Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Transcultural Adoption Is Not The Answer

Anonymous Very few families apart from sociopaths, willing give up children unless they are desperate.

South Korea was exporting adoptions en mass during the time I was adopted for many reasons.

1. They have very Confucius traditions and place loads of importance on lineage and adoption is taboo. Illegitimate children, children with a non-Korean parent, or children out of wedlock were heavily shunned as well as the birth mother and any of her family/associates.  So much shame was placed on anyone who did not conform to a traditional family.

2. Single mothers, adoptive families, and poor families have little social safety net/aid.  Social welfare didn't happen until 1977 and still today welfare spending is low (7.6% vs. the OECD average 19% in 2007) and income inequality is high.  Single mothers, illegitimate children and adoptive families are discriminated against.  Women have been gaining access to education and careers since the 1970-80's but there is still rampant wage discrimination with women making on average 39% less then men.

3. Abortions being illegal, contraceptives typically left up to men, and the KMA (korean medical association) scaremongering against the sort lack of overall reproductive rights empowerment.

Now since South Korea has become economically prosperous (With a large thanks to underpaid exploited female factory labor in 1960-1980) It's become somewhat of a national embarrassment for  South Korea to be a "baby exporter", so they have been pushing pro-domestic adoption and domestic adoption has been increasing, so South Koreans are capable of adopting within their own culture when encouraged.  The fact that many adoptees came back to Korea looking for answers and pushing reform probably helped as well.

In summary, I believe if you empower families and particularly women and mothers, the less babies you will need to "rescue" from poverty/abandonment. if you truly want to be selfless and do what is in the very best interest of a child, empower their family and homeland so that they can grow up in their own families and if that is not possible because they are truly orphaned, at least in their own culture.  There is too much science supporting the importance of mother and infant bond now, to continue pretending that adoptees are clean slates waiting for their adoptive parents to write on.

I see the growing wage inequity in the USA and Vice President Mike Pence's "adoption instead of abortion" stand and I really fear for the future of children and families from lower economic backgrounds here.  It highlights the problem with America's attitude towards adoption in general.  It's the rescue children from "poor origin" mentality that simply forgets the source of the problem often lies with the "poor family of origin". Gross wage inequality, and restricting reproductive freedoms is a perfect recipe to ensure that the poor can continue to breed for the rich.  If you can't afford children, you don't deserve them, however, if you're rich and infertile, you are entitled to someone else's.

But let's keep insisting it's all for the best interest of the kids, right?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Support For Some

By a female 1960's  Baby Scoop Era domestic adoptee who has searched and is in reunion.

Sometimes it is hard for adoptee to find appropriate support. The most obvious venues may cause more harm than good. A therapist not familiar with adoptee issues can try to treat the symptoms but not the core issues. The first hit on a Google search for adoptee support is often, which only allows positive adoption stories. This is even more isolating for an adoptee struggling and in need of help.

I attended a 5-hour Catholic Charities triad support. About 18 people showed up, most were adoptees, about 4 were first mothers, 3 family members supporting an adoptee or first mother.
The people there were very welcoming and compassionate. Having done it alone for so many years, there is nothing quite like being in a room of adoptees that have something so fundamental in common. We were removed from our first mother and did not grow up knowing any biological family.

I went in with an open mind. Talking about adoption to non-adopted people generally makes them uncomfortable. Having over a dozen people who want to talk about it seemed like a good idea. Catholic Charities sponsoring the event made me a little wary. My experience with taught me that not all claims of support are actually supportive. Since there are so few of us, I decided to take the opportunity to meet more adoptees. It was not exactly my cup of tea, but at least it was tea? In retrospect it felt more like Kool-Aid. The first thing the moderated did was to pass out a quote having to do with “she loved you so much, she gave you away”. This language is problematic for the adopted child who might who might then associate love with abandonment. Even as a young child, I knew it had more to do with inconvenience and shame than being abandon because I was loved so much. It may have been meant to make first mother feel as though they did the right thing and were justified in relinquishing their babies. The hand out was from the moderator and not the adoptees and I was interested in hearing form adoptees and first mothers.

