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

Friday, February 18, 2011

The bittersweet reality of being adopted

What effect does being surrendered for adoption do to the individual so surrendered?

Being adopted approximately doubles the odds of an adolescent being diagnosed with a behavior or emotional problem. Yes, the vast majority of adopted people grow up to be fully functioning, well adjusted individuals, but a 2008 study at the University of Minnesota has found that a small minority of those kids--about 14 percent--are diagnosed with a behavioral disorder or have contact with a mental health professional as adolescents--roughly twice the odds that the non-adopted face.

This is consistent with what previous adoption research has found for many years. Yet for just as many years, that research was dismissed cavalierly as a result of adoptive parents' higher income and education levels, thus people more likely to seek professional help for a troubled, trouble-making child. But that assumption is flawed, says the lead researcher, Margaret Keyes, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research.

The researchers assessed 514 internationally adopted adolescents and 178 domestically adopted adolescents (aged 11 to 21) and compared them with 540 non-adopted kids of the same age. Children who had been adopted scored higher than non-adoptees on continuous measures of behavioral and emotional problems, the team found. Adoptees were about twice as likely to have had contact with a mental health professional and of having a disruptive behavior disorder, according to the study.

Yes, most adoptees are doing well. Yes, most do not fall into this troubled group. But some do, at a higher incidence than the non-adopted. The causes are unclear--Keyes said it is possible due to substance abuse before adoption, or unstable conditions before the adoption. I am not, for one, going to say that these conditions are not likely with children who have to be relinquished; if their mothers could care for them, they would. If the conditions were stable, favorable, if the mothers did not feel overwhelmed, their mothers would keep them close. If I felt I could have kept my daughter, I would have. Was she troubled? Yes, by many demons; adoption was only one issue in her life, but it was there.

While previously most adoption research relied on questionnaires filled in by parents, Keyes and her team spoke directly to adoptees themselves. Working with three large agencies in Minnesota, they interviewed adoptees from age 11 to 21, as well as parents, mental health professionals and teachers. Participants who had a non-adopted sibling in the same age range were used to compare behaviors.

Behaviors often exhibited included attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Children adopted from in the United States were more prone to behavioral disorders than those adopted overseas.

Some 40,000 children worldwide annually emigrate from more than 100 countries through adoption, a trend increasing rapidly in the U.S. since the 1970s. But these foreign adoptees are far more likely to internalize their problems, suffering more commonly from depression or separation anxiety disorders. Domestic adoptees, on the other hand, tend to act out.

We write about this because the bill that would give mothers more time (eight days!) to consider whether to give up their child has been coming under such hot and heated criticism from a place such as the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS).  We have seen the bill Jane is working on and has written about bashed on other blogs, most specifically blogs run by LDS, the church that is also the main funder of the National Council for Adoption, which steadfastly opposes giving adopted people the right to know their true identity. 

They do this, one must suspect, because they feel that they will lose adherents to their faith, if they are discovered to be born to non-Mormon parents. I never had any thoughts about Mormonism one way or another--it was just another religion--until the closed hearts and minds of LDS on this issue became so crystal clear. As we have written before here, the Mormon Church enthusiastically promotes adoption if the mother is unmarried.*

At one point several months ago I was invited to be part of a blog that was part of "adoption.com" for birth mothers run by a Mormon; it promoted the idea that giving up your child led to a kind of jaunty cheerfulness about one's future. As I could not agree with this sentiment, which I consider false, I was barred from posting in the site in no uncertain terms in a couple of days.

While our primary goal at First Mother Forum is allegiance to the concerns of first/birth mothers, I want to point out that staying with one's original family--growing up with people you look and act like--is better than growing up with genetic strangers, aside from abuse, of course. Reams have been written about this. I think of what I was posted on a wall in New York City where people post anonymous comments: I'm sad I was adopted but also glad. I read it this way: Sad because I had to be adopted; glad because I had good parents. But adoption for the adoptee is a bitter-sweet reality, no matter how good the home. For first mothers, the reality is more always bitter than sweet, no matter our reasons our children were adopted. I will never forget the awful afternoon I signed the relinquishment papers, and I think I speak for most birth mothers here.
The Adoption Reader: Birth Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Adopted Daughters Tell Their Stories
I write about this today to inform mothers considering adoption to consider carefully what they are doing, not only to themselves, but to their children. I write to counteract the liberal ideologues who believe that adoption is always a good thing, who believe that "rescuing" children from poverty is always better than letting them grow up with their own people, I write to encourage families to find ways to keep their children. --lorraine

*(See: Mormon Myths and Adoption Records; Mormon Opposition to Open Records; and Mormons on Meeting your (Birth) Child. 

On another Note, Adoptive Mother Rosie O'Donnell, whose opposition to giving adoptees their rights is well known, is the featured celeb tonight on Who Do You Think You Are? It baffles me how she can participate in this and display the emotional interest in one's roots that the show so clearly demonstrates, yet she and her brother, Danny O'Donnell in the NY Assembly, are so very opposed to unsealing New York's sealed birth certificates. Of course, I have set my TV to record it; I expect to want to be throwing things at the television and Rosie when I watch it on Saturday.

Jane will be back in a day or so with more on the Oregon bill.


  1. "the vast majority of adopted people grow up to be fully functioning, well adjusted individuals"

    This is so black and white and does not consider the nuances of human emotion and behavior.

    What about the "good" adoptees who adore their adoptive parents, have issues, but choose to hide those issues because of fear of hurting their adoptive parents?

    Or those who fear hurting the relationship with their adoptive parents and upsetting the apple cart of life as they know it?

    Are they counted in the statistics? I daresay they do not readily express their real concerns when contributing to the statistics.

    I only can speak from my experience of dealing with my adopted-out son and his adopted sister.

  2. Oh, and BTW Rosie O'Donnell and her brother are both horses patooties.

    To seek your own heritage while denying you adopted children the same opportunity is akin to slavery.

  3. The study is interesting to me. I can't help but think of my IRL dear adoptee friend that I have known since our respective childhoods and whose friendship dates back 30 years or so at this point. We still talk several times a week.

    We both struggled with our adoptee status, in different and yet similar ways. Neither of us was dx'd with any disorders as adolescents despite being raised in a time where this was quite popular.

    Despite me being able to look back at my own adolescence with a shocking amount of horror and disbelief that I lived through it. Granted, the darkness that was so fascinating to me, I was exploring with a lot of real kids. But they all had troubled homes as well. I actually lived with an English immigrant family for awhile that called themselves Mormon, never seemed to go to temple and spoke in tongues. In the hallway, which is rather incongruent as far as I know. I did have the benefit of learning the expression, "Shut your festering gob, you tit!" which I would not know otherwise, but I am digressing.

    But I was involved in drug use and the boys I ran around with were definetly of the criminal element. Not violent crimes but autotheft for example. We also were both child-brides. Me at 16, her at 17---It just makes me wonder if there was a wider net cast how many of us were involved in other less than desirable behaviors despite being relatively easy to get along with, doing well in school and whatnot.

  4. The son I surrendered 20 years ago has ADHD. I also found out in 1999 he has Tourette's Syndrome, when his adoptive mother had come to see me at work to ask questions about why he has TS (unacceptable for anyone to do that; we lived in the same city at the time and she finally left in a huff after she yelled at me for ten minutes; I was in tears, thinking I gave her damaged merchandise). ADHD and dyslexia run in my family, so I'm not surprised. He is now a very gifted multi-instrumentalist and musician, but so are ALL the members of my family; the talent skipped me. ;)

    My two younger sons show symptoms of ADHD as well, but I'm acclimated, so to speak. Used to it from having been raised in this type of family. I hate that my adopted son had to go through what he did to be accepted by his adoptive family.

