Since Dec 15, 2000
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Strengthening Families ~ Fr. Tom Brosnan ~ Keynote address, 5/25/96, Catholic Charities USA, 1996 National Maternity and Adoption Conference San Antonio, Texas
The Catholic Bishops of the United States have done just that in their recently published Book of Blessings. Among the many rituals is one entitled "Blessing for Parents and an Adopted Child". The prayer begins: "It has pleased God our heavenly Father to answer the earnest prayers of (this couple) for the gift of a child..." Despite the feeling of joy the words are meant to instill there remains the unasked question, have the events which preceded this adoption ritual, namely the relinquishment of the child by his mother, has that also pleased God? What is missing is any reference to what has had to have taken place in order for this joyful blessing to occur. There is no mention, no acknowledgment of Loss, of the relinquishment that had to have occurred in order for the adoption to have taken place. . . .
For the adoptee, life is adoption. I think this is true whether an adopted person admits it or not. There is always either an active curiosity about where you came from or a strong denial of any desire to know. If anyone asked me while I was in my teens or twenties if I wanted to know who my birth mother was I would have vehemently said "no, of course not." It took me over thirty years to realize what I needed to do. It is the adoptee's dilemma of belonging and not-belonging, struggling between the need to know and misguided feelings of loyalty and gratitude. I can never forget the experience I had when I began my search for my mother over ten years ago. Before I found her I discovered that her brother was a Jesuit priest who had died rather young at Georgetown University. One day I got in the car and drove down to Georgetown. I visited my uncle's grave and decided to ring the bell of the Jesuit residence. The priest who answered turned out to be not only my uncle's classmate but his best friend, having grown up with him in Philadelphia. Fr. Dineen was a very kind man and I spent the entire day with him listening to the many stories he longed to tell of my uncle and their friendship. After dinner he invited me to his room, "to see some old photos," he said. As we were about to open the album, it suddenly dawned on me that this would be the first time in my 33 years of life that I was to see someone related to me. Just last week I had a similar experience when I met with my mother's roommate, Sophia, the roommate she was living with when carrying me. This was our third meeting since my mother's death and Sophia said she had brought me a present. She took out a photograph she said she found accidently. It was a picture of both my mother and father, cheek to cheek, posing in one of those quick-picture booths. I secretly wondered as I studied their faces whether I was there too, still unseen, but forever a part of their lives. The losses suffered in adoption are also always there, whether we acknowledge them or not.
FOR THE RECORDS: RESTORING A RIGHT TO ADULT ADOPTEES Please take note of the points under Principal Findings.
Yeah, you read right. Adoptions SUCKS.
Before you write me off as an 'ungrateful, bitter' adoptee, I want to ask you something: do you, as a conservative truly believe in the individual and how we must work to keep the State from controlling the individual? If the answer is yes, then you should know that as an adoptee, I am considered a ward of the state.
Oh sure sure, all the legal stuff was taken care of. I have a birth certificate. Nothing under the table.
But my BC was AMENDED. It does NOT show the name of the people who gave birth to me. Adoptees have TWO birth certificates, and the one thats amended is the one that is presented as the 'legitimate' one.
Unless there is a question about my origins of birth. In which case, I face the real possibility of having to prove my citizenship where it was previously assumed. Which means I have to obtain my ORIGINAL BC.
And the State gets to decide whether or not an adoptee can do that.
I grew up in a decent family, well loved by my Aparents, I dont have a THING to complain about...except the fact that 1) they can see other members of their family and know something about their past, right down to the day they were brought home and 2) they can ask for their Original Birth certificate ANY TIME THEY WANT.
Me, though? I have to know the name of my natural mother before I can get that information. Im lucky. In my case, I was able to get my Original Birth Certificat, and that was because I at least had my natural mother's name. I dont know the natural father's name. And even if I didnt know, in the state of Texas, I would NOT be allowed to obtain it until I did have one of those names.
But even in Texas, I'm luckier than a lot of adoptees. Only six states in the union allow unfettered access to the OBC. All the others FORBID the adoptee their records, unequivacobly, without any excuse.
Why, you ask? To 'protect the privacy of the natural mother.'
Guess where that privacy right comes from.
You guessed it. Roe v. Wade.
Now, as a conservative, you need to ask yourself: should an adoptee simply be SO GRATEFUL for being "saved" that they should never question the State and the right to their own OBC, indeed, to their own SELF-DETERMINATION in WHO THEY ARE AND WHERE THEY CAME FROM, that they willingly submit to the position of the State of being a Forever Child? I am 41 yrs old. I have a wonderful husband, and one child. I stay at home and homeschool, but I am also attending classes, because one day, my child will be out on her own, I would like to get back into the work force. I will pay taxes when I do. All the things that all you Fully Realized Human Beings do in this great country.
