' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: A father grieves his troubled adopted son

Monday, August 25, 2014

A father grieves his troubled adopted son

Edwards Hirsch
Although I have compassion for Edward Hirsch and Janet Landay, I have to believe that if they had known something about the effects of adoption, their son might be alive today. Instead he died of an overdose in 2011 at age 22. The elegy Hirsch wrote for him is the subject of a New Yorker article "Finding the Words" by Alec Wilkinson.

Hirsch and Landay adopted their son, whom they named Gabriel after the Biblical Gabriel, at six days. Although Gabriel was born in 1988, when open adoptions were advocated by adoption professionals and were becoming commonplace, Gabriel was adopted in a closed adoption, arranged by attorneys. The parents' ignorance about adoption--admittedly this is a harsh word--is sorely evident throughout
Wilkinson's article. After Hirsch and Landay, respected professionals in the arts world, took the boy from their attorney who collected him from the hospital "they worried that the mother, overcome by love or guilt, might want the child back, but she didn't." They assumed she didn't want him, not considering that perhaps she couldn't care for him, a false assumption often made by adoptive parents.

When Gabriel was born, in New Orleans, Hirsch and Landay were in Rome where he had a year's residency at the prestigious American Academy. They flew to New Orleans to pick up Gabriel, took him to Chicago to meet relatives and within a week flew back to to Rome, and placed him in the care of a nanny. At the end of the academic year, they moved to Houston where Hirsch was an associate professor at the University of Houston.

Gabriel "'was a restless sleeper. ...He never stopped moving in his crib. ...As a small boy, he grew easily overstimulated and was subject to fits of temper'" Hirsch told Wilkinson. Gabriel hated school from the start. "'He cried hysterically. He threw things. He clung to the couch, he held fast to a chair.'" At the end of the year, the principal told them to find another school, which led to a succession of schools when one after another did not work out for the boy.

Hirsch and Landay had Gabriel evaluated by a specialist who diagnosed Tourette's syndrome and wrote prescriptions to deal with his behavior--a slew of them, according to the story for an eight-year-old who had trouble "reading, paying attention, getting along with others, sleeping." The parents sent him to two different Jewish Sunday schools, but he had trouble learning Hebrew. They gave up on Gabriel having a Jewish education, "other issues seemed more pressing than whether he had a bar mitzvah." It appears that Gabriel's being adopted never came up.

When Gabriel was 11, Hirsch and Landay did what many affluent parents of troubled adopted children do: they began sending him to a series of expensive boarding school; the first, Little Keswick in Virginia, cost about $90,000 a year. Hirsch had won a MacArthur [genius] Fellowship which enabled the couple to pay for the school. Gabriel didn't do well, but he did a little better. "A therapist at the school wrote about Gabriel: 'A concept of self, what is me and not me, what I am good at, and how I am performing as an active agent in the world is not clear to Gabriel.'"

In 2003, when Gabriel was in the eighth grade, the family moved to New York where Hirsch became president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The following year, the school's doctor told them he didn't think Gabriel's diagnosis of Tourette's sufficed. He diagnosed Gabriel with "PPD-NOS--pervasive development disorder, not otherwise specified." Since this represents a mild form of autism that presents in such a variety of ways, Hirsch considered it a "technical confession of ignorance," a diagnosis so vague that to him it sounded as they the doctor was saying, "We don't know what's wrong."

Gabriel began tenth grade at Devereux Glenholme in Connecticut, which Gabriel said was like a prison. The following year, Gabriel went to Franklin Academy, also in Connecticut from which he graduated. When he turned 18, he stopped taking his medications. During this time, Hirsch and Landay divorced. Gabriel moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, took some pre-vocation courses, and worked at odd jobs. In 2010, he drove a get-away car for friends who burglarized a home for which he received six months' probation. Gabriel moved back to New York and lived between his mother's and his father's apartments. For the next year, Gabriel spent time partying with is friends, living on handouts from his father.
"His social life was dramatic." 'He was repeatedly fighting with friends, talking about them, reconciling with them.' Hirsch wrote. 'He had a small but intense circle. Whatever else was happening in his life, he was always so much happier when his friends were around. In his own way, he had a gift for friendship.'" 
In 2011, Gabriel had two seizures from unknown causes. On August 27, Gabriel went to a party and took a drug called GHB (Grievous Bodily Harm), a sedative, sometimes used as a date-rape drug. He became violently sick and had a seizure. He died a few hours later from cardiac arrest.

To deal with his immense grief, Hirsch, a poet, began writing about Gabriel, first a factual account and then poems which led to a 75-page narrative poem "Gabriel" to be published next month. My heart went out to Hirsch as I read Wilkinson's article which included quotations from "Gabriel." Writing the book, though, did not alleviate his pain. Hirsch told Wilkinson: "Art can't give him back to me. It comforts you some, better than almost anything else can, but you're still left with your loss"

Wilkinson's article is emotionally wrenching. Yet I wanted to shout out Adoption! Adoption! Adoption! Did you ever consider how being adopted might have affected that boy? You placed him with a nanny soon after he was born, when he was still suffering a primal wound, grieving the loss of his natural mother. You sent him away when he needed assurance of your love, reinforcing his belief that he was not good enough to keep. You tried to make him into the boy you weren't able to have, the son of a Jewish poet/academic which he couldn't be. I wanted to ask: Have you found Gabriel's first mother? Have you told her what happened to her boy? She may still be grieving over losing him as an infant and may be looking for him.

Hirsch and Landay are both highly educated people, successful in their separate careers. Why did they not take the time to educate themselves on the realities of adoption? Because they didn't want to know that raising an adopted child is different from having and raising a child born of your genes and raised in his family of origin. They put on blinkers and sought professional help from psychotherapy which in general remains just as clueless as they were.

Hirsch joins other fathers with troubled adopted children we're written about: John Sutton whose sent his adopted son, Christopher, to a punishing institution in Western Samoa, Paradise Cove. Soon after his return Christopher murdered his mother and attempted to murder his father. John Brooks whose daughter Casey, adopted from Poland, committed suicide at age 18. Brooks told his daughter's story in The Girl Behind The Door: A Father's Journey Into The Mystery Of Attachment. And there's Doris and Ken Hall, whose memoir, Go Out and Live, tells about their adopted daughter who suffered from demons until her early death from cancer. Joan Dideon wrote about the death of her adopted daughter, Quintana, in Blue Nightsbut as we wrote here, did not fathom the effect being adopted might have had on her.

Like Hirsch and Landay, the others above did not have the benefit of pre-or-post adoption counseling. Understanding adoption issues, may not, of course changed the outcome for any of these children or their parents, but surely it might have helped.

I write this not to add to the pain of these adoptive parents, but to encourage others to face the realities of adoption and what it means when a child loses his original mother and family. Adoptive parents, therapists--all of us--need to know that adopted kids are not as "if born to them" when the "them" are genetic strangers.--jane
Alec Wilkinson, "Finding the Words", The New Yorker, August 4, 2104

Attachment disorder in adoption--and parents who don't recognize it
Adoptive Parents Ask: "What Could They Do?"
Adoptees more likely to commit suicide
Joan Didion's Blue Nights is really an adoption memoir
The bittersweet reality of being adopted

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child 
By Nancy Verrier
"As an adoptee, I could not have written this book better myself. It is an extremely insightful book which opened up a world of understanding to myself and also to my loved ones. It helped me understand why I am the way that I am, why I do some of the things that I do, why I struggle with love in my life, and why I have this subconscious fear of abandonment and trust. This book is a must read for all parents of adopted children. You will learn to understand your adopted children and will be able to help them throughout their lives - sometimes even in the smallest way, i.e. the simple reassurance that you WILL return home after work. 
I met my birth family at 30 years old. Then I read this book a few years later. This book made a difference in my life. It will make a difference in your life, too."--Coco Ventura at Amazon

Adoption: Uncharted Waters 
by David Kirschner
"Adoption: Uncharted Waters... a thoughtful, provocative, and well written book about adoptees....Kirschner accurately presents the psychological world of adopted people. His book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand what sows the seeds of violence in some of them." Joe Soll, LCSW, psychotherapist, author of Adoption Healing ...a path to recovery.

