' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: What [some] adoptive parents don't know hurts others--their children

Monday, June 30, 2014

What [some] adoptive parents don't know hurts others--their children

We do hear from some adoptive parents here who "get it" that the "child" they adopted has two families and it appears to be healthiest for him or her to maintain a connection to that first family, especially his mother, that is not broken.

But. I live amid many adoptive parents, many of them, based on what I hear, are unaware of the inner lives of adoptees, including their own children. Last week my alternate universe daughter was visiting and as she looked around a group of people at a cocktail party, she said, You must know a lot of adoptive parents--this is the kind that adopt. She was talking about professional couples, often with more money than time, with the wife who has a career just as demanding and successful (or more so) than her husband. Most did not try to have children when they were in their twenties. Many long-time second marriages. For whatever reason, they adopted in their late thirties or forties.

I simply deal with it. Sometimes it means that at least for a time, I take a step back from their lives. I found the impact of dealing with a newborn adoption was emotionally wrenching--I couldn't stop thinking about the grieving mother, wondering how this child would be when she grew up. In other words, just being around an adopted infant threw me back in time to when I was the grieving mother.

Everybody in my circle of friends know that I have been involved in some manner in adoption reform. I'm sure some of them think I am more than a tad obsessed. Because they don't really want to know more about what is troubling about adoption, they don't look me up on the Internet or ask. And I admit that until I know the lay of the mindset of the adoptive parents, I am not bringing up adoption as a topic of discourse. They love their children and that is that.

Yet I assume that most of the highly educated people I know have a modicum of information about the rules that govern adoption today. My being quoted in the New York Times piece a week ago--which is the paper everyone reads where I live--surprised some of them.

So it was with dismay that I learned a few days after that that an adoptive mother of my acquaintance--a bright, appealing woman who is involved in the community--expressed ignorance on the issue of sealed birth certificates. Upon learning that what I was fighting for had something to do with  "birth certificates," she remarked to a friend that she didn't understand what the issue was. She said something along the lines of--That's odd--my [adopted] kids [two] have their birth certificates. 

Both of her two adopted children are in the twenties; both were adopted in New York. The oldest lives in a distant state; the other lives at home. Unless an Act of God intervened in their cases, they do not have their original birth certificates. The adoptive mother's name is on their birth certificates, as well as her (former) husband's, as if they conceived their adopted children and she gave birth to them. How clueless is she? I was alarmed and dismayed. If this intelligent woman doesn't know squat about the reality of this aspect of her now-grown children's lives, no wonder we can't get these laws to fade away faster. If she doesn't know this, what hope is there?

I wondered if she overheard one of those kids recently mention with some certainty how many DNA markers we get from each parent. A step-parent adoption was under discussion at a recent luncheon when he offered this information, and maybe I'm reading into it, but it occurred to me that he must have more thoughts about his natural/first/birth parents than just knowing that bit of biological data. A week or two later I heard the comments that her kids "have their birth certificates." You can fill in the rest.

I don't know this young man well at all. He probably wouldn't recognize me if I ran into him in the street. I don't know his adopted sister at all. Their adoptive mother apparently knew where the girl's birth mother lived (nearby), and soon after the child went to the adoptive home, was initially terrified that the birth mother would want to come and "get her back." I feel for the "child," I feel for her first mother. I don't know anything else, but again I was struck how different hearing of the woman's fears sounds to ears with different experiences. I thought: Oh, too bad the mother couldn't. Others would think: Well, what a relief that she didn't. How could a woman (ie, the first mother) do that? How cruel! I thought: too bad for the girl that her natural mother didn't come back and get her.

Our fears and experiences rule our perceptions. They fly from our deepest feelings. I've often exhorted first mothers and adoptees to make known their feelings, but I'm all too aware of how--in the emotionally charged world of adoption--it is difficult to be public. It's like being stripped bare and exposed to the bone to people who may only be critical. I still remember hearing that someone pounded the table in anger when I first came out of the closet.

As for the mother above? Apparently it will take a mighty wind to reach her and others like her. We can't all be on soapboxes all the the time--I avoid the subject with people I know not well, or what their feelings might be. I do not bring the subject up with adoptive parents unless asked, or with people I know who would like to see me go quietly into the night. I must have a life that isn't all adoption all the time. I must have a life that isn't constantly disputatious. This is exhausting enough as it is.

