Luck of the Irish...I'm Irish you know, in my biological background

With the impending event of meeting my bio mother slowly getting closer, I find myself thinking about how it will play out. I've read about others meeting, from both sides, mostly mothers and daughters which is what my scenario is also. The majority don't seem to go that well, for whatever reason, hard to know for sure who's to blame, if there can even be "fault"  laid on either party.

I told my sister the other day, "I know I have no control over this situation of meeting my biological mother. Don't worry, I have no real expectations, basically because I really don't know what to expect." and I mean it. I have thought over what's the best way to get as many questions answered as I can which lends itself to wondering, just what do I REALLY want to know? I think I'll write out a list. Maybe try and list the questions according to their importance.

Then I get thinking, how will I let her know what I'm like, if she's interested that is. Maybe I should bring her a copy of this or maybe that just TMI. Of course I'd leave off the part where I say I'm not my husband, female, and adopted as that should be apparent.

Another thing that's crossed my mind is the possibility of meeting someone very  much like me, someone who I have no baggage with. I mean, it will be the person who gave birth to me but has never grounded or hit me. Never said no you can't go to that concert or made me wash a floor. Has never yelled at me, never made me feel guilty, never accused me of doing something I haven't done. Someone who's my mother but has never mothered me, a role we all know isn't just cookies and kissing boo boos. Uhh, sorry, but this has the possibility of being a very cool experience.

I used to go rollerskating as a young teen, mainly to meet boys. I would dream up scenarios of how things would go, who'd ask me to skate, how much fun I would have, and inevitably, at the end of the night when my friend's mom would pick us up, I'd be disappointed. Not because the night had gone badly, but because it could never have lived up to my expectations. It was then that I realized what I did to myself, how I set myself up to be let down, and started enjoying life way more.

Now I'm not saying there's something wrong with dreaming or being hopeful, quite the opposite, I am all for being realistically optimistic.

Having said all that, it'll be my luck to have taken after my biological father.


Open to interpretation

One of the things that drives me crazy in blog land is when a comment that I think is relevant and on point with the original blog post gets lost in the crossfire of subsequent comments that zero in on some aspect of the relevant comment that gets under somebody's skin. I'd be surprised if I've never been guilty of doing this myself so this post is not to be critical of anyone but rather to highlight an important comment I came across today. I've been given permission to post it here and if the author wishes to make herself known, she may do so in the comments section here.

The comment was in response to the question What does it mean to be a healthy birth mom?

I've linked to the post because the question as it stands alone does not convey the context in which it's being asked and I think the motive behind asking the question is an important thing to consider when reading the comment I've posted below.

There are many of us who have already lived the majority of our “birthmother lifespan” and have come to very different places 40 or so years after surrender. I know your interest is in open adoptions, but many of us from the closed system are still alive and hope to be for a while, and you may encounter us in your therapy career.

My story is not so typical as those in the excellent book “Girls Who Went Away”, but it is similar to a small subset of activist birthmothers who came out in the 70s and 80s and have remained involved in adoption reform. I was never in denial or really in the closet, and I joined adoption reform search groups as soon as I heard there was such a thing. My child was very young. I searched as soon as the opportunity presented itself. I was furiously angry, radical, hated adoption. I even had an actual “Adoption Sucks” tee shirt.

In those days before the internet, we had in-person groups and lots of phone contact, as well as print newsletters. The peer pressure then was to find and contact your child as soon as possible, There was good reason for this, some found kids in dire circumstances and at least one in our local groups was just given back at age 12 because the adoptive father and stepmom did not want him! Some of these early contacts worked well, but others did not, like mine when my son was 16. This made me doubly angry at the adoption system, adoptive parents, the world, and most of all myself. There is a lot of self-destructive behavior among surrendering mothers, and I was right up there with that.

