' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: The Trauma of being adopted

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Monday, August 15, 2011

The Trauma of being adopted

Lorraine
NOTE: Today's blog is about the impact of adoption on our children, the adult children we natural mothers surrendered for adoption. This is not to diminish the impact of surrender on first/birth mothers or excuse any behavior of this group; that is what First Mother Forum is primarily dedicated to. However, the discussion of last week about post-reunion relationships brought led us to today's subject: The Trauma of being adopted.


Years ago when I debated adoption advocate and adoptive parent of two "magical children"* from Peru Elizabeth Bartholet on PBS, she unilaterally labeled any and all research that showed that adoptees had more psychological problems than the general, non-adopted population "garbage." Yes, that is what she called it. And of course the three adoption attorneys coming in by remote camera sat there nodding in agreement. (This was the day Jessica/Anna was removed from the Deboer couple and returned to her biological parents, the Schmidts. It was quite a mob scene against me. Most of the world had been worked up into a pro-adoptive Deboer frenzy. However, Anna did just fine with her real family and has no memory of the Deboers.)

Bartholet has her own reasons for claiming adoption is honkey-dorey whenever a child is hungry in a poor place in the world (I'm over simplifying, but that is basically her message). But it is clear to anyone who can read that being adopted is no piece of cake and for many leads to real psychological harm. If it did not, there wouldn't be a zillion blogs and half as many books talking about the trauma of being adopted. What is ridiculous is that there is so little psychological research on the lifelong impact of being adopted. Adopted adolescents have been studied, but adults? Very little hard research exists because there is so much bias for the "good" of adoption in today's infertile middle-class society that few are considering what's wrong about being adopted.

BUILT-IN STRESS OF THE ADOPTEE'S REALITY
Yet in looking at the signs of a C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and what might cause it, one can not help but recognize how some of the causes can be related to adoption and what adoptees experience; why is it then so noxious to some to see that their reactions are simply normal? Here is what caught my eye:
"When people have been trapped in a situation over which they had little or no control at the beginning, middle or end, they can carry an intense sense of dread even after that situation is removed."
Adoptees have no control over their adoption, and they grow up with the sense that this powerless situation will never end. They may be told that they are "lucky," to have such great (adoptive) parents, and thus the message that they should feel grateful that they were "rescued" from some fate (their poor natural mother) quite terrible is imbued into their upbringing. Hell, that sounds like a terrible fate!

Here is what the adoptee internalizes: Your mother couldn't keep you (what is wrong with me?); here are these other people who will take care of you, and no, we can't tell you anything about your natural mother and father. Or where they are. Or why you were given up. Or where they are. Or what happened to them. Or if they are alive. You aren't supposed to know. It's better that way. We the state have decided this. A long time ago. Don't you love your adoptive parents who have done so much for you? What is wrong with you that you don't find this situation agreeable? You are ungrateful if you search for them. If you do, don't you know how you are killing your mother--the one who raised you! You are only trying to "get back" at  your long suffering real parents, Mom and Dad. No, you can't know who she is anyway because "we" have to "protect" your natural mother because she may not want her life disrupted by you! Be rational. She has a right to live her life without being bothered by you. That's the way it is. Get over it.

EMOTIONAL BONDAGE WITH NO RELIEF IN SIGHT
In all states but a handful, adoptees may never be able to find their true heritage and family, even if they chose to. Even in many states that have liberalized their policies over the last decade--Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin to name three--they still have no control, because all the control lies in the hands of others--the birth parents whose names are on the birth certificate. It is totally up to them whether this information will be released to the person to whom it matters the most. Adoptees must have their permission to know who they are. Why should this group of people so discriminated against not exhibit, to a greater or lesser degree, the traits that are common to anyone who endures such extreme powerlessness over their own identities? The fact that their is no physical torture involved does not lessen the emotional bondage that adoption is, even adoption with loving, understanding parents.

This trauma is going to be experienced differently by different individuals, depending on his or her own makeup, a product of both genetic factors and environmental up until the adoption. Not everyone will exhibit the traits that make their lives, and the lives of others, miserable, and be diagnosed as having the classic C-PTSD. The responses will be seen on a continuum from slight to great. Think of it like PMS--for some, it's a slight irritation; for others, it's a full-blown nightmare and classified as Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). I was one of the nightmare cases that went over into the PMDD scale until menopause; luckily I found blessed relief with high doses of progesterone for the last twenty years before menopause. But I digress.

EVERYONE'S DIFFERENT
Each individual is different--has a different nature, a different genetic predisposition--and thus has a different tolerance level to the trauma of adoption. What one person may be able to shake off, another person may not. Compare it to the reaction some individuals have to chemotherapy. For most, chemo will affect their cancer, and nothing else; for some, the chemo will set off a trigger in the brain and it will lead to serious dementia. It's now called "chemo-brain." This happened to a friend of mine, a highly functioning individual who held a demanding job. For the longest time oncologists did not want to admit chemo was causing irreversible and grave dementia, but eventually the cases piled up and it ended up on the front page of The New York Times.