From the back cover: "A courageous, ground breaking book."--Betty Jean Lifton, adoptee, therapist and author of the outstanding Journey Of The Adopted Self: A Quest For Wholeness.


  1. This piece broke my heart in a dozen different ways. I always think of the birthmother/birth family when I read about the death of any adopted person. Was there a reunion? If not how will she/the family know what they've lost? Were they searching? So much heartbreak all around. More of my thoughts are here: http://deniseemanuelclemen.com/on-reading-the-piece-in-the-new-yorker-on-the-death-of-poet-edward-hirschs-son/

  2. I read this essay in the New Yorker and had the same reaction. I'm sorry for this family and their loss is terrible, but adoption certainly made a kid who might have been troubled anyway into a completely dysfunctional person. Love is not enough. It's essential, but it's not enough. I have my own story with my adopted son (I am also a birth mother), and while my son seems to be doing better than this poor young man, I wouldn't say he's doing well. (He's in prison again at age 40.) I knew nothing about the effects of adoption when we got our son at 9 mos., couldn't understand his fear, his rages, his nightmares, his dependency, and his defiance. How crazy were we to think you could take a small baby away from his mother in Vietnam, put him in an orphanage and then a foster home, then send him halfway around the world to a family of strangers and not expect problems? I'm ashamed of my part in the adoption debacle and will always feel guilty about my son. Adoption is a nightmare that doesn't end, and obviously even intelligent, well-intentioned people keep the system going. I see adoption as another form of slavery--the trading of a child as if he were a commodity. Good intentions or not, that is what it is. I'm sure my ancestors who owned slaves were well-intentioned too, but the road to hell is paved with good ones.

  3. This is indeed another sad article concerning the effects of adoption on children. However, a dx of PDD-NOS does not mean the doctor had no idea what was wrong with him. This a dx under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders and it does indeed sound, from what was said about this boy, that the dx may have fit. It means he has symptoms of autism but they do not fit the "pattern" of classic autism or Asperger's symdrome. My son (not adopted) was given this dx as are many children. (My son's dx is now ADHD but when he was younger, he had significant developmental delay). Many (even most) of this boy's problems may indeed have stemmed from adoption. However, I respectfully submit that he may have had another issue going on as well. While I follow your blog with great interest and have learned much from you, as a mother of a child who was at one time diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, I can assure you the public's ignorance of ASD is at least as great as it is with adoption. To assume that a dx of PDD-NOS means the dr had no idea what was wrong with him is an example of this. (As a side note, the APA is changing the autism diagnoses names and PDD-NOS will no longer be a valid diagnosis, nor will Asperger's. They will both be classified as Autism Spectrum Disorder). Finally, I want to add that sending him away and putting him with a nanny seems especially cruel. Like Pam ,above, I feel guilty for adopting, wish I never had and fervently hope my daughter will be OK. However, I would not assume that every difficulty the child has is because of adoption, IF indeed this child had PDD-NOS, this has nothing to do with adoption and he should have been given specialized therapy and special education instead of being sent to boarding schools.

    1. Thanks, Michelle, I took a short cut. Here's the full paragraph:

      "A more appropriate diagnosis was PDD-NOS--pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified--a mild form of autism that presents in such a multiplicity of forms that Hirsch considered it 'a technical confession of ignorance, he said. 'Not otherwise specified' struck me as so vague that it was like they were were saying "We don't know what's wrong."'"

    2. I see a lot of links with PDD-NOS to high functioning aspergers and ADOPTION. Aspergers is linked to low birth weight (think prem babies and the unnatural separation from the mother/natural development of humicribs). Adoption is the separation from mother (there is only one). So many adoptees have aspergers type issues, myself included.

  4. I don't feel sad for the adoptive parents, I feel sad for the lost child. Growing up without a clue in a place where other people parented rather than the parents. How can that even be right? So sad.

    1. I'm sure you feel bad for Gabriel's first parents, though, don't you? But then adoptive parents ARE the devil so they deserve any misery they get.

    2. and I am sure you don't feel bad for the first parent's at all, now do you, because they don't deserve to breathe air or know their children have died...

    3. Piper--It's too bad "Gabriel's" APs weren't more interested in parenting him when he graced planet Earth. It seemed they'd have spent their every last cent to be rid of him. This is going to sound really cynical, but their "love" translates as GUILT to me. And public sympathy, of course. ~Mary

    4. Piper - No, I don't feel bad for them. They are not the devil, but they also were not involved enough to realize that they could have helped him, by actually being parents. I don't believe that a parent that hires nannies and is totally committed to their careers without being involved in their children is a good parent. That means whether the child is adopted or natural - if you are going to have children you need to be a real parent..... NO ONE can parent from a distance.

      Peter, that is the most judgmental load of sarcastic crap I have ever read. The lowest form of humor is sarcasm... is speaks of low intelligence and even lower self-esteem. I wish you well, but pity you.

      Mary, YES, it is too bad that they used their money and position to purchase a child that they really didn't have the time or desire to parent or raise as a real person.

      Does that help anyone?

  5. Thanks for the full paragraph. I hope I didn't sound too preachy!! The father's response to the diagnosis was a total cop-out., in my opinion. Although the diagnosis sounds vague, PDD-NOS describes a set of symptoms that in most cases needs some type of therapy. (My son received about 4 years of PT, OT, Speech Therapy, Social Skills classes and RDI). Add to that being adopted and subsequently raised by a nanny and sent to boarding schools and this child did not stand a chance. The dad was ignorant of a lot of things and it sounds like his answer was to ship the kid off. So very sad.

    1. With a diagnosis of a disabililty, Gabriel was entitled to special ed services at public expense. It appears that the schools Hirsch sent his son to focused on correcting (or punishing) behavior and not dealing with a developmental disability. Hirsch says it was his wife's idea to send Gabriel to the first boarding school, the one that cost $90,000. It certainly suggests that she did not want to deal with the boy. He was not what she signed up for.

    2. I will change the post to reflect merely that the doctor appeared not to take into consideration at all: adoption. What is also true in these cases is that there is also no medical history that might shed some light on the problem. We do have to recognize that some pregnant women/teens do not hew to the guidelines of no or very little alcohol during pregnancy and may have had bad nutrition that could lead to problems in the developing fetus. Sad but true.

    3. I was going to say what Michelle said, that PDD-NOS is a real diagnosis and doesn't mean the doctor didn't know what was going on. It refers to the client exhibiting some, but not all, characteristics of either autism or another defined PDD category. Unfortunately, it seems that either the parents did not want to understand what this meant or they did not receive guidance from the doctor. Everything they did put their child at an even higher risk and went absolutely contrary to what would have been recommended for someone given this diagnosis. This is so sad, but unfortunately, it is more common than you would think for children to have parents who just don't know how to deal with their disability and do not want to make the effort to learn. It's a shame they never found a doctor who would have considered the early childhood trauma as a contributing factor. So many people don't want to "blame" adoption, but our lives are composed of many contributing factors, and it's only logical (to me) to consider that many events have the possibility to trigger an issue.

      Lorraine, one of my dear friends adopted her son from foster care. Sadly, his mother has six children in the system, and she is not good at taking care of herself when pregnant. He is now suffering from that neglect, and it breaks my friend's heart for him. Thankfully, he is getting the therapy he needs and my friend and her husband are very well aware of the fact that early trauma can indeed impact a young life. But it is so important for a therapist to consider all angles; I know my friend has made all the therapists aware of her son's early situation and his loss.