    *This is my first post on this blog. You ladies have been very informative and helpful. I'm a natural mother to four boys, and my two older sons were surrendered over 20 years ago.

  5. Angelle, you are absolutely right, but for the purposes of this research...that is how they are counted. I know adoptees who are fully functioning and adults but have all the characteristics you mention. They just don't get counted.

  6. This was also in that 2008 report:

    "It's important not to stigmatize adoption," Pertman said. "Adoption is not causing these problems."

    I would like to find out if these studies were done with children from open adoptions or closed adoptions. I know many adoptees who were in open adoptions, who knew where they came from and where their birth parents were and they have all told me that THAT made a difference in their lives. All of whom I speak of are fantastic, vibrant and not mental or depression issue people.

    I would also be interested to see a study like this only with children from divorce. I would bet that the statistics of those kids having mental issues or depression would be rather high. I know that I am in that category and boy did I suffer for quite a few years from the horrors of what my mind saw in my family life.

    Also quoted in that study from 2008: "A second study in the same issue of the journal looked at children who had lost a parent to death suddenly. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that these bereaved youngsters had triple the risk of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than kids with two parents still alive."

    Not trying to make waves here, just want to make a point that adoption or not, many kids have problems and issues about quite a few things. I don't believe that it is a birth mother's fault that their adopted child might have some depression or mental health issues.

    No one knows how their lives are going to turn out, no matter the background they have.

  7. Friends of ours had a child who was ...smart and challenging. After various shenanigans he ended up at a school for troubled kids. He said kids always said to him, what are you doing here? You're not adopted or from a broken home?

    If you start poking around and read what the it says at the websites of schools for troubled kids, you find they often emphasize the kind of work they do with adopted kids. "Our adopted students are trying to find out where they fit in the world...Nonverbal therapy has to do with making connections," it reads at one.

    You can slice it any which way, but a greater number of adoptees than those raised with their own families are going to experience psychological problems than the non-adopted, open adoption or not.

  8. I agree with this statement. Many of the mental health issues stated in the article are caused by genetics. Not to "blame" anyone , but it is what it is.

    Also, many of today's adoptees have very complex birth stories ( lack of prenatal care, bparents having mental illness or/and drug/alcohol use during pregnancy). All of these DO contribute to emotional/behavior problems.

    No one wants to say it, but many times the genetic factor plays a large role in how a child is ( regardless of being adopted or not

  9. Lorraine, my husband has been a child therapist for many years, and he specializes in ADHD. According to him, true ADHD has a strong genetic component and is neurochemically-based. It is being diagnosed more now than in the past. Adults can have ADHD too (I have friends that were diagnosed in their 40's). Many readers will have their own opinion on diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, but let's just stick to the research for a moment.

    If I hold to the most current research on ADHD and also to the most current research on adoptees with ADHD, it might be logical for me to hypothesize that birth moms or birth dad have ADHD at a slightly higher rate than the general population. Just a hypothesis. More research is needed.

    Impulsivity is one common characteristic of ADHD. Is it possible that an impulsive person is more likely to have an unintended pregnancy, or to sign relinquishment papers without thinking things through? I don't know.

    Many birth parents will say they were coerced into signing. I don't want to minimize their experience. When we're talking about rates of high impulsivity we're talking about a small percentage. And this is only one characteristic of ADHD, there are many more inheritable traits, such as high creativity and overfocusing.

    Adopted children inherit eye color, hair, and height from their birth parents. We must accept that they also inherit some of their neurochemistry.

  10. I am both an adoptee and a child of divorce. And I can tell you that adoption is a thousand, no a million times worse. There is no comparison.

    A child of divorce is allowed to express his feelings. It is expected that s/he will have pain. No one tells the child that his parents still love him so s/he should be fine. No one tells the child at every turn that being in a divorced family is the same as being in an intact one. And no child of divorce is expected to be grateful for this unfortunate turn of events.

    While the impact of adoption is almost completely denied. And adoptees are stifled from expressing THEIR feelings, not the APs feelings, not the "experts" party line, but their true feelings. Saying everyone had difficulties in childhood minimizes and even denies the unique challenges and negative effects that come from being adopted.


    I am also aware that schools for troubled kids are filled with adoptees.

    It was really tough watching Rosie cry about the loss of her mother when she was a young girl when she won't acknowledge her children's loss of their whole family. I guess it doesn't matter to her if her children don't know their "tummy mommies" heritage since she will probably just tell them they are Irish like her. Very selfish of her.

  11. I suspect that the problems of adopted kids that get sent away to residential treatment are a mix of hereditary traits and environmental insufficiency to deal with some kinds of kids, plus the money to send kids to those places rather than deal with them at home.

    Somehow I do not think that reform schools and juvie jails, where poor kids in trouble go, are full of adoptees.

    ADHD? I don't know or care, but there is tendency in some people in my family (grandpop, mom, me, two out of three of my kids)to be VERY sloppy and disorganized, also absentminded. One of the kids I raised was diagnosed with some unspecified learning disability and was in a resource room for some classes, despite the fact that he is bright.

    Evidently my surrendered son had some similar difficulties, especially the "not neat" but was more gifted academically so overcame it. Do we all have some form of ADHD? Who knows, but I can see a lot of hereditary things, positive and negative, in my surrendered son, as well as some difficulties from how he was raised.

    I think heredity, environment, and adoption play a part, to different degrees, in any adoptee who is troubled. I do not think the same person would be trouble-free had he been raised by his birthmother, but perhaps she would have been more able to deal with things like ADHD, and less disappointed in a child who was unlike the rest of the family as often happens in adoption.

    From an earlier thread, Joyfuladoptee, I am sorry your birthmother is being difficult. That is always hard, and usually it is a result of false expectations before reunion. Sometimes it gets better, with time and patience and communication, sometimes not. I wish you luck with her.

  12. I watched Who Do You Think You Are last night. I too felt no pity for Rosie when she cried about losing her mom at
    10 years old. She is in denial when it comes to adoption "her" kids have just as much of a right to know who they are would love to hear an answer from her I that subject.

  13. I am an AP who reads your blog with great respect and sadness, for my girls and their first mothers.

    I would like to add, with regard to this study, that usage of mental health professionals may relate closely to access to health insurance, parental belief in professional help, and preventive care. My daughter's ADHD and Oppositionality could easily be viewed as within the spectrum of normal, without a pediatric nurse as a parent.

    Thank you for all of your writings. You open my mind in a very important way.

  14. Just wondering if my last comment about the changes to the LDS adoption policy got lost in cyber space or simply didn't make the editorial cut.



  15. Maryanne, you often write intelligently but when you simply write, Somehow I do not think that reform schools and juvie jails, where poor kids in trouble go, are full of adoptees--you destroy your credibility.

    Your statement is based on nothing but a feeling. I am an adoptive parent at my wit's end on how to help my son take responsibility for his actions, such as doing drugs, robbing from the family to feed the drug habit, and skipping school constantly.

    He is now in a school for troubled kids, though not a juvie jail, as you describe it. When we were looking for such a school, we found that being adopted was mentioned in the literature and on the websites of the schools, and that many of them have special counselors and therapy to deal with the issues specifically surrounding adoption.

    ADHD may be a totally separate issue and maybe that is all genetic, but the therapists who deal with my son have no doubt that some of his issues stem from the central issue of his life-- that there was a "before" he was adopted, and he feels abandoned because of that. We adopted him as an infant, btw.

  16. I read the study. It claims that there is a greater risk among adoptees of ADHD and OD. It does not see a greater liklihood of other mood disorders, including separation anxiety disorder.