While the effect of adoption on adolescents has been studied, the impact of adoption on the adoptee has not been studied rigorously or in depth because there is a bias against doing such research in today's adoption-centric society. People have said that so many other factors could be involved it would be difficult to tease out the "adoption" factor. I respectfully disagree. Perhaps the adoptees who become researchers and psychologists will have to take on this task themselves. --lorraine
                                           ***
And thanks, Von, for directing us to this information and furthering this discussion.  Read her blog at Once Was Von

* "Magical children" is what Bartholet calls them in her book, Family Bonds.
---------------------
See previous blogs for more discussion:
Why birth/natural mother-adoptee reunions go awry
When birth/natural mother-adoptee reunions go awry, Part 2
 The [birth] mother and child reunion, Part 3
and the one that started this conversation:
Family Reunions: Distorted by Adoption
and for more on C-PTSD, see: Out of the Fog
Adoption: Uncharted Waters: A Psychologist's Case Studies. . . Clinical and Forensic Issues, With Practical Advice for Adoptees, Parents and Therapists 
Adoption: Uncharted Waters: A Psychologist's Case Studies. . . Clinical and Forensic Issues, With Practical Advice for Adoptees, Parents and Therapists is a book that fearlessly goes into the grave damage that adoption can cause to some people. Betty Jean Lifton, Annette Baran, Joe Soll and others gave it their imprimatur with blubs on the back cover. BJ called it "courageous, ground-breaking." The author, David Kirschner, has been pilloried in some places for his views, BTW.



118 comments :

  1. How about a mother - already a psychology student - doing the research? I think it is very important and I have no reservations about doing it.

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  2. I would like to link to my Edu blog - this is good information and a very interesting take on adoption trauma... Let me know if you object and I will remove the link.

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  3. “While the effect of adoption on adolescents has been studied, the impact of adoption on the adoptee has not been studied rigorously or in depth because there is a bias against doing such research in today's adoption-centric society.”

    I agree. And even if a thoughtful researcher made the case for such a study and it was approved by the department head, research committee, etc, I think it’d be a serious uphill battle for the study to come to fruition with its construct and credibility intact. Clairvoyance isn’t needed to know that once the adoption industry got wind of it they’d use every weapon in their arsenal to vilify the researchers and their methods. They’re experts at protecting their business at the expense of the birth/first/natural family and their child.

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  4. Lori: Link away.

    You can always link to our blog without asking permission, unless it specifically states not to link.

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  5. Ah, but with rigorous unbiased study of anything from cancer cures, diet, longevity, to adoption or any other subject, you have to be ready for your hypothesis to be proven wrong as well as to be proven correct, and adjust your ideas accordingly. Confirmation bias has to be strictly avoided which is why we are not the people to do these studies, neither are adoption agencies or adoption promoters of any sort.

    There is as much of a bias on the adoption reform side to prove "our truth" as there is on the side of the adoption industry to promote theirs. To be really unbiased and accepted, any such study would be best conducted by someone without a dog in the fight.It would be better done by someone not an adoptee, not an adoptive parent, not a first parent. Someone with no connection to adoption and no prior strong prejudices to skew the results or how they went about the research.

    I think it is fair to say at this point, without any studies, that adoption as it has been handled has proven traumatic and painful for many mothers and adoptees, with lifelong consequences of varying degrees of severity. All of us here know that. But when you get into specific diagnoses, that is when the need for scientific research comes in, and yes, other factors do have to be eliminated to determine if being adopted in and of itself makes one much more likely to develop PTSD, personality disorders, depression, or any other specific syndrome or illness.

    My feeling is that there will be some truth to the contention that many adoptees have a tendency to certain problems greater than the general population. But I want to see it done right so people like Bartholet can't call the research "garbage" because it is highly respected whether the adoption industry likes it or not. Up until now, this has largely not been the case, and if we keep relying on "our own" research within adoption reform, it will stay that way.

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  6. Bartholet's comment was absurd for at the time there was enough research on the effect of adoption on adolescents and teens that only in the closed mind of a highly skewed pro-adoption person would it be considered "garbage." Her attitude was that there was no evidence that adoption might be harmful to the adoptee.

    Those of you who remember, the vast majority of the Deboer coverage was pro-adoptive family (the only family she has ever known!)and exremely anti natural family. It was relentless.

    The next day I got a call asking if I would be on the Today show with her. I declined and suggested they get Florence Fisher, and they did. She made mincemeat of Bartholet.

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  7. When you are an adoptee who has been raised to know you are the answer to someone's dreams, it makes it very hard to see there are any negative effects to adoption. Even if there are no obvious outward negative effects (drug use, personality disorder, relationship issues), the fear of being abandoned again, coupled with the knowledge that "she didn't want me" must create a self-esteem crisis at some point. I agree that some adoptees are probably more able to cope with these issues than others, and thus, will not display obvious negative traits as a result. But there are also adoptees who have difficulty even looking at themselves long enough to determine whether they are having difficulties or not! These are the adoptees who are so quick to say they have no adoption issues, and unfortunately, my own daughter is one of them. If you refuse to self-evaluate, prefering to only believe one view because it might be preferable or easier, emotional and spiritual growth can be limited.
    As for research, the only kinds of research that is possible is either QUALITATIVE research, or describing the problems adoptees have or say they have (not as strong, unless the population is very large); or QUANTITATIVE research that literally counts the number of adoptees in a population with this or that problem, and compares them with a similar non-adopted population for frequency. You cannot do a double-blind study (draw a number out of a hat and one group gets adopted while another doesn't). That would be unethical. Whether the research is done by pro-adoption or non pro-adoption people is irrelevant if the research is done well. Of course, ANYTHING can be looked at in ANY direction creating bias. It depends on how you look at it. Good research is published in peer-reviewed journals, where the research is evaluated by other experts in the field before being allowed to be published. That is another way to give value to research.

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  8. Well, maybe people are interested in test reading my incomplete translation about parents of children in hiding during WW II?

    Of course, that has nothing to do with adoption in the legal sense, but is extremely close in other senses.

