' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption 'builds' a family but always subtracts from another

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adoption 'builds' a family but always subtracts from another

When most people think of adoption, they think of a family adding a member; they do not automatically think of subtracting someone from another family, but that is what comes to our mind when hear of an adoption.

Adoption challenges the definition of family. It can create a mind-boggling web of relationships and nagging questions for adoptees about where they fit. Just like the quagmire first parents face when asked "how many children do you have?" adoptees encounter questions such as "how many brothers and sisters do you have?" Do they include only their siblings by adoption, or if they know them, their biological siblings as well?

Adoptees may spend years trying to assemble their family jigsaw puzzle, stymied by sealed records and reticent family members. After years of searching, Portland adoptee--as well as a first mother--Joy Thompson located her many family members and assembled a Family Tree which looks an office floor plan. Joy has one brother by adoption, five half-brothers, three half sisters, a relinquished son, and a raised son and daughter. This is only the beginning; there's also adoptive parents, step-parents, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Joy has attempted to contact her extended family and has received positive responses from some. Others have refused to meet her or even acknowledge their relationship. In some cases, while a blood-relative has been responsive, the relative's spouse was resistant. When we had lunch a couple of weeks ago, she told me that while she had great adoptive parents, she wished she had not been adopted. "Why?" I asked.
Joy Thompson

"Because," she said looking at her Family Tree, "I wouldn't have to deal with all of this."

Lorraine and I know the horrible, sinking feeling of having family member who are not part of our family.  For many years, when people asked me how many children I had, I would answer "my husband and I have three daughters" answering truthfully but not denying my lost daughter altogether. Since the reunion with my daughter, I've had a strong feeling of completeness; that something that was missing has been restored.

Lorraine here: I never had any more children after giving up my daughter; I have two grandaughters but one was relinquished for adoption. The lost granddaughter is choosing not to be in contact, and it's been that way for the last two years. Her choice, and she said so. Now, after this much time has gone by, she feels incredibly distant to me, and I feel, I must admit, less connected than I certainly did when she chose to stay in contact. Fortunately, I have not been asked how many grandchildren I have anytime lately.

Adoptee Katie Hern expressed her conflicting emotions in the memoir she wrote with her first mother Ellen McGarry Reunion: A Year in Letters Between a Birthmother and the Daughter She Couldn't Keep:  "As my feelings started surfacing, one of the first to arise was grief that I am a stranger to the people that I now consider family," she wrote.

It's possible for adoptees and original family to integrate each other into their lives. After more visits with her first mother and half-brothers, Hern wrote her mother: "I've let myself acknowledge my connection to you and the rest of the family, let myself think of you as my mother and Gus and Jack as my brothers."

Adoptee Richard Hill, author of Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA searched for his birth family for many years and when he finally found them, both were dead.  He has developed close relationships with his half-siblings and cousins and considers himself a lucky man to have four families rather than two. 

Still, patching families together is not the same as if the ties had never been severed. Some adoptees, and some first parents, are not able to accept and deal with broken bonds for any number of reasons, and are unwilling to acknowledge the ties that once were the ties that mattered the most. Unless there is an outstanding reason, we can all gain from the connectedness of family. Today on the Faith Middleton Show, her guest was Barbara Fredrickson, a "positive-emotions expert," (quoting here from Middleton's website) who talked about how even little micro-moments of connecting with strangers can enrich our lives, and increase our well-being and even longevity. Brain science supports how different areas of the brain light up when we connect with others--and certainly that would happen with family members who are able to connect.

We both understand the great difference between connecting with strangers--that can be easy, it comes without baggage--and the huge emotional impact of a mother and child reunion, or even a dinner after a hiatus. But minus buried antagonisms, connecting with our family members, lost but not gone forever, can be a hugely positive boon in our lives.