Then along came internet groups, and a new group of mothers who surrendered who had been in the closet woke up and came out. There was a disconnect between these lists and the earlier groups like CUB, and a lot of reinventing the wheel and ignorance of the history of adoption reform. As you say, there are definite camps with rigid ideology and a lot of peer pressure to conform or get out. On one side are the young “happy birthmothers” who are often shilling for agencies, on the other side, the anti-adoption groups, who see all adoption as one of the world’s greatest evils that needs to be eradicated. A real problem in these groups is the “Pain Olympics” where extreme suffering and pathology after surrender is seen as a virtue and proof that you really love your child. There is now a fad to claim Post traumatic stress disorder as a result of surrender, self-diagnosed and proudly proclaimed. It is way too easy to get stuck in a downward spiral in a lot of these groups that claim to be “empowering” but are actually taking power and healthy response away.

My personal journey I think got stuck in bitterness and anger for too many years, and this was reinforced by the groups I was in or associated with. There is a strong thread of “you can never get over surrender”, even a little, and it is seen as disloyal to your child or in denial if you do experience some healing or joy. Ambivalence? Yes, lots, and that is life-long, but I have also found a bit of peace when my son finally started communicating with me and I knew he was OK. Reunion really did help me a lot, although that is heresy to say in some circles. After so many years I am no longer grieving, the grief went on too long. My son is alive and well, not to be grieved. I will always regret giving him up, but I also take responsibility for my part in surrender. For me that was pivotal, to stop blaming everything on others and step up to the plate about my part. It did not kill me to do this, as some mothers seem to feel, but made me stronger.

In counseling mothers who surrendered, one size does not fit all, despite what some online groups would have you think. Really listen to the details of the individual mother and her story. It may indeed change over a lifetime, and probably that is healthiest, Some of the happy young birthmothers will become unhappy when they look closer, and some of the bitter old birthmothers will become more accepting and at peace as time passes and circumstances change. There is a saying “I have been through hell but don’t have to live there”. I feel I have indeed been through hell as a surrendering mother, but am no longer intent on staying there. I am now regarded as a traitor by some for not being anti-adoption, but would not be welcomed by the “rah rah adoption is great” moms either, because it most definitely has not been for me.

I do believe mothers are very different individuals, and that some truly do not want to parent and are content with the choice to surrender. I do not feel I can know another person’s true feelings or gainsay what they say about how they feel today. But there does need to be an openness to change, in either direction, and a respect for individual rather than lumping us all into a class and branding those who do not fit as “in denial,” “drank the koolaid” etc.


And now for something completely different

Looks like I'll get to meet my biological mother. Pretty exciting. Kind of surprising. Slightly intimidating.

I say only slightly because I think I'm fairly likable. I have no great expectation, just hope for respect and forthrightness. I think my care for her situation will shine through as it's sincere. From what I can tell we share the same kind of pragmatic view on my being adopted so it should go all go fairly smoothly.

There's just one thing, one very important factor causing me huge trepidation. I'm not sure if I'll have enough time to get the situation under control prior to the date we've decided upon to get together. Call it what you will. Karma, bad luck, lesson in humility, payback for things I did in 7th grade.

See, I procrastinated, as usual, and waited until the last minute to prepare to go back to work after the summer. Part of my preparation is catching up on controlling my graying hair which I tend to let slide in the summer. Of course at the last minute my regular hair person was unavailable so I dashed out to wherever and got just anybody to wash that gray right outta my hair. Meh, it wasn't the best but the gray was gone, I was a happy enough camper.

In visiting with this stylist while being transformed into a woman half my age, I was persuaded to come back another day for a cut. I know you know where this is going.

I still have a few weeks to go before the big reveal, the big day, the weirdness waiting for both myself and my biological mother. I wish she'd ask for a picture of me so she could see what I look like, used to look like, should look like.

That is, what I looked like before I was 2 snips from a mullet.



I find myself suffering from PTSD this morning and I can relate it back to three things that I've been exposed to over the weekend with the first being an episode of Teen Mom I happened to catch last night while channel surfing.

