Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"I love you, but..."

I read quite a few blogs that consider open adoption from the point of view of the natural parent. I find the dynamics of open adoptions interesting because my own adoption, dating from the Dark Ages of sealed records in lockdown, is so very different.

As a social worker wrote recently on a blog,

"No one should ever be denied this knowledge [of where she comes from]. I heard a quote recently (and posted it on Facebook) that closed adoption is institutionalized denial. It's so true. You can never deny a child's heritage. That's why I love open adoption so much, because I see a child with two families, two heritages, and a whole lot of love."


A whole lot of love? More self-knowledge? What ever could be wrong with that?

And yet, I have been struggling with some of what I read. An adoptee of my era commented thus about open adoption,

"This is just my personal opinion, but as an adult adoptee I have never been totally enamored with the idea of open adoption. I did not want my first parent(s) to take me to the zoo, I wanted to live with them and have them raise me. What if they would move out of town and start a new family and not see me as much or ever? Open adoption seems to me that it could potentially set the stage for repeated rejections. Just speaking for myself, I suspect I would rather have only been a part of my afamily until the age of 18 when I could decide for myself. The only advantage I can see is knowing who my natural parents were would have been better than having imaginary figures in my head. It seems that children have an innate need to be loved and valued by their natural parents. I'm not sure that open adoption would get rid of the pain of being given away in the first place."


I have thought very much the same thing, and have spent much time recently discussing this topic with other adoptee friends. 


While I think it would have been wonderful to know before I was 40 where I came from, who my nparents were, whom I resembled, etc., the pain of having nparents around, but perhaps not emotionally present, or only partially emotionally present, would have been very difficult for me. I try to imagine being taken out for ice cream, or to the zoo. Knowing that I belonged with these people, but that I wouldn't go home with them. That my kept brothers and sisters would have what I couldn't--the unconditional love of my nparents, as well as their time. It seems like each drop off would involve repeated, painful levels of rejection and sadness; at least I expect that's how my child brain and emotions would have processed it. 


I know that there are some open adoptions that "work," although they are not without their own pain and problems. Then there are those "open" adoptions that seem paradoxical. For example, when an nmom has another child she keeps after the placed child. The placed child wants one-on-one time with the nmom, but the nmom cannot imagine leaving her kept child at home because that child would feel "abandoned." Yes! I didn't make this up. The kept child's sense of abandonment matters; the adopted child's doesn't. Why is that?


Or the nmom who doesn't want to tell her kept child that this other child he meets and plays with is his brother. It's too difficult because the father of the kept child isn't quite open accepting the placed child into the family. Never mind that the placed child is told by his APs that this other child is his brother. Seems to me that the lying by omission is going to cause serious fallout, and most likely for the adoptee. What happens when the adopted child tells the kept child that they're brothers, and the kept child says, "You're lying." Who will be blamed? Who will be distanced and ostracized? I know what my guess is.


Another nmom safe havened her infant but then managed to find out who the adoptive mother was, and has worked on building an "open" adoption. Problem is, no one in the nmom's family even knows she had a child, and the nmom's fiance doesn't know, either. When will the truth be told? Will the adoptee be denied once the nmom has her own kept children? I know if I married someone who didn't tell me that he'd had a child who was adopted, I would be FURIOUS. I would have very serious trust issues with this person, and I am not altogether sure the relationship would survive. Will the child be denied when she shows up as a teen-ager, because no one in the nmom's family knows? After all, it's an "open" adoption and the child *should* feel free to contact her mom. The adoptive mother knows the nmom's name. The child *will* be able to track her nmom down. I am just imagining the pain at being told, "I love you, but not enough to tell the truth about you to anyone else who matters to me in my life."


There is another case in which the nmom is ambivalent about having the placed child in her life. Okay, fine. All parents are ambivalent from time to time. But the contrast between the gooey, expressed love for the kept child versus the coldness and emotional distance from the placed child is remarkable. I know as a child I was very much able to tell who liked me and who didn't. Perhaps her placed child is standoffish because the nmom is standoffish; interpreting the sources of adult emotions is difficult for a child. Is it a two-year-old child's job to be warm and bubbly and open so that the nmom feels good about herself, and thus open to him? Or is it his nparents' job at that point to work on building trust and love, and welcoming him into their lives? Here again is the problem of not telling the truth about this child's existence at church because right now the truth "doesn't matter." But if you have a place in a church and community, what is the likelihood that you will change your mind and tell the truth down the road? It becomes more and more difficult over time, I think. Once down that rocky road, the lies multiply. It's easy to justify not telling the truth, because *does* it really matter? Oh, the child won't know. It's about preserving one's sense of self, and one's place in society--but at the cost of the adopted child who makes the story morally complicated. 


I am not judging these people, or saying that open adoption has to be done a certain way. I can't know what it's like to live with giving a child away and having to explain that to the world around me and living with that decision, for good or for bad. I just honestly don't understand how the decision is made to lie, and then justified. Especially by people who profess devout Christianity.


I have been the denied child, the one lied about. The one whose existence made things complicated. I had the wrath of my nmom on my head for daring expose her lies. I am wondering how it will be for these children in open adoptions. Their existence is supposedly known, but not really, or only in circumscribed ways to certain people. My fear is that when they get older, they, like I, will have to pay the price for the lies. The guilt and shame for the lies might be visited on them. I hope not, I really hope not, but it seems as though some of these adults aren't thinking about the consequences that their lying by omission will have on their children.


I am very uncomfortable when people say, "I love you, but I have to keep you a secret." It is harmful and puts the adoptee in a horrible place.


I am glad, in some ways, that I only found my family as an adult. I have been able to process things with an adult's emotional toolbox, and I don't feel that I am competing with my brother for C's love. First, she doesn't love me. Second, I don't need or want her to "mother" me. That time has passed. We can interact as peers, which gives me a huge advantage. This isn't to say that her rejection was easy, just that if I had been around her as a child, and she'd been as cold and distant as she is now, there would have been grave emotional fallout for the child I was. I know myself. 


From my admittedly biased standpoint, these not-so-open "open" adoptions put a great deal of pressure on the adoptee not to ask for too much, not to say the wrong thing, and not to want too much love. Sad. Very sad. Outside of adoption, when is it okay to tell someone, "I love you, but not enough to admit who you are to the rest of the family?"







81 comments:

Linda said...

"I am not judging these people."

I AM. I judge more than Judy. How dare they continue their lies? Thanksgiving "Mom" is the worst. I mean, yeah, I would be ashamed had I done that, too. But what kind of tool proclaims herself an "open adoption blogger", when she continues her lies? How do people even read that crap without a bucket of eye bleach?

People can claim that "adoption is different now", but it's semantics, really. The child still loses his or her identity, culture and family, is forced to live with strangers, but they get a glorified play date with n Mom. Oh, goody.

I know for me, I don't think I could have been in an "open adoption" as a child. I would have been traumatized every time I had to say good bye to my Mother. That nasty scab would have been picked open each time. And Im quite sure I would have locked myself in my Mother's trunk so I could go home with her.

Adoption sucks. Period. Even if you paint it all pretty like, it still sucks for the child.

And the "Mother" who is more worried about her kept kid shouldn't even be permitted to see her kid. Neither should turkey Mom. While I have to give the adopters credit for trying to maintain an open adoption,gasp and swoon, yes, I just wrote that, at what point do they stop? These "Mothers" are hurting their relinquished children over and over again.

It is abusive to the child to be a secret....from their other n family members, and even a fiance. One day, these ap's will wake up and close the door. Then, the so-called "mothers" will cry foul.

Jenn said...

Open adoption is so complicated. I really have to wonder if it's really better for the child. I'm leaning towards no at this point. I just don't think that a kid can handle understanding why they can't live with their natural parents. I don't think they can understand. I could be totally wrong though...

Being a secret sucks. Period. I feel bad for everyone in that position. It's one of the worst feelings in the world to be told by people who are supposed to love you that you aren't important enough to tell people about. Kids know that secrets are bad. Lies are bad. Heck, even as adults we know this. What kind of a message does this send? Shame on all people who cannot fess up to having a kid. Lying about it doesn't make it go away...

Von said...

Lies are lies and in adoption it matters.There are so many lies of all kinds supposedly protecting children but in fact protecting adults from having to tell the difficult truth.
All the points you've all made here on open adoption I share belief in.It's playing at something that will in the end be more damaging for adoptees in some ways.You can't win with adoption however you do it.There is always loss, always damage,always will be.
The lack of ethics in American adoption make it doubly hard for adoptees and the lack of rights which protect others, but continue to give the message that adoptees don't matter, come from a morally bankrupt adoption industry and customers who are prepared to go along with it.

