It’s Complicated

I find myself in conversation with a diversity of people about a diversity of issues related to adoption and mother/child separations.  I am always amazed at how many people have some such issue in their family and friend’s lives.

Even though I have had a radical change of heart about adoption due to learning about the wounds that causes, I also acknowledge that the issue is not simple but very complicated.  There are times when children definitely need a safe and loving space to exist in.  There are times, when knowing the circumstances, we can admit that adoption was better than the alternative.

But there always are alternatives and some are less damaging than others.  Harder to arrive at is why people become wounded and messed up.  Why they don’t do better.  Why the children are often the ones to suffer the most.

Learning about all of the circumstances at play in my own family’s lives has given me an appreciation for the big picture and how things progress over time.  I am in the midst of editing a new manuscript that I actually wrote the rough draft for six years ago and then events delayed my return to it.

At this point in the story, I am in heaven.  And the topic of predestination and free will comes up between me and a trusted friend of the heart there.  I think this perspective may be close to the truth of the matter and so, I share –

“Are you telling me that everything is preordained and that I had no choice in how my life unfolded?”

“Absolutely not.  The nature of reality in this realm is that everything is adjusting instantaneously to every choice and circumstance that happens.”

What happens if different choices are made ?

“It would have all morphed and changed to suit new circumstances.  In fact, there are layers upon layers of redundancies. There are trajectories and unfoldings that are the natural outcomes of current events and like your own micro circumstances it is all morphing and adjusting continuously.  There are situations that, if they don’t occur,  could delay your next lifetime.  Other situations could speed up your return to Earth in another incarnation.  We really don’t know the hour of our birth, just as we really don’t know the hour of our death; and yet, it is all completely natural.”

Though Life is so very complicated that any action we may take could be beneficial or detrimental regardless of the best of intentions, even knowing all that could possibly happen that we never considered, we act anyway – for not to act might bring some irreversible harm that could have been prevented.

Misunderstood

Suddenly, friends and family have discovered what I have been writing about daily for over a year and they are understandably confused.  I would not have understood before about two years ago myself.  Both of my parents were adopted and so adoption was the most natural thing in the world to me.  Both of my sisters gave up children to adoption.  What I can say is that ignorance is bliss.

But for adoption I would not exist and I never forget that.  But for adoption my mother would have grown up in abject poverty instead of the privileges of wealth as the child of a banker and socialite.  My husband has said that my story could be viewed as pro-adoption and that is the truth.

Even so, I cannot ignore the many voices of adoptees and the original mothers who have suffered because adoption carries with it inherent wounds and that is what I tend to try and explain in this blog.

Even so, today I read a heartwarming story.  I am sympathetic to the pain of infertility.  I do believe that couples who have struggled with that really DO need to seek counseling before adopting any child.

Back to that heartwarming story.  A couple was traveling on an airplane with their 8 day old adopted daughter.  The mother have given birth in Colorado.  It had been nine long years of fertility treatments, miscarriages and adoption stress for this couple.

A flight attendant announced that he’d be passing out napkins and pens for anyone who wanted to jot down a message for the new parents. The cabin erupted into cheers and applause. A steady stream of people came by to coo and congratulate the couple.

One of the napkins read: “I was adopted 64 years ago. Thank you for giving this child a loving family to be part of. Us adopted kids need a little extra love. Congratulations.”  YES, some adoptees are truly grateful and I do not doubt that but I pause on that thought “adopted kids need a little extra love.”  Hmmmm.

The flight attendants explained to the couple that they are married, and a fellow flight attendant had done this for them while they were on their honeymoon. They wanted to pay it forward.

The new father shared, “Adoption is wild with uncertainty.  You wonder, is this birth mother going to choose us? What happens if she changes her mind, if she backs out?”  The overwhelming support the couple felt during that plane trip was also a time when they were worried that their daughter might somehow be stigmatized.

Southwest Airlines released a statement saying, in part, that the crew showed “kindness and heart” on that flight.  Common kindness always matters.  I actually do care about every part of the adoption triad.  Just saying.