But we must do what we can, where we can, however we can. Jane talked to an aspiring legislator the other day who had never thought about the issues involved, even though she has an adopted sister (from China). We--both mothers (natural and adoptive) and adoptees need to drive the story into the media as often as possible. Twelve states now have adoptee access to original birth records in one way or another, though many have that noxious birth parent veto. Change is coming--let's give it a kick in the pants.--lorraine

The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) 
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We do have lives other than that involved in adoption. Yes, amazing but true. IF YOU ARE READING HERE, AND ORDER FROM AMAZON--NO MATTER WHAT--PLEASE DO IT BY CLICKING ON THE BOOKS HERE. Thank you.

Cast Off
by Lee Campbell, who started Concerned United Birthparents 
"...a moving and engaging account of the journey of a brave woman, who gave birth to both a son and an organisation."--Evelyn R at Amazon 


  1. The other day I stumbled upon a blog/website that was a real kick in the gut. Talk about a trigger! It's called "Birthmothers 4 Adoption" and is run by two young (20-something, I would guess) women who have relinquished their babies. I read some of it and didn't know whether to cry or to throw something. Then I found another blog that took out after anti-adoption forces, ie., us. I was shocked to discover a whole other universe (talk about an alternate universe) where people--adoptive parents, adoption lawyers (I learned there's a national association of them, and they give out awards), even birth mothers--who defend adoption and sing its praises. I thought the problem was mainly awareness and/or indifference. Now I realize there's an active campaign on the other side that would love to see us shut up and go away. You all must think me naive, but I am truly shocked by this. I have to admit I feel a bit overwhelmed by this discovery. There is so much consciousness-raising that needs to be done. Why is it that when I tell folks--generally good friends who know me well--what I'm doing these days (writing about adoption reform everywhere I can), I get the, "But what about...?" response? Yes, there are some (few) birth mothers who truly don't want their child, but why does everyone go there first? I just read a novel by Tessa Hadley, "Clever Girl," in which a mother really doesn't want her baby and gives her to a good friend to raise. The mother stays in the picture, sends gifts, and visits occasionally, and given this woman's character, it seems obvious that this is the best situation for the girl. But it's not about strangers buying a baby or a mother being coerced. I discovered that I'm not against ALL adoption (I have been pretty adamant lately), but it should be such a rare occurrence as not to need specialists to facilitate it. It's the adoption industry I despise, and the continued shroud of secrecy around BSE birth mothers. I learn something new every day, and now I have a better idea of just what we're up against. Lorraine's right. I have to have more in my life than adoption, but for now I'm pretty obsessed, only now I'm not grieving so much as wanting to agitate for change. I'm kind of reeling, actually, trying to get my bearings. Again.

    1. Pam,
      I've seen this and the other rah rah birthmother blogs. Many of these mothers are members of the LDS Church (that's the same church that kicks out women who want equality). These blogs are financed by the adoption industry.

      Note, though, that in spite of being cheerleaders for adoption, the mothers talk about their pain, about missing their children. They're like Catelyn (of 16 and Pregnant fame) and others who talk up adoption to women with an unplanned pregnancy. They'll figure it out eventually but sadly some women will be sucked into adoption in the meantime.

    2. In addition to what Jane said, this isn't going to be PC but I have noticed a few of these mothers have bi-racial children, and I get the impression they wouldn't have been welcome in the natural family. One blog I read is of a woman in her 30s with a bi-racial child in an open adoption. She's never told anyone in her family about him. She's outlined her reasons for keeping him a secret, but if you read between the lines I get the feeling there's something more going on there.

      As an adoptee, I am against all adoption. You can care for a child without erasing his/her identity, bloodlines, etc. At the very least, give the adoptee the right to terminate the adoption at legal age. I have a special relationship with my natural father. He didn't know about me until I was 26. I'm his only child. I'd love to be able to dissolve my adoption and restore my natural filiation. But I can't. We are both held to a contract neither of us signed. (Adult adoption might be an option, but even then, what a mess -- my adoptive parents become my natural parents, my natural father becomes my adoptive father, I get a new BC, and I'm *still* an adoptee.)

    3. Hi Pam: The blogs and sites you mention are the ones I came across first. When my friend, the black market adoptee, finally learned the truth about her situation, my fog finally lifted completely. I felt something was very wrong with me, and I became very depressed, so I jumped on the internet. I found the "rah-rah birthmother and adoption" blogs (great phrase, BTW, Jane) and could not believe what I was reading. Then I read Lorraine's book, among others, and found this blog. Thank God.