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  9. It astounds me that people would assume I have no pain from that fact that my parents did not find me worthy of their love and protection. That they tossed me as a helpless infant out into the universe never to be heard from again. Now before I ruffle any feathers, I KNOW this is NOT really what my first mother did. She was forced by the social mores of the day. But this is how it felt to me. And I am supposed to be fine with this? Even happy about it?

    Maybe these highly paid professionals who make their money off of adoption believe this but the average man/woman on the street certainly does not. People have told me that they are so glad they aren't adopted. They think it would be very hard to grow up in a family without any biological connection, to have grandparents who aren't really one's ancestors and other negative consequences from being adopted. Even Teresa Davis, adoptive mother of Carly (of Teen Mom fame) has said that she expects Carly will have problems stemming from being adopted.

    Despite some of these high profile pro-adoption types I really believe that our message is getting across. I see it on the internet and in real life. I even think our outspokeness has caused the mental health community to sit up and take notice and not dismiss us so easily. There are getting to be quite a lot of us speaking our minds.

    I have always found FMF to be a very welcoming place for adoptees. Most of the first mothers try very hard to understand the adoptee's experience and perspective. I have actually found a lot of healing by coming to FMF and being able to share my feelings, thoughs and experiences with like-minded individuals. So thank you :-)

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  10. Congratulations Lorraine on a great post.To be taken seriously research needs to be done by a large number of recognised researchers, we deserve no less, who preferably have no connection to adoption in any way.The problem is one of ethics and of convincing a world devoted to adoption and dominated by the profitable adoption industry that anything to do with adult adoptees is of any value.In the meantime adult adoptees need no proof or convincing of what it is they have to live with daily, had imposed on them without choice and will continue to live with.
    For those of you with young adoptees, please note that our response to our adoptions goes through different stages in different decades, what you see now is possibly not what you'll get later.

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  11. Struggling FulcrumAugust 15, 2011 at 10:52 PM

    Dear First Mother Forum

    I stumbled upon your site when seeking thoughts about a birthday card for my adopted daughter. The Gift/Card Quagmire was what I needed to help me through the "what to say". As I read through the Birth Mother and Child Reunion 1,2,3, I find very real, hurting, sensitive, realistic people making statements that contain much needed wisdom for my particular situation. Understanding that this is a forum for birth mothers, adoptees and adoptive parents, I was wondering if there might be a small spot in the corner for a birth father ? Adoption is so freaking hard. And when we clueless males finally wake up to what we have done it is a bit overwhelming. We are in our first year of "reunion" with many walls, threats, much angst, etc etc. I know that I will need to expound more on my particular situation in the future so that those posting can have a better understanding of the overall circumstances. What I do not want to do is take away from the discussion at hand.

    I have not sought counsel as yet but intend to. The current discussion deals with researching and finding truth in understanding the trauma of adoption and its overall effect. To take it a step further, who is best to seek for a counselor, one who has experienced the triad (cellular level) or one who has not (presumptively unbiased - no dog in the fight). Ridiculously, I even struggle with this decision on whom to seek for counsel.

    If this is not the place to discuss these matters, please feel free to suggest a place where I may seek discussion and wisdom. I struggle to do the right thing and truly do not know where to begin.

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  12. Struggling Fulcrum,

    Thanks for writing. Although our name is First Mother Forum, we certainly welcome First Fathers. We encourage you to bring up issues as topics suggest them. You might be interested in a guest post from from last year by birthfather Joe Sanchez, http://www.firstmotherforum.com/2010/02/first-father-story-last-part.html.

    It's my opinion that the best counselors for questions about adoptees are adoptees and the best counselors for assistance in dealing with birthparent issues are birthparents. After my reunion, I joined a support group led by a birthmother who was a professional counselor. Very helpful.

    I think, from what I've heard from others, that neutral counselors (those without a dog in the fight) and counselors who are adoptive parents cannot relate to the experience of adoptees or birthparents. Some of these counselors minimize the experiences related by adoptees and birthparents because the experiences are contrary to popular beliefs about adoption.

    I also encourage you to find a support group in your area. The American Adoption Congress has a list of support groups on its website under resources www.americanadoptioncongress.org.

    Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) welcomes birthfathers. You may be interested in attending the upsoming CUB retreat. Info on the CUB website,www.cubirthparents.org.

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  13. Great to see a father here, great to see one anywhere!! I hope you find the support you feel you require.You can email me if you wish or see a link on my blog for someone who may be able to help if you have Skype.I so hope fathers will be able to speak out more and have the encouragement and support to do so.

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  14. It's the lies about our real families that adoptees are told that can make for problems. Slanderous and manipulative distortions often based in judgements by cold professionals.

    To ask what adoptees were told about real Moms would be one place to start imho.

    Adoptees don't bad-mouth non-adopteds' families, so in turn, non-adopteds have no right to bad-mouth ours.

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  15. We need to recognize the trauma of "abandonment" within the trauma of adoption. And I was able to find medical research about the effect of "low nurturing" in the first six months of life. That helped me as an adoptive mom understand the delicate nature of my son. We are all working on healing.

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  16. Theodore: How about a short discussion of what you found and how it relates to the adoption experience? We're interested.

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  17. BDP Supporter wrote, "and some other factors affecting a person's behavior or predisposition to problems would be genetics, pregancy, and early childhood."

    This sounds like classic blame the crack-ho birth mother - she surely used drugs, has bad genes, and is an overall inferior person. Factor into "early childhood" the influence of adoptive family misrepresentations about the natural family, as stated by Anonymous, above:

    "It's the lies about our real families that adoptees are told that can make for problems. Slanderous and manipulative distortions often based in judgements by cold professionals."