    It is clear that the research does NOT indicate that the act of being adopted creates these issues.

    Both ADHD and ODD are HIGHLY genetic. I have to agree with Joyful Adoptees. The behavior associated with these disorders could make it more likely for a young woman to suffer an unintended pregnancy or to relinquish without careful consideration. Also, these poor women may have less support from their family due to the rifts created by the disorder.

  17. Hey MOM who tries, I don't think I "destroyed my credibility" with one statement. That's pretty harsh. In fact, I am not in your situation and do not know for sure who is in Juvie jail. Unfortunate choice of words, maybe. By that I meant state-run incarceration, not pricy special schools. Just a guess. Also a guess, you are paying or your insurance is paying a hefty fee for your son to be in the special school. If not, please correct me. I am here to learn as well, and I do not pretend to know you or your situation.

    I hope you have searched for your son's birthparents and have gotten as much information as possible to rule out or deal with the hereditary component of your son's problems, which seems to have been aggravated by his feeling about being adopted. Yes, of course that is big component, but it can't really be sorted out until he knows his own real history and truth. No amount of therapy can make up for that first step.

    I hope the school truly is helping him in realistic and concrete ways to deal with his problems, and that you are helping him get access to his medical and social family history, and access to his birthfamily. It might help.

  18. I know a couple of boys who go to a special school for children with behavioral problems. A very large percentage of their school friends are adopted. The boys' parents describe the adopted kids as traumatized. Subjective? Yes, but they say they can definitely see a difference in the adopted friends vs. the non-adopted friends.

  19. We are talking here a lot about troubled adoptees but remember there are also a lot of goody two-shoes, compliant adoptees who are afraid to rock the boat. The fact that one is not in a school for troubled kids or seeking mental health treatment does not mean that being adopted hasn't caused any problems.

  20. Good point Robin. My abrother was very compliant, was a very handsome scholar/athlete and went to a first rate school.

    Oddly, I am the more functional of us as adults. As a teenager the attention he got was usually in the form of an award. He has had difficulties in his relationships and understanding other people as an older person. I think in large part because he is in so much denial about his adoption issues that it invaribaly blunts his reasoning on other issues.

    For example one conversation with him went like this:

    Him: I would really like to work at an adoption agency to help young women give up their children. Because after all who knows more about adoption than me?

    Me: Why would you want to help someone lose their baby?

    Him: Because if a young girl hadn't done that for me, I wouldn't be part of this amazing family. I wouldn't know you sis.

    Me: You could probably be just fine not knowing me. How would you have felt if I had given Tomtom (my son) away

    Him: Well that is different.

    Me: Why?

    Him: Well because you made a choice.

    Me: Well what if I made a different choice? What if I gave him away?

    Him: You wouldn't do something like that, don't even talk about that.

    Me: Why is it different?

    Him: hangs up on me.

    He also hung up on me once because I brought up tiered birth certificate access. I am not joking either he really made the comment about being an adoption expert. Funny, how many people consider themselves adoption experts.

  21. maryanne, regarding your comment to joyful adoptee: "I am sorry your birthmother is being difficult.... Sometimes it gets better, with time and patience and communication, sometimes not. I wish you luck with her."

    For all you know, joyful's birthmother is kind and loving and joyful is just a twerp.

  22. Hey Jane, I was just trying to be positive and helpful and respond to what was written here by Joyful, not to what I know or do not about her or her mother.

    If someone else made a comment about another poster being "a twerp" would you let it through?

  23. Lorraine writes, "Yes, most adoptees are doing well. Yes, most do not fall into this troubled group. But some do, at a higher incidence than the non-adopted. The causes are unclear--Keyes said it is possible due to substance abuse before adoption, or unstable conditions before the adoption. I am not, for one, going to say that these conditions are not likely with children who have to be relinquished; if their mothers could care for them, they would. If the conditions were stable, favorable, if the mothers did not feel overwhelmed, their mothers would keep them close."

    I find this very sad. It almost makes the case for adoption.

  24. Adoption means your parents gave you away and you have lost your history. How could this not cause problems?

  25. Ok, so does your brother have difficulty in relationships because he has a primal wound or because he's in denial that he has one? I've just been reading all about how PW doesn't cause adopted people to have difficulty in relationships.

    Robin, your "but remember there are also a lot of goody two-shoes, compliant adoptees who are afraid to rock the boat." is so freaking condescending and insulting. Who are you, or anyone else here, to make such disparaging comments about adoptees who don't feel the way you do? Not only are you implying that adopted people who aren't negatively affected are lying or too afraid to tell the truth, you are also insulting adoptees who are truly afraid to upset their parents, something that I would think ALL adopted adults would have compassion for, not disdain.

    The dismissed dismissing the dismissed. Could it get any more hypocritical?

    Amomtryingyourbest...ever occurred to you that you may have some responsibility for your son's behavior? Or do the therapists say it's all because of his life prior to living with you?

  26. Campbell, I understand your irritation at the comment you responded to, but I am asking in all sincerity how you feel adoption impacted your life at all?

    One of the previous commentators who called herself "joyful" seemed so--er, angry--with any other point of view that it was hard to interpret her as "joyful."

  27. @Campbell,
    I feel you overreacted to my comment which was not in any way meant to be condescending or insulting. Maybe I should have simply worded it in a more personal way as I felt that I was compliant in order not to lose another family the way I lost my first family. I am (as stated in previous comments) a fan of Nancy Verrier's work who has also found in her research that many adoptees fall into one of two camps, that of being compliant, the other acting out.

    I am sorry to have offended you (or anyone else) as it was unintentional. Sometimes the way something is worded and the way it is read can come across differently than if the words were spoken (i.e. missing the tone of voice, inflections, etc). I have nothing but compassion and hope to have understanding for all adoptees even when the experience affected them in a different way than it did me.

  28. Don't most kids, adopted or not, fall into two camps, acting out or compliant? Or sometimes a little of both?

  29. @ Campbell

    I am sorry I got you so riled up by talking about my brother.

    I believe my brother struggles due to lack of self-awareness that stems from fear. I.E. him hanging up on me when I suggest that I may have given up his beloved nephew. You see that put him on the other side of the equation.

    The idea that there is more than the "amazing family" that he is part of. why are our families always 'AMAZING' it is such hyperbole born in fear.

    I don't go around saying, "Oh the PW caused my brother blah blah" I am not that simple of a thinker. For one thing the PW is a book and hasn't caused anyone anything but some awareness.

    My abro btw isn't the only adoptee I know who denies that he has any feelings but gratitude suffers for it. I had a coworker that I knew quite well, who didn't know I was adopted. Brought up his own adoption, would tremble and shake and tell me how it was no big deal and act like a general needy, difficult person the rest of the time. The entire firm blamed it on his adoption behind his back.

    I think that is the great irony about all the "woundies" is that even though we suffer the slings and arrows of outraged adopters and natural mommies and even grateful adoptees we are a leg up because we have the confidence and ability to be introspective and therefore not just subject to the chemical impulses in our brains telling us to repeat and not examine like an empty void of a person.

    So I don't think it is what a person has been through that makes the difference but if a person has self-understanding and can somewhat master their own experience that is the defining line between someone who blunts their reasoning by embracing denial. It is sad really. There is this famous book about it, it is called " The Republic" by Plato.

    The other side of the coin of course is if you were able to lose your own identity, ancestry, connections, mother, father, sibs and not feel any upset about it---what kind of person is that? One who doesn't value connections. That is scary to me.

  30. "The other side of the coin of course is if you were able to lose your own identity, ancestry, connections, mother, father, sibs and not feel any upset about it---what kind of person is that? One who doesn't value connections. That is scary to me."