From FMF:

How to Answer: Do you have any children?
Why did my mother keep me a secret?
Using DNA to Find Family: You Can't Have Too Much Family

Recommended Reading
Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA
"....one man embarks on a nearly three-decade quest to find his biological family...Hill's prose is clear and straightforward throughout, marked by a methodological tone that reflects his careers in science and marketing. Seamlessly and descriptively, he folds a decades-long process into a comprehensible narrative. His years of meticulous note taking translate into an inspiring story about his dedicated search for the truth. An engaging, page-turning memoir that thoughtfully puts together the pieces of a family puzzle." --Kirkus Reviews
"This unique and intimate portrait of an adoptee and her birth mother begins when Hern, a California teacher, finds her birth mother and begins corresponding with her. Her letters and her mother's replies form the core of the text. Through them, the reader watches two strangers meet and confront each other, most prominently on the subjects of sexuality, betrayal, and abandonment. As the correspondence continues, readers can see the growth of the ties between birth mother and daughter  process that is both happy and painful for each woman. Unfortunately, the structure of the book doesn't allow for a discussion of Hern's adoptive family and their reaction to the unfolding of her relationship with her mother. Nor does Hern delve deeply enough into the issues that arise in her correspondence. Overall, however, this is an interesting book that raises many important questions. " Library Journal


  1. And how does all of this apply to more modern adoption practices of open adoptions? Presumably, families in truly open adoptions don't have many of these issues.

  2. Lorraine: so adoptive parents don't get to celebrate? I am supposed to mourn for the birth mother and my girl's biological family? I can't celebrate this event in my life? No, thank you. I think I'll celebrate my little girl and the fact that her meth-addicted, prostitute mother is in jail for a LONG time.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE the smug, self-superior "birth mother" bashing. So KLASSY!

    As an adult adoptee, I'm always astounded by adopters who negatively characterize their adopted children's natural mothers. I always want to ask them how they plan to raise kids with strong, positive self images when they look down on the women who conceived, grew, and brought them into the world.

    It doesn't matter how sick and/or broken she was or is. That women is the mother of that child. The child is half her. She carries her DNA. Whether the adopters like it or not, she will have many of her talents, interests, traits, quirks, and yes, issues.

    And no matter how traumatized she may have been by her, there is a part of that child that will always love and be bonded with her. That's human nature. We all have love for the ones who made us--no matter how ill they were. We may never admit it to our adopters, and we may hate them as much as we love them, but love them we do. And if you love us, you love our mothers. That is an adopter's OBLIGATION.

    Didi's "Mom," go ahead and break your arm patting your own back, but bottom line, you're not a savior or a saint. You're a human being, just like the rest of us, and clearly, you have some pretty serious issues of your own. What kind of woman goes out in public and says such nasty, hateful things about the MOTHER of her CHILD???

    Do you say those vile things to HER???

    If you want to raise a human being who loves and respects herself, you'll find a way to love, respect, and honor her family of origin and her heritage.

    Or you can just continue to make it all about you you you and your big, fat, vile, smug grasping ego.

  4. Yes Didi, because your situation is totally the majority of adoption.

  5. Without a doubt, there are women who should not parent.

    But, I do think it is important to remember that adoptees lost more than our mothers. We lost our entire families. We lost our heritages. We lost out on knowing what we might be naturally skilled at doing, etc.

    I hope that adoptive parents celebrate their children's lives. But, I also hope that they acknowledge the pain that also comes with being an adoptee. I don't ask that APs harp on it, just acknowledge it and be open to talking with your children about their feelings about adoption.

  6. Satan, or so they call meJune 1, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Hey "DiDi's mom" (NOT REALLY). I hope you rot in hell. No, DiDi's fake mommy doesn't say things like that to someone's face. She knows better. It's easier to dehumanize the child's mother on the internet in the safety of her own home. Stupid wench.

    The more "modern" open adoptions? Yeah, the one's that close at the adopters whim? Like 80% of them? Whatever.

  7. Yes , We lost before any perceived gain. For those paps that are chomping at the bit to get "your" baby...it really is not YOUR baby...an adoptee is an adrift baby that has lost biology and needs to adapt to adoption...no matter how bad the first mother is, even if she is the worst ax murder to walk the earth the child has lost something very precious. The chance to grow up in a family that is bio related IF in fact the adoption is in the child's best interest...in other words the adoption is for the child's sake and not the sake of "building a family" for someone...then records need to remain open, the child's biology needs to be celebrated not negated( its must be easier to negate it then the adoptive family can lay total claim to the child) and the child needs to be who they were born to be not what the paps want to be. IF in fact that adoptive parents can mange that then YES go celebrate all you want because your have been good parents to an adoptive child...not a good child to fit into "YOUR family. Baby first...not adoptive family first...can't handle that then don't adopt. Your not good enough for the "poor, needy children "out there. In other words take off your halo.