  6. This is so sad. Why adopt, if one is going to treat the child this way? Sadly, I know of a couple of adoptions that also never would have happened.....one where the a-mother was very abusive, and another with a complete lack of understanding of the child....so much so that the child, when legally able, emancipated herself from the adoptive parents completely. The a-parents had no idea why. I could have told them why, but they didn't ask me. They just carried on about how much they had "given" the girl during her life. I guess they thought that was enough. Sad.

  7. Statistics in 2005 (the last year I could find credible stats for) indicated that 899,000 children were abused at the hands of their biological parent, blood relative or unmarried partner to the parent. The abuse ranged from physical, verbal, sexual misconduct, medical neglect, emotional neglect, etc.

    One of the leading reasons? Poverty and alcohol or drug abuse by parent concurrent with pregnancy and post pregnancy.

    @Julia Emily - why have a kid if you are going to treat them this way??

    As sad as this one situation is, where is the outcry for these other children? Are we not troubled that these children are treated as commodities by blood relatives, being mislabeled or misdiagnosed in the schools or by professionals? What of their long term outcomes?

    These were the numbers for 2005; prior to that year, the numbers had risen substantially from each year before. Imagine what the 2014 numbers must reflect?

    I find that all too often, so many of us seem to grasp with desperation at a story of loss that happened to an adopted individual while happily glossing over the grim reality of what lies right at our doorstep.

    I wonder how many kids are truly "saved" when adopted into a stable family? Yep, that happens too and these statistics prove it. Do you want to know why? Because I was that pregnant, angry young woman, abusing substances who gave up her child. I wasn't forced - I chose that for a child who would have otherwise faced a terrible upbringing.

    It took me TEN years to get my act together. 10 precious years my child was able to be just a kid. A kid who does bear the mark of my poor choices but who, thankfully, had/has the guidance and love of parents who have done their best by him. Is he perfect or perfectly content? The A-parents aren't perfect either - shocking I know. Guess what? I'm not either. Not as a BM nor as a Mom raising the one I was able to parent so many years later. Show me a kid or family who perfect, especially one facing the odds presented to mine or to possibly this young man, and I will show you few who are.

    This story is sad. The gleeful way in which too many of us laud this "failure" of adoption is sad too. This story shouldn't serve as a banner of "I told you so", it should serve to unite us to supporting troubled children and their families, regardless of how those families are formed.

    That's my peace. I said it. Flame away. I'm sure some of you will have something to say and manage to spin my own experiences into a mantra that suits the adoption is always evil mindset. That's fine too - just please don't use this poor family and dead son as your flag.

    Birth Mom

    1. Beth: my question was why ADOPT if one is going to treat a child this way? Why go out of the way to adopt?

      No one here ever said that abuse never happens in bio families. But it's perplexing to me why a couple would go out of their way, and go through the expense of adopting and then abuse the child.

      My black market adoptee friend had a terrible childhood and young adulthood. Her mother was a pathological liar and very abusive. Her father did nothing about it. Their apartment was filthy. My friend made food for herself because her mother fed her "slop", as she says to this day. She was left alone after school from a very early age, because her mother couldn't stand staying home so she went out to work. This was the early 60's when all the mothers on the block were home. There was verbal and physical abuse. The police were called to their apartment more than once.

      This was a childless couple. They paid big money in order to buy this child. Granted, they would never have been approved for an above-board adoption at the time. But, why did they do this? They should have remained childless. They could have gotten a dog

    2. PS: And I certainly did not mean the couple should have gotten a dog to abuse it. Let me say this before more feathers get ruffled. I just will never understand why people adopt if they really do not want or can not handle the child.

    3. Beth, Much respect for your response, however, you missed the AJS report that states that children who are adopted or placed in the care of non-relative/non-biological care situations (ie adopted or foster care) are 4 to 7 % more likely to be abused, neglected or murdered at the hands of their care providers (foster or adoptive parents) than children who are left in the abusive home of their biological parents.

      While I believe that you believe that you have done a good thing, I can hope for you that you have.

      On the other hand, far too much adoption is done on the grounds of money...... sometimes there is a reason that the Universe chooses not to allow a person to have a child that is their own. Just saying....

      Be well.

    4. @ Beth: So any sort of disagreeing with your "choice" to give up your child is "flaming?" You said you made a good choice to give your daughter up for adoption. This was during the time you were simultaneously choosing to do drugs, right? Maybe adoption was yet another bad choice that you're trying to justify today to support your life today.

      I'm glad your life has worked out. Your adopted daughter will now face a life of insecurity and abandonment because you chose drugs over her. ~~Mary

    5. @Anonymous Mary .....ew! Why would you come on a public forum and speak to someone that way? @Beth, I know many who are adopted and one friend who chose to give up for adoption in circumstances similar to yours - she was very young when she had her first daughter and decided to have a family adopt her. She now has 2 more children as an adult. While I know she wishes she could go back in time now knowing the mature adult she is able to be, she cannot do this. I don't know the family that adopted her daughter, but I do know what my friend has gone through in the last 17 years. I'm certain that child had a better life, even if she doesn't realize it. So for Mary to judge you or your situation is ridiculous - even if the decision was self-serving at the time (and I'm not implying it was), in the end, it was the right decision. You made the right choice - you wouldn't have changed right away if it took you 10 years to get to a good place. You could not have raised that child in that condition. As Mary so 'delicately' stated, the child may have a sense of abandonment or some other emotional issues, but nothing compared to 10 years of witnessing a mother in a drug induced state, with God knows what going on in the house. No one on this earth is fit to judge you, including Anonymous Mary.

  8. Beth:

    I commend you for your honesty.

    It sounds to me as if the boy most likely was exposed to drugs and alcohol in utro and the parents and doctors were unaware of it, mind you it was in 1988 and the symptoms of FAS/ drug exposure were not the well known ( plus it was a closed adoption). I have seen many teens who were exposed to alcohol and drugs and some of the symptoms they had he had too.

    1. As Gabriel's aunt, I can tell you that we, too, believe that he was probably exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero. I can also tell you that his adopted parents were totally unprepared to deal with the realities of parenting.....and a special needs child really complicated that challenge.

  9. "sometimes there is a reason that the Universe chooses not to allow a person to have a child that is their own."


    By your logic then sometimes there is a reason the universe allows a child to get cancer or suffer some other horrible disease. Maybe the Universe dealt you the hand it did for a reason. Do you see how cruel and unfair your logic is when you look at it in different ways?

    1. Anonymous, I do look at it from different points of view. Seriously, the best parents I know are adoptive parents - which sounds weird coming from a serious anti-adoption person. But if you look at the world the way I REALLY look at it, you start life on a road, no bumps or poor choices made at that time. As you pass through life, your choices make it into a crazed painting of bumps, loops, zig zags and upside down stairs..... Sometimes returning to the path, sometimes not. In the end of life, your choices are your own. You stand in your ending that way... alone and facing the choices you made in life. Thus, the Universe gives you the first path, you choose the rest.

    2. When you put it that way it makes sense. It seemed on the surface that you were implying that those who were born infertile were born that way because they are bad people and thus would be bad parents.

      I agree that we have to make the best of the circumstances we were born with and the circumstances we encounter. There really isn't a straight path unless you are born into something special which is very rare.

    3. Anonymous, no one is born bad.... that is not even real. The truth is we make choices, sometimes they only effect us, sometimes they effect others. There is a reason when nature doesn't make us a parent... and no, not because we are bad people, but because maybe there is another thing in the grand scheme of things that a child would not be part of or that a child that needs something special only we can give needs to be part of... and NO that does not mean adoption, but anyone that needs our help.