    So an adoptee gets to hear how lousy her genes are and how damaged she was in her mother's womb, coupled with the demand to be grateful for being rescued from what surely would have been hell on earth...foolproof recipe for emotional distress, anyone? And if it's the genes that are the cause, well there's no cure for that, is there? Unless gene therapy works on these disorders...?

    Sorry, but this sounds like an attempt to minimize the negative effects of adoption by focusing on biology. But of course biology will be completely dismissed and adoption will the sole positive factor when jr. adoptee makes the dean's list or wins an olympic gold medal.

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  20. OK, during WW II many Jews had the chance to let their child go into hiding, almost always that meant that the child was de facto given up... even if that was just for the duration of the threat, which could well be longer than the rest of their lives.

    That is of course a difference, "forever" compared with "as long as it has to be", no legal stuff involved, and it was about giving the children a chance to live, not a "better" life.

    On the other hand, the attachment problems, the "I wish that the birthmom were dead" by the hiding parents, the denial of problems with the children, the problems with the children, the doubting of identity, are very similar.

    The book I am translating is about the parents. Parents who lost their children, missed them terribly, but got them back. Parents who clearly were forced by circumstances, and as such avoid the prejudices against first mothers (OK, they are Jewish...).

    It is based on interviews with such parents.

    The fight over custody of the children of their non-surviving counterparts led to the introduction of adoption i Dutch law b.t.w., that's not in the book, but it is a clear link to adoption.

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  22. I think this would be a useful study, as long as it was a scientifically rigorous examination of the facts, and not just an attempt to validate what is considered a foregone conclusion.

    Everyone (regardless our our current position on the subject) would have to accept that the result may not conform to our expectations or validate our opinions.

    I don't think using just the "not adopted" as a benchmark would be sufficient, though.

    Those who have been adopted have objectively lost family members, and without isolating this variable from the experience of being raised in an adoptive family, a comparison would be fairly meaningless. We would also need to compare those raised in institutions or permanent foster care, and perhaps also those who lost a parent to death. There are more possibilities than biological family and adoptive family that need to be studied to determine which role each plays.

    Additionally, the benchmark group would need to reflect the precarious or vulnerable family situations that might lead to a child being placed for adoption.

    I think it could be done - it's just I don't think adopted versus not adopted would tell us enough, because there are too many other factors involved.

    Regarding the genes and "bad mother" thing... wow. Research has been done that suggests certain physical and mental illnesses are genetically linked. That's just factual. It doesn't make anybody a better or worse person.

    If we ignored any scientific discovery that made anybody feel bad or "blamed," we'd have missed out on saving and improving a lot of lives.

    You can't just attribute the good things to your preferred option of nature/nurture and the bad things to the other one. It doesn't work when attempting to bolster adoption... but it's equally ludicrous the other direction, too.

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  23. Z: Could you enlighten us what your connection to adoption is?

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  25. "the best counselors for questions about adoptees are adoptees and the best counselors for assistance in dealing with birthparent issues are birthparents."

    Nancy Verrier, presumably the best of the best in some opinions, is an adoptive mother. How could that be?

    Some adoptees and first mothers who claim to be counselors are not the best, and the worst are harmful, although others are very professional and helpful. A few non triad members were and are excellent counselors. Think of Annette Baran.

    Look beyond triad membership when seeking a counselor, as it is not the only or deal-breaking criteria.

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  32. It's true that had we adoptees not been adopted, we wouldn't have avoided loss, but that's rather a simplistic thought. No human can avoid loss. It's just a different set of losses that we would have avoided altogether, such as wondering all those years who we were born to be, what our birth stories were, whom we looked like, etc. It would have been nice, in some ways, to start out without all that anxiety, at least for me.

    I have been struggling with depression again, and my mother called me out of the blue yesterday. She said that she felt she had to call me. She doesn't usually call me, so that was curious. Within the conversation, I asked her if she regretted having me. Okay, not such a wise question, but I wanted to know. I was fortunate, however, that she answered very kindly, "No, I just wish the circumstances had been different." I got the sense, for the first time, that she wished I'd been the child of her husband (whom she met and married later on) so that she could have kept and raised me. She expressed real regret, instead of frustration. We talked about how we both searched for love in the wrong way and felt very lost in our teens/early 20's. She told me how she feels her grandmother is her guardian angel, and how she wishes I could have met her father. It was the closest I've EVER felt to her. She SUPPORTED me.

    But if I had been the child of her husband (who hates me, by the way) I wouldn't be ME. I am ME because of her, but also because of the genes of my father, and because of the experiences I have shared with my APs, and just because of my own quirkiness. It's a Catch-22 to wish that all away and to want to be raised by her as someone else, especially having the genes of someone who hates me.

    I feel damned either way, especially because I do love my APs. I feel sad that she can't love me as the product of a one-night stand, while at the same time, I get it. Kid of a passionate lover? Sure. Kid of a one-night stand? More dicey, especially in a small, conservative Midwestern town in 1969. Sigh.

    I agree that FMF is the best place around for great dialogue between mothers and adoptees. It's my safe place, but also a great place to come to stretch the mind.

    One last thought for StrugglingFulcrum: I have had a difficult time finding good therapists, and I've tried some of the most eminent in the field. Maybe I am too picky. I agree that it helps to have some experience with adoption, so that they're not absolutely green. Arrogant green ones haven't worked AT ALL for me. Usually I end up giving potential therapists a reading list, and if they're any good, they'll do as I say (I'm paying them, after all). What counts is that they're intelligent, good listeners, and compassionate. If they're not, forget it.