Except the State classifies me as a child dependent upon the good will and judgement of others before I can have what rightfully belongs to me.
And by "me" I mean other adoptees as well. As I mentioned, I was able to get my OBC after all. But it wasnt that long ago, when I knew NOTHING, and had to go begging to the adoption agency that handled me to get that information. Should I simply feel grateful and move on? Or should I try to help other adoptees who have not been as lucky?
These are things that possess my mind as I try to answer questions, not only for myself, but my own child, who will someday have the same questions. Im HER family. I ought to know. And since I am a conservative, I have been and will continue to teach her the Value of Life. You will never hear me say it is better to abort. It is NEVER wrong to choose Life.
But that brings me to the rest of the things I want to say about adoption, and its aimed directly at you conservatives as well...and you wont like what I have to say.
Some people, notably conservatives, have been running around talking about how BRAVE and NOBLE adoption is. This makes me want to laugh and puke at the same time. BRAVE?! NOBLE?! For whom? The adopter?
"But theyve saved the child from an awful childhood" you say. How do you know? Have most adopters MET the mother? Or did they get that information from the agency/agent they dealt with?
And isnt it convenient that they willingly allow the natural mother to be dehumanized, made irrelevant to the Triad, dismiss the trauma of giving up a baby, and the subsequent sorrow that will surely follow...maybe not right away, but eventually. Oh sure, just as we are shocked to hear of women who are glad they got an abortion, conservatives are just as willing to praise the mother who 'did the right thing' and give her blood connection over to strangers. Dont think I dont realize that there are natural mothers who will say they are glad to have done it. I know a few adoptees who have been having to deal with natural mothers who say that. I also know that adopters are quite willing to belittle the natural mother as soon as her back is turned. I also know there are quite a few families that have not kept up their promise to keep in touch with the natural mother.
Adoption is NOT a "noble" thing.
God bless you, my fellow conservatives, but I am getting sick and tired of hearing how BRAVE and how NOBLE someone is for adopting. YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE IN THE TRIAD WHO GETS TO BE FULLY HUMAN!! YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE IN THE TRIAD WHO DESERVES TO HAVE THEIR GRIEF ACKNOWLEDGED.
Being an adoptee is about GRIEF, not GRATITUDE, and the sooner you conservatives realize that, the sooner the Triad will find some way of peace.
As an adoptee, I KNOW how to be grateful, and to Whom I should be grateful, and I promise you, HE would NEVER advocate a deliberate separation of a child from its mother. And before you give me the dreck about that little line in one of Paul's letter, I think you need to go look up what adoption really meant in his times. The Romans NEVER made the child cut off ties from his original family. EVER. The Romans NEVER denied the original family access to their offspring. It infuriates and embarrasses me that my fellow conservatives would claim to be for life, and yet use a life (the adoptee) to gratify themselves in how noble and brave they are.
Infertility does NOT entitle you to someone else's baby.
And how is it noble to take a child you had no part in making and make them live the lie of tabula rasa? You guys need to get THAT concept ditched as soon as possible and understand NO CHILD IS TABULA RASA. You cannot imprint upon them what you had no part in generating. Once you realize this, you will find it easier to accept the adoptee when they act out or do things that you find incomprehensible. And you will understand then, I hope, that when they do act out, it is quite possibly out of grief.
You need to acknowledge their grief! Learn the stages of grief. If youve ever lost someone dear to you, you know what that grief entails. Adoptees and natural mothers are NO DIFFERENT. We are NOT subhuman!
And brave?! Why should you be called BRAVE?! Is that stranger's child so scary? I can imagine it would be...you had no part in making him/her. You dont know the genetics, or the personality. But brave? Thats a word applied to a knight who faces a dangerous dragon, or a soldier fighting off the Taliban. Do you understand what saying an adopter is brave is implying? That the child is inherently bad/broken/inadequate. According to some FReepers Ive seen comment on adoptees who act out, downright evil. Bad seeds.
So easy to dismiss as ungrateful, isnt it?
Truth is, an adoptee IS broken, in ways that so few people understand. To understand HOW broken, I suggest reading "Primal Wound" by Nancy Verrier.
And if you really DO want to be considered brave, learn something about the women who give up their children. You will find that much fo the time they are NOT crack whores, or abusive molesters, or the bottom of the barrel in society. They walk among us. And they suffer the same kind of grief that a woman who aborts does. The difference is, the natural mother has a chance to look her offspring in the eye and know that Life is better. But its gonna take the adopters to find the BRAVERY to do it, especially since they put themselves in the middle of the mother and child. This is what you really ask for when you chose to adopt. You don't SAVE anything, not even a place in heaven. You just make yourselves arbiters in an extremely vulnerable dynamic.