Each person had a chance to speak. It was odd how adoptees generally prefaced what they were about to say by stating how lucky and grateful they were, like it was part of the culture of the group. They seemed to be trying to pacify everyone else in the triad and not allowed to express their own pain, or any complex emotion having to do with adoption. In their pain and confusion often ended up crying. Adoptees were reminded to understand where the first mothers are coming from and the grief of being infertile but seemed to be encouraged to pretend everything was OK. It felt like we were treated like children, not allowed to show our true feelings and always trying to please others.

I went close to last and said, “I’ve been in reunion for a couple years, but the most surprising thing I’ve learned was how being adopted has affected me.”
People looking uncomfortably around the room.

I did not eve say weather it affected me in a good way or bad. Most people seemed to be bracing themselves. It is like no one has heard of such a think and certainly not dared to speak it out loud. I continued, “The book the Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier described many of my behaviors growing up and now still. It helped me so much knowing I was not alone.” The woman next to me started to say she’d like to read it and someone from across the table interrupted her saying, “I read that and I don’t believe it” in a nasty tone, and that was it. I didn’t expect everyone to agree with me, but the hostile reaction was surprising. I sat there for 5 hours trying to be supportive and keep and open mind and that felt like the rejection that I was seeking support for.

It keeps reminding me of this study about children growing up where there is social unrest who have more resilience because they had a clear understanding of the situation. Their parents and teachers told them the trauma they were experiencing shouldn’t be happening. When the children study could participate in social change, they were said to have, “high levels of self-esteem and a deep sense of purpose and control”.

If the trauma is not acknowledged, it is hard to begin healing. Instead, this adoptee community tells them adoption is wonderful and we should be grateful. Not being able to acknowledge that adoption had any affect on my life caused prolonged unnecessary suffering. I felt bad for all these adoptees that came for support, but couldn’t even entertain the notion that any of us were at all affected by adoption. If they were truly fine with their adoptions, they wouldn’t be giving up a Saturday once a month sitting through a 5 hour long meeting.
One person touched on her narcissistic cruel adoptive mother and was met with the same silence. She was the only person that didn’t start with how grateful she was. Not wanting to upset the first mothers in the group by hearing that an adoptee didn’t have a better life, seemed to be the status quo. Being removed from the woman that gave birth to you caused trauma so no matter how great your adoptive parents. We deserve healing; we are not helpless, voiceless children anymore.

What Drives My Continuing Dysfunction

By DavisP
Male, 1940's adoptee, Searched for biological parents and  found graves.  In reunion with half-brothers.

I was adopted over 70 years ago. If this event is affecting me today (and it still has that power) then it must be that I have carried something forward from that time. The event itself was over in a relatively short time.
The point is that today, I am not the victim of someone else’s action that happened so long ago. Today, I am affected by my own deeply rooted beliefs, which I formed back then. Neither my natural-parents nor my adoptive-parents drive my dysfunction. I do.
That is not to say that they didn’t cause the event. Certainly they did and they will always be responsible for that. It would be nice if they and society in general had some compassion for what it is like for adoptees but that seems to be in short supply. The very word adoption hides the issue. The issue is not being taken in by another family; it is being relinquished by our first family.
My favorite saying is “Mind is cause, experience is effect.”  Unfortunately this is true for adoptees, too.
Paul Sunderland, has a very good youtube talk ( ). He talks about adoptees having PTSD. When we have a life threatening event our brain can be rewired. This seems to be especially true for the Limbic System of the brain. It controls our fight, flee, or freeze response. It tries to keep us safe. Since it supports our very survival, it responds quickly and forcefully. The part of our brain that does reasoning and logic is the cerebellum. It takes awhile to analyze, so is not nearly as fast to respond. Our initial response is driven by the limbic system.
When we experienced separation from our mothers it was traumatic. We had no sense of self separate from her. We felt ripped apart and from this trauma we formed a set of beliefs. I suspect that we hold these beliefs in our limbic brain.
Some thoughts:
1   Before we had a concept of self and other, we were ripped apart.
2   Because of 1 we are afraid to trust.
3   Because of 2 we don’t let others be close to us.
4   Because of 3 we are on our own – if we are lucky we find a therapist or spouse that helps us see ourselves. Sometime we let other adoptees see us and that   can help, too.
5   Our trauma occurred preverbal, so the beliefs formed are hard to get at.
I  have uncovered a few of the beliefs that I formed with my adoption trauma.
A    “Feelings hurt. Don’t” 
I shut down my feelings for about 50 years. Recently I heard an interview with Bessel Van der Kolk, who is an expert on trauma. One of the things he said is that trauma often causes a disassociation between body and mind. This felt so validating. I have no memory of trauma, so it is easy for me to minimize the effect it has had on me.
B    “I am a mistake.” 
Toxic shame – not that I made a mistake – I am the mistake.
C    “If you see me then you will throw me away.”
Why I have always been reluctant to let people get close.
D    “I am not lovable.” 
This affects my ability to feel loved. I am handicapped. I may be loved and suspect I am, but it is hard to let it in. This is devastating.
I feel sure there are other beliefs of the same ilk floating around in my subconscious. Even those that I am aware of are still there in a weakened state.
The problem of discovering these beliefs is that they were written in a language without words and the translation does not come easily.
So, as I see it, what drives my continuing dysfunction is me and my beliefs..
A study of WWII vets showed that the memory response over time of vets who had PTSD and those who did not was significantly different.  Those who did not have PTSD moderated their memories over the years. Those with PTSD kept their vivid memory descriptions constant.
We search and search for something to make us whole, or at least stop the pain. We want to fit in somewhere. For some finding our birth families may help, but it seems to me that I don’t really fit there either. There always seems to be a hole, something is missing, we are somehow incomplete. This may be our PTSD frozen memory of being one with our mother. A place we can never go back to.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Am I Blood or Am I Water?