      I am in agreement with you....I hate the secrecy surrounding the BSE. I hate that NOTHING gets done to change the archaic laws. This past episode with NY, and the disgusting amendment of the bill, made my blood boil. And to know that the "rah-rah" people are out there, proclaiming that adoption is the wonderful answer to everything, just makes me think that adoption reform is doomed. I'm trying not to think this way, but sometimes I just can't help it.

  2. Zygotepariah:
    Since I have heard of some adoptees being "adopted" back by their birth parents, I actually think that is possible, and that you do not need your adoptive parents permission. It's undoubtedly messy of course, but in your case you might want to look into it.

    I agree that arrangements would serve everyone better if one's natural, actual history and parentage were not erased with adoption. So many of these problems were the result of laws passed in the Thirties on. And we are still struggling with the fallout of a great social experiment.

    1. Lorraine - little known fact - ALL but 4 states in the United States allow adult adoption. None of them require even notifying the adoptive parents. This includes, Arizona, Wisconsin and - check it - New Jersey! The only qualifiers that I have come across are that there be no sexual or monetary power or interest of either party. When I asked my lawyer - when my daughter was claiming she wanted to be adopted back - if there would be any issue with the adoptive parents, her response "We let adults do what they want with their lives... it isn't any of their business."

    2. Lorraine - Little known fact: ALL of the States in the United States - except 4 - allow adult adoption. This includes Arizona, Wisconsin and I believe New Jersey. When my daughter was pretending she wanted me to adopt her, I asked my attorney here in WI and found that the adoptive parents have NO SAY whatsoever in what an adult Adopted Person does. When I questioned this with the attorney her statement was "We let adults do what they want here! It isn't up to adopters."

  3. This reminds me of a situation that occurred about 7 years ago. I single-handedly silenced 8 sets of prospective adoptive parents on a conference call that I was asked to participate in by an adoption agency. I agreed to do it, but I also promised to be honest about my experience.

    Back when I began my search for my daughter, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the emotional ramifications of potential contact. The endless unknowns swirled in my head until I was inconsolable and dizzy. I always knew I would initiate the search for my daughter, if she didn’t already, by the time she was 19. But, before I actually pulled the trigger, I decided to reach out to a mental health professional, hopefully someone with post-adoption experience. I did every internet search imaginable for local therapists and came up pretty empty handed. I did stumble upon a woman who worked for a private agency. She was an MSW, LICSW and Post Adoption Counselor (I’ll call her Nicole). With nothing to lose, I contacted Nicole to see if she could refer me to someone in her network.

    Nicole, having no obligation to even speak to me, turned out to be sympathetic. My anguish was palpable and she did help me find someone who was instrumental in helping me navigate contacting my daughter, in the most considerate, informed way possible (I think).

    Nicole kept in touch with me periodically to find out about my progress; could have been out of concern and/or curiosity. My initial reunion went well with my daughter, but horribly with her adoptive parents. Straight out of the gate, I knew this was going to be a treacherous dance, but I was willing to do it in order to see/know my daughter. I thought in time her parents would get to know me and their perception of me being a threat to their relationship would fade away. I think everyone who knew of my situation thought that, including me and Nicole. She was encouraging and supportive. I liked her.

    Back to the conference call.

    About a year into my reunion, Nicole contacted me and asked if I would participate in a conference call to provide some perspective to people on the “waiting list” for a baby to adopt. My initial thought was… ugh, really? As I thought about it more, I thought it was really wise for them to be exposed to me; to break the stereotype that all women who give up their children are low-income, under-educated addicts and reprobates. That we are people with feelings, brains and we really exist! I was scared and had no idea what to expect, but I told my truth. I told them they were foolhardy if they thought their adoptive child’s first family would permanently disappear or that their child wouldn't want to know about their origins. I don’t know the actual statistics, but pretending your adopted baby has no biological relatives that could come out of the woodwork at some point is kind of ridiculous. I also told them if I had any insight into my (eventual) adoption reality, I would have never made this choice in the first place. I wasn’t trying to be a saboteur, but I did want them to grasp some of the HUGE emotional implications of their impending decision.


    The call wound up with a few superficial questions and then I never heard from Nicole again. Hmmmm… guess I wasn’t the poster first mother they were looking for.

    1. Good job! Hilary.

      All I can say is that I admire you for taking the task on and being truthful. Probably some of them went on to adopt anyway, but they have never forgotten that phone call.