As for me and my adoption, Ive come out of the fog after 40 years. I hurt in ways most of you will never understand. I am missing things about myself in ways that you take for granted. And yet *I* and so many other adoptees who feel the same way are only allowed the emotion of GRATITUDE. GRATITUDE should NEVER be imposed. WE know how to be grateful. And it isnt because we are no longer connected to our past.
Comments on Amazon:
....According to Verrier, the effects of that trauma are made worse by the fact that, for the most part, those effects are unrecognized not only by society as a whole, but also by the adoptees themselves. Adoptees whose trauma goes unrecognized are not able to grieve the loss of their birth mothers, which leaves them alone to struggle with the potentially debilitating issues that arise from their unresolved grief. One of the most important functions this book performs is to acknowledge and thereby validate the often silent suffering of adoptees, which may then allow adoptees to begin the process of healing both themselves and their relationships with others.
I've seen BOTH ends of this dilemma. I was abandoned as an infant by my mother and I adopted two children. This book is written by someone who clearly understands how deep the wounding is for any child who has suffered abandonment at the hands of a mother--regardless of whatever "good" reasons there might have been. Not only do I now understand more clearly what happened to me, I have a far clearer understanding of the bonding difficulties that were faced by our now-grown adopted children.
This is must reading, not only for children who have been abandoned and struggling adoptive parents, but for the many "love will conquer all" social workers who too often blame adoptive parents for not doing enough--or enough of it. If you've walked the road, this book will speak to you.
The book starts out and seems heavily on the negative side, with no hope, but plug through, and the hope is offered. So far, from personal experience, there can be deep relationship with adopted children, but you cannot raise them the same as you would your own biological children. You may love them the same, and see them as no different. But it makes all the difference in the world, to thier world, how you deal with their specific issues.
I would suggest that you read the entire book through and then concentrate on part two and on to the end, and read it several times, underlining areas you want to return to and study more. Read it with an open mind. As with any book, there will be areas in which you disagree, but that doesn't mean the book doesn't have value. I appreciate Nancy Verrier's work and have recommended it to my sister in law who has struggled with her own adoption all of her life.
An infant knows its own mother at birth: smell, voice, heartbeat, energy, skin, etc. Senses the adoptive mother as the wrong mother (not a bad mother).
The child comes into the family traumatized by the separation from the mother.
No matter what we call it (relinquishment, surrender), the child feels abandoned.
The natural order of things is interrupted: may affect child's understanding of cause and effect.
Infant cannot make sense or integrate what has happened to him: world unsafe ... chaos, confusion.
The child is grieving. Mother needs to notice signs: seems sad, depressed, daydreams (dissociation).
Fears another abandonment: anxious, hypervigilant. clingy.
Somatic responses to anxiety may include: irritability, gastrointestinal problems, projectile vomiting, asthma, rashes, sleep disturbance, etc. Often an elevation in pulse rate, blood pressure.
Affect: rage, sadness, fear, numbness, dissociation, constriction, depersonalization.
Adoptive mother cannot mirror the child as birthmother could have: no genetic markers.
Bonding with adoptive mother will be difficult: fear of another abandonment. Anxious attachment (clinging) is not same as bonding. Bonding is enhanced by a mother's understanding, acknowledging, and validating her child's feelings (rather than discounting, defending against, or giving assurances).
Lack of genetic markers makes the child feel as if she doesn't fit, doesn't belong. Child has to figure out how to be in the family. Hypervigilant. Tries to adapt.
As child begins to adapt, he forms a false self. Begins to lose authentic self. Becomes a "chameleon."
Child copes with pain of loss in one of two ways: compliance, acquiescence, and withdrawal, or aggression, provocation, and acting out. If two adoptees in family, there is usually one of each. Behavioral methods of coping have nothing to do with the child's basic personality. May trade off.
Children are not a "blank slate" at birth. Most of personality traits are genetic (but personality must be distinguished from behavioral coping style.) Adoptive parents cannot expect the child to be like them.
And do you know what the ULTIMATE cruelty is for the adoptee? Not that he is forced to ONLY feel grateful, but that he has to CHOOSE love.
For you married FReepers...did you have to choose which parents you would love?
No. I didnt think so. Im married myself. I dont always like my inlaws and the way they do things, but as my husbands wife who promised to LOVE in sickness and in health, I CANNOT CHOOSE. I LOVE BOTH SIDES.
But all too often an adoptee HAS TO CHOOSE, and the FEEL that choice, regardless of how loving or neglectful/rejecting you are. Sometimes, I think its worse for those adoptees who grew up with Aparents who treated them the right way and were Good Parents. Youve no idea the feeling of disloyalty and anguish an adoptee feels in having to be in the middle. And when an adoptee tries to talk about it PEOPLE TELL THEM THEY SHOULD SHUT UP AND BE GRATEFUL!!!