By DavisP
Male, 1940's adoptee, Searched for biological parents and  found graves.  In reunion with half-brothers.

I had a much-loved grandmother who often talked of family and had a favorite saying “Blood is thicker than water”. I can hear her saying it now. I never had the courage to ask her - “Am I blood or am I water?” I was afraid that I could not stand the answer.

I cannot remember a time that I did not know that I was adopted. While there was some talk about my being adopted, it was mostly being told the story of the night I came to my adoptive family. Oddly enough the story was more about my older brother, who was their bio-child. My dad was a doctor and my adoption was privately arranged by a doctor friend who delivered me. He, also, delivered me to my parents. He arrived with his own son, about three and me. I was put into a bassinet to sleep. His son was standing peering at me with his hand on the bassinet that I was sleeping in. My a-brother, nearly three, awoke from a nap. He didn’t say a word but pushed the other boy away and then took a look at me. End of story.

When I was told this story as a child it somehow felt comforting. Slowly as I aged it dawned on me that there was nothing about being excited on my arrival or loving - it seems my brother was the focus, really. It felt more like ownership than kinship. There was always an uncomfortable feeling associated with talking about my being adopted that made it hard for me to explore what it really meant or understand or express feelings associated with it.

If asked as a child and even as an adult up to the age of 50, I would have denied that being adopted had affected me. Such is the power of our subconscious mind. Anything too painful to endure must be hidden from us until we are strong enough to deal with it.

From the time I was born until the time that I went to my adoptive family was relatively short - about a week. I doubt that this time interval can ever be much shorter than that. But the damage was already done in that short space. I will try to describe the process that I have gone through coming to that conclusion. It has taken me almost 25 years.

I was told repeatedly that I was such a good baby - that I never cried and slept all night from the very start. (More about this latter)

As a child, I was very withdrawn and shy. I wanted to be a part of the crowd and at the same time sought out independence. This is certainly not unique to adoptees, except for the extent. From my vantage point today, I can see that I was driven by shame.

From the time when I was a small child of maybe 5 or so my hands would peel. The skin would just come off; they were red, raw, cracked, bloody, and sore. I was taken to doctors, given lotions, I slept with cotton gloves loaded with lotion and the end result was my hands peeled. This went on until I was 50.

As a teen I never dated or attended the school proms and such. I thought I was extremely shy - but I think now that I was really consumed by shame.

Shame can be a healthy emotion. It tells us when we have violated our own standards. We can recover from this type of shame by realizing that we can be a good person even if we make a mistake. The shame I am talking about is sometimes called toxic shame. Toxic shame is the belief that we are the mistake - not that we made a mistake. It is pretty hard to recover from that belief.

Somewhere early in my life the shame was too much to carry and I pushed it into my subconscious. In its place I put on a facade of superiority as a coping mechanism. It was what allowed me to survive. Not a particularly healthy coping mechanism, however.

I must have chosen this coping mechanism because it was too painful to believe I was a mistake.