  8. Didi's mom.....Have you ever seen or heard of someone suddenly waking up one day and saying, "Gee I think I will become a drug addict today." It certainly doesn't happen that way. Difficult things always pave the path to addiction. Have you investigated or even considered for one second what led this woman to live such a desperate life?? I would be willing to be some pretty difficult things happened to her in the past to bring her to such a tough place or addiction. Please do not judge and place blame. It doesn't help and I can guarantee you in the long run having that attitude will only hurt your daughter.

  9. I'm feeling triggered and angry right now, and probably should wait to comment. But I'm not gonna. Didi's mom, where did you get the idea that your daughter's mother was a crack ho? Y'know, adoption agencies tell all kinds of lies, so the a-parents can feel good about "rescuing' a child. If she was meth-addicted, you would see signs in your daughter, she would need special treatment. Is that the case?

    I hope you are not telling Didi that's where she came from, especially as a means of making her appreciate you more. She will still want to know who and where she came from someday. And as Renee said, that's not going to help her self-esteem.

    First mothers are told that they aren't fit to parent or that their child will have a better life without them. I suspect adoptive parents are told that they are "saving" a child, that their son/daughter wouldn't otherwise have a family or a decent upbringing. That's the way adoption agencies and social workers operate. Otherwise they would be out of business.

    Go ahead and celebrate your gain, but also realize that there is a loss for your child, one that will never ever be resolved, no matter how good a parent you are.

    Trust me, I've lived it.

  10. OMG.

    @Amy...way to write a dismissive question to the core of the article. 1) open adoptions aren't legally enforced 2) there aren't unified laws that support or define "truly open adoptions" to some that can mean contact once a year, to others it can be once every 5 years etc. If you're going to try and suppress a movement, at least come up with some stronger argument, I have heard much better then that, get in contact with me, i'll help you out for the pure humor of it.

    @Didi's Mom ... wow...you realize that meth addicted prostitute convicted mother in jail made, and is part of your adopted child. You should think about what you say, and change your views towards your childs mother because your child will love her. If you can't, learn how too or it will eventually come between you and your adopted child and then YOU will be the singled out one, as you have done to her.

    @Renee *hugs* that is all.

    @Lucre LOL <3

    @HDW ~ well said!

    Adoptees didn't ask for this, we are the ones who have had no choice, celebrating the pain we hold in adoption can be very damaging in the forming of the foundation of love and pain and how we process it for the rest of our lives. Do NOT dismiss the loss in adoption, or it will only hurt you in the long run. Its really simple to understand. If you cannot...i ache for the adoptees in your lives.

    @Satan roflol

  11. I started coming to this site to get some insights into some communication problems we were having with our son's first family. And in general, I've found the posts well-written and informative.

    But, when I saw Lorraine's comment on Jane's post (the comment has since been deleted) it got my blood up.

    Didi is 6, she knows she's adopted, but no, she doesn't know that her birth mom is in prison (or what for). And no one outside my husband, my best friend, and Didi's doctor know about where Didi's birth mom is.

    As to where I got the "idea" that Didi's birth mom is a "crack ho", well, let me tell you the story. We didn't know about Didi until 6 days after she was born, when she was abandoned at the hospital. Didi was in NICU for 22 days with a myriad of problems. During the adoption process, we discovered (via public record) that the woman had a very long history of prostitution, drug use, and more.

    Less than 24 hours after she left the hospital, Didi's birth mom was arrested again. I visited her in prison once, she didn't ask about Didi, she just wanted money. I never went back.

    In the last six years, Didi's birth mom has only been "free" for a grand total of 10 months (not consecutive). And even though I have given her contact information for us, she has never contacted us. She is back in prison, this time for 2nd degree murder.

    Yes, I'm glad she's in prison. If for no other reason than the streets are a safer place. So, please don't assume you know the story. Didi wasn't ripped from anyone. Didi was abandoned by a very sick woman. And I'm going to celebrate that MY daughter didn't have to live in a meth house or be in foster care.

  12. Sometimes I get frustrated with the assumption of the writers and commenters on this site. No, not all first mothers are coerced or forced to relinquish. Geez. No all first mothers are young, vulnerable, or poor. Some of us made a choice for the betterment of our lives and the lives of our children.

    Being a first mother doesn't automatically give you permission to be angry, bitter, or anything else.

    Welcome to life, people...sometimes it really sucks. And sometimes people have to make crappy choices. Doesn't mean I was victimized.