    I agree with you, Joy. But maybe they are the lucky ones. I am envious of those for whom adoption was a non-issue. The ones who feel their a-family is their only family and have no need or desire to search. It sure seems like it would have made life easier.

    I respect the fact that you do not believe in the PW theory. However, you are not adopted. Dismissing the PW is somewhat akin to my saying that first mothers do not suffer any lifelong grief from surrendering, that they will forget the experience and move on.

  31. The thing I wonder, too, is how difficult it must be for a person to go into the "what ifs."

    I know, there are a lot of people who will say "Get over it and move on, the 'what if' will never happen" - but the thing is, those ghost "what ifs" still shape and affect the person throughout their entire lifetime.

    A child of divorce cannot go into the past and prevent the divorce. An abused child cannot go back into their childhood and "fix" the abuse. A child whose parent was killed in a car accident can't go back and undo the accident.

    But the child IS affected by those events, profoundly. That is something which cannot be escaped.

    Talking about it acknowledges it on a very real fundamental level, but I think the problem is that especially in adoption, it is so buried and uncomfortable that people just want to pretend it doesn't exist.

    People don't like dealing with pain. People don't like facing pain. Period.

    As much as we'd like to "move on" and "get over it" - in ANY kind of tragic situation, regardless of whether it's seen as painful or not - those events shape us and redefine an aspect of who we are.

    In another way, I am actually envious of those who do not feel any grief about their adoptions.

    It certainly would probably have made life easier.

  32. Robin wrote:@Maryanne,
    I respect the fact that you do not believe in the PW theory. However, you are not adopted. Dismissing the PW is somewhat akin to my saying that first mothers do not suffer any lifelong grief from surrendering, that they will forget the experience and move on."

    If you qualify that statement with "some birthmothers", you will get no argument from me for saying it.
    If you take out the part about forgetting, I honestly do not feel I am suffering "life-long grief" as I am still alive, and no longer grieving. Regretting, yes, but I cannot grieve for the living, and my son is fine and happy, despite a hard childhood and whatever pain adoption caused him. I grieved for too many years, The grief is over now for me. That is my true inner feeling, about me and my son, not a theory about anyone else.

    Primal wound is a theory. It is supposedly based on science. As such, anyone can question it. By questioning PW as sound science, I am not questioning your personal feelings, your pain, or that of any adoptee for whom that theory resonates and makes sense.

    That is not true of ALL adoptees, which is not saying adoption does not cause pain and problems for many. I can see that. I do not question it. What I question is the cause of the pain and if it starts at birth and separation from mother, or later when the adoptee becomes cognizant of that loss and all it means.

  33. "Regretting, yes, but I cannot grieve for the living..."

    I know what you're saying here. However, grieving when someone has died is not the only form of physical grieving.

    There is spiritual grieving as well - such as that of a person losing their limbs (and grieving the loss of the person they would have been if they still had those limbs).

    I heard about a family death some years ago and while I felt sad about it, I did not cry. Other family members did, and accused me of not caring because they didn't see tears rolling down my face. That's wrong. Grief isn't always physical.

    There is also spiritual grieving in terms of familial relationships, both in family and friends. You can grieve who a person used to be (say, a best friend you knew during childhood and you managed to get in touch again post-college) even though they are physically alive.

    I don't believe that grieving for a physically dead person and a physically alive-but-emotionally/spiritually gone person are the same thing, which is where adoption comes into play in this "exchange."

    I grieve for the absence of the parents who bore me. They're alive, but spiritually I do not know them, and therefore they are spiritually "dead" to me. It does not mean I spent all my waking time grieving for them, because obviously, they are physically alive and well. That is another form of spiritual grief, as opposed to the ingrained belief that you are only supposed to grieve those who have physically died and no longer exist on the same plane.

    You can grieve for someone who is physically alive. Not saying you personally are, or that you have to - just saying it's possible.

    This also doesn't just apply to adoption either.

    I just saw an episode of Joan of Arcadia where the topic of Kevin's paraplegic state is brought up, I found it intriguing what the therapist says:

    "Kevin is not dead. He didn't die in that accident. But when he lost his limbs in that accident, he lost the person he could have been, and that was your vision for him. That is what you're trying to process in your grief."

  34. Mei Ling, to clarify and that I was only speaking for myself, I DO feel spiritually connected to my surrendered son, and to my other three sons, as much as I do to anyone on earth. I do not see my surrendered son as lost any more, because he is found and communicates with me. I do not see him as damaged or lesser than he would have been had he been raised by me. He does not see himself that way either.

    Maybe it is all just definitions of words, I would no longer use the word "grieving" for the regret I feel about not raising my first son. This may be very personal and unique to me, I don't know. I grieve for my parents, my Auntie, my friends who have died and even my cats who have died. I will never see them again, unless there is some afterlife which I hope for but do not "know". I can't fix anything with them, do anything with them, ask them anything ever again, or tell them I love them. To me, that is grief. What I felt when I had no relationship with my son for many years was grief, but for me, that is over. Again, speaking ONLY about my feelings, not laying down the law for anyone else.

  35. Adoption and Mental Illness
    By Arline Kaplan | January 26, 2009

    "The adoption study compared a random sample of 540 adolescents born in Minnesota, who were not adopted, with a representative sample of adoptees (514 international adoptees and 178 domestic adoptees)."

    I have heard it suggested, and am inclined to to agree, that one of the shortcomings of most adoption studies is that they compare adopted children to the wrong cohort. I mean that by using a control group similar to those who would likely have been born to the a-parents, they are actually asking the question from the a-parent's POV.
    Like, "Is our adopted child at greater risk for mental illness than a bio child we might have?"
    It seems to me that it would be more proper to ask the question from the child's POV, such as "Would I be more likely to fare better mentally and emotionally if I remained with my original family?". Also, "Where would I be likely to get the best care if I did have these kinds of problems?"
    I realize the difficulties of arranging such a study, but the more similar the two groups (comparing the adoptees to peers who have remained in their birth families for instance) the more reliable the results will be, and consequently more useful all round.

  36. @Robin,

    I know what you mean, and I too have at times wished I was one of those people with dull sensibilities.

    Not really though, just for moments. The problem is everything comes with an opportunity cost. You can't just dull the unpleasant sensations, your perception suffers on every level.

    I really think people who are self-aware are at an advantage that is real and tangible and translates to the outer-world.

    Just like my coworker he kept telling everyone how fine he was but no one believed him because of his 'unrelated' behavior. I was shocked to find out others had made an adoption connection and said things like, "I know he was left on a doorstep but Jesus Christ he needs to grow the f8ck up!" because he had insecurities, abandonment issues, lack of clear thinking and organizational skills and was NEEDY.

    Being aware of my issues lets me divorce them quite a bit. I can acknowledge when I want to over-react and realize where it comes from and remind myself I am adult and can meet my own needs now. Not perfectly of course, I am not a robot but pretty darn well.

  37. Joy said "There is this famous book about it, it is called " The Republic" by Plato."

    Hmm. Plato also believed that all children should be taken from their parents and educated by the state.
    Also that only men above the age of thirty and below forty-five, and women above the age of twenty and below forty, would be permitted to have children. Any child born in violation of the state laws would be abandoned outside the walls of the city.

  38. Oh touche' I quiver. My point however was about self-awareness, not about child-rearing.

    Anon, you really told for me you clever old girl. Despite that I stand by my original statement. Chiefly my point was about unexamined lives and the cave allegory. I don't remember saying that I pledge allegiance to Plato or even Socrates for that matter. I wasn't discussing him as a child development expert. I concede, I concede.

