptees to be the primary and supported voice. It has been a space where an adoptee’s hurt is validated and not instantly turned into, “but what about your (adoptive parent’s) sacrifice?” that is found in most adoption oriented groups. In that regard, it was very unique.
When I first arrived there, because of how I grew up with two parents who were both adoptees, I considered adoption a normal situation and the outcomes to be nothing but good. I quickly got slammed and was totally set back by the responses but I stayed with it and I read books recommended there and I found books on my own and read those to and I learned the truth that adoption is a best the “second choice” and that keeping families intact – children with the parents who conceived them – was always going to be the best choice for everyone involved. The adoption industry doesn’t like that point of view but realize that their revenues depend on separating children from their parents. It really is that simple – follow the money – and the truth reveals itself.
Here is one adoptee’s voice –
I don’t know my mother and it kills me. Some days more than others. Pregnancy – all 80+ weeks plus a miscarriage – triggered me like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The first three months of their lives nearly killed me and my marriage.
I walk around not knowing who I am. I walk around knowing i was not loved in any healthy definition of that word. I walk around knowing I was not enough to redeem my adoptive parent’s wounds. I walk around living culture shock. I walk around knowing I don’t have a strong attachment to my parents.
You are asking me to tell you why the quality of the air I breathe is different from your air. It’s gonna take you some time to understand my air is fundamentally different.
In many ways, I do believe this is how my own mother felt. When she tried to re-connect with the woman who gave birth to her, my mom said – As a mother, I would want to know what became of my child. She wasn’t hoping for very much but she was driven by an emotional need to try. Her mother had already died by the time my mom was communicating with the Tennessee Dept of Children’s Services and learning that reality devastated her.
Christmas will arrive very soon, here is the perspective of another adoptee, Anne Heffron –
I’ve been thinking about the comment a parent wrote here after reading my post about adoptees walking a tightrope, and, in order to answer, I decided to take on an authority I don’t have, and to speak universally when really I’m just speaking from my own experience. I thought about not replying because any answer I might give won’t be enough—it will be one paint splotch on a bare wall, but at least it will be a start, so here goes.
She compares the trauma of motherloss, the primal wound that Nancy Verrier writes about, to a car accident that has embedded jagged pieces of glass inside our bodies. Heffron asks, What if these pieces cut our muscles, internal organs and brain, causing messages of distress to travel from the vagus nerve both from the organs to the brain and from the brain to the organs? What if no one can see these glass fragments because no doctor has the right machine, the right kind of x-ray to find them? What if they are things that have to naturally work their way out of the body with the help of time and space and nutritional support and exercise and therapy and other friends who are adopted? What if this process takes decades? What if this process takes a lifetime?
What if the pain these pieces of glass cause the person to act in certain ways, ways that confuse those around them because, to the naked eye, nothing is wrong—the accident happened a long time ago and the person looks fine? What if the parents of this child they adopted believe their love can heal pain of which they can not see the source?
If a body is full of glass shards and the person cries out in pain and is told that everything is okay, that they are safe, loved, and if the person is asked why can’t they just accept the love and relax, then what happens?
The body gets tighter. The barriers between parent and child get thicker.
What if being relinquished and adopted is a body experience that takes time for the wounded person to sit with until the glass fragments finally, if they do at all (many people die with the glass still in their guts and hearts and minds), emerge?
This is what I think happened to me: when I was young, I felt the discomfort of the glass parts but I did not know they were there because I could not see inside my own guts and brain, and no one knew to tell me the story of my pain.
If they had been able to tell me the story of my pain, I might have fought them, hated them for speaking, for putting me in a forever prison of different than. Being different than your friends, particularly when you are young, is its own death sentence. So I don’t have an answer for you here. I don’t know what good all the information you have gathered about the side effects of relinquishment actually does when it comes right down to it. I mean, it’s not nothing, but, it’s clearly not enough.
