So, I have this box. It is nothing to look at. It is an old Florida Oranges box I received from my Granny back when she sent me Florida oranges and Grapefruits in the mail because she knew I loved them. Inside of it, photos, birthday cards, letters, memories.
I don’t know why on this particular day I made the decision to open that box and look for it. I can’t even remember putting the paperwork inside of it, or why I kept it. I knew there weren’t any last names on the paperwork. It was just a generic “Dear Birthmother” letter and 2 forms filled out (one by each adoptive parent) about colleges attended, likes, dislikes, and first names. I don’t know what I hoped I would find, but on this day I had an uncontrollable urge to try.
Digging to the bottom of the box, I found what I was looking for and one more thing, my first son’s hospital hat. I immediately put the hat to my nose and tried to smell some remnant of him, but all I could smell was dust. Putting it aside, I read through the letter and forms for the first time in 13 years or so.
I gathered up the information, walked calmly to the computer and started googling. First name combos, quotes, no quotes. Connecticut? First names plus colleges. I don’t remember what the exact google query was, but up popped a photo. A photo of the people I had met 13 years ago. It was them. I knew their last names. I felt like I was spying on them. It felt wrong, but I could not help myself. A few clicks later and I found of photo of my son. OH MY GOD. There he was, smiling. At the bottom of the page, an email address for the adoptive mother.
A few days later, and after much soul searching I emailed her. I had to know. I had to forge some kind of connection. I don’t know if anyone who isn’t a first mother can understand the thought process, but it felt like I had no choice. I had to write her.
Since that day 2 years ago, I have been crushed by wave after wave of emotion that I had repressed. It has been painful, necessary, and unending. Pandora’s box can not be closed.
I’m feeling riled up this morning. Perhaps I need to step away from the ol’ laptop for a bit. But first, I need to express my distaste for ignorant, dishonest, coercive things I have seen on many comments around facebook and adoptoland. I can’t possibly respond to every ridiculous thing that is written so I am just going to vomit up my distaste for the open adoption lie here. Get your buckets ready.
The Birth of Open Adoption
The number of infants available for adoption in the US has steadily declined in recent years. The reasons behind this include better access to birth control, legality of abortion, and acceptance of single-motherhood. The number of people who want to adopt infants has increased partially due to women putting off having children in favor of careers. Unfortunately, biology hasn’t caught up with women’s rights yet.
This disparity in supply and demand of infants has created quite a problem for the adoption industry. The adoption industry could no longer scoop babies up in record numbers and hand them over to the piles of money waiting for an infant anymore. They needed to come up with a marketing scheme to persuade women to hand over their children. In walks open adoption.
Open Adoption is a Marketing Tool for the Adoption Industry
The promise of open adoption is a powerful tool in the adoption industry’s arsenal. They recognized that a major obstacle to convincing women to give up their babies was the fact that there was no contact. Not surprisingly, most mothers want to know how their children are being raised. Open adoption was the solution to that. Yes, mothers, you can still see your children grow up. You can still have a relationship with them, just hand them over and the adoptive parents will make sure you are still a part of their life. What the adoption industry fails to advertise is that open adoption agreements can become closed at any time. Just take a look at one example on the Bethany Christian Services site. They never state that the adoption could become closed at any time.
Open Adoption Agreements are Not Legally Enforceable
Some states do recognize open adoption agreements as legal documents however, these agreements can be voided if found not to be in the best interests of the child. In no state does the penalty involve nullifying the adoption. It should also be noted that many first families do not possess the necessary financial resources to fund a legal proceeding and so are left with no way to argue against closing an adoption.
It is my position that all open adoption agreements should be legal and binding. If the adoptive family chooses to close an adoption without the consent of the courts, it should be considered a criminal case. Perhaps this is extreme, but slapping an adoptive family with a fine because they closed their adoption is not exactly a deterrent.
Open Adoption is a Bait and Switch Technique
There are many adoptive families who take their responsibility to keep their adoption open seriously. I applaud these people. That being said, there is a special place in hell for adoptive parents who enter into an open adoption agreement knowing they have no intention of keeping it open. For many women, being able to have an open adoption is the deciding factor on whether they will relinquish their baby. It is akin to stealing a baby from its mother when adoptive parents cut off all communication.