      If that makes any sense, I guess I am trying to say that forcing a situation because you think you have to is wrong. That includes adopting simply because you can't have your own. After all, you never know who you are going to touch and where they are going to be part of your life. But we all have a purpose. And no, there is no straight path, past the initial path laid out from conception. Even that one has kinks in it.

    4. Lori,

      I understand what you are saying. But it's so easy for someone who is unable to have children to believe it's because they wouldn't have been a good parent and that they should just stay clear of children. Not everyone in this situation will force becoming a parent through adoption coercion. There are a lot of people who are unable to have children who stay clear or children due to the damage it does to their self confidence and how high a value our society places on those able to have children.

      Though not completely similar, in a way it's like natural mothers who due to their eldest being adopted question their parenting ability for other children they may raise.

      It really is sad that we all can't better support one another regardless of our background.

    5. '...it's so easy for someone who is unable to have children to believe it's because they wouldn't have been a good parent and that they should just stay clear of children...'

      This saddens me, that anyone would think this of themselves.

    6. Anoymous, guess what - I did have a child. I also have been a foster parent with the option to adopt easily. I do not not say that lightly or easily.

      Cherry, it saddens me that parenting, rather than being a good person is the most important thing.

    7. Yes, true too Lori.

    8. Cherry,

      There are a lot of people who are unable to have children that feel that way including myself. We question whether we are good people.


      What I was referring to is having biological kids after adoption and the damage adoption does to women like yourself in birthing and raising those children.

      Also helping children isn't the only way that defines whether a person is good or not. There are elderly, sick people as well as animals in need that can be helped. Is a person not good because they decide to help those groups rather than children?

    9. Anonymous, I wish you didn't doubt yourself. I am sure you are good.

  10. Lori: the best parents you know are adoptive parents ? Is that what you said or am I seeing things ? Please.... you ARE kidding.

    1. I think good parents are good parents, and that sets aside whether they are adoptive parents or otherwise. I know many good parents, and yes, some of them are indeed adoptive parents. I guess I don't understand why you would think that being an adoptive parent automatically disqualifies someone, including me, from being one of the best parents someone knows...?

    2. Julia, I think Lori was talking about a particular couple. She meant that of all the parents she knows, the couple she considers the best happen to be adoptive parents. She wasn't saying that adoptive parents tend to be the best parents.

    3. I was indeed speaking of a particular couple..... NOT a generalized wahoo for adopters.

  11. Adoption makes me angry. Yesterday was an especially anger filled day.

    Of course there are adoptive parents who are good, caring, decent and understanding, such as Tiffany. Believe me when I say that, until I came to FMF, I did not think so. Tiffany, and the other caring adoptive parents who post here....you are the exception to the rule.

    All the adoptive parents I know personally are controlling, manipulative, self-centered....I could go on for hours. A number of the adoptees I know don't even speak to their adoptive parents. My a-mom is still carrying on about how she "suffered consequences" because she got me. How exactly am I supposed to feel about that?

    Yesterday there were posts on Facebook about adoptees searching and thus hurting their adoptive parents. Most of the comments were by non-adoptees who carried on about how wonderful adoption is, while not having a clue. There were posts about "Gotcha Day", which is something only adoptive parents could possible think is a good idea.

    I should have just shut down the computer!

    Adoption is so misunderstood I could scream. No matter how I try to make sense of it, and to get other people to understand it, I get nowhere. It brings out the worst in me and I am about to burst.

    This post about the adoptive parents and how they treated their son brought back so many memories of my dear adopted friend, who had a terrible childhood. The poor girl is so destroyed by the lies and the way her AP's treated her, I don't think she'll ever be whole again.

    There are days when I am so angry and I think adoption should be abolished completely. Yesterday was one of those days. Hopefully today will be better.

    1. Julia Emily, I often feel anger and rage and disgust at the very things you describe. 'Gotcha Day' actually makes me want to puke. The guilt trips laid on adopted people for searching for what is rightfully theirs enrages me. The way natural mothers are treated sickens me. I could say so much more, but I just wanted to let you know you most definitely aren't alone with the feelings you describe.

    2. Thank you, Julia Emily, and I also need to say i was having a rough day yesterday and took your comment far too much to heart. I normally actually would tend to agree with your sentiments because of what I had seen.

      I had been talking to someone and it came up that my littlest is adopted, and that we are in contact with her parents. I referred to them as "her other parents," as is my tendency when not speaking with someone who knows their names, and I got the typical, "Why on earth would you do that? You are her mother, not the woman who gave her up. Giving birth doesn't make you a mother. Getting up at night, changing diapers, being there for them when they are sick- that makes a mother. I could never do what you are doing. I love my children too much to share them. What if they want her back?" I was just so upset. This is why I avoid talking about adoption with people in real life, especially at work- I am confrontational and passionate, but when it is someone I need to continue to have a working relationship with, I feel limited in how much I can say. They made it out as though I am a thoughtless mother who doesn't love my adopted daughter ENOUGH, when the truth is, I love her SO much that I couldn't ever bring myself to deny where she came from or limit her contact with her very kind, very wonderful parents. We don't see enough of them as it is (not by my choice); I would never think of further limiting it. I was just feeling very defensive when I read your comment, and I shouldn't have.

      There was a post on the Today show's fb page about a daughter reuniting with her first mother. The comments were awful; I added my own, but the vast majority were so negative. My husband and I talked about it a couple days ago, and we were both stunned at the level of selfishness displayed. He's pretty pragmatic in his viewpoints; it's not a big, emotional deal to him that his daughter has two fathers and two mothers- it simply is what it is, and all that ever will matter to him is what makes his daughter happy. For me, having given birth and felt that indescribable connection, I just simply cannot fathom denying that my daughter has a right, not just to know her mother, but to have a close and loving relationship with her, if that is what she wants. I will not only not be negative about it, but I will actively support her any way I can. If I didn't, what kind of love is that?

      Cherry, we don't celebrate Gotcha Day. In fact, I am hard pressed to remember the exact date of finalization, although I do remember the month. We were relieved to have the legal aspect taken care of so that our daughter was legally protected (right of inheritance without paying taxes, etc), but that was really it. We consider the day our daughter came home to us to be the day she entered into our family, but it is also the day she left her other family behind. Every year, it is a day of very mixed emotions, and not one we celebrate.

    3. Tiffany, I knew for certain you wouldn't have done the whole Gotcha Day thing.

    4. Hi Tiffany: so glad you are such an understanding person. Thank you. I was really having a rough time the other day. And Cherry: thank you as well. Both of you restore my faith in human nature, I must say!

      Over the last few days I have had confrontational discussions (or have tried to do so) with a number of people about adoption. My a-mother can not understand why my friend would want to meet "those people" she found through DNA testing. You would not believe how she carried on, saying all the things that Tiffany described. A Mother is the one who changed diapers, nursed you when you were sick, all the "consequences" she frequently speaks about.

      My husband's cousin searched and is in close contact with her first family. An aunt of his had me on the phone this week screaming about it, claiming the girl was "killing" her adoptive parents. She wanted me to intervene since I am an adoptee and close to this girl . I tried to speak common sense to her, but could not get a word in. In the end I didn't get a chance to speak at all.

      Then there were the famous posts about Gotcha Day, surrogacy, adoptees who search and hurt their adoptive families. I guess I reached my boiling point!

      I could go into the ongoing debate with my mother-in-law, who is one of those "adoption not abortion" right to lifers who actually goes to DC in January to march. She doesn't have a clue. If she tells me one more time to be happy I was not an abortion I'm going to ban her from my house forever!

      Yep. Adoption....unicorns and rainbows. All these non-adopted people seem to know this for a fact. Why is it that we who are involved in adoption have such a different view? And why will no one listen to us?