    But I would definitely like to offer my congratulations on this new feather in your cap. As you pointed out, I don't believe in all of Plato's precepts but I still do believe the Republic is worth reading and introspection has a great value. I may have *no scientific proof* for this, but I believe it whole heartedly all the same and anecdotally, I am not the only one! :)

  39. Dear Anonymous:

    Comments that are simply retorts against another commentator and have nothing to do with the issues being discussed are not published.

  40. "Comments that are simply retorts against another commentator and have nothing to do with the issues being discussed are not published."

    Dear Lorraine, so apparently it's OK with you for some commentators to say that those who have a different perspective from their own have "dull sensibilities" .
    I guess you don't even consider that a "nasty remark" which breaches your comment policy.
    These people must be very special to be protected from responses to their insults. Their sensibilities must be tender indeed.
    However, it's your blog, and if you want to give a chosen few free reign to insult, your decision.

  41. RE: Rosie O'Donnell - I didn't see the show last night, but I did see her in an interview on one of those silly celebrity gossips shows saying that the process of tracing her family made her aware of her children's need to find their birth families. She said it will likely be important to them to find their family and learn their history and that she will be supportive in their search efforts.

    Perhaps another adoption ah-ha moment for a celebrity, ala Oprah? I'm staying hopeful for the moment.

  42. I didn't say people who have different points of view than I have, have "dull sensibilities" some people have dull sensibilities though. Is being tone deaf an insult or a fact for some people?

    I am sure there are many instances when having dull or blunted sensibilities comes in quite handy. Of course this is immeasurable and to a certain practical degree a dullness is required to focus on life's minutiae. Actually I take that back. Thinking of those I have witnessed it in.

    I am sorry anon if you identified with my comment and it hurt you. I really didn't mean anyone to take it to heart. I was talking about individuals I know in my real life and how their lack of awareness which is apparent to pretty much everyone around them causes them to suffer in a practical way because their sensibilities are dulled.

    I think the people I was talking about are both quite bright just fearful and in denial. Of course I wouldn't think this if I just saw them as being successful. So anon, you can rest easy, I am sure you are very successful in all your endeavors.

  43. I agree with your assessment of the bittersweet, Lorraine. I love my aparents. I had a good childhood with lots of advantages. Yet I wouldn't say "Hooray! I got a better life." It was different, not necessarily better.

    I am one of those compliant adoptees who largely kept her problems to herself. I suffered from deep depression but put on a happy face until I could do so no more as a teen. I started therapy @ age 17 after my parents found out I was cutting. It was a way to externalize my pain from being adopted.

    Yes, I have a genetic propensity to depression, although I only discovered that a year ago, after reunion.

    I would say that my mental health issues are complicated in etiology: genes, adoption, life circumstances. But to sa adoption had nothing to do with it makes no sense. I have always felt unmoored and alien and anxious, from my first memories and beyond.

    For those who have no issues: more power to you. But it is unfair for you to speak for us as it is for us to speak for you. It is intensely personal.

    And Campbell, I really am confused by your saying that us "woundies" are crippled in relationships as adults. I have good relationships and function very well; my loss of relationship with my nmom is what I feel keenly (although that has changed, it doesn't undo the past 41 years). Moreover, my loss does not affect my love for my aps. My amom has said that she wished she had been able to read Verrier in 1969 to help me.

    We all approach our experiences in the way that helps us best. I am glad that some people are just fine. I would not wish the sadness on anyone.

  44. I watched the Who Do You Think You Are? episode with Rosie's search and thought the same thoughts you thought Lorraine. I then wrote an open letter to Rosie stating that I hoped her findings and the importance of those findings would lead her to think differently about her adpoted children's families. I even posted it on her blog.

    Then, this morning I had an anon comment that lead me to this link, perhaps this is what Maybe was talking about ...

    "hmmm...i think you are so very wrong about rosie.

    try watching this - especially around the 1:20 mark on: http://www.accesshollywood.com/rosie-odonnell-finds-a-tragic-and-heroic-story-from-her-past-on-who-do-you-think-you-are_video_1295866"

  45. @ Joy:
    Don't flatter yourself that I was hurt. I wasn't. My sensibilities are much too blunted for that :-)

    Actually I am thinking of all those people out there who very much value, as Robin put it, "identity, ancestry, connections, mother, father, sibs . . . etc", and actually are working towards making these important connections accessible to everyone, even to those who perhaps don't yet properly recognize their value. In other words they are working in their own way for equal strokes for equal folks. Just as you are.

    However, many people who put their emotions on constant display don't necessarily have the most refined sensibilities, just as others who don't flaunt their feelies don't necessarily not have them.
    Just because some people are temperamentally more dispassionate than others and don't go in for emotional pyrotechnics doesn't mean they are indifferent. Which may not be the message you intend to convey, but it's sure as hell how it comes across.

  46. Would you two please take this argument private?

  47. RE: the Rosie issue - I think it was Access Hollywood (I was channel surfing and just happened to catch it while she was talking). Needless to say, I nearly fell out of my chair in amazement that she would support her children re-connecting with their lost relatives.

  48. Per Jane's story and Lorraine's story and other info on this blog, this is supposed to be a place for those who have had lifelong negative consequences from adoption. To those adoptees for whom it was a pain free and positive experience, I am happy for you. For those of us who have had relentless sadness, we do not deserve to be classified as "woundies" or subject to ridicule.

    @Anon 1:57,

    identity, ancestry, connections, mother, father, sibs . . . etc", that should be attributed to Joy.

  49. @Robin:
    You are correct about the quote. You were quoting Joy. My bad. However the message remains the same.

    You also said, "For those of us who have had relentless sadness, we do not deserve to be classified as "woundies" or subject to ridicule."
    I couldn't agree more. Just as others do not deserve to be ridiculed as "goody two-shoes" for not expressing the requisite amount of pain, which is something that seems to me to happen almost as often as the other way round.
    I have to agree with Mairaine about the good adoptee, bad adoptee paradigm. It is a false dichotomy and not useful.

  50. Anon suggests that researchers should ask adopted kids whether they would prefer their adoptive home or their birth home in order to determine the effects of adoption. Obviously, a child does not have the ability to answer this question. Adoptees who find their birth family as adults cannot answer this question accurately either because the mother they meet was in all likelihood affected negatively from losing her child. She is not the mother that would have raised the child.

  51. "Adoptees who find their birth family as adults cannot answer this question accurately either because the mother they meet was in all likelihood affected negatively from losing her child. She is not the mother that would have raised the child."

    I agree, Jane. It is impossible to look backward and assess things as if they had never happened. There is too much to sort through. The 22-year-old who gave birth to me is someone I will never know. We are getting to know each other, gingerly, as strangers 40 years on.

    Moreover, young children lack the worldview and maturity to be able to weigh the "either/or" of adoption.

    Although there is a history of depression and alcoholism in my maternal family, I cannot say that I would have been more depressed or less depressed in that environment. I might have been happier. Who knows?

    I agree with Anon, though, that too many studies of adoptee mental health are structured to see things from aparents' point of view. I have participated in quite a few studies of adoptees as an adult, and few of them were worded in ways that allowed me to answer in ways that fully appreciated the ambivalent nature of my experience, or that acknowledged that some of what I feel has nothing to do with my aparents, for better or worse.

  52. To respond to an early comment by @Robin
    "It was really tough watching Rosie cry about the loss of her mother when she was a young girl when she won't acknowledge her children's loss of their whole family. I guess it doesn't matter to her if her children don't know their "tummy mommies" heritage since she will probably just tell them they are Irish like her. Very selfish of her."