Outwardly, I was successful. I earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Physics. I married and we have three kids and two grandsons and about to have a great granddaughter. I was hired by a large Aerospace Engineering company and worked for them for 40 years. I was successful - growing in responsibility and pay. I loved working and worked on some amazing projects: The Apollo Lunar Program, the Space Shuttle, several classified programs, an Australian program that took us there for a couple of years.

So what is the problem? The problem is my inner world. I never met an addiction I didn’t like: sex, food, alcohol, smoking, work, etc. Anything that helped me not to feel, I would use. I still don’t know how I avoided drugs, as I was in college in the 60s.

The belief that - I am a mistake, led me to isolate by not letting people get too close to me - after all if they saw me then, of course, they would leave. It affected my marriage, my work and my everyday social life. I felt I had to be better than, just to be good enough. I tried not to be seen.

I always felt that I could not depend on anyone. It is still difficult for me to ask for help. I was unable to feel worthy, or loved. Without the feedback of my feelings, I was more a computer than a human. I worked on classified programs which was great because I didn’t have to talk about it. Socially, I had few friends and hated most social gatherings.

When I was 50, my coping mechanisms began to fail, my life was not working, my marriage was struggling and we began counseling. My counselor had experience with adoptees and asked that I look into my adoption issues. I did not believe that I had any adoption issues and rather brazenly said “I'm willing to look under that rock but I don't believe there's any snakes there”. In a sense I was correct there were no snakes there were bloody dragons.

Beginning to Recover

There came a day that I was at work. I had a large office. The door was closed and I was having what felt like a breakdown. I was having all these feelings - I was crying and I did not know what was going on. I called my counselor and very patiently I was told what the feelings were, the sadness and hurt, the fear and anger. That was the start of my reconnecting my mind and my body. As I began to allow my feelings to come up and be felt in my body, my hands stop peeling. Today only under severe distress where I am just unable to process the emotions do my hands peel. It seems that emotions must come out and they can come out healthily, as we experience them naturally, or they can come out as disease.

As soon as I began to feel, I felt overwhelming hurt and sadness. It was pervasive; however, there was a particular sadness around my birth. I didn’t know what to do with this. Of course, I have no memories of this time so what was this sadness. Obviously it had to do with being relinquished/adopted, but what could I do? The hurt I felt lasted nearly a year. I had a huge pent up vat of hurt that I needed to process and let go. The sadness around my birth continued.

Healing is a path. It is not about arriving at a destination, it is about living life day to day. I am on a path.

After 50 years of denying that I was affected by relinquishment/adoption, I was seeing the effects it had on my life everywhere I looked. We call this awakening - defogging. I read adoptee literature: Primal Wound, Journey of the Adopted Self, There is an old saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. The teachers are always there, but to us, the students, we are only able to hear what we are ready for - and we hear only what we are strong enough to hear. 

Search and Reunion

I began to search for my birth family. My dermatologist wrote a letter saying I needed to know my family medical history. This was used to have my adoption records opened. I found my mother and father’s names. My mother’s name was rather common and I got nowhere with my search. My father’s name was very unusual and easily traced. He had died. I went to talk to people who knew him. The information from them and other information I obtained latter, raised doubt that he was my father.

After about ten years the state of Texas graciously allowed adoptees to have their original birth certificate (OBC) IF they knew their parents names. When I got my OBC it had my mother’s social security number on it. This was unusual for 1941. With her social security number it took less than a day to find that she had died about the time I started searching. I requested a death certificate and found I had two half-brothers. Making the call to announce myself was scary and emotional. They grew up in an alcoholic home and have their own set of problems. We have a somewhat tentative relationship. But we do talk some.

Twenty-four years after I started searching, DNA testing and genealogy proved that the man named in my court records was indeed my father. I have no picture of him. I do have a picture of his half-brother. I have not found any living relative on my father’s side.

I did not get what I wanted and hoped for from searching. Even so, I’m very glad that I did. Knowing my family story is grounding.

Continuing Recovery from Relinquishment/Adoption

I joined and worked with a local adoption group in Austin, Texas for awhile. It is called Adoption Knowledge Affiliates (Also Known As). It is a triad group. I had a need to hear other’s experiences and to express my own. I was moved by hearing other’s stories and when I told my story, it was gratifying to see that others understood. I eventually became a director of that organization. When I moved from Austin, I knew I would need to find another way to connect.