My Only Objection

Back in November, during National Adoption Month, I wrote to Klobuchar that I had been supportive of her campaign for the Democratic nominee until I found out about her strong interest in promoting adoption.  Her counterpart in the Senate is Roy Blunt who is from my state of Missouri but he is a Republican and close ally of our president Trump, so I did not bother to write him.

Yesterday, Klobuchar did better than expected in the New Hampshire primary.  There is a section of the electorate who wants calm and someone they are not being fed a drama a day but can go about their business with some assurance of ethical behavior in the top official of the government.  I get it.  Klobuchar does not really excite.  She is like the mom who you know you can depend upon not to embarrass you.

She was instrumental in smoothing the way for a number of transracial adoptions from Haiti as depicted in the photo above.  On January 12 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, which is a very poor country.  The earthquake affected an estimated three million people. Close to 230,000 people died, 300,000 were injured and one million were made homeless. An estimated 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings collapsed.

“It’s wonderful to see adoptive families, family members, friends and others who plan to adopt kids from Haiti here this evening,” Klobuchar said in a meeting in 2011. “We in Congress will work hard to continue to help you with adoption issues.”

Over the course of approximately two months following the earthquake, Klobuchar’s office worked with 25 families to help unite 39 Haitian children with their new families in Minnesota. A Congressional bill authored by Klobuchar later passed the House and Senate and was signed into law.  One at least hopes all of the children are truly orphans and not simply taken from extended family who would raise them.

No doubt, her heart is in the right place even though she appears woefully ignorant about the wounds inflicted by adoption and even worse, the effects on children who are placed in families who bear no resemblance to their culture.  I will vote for whoever the Democratic presidential nominee is in November 2020.  I don’t know if I can get over my objection to Klobuchar’s very public role in promoting adoption.

 

Gotcha Day

It is hard to believe but it is true, some families actually celebrate the legal finalizing of a child’s great loss as something like a birthday or holiday.  Gotha Day is actually a real thing.  I suppose it truly is a happy moment for them. But it seems to mistake what is happy for them when it is also a very sad day for others.

This official transfer of a child is a loss for the birth parents as well as their child. It is likely the natural mom and maybe the natural dad as well have never cried harder than they ever did that day they signed those papers giving another couple the legal right to call their child someone else’s own child. It is bittersweet. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now that I know about the wounds of adoption, it is even harder for me to accept that my adoptee mom actually had the nerve to encourage my sister to give up her daughter for adoption. Unbelievable but true and that is the reality.

Our own parents (both adoptees) were not willing to risk financial responsibility and so made it literally impossible for my sister to care for her daughter/their granddaughter as she would surely have done had she had adequate support. My sister even tried to get government assistance but was told that our parents wealth made her ineligible because she was living in their home due to her pregnancy. Another unbelievable but true fact.

Gotcha day is what some adoptive parents call the day the birth parents signed their rights away and often that is the day that the adoption agency and the adoptive parents stopped talking to the natural parents. They all got what they came for – except someone else had to lose to make that possible.

The adoptive parents now have possession and control.

What Will The Future Bring ?

I’m not good at predicting the future.  Sometimes I misread my intuitions.  Even so I trust a kind of momentum and tendency in Life to bring about whatever my heart desires the most as well as protect me from my fears and misunderstandings.

I’ve been writing this blog daily for almost a year now.  It amazes me that I usually find something to say.  Certainly, my journey over the last two years has been remarkable.  Not everyone affected by the erasing of their personal history is able to make the progress I have.  My compassionate sympathy for all of those who like my own mom have been rejected when they have made the attempt.

What made the difference for my own self ?  I believe it has been a combination of undeserved luck and persistence not to give up.  Doors have opened in almost miraculous ways at times that I did not see ever coming into my own reality.