    5. JE: You have to deal with so much in your family that it blows me away--not only your parents but also relatives who expect you to keep another adoptee in line! Too bad you can't tell them to do some reading on the subject of identity and connection! "Killing" her adoptive parents--Oh yes, I have heard that. Eons ago I wrote about a friend who, when talking about my finding my daughter, said: What part of your pie chart was NOT selfish when you did that?

      Implying of course, that if I were a selfless person, of course I wouldn't have interfered in the life of a teenager who had serious epilepsy and whose parents and doctor had been trying to reach me....really people are so heartless. It's too bad you couldn't have told the truth to the aunt about your own feelings. As for your own parents, they are closed objects. And your mother-in-law ! You are surrounded by so many people telling you how to think that it is amazing that you are finding your own way, and I salute you.

    6. I salute you too Julia Emily. I would've boiled with all that utter rubbish too. Well done you for keeping steady on your course, and for knowing that you have every right to that which you seek.

    7. JE wrote..."Most of the comments were by non-adoptees who carried on about how wonderful adoption is, while not having a clue."

      Hearing non-adoptees tell me about the experience of adoption as if they know better than I do enrages me more than most anything else. I tell them that what they really know is what the 13 billion dollar a year adoption industry wants them to think. Big Adoption has a big PR machine. They always seem to come back with, "Well, I have a cousin, co-worker, hairdresser, whomever, who is adopted and she's fine with it.". I tell them that if this person isn't really fine with being adopted, she probably wouldn't tell you. I get so sick of non-adoptees being accepted as so-called experts on the subject. They know nothing.

  12. "when he was still suffering a primal wound"

    Is that a fact?

      Clothier. F. MD. 1943.

      Clothier says in her paper in Mental Hygiene (1943). "Every adopted child at some point in his development, has been deprived of this primitive relationship with his mother. This trauma and the severing of the individual from his racial antecedents lie at the core of what is peculiar to the psychology of the adopted child.

      The adopted child presents all the complications in social and emotional development in the own child. But the ego of the adopted child, in addition to all the demands made upon it, is called upon to compensate for the wound left by the loss of the biological mother".

      The child who is placed with adoptive parents at or soon after birth misses the mutual and deeply satisfying mother and child relationship. The roots of which lie deep in the area of personality where the psychological and physiological are merged. Both for the child and the natural mother, that period is part of the biological sequence, and it is to be doubted whether the relationship of the child to it's post partum mother, in its subtler effects, can be replaced by even the best of substitute mothers.

      But those subtle effects lie so deeply buried in the personality that, in the light of our present knowledge, we cannot evaluate them.


    2. If these "subtle effects" cannot be evaluated, which they have not yet been and are not likely to be since they are fundamentally untestable, they cannot add up to an unconditionally established fact.
      It is misleading to suggest that they do.

  13. Lorraine, every word you write is truth. I have three biological children and one adopted child. I love him to the ends of the earth – at least as much as the children I gave birth to. There is no denying that my son suffered greatly because of the separation from his mother, foster care and subsequent international placement with us. Parenting him involves no less love than my daughters but it does require a whole different set of parenting skills and understanding of the loss and grief inherent to adoption.

    I am very grateful that because my husband is an adult adoptee, I had some insight as to the struggle and trauma of being an adopted person but honestly - I had no idea how profoundly it can affect even an infant until my son entered our lives. At 18 months of age after almost a year with us, he was displaying traits of autism and extreme behavioral issues. He could not sleep, or speak or tolerate being held. It was suggested to us that he might end up institutionalized, and doctors told us he had an alphabet soup of conditions (including PDD-NOS). We found a very skilled therapist who taught us a variety of therapeutic parenting strategies and who understood that it was the trauma of being adopted that was affecting my son and that regular “good-enough” parenting was not allowing him to heal. It has taken four years of intense parenting and therapy so far, and my son will deal with the fallout of being adopted for the remainder of his life but for today he is an engaged, loving, bright child with a fighting chance at a happy life.

    We did not sign up for this when we adopted. That is true. It was a bewildering experience as a parent, much as it was when my daughter was born with disabilities. That did not change the fact that we had every responsibility to provide our son with what he needed, and to do whatever necessary to figure out what that was. Part of that was accepting that adoption severely harmed him, and that he needed an abundance of extra love, patience, and skilled parenting as a result. It also means embracing his whole identity beginning with his heritage, his connection to his mother and father, and his very conflicted feelings (even at 6 years old) to being adopted.

    Our experience so far with adoption has solidified for me that adoption must be reserved as an absolute last resort, reserved for children who have no available family. It has led me to fight for unfettered access to original families and identity. Because of current adoption industry practices and discrimination against adopted people he may never be able to find his family – something I believe is crucial to healthy identity development. As much as I love him and I cannot imagine life without him now; I wish he had never been adopted but rather had remained with his original family and not experienced the trauma that being adopted brought him.

    I have tried hard to speak to other APs about these issues, as I know many other adopted children that are struggling, but I am usually rebuffed or accused of being anti-adoption. That’s fine, because I am certainly anti-adoption the way it has been practiced so far. Thank you for addressing the elephant in the room on this issue, and apologies that this got so long!

    1. Kate--I know I am a blubberbuss but when I read this sentence, I got shivers because you state, as caring and committed adoptive parent, married to an adoptee, what so many in the world refuse to believe: Our experience so far with adoption has solidified for me that adoption must be reserved as an absolute last resort, reserved for children who have no available family.

      Just when I feel that hardly anyone believes this, that adoption is good, good, good, you stated what Jane and I here have been trying to tell the world. Thank you for making me feel that our work has not been in vain, and thank you for working to give adoptees their true identities, in the hope that such information, whether good or bad, will alleviate some of the anguish of not knowing and help many find their way to some reconciliation with the realities of their less-than-ideal lives.

      Not that any of us have ideal lives. Everyone's got something.

    2. PS: As for being anti-adoption except in the most extreme cases, welcome to the club!

    3. Kate,

      You, Tiffany and Jay (who also writes here) give me hope. You put your children's needs first, and you don't dismiss or demonize your children's other parents in order to make yourselves feel better.

      I'm not at all surprised that each of you experience resistance and backlash from those who adopt for selfish reasons. You are holding up a mirror to them and their cruel, revolting, entitled behaviours by your own aware, respectful, loving ways.

      Please keep saying what you're saying, even when you feel like you're in a minority. Big changes start small. I often feel very alone in my views about adoption (this blog is such a solace) and I know many adopted people like my son also feel very alone against the wall of misrepresentation. The only way we can counteract that is to keep on saying and writing about our points of view.

    4. Yes, Kate.....you, Tiffany and Jay give me hope as well. It is a good thing I found this forum. You are in the minority, but there are caring adoptive parents out there. You are all proof of it.

      Lorraine: Thank you! When I read your post and took a step back to think about it....I realized that I AM surrounded by a family full of ignorant, opinionated, non-adopted people who know everything! My own AP's....they are what they are. I can't ever get through to them now. But we have so much else going on that we rarely have the time to address adoption anyway. My husband's aunt...that came out of left field! She is an intense personality, and she felt compelled to get on the phone and tell me to stop the hurtful, angry adoptee from "killing" the adoptive parents. She did not come up for air! As I said, I did not manage one word, until the end when I said I did not think it was my place to intervene.

      My mother-in-law....she's another story. Every piece of mail comes with anti-abortion stickers all over it. She hands out pamphlets and bumper stickers proclaiming that adoption is the alternative to abortion. She marches in DC every single year. She's not just a piece of work....she's a masterpiece!

      She is so overbearing it may be part of the reason my own husband doesn't understand.

      It is thanks to FMF that I am able to keep moving forward. It may be baby steps, but they're my baby steps and I will continue to take them. I am still discovering and learning a lot. Huge thanks to all!