I, also, joined Al-Anon and attended regularly for about 15 years. There is alcoholism in my families, but even if there hadn’t been I needed to hear their message: Keep the focus on yourself, One day at a time, There but for the grace of god go I, Clean my side of the street, Make amends . . . I learned so much from this experience, most importantly, the only person I can change is me.

I slowly became aware that there were times that all reason left my mind; during these times I was driven by some feeling/belief that was so primeval that I could not easily express it. I would have the need to hide or be consumed in shame. The very fact that I had needs was shameful. I have written about these feelings/beliefs elsewhere:

“Feelings hurt. Don’t”
“I am a mistake.”
“If you see me then you will throw me away.”
“I am not lovable.”

These four statements were somehow driving me and yet I didn’t know how.

About four years ago I joined an online adoptee support group. It has greatly enhanced my own recovery.

Again hearing other’s stories was touching me deeply. Some I related to immediately. Others at first I thought “I’m glad I didn’t experience that” only to come to see that indeed I had - I just had not been aware. And then there are some truly horrific stories of abuse that makes me weep. The results were I felt less alone, my experiences were not unique. Telling my stories and having my experiences accepted and validated has been an incredible experience of healing.

For the first time in my life I felt like I was accepted by people who really knew me.

Finding the Primal Wound

I have been obsessive in trying to understand just what has caused my dysfunction - what gave such power to the four beliefs.

Paul Sunderland’s video (Remembered not Recalled) 

on relinquished/adopted Developmental PTSD was the first major breakthrough for me. The idea that trauma causes brain changes that can persist for years is powerful. An adoptee’s brain is changed by the Primal Wound we received.

A year or so ago I read a book called the Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kock... One of the things he said was that trauma often causes a disassociation between body and mind. This was so validating. I had no memory of trauma, but certainly knew that I had disassociated. It seemed trauma was the key - the Primal Wound was real.

Then I came across the book Healing Developmental Trauma - How Early Trauma affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image and the Capacity for Relationship by Heller and LaPierre:

This book talks of five core needs and corresponding five adaptive survival styles that are the results from an infant not bonding securely to their mother; Not bonding causes some or all of the five core needs not to be met. The following table from the book shows the impacts on the child.

The Connection Survival StyleDisconnected from physical and emotional self
Difficulty relating to others
The Attunement Survival StyleDifficulty knowing what we need
Feeling our needs do not deserve to be met
The Trust Survival Style Feeling we cannot depend on anyone but ourselves
Feeling we have to always be in control 
The Autonomy Survival StyleFeeling burdened and pressured
Difficulty setting limits and saying no directly
The Love-Sexuality Survival StyleDifficulty integrating heart and sexuality
Self-esteem based on looks and performance

Heller Phd, Laurence; Lapierre, Aline Psyd (2012-09-25). Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship (Kindle Locations 183-187). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

I have the full set. Every one of “Core Difficulties” is present in me. My self-esteem is not based on looks, but it certainly has been on performance.

While I experienced the primal wound, I was able to bond somewhat with my adoptive mother and father. If I had not, I would not have been able to function nearly as well as I have. The primal wound had caused my brain to change - bonding with my adoptive family could not undo these changes, but did give me some foundation to build on.

Primal Wound Reinforced

Having experienced this primal wound”, there were a series of life experiences that reinforced the beliefs I had formed.

Earlier I mentioned that I was a good baby. I slept through the night and never cried. I never cried because I had given up. I had learned that my needs were not going to be taken care of and it was no use asking. What “I was a good baby” really meant is that I knew my needs didn’t matter - so don’t ask.

I was born one day before Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into WWII. My father was already in the army aircorp and was immediately sent for additional training before being sent to Britain. . When I was about three months my mom took my older brother and went to visit my dad for a week. I stayed with her sister who was told verbally “Feed him a tall can of milk at feeding - he probably won’t finish it.” Unfortunately, what my aunt heard was “Feed him a small can of milk”. When my mother got back my aunt said “He would get so excited when he saw the bottle and would drain it dry, but he never cried.”

Both of these incidents were told to me over and over throughout my life by my a-mom. Of course, I have no direct memory of them. As I began to defog my interpretation of these events changed. They have evolved from nice quaint family stories and feeling a touch of pride, to feeling uneasy about the stories and not wanting to hear them, and finally to deep sadness, hurt and anger.