Trish said...

Ugh. This IS my daughter's experience, not even 3 and a big fucking secret. We entered an open adoption, one in which her fisrt mom can't really participate because of her "privacy" issues (orginal plan to safe haven, ended up with agency, still no one knows about baby). We are considering an ultimatum, that she tell her daughters (18, 20, 21) about their little sister or else....or else what we aren't sure. What is best for our daughter? Certainly not to be flaked on over and over, rejected, told she is not loved like the daughters her mother parented. Ugh I just don't know and I feel lucky that you all are out here talking about this stuff. Despite the "privacy", I have amassed an entire family tree for my kid, names, DOBs, addresses, medical,pictures etc. What else should I be doing? Do I shout out the secret now? Mesage the girls on Facebook? These ideas keep me up at night.

I guess first mom is going to have to answer to our daughter one day. I hope I am doing right by my daughter. I hope I can be there for my daughter in whatever way she needs me to be when it all goes down.

Trish said...

I hold my daughter close every nvery night since she came home. I love her so much, and I know the great loss she suffered (suffers). I would cut of both arms for this little girl not to experience pain. It devastates me. I love her first mom, I do. And I am furious that she made the choices she made, including placing. Knowing I would not be the mother to this perfcet child, I'd choose for fmom to parent her just so she would not feel that pain. Ironic. Ugh sorry I am barfing on your blog.

ms. marginalia said...

Thanks, everyone. I just cannot wrap my head around the secrets and lies, especially not when these mothers say how much they love their children. Lies are so ugly and really are only to protect the fragile feelings of the grownups.

Trish, I would be so fucking angry in your shoes. You are trying to do right by your daughter. Her fmom shouldn't be keeping secrets, and I find the whole safe haven thing hugely distasteful. It's an enormous cop out, and it makes me wonder what risks the moms took in giving birth at home with no help.

I know we cannot control others. It sounds like you've told your daughter's fmom that your daughter deserves to be more than a secret. You can't really do more than that. It's clear that you have your daughter's feelings in mind. You rock for putting together a family tree and having that information ready for her.

Yes, the secret will out eventually, whether your daughter's fmom tells, your daughter tells, or something else happens to clear the air. I wouldn't out your daughter--I, at least, wanted to be the one to make contact, but if the point comes when your daughter wants to contact her sisters, I would tell her that she has every right to do so. It is NOT her job to keep the secret or protect anyone.

I find the lies sickening, just sickening.

writehereblog said...

:(

-Lisa

ms. marginalia said...

Trish,

Thank you for your firm, kind comments to one of the moms in question on her blog. I hope she will think about telling the truth, sooner rather than later. It shouldn't be her daughter's burden to carry. And telling the truth later on is almost as bad: there is certain to be fallout, and the child will forever wonder what made her so awful that no one could know about her. It isn't her problem, but kids internalize these messages, and they're painful.

joy said...

Great post Kara. So true on all the points. It is so sad to me that the children are often the ones burdened with the adult shame. What a horribly unhealthy way to grow-up.

@ Trish

I also appreciate you trying to advocate for the child on that other blog. It is amazing to me how disregarded the needs of the adoptees really are.

Trish said...

In advocating for that child, I am advocating for my own. Children are not dirty little secrets. These are our children. OUR CHILDREN.

Amanda said...

Um, I'm sorry. But I think you've got a lot of gall to directly reference not one, but MANY of some of the nicest women I've ever spoken to.

Thanksgivingmom is fantastic. I have a friendship with her that is outside of the adoption world, and frankly I'm more than a little bit disgusted that you would have the balls to write something about her. Do I agree with every decision she's made? No. But I respect her as a person (and shes a damn good person) and I think its pretty shitty that you felt it appropriate to critisice not only her, but other firstmothers who blog about their feelings. And everyone who reads adoption blogs knows exactly who you are referencing.

I was a secret in my birthfamily for a long time. And it angers the crap out of me. I take it up with the people who deny me... I don't go around writing blog posts about people who are deserving respect.

Amanda said...

Oh, by the way I'm an adoptee in reunion. And many of your facts about Thanksgiving mom are incorrect. What she reveals in her blog is not the entirety of her story. Writing a little bio about someone you don't know using facts that you've gleamed from the internet isn't fair.

******Her fiance DOES know. AND, her childs adoptive mother sought her out, not the other way around.

No one is perfect..and I think a lot of the firstmothers you referenced have a lot to offer the adoption blogger community. It's a shame that they are being so hotly criticized. Hope none of you have glass houses.

Amanda said...

Great post.

Open adoption is supposed to "solve" many of the problems of closed adoptions--namely, the lack of access to knowledge of and ability to see natural family members. It's supposed to help alleviate some of the identity issues associated with the "closed era."

But like you said, I see how it brings new complications of its own, brand new paradoxes, that I don't know how to answer because I still can't answer all of the paradoxes from the closed era!

*sigh*

Amanda said...

(I'm a different Amanda than the first one who posted previously).

Trish said...

@Amanda, my comments to TG were made drectly to her on her blog a full week before this post here was even made. I personally sought TG out a year ago for her perspective on my own child's fmom. I was simply attempting to give her the perspective of an amom in a similar adoption with the facts that were available (as you know TG has not blogged about telling- her right, of course).

I personally frequent 2 of the blogs discussed here. I find them quite helpful in understanding fmom POVs. I found this blog through them, actually. I appreciate the perspective of many adoption bloggers on all sides. Part of blogging is putting onself "out there" for feedback and scrutiny too.

Amanda said...

Trish- I hear you. I really do. I just feel badly for my friend(s) who have had their very private, very intense stories criticized.

Linda said...

@Amanda- if someone doesn't want their "very private, very intense stories criticized", then they should not be blogging. That's what Hello Kitty diaries are for.

I WILL take it up with ANYONE who has the balls to talk about their lies and try to make themselves a friggin hero.

ms. marginalia said...

Amanda the First, I said that I do not understand these women's decisions not to tell the truth about their placed children. I said I do not judge, just that I do not understand.

I am an adoptee. You are an adoptee. Our experiences are very different. I was kept a secret for 40 years, and this has had serious repercussions for me and my kept brother. The truth matters, at least to me.

I agree with Linda that if their stories are private, they should be kept private. This is blogland, and I can have my own thoughts and opinions about what others say.

You are welcome to your own opinions and are welcome to be mad as hell at me if you like. This is triggering, painful stuff.

ms. marginalia said...

And my feelings about safe haven are colored by my job as an L and D RN. We have patients more often than you would think who deliver at home with no prenatal care and then hemorrhage (and die) or come in to the hospital with babies who have died from blood loss, infection, etc. It is very, very risky. I am glad that this particular situation worked out, but it might not have. It is dangerous for both mother and child.

joy said...

@ Amanda the first:

How dare you? How fucking dare you?

You come to an adoptee's blog, I don't give a shit if you are an adoptee, you are an Iscariot-adoptee at best- I don't care.

You come to an adoptee's blog and admit about how you have been harmed by these same practices and then claim to be 'disgusted' because we are critical of child abuse? Because the abusers are NICE to you? You sad little dish-rag that you are have no integrity. Lots of people can be NICE to you but that does not make them friend-worthy.

You DISGUST me.

What the FUCK is wrong with you that you defend someone who has committed the same harm that you had to suffer with? You total fuck-up.

What is forcing her to keep her daughter a secret? NOTHING.

She is nice to you? Fuck you. You are not a 'nice person' either. You are of the same scum, you are a child abuser too.

mamamargie said...

Kara, you raise a lot of really thought-provoking questions here. I want to do the right thing for my kids (we have both closed and open adoptions), but I've come to realize (sadly) there are no good solutions, because adoption is, by nature, rooted in pain and loss. Sigh. How do you gracefully tell a child that the choices his/her parent made resulted in that child never going home again?

ms. marginalia said...

Now one of the adoptions is closing, because the nmom just doesn't care. On the one hand, perhaps it's good for the child not to have to suffer the indifference of the person who is supposed to love him most. On the other, the pain of the rejection strikes me right to the heart. I had to take a Xanax. It is torturous and primal, deep and dark.

And you know what, the kept children will NOT be immune to this, no matter how much it's being done to defend them from the "false" child.

I was crying about his, and my five-year-old asked why. I explained, and he said he didn't understand. Of course not. It makes no sense. Adults are selfish.

I hate being adopted and wish I could join the ranks of those who have no clue about any of this. How blessed they are.

Amanda said...