  14. It's common and quite popular these days for adoptive parents to address their adopted kids' trauma. I even heard the term "trauma kids." What's strange is that they don't seem to acknowledge that the adoption itself causes trauma; it's always attributed to things that happened prior to adoption.

    If we could get to the point where people accept that the actual adoption is a cause of deep distress for children and mothers, we'd be in a better position to make changes in this system that only sees adoption as good.

    1. Andrea - that is exactly it. But that is never going to happen as long as we place parenting as one of those things that we HAVE to do to be real adults and families. Until then, it is going to be a nightmare.

    2. That's not driven by Adoptive Parents. That is driven by Non Adoptive Parents. It needs to change. But Non Adoptive Parents will never get it.

  15. @ Kate, Tiffany, Jay

    If ever you get an inkling to write a book based on your own experiences and viewpoints as mothers through adoption, don't hold back ;-)

  16. As always, I gain so much from the diverse perspectives on this forum - not just the outstanding bloggers, but the commentators as well!

    Thank you, Cherry and Julia Emily, for thinking of me from time to time. While I continue to follow this blog faithfully, I've had some pretty intense work demands of late that take up a lot of my time outside of family. It's a good thing, because we need the money, but it takes me away from letting you all know I think of you and send you my support as well.

    Cherry, I have thought about writing a book and I probably will, one day. My hope is that it will be read by two loves of my life: Nina, my former foster daughter, and Lenny, my adopted son. If others gain something from it, it would be a bonus, but the book would be written for Nina and Lenny.

    Julia Emily, I completely understand your thoughts about not wanting the institution of adoption to exist at all. I feel that way more and more, of late. I think the current legal framework makes it such that for children who truly need a home away from their biological parents, adoption offers the best protections, rights and sense of stability for the children. But that is no excuse for adoption to exist. I think we should push for ways that children without homes can be offered all the privileges of those living with their biological parents, without having them give up their original family name(s), an acknowledgement of where they come from. I didn't always feel this way, but I definitely do, of late.

    Yesterday my husband and I were at an all-day seminar for foster parents, and it brought me out of my recent sense of defeat over not having a chance to continue to help Rayna and Nina. Nina's first foster mother, Crystal, was there, she had not seen Nina since she was a baby and got placed with us. She was delighted that I could show her a recent picture of Nina, and we shared stories of her. As I sat there talking with Crystal, it made me feel a sense of community, a community that came together for a family in need, a family that is now together again. And Crystal made me feel encouraged that we did indeed make a difference, that we helped them regain some stability. Crystal has since fostered several other children, and she convinced me that I could do the same, that you do help families in the process. I met other remarkable families too - one had helped reunify 27 children with their biological families.

    Another family had taken care of a little girl since she was 5 days old. The little girl, now 11 months old, could not be reunified with her biological parents, so the family was getting ready to adopt her....until, just days ago, the county identified a biological aunt who can provide a home for the girl. This couple was in the process of helping the aunt get to know the little girl, to love her as they loved her. It reminded me of transitioning Nina, and I felt solidarity with them. I returned from the seminar at peace, feeling joy to belong to this community, feeling encouraged that family preservation can happen, feeling encouraged that I did something good for Rayna, even though she may not feel that way right now.

    Big hugs to all, thank you FMF for constantly challenging our thinking in this area.

    1. Hi Jay: So good to see you! I, too, hope you will write that book. Your experiences with your foster daughter and adopted son should be shared. It takes a really special person to do what you did for Nina. A very strong, understanding, caring person. Not too many of us are that strong.

      Lenny, also, is very lucky to have you. You understand the problems specific to adoption. Not too many adoptive parents even understand that there ARE problems at all.

      I am with you about adoption being necessary when a child or baby actually NEEDS a home and has no family who can step in and care for them. That , of course, is the only reason adoption should exist, and it can work. When I think of the huge industry it has become I get extremely angry.

      This is why I say adoption is so misunderstood. The idea behind it is a good one. Providing a home for a child with no family is a wonderful thing, if done correctly. To provide babies as products to people who just feel they are entitled to have one is wrong.

      How did the tables get turned this way?

    2. Your lovely post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for your insights Jay.

    3. Jay: So glad you are back and it is always refreshing and hopeful to read your perspective--and I hope that other people like you (foster parents, adoptive parents) find your insights helpful and move along the thinking to a more open perspective about the contact between natural and adoptive/foster families.

  17. But @Julia Emily,

    In the same logic, I could say that every single Birth Mother I have known was careless, immature, selfish and not ready to parent the child they relinquished or gave up for adoption. I could go on....EVERY SINGLE ONE I have met in person, especially of a certain age. I have been told by young birth mothers that they just wanted to make a baby to trap a man or have unconditional love or be able to skip school or earn some respect.......and more. These are true comments. I work in a counseling capacity and often aid them in helping them find their way to healthy parenting once the 'fantasy' of parenting wears off. Sadly, many young woman believe they will end up on Teen Mom with instant celebrity; their reality is so different and yes, so difficult.

    And yet....I would never generalize that all First Parents are this way. Never! I have seen examples here and fully expect that many of these young Moms will one day mature and become dependable parents.

    In the same vein, though your experiences have been to witness nasty Adoptive Parents, it might be that you are seeing them through your own lens of disappointment and hatred towards adoption. That's okay too....but generalizing the entire group save for one or two AP's you seem to trust on this forum, not so much.

    I've also noticed that whenever something positive is shared about adoption or the conversation allows for mutual understanding between commenters, you seem to need to remind everyone about the evils of adoption and your personal horrendous situation.

    I am sorry for your losses and hope things work out for you....but please remember you don't speak for us all - not even all birth moms OR adoptees. Of which I happen to be both.

    Thank you,


    1. Sue: I will continue to generalize, as you call it, because all of my experience with adoption has been negative. I am not speaking for anyone, I am stating my experiences. I happen to know a lot of adoptive families. And all of their experiences were/are negative. The one "happy adoptee" that I grew up with had an a-mother so overbearing it's a miracle the man can tie his own shoes.

      I am seeing facts, not through a "lens of disappointment", but finally through my own eyes clearly....without any fog. Finally. It's about time.

      Lorraine states at the top of this forum that it is a place to "vent." When I state my experiences, that is what I am doing. if it bothers you, then please skip those parts.

      If you will allow me to write one more personal experience: I had a cousin in my huge, extended adoptive family with whom I "clicked". She was also adopted, and was about 10 years older than me. We always got along. We confided in one another and were quite close. She was a master at the adoptee game of pretend....outwardly always appearing happy and well adjusted. Until she committed suicide 4 years ago.

      Is closed, secret, money driven adoption a negative thing? You bet.

    2. @ Sue

      Your comment comes across to me as patronising. And controlling. And insincere.

      I agree with very much of what Julia Emily says.

      I did not start out with my current views about adoptive parents. In fact, I had no negativity whatsoever. I cared very much about my son's adoptive mum's feelings at the outset of our reunion.

      After four years of hearing the worst, most unjust, most outrageous things anyone has ever said about me, I no longer care.

      In that four years, I found out that my son's adoptive mother's views weren't the aberration of a particularly poisonous individual - they were widespread across the Internet. Other women who'd lost their children like me also experienced the added blows, the deep blows, of being treated so despicably by the women who had adopted their children.

      The shock was that these weren't one-offs. They were part of a pattern of behaviour - of despicable, cruel, selfish behaviour. I simply couldn't believe that so many people were behaving in this way, and that this way of behaving was viewed as acceptable and understandable. It is a culture that rises like a stench from the adoption forums.

      This is why I find your comment - that Julia Emily's views may have arisen from individual disappointment etc - so offensive. It sounds like a variant of the 'well, just because YOU'VE had a bad experience doesn't mean'...blah blah.