    I have never commented here before and am hoping to be as balanced and cool headed as possible, but my response is as follows. I felt that Rosie's words were sort of touching on her ability to conceptualize and identify with the process her children will go through if they choose (and are allowed, affirmed by their biological families) contact. She seemed to understand her inability to (fully) take the place of the other. As an adoptee and in my experience it is tough, as you quite poignantly pointed out (re: divorce vs. adoption experience), to identify the emotions we experience growing up, as adults and in reunion.
    Our familial relationships are difficult to navigate, difficult to explain to others and the "found"/"lost" family difficult to forge through processes of friendship and established trust.

    I think the abbreviated nature of the soundbyte makes it difficult to measure Rosie's degree of selfishness. It would seem that she is doing her best to form some identity for her children with the information she has at hand. Most likely, I'd imagine, in order to continue to develop a familial bond with her children and to create strings around them. . . tie them together.
    I had an adoption reunion episode this past year which was full of all of the ups and downs. Common but never trivial. And in doing so had some very open and interesting conversations with my adoptive parents (ones that I might have never had were I a natural child of theirs or not had a reunion episode) about how they (two white parents in Midwestern Middle America) chose to raise a biracial daughter in a Rural low minority township. They taught me what they could about who they were and allowed me their identities until I found my own. That was all they felt they could do. They taught me to be curious and open minded and kind. They taught me to be responsible for my curiosity and NEVER ONCE denied me any of the Black that I felt inside me. As an adult and after delving into Literature and History since HS and my childhood I've gotten a fuller picture of my identity. The road was rocky but my relationship with Birth Parents/ Family is extremely positive. There is much to say here and little time to say it for whoever is still reading this but if I hadn't been given the "Italian" blanket of identity and history to cling to for those formative years. . .if I had been made to sit on the sidelines while the rest of my family basked in the spaghetti and polka dancing. If I had not been allowed access to ANY ethnic community I do believe there is a beauty and simplicity from my childhood that would have been absent.
    Did I feel different anyhow: yes. Do those things effect me in my relationships now: yes.
    Is it the direct product of my adoption: I'm not sure, but I don't know that identifying it will make me a stronger person. I do know that I can be Italian and Irish and Polish and African American and if when I find out my father is actually Latino: then I can be Latina too.
    @Robin, I agree with sooo many of your points here, and many of them are eye opening, thank you for your thoughts, I am just offering my POV that I commend the difficult job my parents did. And I have a hard time imagining my specific adoption experience without the borrowing of Italian Heritage from my A Parents.

    It seems we can only do so much with the hands we're dealt. But I believe this lending of ethnicity comes from a good place. If even a possibly insecure place.
    I wish strength, love and understanding to all FMF readers.

  53. @ anon, I totally agree with you and laughed at the turn of phrase emotional pyrotechnics, clever.

    I have never said the decibel at which one proclaims their emotions is relevant to self-awareness or that their is a requisite amount of pain and would certainly not call you dispassionate. Kudos to you for working toward equity.

    Reflection is often a very quiet act. Being able to catch nuance is key.

    Personally, I would be rather flattered to be called a goody-two-shoes, perhaps because it would be novel. I am sure it is not meant as an insult.

  54. Joy wrote;"Personally, I would be rather flattered to be called a goody-two-shoes, perhaps because it would be novel. I am sure it is not meant as an insult."

    Thank you, Joy. I was a goody-two-shoes, compliant adoptee and that comment was not ridiculing anyone for not "expressing the requisite amount of pain". (Anon 6:30)

    As for asking someone if they would rather be in their bio-family or an adoptive family, this is somewhat of an apples and oranges situation.

    For example, if both families were equal (i.e. loving, caring, stable, financially secure parents ) then I'm sure the vast majority (if not all) people would say they would rather be raised in their bio-families. But if one is adopted and finds that their bio-family is very troubled they might well say, whew, I'm glad I was placed in a different family. So are we asking about being adopted, per se? Or about which family we would rather be part of if one is very dysfunctional and the other is not?

  55. Twospeakease, lovely, thoughtful post. I hope we will hear more from you. Yes, we all have to deal with the hands we are dealt, and I think knowing ethnic heritage does matter.

    I hope Rosie really had a change of heart. Did not watch the show, also hope she is not related to me on the Irish side:-) I know I was greatly moved when I went to Ireland and met my Dad's relatives who still live on the farm my grandpop left from .

    Jane, I do not feel I am a different person than I would have been had I raised Mike. I am the same person with a few extra heartaches and problems is all.

    I would like to see a study of adults raised by their single natural mother compared to adults who were surrendered for adoption as infants. That would eliminate the problem of mothers greatly impacted negatively by surrender and how they raised subsequent kids. I think a fair study would show pluses and minuses on both side, different problems, but still problems for both group.

    Just as there are problems for children of divorce, of alcoholics, any number of other situations. Life is hard, few escape unscathed no matter what their family situation.

    Nobody can really know how life would have been had we kept the kids we surrendered, or for adoptees, how their lives would have been had they been kept. That is BJ's "ghost kingdom" which can haunt us, but is not a good place to spend a lot of time or literal interpretation or bemoaning the "what ifs".

  56. @2Speakease,
    I enjoyed reading your comment and I agree that we share our a-families heritage. I did not mean to imply that Rosie's children do not share in her Irish background, only that I hoped the lightbulb would go off, that since she found it so meaningful to know the people of her genetic line that came before her in history that her a-children could benefit from knowing that information about themselves, too.

  57. @2Speakease,

    Your post was quite profound. It really focuses on the incusion/exclusion issue that adoptees are faced with.

    I do feel it is important that the adopted child feel s/he is a full member of the family and not just the "adopted kid". Emphasizing that the child doesn't share the A-family's heritage is detrimental and it is painful to feel excluded. It would be difficult to grow up not feeling connected to any heritage at all. Especially if one comes from the closed adoption era and may never be able to know his bio-family. It is a fine line we triad members have to tread.

    Granted for myself, it wasn't much of a stretch. Turns out I share the same heritage/religion as my APs and step-parents. Someone from a vastly different background than their APs may have a different take.

    I think the Rosie issue, however, is that she and her brother have been outspoken in their opposition to opening OBCs. That seems to me selfish and hypocritical when she obviously feels that knowing one's bio-ancestry is important to understanding one's self and one's place in life. She should extend the same courtesy to her adopted children. Hopefully, based on her latest comments she has changed her tune re: OBC access.

  58. @Jane:
    I think you must have mistaken my meaning. I did not suggest that researchers ask adopted kids whether they'd prefer to be raised in their adoptive home or their birth home. I suggested that the question should be approached from the child's POV, not that of the a-parents. I did not mean for the questions to be asked retrospectively but rather from the perspective of anticipated consent - which of course is not *actual* consent, but involves taking an imaginative, empathetic and well-informed leap on behalf of those who are not in a position to make the decision for themselves.

    @Robin. I accept that you didn't mean the term "goody two-shoes" pejoratively, but that is how it has generally come to be used. In conjunction with "compliant" and "afraid to rock the boat" it was difficult to interpret it as anything other than dismissive.

    Re. Rosie, I'm cautiously optomistic. My feeling about celebs like her and Oprah is that more than anything else they are a sort of bellwether of public opinion. Their careers are too dependent on mainstream culture for them to speak out against the vox pop. So really I find the fact that they have committed themselves as as they haver quite encouraging. I'm sure their PR folk must have held a finger to the wind before advising them.

  59. @Anon 4:14,
    I am sorry you interpreted my comment as dismissive. It was not intended to be that way at all. I was referring to a possible behavioral style that some adoptees have used to deal with insecurity about being raised in a family other than their original one.