My earliest memory is being lost on a beach in California. I was about three. I remember walking along the shore looking at the buildings that were just past the beach area. I was trying to match them to what I had seen when we first arrived at the beach. A three year old who is not crying (a child’s way to ask for help) but trying to figure it out for himself. - It means I didn’t trust that anyone cared - I didn’t think I could call for help. I felt I was on my own at three.

My brother, who was a bio-child and was two and a-half years older than I, was abusive. I was used as a punching bag and should I fight back then I was beaten. I asked my parents for help, but effective help was never given. I learned again that I was not important. My needs and wants did not matter.

When I was about 11 my parents separated and then divorced. Any child, who has experienced their parents’ divorce, knows how traumatic this is. For me it was another major abandonment. It was a year before I could even mention it to my best friend - such deep shame. I didn’t feel like I caused it, but I did feel it was up to me to fix the damage. I did not believe that I could depend on anyone else.

All of these incidents reinforced or added to my deeply held beliefs that I am a mistake and my needs are not important. The very fact that I have needs is shameful because I am not deserving.

Releasing Shame.

I have known people that had serious medical issues and did not know why or what was going on. There was relief when they got a diagnosis. Nothing had changed, but at least they knew what they were dealing with. I feel just the same way. It has been crazy making not understanding or knowing.

Since I have understood the source of my deep sadness and shame, I have been going through a process of releasing the shame. I acknowledge how it has affected me and let it go with a statement that it is not my shame. As I write this - it sounds hokey, but it goes pretty much that way. I feel lighter and freer. I am learning how to be.

I lived in my mind for the majority of my life. I’m finding that my body is wiser than I knew. It was not by chance that my hands peeled. Our hands are how we feed ourselves, how we work, basic to how we live. Was my body trying to get my attention? Was my body trying to slough off the shame? I think so. In a very real sense, my hands have been the bellwether of my recovery.

I am still on my path of recovery from relinquishment/adoption and if I am lucky and work at it then I will be for the rest of my life. Change does not come automatically with understanding. I have much work to become the person I want to be. I still have the full set of core difficulties. Some may be lesser than they were, but they are still there and may always be there to some extent.

So, am I Blood or Am I Water? . . .

A word to Adoptive Parents and those considering Adoption:

You will find many adoptees that state that they are not affected by being adopted. I was one for fifty years. I hope my story has shown that you cannot trust this claim no matter how sincere the adoptee is. We cannot state that we are not affected because we have never experienced not being adopted. Likewise, non-adopted people cannot experience what it is like to be adopted. It is unlikely that an adopted person can come through without deep wounds.

Adopting a child is a lifelong commitment. It is okay to want a child, just don’t let your needs to have a child be primary over the child’s needs. The child needs to bond with their natural mother. If you want to help the child then help the natural family keep the child. It is astounding to me that we, as a society, know that you should not take puppies at too young an age because it affects their development. And yet we routinely take human children from their mothers and fathers at birth and then do nothing to help them.

Your child is not a blank slate. We know our mother, know her smell, how she sounds, how her heart beats, what her voice sounds like, … You can and should do your best to bond with your child, but cannot, no matter how you try, prevent the child from being wounded. Your child will have suffered severe trauma.

In any case when you adopt you have several tasks:
  • The normal responsibilities of caring for any child that all parents have. 
  • Encouraging the child to talk about their feelings about being adopted. Make it known that it is okay to do so. This is much harder than it sounds.
  • Capturing and protecting the child’s identity and heritage while it is available. This is the responsibility of both the natural family and the adoptive family. The child can then have this information when the time comes. Not doing so is cruel. 
  • Your child will want to know about their family. This will be difficult because they don’t want to hurt you and may say otherwise. Do not be afraid, just as you can love more than one child, your child can love more than one set of parents. Our need to connect with our natural family is not a reflection on you in any manner. It is a basic human need. Please don’t make us chose. 
  • Maybe, you can help your child know whether they are blood or water. 

We can take the truth - it is the lies that inflict further damage. The truth may hurt, but that can be dealt with. The secret/locked OBCs, the pretending that we are biological, and heaven forbid, not telling us that we are adopted; - these actions are not honest nor are they loving. Any secret will be interpreted as hiding something bad.

You cannot protect your child from all the hurt that will happen, but be aware of innocent remarks that an adopted child will pick up on. These are the “Am I blood or am I water?” moments. These types of experiences are not uncommon.