Excuse me- a CHILD ABUSER?

How fucking dare I ? You're insane. I AM defending friend. Not because I think what she is doing is right, but because I don't think it's right that someone would write a post quite obviously criticizing a very emotional part of their lives.She did make it public- and maybe by publicizing her life she has given up the right to not be criticized. But I certainly still have the right to defend her if I feel she is being unfairly represented. That makes me a child abuser? You've got some issues, Joy.



To the original poster- I really do understand where you are coming from. Adoptees do not have the same "rights" or the same "treatment" as children who are kept. But isn't that the very nature of adoption? Of course we are treated differently...they were kept and we were given away. At this point I'm so numbed to my birthfamily's treatment of me that these sad revelations don't even faze me so much anymore..

ms. marginalia said...

Amanda the First:

You are missing my point. Yes, of course, adopted children are by nature different than kept children. No, they will not have the same kind of relationship with the natural parent. The damage has already been done.

What bothers me is when in "open" adoptions the adopted child does not figure at all in the family concept of the natural family. When the adoptee is lied about, denied, or there is no compassion for the adoptee's feelings, as when the adoptee is seen as less than (or better than?) any kept child. Able to deal with pain that the average person cannot even fathom.

To put this into perspective, I have a natural mother who is a dear friend. She placed just over 30 years ago. It was a closed adoption. She was a teen-ager. It was against her will. When she dated other men afterwards, she ALWAYS told them that there was a child of hers out there, and she and he came as a package deal. If the man could not accept that child as part of any future family of theirs, that man was not welcome in her life.

She eventually married a wonderful man who understood, had another son, and she always told her second son about his brother. She told everyone in her church that she had TWO sons, before the first was even on the scene again. The first was never erased to be possibly revealed if he *had* to be someday.

THAT's integrity. And that wasn't even an "open" adoption.

Now this friend of mine is in reunion, both her sons live nearby, she is grandmother to ALL her grandchildren. She doesn't say, "Oh, these are my sort-of grandchildren from that son I placed long ago who really isn't my son because I didn't raise him."

That is healthy, that is kind, that is compassionate. What I see missing in some of these examples I mentioned in my post is the notion of the placed child even being family; the placed children are somehow seen as being superhuman and immune to the parents' emotional inability to deal with the complicated situation of adoption. It is complicated, but adoptees are still humans with feelings.

My own situation is cloaked in horrible secrecy, as it sounds yours was. My natural mother was forced to give me away. Middle-class unmarried women in 1969 didn't keep and raise their children unless their parents made it possible. My grandparents didn't. My nmom married the next man who came along to "save" her reputation, but this man, even though he knew about me, said that I was dead to them and should always remain so. It took my mother 11 years to speak to me, and even now, she can only deal with me not as a daughter (even in name) but someone she met in a grocery store but whom she likes. I still have to deal with her denial. I am 41.

The kids I wrote about here are very young, and more likely than I to internalize their parents' ambivalence as being their fault. It isn't. It's just that they're caught in a terrible spot between the proverbial rock and the hard place. I feel horribly for them. These are OPEN adoptions, not closed. That's what's even more sad.

I cannot say that I ALWAYS tell the truth, but I try to, even when it is difficult. I have enormous problems with people lying to protect themselves when it will hurt a child who is potentially vulnerable. And as Joy has pointed out to me from her own adoption, being kept a secret in order to protect the kept chidren has only made the kept children nervous and highly vigilant, as well. They know that they are loved only because of their birth order. They could just as easily have been placed. They aren't "special."

ms. marginalia said...

Cont.

Oh, and that goes for my own beloved brother who only learned about my existence 18 months ago, and was then lied to about me. He knows the truth now, he is angry about the lies, and he, too, knows that he could just as easily have been the one placed if he had had my "bad" luck. The truth would have mitigated so much unnecessary anguish, for my mother, for my brother, and certainly for me, who suffered from denial for 11 years.

The truth matters to me, especially when it comes to families. I know there are wonderful people out there who will brave rejection from their churches and communities and families because their placed children are just as important to them as their kept children. They don't deny their children or burden them with the shame of the adults. And those are the people I truly admire.

You are clearly a steadfast friend. I hope your friends appreciate that in you, but that they can also see from your experience how painful denial can be to an adoptee. Lucky you for being numb.

Amanda said...

I agree with so many of your points. I was as secret to most of my family until I was born. My birthfather the told his mother and other relatives only after I was placed for adoption and my birthmother changed her mind and asked for me back. Then, my birthfathers whole family (angry that they were lied to) forced my birthmother to give me up. I have now met all of my birthrelatives... and a precious few of them regard me as a "cousin" or "niece". My paternal grandmother, who was against the adoption to begin with, refuses to talk about me or have a relationship with me. To her, I'm the baby her son gave away- her first grandchild. And thats just too painful.

I know what its like to be "the kid we gave away". I know how it feels to have your biological family tell you that you don't belong, that you don't deserve a place in their lives. I know how it feels to be the one who was cast out. I see how much my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins love my kept siblings. And I wonder..why couldn't I have that too?

On one of the blogs you mentioned, I remember reading that some of the grandparents only acknowledged the kept children. The ones who were placed are magically not their grandkids anymore. But I think thats just the nature of the beast. Adoptees are always the ones who get to bear the brunt of the adults decisions- and I challenge anyone to say differently. The notion that "no kid gets to choose their family" doesn't fly with me. Most kids are not UNchosen by their families. Adoptees were, and that's a fact.


I'm not the enemy here guys.. I got placed just like the rest of you. I just have a personal amount of personal involvement with the people involved. And it stings to see them criticized.

Amanda said...

Oh, and I do agree. And open adoption isn't really open if some people don't know about the child. That's a disaster waiting to happen. I'll admit that. And though it will hurt everyone involved...we all know who will bear the brunt of that choice.

Linda said...

Amanda- we agree on some very fundamental things. What we, as adoptees MUST do, is point out the things that WILL hurt these children. They have no one to speak for them. No, of course we do not speak for "ALL" adoptees, but we may speak for SOME.

What this particular breed of first Mothers are doing is wrong. It is cruel, and it IS abusive.

The adoptive parents of their children have gone above and beyond what MOST ap's have done, and I respect those adoptive parents. But at some point, the children MUST be protected against this abuse.

LYING is abusive to adoptees. Our lives are shrouded in secrecy and lies from day one- and these f "mothers" are continuing the lies.

These lies WILL be discovered at some point by these children, and these "mothers" will deserve the judgment and anger cast upon them by society, and ALL of their children. It's heartbreaking.

Again- if these women do not want to be criticized, then they should stop their whining and shut down their blogs. They are fools.

birthmothertalks said...

I can understand the secrets coming from a closed adoption but not from an open adoption. I don't always mention that I have a daughter because it's too painful and I don't feel like I have to share that with the whole world. It has nothing to do about being shameful of the child but in some ways shameful of myself for not figuring out a way to raise her on my own.
I am in a reunion and slowly it's easier to talk about her. When it's closed and you know nothing.. there isn't much to talk about except sadness and doom and most people would rather birthmoms just shut up about all that.

ms. marginalia said...

Birthmothertalks,

I am definitely not saying that a person should feel the need to tell every last person they meet about a child they placed. Not casual acquaintances, people in a grocery store, etc. But in a church, and in the family, and other significant people, YES, YES, YES!

What bothers me is when people claim they have open adoptions and say they want the child present in their lives, but they don't tell the people *in* their lives who might come into contact with the child, now or in the future. Why should the child be an object of shame? And the nmom saying, "You're not an object of shame" doesn't fix it. Children pick up on clues. Mom says one thing, but acts in another way. It's a terrible burden to carry.

Either the truth will be told, or it will come out at some future moment. It is terrible to be the child and have family members tell you, "Oh, you don't belong," or "Mom says she never had a child," or what not. It doesn't set things up in a positive light for anyone. One of the moms, who is clearly very confused about what she wants, has said that she wants to keep contact available so that her child can one day tell her to go to hell. My thought is that she feels she deserves this (right or wrong) and she is now setting this up to happen by rejecting the child, over and over.

And that's what burns me deeply, as an adoptee. While it's possible he won't give a rat's ass, the likelihood is that he will feel some form of rejected. That's brutal.

Amanda, I am glad that your friend has told her fiance. I had no way of knowing this until you told me. That seems like a healthy step forward. I hope that he is equally open to knowing his fiancee's daughter and maintaining relationships over time, although now it will be much more difficult. Out of sight makes things a lot easier to brush under the rug. And it seems unlikely that any future siblings will be able to forge a meaningful relationship with her, whether that's thanks to the amom or otherwise.