      And your judgement about what is and what is not okay to say - really, who appointed you as referee? This is a place where so many of us who remain silent in the face of alsorts of personal injustice and pain can come and say how it really is.

      I dread to think what you are telling the women you encounter in a counselling environment. You would do well to brush up your counselling skills by really listening, instead of rodeoing people's genuine feelings into something neat and well-behaved, like astro-turfing the wilderness. Maybe that makes you feel safer, but it isn't real.

    3. Sue, Adoption for the wrong reasons HURTS children, not helps. who is to decide that the child, human is "better off" with stranger families. The young first mother who really does not have a clue and is being convinced she is not good enough, rich enough, old enough, smart enough for her own child? While of course, their are egar PAPS waiting in the wings! Maybe adoption worked out great for you but again you can't speak for all of us. Many of us DID have great adoption experiances. Does not mean I wanted to be banished from my biofamily and lose all that goes with it. Not that I may have been given the security i needed, but then treated as a frekl show from society. Does,t mean that I always felt my bio was not good enough for my adoptive family, Adoption, at first glance IS BAD. because a child needs it. Its a tragedy that a child is losing mother and a family, then when they go back to find, or are brought up not living but kmowing their family does nothingbut cause confusion, loyality issues, and an inability to "put it all together". the best scenario is for babes to stay with their mothers unless its a last resort due to real neglect and abuse. The first choice should be for the child to be born and raised in the same family...its only normal. I do understand how an adoptee that had "good adoptive parents" might feel that adoption is good...I use to feel the same way when i totally was in the fog. The brain washing about adoption is relentless . To me it stems from a society that thinks new human beings are interchangable and will be "just fine" if passed around like a football, only to keep the adults happy. the guise used is best interst of the child

      BTW...if you really research how adoptees feel I think you will find the JulieEmily feelings are very common. But many of us are not allowed to voice them. the defensivness of first mothers, adoptive mothers, other adoptees and society shuts the very [peole that they should all be listening to. Very scary for some to hear the truth.

    4. Thank you, Cherry: I found Sue's comment offensive as well, obviously. The treatment of you by your son's adoptive parents is inexcusable. But, as you say, it is not uncommon. I shudder to think what my adoptive parents might have ever said to my first mother, had the opportunity presented itself!

      dpen: You hit the nail on the head by saying it is very scary for some people to hear the truth.

      When my fellow-adoptee cousin sat in her idling car in a closed garage 4 years ago, the entire family was shocked. I wasn't, because she had confided in me her feelings about her closed adoption. She stated all the same reasons that now anger me, but at the time I was still in a semi-fog. I did try to tell my own AP's some of what she had said to me over the years. I was cut-off in mid sentence. It could not be that she was unhappy about her situation. Her parents gave her everything. What was wrong with me?

      Now I realize that nothing was wrong with me. They did not want to hear the truth. Nobody did. The non adopted members of the extended family would not acknowledge that the many details of her adoption could have led to her suicide.

      As Robin said.....there is not much in this world that bothers me more than the non-adopted experts pontificating about adoption. It makes me want to scream..

      Thanks, all, for the kind support!

    5. Oh Julia Emily, you write so powerfully. Your words about your cousin show so well how inhumane the invention of adoption is.

    6. Julia Emily, Sue is as much an expert on adoption as you, if not more so She said she is a adoptee and a birth mom. She like you can offer her opinion here, Not agreeing with the norm here generally means being called names and insecure and in the fog ... but her experiences are surely as valid as yours, even if different. Pilgrim

    7. Sorry, Anon, but I am not buying it. Sue's comment was offensive. Who is she to tell me I am viewing adoption through a "lens of disappointment" ? And who is she to tell me whether I should or should not post personal stories and experiences. I am relaying these experiences so that people can see firsthand what adoption is really about. Again, if certain people are bothered by my posts, skip them. Simple as that.

  18. Adoption did not make this tragedy happen. Ignorance did. All of us have a difficult time finding ourselves at that age. Many of us used drugs to cope. Nothing here is special to adoption cases. Sure, the parents should have talked to him about the adoption and found the mother, if the son wanted to. But nothing in a situation like this makes sense. How were they supposed to know? Its a long reach if you want to blame adoption for the loss of this individual. I am a "first" mother, and I go to great lengths to make sure my son knows how much I love him and that he is the most important force in my life. Its sad that he did not know that of this "first" mother, but to blame adoption for his problems is a stretch. I understand that adopted children are prone to feelings of abandonment (among other feelings), that is why it is our responsibility as "first" mothers to be there for our children, in any and every way we can. I am always there for my son, just like his parents. Again, the problem here is ignorance, not adoption.

  19. The problem is the kid is dead. Probably lived with memories unresolved. Adoption was the first issue and then more piled on. Sad.

  20. I agree that adolescence and young adulthood can be tough for many people but I believe that there is something different about adoption cases - particularly in cases of closed adoptions and un-reunited (is that a word?) adoptees. Forming your own identity is the cornerstone of adolescence, and I think that can be exceptionally difficult for adoptees that do not know where they came from, and who have no genetic "mirror." My child already struggles with not looking like anyone, he noticed the other day that his toes are different than everyone else in our family. It bothered him a lot. Little things like that pop up a lot.

    My husband (also adoptee) returns to the country of his birth, where he spent the first ten years of his life living with his large, loving family and he doesn't really fit in there anymore...life went on without him. He says it is like walking among ghosts...people he remembers but no longer knows. He can't even speak the language well enough to really communicate. His mother doesn't understand his mannerisms or life choices, as things are very different in his home country. Cultural misunderstandings create issues in the relationship that feel insurmountable at times. He also struggled throughout his teens and early twenties with depression and thoughts of suicide, feeling that he had been abandoned because he was worthless. (And, it was a really bad adoption so no sense of family from his adopter.)

    For some adoptee friends who do know their natural family, there is a sense of being in the wrong place...there was this whole other life that they were supposed to live.

    I'm not saying that all adoptees feel this way, but the studies consistently tell us that adoptees tend to struggle more than children raised in their natural families.

    The more I learn about brain development in children and the effects of removing an infant from his/her mother, the more I believe that adoption in and of itself is traumatic for a child and can have lasting effects. Children have varying levels of resilience and I think that some children heal, but the trauma is real. One of my biggest issues with adoption is that it systemically causes trauma to the very children it purports to help, and there is a lot of denial about that and very little help for them after the adoption.

    I hope someday my son is able to have a relationship with his family, and answers to all of his questions.

  21. Kate: Thanks for the comment. Some think our writing is only about the trauma first mothers face, but as time has gone on, so many adopted people have widened the perspective of what it is like to be adopted. As you say, not all adoptees feel alienated, but such a great many do that as you said, adoption should be a measure of last resort in only the most trying of circumstances. Thanks so much for your input here.

  22. Kate, thank you your very valuable input here. Gives me lots of useful fodder for thought that hopefully will guide me to be a better adoptive parent.

    I have read a bit about Edward Hirsch, and I have no doubt that he is shattered by the loss of Gabriel. His writings reflect his terrible pain. But I, like Jane, cannot help but notice that "adoption" appears to have been overlooked as an important aspect of who Gabriel was. At the foster parent seminar I attended on Saturday, lots was said about the fallout from breaking the "first attachment" in both foster and adopted children, even if is done immediately after birth. While Edward Hirsch loved Gabriel, it does appear that his Gabriel's status as an adoptee was not considered to the extent it should have.

    Jenny Reese commented that adoption did not cause Gabriel's problems. That is not the point I gleaned from Jane's post. No human behavior can be explained away by a single trait. I, for one, hate when my adopted son happens to misbehave and people are quick to say dismissively, "Oh, it's because he is adopted." But Jane's point, as I see it, is that adoption is an important factor that cannot be ignored when characterizing an adoptee's motivations, behavior, etc. With that, I have to agree, and I am deeply sorry (and surprised) that it is an aspect that Gabriel's adoptive parents may have overlooked.

