' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoptive Parents: Not a Breed Apart?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Adoptive Parents: Not a Breed Apart?

Years ago, when I was a young attorney, a woman came to me seeking a divorce from her dull, school principal husband. She planned to leave her equally dull community and move to another city with her lover, an exciting but unemployed artist. She and her husband had three adopted children. I wanted to scream at her, "You promised their mothers that their children would be raised in a stable two-parent home and you're breaking that promise!"

When I surrendered my newborn daughter for adoption six years earlier, I believed that adoptive parents were a breed apart--dedicated, stable, educated, la crème de la crème. After all, adoptive parents spent many years and thousands of dollars to become parents; they were screened by social service agencies and courts. I thought it was ironic that the infertile made the best parents while those of us who could conceive were--at best--only marginally fit to raise our child.

I thought of this a few days ago when I read about James Gumm of Hillsboro, Oregon who shot and killed his two adopted children before killing himself. Newspaper reports did not disclose a motive. Of course, natural parents kill their kids as well. A week before Gumm shot his adopted children, Amanda Jo Stott-Smith threw her two children off a Portland bridge into the Willamette River, killing one of them.

The sad truth is that adoption is a lottery, a game of chance, as John Sayles depicts in Casa de los Babys. Adoptive parents may or may not be June and Ward Cleaver. Like other parents, they may or may not divorce, suffer from alcoholism, become unemployed, or commit murder.

The only guarantee about adoption is that the child will have a different life. If parents want to assure that their child is reared in a safe, loving, nurturing environment, they need to do it themselves.


  1. As a mother that's all I ever wanted to raise my own baby.

    As a young woman, my mother, and others had different ideas for me and my baby.

    I was led to the grist mill of adoption and ground up like mother's and babies are in adoption.


  2. The people who adopted me were vetted by no agency. In fact they went to several and were denied, ostensibly because of age... but I suspect that was an excuse, and that perhaps they didn't pass all the tests required of an agency adoption. Instead they went gray-market and adopted me through my adoptive father's friend, the doctor who delivered me. My adoptive father didn't want more children; his marriage to my adoptive mother was his second and he felt that part of his life was past. My adoptive mother was the one who insisted. I don't see how my life with my birth mother could have been much worse than living with people whose marriage was one of convenience and to whom I was merely a pedestal to social status.

  3. Well said.

    The man who adopted me was incredibly abusive. Too bad there wasn't mandatory reporting when I was a kid.

  4. You are 100% right. There is no guarantee.

    Like you, I carried the belief that adoptive parents were somehow "better" than everyone else. They held this standard, this greatness because they had gone through the home study, been picked apart - I believed - with a fine-tooth comb to make sure they were the best parents ever. And they had done everything I hadn't . . . Built a career, married, created a stable life BEFORE children. So they were almost "saintly" in my eyes.

    And then I reunited with my son and learned of the many divorces. Of his adad being done with him completely as soon as he and his amom divorced when he was five. Of his amom's addiction to alcohol and the financial struggles it caused. And worst of all, my son's emotional and physical abuse by his amom and his first step-father.

    That was my awakening to the fact that aparents aren't perfect creatures and do have their own set of problems. They aren't perfect, and they aren't saintly.

    And some should have never been trusted wtih anyone's child to raise as their own.

  5. Yes, life is a roll of the dice. So many unknowns, we can just hope for the best.

    Just want to say here and now, of course there are many devoted adopted parents who have raised bright, successful children to adulthood; hopefully they're the norm rather than the exception.

    I must admit I was surprised and, yes, even a little bit angry, when I learned my daughter's parents were divorced. They tried to keep their marriage together until she graduated high school, but it wasn't possible. Their divorce was my daughter's first dose of reality after a blissful, privileged childhood, and she didn't take it well; in fact, she moved in with a friend for a bit.

    Of course adoptive parents are human too, but, as we were told--and as so many birthmothers believed--they were better than us. Perhaps that standard of excellence, that façade, was just too much?

    I spent the evening with a new friend who happens to be an adoptive father to two boys from Russia--and divorced. Of course told him about this post and how I felt let down because my daughter’s parents’ marriage failed. I told him I felt as many birthmothers did, one’s ability to parent hardly matters as long as they have the means to write a five-figure check. I asked him how they managed to pass the "vetting" with flying colors. To his credit, he responded to my inquisition by saying their marriage probably wasn't on solid ground to begin with, but they both had a strong desire to be parents and continued with their adoption plan anyway. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my Methodist minister when I was going through a rough patch early in my marriage. His solution was, "Have a baby." Um, I don't think so. And did this grandfatherly man actually say that?! Such '50s mentality! Suffice to say I didn't heed his advice, and left the church.

  6. It's a truism that adoption is a crapshoot.

    I was saddened to hear that my son's adoptive parents had had, through no fault of their own, difficulties that had resulted in divorce.
    Nevertheless, even after they separated, they both continued to providing him and his a-sibs with a good upbringing and lots of unconditional love.

    I don't think I ever thought adoptive parents would be 'different' in the sense of 'better'.
    Just that, as Hemingway said about the rich, they had more money.
    And would be married and consequently have the trappings of respectability.

  7. If you Google the word "adoptee" you can see that many adoptees are unhappy please see the link >


  8. The "have" mentality also existed for those who "couldn't" have a baby.
    Just "adopt" one, and your marriage will "stay" together. Real life if there are problems in ANY marriage adopting or having a baby will not work.

    I had not one but TWO family members adopt.

    One was a male cousin who was in divorce court with his soon to be ex wife. They reconciled there and went on to adopt and have their own baby. They stayed together but I always wondered about their relationship, the baby they adopted, and of course the daughter they had together, the two girls were months apart in age. I do remember my cousin's wife asking me questions on my reunion with my son after our reunion. She told me the girl they adopted, told her right after giving birth that she had a "relative" now. Sad but true.