Amanda said...

I'm proof of what happens when things are kept a secret. My birthfather told my sister about me for most of her life- and she was in elementary school when we reunited. But the rest of the family's reaction was so negative.. she picked up on that. And only now, 10 years later, are my sister and I beginning to forge a relationship. She hated me for so long..because I "stole" her father. And her mother. We are full siblings....

We are 2 years apart. That is my BIGGEST hurdle in adoption.... how could they give me away and keep her (under the SAME circumstances) 2 years later?

The actions of my parents have had a negative affect on so many of their children...

ms. marginalia said...

I hear you, Amanda! So even though your ndad was welcoming and he wanted you to have a relationship with your nsister, the surrounding pressure was too much for her. It's terrible. Both you and she were hurt by it. I remember you saying that you went to stay with them in your teens (or was that your nmom's family?). It's been long and difficult, and needlessly painful.

I am so sorry. My brother threw me aside under familial pressure that I was supposed to "stay gone" and that I am NOT family. We overcame that, but there are deep scars and mistrust, at least on my side. He has a lot of work to do before he regains my loyalty. I have to ask myself what will happen if his father lays down the law again. Never mind that he's almost 37 years old. Natural family ties (of which I am not part) trump the adoptee, most times.

My brother and I are five years apart, and have different fathers. My grandparents would NEVER have welcomed me back in childhood, as it would have ruined the pretty little family picture in their small, Midwestern town.

It sucks that your younger sister, two years younger at that, was kept. I imagine that you ask yourself, over and over, "What is so different that she is welcomed?"

That's what I see in these other stories, and I hate to know that other kids are (probably) going to suffer the same things we have. And these are supposedly the gentler, kinder OPEN adoptions!!!

My thought is that it's not so much whether it's open or closed, but the degree of truth that is told. You can have closed adoptions with good reunions because the placed child was never a "dirty little secret," and horrible open adoptions where the child is insidiously treated like a pariah, even though there is "welcoming" rhetoric.

Words aren't what matters. Actions do.

That's why I am so angered by "I love you, but..."

Conditional love is awful and injuring. I know this from romantic relationships, but it is intensified, I think, for adoptees, when it comes from natural parents, siblings, and extended family.

Linda said...

@ Amanda "The actions of my parents have had a negative affect on so many of their children..."

Yes, yes, and yes. I think that is the whole point. In my particular case, the actions of all FOUR of my parents has had negative affects on everyone in all of our families.

I hate it. And in my mind, if I can educate anyone about the negative effects and how to prevent some of them, then I feel like I am doing what I can to help future adoptees, and ALL of their parents. It's a lofty goal, lol, and maybe even a tad narcissistic of me to think I could help anyone, but hey..a bastard can dream.

Lia - not Juno said...

I don't understand why anyone would want to live with a family that didn't take care of them. That was emotionally abusive. That resented their existence. I also don't understand what it's like to be adopted, so maybe it's better to be resented by your birth family as long as you're with them? I don't know. And my son is not a secret, his entire extended birthfamily is aware of and jubilant over his existence. And yeah, I feel ambivalence and pain over his adoption every single day and I will never be sure I made the right decision, but I know one thing above all: I love my son more than life itself and that's why I gave him up for adoption. And I KNOW that to be the case for many birthmothers (not all, but I would venture to say most) and some deal with it differently - by distancing, or keeping their child a secret (sometimes because of the fear of violent relatives who would react poorly), or being marginally emotionally involved. And all of those things may negatively affect the adoptee, which makes it understandable that they wouldn't believe the depths of love that exist there. I just WISH there was some way birthparents could convince their children that they DO love them, they NEVER wanted to hurt or abandon them, if they thought they could have, they would have parented them. I hope my son always knows that, and if he doesn't, I hope more than anything that I can find a way to make sure he does.

ms. marginalia said...

Lia, I have been following you for a long time now. You are really stepping up for your son, even when it's hard as hell for you. I really don't think you would deny your son, anywhere, anytime. And I admire you for that. I see you in pain. I know it's not easy.

I cannot help but identify with adopted kids who are kept secret and rejected, over and over. You have stepped up and been there for your son, even when it's damn hard for you. Others tell you to back off, but you don't. You love him with everything.

I have told you before that I really appreciate how much you put yourself out there. I mean it. Truly.

I cannot know what it's like to place a child. I imagine it's more excruciating than anything I can imagine. Thank you for coming here and supporting us.

ms. marginalia said...

Oh, and we want our natural families to love us because that's what all kids, kept or not, want: to have your parents love you. The love of aparents doesn't make up for everything (or even anything). My love for both sets of parents is very separate.

I kept fighting to get through to my natural mother because I felt I deserved more than being denied and lied about. My tenacity helped her get over a hurdle that was 40+ years old. It's been good for all of us. If I had given up, I would never have known my wonderful brother, who is more like me than anyone else alive, including my son. It has been important for me to see myself mirrored in my natural family. My aparents are great, but they can't do that for me!

If my natural family had continued to be abusive, that would be another story.

We all have our coping mechanisms, for sure, but I think lying and denial are not very effective ones, especially when they have terrible collateral damage for adoptees.

Again, thank you for coming here!

Lia - not Juno said...

Ah shit, the first part of my comment was cut off. Basically I said that it's really frustrating that there's the big disconnect between birthparents and adoptees. Adoptees feel hurt and abandoned, birthparents are deeply in pain, and neither can convince/believe the other one when they express their feelings. A birthparent (unless they were adopted) can never understand what an adoptee goes through, and an adoptee (unless they have relinquished) can never understand what a birthparent goes through. I just wish there was some way that birthparents could understand and accept an adoptee's feelings of abandonment without writing them off, and that adoptees would believe their birthparents when they try their best, within the limits of what are often selfish and emotional constraints, to show them how very much they love them.

writehereblog said...

I have wanted to comment, but I don't really know what to say. I loved this post and I wanted to think a little bit before posting a response.

I love my son more than anything. When I was pregnant I never realized I would love him as much as I do. With that being said, no one in my family knows he exists. The people in my life that matter to me do know he exists. He isn't secret in my everyday life. He is only a secret to my family. I have many many reasons it and I don't have to justify those reasons to anyone. Although the people in my life who personally know my family and my situation agree not bringing this part of my life up is better.

This post made me think as an adoptee and as a birthmom. I think the birthmom side of me felt really defensive because I chose not to tell my family. My adoptee side of me...I am a secret to everyone in my birthmom's family and honestly it doesn't bother me one bit. Maybe because at this point I would just like to have a relationship with HER and I could give two shits about the extended family. Thats just my two cents. I know I would feel differently if the thing standing between me and reunion were the fact I am a secret, yea...I could be pissed. That isn't the reason, so I don't think much about it.

As far as my son goes...I am essentially estranged from my family so I don't see how me not telling them about him hurts him. They wouldn't have been apart of his life if I were raising him. The people who are close to me and I choose to have in my life all know about him.

Great post Kara :)

Linda said...

@ Lia "I love my son more than life itself and that's why I gave him up for adoption."

That is the MOST DAMAGING thing anyone could ever say to an adoptee.

Adoptees grow up hearing that crap and it warps their perspective of love. Love means that the people who "claim" they love us will leave.

That statement is a cop-out, and is insulting to me, and most adoptees I know. That statement sets us up for a lifetime of self imposed relationship sabotage- "I better leave before this person, who "loves me" leaves first.

And, Lisa, please. You may not wish to know the rest of your family, but it's not your choice to make for your relinquished child when he comes a knockin' in about 20 years.

No, sorry, "love" has nothing to do with new first Mothers giving away their children. There are resources available to you now that my mother & other first Mothers did not have "back in the day". You chose convenience and buckled under the pressure from paps and the industry.

Fail.

Lia - not Juno said...

Linda, I am compassionate to your feelings, though I can't understand them because I haven't lived them. I wish you could do the same - bullying is no way to start a dialogue between different members of the triad. Regardless, this is what I was saying. There is a disconnect between what I feel as a birthparent and what is received by an adoptee. I wish there wasn't. I hope my son believes me when I say I love him and therefore wanted him to be raised by somebody not addicted to drugs, self mutilation and destructive seeking behavior that would have put him at serious physical and mental risk. Maybe that's a copout. Maybe he won't believe me, and he's entitled to that. You don't believe me, and you're entitled to that. But I mean it with all my heart.