My answer in brief is to be love but to know that when you decided to adopt, you entered a different universe. The rules you grew up with, rules for living, may well no longer work in this new life you now inhabit. For example, you just can’t hug a burned person the same way you do everyone else.
I think many people adopt babies for the same reason people adopt kittens: they want something soft to protect and love that will love them back. What if you think of an adoptee more like a porcupine? A porcupine doesn’t choose to have quills. It just has them, and this changes the way you can touch it. Hoping that one day the quills will disappear and soft fur will emerge is useless and harmful. What if adopting a child does not guarantee you will receive love back in the same measure you give it (or, I have to say, at all)? Would you still travel this road?
We like our stories to have happy endings, and we force most of our experiences through the funnel of “and then everything was okay,” and I’m here to tell you that I’m doing the best I can in this life with the body and mind I was given: one full of glass shards, and it’s a lot of work to try to keep up with those who weren’t in an accident. I know the ending is supposed to be happy, and so I’m trying. When you look at me with your lipid eyes, wondering why I don’t open to you, I won’t tell you it’s because I can’t. I won’t tell you it’s because I am in so much pain I can’t even process your questions. I won’t tell you because I know you won’t understand. I won’t tell you because maybe I don’t understand myself. I won’t tell you because you are asking a porcupine why it doesn’t purr, and this blindness makes me fear that either you or I are crazy, and this fear makes real communication feel impossible
I do want to be very clear from the beginning – I do not recommend you turn to this wannbe celebrity preying out there in adoptionland. She cares more about raking up followers on TikTok than about the families torn apart by adoption. And she is everywhere.
Someone wrote in a FB group called Hopeless Adoptive Predators – “Why do so many narcissistic adopters blog about adoption like they are some type of saint? She claims to “help adoptees” but then blocks them after they comment. My expectations were low, and they were met.”
Another woman asked a logical question – “So I have no idea how tiktok works but how is she choosing her audience? Is she focusing on her videos on pregnant women?” Count me among the TikTok clueless. All I know about them is that our president hates them. They have a lot of company in that regard.
Here’s the answer – TikTok’s user base is younger. Like many of the users are teens compared to other social media sites, such as Facebook. “TikTok has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to engaging with the youngsters of the world. It might be a bit of a head scratcher for the older generations, but TikTok is no news to the teens of the world. 41 percent of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24 (Globalwebindex, 2019)… To start off, the popularity of TikTok with the younger generation could be explained by the fact that the app creators decided to choose under 18 as their target audience from the very beginning.” Yep, I am “older” – like 66 – no wonder I’m not “into” TikTok.
So the issue isn’t focusing Corky Jane’s content on pregnant women but more that she’s using a social media platform that is primarily for younger people and especially teens, meaning she is essentially being predatory and trying to find pregnant teens/young adults.
I went to her website (something easier for an old lady like me). First of all, she cluelessly uses the term Birth Mother in a “Dear” letter. Women who conceive and give birth to a child are that child’s MOTHER. Period. “Birth” when added to “mother” is viewed as a derogatory term by many woman who have lost their child to an adoptive couple. I didn’t know that myself, until I began educating myself about all things adoption. So, right there this woman loses all credibility with me as some kind of “informed” source.
These are the arguments often used by the adoption industry with expectant mothers to pry their baby away from them – “You are strong, you are brave, you are unselfish.” All to make her feel better about the worst moment in her life which will haunt her for the rest of her lifetime. Good ole’ Corky Jane goes on to admit that she worries about the woman when she doesn’t hear back from her, “I don’t know if you are grieving, or busy, or what the reason is, but I will always reach out to you until you ask me not to.”
It is an awful catch 22 for the mother. Reminders of the child she isn’t raising. Triggering grief and regret. It is like rubbing salt into the poor woman’s wounds. She probably ought to tell Corky Jane not to reach out to her but the morbid fascination of what is happening to her precious child won’t let her not look. My heart breaks for her but not for Corky Jane.
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
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.