  60. Celebrities helping their own kids search and those same celebs supporting access to OBC are two different things. I imagine that celbrities like Rosie already know everything there is to know about who, where, and what the birthparents of their adopted kids are. They have the money and means to get all that information. But that is their personal business. We all know that many people search without ever seeing the OBC, so that is not really the issue when it comes to search. I think it is hopeful for Rosie's kids that she is looking at heritage differently, but I do not expect her or her brother or Oprah to embrace our legislative cause.

    Taking a political stand that is potentially controversial is a whole other thing that searching for your own kids' birthparents. I think the best we can hope is that they stop publicly opposing our cause, not expect that they hop on the bandwagon.

  61. Dear Anon @ 4:14: I assume you are adopted and have some reason for picking apart the study endlessly. You must recognize that it would be impossible to do the kind of study that you propose when adoptive parents don't even want to admit their children are adopted (when asked by census takers).

    So by your reckoning there would actually be no way to determine anything about any group of adoptees.

    But then how would you account for the disproportionate number of adoptees in mental health therapies, schools for troubled kids, in institutions? I suppose you would just rack it up to the superior educational level and income of adoptive parents? Right. I'm sorry, most therapists today do not buy that.

    I was not particularly unhappy with my adoptive parents but we have very little in common and today I have little to do with them. I moved far away to another state.

    From your comments, it's impossible to tell whether you are thrilled (or joyful) to have been adopted, or are unhappy with your personal situation. I have not commented here before and I'm sorry if this seems harsh. But your comments are harsh to me.

  62. Dear Viktoria, thus far I have made only two comments about the study and the second one was in response to Jane, who had misunderstood what I meant. That is hardly "picking apart endlessly". This comment to you will be the third. Personally I do not see why anyone should have a problem with any respectful comment that relates to the OP, even if it is to take issue with it.

    I don't think my criticism was harsh. I think it was fair and realistic. By my reckoning, the best way to assess the impact of adoption on adoptees would be to make the comparison between a group of adopted kids and their kept peers (such as sibs, half-sibs and perhaps even first cousins). I believe that by not taking into account genetic relatedness between adopted children and their non adopted peers, the study misses its goal by a long shot.

    "But then how would you account for the disproportionate number of adoptees in mental health therapies, schools for troubled kids, in institutions? I suppose you would just rack it up to the superior educational level and income of adoptive parents? Right. I'm sorry, most therapists today do not buy that. "

    I'm sorry, but your supposition is wrong. I don't just "rack it up" to the socio-economic status of adopters, although I am sure that plays into it. In response to your question, of course it's much more complicated than that. I believe a thorough study should include consideration factors like the example illustrated by your own experience, the adopted person having little in common with their adoptors. I believe a lack of congruence with the adoptive family can make self-actualization much more difficult for some adoptees, especially during the teen years. I would attribute this in part because of a lack of "mirroring" and partly because of temperamental differences as well as general outlook, abilities and interests.
    But I don't see how a study that doesn't take first family characteristics into account, as well as the birth parents' life-style and life situation that might have influenced the child's development before birth -- and since the children involved in this study were all adopted before the age of two, whatever happened to them before they were adopted -- can have much to add that is new. If the study had made the comparison between teens adopted in infancy and their non-adopted biologically related peers, the results would be much have been much more robust.
    Open adoption has been going on in the US since the early eighties, so even considering that some will have been closed, it should still be possible to conduct such a study, if only on a somewhat smaller scale.

  63. People are always on about these studies, we must conduct a study, that study isn't scientific enough, there could be other variables. Usually used as a weapon to dismiss people's experiences.

    The problem with comparing my outcome to my kept sibs is one we only share 1/2 the DNA, two my mother was significantly older it is so problematic, I mean another thing is what are the parameters around "turning out" who decides what the beneficial outcome is. People can and have been institutionalized for things that they shouldn't have, Janet Frame springs to mind.

    All of these studies are fuzzy, we are human beings and there will always be variables from diet, to ethnicity, to socioeconomic status, to religion. The whole Pascal, Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne comprend pas.

    It doesn't work, it reminds me of psychology class in college where they showed how if you take a puppy away from his mother he shows signs of distress. It was painful to watch the puppies being distressed to tell you what any six-year old could.

    Anecdotally I can tell you my son was not indifferent to caregivers in fact he somewhat enslaved me as an infant and he turned out better than I did comparing satisfaction with life, adjustment, etc. Him being raised by a mostly single young mom and me being raised by successful adoptive parents.

    All the child development experts that I was in contact with through my college, they taught Early Childhood development said, "the first six months of life are the most important, spoil him now and reap the rewards later" It worked for us.

    My point is social science is a soft science. The idea that we can control variables and outcomes in humans through external controls smacks of the middle of the last century which resulted in a lot of social abuses. Not only do I mean it is not predictive, it is not possible to determine all the sources. Why *does* Charlie Brown like the little red-haired girl?

    It is silly to speculate and abusive to tell adult adoptees that they are imagining it.


  64. Maryanne wrote: "I know I was greatly moved when I went to Ireland and met my Dad's relatives who still live on the farm my grandpop left from ."

    That paints such a powerful picture. I do feel that I share my AP's heritage and history. However, when I saw pictures of my bio-ancestors who wore born a hundred years before me and I looked just like them, THAT was a powerful connection!

  65. Maryanne, I know you have excellent insights regarding adoption issues and I always look forward to your comments. I particularly liked the one related to life-long grief and I believe an entire post could be devoted to just this topic. Since the grief that accompanies adoption is inevitable, I think it would be helpful if people could figure out ways to ensure that it doesn't evolve into a life-long process. An antidote to my own personal grief as a firstmom who lost her child in the bse, I've found it helpful to devote time and energy to helping others and learning from them as well. I also recommend lots of reading from people who've overcome their own personal tragedies. I just ordered Scot Brown's new book, "Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances."


  66. Quick question for Joy or other adoptees who feel deeply damaged by adoption: do you believe that you would not have the emotional issues you have today had you been raised by your natural mother? Do you feel you would have been a different, better person?

    This is asked in all honesty, not to argue but to hear what you have to say and not comment on it.

  67. Maryanne,
    My quick answer is absolutely, no question. I did find that in reunion I had a much deeper, more familial connection with my first mother than I ever did with my a-mom. I definitely feel I would have been a happier, more peaceful person if I hadn't had all the adoption issues. I found that being given away was a very painful thing to deal with, and by some twisted logic I thought that I had ruined my first parents lives (I realized after reunion that they were the ones who made the choices that led to my relinquishment) so I struggled with some guilt, too. Adoption has been the negative undercurrent to my life. I feel that I would have been a more secure person if I had been raised in my own family. I would have liked fitting in with my family by looking like them and not having issues like having 2 other families somewhere out there that I didn't know, having no medical history and having family members who wouldn't accept me because I wasn't blood.

    Actually, I appreciate you asking. And for any adoptees who had a very different and more positive experience, I say God bless. I do not want to hear how my experience or my feelings about it are somehow wrong.

  68. Better person? I don't see how anyone can answer that. Would I be a different person if I had not given my daughter Jane up?

    Hell, yes.

    Would she have been a different person?


    But better? No one can answer that and though you are not being argumentative, asking if you would be a "better" person is not only unanswerable, but contains an meta-message, that the person being asked is somehow less than "better."

    Let me ask this, would you be a better person if you had not relinquished your son?

  69. Lorraine wrote:Let me ask this, would you be a better person if you had not relinquished your son?

    Maybe, probably happier any how, or maybe I would think of myself as a better person. Not much different in essence, nor is my son, at least that is my belief. I think we both would be pretty much as we are, but happier. Others may vary.