What kind of advice can I give others ?  One is to educate yourself as close to reality as possible for stories and delusions do not serve the individual or collective good.  Another is to be gently persistent.  Furthermore, if someone becomes upset with you, try your best to understand where they are and allow them to work through their own wounds and traumas at their own personal speed and willingness to accept.

I am grateful for all the progress I have made so far.  I have no idea where I will find myself next on this journey but I do have some hopes, goals and dreams.  I wish you all the best of good fortune and protection for your vulnerable parts as we journey together into the next new decade and the next yet best to be and hopefully with not too many hurts and disappointments.

Infertility Grief

Regarding choosing adoption after giving up on conceiving a child, it appears that all the screening in the world isn’t going to heal infertility grief. It isn’t going to magically turn a stranger’s child into the one you couldn’t have. It can’t predict how well you can actually love an adopted kid, even though you *really, really* think you can. It’s not going to account for a genetic mismatch between adoptee and adopter. Most importantly it doesn’t turn the adoptee into a robot, capable of bonding to any old genetic stranger at will. That’s the one thing I find never, ever gets talked about.

My husband and I tried and failed and did consider whether adoption was the way to go.  At that time I knew nothing about the wounds associated with adoption.  Yet, we felt we would rather begin from scratch than take on the unknowns of a pre-exiting child.  So we turned to assisted reproduction.

I will always believe that this was a better choice than adoption.  I already had a child that was genetically related to me and grandchildren too.  My husband wanted that for his own self and I was sympathetic and understanding to his own need to become a father – even if he really waited way too long.

The advent of inexpensive DNA testing has brought it’s own unique reality to deal with but I am okay with it.  My sons seem to be okay with it.  They simply would not exist otherwise.  Any other children that my husband might have conceived would not be these children.  I believe in dealing with realities.

Turning to assisted reproduction meant these children were implanted and grew within my womb.  The bonding of mother and child begins in the womb.  These children nursed at my own breast for just over a year each.  No one can be more their mother than I am.

I do see our donor and her own genetic children mirrored in my sons and we do not withhold access to that family though our sons seem disinterested in pursuing it at this time.  Since we are older parents, someday they may reach out to establish a new genetic connection, just as I have in discovering my own.

I remember encountering my own infertility grief when I fully realized the natural method simply was not going to happen for us.  I regretted my husband had married such an old woman.  Even so, we have a good marriage and it would not have made good sense to simply throw that away to allow him to become a father.  He is a good one because he waited until he was actually ready to commit himself to parenting.

Love Isn’t Always On Time

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

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

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

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

Love.  It is what we are here to do.

Doing More Harm Than Good

 

It is recommended for those persons seeking separation related therapy that they seek out adoption competent practitioners.  Otherwise, an effort to address the wounds created by relinquishment – whether into an adoptive family or foster care – may cause more harm than do any good.

Many conventional therapists accept the “adoption is amazing” mentality and have not researched or studied the deep unconscious wounds that such persons have suffered.  One adoptee describes her personal experience this way – “I saw a therapist who shut down (and shut me down) any time I mentioned the trauma I had experienced in relation to adoption — both my own and that of my children. I wound up leaving therapy and haven’t gone back since.”

This is a personality based outcome – the therapist’s personality.  Another describes her good experience this way – her therapist was “absolutely amazing and had no experience in adoption at all, but she chose to research and learn.  I can’t thank her enough for helping me through some horrendous PTSD adoption memories.  It honestly all depends on the therapist and which ones are more likely to open to the reality or not.”

Those adopted in infancy are likely to experience pre-verbal trauma.  This is trauma that happened before the adoptee could speak/comprehend language. This is trauma held in the body but the sufferer is not able to verbalize the memories / put this into words – even as an adult – because their brain was not developed enough at the time the trauma occurred to make sense of the related emotions.

Some adoptees are diagnosed as ADD when they are actually PTSD and medicated as children.  This solution merely puts a band aid on the problem.

One horror story conveyed by an adoptee went this way – “I had a psychiatrist who locked me in a room, in the child psych ward with no interaction with anyone in order to ‘break’ me and force me to talk to him. Didn’t work. Further isolation of someone who already feels isolated.”