Please, people like Lisa and I just want to open a thoughtful, respectful dialogue with adult adoptees. We are in a lot of pain too, and hurting a lot through our experiences. We are just trying to explain our pain and try to understand yours, so that maybe our children won't have to bear the brunt of it. People like Kara help me so much to understand what it feels like to be an adoptee - but without bullying, belittling, or belligerently making others feel worse. If you could only do the same, maybe consider our opinions valid even if you disagree with them (which is fine!) I know there's a lot we could learn from each other, which would only be to the benefit of everyone.

writehereblog said...

Linda - I can truly see why adoption these days would seem like a copout. To a lot of women, I believe it is. They do not want to buckle down and take responsibility. I really looked at every option for me, for ME. My son was conceived in sexual assault. Birth-father, no where to be found. No name...nothing to go on to find the douche. I don't care if people say I should have had an abortion, I didn't, can't do anything about it now and I honestly would not have changed the outcome.

How do you tell your parents you were raped and now pregnant? Not to mention parents I am not close with? Not to mention super religious parents who would have berated me for having sex(yea...really?!)and then telling me abortion would be out of the question. I cannot handle that because whatever shred of a relationship we have left I would prefer to keep intact. Even if I were raising my son, there is no way I would let him around my mother. She is an abusive alcoholic. Linda, in that situation...why would it change the way Asher feels? I am an adoptee and I don't understand. Maybe I am too far into the situation to understand why him being place for adoption makes it imperative that I share him with my family whom he would have not been shared with anyhow? I am truly asking in a totally sincere way.

When he was born I was shell shocked at how much I loved that baby. I honestly could not believe that I loved him and seeing him did not make me think of any of the bad that had surrounded the situation.

I am not trying to justify my way out of this. I know as an adoptee that in adoption some things are just not justified. If I were to sit here and play that game, my first question would be...shit, why was I raped?! And why the fuck did I have to get pregnant as a result?! This post just truly opened my eyes to something I never thought about. Truly. It has been on my mind and I honestly do not know what to do because I would rather cut myself off from my family then tell them about this. So if I did that, would that help? I am asking with all sincerity...

ms. marginalia said...

I don't really see it as "adoptees" versus "first mothers". I have many friends who are first mothers, as well as friends who are adoptees. I have friends who are both first mothers AND adoptees. I have taken pains to try to understand what it was like to have NO choice and to lose your child, against your will, because society at large, and families in small, deemed it necessary. I have been yelled at for word choice, I have read books, I have listened. I want to understand, although I will never truly know what it's like.

My lived experience is as an adoptee. I have my own trials with my natural and adoptive families. I know what I have lived and felt, and there's always been a huge hole in my heart where my natural family should have been.

I worked at a disadvantage emotionally, I believe, because all this affected me from the time I was an infant, before I had a developed cerebral cortex and the ability to think rationally. Children react emotionally to things because that's pretty much the only tool they have. They are self-centered little creatures because they've not lived enough to see themselves as part of a bigger universe.

My problem with exclusion and denial and lying and half-assed "open" adoption is not because I am unable to see how complicated it is for first parents. I can and do see. But a CHILD, and I was talking about children in my post, very likely cannot process things the way adults can, with subtle tweaks of convention and morality. To children, white lies are just lies. It isn't a young adoptee's job to be compassionate for his or her poor, beleaguered natural mother. She WANTS her mother to love her unconditionally, PERIOD. Which doesn't involve putting stipulations on things, lying about relationships, etc.

Most kids, and adoptees even more so, are great at recognizing bullshit. They know when people say things they don't mean. They know fakey-fakey love. Be open, or be closed. But don't gaslight the kids and tell them that they're loved unconditionally but have to be secret from anyone who is important. It's awful and damaging. (Lisa, I get that you aren't really close to your aparents, and I don't mean them. But if you WERE close to them, it would be really cruel to your son to keep him apart from them to save your own face. Yes, I do think that if it came down to it, and I were in your shoes, I would sacrifice my abusive aparents to have an honest relationship with my own begotten son.)

As I said before, it was bad enough for me to have to deal with my natural mother's lies and secrets as an adult. As a child, her emotional remove and cruelty would have been hugely destructive. And no amount of love from my aparents could have fixed the damage. Really. It's not an either/or. I want--and need--both sets of parents.

I hear over and over again how adoptees' longing for their natural families is ridiculous, but that's because if you were born to your family, the security and sense of belonging is so subtle. You don't know it's there if you have it, so you think it's nothing. If you were to lose it (which is unlikely), it would be huge. But to us who NEVER had it--it's everything. "Open" adoption that *isn't* really open is like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Over and over. It's malicious both physically and mentally.

Linda said...

Lia, you need to learn the definition of "bully". When someone is frank and speaks their opinion, and it is an opinion that may make you squirm, it is NOT bullying. Telling the truth is not bullying, so you may want to quit using THAT term, too.

You do not want respectful dialogue, you want someone to put you on a pedestal. Again- I only care about adoptees- not their first Mothers who have convinced themselves they love their children, yet behave in ways that make themselves look like the liars they are.

And, Lisa, I will not engage with you again- you KNOW you had the support of many people to help you with your son- so the martyr thing won't fly with me.

Convenience- NOT love.

Not Just A Birth Mom said...

Thank you for writing this. I appreciate this different perspective... I have very open adoptions with my two boys. As far as adoption goes, I have been blessed with the best set up. So I've always thought of open adoption as a good thing (when done properly). I never really thought about it from this point of view. But then again, I never intend to keep my boys a secret as though I am ashamed of them. While it is true that most of my extended family does not yet know about my boys, this is only because my mother has asked me to not tell them yet. I have only agreed to keep it quiet until I move out on my own, and even still I have already begun sharing with certain people. I hate that they don't know. These boys are my pride and joy, they are all I want to talk about! I can not imagine having/wanting to keep them a secret for the rest of my life. My boys will always be my boys, which means they will be included in everything my family does. They will be asked to participate in every vacation, family picture, holiday get together, etc. Of course they don't have to do any of it, but the invitation will always be extended.
They are my boys... I couldn't imagine denying them. I can't imagine not wanting to be in their lives. I wish every first parent (hell, just parents in general) felt that way about their child. I am so sorry your first mom has rejected you. Thats something that should never happen, to anyone :(

Me said...

These birthmothers are horrifying. I don't think you have anything to be ashamed of Kara.

Lia-You didn't think you were fit to parent but you are fit to attend NYU? Really? People tried to help you for months and you told them all to jump off a cliff and NOW you come here trying to have a dialogue? OMG! Really? You've got some nerve.

Thanksgiving Mom doesn't give a crap about anyone but herself. Nice person? I wouldn't want to be in the same room with her.

And the commenter above me, well your story is horrifying. Just absolutely horrifying.

If these people don't want to be judged then they should stop blogging about abandoning their children and how groovy it is.

These comments truly make me ill.

ms. marginalia said...

Not Just a Birthmom,

I am glad that you are more than "Just a Birthmom." It is sick that people speak about first parents that way.

I am glad that you are in a functional open adoption and that it works well for you.

My fmom did reject me for a long time, but we are in reunion now. 1969 was a very different time that 2010 (although there are still coercive closed adoptions today). She had a lot of work to do even to open up the vault of her emotions that had been sealed for so long at the behest of the agency, her parents, and her religion. Even though she rejected me, I never stopped loving her. I was angry, certainly, as I deserved far better than she gave me.

Not Just A Birth Mom said...

Yes, it certainly was different than today. I can only imagine the bull sh*t and emotional turmoil she has had to deal with since giving you up for adoption.
I am happy to know you two are in reunion now, and I while I know the relationship between you two won't always be perfect, I hope that it can be healthy and positive. And yes, you do deserve more.

Amanda said...

I hope you don't mind... may I link this post on my next blog entry? I've been thinking about it a lot..and have a few things I want to say.

ms. marginalia said...

Amanda, I don't mind you linking. I think it's an important topic, and worth talking about from all different perspectives. Dialogue is great.

elizabeth said...

"Open Adoption- the rewards of parenting without the hassles!"

Gag. It's just another way to fuck up children for life. And open adoption still guarantees second class citizenship, and identity theft. Fuck open adoption.

joy said...

Just to clarify, I think that what that woman did/does is abusive and participating in it, supporting in it makes one complicit and therefore a pariticpant.

I can't imagine a greater psychological/emotional abuse to be honest.

Amanda said...

I wrote that post I was telling you about... :)

ms. marginalia said...

Amanda: Thanks for letting me know. I will go read it.

They called her Chloe said...