    1. Jay, long before I gave up my daughter, I heard people attribute a child's misbehavior to his being adopted. I think though they did not make the connection to the status of being adopted. Rather, they had a perception which I shared that adopted children are the only children of wealthy doting parents and consequently "spoiled."

      Having grown up in a family of five children where money and parental attention was always short, I thought my daughter would benefit by being spoiled from being an only child of wealthy doting parents. She was actually adopted by parents who already had three children and was not spoiled a bit.

      Thanks for your clarifying what I wrote. Adoption is a status which causes issues the non-adopted don't have. Adoption like other conditions is not destiny. Adoption is something therapists need to put into the equation.

    2. That's interesting, Jane - and you are so right about adoption creating its own unique set of issues.

      In my son's case, I have found that assumptions are made about him, not because he is perceived as "spoiled" but because he was adopted from foster care and therefore must be from an "inferior" background. People assume he will have certain behavioral traits. When he threw occasional tantrums as a toddler, which most toddlers do, people would ask whether it is because his mom used drugs (they assumed he was in foster care because his mom used drugs, I have not said a word to anyone regarding the particulars of his family). When he accomplishes something good, I have had neighbors say things like "Wow, that is amazing considering, you know, where he came from." I want to say his genetics are human, just like the rest of us. If anything, some of his amazing qualities he could never have inherited from my husband and I, if he was our biological child. So, I am appalled at the ignorant people I encounter who seem to think their children are genetically and socially superior because they have not been in foster care.

  23. Lorraine,

    Thank you for your kind words. I think the world generally hears way TOO much from adoptive parents, so I try to do a lot of listening and less talking. I've learned an awful lot from adoptees and mothers over the years, and I'm grateful to all of you for sharing things that are often both painful and personal. People are listening...even if it isn't always easy for them to hear.


  24. Thank you Kate. I'm glad you're here.

  25. I heard an interview with Mr. Hirsch on NPR a couple days ago. He discussed Gabriel, his life and death and read excerpts from his book. He was very eloquent and his story was heartbreaking. Not once, not ever, did he mention Gabriel was adopted. It was quite fascinating to me. You can listen to it here:

    1. Thanks for the link, h20_girl. I got to read the transcript. Indeed he writes eloquently about the burden of grief, how "almost everyone carries bags of cement on their shoulders" and it takes courage to "climb into the day".

      @Lorraine, "Why surprised? If it didn't come out in the article in the New Yorker, it was unlikely to come out in anything else."
      I don't understand. The fact that Hirsch and his wife adopted Gabriel is clearly stated in the New Yorker "Finding the Words" article. Maybe I'm missing something.


    2. I was referring to the fact that neither Hirsch or his wife or the therapists talk about Gabriel's adoption as part of his burden of issues. According to Kirschner, people often bring their children in for therapy and mention as kind of a BTW, he's adopted, as they are walking out as if that really isn't a factor.

  26. Why surprised? If it didn't come out in the article in the New Yorker, it was unlikely to come out in anything else.

    David Kirschner in his book has the best commentary on that. Parents don't want to think that there is anything different about being adopted from being born to. But they must know. Somewhere. I hope that younger adoptive parents are different, and some that comment here are.

    Hirsch and his ilk are the type who really should have biological children if they have them at all. I heard last night about a relatively famous writer who adopted from Cambodia but now the girl .... has nothing to do with the adoptive mother and is never mentioned.

  27. Lorraine, one thing about the Hirsch story that struck me was how easily he and his then-wife gave up on helping their Gabriel prepare for a bar mitzvah. It takes more preparation than just dropping off a kid at Sunday school on the odd Sunday morning and hoping it takes.

    One of my sons lives with what a number of doctors, educators, and diagnosticians have referred to as "off the charts ADHD and learning disabilities." And yet he became bar mitzvah, complete with chanting in Hebrew from the Torah portion. Why? Because that goal was important to everyone around him, and to him as well. I have read of, and seen, young men and women with far more profound developmental disabilities than my own son's who celebrated bar or bat mitzvahs tailored to their abilities and skill sets. If it's important to the family and the community, they will join forces and see that the struggles turn to joy on this day of days.

    Also lost--perhaps because my guess is that Alec Wilkinson isn't Jewish, and thus the issue didn't come up--in the story's unasked questions was this one: I'm guessing that the couple who conceived Gabriel Hirsch is/was not Jewish. Did his aparents make an active effort to have him converted? It's quite a simple process for a newborn, in which an aparent carries the infant into the mikveh (ritual bath), and immerses him/her while repeating the prayers led by the rabbi(s) presiding. Even the least observant Jewish aparents I've known have made sure that their achildren born to Gentile parents followed this step. Did the Hirsches? And if not, why not... as a newborn, Gabriel was not manifesting any behaviors that would have prevented it.

    For them not to have their adopted son converted, to welcome him into the Jewish community to stand alongside them as their son--tenuous as their own links to the community might be--strikes me as a distancing gesture, one that pushes Gabriel away rather than drawing him closer, as they would have "a child of their own." Like the ones their friends were having. The ones who applied and were accepted to private schools and big-name universities, the ones who could put an internship with one of Mom or Dad's friends on the CV, the ones who wore the mortarboards and squinted, grinning into the cameras in the bright June sunlight.

    No, they "didn't sign up" for what Gabriel Hirsch brought them. But bioparents don't sign up for it either, and if I sound a trifle harsh on the Hirsches, I'm sorry. We get what we get: Then what do we do?

  28. Amen. One of my wise friends--Betty Friedan--once said to a group of people at our house: When the kid turns out great, everything is fine/ As soon as there is a problem--it's because he/she is adopted and who knows about the birth parents?

  29. The book is out and reviewed here:

    Mining the Depths of Loss, Faith and Mortality
    New York Times ‎- 19 hours ago
    The poet Edward Hirsch's son, Gabriel, was a handful, and the author and others had many private names for him. Did Gabriel have Tourette's ...

  30. I feel for the mother and father of Gabriel, but as a person who has worked with teens/young adults, his behavior ( drugs, acting-out and consistent crying when an infant) sounds like he was born with drugs or alcohol in his system. I think ( as stated before in my earlier post) that because the adoption was closed and symptoms of fetal alcohol/drug use was unknown back then. Gabriel's parents were basically left on their own to seek help. Long story short, I DON'T think adoption was the problem, I think being exposed to drugs & alcohol was.

  31. As an adoptive mother, I find this, and the comments, excrutiating to read. Based on this article alone, the adoptive parents failed their son many times over. I also understand that at least some of this boy's problems might have had genetic underpinnings and they were completely unprepared to deal with psychologically-impaired child. Had the adoption been open and had they had information on the child's medical history, they might have been able to make better decisions on his behalf. More than anywhere else, though, I lay blame on the adoption "professionals" who allow ANYONE to adopt a child without a thorough education on the affects of adoption on that child. Adoption, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. There ARE children in this world who need families, who can't be cared for in their families of origin. This is a fact. But when money turns adoption into a "transaction," the child's well-being is never the focus. And it should ALWAYS be the focus. My own daughters are in college and high school, and we've talked about their birthfamilies, altho' we have no real information, since before they could talk. We honor them. They grieve what they never knew, and we grieve for the birthfamilies, that for some cosmic reason, I am the one blessed with seeing these girls grow up and they are not. It is not the same as parenting children born to you. It simply isn't. And until adoptive parents accept that and embrace that our journey is different, the Gabriels of the world will be the ones who suffer. For them, my hearts breaks most.

  32. The sounds a lot like my adopted brother. He had the trauma of adoption on top of possibly something pregnancy related. We are baby scoop era adoptees. Adoption sucks.



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