adult adoption

Separated by adoption reality: the adoptive parent experience

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Today, I had a conversation with a woman (whom I will call Helen) who had adopted a newborn 19 years ago. This child had behavioural problems while growing up, and the parents despaired. Eventually, the adoptive parents contacted the natural mother (“birthmother”) with hopes that the daughter would be “fixed” by some form of contact, and a reunion happened when the girl was 16.

And then, when the daughter was 18, she moved back in to live with her natural mother and full brother.

Helen is in shock. No-one had warned her that this would happen. I won’t elaborate on the contents of our conversation, as I respect her confidentiality, but it was clear that the agency she had obtained this baby from had not told her that the child could ever do this. In essence, this family was put together by the adoption industry, and then separated by adoption reality.

There is a sales-pitch that the industry promotes and tells to people hoping to adopt, manipulating them so that they will indeed hand over money ($25,000 or more in the current market) for that “perfect baby.” This is a brief sampling of what this sales-pitch can consists of:

  1. All families, both adoptive and natural, are the same.
  2. Your adopted child is now “As if born to” you, emotionally and socially. The amended birth certificate will say that you gave birth, so act as though you did. You are now the only mother.
  3. The child needs only you and not the love of their “birth parents.”
  4. Environment is everything – the child is a blank slate (“tabula rasa”). Personality is at least 80% due to environment.
  5. Rest assured that the “birth family” can never search for the child because records are sealed tight to protect you in most states and provinces.
  6. The natural mom is just an incubator, a “birthmother,” a “gene donor,” and her only purpose was to gestate that child. Her motherhood ended with the cutting of the umbilical cord.
  7. This child is unwanted, and the “birthmother” will never return or want her back.
  8. If loved enough, this child will never want to search.
  9. Adoptees will never feel hurt from being surrendered or taken. If they do have questions, love from adoptive parents will solve everything.
  10. “Adjusted” adoptees do not search, and those who do only want medical and historical information. Reunion entails a one-time meeting and then both parties separate.
  11. “The Primal Wound” is a complete myth. No adoptee faces it.
  12. This is a lifetime guarantee.

Even the loaded term “birthmother” primes the adoptive parents to believe that the natural mother is only a past and irrelevant part of the adoptee’s past, her entire role consisting of having given birth, as irrelevant to an older adoptee as a baby bottle would be. Or, as it was told to me by the man who had adopted my son:  “R— has only one mother, K—, and one father, me.”

So, this woman, like millions of people who have adopted, believed the word of the agency. After all, they’re supposed to be “adoption professionals,” right?

While I was talking to Helen, I began thinking about my son and the people who had adopted him. For those readers new to our story: I found him in 1999. We reunited in 2000. He moved back with me on New Year Day of 2003. I adopted him back in 2007.  He is now, in his eyes, a former adoptee. His former adoptive parents deny that I am related as “family” to him. “R— is a member of this family and shall not be shared in any way, shape or form” were their words to me in their 2001 attempt to forcibly end his reunion with me, to define me as being unrelated, a complete stranger, not-family.

They too believe(d) the adoption industry myths, the “sales pitch,” and it lead to them trying to control him and end our reunion. One more adoptee gets hurt, caught up in an agency promise of a “lifetime guarantee.” And the agency gets off scot-free. Agencies should be sued for false advertising.

I wonder if Helen’s adopted daughter will return to her entirely, will be adopted-back by her natural family, will maintain family connections with both families, or do none of the above? There is no predicting.

But agencies must stop promising adoptive parents that the baby they adopt is “as if born to” them. There is nothing preventing an adoptee, even one raised in a “good home” from feeling the strength of the blood-bond and returning once more to their natural family, whether it would be to build a family of 4 equal parents (2 natural, 2 adoptive) or to return exclusively to their natural parents. But would adoptive parents pay the same “big bucks” for a child who may only be “theirs” for 18 years? You make more money if you can sell an unrealistic, impossible-to-guarantee myth.

Adopting-Back My Son

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This is the first time i have “come out” about this on-line. Last summer, one year ago in 2007, i adopted-back the son who was stolen at birth for adoption from me when I was 17.

I say ‘stolen’ because the coercion that was used on me left me with no choice at all but to surrender him — it is not a “choice” or a “decision” if there is only one viable option given or allowed. To say i “placed” him denies the reality that keeping him was NOT an option I was given and thus there was NO choice. I loved him, I wanted to keep him, and i never wanted to lose him. I was NOT unfit! But unwed mothers where i lived, in 1980, had babies removed at birth by hospital staff if they were unwed minors with no family support for keeping their babies (I have plenty of testimony from other mothers that it was done to them as well). It was truly a form of rape — just as traumatic.

Looking back, I felt so powerless at the time, so much without choice, that I had no way of fighting what they were doing to me. Plus I was entirely naive. I had no idea that nurses taking and withholding my baby from me was not what was done to all mothers. It was only when I “woke up” from the medicine-induced fog I was in, several days later, that I realized they had not brought my baby to me, and that this was not right. I was allowed to see him (but not touch) for about 5 minutes, under the gaze of hawk-like nurses (but I found out much later that they then moved him to another hospital to prevent me from finding him — he told me he had been picked up from the Jubilee, when I had given birth in St. Joseph’s). And I now now first-hand that only when a mother has given birth, has fully recovered from birth without her baby being taken from her or coercion being applied, can she make any decision about adoption.

My 62-yr-old Fundamentalist parents made it clear that they considered it rightful punishment for the sin of fornication, and the social worker had a waiting list of clients she was under pressure to provide babies for — i was forced to sign papers in her office under blackmail that unless i did, my baby would be indefinitely held in foster care. I was not told about welfare or any other resources and my abusive parents (they would use the belt on me if i so much as “talked back” to them) made it clear that i was not allowed to bring my baby home.

After 19 years of searching, i found my son again, and we hugged for the first time one day before his 20th birthday.  It was the first time I was allowed to touch him.

His adoptive parents first told him that they supported our reunion — but he found out as time went on that their view was that “reunion” meant a one-time or limited-time event, that his curiosity would be satisfied and he would say “thanks and bye” to me. Their attempts to control him, to force him to end contact with me, escalated into abuse — culminating in 4 hours of confinement and torture (his words) one night when he was 21 yrs old. He eventually left their house one New Years Day on the advice of the Victim Services units of two police departments.  He was so traumatized by this that he could not speak at all until one year later.

We began talking about me adopting him back. After several years of discussion, and after the complete breakdown and ending of the relationship between him and the people who raised him, we decided to go ahead with it.

So we did it. And we have not looked back. It is a dream come true for both of us.

Reunion can go places beyond what one first expects. It can restore a family which has been involutarily torn apart.

But separated families reuniting again shows that the bond between mother and child can endure past the worst of separations. And it also proves that anyone who is promised by an agency or other adoption business that adopting an infant will provide them with a “life-time guarantee” of “a child of their own” should sue their broker for making false promises. No-one can make promises on behalf of another human being, especially an infant who cannot speak for themselves.

But the best thing of all is that we are back together again, and both of us have reclaimed what was taken from us