    The other adoptee in my family was by my womanizing uncle. My mom supported him, and the lady that he was married to saying how wonderful it was that they adopted. They divorced soon after and he was raised by an over protective older woman. My "cousin" recently lost his female adopter, he is a mess, even before that loss. Always, being given things, and of course, expecting things. He was "special" and he "KNEW" it. I did tell my mother that he needed to find his family. She remarked that his female adopter was such a good "mom" and I said how by giving him everything he wanted, that doesn't equate to being a good mom to me. It is just spoiling and it set him up for more problems, which he had and has. My mother is delusion if she thinks thats a good mom, all the while, after I lost my own baby her grandson she NEVER talked about it to me. Guess I was a "bad" mom probably in her eyes.

    So much for those "perfect" married couples, (many on verge of divorce) and how they got to adopt. Like I have repeated over and over, I could have done what my son's female adopter did, she was married to a grandpa when she adopted, soon divorced, making my son be raised by a single mom, which is exactly what I was, and couldn't or wasn't allowed to be in order to keep him. Then she marries and and low and behold, this person had kids, and the last thing he wanted was kids that weren't his, so my son was emotionally abused, couldn't eat too many sandwiches or too much cereal. After, all its expensive,,,NOT!

    Adoption bullshit at its best.

  9. it is truly ironic that we natural mothers were often told/convinced/brainwashed by the agency that adoption was "best" for our children as they'd go to the perfect parents, and that we were "unfit" to raise our babies or any babies at all.

    then we often go on to find that these noble, holy, and perfect parents weren't. all they had was more social status, money, or a wedding ring.

    but of course, the agencies knew that this line would work to make us feel inferior, undeserving, and insecure -- to play upon our fears such that we would feel we had to sign for our baby's sake.

    and now we get slammed for having surrendered, no matter how much coercion was or was not applied. we are told it was "our fault," when the agency staff deliberately ensured we felt we "had to" surrender for our child's sake, because we were not good enough next to these perfect, deserving, "waiting parents."

    my son was put with people who abused him. they never should have had children in that house. it shows how a "home study" was all for show.

  10. Yes indeed, no guarantee. That ANY parent, adoptive or natural, will give their children a problem-free life. We mothers were simply led to believe that.

    This discussion reminds me of "Juno." How the potential a-parents were already having problems and ultimately would divorce before they even adopted. Everything in that movie was skewed. Including that Juno gave her baby to the mom who was then going to be a single mother.

    Then again, she found them in the Penny Saver, not through an agency. Arrrrrgggh.

  11. I am an adoptee in my late 30s. I was adopted as an infant into a household that wanted to be a perfect family of four ( I have an adopted brother.) In a nutshell, we were verbally and physically abused- could not have been a more unnatural fit. I have reconnected with my bmom and it is the first time I really know what it's like to have a mother who loves me for me. She was encouraged by her family to give me up but didn't want to. I have avoided telling her about my childhood and even made it sound like a great one. I don't want her to think her sacrifice was in vain. She would like for me to share our reconnection with my aparents. Should I tell her it was not a happy childhood? My aparents are in complete denial and have no relationship with my brother and a strained one with me. Any info would be helpful. And, my amom is extremely possesive- jealous of anyone else in my life. She came to the hospital when my son was born and lashed out at me for allowing my mother in law to come in the room before her.

  12. Imagine, if you will, being told over and over that you will probably NEVER be able to conceive a child of your own, despite the fact that you truly need/want/dream of sharing a lifetime full of unconditional love with another human being.

    I am appalled of the views expressed on this blog about adoptive parents. It is very offensive to me, as an adoptive mother, that a previous poster referred to others like me as a "female adopter". I am a MOTHER, first and foremost.

    We want the same thing you do--a child of our own to love. While there are many horror stories of both adoptive parents and birthmothers, the majority of us are stable, sane, trustworthy individuals who unconditionally love our children.

    My husband and I, who have been married for ten years, and are very much in love, adopted our now 2-year-old son at birth. This child is my life. Our love for him envelops us both heart and soul. I would not want to imagine myself in a world without him in it. I lay in bed at night thinking to myself how wonderful and precious he is, and he is mine.

    The birthmother chose us, called all of the shots regarding the adoption plan, kept us informed of everything throughout the pregnancy, and she chose to never see him after he was born. She sees pictures whenever she asks for them. I was the first one to hold him, feed him, and adore him. She is a very brave woman, and we will always hold her in the highest of regards, and she will always have a special place in my heart.

    My son and I are very, very close and he has a large extensive family that adores him. Of course we will tell him sooner, rather than later, about how he came into this world, but he was meant for me--a genuine gift from God.

    I truly disagree that children should only be raised by their birthparents. While that may be the ideal situation for all of us, we ADOPTIVE MOTHERS who truly love and adore our children, and keep their best interests at heart, should not be scorned because of others who made poor choices. I assure you, the attitudes on this blog are not the norm. If it were, why do so many children get placed into loving homes each and every day, who thrive and live healthy, happy lives?

    Please do not let your guilt or bad experiences interfere with others who may be considering similar options.

  13. Larra: Yes, you love your child, but clearly for you adoption was a second choice. You do not say at what age you were when you decided to attempt conception, and the huge push on the adoption industry to find babies results in way too many adoptions today. The child you speak of is two; adoption for him is not a one-time occurrence, but an act that irrevocably separates him from his genetic family, and the full ramifications of that will play out throughout his life.

    This is a post from 3 years ago; if you are interested in what adoption means to people today--natural mothers and their children, you might keep up with not only this blog, but the many written by adult adoptees.

    Since this is an old post, COMMENTS HERE ARE NOW: CLOSED.



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