    Really, no "meta-message" intended, nor that any one was a worse person. Just take out the word "better" if it confuses or insults anyone, and stick with the rest of the question, which was indeed not meant to be argumentative.

  70. I like to think that I would have had a happier life if my mother had kept me. I would have been around people who were more like me than my adoptive family. I would have seen myself mirrored in my mother and my grandfather and my uncle. I wouldn't have been the changeling who dropped from the sky.

    There is no guarantee of happiness, though. The only thing for sure is that my life would have been different and I wouldn't have been left to rot in the hospital with no caretaker.

    Unlike you, Maryanne, I think I would have been a healthier person, less plagued by demons--or at least not plagued from birth by anxiety and self-hatred.

  71. @2speakease, as a single adoptive parent to a going-on 14-year-old adopted from China, I really enjoyed your comment. Cultural and heritage issues have a way of puzzling me at times. As you say, what's probably most important, especially in the early years, is giving kids that total acceptance but also letting them control the process too. Total acceptance for who they are—that “you are one of us”— but also acknowledging that they have a whole other history to explore. People are deeply divided in the international adoption community about how to steer that process, what to do, how much, when . . . your remark about your own trajectory was interesting, though, because it sounds like your parents were positive enablers rather than controllers in either direction. Never dampening curiosity? Absolutely. I see my daughter following your pattern in that her notion of “being Chinese” deepens and widens the older she gets. And she gets more nuanced about it too as time goes on. Teased recently for living up to the stereotype of the brainy Asian with tiger parents she told me how she just laughed and told the kid, “I'm adopted, stupid.” (Um, they're 13 and talk like that.)

    I am very glad to see you here and hope you drop by again. You have a strong voice.

  72. I can't say I would have been a 'better' person, but I surely do know I would have been 'different' simply by the absence of a lot of negative feelings about myself after surrender, that would negatively affect later choices in my life. And I have no doubt today (am in reunion 12 years), that the same would have held true for my 40+ daughter. Surrendering my baby for adoption, was not a plus in either of our lives. But I choose today..to live in today. Neither I nor my daughter can turn back the hands of time...what's done is done. Today, I believe we are a 'plus' in each others' lives, even in the difficult moments.

  73. I have learned something from all who have answered my question. More replies are appreciated:-)

    Chris wrote:"Today, I believe we are a 'plus' in each others' lives, even in the difficult moments."

    I feel that way too, especially today. I am going to have to have one of my beloved kitties who is terminally ill put to sleep. My greatest support through this the past several days has been my son Mike, who really understands, having been through it and being a cat person. I truly feel we are a plus in each other's lives now, no matter what happened in the past.

  74. Oh Maryanne, My sympathies about the cat. Losing a pet is very hard. And all of us here are pleased that you have Mike in your life, who is a cat person and understands.

  75. @Maryanne,
    I am so sorry about the loss of your beloved kitty. I was the only cat person in my a-family (though we all loved dogs). When I found my n-mother I learned that she was a cat lover, too. Glad this is bringing you closer to your son.
    Pets are members of the family and when it comes to pets, adoption is a good thing.

  76. Maryanne, I am so sorry about your caT. Pets are beloved creatures, and Robin said, adoption in that case is good. I am glad your son is a comfort to you.

    My natural family hates cats with a passion, but I love both dogs and cats. I have a seventeen-year-old cat who has seen me through a lot of rough stuff. She has outlived two of my dogs! I cannot imagine life without her.

  77. Well, I would have never known the pain associated with having been given up.

    Of course, I don't know if in my very genetic essence staying in my biological family would have made me a "better" person.

    I do know that my family was deeply saddened by having to give me up - that they felt my absence all those years, even knowing it was for the best, even knowing it was the only way to keep me alive - I am grieved by that.

    That, in itself, is what troubles me most about adoption. When we reach the point of "Well, it's necessary, and it all worked out & we can't change the past, so really, what's so bad about it in the end?"

  78. Thanks for the words of sympathy about my cat. He went peacefully and his suffering is over, and the kindness of friends does help. Those of you who have pets of any kind know they do become a part of your family, even though they are adopted:-)I am totally in favor of pet adoption.

  79. OOps, that is "maryanne" not mary.
    I am not in real good shape if I can't sign my own name right.

  80. I answered your question here Lorraine

    I'd just like to add a couple of things addressing some comments directed toward me. I have never heard the term goody two shoes being used in a positive way and I didn't use the term "woundies" and wasn't the one saying adopted persons have difficulty in their relationships. Joy said her brother did because he is in denial about his adoption issues.

  81. My 2 cents......

    It seems there have been a lot of comments that focus on the word or phrase that someone uses. For example, I mentioned a fmother's lifelong grief and maybe lifelong pain would have been better. I know for myself that I am often in a hurry and just trying to get my comment in.

    Also, we are not in a court of law or defending a PhD thesis. I try to get the gist of what the writer is saying. For example when Maryanne asked if anyone felt they would be a BETTER person if adoption was not part of their life. It didn't bother me because I understood overall what she was asking. I think this nitpicking over semantics can become counterproductive.

  82. I totally agree with you Robin. I am sorry that people struggle so much with the term goody-two-shoes. I can say in all honesty I have been called a lot worse quite often.

    And yet somehow, I struggle onward and upward keeping my dream alive, man. And oh yeah it is for the kids. Lol, people, they are like everywhere...

  83. "Goody two shoes" is an old playground insult. It has similar meaning to another slightly more adult insult, "Brown Nose."

    Sure, we have all been called worse, the issue is that it was deliberately insulting, not that anyone is going to faint from shock.

    For me "lifelong pain" does not cut it either, it is the "lifelong" part that has not been true for me. It was horrible for many years, the pain/grief of losing my son, now for me it is over because he is no longer lost.

    That is not true for a lot of mothers who have found rejection, tragedy, or a very damaged son or daughter. For some there is lifelong pain, for some the pain and grief eventually ends. For me, focusing on the present and future and not the past loss helped.

  84. @Maryanne,

    Using the term goody-two-shoes was not at all meant to be deliberately insulting. I said before I saw myself as a goody-two-shoes as a way of dealing with adoption (and I am not in the habit of insulting myself). There is a guy in my circle of friends who never swears and we refer to him as a goody-two-shoes. It is meant in a lighthearted and innocuous way. He laughs and is never offended. He knows we are not being mean-spirited or condescending. I have already apologized to those who were offended by my use of the term and don't think it is necessary to attribute motives (i.e. being deliberately insulting when I most certainly was not) to my comment.

  85. FWIW, I was a "goody two-shoes" and don't think it's an insult (although in my teens I might have). It perfectly describes the way I lived as a child and adolescent, very rule bound. I was worried that if I wasn't "perfect," I wouldn't be loved. I didn't drink, didn't smoke (with apologies to Adam Ant), and no one offered me drugs (marijuana or otherwise) until I was 24. This might be something to be proud of, I guess. I tried so very, very hard to be "perfect," which to me meant being bland and unoffensive to everyone else, not really myself. This meant, however, that I isolated myself since many people thought I would judge them for drinking, smoking, or doing anything considered ethically problematic.

    I might be mistaken, but I didn't think Robin or Joy was using "goody two-shoes" to refer to adoptees who have no issues as adults. I took it to mean a way of behaving that was a coping mechanism for some of us adoptees earlier in our lives.

    If you see it differently, fine.

  86. The adoptees who pose a real problem are the ones who work to keep records closed.

    Passive, indifferent or fearful adoptees are not going to be won over by seeing the so-called "happy" adoptees who actively support open records and making contact with members of original family disparaged just because they aren't angst ridden.

    It is only going to turn them away.



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