This blog and the comments posted clearly show how complicated and dsyfunctional adoption is. Had I known that over 20 years ago I would never have relinquished my child. But at the time - and after talking through my decision while I was expecting my child with several adoptees who told me it was all good in their lives, I entrusted my baby to adoption thinking I was doing the right thing for both of us. It was Wrong for me, and I can't talk for my adult daughter.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. And I bought into OA (which was really a semi-OA back then but was opened up by the APs ie we had visits. Similar to Amanda's situation in some ways but perhaps my daughter was a little younger?)

I don't think my daughter ever wanted to leave her home and come live with me (I could be wrong) but I think there were times when she wanted me and the APs all together - she wanted to have us all living together - and why not?

After years of reading what adoptees write, think, say, feel etc - doing my best to understand what possible trauma I have inflicted on my daughter I sort of understand sometimes.

But how do you get a woman in a crisis pregnancy/an unplanned pregnancy, a difficult situation - in panic mode, to understand what huge harm she could do to her child if that mother/child relationship is forever severed? No one teaches you that at school.

I am glad that adoptees are getting that information out there but I'd guess most first mothers are reading it when it's too late.

critising first mothers involved in OA for their original decision for whatever reason to relinquish is not helpful. What we should all be focusing on is stopping mothers and their children from being separated for no good reason NOW ie I am not talking about foster adoption and abusive.

What has been done, has been done. If I could turn back the clock I sure would espcially with my old head on those young shoulders.

OA is adoption in a shade of pink instead of blue. It comes with a new set of issues which only people like my daughter and Amanda can possibly spell out to the world. We are all going to have to wait for them to do so because I'm thinking that it's going to be different to what we are all thinking but still complicated and dsyfunctional and unique to each situation.
Yep adoption sucks. If an emom reads this, please, please hold onto that wonderful baby.

joy said...

No one was criticizing their original decisions, but their informed decisions to continue to put their needs first and treat their children cruelly.

I also find the whole, 'poor me crisis pregnancy' a little hard to swallow in this context. As someone who has been through several 'crisis' pregnancies, which are part of life, I am not getting why that makes adoption understandable.

ms. marginalia said...

They Called Her Chloe:

You wrote, "I am glad that adoptees are getting that information out there but I'd guess most first mothers are reading it when it's too late."

I agree. I and some of my friends do try to spread the word, but usually when a woman is making an adoption plan, they can't or won't listen to us. We are called crazy, bitter, angry, what have you. Anything to diminish our message. Their kid won't be like us, you see.

And then...they figure it out when it's too late. Breaks my heart.

I hope you and your daughter have a built a relationship that is meaningful to both of you.

ms. marginalia said...

Oh, and yes! Joy was right about my original post being about supposedly "open" adoptions being not very open in order to protect the needs/shame/guilt of the natural parents, not the children.

I cannot understand how it's ever okay to knowingly deny your child in order to protect yourself. Once again, the adoptees pay the price of whatever emotional conflicts the natural parents have. Words don't mean squat when actions say the exact opposite.

ellis said...

I've read all of these post and, as an adoptee and adoptive parent, I want to ask your opinion of OA's where the bparent has an older child kept and the places their second/third born? To me, I would not be able to wrap my head around the notion that my bmother kept her older children/child but placed me and comes to visit??? Isn't that not rejection too? How does one justify placement of the second/third born but not the first?

*Peach* said...

Excellent thoughts that need to be said. Thanks so much for writing, from another adoptee.

They called her Chloe said...

I have to agree that I am very over people calling adoptees bitter, angry etc. Can we stop that already! It's sadly taken me years to kinda understand what it's all about because it's so complex.

What I think is difficult to understand is that just because an adoptee has a great life, loves their APs etc, it doesn't also mean that they are happy about adoption.

I also have a great life but I'm not happy about the mistake I made 20 plus years ago foolishly losing my daughter to adoption. They are separate parts of my life.

They called her Chloe said...

Ellis,

I would say that it's complex and unique to each situation and would be difficult to understand unless you are walking in that person's shoes. Perhaps as a society if we said to women - what can we do to help you be a good parent? And listened to the answers then help with individual needs then these situations would not arise.

visceral rebellion said...

The only explanation anyone needs to the question of why first mothers don't walk around announcing the children they've lost is found within these comments. Why in the world would a first mom subject herself to the ignorant criticisms so plainly voiced right here on this page?

How sad.

Ellis said...

"I would say that it's complex and unique to each situation and would be difficult to understand unless you are walking in that person's shoes. Perhaps as a society if we said to women - what can we do to help you be a good parent? And listened to the answers then help with individual needs then these situations would not arise."


Many of today's bmoms are mothers already who don't want to parent again. It's the truth.

I respect, but may not agree, with her ( bmom) choice and reasons for keeping her first or second child and placing the other but it BEST for the child in the end. What I have a problem with, is they want to be in the child's life ( OA) but don't want to raise them. Again, I cannot imagine my bmom coming to visit with the kids she kept, and I( the adoptee) am suppose to feel loved and wanted? I think it can see seen as selfish on the bmom part, and hurtful for the child.

ms. marginalia said...

Visceral Rebellion: I said that I am trying (really trying) not to judge. I am an adoptee who has suffered from being a secret. I am not the only one I know of.

I am asking whether these first moms have thought about how their choices to preserve themselves from shame have an impact on their placed kids. I don't think this can be justified, if the kids are getting the so-called "better life" and more love. Secrecy=love.

And as for "lost" children, I can see this in terms of the BSE. But for mother who placed in the past 20 years, knowing what they were doing and thinking it was the "best" for the child should, IMO, not give a rat's ass what anyone says since they feel they did the "right" thing. Why keep secrets? Oh yes, the shame and denial again.

IT IS NOT THE ADOPTEE'S PROBLEM, NOR SHOULD IT BE UP TO THE ADOPTEE TO PROTECT THE MOM'S REPUTATION OR FEELINGS.

Ellis: How do you know that placing is "best" for the child in the end? Is this true in every case? What if the aparents are careless or abusive? I understand that not every child is planned for or expected, but again, if you are prepared to give birth, I believe you have the responsibility for caring for that child. Forever. There are rare occasions when this might not be true, but I am not willing to say that my life was "better" because I was adopted. Only different, and with pain.

It sounds like your situation worked out. More power to you.

ms. marginalia said...

Ellis: And your question about placing a second, third, or fourth child, but not the first is a good one. I would feel doubly betrayed and would have difficulty with an open adoption if I were the one not wanted and exiled from a family. I have many adoptee friends for whom this is the case. My friends hate it.

I just cannot wrap my head around being married and keeping some and placing others. Kids are expensive, yes, and it is difficult, yes, to have a larger family than you want. But placing? I know I couldn't do it. I would abort before I would place. Adoption hurt me, even though I have had lots of love and every advantage. I wouldn't put my flesh and blood through this. EVER.

I do think that there's some level in some of these situations of thinking about OA as shared custody, which it isn't. And the kids end up paying for the adult tug-of-wars and insecurities.

ms. marginalia said...

Oops. I meant to say that secrecy does NOT equal love.

Ellis said...

"Ellis: How do you know that placing is "best" for the child in the end? Is this true in every case? What if the aparents are careless or abusive? I understand that not every child is planned for or expected, but again, if you are prepared to give birth, I believe you have the responsibility for caring for that child. Forever. There are rare occasions when this might not be true, but I am not willing to say that my life was "better" because I was adopted. Only different, and with pain."

Hi:

When I said “best” I meant better for the child who was placed (when the bmom has
older kids already). To me, I can’t understand the logic or reasons behind it (“keep kid number one/two” and give away the second/third) but in situations such as these, it’s best for the kid. Again, not all women who place want to be parents or parent another child again. And in cases such as this, I do believe an OA would be very damaging to the child. I was very blessed to have been adopted by very loving good parents and, to be honest, to have a closed adoption. I don’t think today’s version of adoption would have been good for me and my afamily. I think semi-open would have been good though.

ms. marginalia said...

Ellis: I am still not understanding why placing is "best" for the child when natural parents "don't want to be parents." Are you saying that all unwanted children should be placed--that that's "best"? What does it mean to be "unwanted"? Do you mean "unexpected"? Not all pregnancies or children are lovingly planned for. Some are surprises, and parent's first reactions are to freak out; adoption, however, in many cases is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are very few cases in which I've heard of natural parents not wanting their kids, and if so, those are usually closed adoptions in which they turn their backs and forge ahead with the buffer of silence.

I have two children. Let's say for the sake of argument that my second son wasn't planned. Would it have been "best" for him if I had placed him because he wasn't planned? Because parenting a newborn 21 months after my first was potentially stressful for me, and an adoptive family "deserved" him more? Because my husband was freaked out by the prospect of two kids? Would my son have been "best" loved by another family, in that case?