It was a section in which one of the young couples are having another fight with their little girl in the room. The young mom is once again throwing the young father out of "her" house in front of their toddler all the while saying to the little girl "your father is leaving you again" while the little girl cries and at one point looks out the window in what appears to be an attempt to see him as he leaves. This young mom yells and swears the whole time without thought of her child, even when the father tells her to watch her mouth because the little girl is very present. Sickening to witness. Sickening to think of how this will all affect this child, sickening to realize this young mom has no qualms about or is incapable of controlling herself, even in front of rolling cameras. Is this tv program going to get these people counseling?! If they do, will these people take it and do the work? What I witnessed watching this show is child abuse and sadly it's possible the only redeeming factor is the show itself and the fact people are seeing what's going on in this child's life and may help stop it.
I can't help think about all the kids who have no camera crew in their home, no witnesses to the abuse they suffer, which bring me to the second thing causing my PTSD today and it's this sickening incident

Why do these people have kids?!? Why do people who suck as parents feel the need to have MORE kids?!?!

The third is also mind boggling to me. Just what are people teaching their kids? Are they teaching them anything at all?! What kind of examples are given to our kids?!?! What is going wrong ?!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot already. Must be the PTSD.

What's going wrong is PARENTS SUCK!!


Dear friend, so you're thinking of adopting. Want to talk about it?

Dear friend,

This is what I'd like to tell you about the possibility of you adopting, so far. There may be more things I haven't thought of as of yet, but I don't want to forget what's on my mind now.

I don't think I need to ask you why you want to adopt. I think that's a no brainer. You want another child to raise. Do the reasons really matter? I guess they do if the reasons are to provide your son with a playmate or have someone to do chores in your home or any other frivolous or ridiculous reason unrelated to the actual love for children and parenting. Hopefully this isn't the case, for if it is, I'm wasting my time and energy talking to you.

I would like to ask you if you've truly thought about what it is you're planning to do. Have you researched with an open mind, been receptive to anything negative you've heard about adoption? Can you truly love a child that isn't your own blood? Do you have the time and energy needed for more children? Are you doing the best you can for the son you already have? What makes you a good parent?

Not all adopted people feel like I do. There are adopted people who hate the fact they were adopted. Some say they'd have preferred to have been aborted. How will you feel if your child resents having been adopted? I don't know the magical formula to raising an adopted child that is at peace with having been adopted. I don't think anyone does.

Do you know, truly know, that adoption begins with loss? There can be loss of dreams, of identity, of heredity, culture. For some there can be a loss of trust, self worth, and even loss of lightness of soul and spirit. That the loss can be far reaching to grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings. Can you relate to that loss without feeling threatened or hurt? Can you parent with confidence and the ability to recognize the difference between your child's confusion about, and reaction to, being adopted and the regular angst that goes along with growing up? Will you be able to embrace and value your children's unique personalities and needs? Will you know when to "blame" adoption and when not to? Will you know when to discuss adoption with your children? Will you even be capable of discussing adoption with your children? How will you go about it? Will you do things by "the book" you're given by an agency or social worker or will you be able to think it through and follow your children's lead or know when you need to take the lead? Will you understand and support any "need to know" your child may have? Will they feel sure of your love and commitment therefore comfortable to talk (or not talk) about everything adoption related? Will you expect them to be grateful to you for everything you've provided them with, materially and/or emotionally and hold it over their head?

Will you refuse to become involved in an adoption that may feel unethical? Will you be able to recognize a parent or parents who are giving you a child they truly want and can raise out of an obligation to "keep their promise" to you? Do you believe me when I say nobody should make the decision to promise their child to another person without having seen and touched their child? It's sad but true that parents go through with adoptions that are against their better judgment because they don't want to disappoint the adoptive parents they've come to know and care about. Do you know that at that point it's not about you but about the child and what's best for it? It's never best for a child to be given away when it's wanted and can be raised by the people who brought it into this world. Picture yourself being told you need not have been adopted, that you were adopted through shady, or worse, conditions just so your (adoptive) parents could have you or an agency could make some money. We can all picture these scenarios if we try hard. One shouldn't have to be adopted to understand how confusing this would be, how devastating finding out your life and what you've always believed to be true is a lie. Believe me, adopted people worry about their biological mothers and wonder if they're ok until they know, if they ever get to know. Don't adopt without a clear conscience. If you're unsure, be strong enough to just walk away, to put your needs second to a child's.