I have seen so many comments on various forums, facebook and articles singing the praises of open adoption. I am sure that those of you out there (first mothers and adoptive parents alike) who are keeping up your end of the agreement have a very positive view on open adoption. I, too, think if adoption must exist, that fully open adoptions should be the norm. However, to these same people who talk about their wonderful open adoption experience, I ask you, would you not feel more in control if you knew, without a doubt that your adoption would stay open? How can you praise open adoption if there is no way of knowing that others’ agreements will be honored? If anything, you should be pushing for more regulations to be put in place so that all future agreements are honored. How can we take something as important as our children and leave it up to flawed individuals to keep that agreement in place?
Until open adoptions agreements are legally enforceable they should not be mentioned in adoption advertisements or presented as fact to expecting mothers. It is morally reprehensible for agencies not to disclose these facts to expecting mothers before entering into agreements with adoptive parents.
1. I hate that I can not talk about it with most people.
The few friends I have spoken about it with have given me the pity “cancer” face. Holy Christ how I hate that fucking pity face. I get it, most people don’t know what to say and so they default to “the face”. So what would be better than “the face”? It is so hard for me to talk about my experience and so if I brought it up, please ask me questions. It does not hurt less not to talk about it.
2. I hate that most people think we are drug addicts, abusers, neglectful, uneducated, and ignorant.
In my experience, most people assume one if not all of these things about us. Yeah it’s true in some cases, but not in most I would wager. These stereotypes make it even harder to talk about the pain I feel. I can’t feel comfortable discussing issues surrounding adoption if I’m looked at as a junkie welfare momma. In some cases, it’s easier for people to label us this way in their heads so they don’t have to deal with the fact that we are the same as adoptive parents in many ways.
3. I hate that I have built up these emotional walls around myself because of the pain of giving away my son.
Giving my oldest away has permeated every facet of my life. The trauma of not bringing home my baby made my brain change. My brain is trying to protect me from ever having to feel that pain again. I can not tear down these walls. I love my children and my husband more than I can say, but I know there is a part of me that expects them all to leave. Being a birth mother has made me an eternal pessimist, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am unable to accept and fully experience happy moments in my life because I’m always looking for “the catch”. I’m just waiting for something to happen to make that pain return. Living this way sucks balls.
4. I hate that someone else is raising my child.
Selfish, right? Experiencing the joy of watching my other 3 children grow up has made me realize everything I have missed with my oldest son. I thought that when I gave him up, eventually when I had “children of my own” I wouldn’t miss him so much. At least, that’s what I was led to believe. I’m here to tell you, the opposite is true. Having “children of my own” has made me miss him more.
5. I hate not knowing that my son is happy.
I really have no clue. I have only had contact with his mother once in the 14 years since I gave him away. I can only know her side of his life and her perspective. If he isn’t happy, I highly doubt she would tell me that. And when I say happy, I don’t mean la la la it’s a beautiful day out and I love playing outside. I mean on a primal level. Happy with his life thus far. Happy to be alive. It feels so wrong to me that I won’t know what my own flesh and blood is feeling about his own existence.
6. I hate that my son doesn’t know his birth story.
I really have no idea what my son had been told about how he came to be in this world. How I came to be in this world is such an important part of who I am. I know from my own mother what her labor and delivery was like, how she loved me and bonded with me instantly, how she was so thankful to have me. What can that be like for my son? Does he know how I bonded with him after he was born? Does he know that I held him and kept him with me for the 2 days post birth? Does he know that I loved him? Does he care? Or is it a non-issue for him all together? Is the only pertinent story for him the story of how his parents came to raise him? I just don’t know.
7. I hate that being a birth mother has made it so incredibly difficult for me to express my feelings.
Here is my MO. Something in my life is difficult, a situation or a relationship. Instead of dealing with my feelings at the time the event is happening, I push them so far down inside my soul and refuse to admit I have feelings about the event at all. These things could be small or large, the procedure for dealing with them is the same. Fast forward to some time later and KABOOM! An explosive outpouring of rage and emotion is expelled upon those around me and they have no clue why I’m so upset. The way I deal with emotions is directly related to being a birth mother.