I don't think so.

Many women have pregnancies and are freaked out. They make choices while pregnant that are difficult and damaging when really they need help, instead (e.g., finding means of support--financial or otherwise--to keep a child who is very much loved, if unplanned). I read blogs by women who have placed their kids and none of them say, "Oh, I placed because I don't care. The kid will be 'best' loved by someone else." I do see the "God's plan" thing a lot, but I have problems with the idea of a baby being placed in one woman's uterus for another woman to take, as if gestation were a detour.

I hazard that some women with children already place because they are stressed out, or single, or have trouble seeing how to make ends meet with another mouth to feed. They still love their kids, but they don't seem to see how their actions (or inactions) might have painful consequences for their kept AND placed kids. This is where I see OA as problematic; I agree with you that a semi-open adoption, in which information is readily available, is preferable to an awkward OA in which the adoptee feels rejected, over and over, and can see their natural parents with their kept brothers and sisters in an intact family unit, leaving them every time. No matter how many times this is prefaced by "God's Will," or parental "sacrifice" or whatever, it must hurt.

I wonder if many of these young adoptees in OAs with secrecy, lies, and kept children who trump them think it's more that they, the adoptees, do the "sacrificing" than their parents, and who wonder why the hell they have to be "God's gift" to their aparents if they wanted was to be kept?

Again, I am not advocating for natural parents who are abusive to keep their children, but I don't think a very large percentage of natural parents ARE abusive.

ms. marginalia said...

I, like you, had wonderful adoptive parents who were supportive and generous and never made me feel lesser-than (other afamily members did, but they didn't matter to me as much as my parents do). And yet, with all that love and support and the fantastic experiences and education I've received, I feel damaged by the lies of adoption. Again, my life was different, not necessarily better or worse. My afamily and nfamily are of the same social class, same background, etc. I do, in the end, have many things in common with my nmother that I don't have with my amom, however much I adore her. There is no denying the connection. I do think it would have been VERY difficult for me to see her and my brother, when I was younger, and wonder why my brother was the "lucky" one whose dad stayed around and who got to be with our mother.

I cannot turn back the clock for myself, nor am I sure I would, at this point. All I can do is try to advocate for the children who are living through the hardest part of adoption, right now, in childhood. And the jury is out on what's "best" for them.

Ellis said...

Ellis: I am still not understanding why placing is "best" for the child when natural parents "don't want to be parents." Are you saying that all unwanted children should be placed--that that's "best"? What does it mean to be "unwanted"? Do you mean "unexpected"? Not all pregnancies or children are lovingly planned for. Some are surprises, and parent's first reactions are to freak out; adoption, however, in many cases is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are very few cases in which I've heard of natural parents not wanting their kids, and if so, those are usually closed adoptions in which they turn their backs and forge ahead with the buffer of silence.

Hi:

Again, if a parent doesn’t WANT TO parent their child I believe it is “better” for the child to be adopted. How many times have you seen some women bad mouth and belittle their kids because the father “cut-out” and/or the kid looks like the father and he’s gone from the picture?

For many women being “stuck” with a kid to raise on their own is a burden. Any woman who is “wise” enough to know her limitations and chooses adoption because she KNOWS she isn’t up for the job of raising another child, is being a responsible good mother. I have a son who is his bmom’s second child. She didn’t believe in abortion but she didn’t want to raise another child either, so she chooses adoption. Many of today’s bmoms are mothers already raising children and many of them don’t want to raise another child. I do think in situation like these it is better for the child to be adopted and wanted by the aparents than be seen as a burden/hardship by the bio-parent. Also, there is different between an unplanned pregnancy and not wanting to parent.

In regards to OA I have read many blogs by bio-parents who have placed their second/third born child and have visits, which I think is not good for the placed child because it’s rubbing salt in the wound, so to speak.

I hope I cleared up any misunderstandings?

Ellis said...

ETA:

When I first met my son's bmom I was shocked to know she had a child already! I am an adoptee born in the late 60's to teen parents and thought all bparents were teens. It seems that's not the case in regards to many of today's bmothers. When she gave her reasons for wanting to place I was stunned (as many people would be), and it took me a LONG time to wrap my head around the fact that a woman would keep one but not the other. Now I have become less judgmental towards women such as my son's bmom, because it's better for a woman to admit that this child (general) would be a hardship and mostly likely would get the "short end of the stick".

ms. marginalia said...

In the case of your own adoptee, I would definitely have reservations about the open adoption, etc., although I would be torn. Of course adoptees should have access to their natural families, but how utterly shitty to see your older kept siblings with your natural parents, and wonder forever why fate decided that you were "better off" elsewhere because your mother couldn't woman up and parent you.

Yes, if a child is truly unwanted, and will get the "short end of the stick," she or he is probably better off in another family, But it makes me also seriously sad for the kept children, who are at risk with a woman who can love her kids so selectively. If the new one can get "the short end of the stick," so can the kept ones. Such women with limited ability to cope and parent absolutely exist (I don't think they're very numerous, though), but how very, very depressing, for everyone involved.

ms. marginalia said...

I see where you're coming from if you approach things as a matter of Pregnant mother who "doesn't want to parent" + adoption = "best" solution for the child, and a win-win for both sets of parents.

There are, however, complicating factors in each part of the equation. What makes the mother think she doesn't "want" to parent (this child) when she already IS a parent? Is it shame? Money? Other circumstances, such as familial pressure? A new boyfriend? The husband isn't the father? "Best" is relative. It could be "best" for the child in cases of abuse or neglect, but those cases are fairly rare.

We live in a society where the disposable is lionized. You get a new couch, and your cat/dog/child doesn't match it? Return to the shelter/adopt the child out! There is so much in the adoption industry that encourages mothers to be highly critical of themselves, and to see themselves as lesser than potential adoptive families, who can offer two "successful" parents, the pony, the pool, etc. Such situations might be financially "better," but are they necessarily better emotionally for the child? Hard to say, because while a child might be showered with love in an afamily, there is always the spectre of loss. Then there are abusive adoptive families, afamilies in which parents divorce, afamilies in which the adopted child is made to feel lesser than. So they can be "lesser than" in two families! That's not "best," in my opinion. Maybe the kid wins the jackpot and gets the best possible aparents ever. There is still loss.

If a parent doesn't "want to parent," but only doesn't "want to parent" one child, that seems seriously problematic. The kept kids know that they were only "safe" because of birth order. Why not adopt out the older child, and keep the infant, if things are so arbitrary? If you can parent one child, but not two, why not roll the dice and place the "lucky" child who wins the roll? Because there is an INDUSTRY that supports infant adoption, not older child adoption. The infant is salable product, and the industry is all too ready to try to convince women that their infant will be "best" loved by another family, and that infants will readily adjust to a new, "better" family. There is shame, guilt, denial, and judgment placed on women who cannot offer their infants the glorious prospect of the pony and pool and big-ticket East Coast education. But seriously, how many adoptive families can offer the "best" perks?

I know there is a vogue in some corners of adoption-land to say that it's best to tell adoptees that it's not that the adoptee wasn't wanted by the natural family, it's that the parent didn't want to parent. I don't see how it's possible to tease those statements apart. It seems more kind to say, "The circumstances were such that it wasn't possible for your natural mother--or father--to parent you." Problem is, circumstances change, and that's also painful. I know cases in which a natural mom kept one, placed one, kept one, placed one. Nice neat pattern, but what a mind-fuck for both placed and kept kids. I also believe adoptees need to feel free to be angry about being placed, and telling them that it was "for the best" denies them room to be angry or to say that for THEM it didn't feel like "the best."

Ellis said...

If a parent doesn't "want to parent," but only doesn't "want to parent" one child, that seems seriously problematic. The kept kids know that they were only "safe" because of birth order. Why not adopt out the older child, and keep the infant, if things are so arbitrary? If you can parent one child, but not two, why not roll the dice and place the "lucky" child who wins the roll? Because there is an INDUSTRY that supports infant adoption, not older child adoption. The infant is salable product, and the industry is all too ready to try to convince women that their infant will be "best" loved by another family, and that infants will readily adjust to a new, "better" family. There is shame, guilt, denial, and judgment placed on women who cannot offer their infants the glorious prospect of the pony and pool and big-ticket East Coast education. But seriously, how many adoptive families can offer the "best" perks?"

I once asked a bmom "why" she would place one but not the other (and purposely spilt up siblings) and she said: " I have a bond and history with my "first/second born" this child, that I am carrying, I don't have that( minus nine months.)"