Here is a small sample of events that occur throughout our lives:
  • the school genealogy assignment 
  • Hearing the adoptive family history and wondering about our own. 
  • Wanting to know more about our natural family and feeling that it is not worth how uncomfortable it makes everyone.
  • The doctor visits where we are asked for family history 
  • Not having a physical resemblance to our adoptive family. (When we are able to look at those around us and see a resemblance, we inherently know that we belong. Without that genetic mirroring we never have a deep feeling of belonging) 
  • Being an asterisk on someone’s genealogy tree, but our children are not welcome. 
  • There not being any genealogy tree where our kids are accepted, with the exception of the one that begins with me.

Being an adoptive parent is not easy. You may have to deal with the rage of an adoptee and though you may not be responsible for any of that rage, you are the person present so you will be the target of that rage. The stories of adoptees that are re-homed are examples of epically failed adoptions. Adoptive parents that were unwilling to look at what might happen. The result is the adoptee experiences yet another abandonment. The bottom line - being an adoptee’s parent is much harder than being a biological parent.

You must help your child heal the trauma - this is no small task and I wish I could provide guidance on how this can be done. There is a reason that adoptees are over-represented in suicide attempts, addiction treatment centers, mass-murders. We have experienced severe trauma and are hurting. We hide it well, but that only makes your job harder. Unfortunately, society does not want to see this side of adoption.

Should you chose to adopt, I wish you wisdom, strength, and a loving heart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Becoming Of Me

I was conceived in February 1963, to a woman who was probably not overjoyed to learn of the news. My mother definitely was not overjoyed to learn that my medium dark-skinned father was not going to leave his wife for a woman who was married and already had five kids. What was she thinking? Was my dad supposed to be a ticket out of a boring useless marriage? In my adoption papers was written,

“he shirked his responsibilities; she seemed quite uninterested in him. She said she did not want to see him again. She said it hurt that he had not offered to help her financially. His daughters are beautiful blondes who have financial security.”

Because my mother’s pregnancy was before Roe VS Wade, my mother had few safe options other than continuing with the unwanted pregnancy. Did my mother debate keeping me, hoping that my skin would be pale enough to blend in with her other English-Scotch children? Did Bert find out and tell her to “get rid of it”?

What is it like for a fetus to be in the uterus of a woman that does not want it? When a fetus is wanted, the mother talks to it, rubs her belly, and maybe even dances with it. Was my mother silent with me? Did she curse me? Did she curse herself? Attachment starts in the womb. Are unwanted fetuses left alone, detached in utero? I was born on 11/15/1963 and weighed over 8lbs; obviously my mother did not try to starve me to death.

Once born, did my mother see me, hold me or did the endless chain of caretakers begin, each one representing a new short-term attachment? According to the orphanage mediator, “It looks like you were in the hospital until 11/19/1963. I have no information either way if your birth mother saw you or not.” So it was at least four days until my stint in foster care started. I cried my best cry to get my mother to come back.

Foster care was apparently not a happy place, as I had a baby bootie (so the doctors say) tied so tightly around my right ankle that it caused a deep wound that has left a scar noticeable even today. No doctor that I have talked to feels that it was an accident, that it took a lot of pressure to get to that point. A short-term tie would not have caused it. Was I given “something to cry about”? I only wanted what all infants want…her. I guess the state did not pay my foster parents enough to deal with me.

Once foster care was over another trauma, the worst of the trauma, was to begin…adoption. I lost my mother and the world cheered, the world said it was a beautiful thing, that I was special, chosen, and lucky. I was about to be taught that suppressing the natural love I had for my mother was going to be the key to my survival. It would make my new parents happy and secure if I did so, and gosh knows I could not afford to be abandoned again as there had been so many strangers in my short time here.

Adoptive parents are some of the most insecure, jealous people on the planet. As I grew, I kept my end of the unwritten bargain that every adopted child makes (even though they never knew they were making it), stuff your real feelings down so deep that you mostly stop thinking about your mother in exchange for a place to live. Do not rock the boat, and for god’s sake, don’t ever, ever, say that you want your family back. DON'T GO LOOKING FOR YOUR FAMILY! To add to this, adoptees have an impossible task to accomplish and that is to be the child that their adoptive parents could not have. This is very traumatic. I had no one to mirror, we did not smell the same, there were no grandparents to ask what it was like when they were younger etc.… Adoption becomes adaption.