So one suggestion is to look for a therapist trained in trauma.  The truth is there isn’t one universal “type” of adoptee trauma.  If you wish to seek therapy, look for someone you connect with, that you feel heard by. Someone who is open-minded will be more effective than someone who shares your view of adoption. A good therapist will not allow their previous biases/perceptions to impact giving you solid therapy.

A Strange Club

I finished reading Before and After yesterday. I don’t think Lisa Wingate expected to open this door when she wrote her bestselling fictional novel based upon the horrors of Georgia Tann’s methods of operating an adoption agency – separating children from their original families purely for profit.

However, as she embarked on book tours across the country, the sheer number of real lives impacted by Georgia Tann made themselves evident.  I believe the reunion in Memphis that the new book is based upon was an effort on Wingate’s part to repay the living victims, many of whom are descendants of those directly impacted, for a good story that made her even more successful than she was before (she had written quite a few books before this phenomenal story).

In the Afterward chapter of Before and After, a story about Georgia Tann adoptees and their remarkable reunion in Memphis –

“We need to be given peace and

freed of the misery that comes

from not knowing,

and allowed to live with the truth

before we pass from this world.”

~ Letter from a TCHS adoptee

to her unknown birth family

The reunion proved that people are interested in hearing what the adoptees and their descendants have to say, that strangers care about this long-ago miscarriage of justice.

Countless families have a connection to the horror of Tann and those movers and shakers of Memphis who let her operate until 1950. This is a story that doesn’t have an ending. It never will. For thousands of families, tens of thousands of lives, it will always be a part of their history.

There’s fear of the unknown. My adoptee father had that and he wasn’t a Tann baby.  The Salvation Army separated him from his unwed, poverty stricken mother.

Many, if not most, adoptees hunger for their personal information – their medical history in particular.

Being a Tann victim is like being a member of a strange club. Those who’s lives are somehow a part of the the Tennessee Children’s Home Society story.  There is a shared experience with all of those who’s lives have been impacted by this.

For many of us (myself included) there is a feeling of kinship when we find our long ago “lost” family members. Not all reunions go happy but mine have.

What I took away from reading this book is that there is a universal aspect to the experience of most adoptees. Though the Georgia Tann/TCHS story was a particularly bad scandal, the effects on the Tann adoptees is so very similar to the wounds and trauma that every adoptee experiences (even the ones who aren’t aware it is there – that is my own opinion about it but from exposure to a diversity of adoptees, I don’t believe I’m far wrong).

Before We Were Yours (the fictional account) is a fast and engaging read.  Before and After is a bit more tedious but the real story of real impacts on real people.  I recommend both books.

To Raise Up A Child

It burgeons like a night mushroom beneath a protective cover of fallen leaves that look sickly and forlorn. The leaves are the symptoms that protect and in some strange way nourish the spores of the hidden genius that it may arise at the right time, possessed of its own unique and unadulterated powers.
~ Jean Houston, A Mythic Life

I think that those people cut off from their own, whether adoptee or foster child and their original parents, are in the early stage of changing the myth. The unicorns and rainbows story of how wonderful it is to be plopped into a stranger’s world. We are seeing that it is an outmoded perception and it needs to change or go away.  These individuals now speak up loudly to help those unaware to see what is going on.

Life is complex. The child (and even the matured individual) who has been impacted may be scarred by a trauma, those who haven’t been subjected to it may struggle to understand.

Finding a way to make sense of it all is something I have been doing for a couple of years now.  A good starting place for my own self has been to accept and acknowledge the sad and tragic circumstances that are part of the thread of continuity which makes me who I am.

For those adoptive parents and foster care givers, it is critical to see, not only the trauma and the wounds and certainly to address those, but also to seek to see the core self that is at the deepest level of the soul, before those impacts arrived. What are the natural talents and capacities, yes gifts, this child has to give to the world ? Nurture those !! Even as you attempt to heal the wounds that will always be within the personality.