Do you understand what open adoptions are? Have you been honest with yourself about this and your ability to parent a child under that type of circumstance? Think about it!! It cannot be easy, there is just no way. Will you be able to deal with the jealousy? With the fear? With your child's jealousy and fear? Will you be able to handle your child's biological parents feelings if they're regretful or will you just cut off contact to protect yourself and your family? If you don't think you can do an open adoption, don't! If there aren't any parents who want a closed adoption, don't adopt!

I don't think you plan to adopt from another country. If I'm wrong, and you do, try and remember you are as Caucasian as they come. THIS WILL MATTER. There are people to seek out who are qualified to discuss interracial adoption, and being as Caucasian as you, I am not one of them.

I wonder if you've thought at all about foster care. I think about foster care, have always. I think I'd be a great foster parent, especially now that my son is grown. I cannot be a foster parent though, and it's really just because of one thing. My husband would not want to foster parent. In fact, neither would have my ex husband, my son's father. I could try and persuade, pull out all the stops and say I'd do everything, that it isn't important for us both to want to do it. Who knows, my husband could say ok to try and please me, right? But, it's not supposed to be about me. It's supposed to be about kids who need families, parents or a parent. Every child born deserves to have some kind of family, whether it be blood or not, but no child deserves to exist in a situation where they're resented or unwanted by even one family member, blood or not. I believe that someone who isn't initially on board with providing a home for a child without one, whether it be through foster care or adoption, can change their mind and eventually embrace said child but....isn't it too big of a risk to take that they won't ever? I wouldn't even force a pet dog on my family if they didn't want the responsibility, why would I do it to a child?

I am not against adoption. I am not against you personally adopting. I am against people not properly preparing themselves for the act of adopting a child, or for that matter, having their own biological children. Against them wearing blinders to the difficulties and the effort and sacrifice that is necessary to do our very best. It's not about you so it's nothing like entering into a shitty marriage or staying in one, it's not about the harm you could do to yourself not listening to warnings about smoking or overeating or driving without a seat belt. It's different when you're holding another human being's childhood in your hands, affecting their future by what you do in the present. We all ignore advise all the time, but please don't ignore what I'm trying to tell you here.

There are many things people try to warn and educate each other about. More often than not the effort is ignored and people either learn the hard way or never learn at all. Fine. It's your life and it's our right to mess up our own lives but it isn't our right to mess up an innocent child's life, biological or not.

My friend, please think long and hard about what you're doing because it's not what you're doing to yourself, not about how you will be affected. It's about our children and what they need, deserve, and have the right to.

Oh yeah, if you do end up adopting, make sure you get a copy of your child's original birth certificate.

Someday they may be an adult who wants it.


In my lap, in my face, and on my mind

Someone very present in my life told me yesterday she and her husband are looking into adopting a second child. Their first child is 1 and 1/2 and they are the biological parents. We talked briefly about it when she told me and I imagine there will be more discussion. I am about 10 years older and she's asked for my thoughts on "things" from time to time so I'd be very surprised if we didn't have further discussion.

In our short initial conversation I touched on coercion, agency fact misrepresentation, the varying degrees of openness in adoption, and the cultural and racial issues of international adoption. I talked about considering how adoption could impact the child they already have. As she's already aware that I'm adopted and knows a fair bit about the dynamics of my family and knows I'm fine with it all, I made sure to let her know that there are other adopted people who are not at all fine with being adopted. I talked about adoption disruptions, asked if they were prepared to parent a child with FASD or other abuse related issues.

I have so many thoughts about this. I know so much now about adoption and it's problems. I also know there are children that need homes and having just babysat for this couple last night, I know they have a loving home to offer. Their little one is happy and smart, confident and calm. He is loved, secure and safe. Doesn't every child have a right to a shot at this? To be given the opportunity to at least try and fit in to a family? Isn't the alternative worse?

The alternative being....not trying? I don't want to dissuade them, but I have an obligation to share what I know, to do what I can to help them make educated decisions. To help them be honest with themselves. To get them to think about the other people who are affected in circumstances of adoption.

Hmmm...what are the most important things for them to know? To ask? To consider?

I will take any constructive thoughts and comments you may have to share to her, to them.

I could also just butt out.