All of this puts us adoptees into a type of fog, something much more than a denial. It is in this foggy state that we adoptees shout the rhetoric of the adoption industry. We make our adoptive parents proud and secure when we say, “I just love being adopted" or, "I was so special to be adopted” or, in my case, “please don’t let her come get me”. Between the natural Stockholming that happened to me and the unspoken words of my adoptive parents, I had become afraid of my own mother. This kind of foggy crap can last a lifetime or until the adoptee comes out of the fog. It is not a pretty thing to defog, it bloody hurts and it may be why so many adopted people stay “comfortably numb” and don't complain.

My adoptive parents were good honest people and they would have made great parents if they were parenting their own child. I am NOT THEIR CHILD, I AM BETTY AND JOHN'S CHILD!

The only one chosen in adoption, generally speaking, is the adoptive parents. They fill out a form and, if they have the money and the attributes that the industry is looking for, they are given a chance to be notified if a child is made available. Once the next child in line is available, they can choose to take that child, or pass on the child. Adoptive parents never seem to pass up a child, but take the one available. Sometimes, moms go looking for new parents all on their own.

I was adopted by a preacher and a teacher and entered a highly religious family. God was all-powerful and he wanted me to lose my mother, proven by the fact that I did lose her. It was meant to be. They praised god that I was theirs.

Not once was I taught a prayer to say for my mother, not once was I asked what it was like to live without my mother. No one prayed to their god to get me and my mother back together again. My adoptive mother’s mother was a missionary in Bolivia and spent her time spreading her religion. They could go to foreign lands to find recruits for their religion, but could not be bothered to look for my mother (religion and all that goes with it is another reason why adoptees go into the fog and stay silent about their family. It is so frightening for a child that has already experienced a trauma).

Other than what I have written about above, I had a normal life. I went to public school, lived in decent neighborhoods, had clothes bought for me on a regular basis. I was six years old, and at the San Jose public library when I found a book on dogs. I could not read very well yet and did not know the difference between champion and companion, but even then, I knew I was going to show dogs.

Last count I had titled four champion dogs, two grand champion dogs, and five obedience titled dogs. Nobody in my adoptive family shows dogs. It is comforting to hear that my Aunt Martha was active in the world of dogs. I just wish we could have shown them together.

My love for horses started the same time as my love for dogs. I had an imaginary one that ran alongside the car wherever we went. I had a collection of plastic horses that I played with for hours in my bedroom. My imaginary “other” used to play with me with them. I made her go away whenever my adoptive mother came into my room. I did not want her to kill my “other” and make her go away completely. Now I know that my “other” was my real mother. I would go on to show horses and win belt buckles and other stuff that would have made Aunt Martha drool.

High school was a mess. I never went and was sent to seven different schools. I was full of what is now called “adoptee rage”. Once again, there was silence from my adoptive family. Punish her more, take away her horse, ship her off to a private school far away and make her live with strangers, abandon her, but for the love of god, do not talk about adoption, nor petition the courts to find her mother. In 1978, I was a freshman in high school, it was also the year that the state of Washington opened the adoption records allowing adopted children to try to contact their families. My adopted parents never let me know that it was an option.

Growing up, I never wanted to marry or have kids; I wanted to do something special with my life, something great. Wouldn’t you just know that preacher’s daughters don’t get put on birth control. They get hung out to dry, so I got knocked up my senior year.

I married a man who was one of eight kids, all raised on welfare, whose dad died of alcoholism by the time he was 35. The marriage lasted for 14 years, but only because I was too afraid to leave and try to take care of myself. I had one child and counted the days until it was over. I left in '95, spent three years co-parenting and then moved to my adoptive grandmother’s house because it was empty. I have not seen my son, my only blood relative, in 20 + years. I did not understand that whenever my son left my house because his visit was over, that it was triggering the loss of my mother over and over again. It was unbearable to be around him.

I woke up June 13, 2013 at the age of 48, placed my feet on the floor, went to my computer, looked up the name of the orphanage (industry talk calls it “children’s home”), and shot off an email to find out what I could about finding my family. It took me nearly 48 years to come out of the adoption fog. I have spent every day since, making a beeline back to my mother and understanding what all I have lost. I am still learning.