    2. I agree. You did a perfect job with that phone call, Hillary. Bravo!

    3. We had to attend state mandated training, and two first mothers spoke at ours. One said, through tears, that she wished she could go back and make a different choice. That resonated really deeply with my husband and I, and it still does. I appreciated her honesty, while at the same time having conflicting feelings about her having to share it with PAPs... it felt very unsympathetic in the room. There had been some talk in a previous session that made me very upset because there was a level of callous disregard for women in a crisis pregnancy who are considering adoption, so I felt that the room was largely focused on their own needs and not really hearing the other side.

      I had to excuse myself partway through the first mom talks because I had to go collect myself in the restroom. It was really heartbreaking, and for naive little me, very eye-opening. Although I had, in an abstract way, thought about how it must feel to give up a child for adoption, the real-life person in front of me sharing her heartbreak drove away any degree of detachment I felt.

      I can well imagine that the woman who shared with us that day felt that she hadn't made an impression. I never got the chance to say something to her, but she certainly made an impression on my husband and I. We ended up changing our minds on an agency adoption because of her. We still talk about her when we are discussing our daughter's parents because it helps us understand them better to remember what this first mother said of her experience. I feel that she prepared me to be more understanding of my daughter's mother, and more aware of what she would be going through. So, don't be so sure that there wasn't someone in that room who took to heart what you said. Yes, we did go on to adopt, but her words had an impact that altered the course of how we chose to go about that adoption.

    4. I wish I could've been there to see the looks on those PAPs' faces.

      I wasn't adoped until I was 4.5 months old. Not knowing any other adoptees, I assumed this was how adoption was done. In reunion I learned it was because my mother didn't sign the papers for four months. She hoped her parents would come around. They didn't.

      As I've said, I left "home" at 17. At 29, after not talking for years, I had lunch with my amother. I laid it all out -- my reunion, my feelings about adoption. She asked "Why couldn't we get you until you were older?" I replied "Because my mother wanted to keep me and wouldn't sign the papers". I will carry the look on my amother's face to my grave.

      She'd also told me I had to be adopted because my father ran away. I believed that for 26 years. In fact, he never knew about me. He lost his only child to adoption. I told her that too. I could see her shrinking in her chair, and I was glad, because one of the main reasons I ran away at 17 was because of her refusal to address my adoption issues. I never married, so I'm left with no family and no support. Because of her denial.

      We celebrated Gotcha Day, only it was called my Special Day. This past one I got an e-mail from amother (whom I haven't spoken with since the 1990s) saying "Happy Special Day on my Special Day that you helped to make possible". Even after learning how I "helped to make possible" (mother having no options, father not told, both of them having no other kids), who cares? She got a baby. That's what matters.

    5. WTF?? You haven't spoken to her since the 90's, and she sends you a message like that?? Doesn't she care that she has no relationship with you NOW? Did she only want you when you were little? I don't get it.

      Ugh, you're breaking my heart ZP.

  4. I'm the mother of a 30-year-old daughter adopted from Korea as an infant. She and I have always referred to the birth certificate that says she was born in Nevada to my husband and me as her "fake birth certificate." That's what it is.

  5. The truth is that most APs don't care at best, and don't want us to have rights at worst.


  6. i gave my child up when i was 17 yrs old .and have alot of respect for the parents that raised my child as their own , .i am sure my child has alot of issues with me and emotions of rejection and feeling left behind . but in my case. at that time just because i can have babies does not make me a parent . my child that i gave up did contact me. recent . but because i was very honest with her about why i gave her up and why things happen for a reason . she does not really want to contact me. because it was on her time .and i needed to time to adjust . but i kept her on my facebook . but it was hurtful to see her contact her bio dad and his family . so right now we are not talking. hopefully it will change in time .

    1. You do need to accept that your child has two parents, two strains of DNA coming together in her, and that is reason alone for her to be in touch with her biological father and his family. Though you say you were honest in dealing with her, but it also sounds like you also pushed her away by saying you needed time. Let go of how your feelings about her contacting her father, and reach out to her again yourself. You obviously want to. But just as we advise first mothers to remember that the people who want to be in your life will be, you don't have to go chasing after them, the same is true for adoptees. If you turned away from your daughter, you need to be the one to make reverse that.