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  34. "It's true that had we adoptees not been adopted, we wouldn't have avoided loss, but that's rather a simplistic thought."

    Had I stayed with my biological family, I absolutely believe I would have ranted about more "inconsequential" issues in my life. I also believe I would have had other issues.

    However, I'd like to believe that substituting my blood kin with my adoptive family was definitely a loss that could have been avoided, and that is exactly what my adoption required.

    Sure, I have issues in my adoptive family. I'm pretty sure my adoptive family is more dysfunctional than my biological one (I have proof of that, things I've learned directly from that), but that doesn't mean I don't love them.

    But if I had to chose between an issue directly *because* of my adoption, and an issue that 'could have' stemmed up regardless of my adoptive placement, at least I know the definite one.

    Because staying in that family would have meant being able to avoid a pretty damn significant issue - losing my mother.

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  35. Question: If trauma can be avoided, then why aren't we trying to work towards that?

    Maybe the majority of adoptees don't feel pain/loss. Maybe y'all are right. Trauma may not be avoided but not all adoptions consist of trauma.

    I keep seeing "Not every adoptee feels loss." Okay, you're right. Not every adoptee does feel loss. But then, what about the ones that do? Why aren't they validated?

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  37. Uh, oh.

    Parents Skip Marriage for Cohabitation, Report Finds
    By SABRINA TAVERNISE
    Published: August 16, 2011

    WASHINGTON — The number of Americans with children who live together without marrying has increased twelvefold since 1970, according to a report released Tuesday. The report states that children now are more likely to have unmarried parents than divorced ones.

    The report was published by the National Marriage Project, an initiative at the University of Virginia, and the Institute for American Values, two partisan groups that advocate for strengthening the institution of marriage. The report argues that the rise of cohabitation is a growing risk for children, and that their lives are less stable in such families.

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  39. Thanks, Ms. Marginalia. That you had a good conversation with your mother, and felt supported, is good news. Maybe it can help fight those blues.

    I wish the first mothers who don't understand what just being a soft shoulder can do for their "adopted-out" child. Every time I hear of one who won't meet her, or can't tell the family, or whatever, I feel sad.

    And sometimes natural mothers are so guilt-ridden they don't know how to act with the daughter they didn't raise. Sigh.

    It never ends, this adoption business.

    And to all: it's hard to know how to moderate the comments. Some of the brutal ones elicit the most interesting responses. But I do hate reading, as I did recently on another blog, that people hesitate commenting here, or hve stopped doing so because of the responses. If any of you are reading, try again. We need all voices to make this a true forum, and it's turned out to be much more than a forum only for first mothers, which I did not expect, but am glad of.

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  40. My daughter loves the person she is. That's the good news. And that person is because of all the factors of her life. If she was raised by me she would be a different person.
    Athough she searched for me, my undying love for her just plain freaks her out. We just completed two years in reunion and I'm being held at arms length.
    I don't blame her one bit. Sure I was coerced. I didn't have a chance with all the catholic guilt being dumped on me about how being adopted out was her savings grace. Geesh if I wasn't such a kind, compassionate, maternal, educated, 21 year old women at surrender maybe I could understand why I believed all that crap. Upon meeting me my daughter has to think I am not to be trusted. I walked away when she needed me most.
    I can see where adoption has wounded her but she has no desire to look too hard. And that's okedoke with me. As long as she's happy, which she appears to be, she might as well do what seems to be working. I know I degressed but just wanted to connect with people that understand. It is so freaking hard!

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  41. Z said"Everyone (regardless our our current position on the subject) would have to accept that the result may not conform to our expectations or validate our opinions."

    Thanks, Z, for stressing that, and for your whole post. I would be willing to accept being proven wrong by a scrupulously conducted independent study. I do not feel I have all the answers, or possess "the truth" about adoption or much else. That is the realm of faith, not experimental science. I would love to see some real proof beyond personal anecdote no matter which way it went.

    The effects of adoption need a lot more unbiased study, and the results might surprise true believers on both sides of the fence. At this point we just do not know, and the studies from both sides are mostly skewed by the foregone conclusions of those paying for or conducting the study.
    There is a lot of "garbage" coming out of NCFA and Bartholet's special interest groups as well as ours.

    But beyond the realm of science and surveys, we have a lot of hurting people here, adoptees and mothers, and even if the pain of adoption is not universal, it still hurts the ones it hurts, most of us here, and it might be beneficial to look at what has helped any of us to heal from our own pain or trauma.

    The message that no healing is possible is profoundly discouraging. No, we can't make the surrender and adoption not to have happened, but what has helped anyone to deal with the effects of adoption in your lives?

    As an aside, the idea that one group or the other has worse pain, the "Pain Olympics" is not worth discussing. We all have pain, and I can't imagine how anyone could conclude it was "100 times worse" for one group or the other. It is different, that is all, not better or worse for groups, only for individuals within those groups.

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  43. If a child was orphaned at birth due to death, that would affect them, so why wouldn't adoption? a baby doesn't know the difference whether their mother has died or not -- they just know that she isn't there... just because there was someone there to take care of the baby doesn't mean that baby won't feel the loss and grow up feeling that loss...

    So, can it be said then, that a person who doesn't feel any loss from adoption would've also felt no loss if their mother died in childbirth?

    This is absurd to me. Babies who are not with their biological mother couldn't give a crap about arguing about statistics. If the baby feels NO loss when removed from the mother, then I guess that baby would've been just interchangeable with any in the nursery.