" There is shame, guilt, denial, and judgment placed on women who cannot offer their infants the glorious prospect of the pony and pool and big-ticket East Coast education. But seriously, how many adoptive families can offer the "best" perks? "

I don't think the "adoption industry" shame, guilt or denial is to blame! There are many women who don't want to parent a child ( or another one) and adoption is the BEST solution for THEM. I rather see a child placed in home where they were "loved AND wanted" then seen as a "burden".

Let's face it, not all females who can have a child want to be a mother. And I respect females like that, because they know they won't/ don’t want to be the "best" mother to that child.

Ellis said...

ETA:

I didn't include "quotes" so here are my responses:


"If a parent doesn't "want to parent," but only doesn't "want to parent" one child, that seems seriously problematic. The kept kids know that they were only "safe" because of birth order. Why not adopt out the older child, and keep the infant, if things are so arbitrary? If you can parent one child, but not two, why not roll the dice and place the "lucky" child who wins the roll? Because there is an INDUSTRY that supports infant adoption, not older child adoption. The infant is salable product, and the industry is all too ready to try to convince women that their infant will be "best" loved by another family, and that infants will readily adjust to a new, "better" family. There is shame, guilt, denial, and judgment placed on women who cannot offer their infants the glorious prospect of the pony and pool and big-ticket East Coast education. But seriously, how many adoptive families can offer the "best" perks?"

Marginal:

I once asked a bmom "why" she would place one but not the other (and purposely spilt up siblings) and she said: " I have a bond and history with my "first/second born" this child, that I am carrying, I don't have that( minus nine months.)"

" There is shame, guilt, denial, and judgment placed on women who cannot offer their infants the glorious prospect of the pony and pool and big-ticket East Coast education. But seriously, how many adoptive families can offer the "best" perks? "

I don't think the "adoption industry" shame, guilt or denial is to blame! There are many women who don't want to parent a child ( or another one) and adoption is the BEST solution for THEM. I rather see a child placed in home where they were "loved AND wanted" then seen as a "burden".

Let's face it, not all females who can have a child want to be a mother. And I respect females like that, because they know they won't/ don’t want to be the "best" mother to that child.

ms. marginalia said...

Ellis: Well, then we have to agree to disagree. I think it's a very rare case when a mother doesn't want to parent her child; there are usually many mitigating factors that bring her to that conclusion (finances, family pressures, reputation, etc.). There is still a public sense that adoption is universally positive and that a placing mother is selfless, and that God wants adoptions to happen.

I find it sad that a mother is willing to keep one child, with whom she has a bond, but to say that the infant is free to go because she isn't invested. Incredibly, gut-wrenchingly sad. Sad mostly for the cast-away child, but also for the kept child who KNOWS it could easily have been him.

I firmly believe that adoption is not always the "best" thing that can happen to a child. There is always loss. Sometimes it has to happen, but there is always fallout.

Jenn said...

Ellis, you wrote something that has be totally blown away.

"How many times have you seen some women bad mouth and belittle their kids because the father “cut-out” and/or the kid looks like the father and he’s gone from the picture?"

I counter with this. How many times have you seen some parents bad mouth and belittle their kids because they don't fit into the family and aren't the perfect children that they were expected to be because they were adopted? How many adoptees have to deal with the shame of being adopted from "poor people"? You may not know a lot, but I do. I have deal with not looking like either parent. I have dealt with being yelled at for not doing my hair because it was curly (genetic) and they had straight hair. I look like someone else, and they hated that because I didn't look like them. This goes both ways. I had amazing adoptive parents, but NOBODY is perfect.

I think that your comments show your ignorance. We live in a capitalist society. It is what it is. It's the law of supply and demand. We have a low supply and a high demand. In order for the agencies to meet the demand, they need more children. So they make sure that the laws favor adoptive parents by greesing some palms. You cannot deny that there are unethical adoptions that are taking place out there. I'm sorry, but I cannot see how you could say that it's not a problem with the industry.

Ellis said...

"Ellis: Well, then we have to agree to disagree. I think it's a very rare case when a mother doesn't want to parent her child; there are usually many mitigating factors that bring her to that conclusion (finances, family pressures, reputation, etc.). There is still a public sense that adoption is universally positive and that a placing mother is selfless, and that God wants adoptions to happen."


Hi:

I love seeing/hearing the other side POV of an adoptee!

Actually, I have to disagree with you: there are MANY females who don't want to parent (or be a parent again). I have seen women put a MAN (married or not) above their child, and think "nothing of it".

Or/and are mad because the “father” doesn’t want to be a father ( so they place the child out of spite).

I know from some it's hard to believe, but there ARE many women who don't want to be parents and don't believe in abortion and chose adoption (for many reasons). It’s not society , in most cases, BUT the bmom who decides( especially if she is older/or has a child already) that she doesn’t want to parent again.

ms. marginalia said...

Ellis: I used to think that adoption was a choice of natural mother free will. I have done a great deal of reading and speaking with natural moms, and through years of discussions, I changed my opinion.

Some women in the past 20 years have chosen adoption because they said "didn't want to parent." But I have also seen many women of this group come to regret that decision; they didn't see what placing would mean to them and their child over the long term. They "didn't want to parent" because they were young, or their parents said they had to, or they didn't have steady employment, or wanted to finish college, or felt that one more mouth to feed was too much, or to spite the father, as you said (think about Baby Emma Wyatt being placed over the objection of her FATHER, who wants to parent her). And then some of these women were very, very sad to see that if they'd spoken to other women and sought help, their circumstances would have changed, and they would have made a VERY different decision. The decision to palce isn't based solely on the mere existence of the child; there are always different variables at work behind the decision. Humans do not live in a vacuum. We are constrained by our families, our communities, our religion, our gender, etc.

Have you spent much time at firstmotherforum.blogspot.com or around natural mothers who feel anything other than completely satisfied with their decisions? I have learned so much from a large group of them who run the gamut from no regrets to mad-as-hell activists. Placing is extremely complicated, and many different natural moms have helped me to see that.

I am not arguing against there being some natural moms who really think that adoption was the best thing for them and their kids. I haven't run across very many of them in my life or in the adoption community. It is a fact that the kids, no matter how their first mothers speak about placing, suffer the loss of their families.

I know that there are plenty of misguided women in the world who don't put their kids first, adoptive or natural mothers. Women who focus on men (husbands or boyfriends), their careers, alcohol, or any number of other things. That said, I refuse to pathologize natural mothers as being undeserving of their kids, and I don't sing the praises of adoption as a saving glory for all in the triad. I still believe that many women feel painted into corners and place their kids for reasons that are related to stress. Society at large puts incredible pressure on women to have kids at a certain time, to be married, to be financially solvent, to be married to the father of the baby, etc. It's political, not just personal, although the personal is political.

As I said, you and I have had different experiences, and seem to understand the big picture differently. Let's agree to disagree.

Erimentha said...

Ellis, I question your use of the word "many" with regard to women who do not wish to parent. For me, the statistics here in Australia speak for themselves. Our system is different from the American system in that all adoptions are done by the government; private adoption is illegal so there is no money involved, no-one has a vested interest in getting people to place their children for adoption. In Australia, 0.2 in 100 babies born are places for adoption - in the USA, 3 in 100 babies born are placed. I find it hard to believe that this is because Australian women are better mothers - it all comes down to business practices. Our adoption statistics started dropping at the end of the baby scoop era when single motherhood was unacceptable - in 1972 there were almost 10,000 adoptions here, by 1975, the number had dropped to mere hundreds. Adoption just is not the option that most women would choose.

Ellis said...

"Have you spent much time at firstmotherforum.blogspot.com or around natural mothers who feel anything other than completely satisfied with their decisions? I have learned so much from a large group of them who run the gamut from no regrets to mad-as-hell activists. Placing is extremely complicated, and many different natural moms have helped me to see that."


Marginal:

Yes I have read many first/birthmom blogs and forums. And placing a child is a painful thing; there will always be a loss in adoption. However, there are always two sides to a story.

The birthmoms of yesterday didn't have much support back then and were marginalized/ stigmatized for being young unwed mothers. Many of today's bmoms have more societal support as well as governmental support that can help them. And I do believe there is a big difference between the bmother of "today" verse the birthmother of "yesterday". Today's bmother is older and/or is parenting a child already (according to statistics). Heck, some are married too! And because of these statistics, many of today's adoptees have very complex birth stories. This is why depending on the situation, I do believe that adoption is sometimes best for the child depending on the circumstances.

Once again, I enjoyed exchanging opinions with you.