    2. thank you for your reply ....i guess what hurt me so much . when i added my daughter on my facebook .she never really was responding to me .and when she did it was a resentful kind of responds...... i waited for her too... i was really excited . and i thought she wanted to ask questions on why i gave her up . and getting to know me. but i felt like a punch in a stomach . because she right away attached her self to her father and has alot of pictures of him and his whole family all over her facebook and her cover . so i felt like a slap in my face .

    3. .....but in my case. at that time just because i can have babies does not make me a parent....did you really say that to your daughter and not expect her to be upset? .....that she can have a realtionship with her father is magic....I hope you both work it out

    4. Anonymous--please choose a name if you are going to respond...further...

      But I understand how completely that must hurt to see her with her father and his family while you are left out in the cold. From my experience, adoptees have a much easier time accepting their fathers in general, because--they did not give them up in the same way mothers did. Fathers get a pass; mothers generally get the brunt of the anger.

    5. of course i did not tell her that i could not be a parent at the time... and Lorraine . to answer your question . ..yes it did hurt .still does since this just happened last week . and your right Lorraine about how the adoptees take to fathers. because when i got the call last month that my daughter want to know me i was so excited . and could not want to talk to her after almost 20 yrs ago that i gave her up when i was 17 yrs old and her father was 26 yrs old t the time . will not go into my life story but lets just say we were breaking the law at the time . and i lived in a group home at the time and e was not suppose to see me . well i got pregnant of course . and i did not know what to do at that time and i did not how to be a mother i was dealing with the law and depression . so i thought best for the child and gave h my daughter up . my daughters bio father fought the the law but lost which i figure .. so i did put her up for adoption . and he rbio fathers family was mad and my family hated me. they thought i just throw babies away .. it was painful to have no support . i was alone and carried hurt through out my life ..and when i thought it was going to be a warm felling reunion . no my daughter took to her bio father and her bio sister . and i got left in the dust . i felt it was a revenge on her part and her bio father .....because i will never forget the last words she told me. she said i have lost a daughter and i will never know her kids and her life . i said i cannot lose something i dont have. when she said those things to me. i was in so much pain..why is that Lorraine adoptees . take to their fathers more then the bio mothers.

  7. Lorraine,
    I am an adult adoptee who recently became reunited with my birth mother (I searched her out). I just stumbled upon your site today, as I am trying to learn more about this experience from her perspective.
    In the last comment, you mentioned that many adoptees have an easier time accepting their fathers, while their mothers get the brunt of the anger. That idea is intriguing to me... I can only state from my own experience, but I would think it would be different. I think many of us adoptees know that our fathers refusal to support our mothers was a key factor in her decision to relinquish. I know in my case, it was THE factor. If he had been willing to stick around and help, her parents would have allowed her to keep me. But he pulled up stakes and moved across the country to get out of it.
    I can honestly say that I have no resentment for my birth mom- she was barely more than a child herself, with no support from anyone. She did what she felt she had to do. But my birth father- who could have prevented this by just not running away- oh, I have some resentment for him. A lot of resentment for him. I'm not sure I ever need anything to do with that man.....

    1. Waited: Well, I can understand what you say...and yes, if my daughter's father had been different we would have kept our daughter. However, he was not free-married with three children all under 12, Irish Catholic, and so I will say that his situation at least explains why he felt trapped. The sad thing is that his marriage which was rocky at the time...did fall apart within four year anyway. But of course by then....it was too late.

      But I have seen the phenomenon of adoptee anger more directed at the mother; the father gets more of a pass. It's human nature. But then, we are human and people are different.

    2. to be fair to everyone . all cases and situations are different on how people give up child or what happen in their life at the time . in my sistuation . i was in trouble with the law i had mental abusive mother growing up and brother that was physicall and mental abusive of towards me . and so i ran away and started breaking the law. then i hookup with a guy that was adult . when i was only 17 which is my daughters bio father and he was in trouble with the law at the time as well . i looked at the whole picture . and know that i did not know how my life was going to turn around if it was ever going to turn around . so i gave my daughter to adults that always wanted child and looking at their life style and they worked hard to be parents . so i thought in my head i needed to save my daughter .. she deserved two stable parents ....from my messed up life ,,,,

    3. us being the the first mothers. i keep telling myself . their fathers or anyone cannot replace the bond we have with the child we give up . i think in our hearts even if we do give up our child . we have a deep bond that will never be broken....... no one ever wins in giving up a child . the bio mother hurts and has emotion scares the child does too and the father and adopted parents have their own feelings.



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