    I can tell you that my children KNEW the difference between when I held them and when anyone else held them -- immediately at birth. To think that they could've been switched around and they wouldn't have felt it, sounds absurd to me. Whatever statistics and scientists say, that baby knows...at least mine did.

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  45. Maryanne said "But beyond the realm of science and surveys, we have a lot of hurting people here, adoptees and mothers, and even if the pain of adoption is not universal, it still hurts the ones it hurts, most of us here, and it might be beneficial to look at what has helped any of us to heal from our own pain or trauma.

    The message that no healing is possible is profoundly discouraging. No, we can't make the surrender and adoption not to have happened, but what has helped anyone to deal with the effects of adoption in your lives?"

    Maryanne - I don't think you ever "heal" from any significant loss. I believe you find a way to live with it and accept it but for it to be gone - not possible unless you live a life where you can avoid all triggers and I think that only happens after death.

    Does the pain of the loss change - yes, but the loss changes you in ways that never disappear. Those changes can be both good and bad. Those losses in your life do not mean you cannot live your life the way you wish to, they just become part of who you are. They make you strong enough to talk about real life pain with honesty. They give you the need and drive to make things better for others. They give you focus and empathy and a sense of generousity to share and help that others who have never suffered a significant loss don't seem to have.

    I personally believe all this talk about "healing" opens everything back up negatively when they had actually found their place deep inside, but because it is still part of them they are wrong or bitter or whatever term someone throughs out. It make the individual feel like they are doing something wrong because others can "heal" but they can't so there must be something deficient in them.

    Life experiences good and bad do not just disappear they make you who you are today - there is no "healing" - there is just life - at least until senility takes over.

    I for one am a better person because of the losses I have had in my life.

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  47. If we didn't LOVE our children and feel a CONNECTION to them that neither time nor distance can put asunder, there would not be First Mother Forum.

    It is a given that the mothers and daughters who come to this blog feel this connection. What we write about is what goes wrong with that bond, and hope that we help some heal and find their way to a better place.

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  49. There are so many issues involved in this discussion that it's easy to become overwhelmed. I'd like to address a few random issues that caught my eye.

    First, I agree with those who have posted that any comparisons of pain among parties to adoption are not only futile but counterproductive. Generalizations produce only push-backs, which tend to separate us, rather than unite us in common purposes - those of adoption reform and accountability for past practices.

    Any attempts to compare or contrast an adoptee's quality of life as he experienced it with what "might have been" with his original mother are particularly pointless. It's like comparing the product of a carpenter whose only tools are a handsaw and hammer with that of a building contractor with power tools and modern equipment at his disposal. The fact that mothers in my generation had neither parenting support nor resource tools was seen by the 'pros' as proof that we had nothing to offer our kids. I'm the first to admit there was no way on earth I could have supported my daughter in 1960 when she was born, so I can't begin to contemplate how her life would have turned out with me. I'd like to think it would have been better than it was - raised by an alcoholic, abusive mother and a passive father. But I can't guarantee that the hardships we would have experienced together would have produced a healthy, happy child, either.

    But here's the thing. What if, instead of the Florence Crittenton Home in Detroit that I went to, where my parenting capabilities were minimized and exploited, I could have found one like this:
    http://www.florencecrittentonsc.org/index.php

    "Florence Crittenton Programs of South Carolina values the right of every pregnant young woman to obtain the education, skills, and support needed to have a new beginning for herself, and a healthy start in life for her child. We strive to instill self-sufficiency in clients who are struggling with a variety of challenges. Our clients get personalized, professional care to help them achieve a healthy life of autonomy and success."

    And how different would my daughter's life have been if she had been adopted by a capable, sober mother and responsible, involved father? I'll never know that, either. I wasn't given the opportunity to choose her parents.

    And therein lies the crux of our common situations: lack of power in circumstances that impacted our lives in profound and complex ways. We were micromanaged by people in positions of power - some of us fared reasonably well, others horribly. But the bottom line is that adoption as it has been constructed over the past half century or more has been faulty and destructive. The secrecy - the mystery - the intrigue - the control by 'others' over the facts of our lives - these are the acids that have eaten away at so many of us.

    I've been pulling together all the files I've collected over the years on adoptee suicide, and I have to admit my blood pressure has risen substantially. Such waste of precious lives! And why? because of the secrecy, the unfulfilled needs, the refusal of those in authority to budge on issues they have no understanding of. Read Corinne Chisholm's book 'Andrew, You Died Too Soon,' and you'll see what I mean. In a letter to Truth Seekers in Adoption back in 1987, Corinne wrote:

    “I am the mother of three adopted children, ages 25 & 26 and one who died by taking his life at age 18 just 2 1/2 years ago now. He had such great need to know his German roots. If he might have succeeded I think he would be alive today.”

    I has to STOP! The secrecy and deceit have to stop! The micromanaging has to stop. The exclusion of civil rights to adoptees has to stop. The battle is tough, and all soldiers are needed for the fight. Please....let's not aim our guns at one another!

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  51. For what it is worth, folks might like to look at "Counseling Adopted Persons in Adulthood: Integrating Practice and Research," published in The Counseling Psychologist at http://tcp.sagepub.com The authors are Amanda L. Baden and Mary O'Leary Wiley (an adoptee).I find they have done a solid review of adoptee studies and compared and critiqued methodology, biases, etc. I'd like to know how others find this review.

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  53. Our agenda is to change the face of adoption in America, to protect mothers so they do not have to relinquish their children, to help first mothers and adoptees heal from the effects of adoption, and to stem the seemingly endless demand for babies for childless couples, which leads to corruption and baby-selling in all corners of the globe.

    I feel like my life is an agenda too. I never would have chosen it; it was presented to me to take or walk away from.