  13. Didi's Mom:

    I did have an immediately and visceral reaction to the posts at Open Adoption, Open Heart on Facebook as that is a site designed to encourage more women to give up their babies, period, and convince everybody giving up a child is a "gift" to parents. The comment about "having a lead on a birth mother in Virginia" and asking what the adoption laws there were really made me ill. It sounds like the commenter is hunting down a prey. But I calmed down my original comment very soon after I posted it and I no longer remember what my reaction was. The site is very much tuned to the competition among childless couple for the product that is babies, and it's a sickening reflection of today's society. Adoption should not be designed for parents who want to "build" a family, but for children who truly need homes, and it is our contention here that mothers should raise their children whenever possible. We also believe that convincing a woman not to have an abortion so that she may produce an adoptable baby is wrong.

    And I do not doubt for the least that some mothers who relinquish are indeed drug addicts, are very sick, and prison inmates, or that some children are abandoned. It happens. Those children need homes and often special and very demanding care.

    Hannah: I felt blocked into a corner when I gave up my daughter in 1966, and felt I had no choice, no choice at all. I am sad that today women often feel the same way, and give up their children because of poverty, which is what it comes down to in most circumstances. (Addiction and prison are of course not necessarily related but often go hand-in-hand-with poverty.) I understand today that women give up their babies with different attitudes; I still find it sad--for the mother, for the child--that this is the way of the world today. People do not come into the world hoping to be raised by parents not theirs by blood.

  14. Satan, or so they call meJune 2, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    @DiDi's mom:

    "Yes, I'm glad she's in prison."

    Such a compassionate, empathetic human being you are. Kudos to you for opening you mind and heart and thinking of what it may be like for another woman; another human being. Bravo!!!

    So you don't have pesky birth mother around to rain on your fantasy.

    You sound like the sick woman here, all judgmental, entitled and holier than thou. That "sick" woman you speak of is the mother of the child you covet. Without her there would be no child for you to pat your self on the back and say what a good adopter mommy you are. Get help. You need it.

    If the adopters who comment on this blog (who's sole purpose it seems is to dehumanize and degrade natural mothers) were so confident in their role as "mother's", I hardly think they'd be here ripping the child's mother to shreds at every turn, to make themselves appear to be so saintly. Some of us know better, so you aren't fooling anyone.

  15. Hannah wrote: "Some of us made a choice for the betterment of our lives and the lives of our children."

    Unless you are there 24/7, you cannot say that adoption was for the betterment of your child's life. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors in someone else's family. I was given up for adoption because society (not my mother) thought that I would get a better life by being raised by a married couple. Well, my APs looked perfect on paper but their marriage was a sham and they divorced before I was even in school. And my a-father no longer felt any obligation to financially provide for me.

    You certainly have every right to say that adoption was for the betterment of your own life but you cannot speak for how much of a 'better' life it gave your child. Adoption only guaranteed that your child got a different life and one with a fake birth certificate.

  16. Sigh...its not about who the mothers are,were,or what they have done and that includes adoptive mothers too. Its about how the adopted person perceives their life.

    Yes, maybe the child needed to be removed from the crack addicted whores life..but she is still part of her mothers life forever. so you as an adoptive mother who will probably say they love their daughter so much...has to understand that. Because most adoptees have to deal with being giving away and adapting to a strange , non bio family. Most people don't see it but it is internalized for many of us.

    There ARE many adoptions that did not have to happen, except that and understand how those mothers have a right to be bitter and angry. Bet many paps get bitter and angry when they can't "build their family" the way they want. Its only normal for people to get bitter and angry at the injustice that life dishes out. so to lash out and call another bitter and angry is really hypocritical. Look at yourself first.

    AND don't ever turn to an adoptee and call them bitter and angry and life is not fair, and just get over it...the adults in the situation have to "get over" what ever it is they need to get over before they take another innocent, vulnerable human into their lives. Thats what makes a good mother.

    the question of this post is a family subtracted before a family is added too...yes it is. And who symbolizes that family s loss or gain and clueless baby/child that is just trying to survive and trust that the adults that pledge to care for them and be their parent really can do it. For the child's sake not the ones that "gained"

  17. @"Satan" -

    Just a question - What would be the ideal situation in your opinion? The bmom is in prison for murder.

  18. I agree with you. But, if the family is supportive then this problem do not arise.
    adoption agencies in florida



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