8. I hate that I can not find a qualified therapist that can help me deal with these issues.
Adoption loss is not the same as other losses. I’m not saying it’s worse or easier but it’s not the same as having a child die. It’s a special kind of pain related to an incredibly painful and never ending experience. There is no closure for me. My child is still walking around out there. To this day, I have not been able to find a therapist that specialized in post adoption issues. Oh sure, I had post adoption counseling (if you could call it that) right after the birth. But that counseling only dealt with the short term issues. The long term effects are largely undocumented and much more research needs to be done. I have had therapists that have told me I need to move on with my life, i.e. it was a singular event that happened in my past and I need to essentially get over it. Losing my son to adoption was not a singular event, it is a continuous string of emotions that only seem to be amplified over time.
9. I hate hearing friends play up the loss that adoptive parents feel when an adoption “fails”.
I have empathy for people who are unable to have children. But when I hear people say their adoption fails, my mind goes to the mother who decided to parent their child and I just want to let out a big YAHOO! Of course, I’m not a total asshole so I don’t do that. But honestly, I can’t wrap my head around the way these friends talk about their potential adoptions. Why can they not see that by inserting themselves into an expectant mother’s pregnancy they are only setting themselves up for heartache? Why can’t they see that by becoming so involved before papers are signed they are only participating in the coercion of the mother? I can’t say these things because if I do, I’m told that I’m only speaking from my own experience and why am I so angry anyway? Gee, I don’t know, why are YOU so angry about not being able to raise someone else’s baby?
10. I hate that I hate myself.
Now if that ain’t circular I don’t know what is. I hate myself for not having strength of character. I hate myself for being such a people pleaser that I gave away my own child. I hate myself for believing the lies about adoption for so long. I hate myself for believing that other people were better able to raise my child. I hate myself for not believing in myself. I hate myself for not exploring every option available to me to parent. I hate myself for giving up my son.
18…the magic number in first mother land. It is the age of adulthood for adoptees and for me, the age when I can finally reach out to my son.
My head keeps dreaming of the day when I am able to contact him. I know this is probably a fantasy though. The fact of the matter is, I have no idea what kind of 18 year old my son will grow up to be. He is 14 now so I have 4 long years to ruminate and think about every possible outcome to contact, if I am even able to do so.
My greatest hope is that he will be open to a relationship on some level. That he will be a happy 18 year old who is curious about his roots. That his adoptive parents will have nurtured his curiousity and not stifled it.
I pour over every adult adoptee’s blog I can read looking for an answer to how my son will feel about me. The truth is, there is no one answer. Most reunions have their ups and downs and there is just not one right answer to what will happen.
My greatest fear is that he will not be the least bit interested in getting to know me and his siblings. My greatest fear is that he will be angry and feel that I abandoned him.
It is so difficult being in a closed adoption. I have no idea what my son has been told about me. I don’t know if he ever asks about me. I don’t even know what his parents had been told about me, or if they even cared. The only thing I know for sure is that his parents don’t want me in his or their life right now. This hurts on a primal level.
I have read so many articles about how adolescents can experience identity crises at around his age now. I want so much to tell him he was wanted. He was loved. I am so sorry I gave him up for adoption. If he is angry, I want to let him yell at me. I want him to scream insults and profanities. Anything is better than not knowing. Anything is better than this blank fucking hole in my soul.
I can’t imagine what it feels like to go through life not knowing your own “birth story”. Not knowing the circumstances surrounding your adoption (other than your parents wanting to raise you). Not knowing that I held you for 2 days when you were born, that I named you, that I loved you to my core. I still love you, I will always love you.
I feel like I have been white knuckling through the last 14 years, waiting for that magic 18. My heart says 4 more years to go. But the truth is that no matter what my heart tells me, there is no guarantee that my son will even respond to me when I contact him. There is no guarantee that he will acknowledge me at all. This is a reality that I am going to have to face over the next 4 years. But for now, my soul is hanging on by its fingertips to the hope that I will see my son again.