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  54. Robin--ABC--Your Amended Birth Certificate, I presume? Not every reader will understand our shorthand.

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  56. Yes, Lorraine, I was referring to my amended birth certificate.

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  58. Elaine wrote:"If a child was orphaned at birth due to death, that would affect them, so why wouldn't adoption?"

    If an adult mentioned that his mother had died when he was an infant most people would respond with overwhelming sympathy. Even if he was raised by a stepmother or an aunt or grandmother most people would believe that he would never fully recover from the loss and that being raised by a substitute caregiver was not exactly the same as being raised by his natural mother. Why are so few people able to see the parellel between this and adoption? Does a falsified birth certificate and a name change really make that much of a difference?

    I don't necessarily think that the best counselor for an adoptee is a fellow adoptee. If they were on opposite sides of the spectrum (i.e. one felt that adoption had very little or no negative effect on his life and the other felt it caused a lot of damage) it could do more harm than good.

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  61. "Whatever you might say about the way The Primal Wound is written I'll bet most of us would like to have a book that is as talked about, widely read by readers as affected by it as they are and that keeps on selling!"

    Speak for yourself, Von.

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  63. I attempted suicide at the age of 17. I grew up in a middle class suburb with a sibling and married parents. Went to good schools and wanted for nothing. I was attractive and intelligent but still I hated myself and felt alone and confused and detached from everyone and everything around me. Hated to be touched or held. No one sought help for me and my parents told me I was an idiot and barely spoke to me ever again after my suicide attempt.
    I did not know I was adopted until my early twenties, but I always knew I was in the wrong place with the wrong people.
    If you are NOT an adoptee you have absolutely not a clue nor have you the right to tell us how we should think or feel. We look in the mirror every day and have no idea who we are or where we come from. We are the invisible people.

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  65. Joanne Wolf Small,
    Thanks for the link. I don't subscribe to that journal, but I'm going to get my husband to try downloading from his university website. I also saw your profile and ordered your book, "The adoption mystique." I am very eager to read your research. I think you got it right!

    The Adopted Child: Clinical Issues and Psychosocial Problems in Living

    • The culture's pervasive bias toward reproductive family structure; social work's historic affinity for psychodynamic theory; and the literature on the adopted child, from Florence Clothier (1943) and others exert a dominant, prejudiced and persistent negative influence on public and professional perceptions of adopted children.

    • Society fails to recognize that adoption, like divorce, is a condition extrinsic to the child. Labeling them adopted children, not children of adoption, like children of divorce, or children of alcoholics, suggests otherwise.

    • The omnipresent perception that adoptive family structure is deficient, and that the adopted child is faulty or flawed— and in need of treatment— associates adoption with mal-adaptation. Adoptive status is associated with psychopathology.

    • Perhaps nowhere does the psychiatric literature on the adopted child represent a greater confluence of imagination, interpretation, and psychoanalytic theory, politics, social attitudes, child welfare principles and adoption practice then over the meaning of search.

    • Adopted persons wanting to search for their roots are suspect. Presumptions about their unhappiness, dissatisfaction, low self-concept and low self-esteem prevail. Non-adopted persons are not subject to similar assumptions when persuing knowledge of their roots.

    • Despite many claims to the contrary, no emotional or adjustment problem has been reliably identified as specific to adopted persons. Studies that compare groups of adoptive with non-adoptive children in psychiatric settings fail to demonstrate a unique relationship between maladjustment and being adopted

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  73. This is one of the few blogs I've seen where different opinions are allowed and posted(There are probably a few that are unprintable LOL) I, a reunited firstmother, am learning a lot and feel less alone(I'm not the only B-mother in the world!) when reading here. Jen

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  74. This is not the research I was referring to, but it is intersting. I do not know the impetus for this research or how it was funded:


    http://www.cehd.umn.edu/fsos/Centers/mtarp/

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  75. Trish, it is funded by the Pioneer Fund
    http://www.pioneerfund.org/

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  84. I don't get someone labeling this blog a bully pulpit.

    Really?

    A little blog that has been helpful to me and other mothers? One of the only places pregnant mothers can gain easy access to information beyond biased counsel? One of few places a mother can speak without getting shut down?

    Topics are addressed here that aren't elsewhere. There's a reason it's called "birthmother - first mother forum."

    The raising of difficult issues and questions specific to birthparents - firstparents (questions and issues that have been censored or defined by others, elsewhere, for years and years) is not only important but also absolutely necessary.

    People can choose to read or not to.

    The bullying element on birthparent-firstparent blogs is indeed present, too often in the form of individuals seeking to silence or harass the authors.

    As far as relationships demanding someone's silence or deference in the wake of injustice or very real harm, sometimes the healthy response to such a demand is "no."

    If I were abused or exploited and the children I have parented demanded my silence or compliance about it in order to have a relationship with me, it would be untenable to abide by such a demand.

    Yet, in the context of adoption, many (not all) birth or first parents were coerced, lied to, manipulated, and separated from children by acutely unethical and sometimes cruel means while being expected to be quiet about it.

    Even, apparently, years later within "birthmother" forums.

    Thankfully, some reject that.

    Whether it's a week or forty years after the fact, they get to talk about it. They get to write about it. They get to question the practices. They get to suggest alternatives. They get to be right on some things and wrong on some things, as are all human beings.

    If they so choose, they get to say "This is what happened. It was not okay and I don't want it to happen to anyone else."

    If some don't want to "hear" it, they have the option not to.

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  87. @ anonymous 1:44am... THANK YOU! You put into your eloquent words what is so true about this forum and those who write and comment here.

    A certain adoptee blog owner loves to slam and defame this blog. When someone had the guts to stand up to the blog author for her slanderous postings about this blog and the mothers who post here; she was called a "crazy, kook, bitch" who's child was lucky not to have been raised by such a "narcissist".

    When she responded with same vile that was thrown at her, she was accused of "threatening" the blog owner and belonged in the nut house.

    Suffice to say, I think that particular blog owner is the one who is quite disturbing. To blatantly lie and make up stories of someone "threatening" her is outrageous and not something to be taken lightly. Anyone who dares stand up for their truth (or this forum) is automatically deemed mentally unstable and needs a first class, one way ticket to the nearest mental ward? REALLY? Wow! lmao!

    What has become of these forums is nothing short of astounding to me. The double standard (where we can be called vile disgusting names but never stand up for ourselves)is beyond comprehension.

    I think certain people can't stand the fact that some of us have found our voices and will never again hide behind the veil of secrecy and shame of adoption, where most of them want us to stay.

    What truly astounds me is that those who seem to want us silenced and denounce us most of all are (certain) adoptees. I may have expected it from adopters, social wreckers and the baby brokers, but the children who ALSO lost? I just don't understand and never will...

    I will never understand why people feel the need to berate and denounce the truth of another human being, of MOTHER'S who lost their children to adoption~ who want nothing more than to find some sort of peace.

    What is wrong with people!?!

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  104. This is the perfect example of why adoption is wrong.
    We have adopters here laying blame about personal
    responsibility while they are the ones that gain in
    adoption. While they are taking another young woman's
    baby there us no mention of their "personal" responsibility.
    it is just that they are married and can't accept the facts
    that they cannot have a baby. That they become predators
    And prey on another person.
    Talk about accepting and taking "responsibility" If you are unable to conceive it doesn't give you the right to another woman's baby.
    Those religious undertones the judgers who are all a part
    of separating mothers and babies need to take some responsibility too. Just because one professes to be a member of a church should not give them any rights to a baby. Isn't judging another something that those types say
    they don't do?

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  108. Just a brief note in passing which seemed relevant on this subject....my sister is a therapist and has been in practice for over 35 years. she began with ex-offenders and moved into working with young people. Now she is in private practice and works exclusively with young people. About 90% of her practice involves working with children who were adopted. She said that when she takes in a new client, if they are adopted, she automatically gives them a provisional diagnosis of "Attachment Disorder". Rarely does she have to remove that provisional diagnosis.

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  110. Anonymous: If you comeback to the site, would you email me privately? thanks.

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  112. "Of the 500 estimated serial killers in U.S. history, 16 percent were adopted as children, while adoptees represent only 2 or 3 percent of the general population. Adoptees are 15 times more likely to kill one or both of their adoptive parents than biological children."

    http://crimemagazine.com/adoption-forensics-connection-between-adoption-and-murder

    "To name a few adoptee serial killers: Charles Albright, the Texas "Eyeball Killer," Kenneth Bianco, the California "Hillside Strangler," David Berkowitz, New York City's "Son of Sam," Steve Catlin, the Bakersfield, Calif., serial wife and mother poisoner, Joseph Kallinger, the "Philadelphia Shoemaker," Gerald Eugene Stano, executed killer of 42 women in Florida, and Joel Rifkin, New York's most prolific serial killer."

    What causes this? 16% of serial killers are adoptees? I think it's probably from the adopters... most likely those neurotic insecure nutjob adoptive mothers.

    I could never take another woman's baby from her because she was poor or desperate. Adoptive mothers are evil and devious enough to do such a cruel and heartless thing. No wonder they raise so many serial killers. 2-3% of adults have been adopted, cut that in half 50% for the male to female ratio.

    So 1.5% of the population are male adoptees and men are the vast majority of all serial killers so pretty much the 1.5% of men who were adopted as infants are 16% of all serial killers.

    Have you ever read some of the twisted and evil things those adoptive mothers write on their blogs. All the duplicity, sociopathy, the dark secrets, manipulation, word play, cognitive dissonance, wierd and bizarre religious rants. "God made it this way." "God told me to do it." God made you for me so I could have you....You were just in the wrong place so I had to take you and make you ALL MINE."

    If roughly 1 out of 6 of all serial killers are adopted males yet they are only 1.5% of the population that only shows that infant adoption is sick and unnatural.

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  113. "If roughly 1 out of 6 of all serial killers are adopted males yet they are only 1.5% of the population that only shows that infant adoption is sick and unnatural."

    Or that adopted males are inherently evil, damaged by poor prenatal environment, that nobody should adopt boys, that demons dwell in the illegitimate, that problems with mother figures predispose males to violence...Take your pick.

    Correlation does not indicate causation.

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  114. True, Anonymous. But it is weird right? Right along with the stat that the one study that looked at the incidence of children relinquished found that adoptee women were seven times (or was it four?) more likely to have children they gave up for adoption. This study did not indicate whether the population observed were intentional adoptions; given the particulars I think that number would have been small to zero.

    Yes, I know correlation does not indicate causation but, all these numbers are really weird, right?

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  115. But wait, I am going to add that I do not think the adoptive mothers are the major root cause, as Jill states. I think it is the sense of abandonment and ennui and disconnectedness that stems from the initial relinquishment. Oh lord, yes that puts it squarely back into the lap of...the first/biological/natural mothers.

    Us, in other words. Adoption is hard on everyone, but ever now and then there will be a person for whom the abandonment trigger is just too much to bear. And there is surely a genetic component. And you get Big Trouble.

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